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The Broken Road by CliodnaHPFan

1. Chapter 1 by CliodnaHPFan

2. Finding Her Way by CliodnaHPFan

3. 3 :: Back Into the Fold by CliodnaHPFan

4. 4 :: Playing the field by CliodnaHPFan

5. 5 :: Prelude to a Kiss by CliodnaHPFan

6. 6 :: Paroxysm by CliodnaHPFan

7. 7 :: Interlude by CliodnaHPFan

8. 8 :: Vicissitude by CliodnaHPFan

9. 9 :: Dolor by CliodnaHPFan

10. 10 :: Adumbration by CliodnaHPFan

11. 11 :: Hubris by CliodnaHPFan

12. 12 :: Disintegration by CliodnaHPFan

13. 13 :: Accord by CliodnaHPFan

14. 14 :: Eclipsed by CliodnaHPFan

15. 15 :: Revivifying, Part I by CliodnaHPFan

16. 16 :: Revivifying, Part II by CliodnaHPFan

17. 17 :: Euphoria by CliodnaHPFan

18. 18 :: Judgment by CliodnaHPFan

19. 19 :: Acumen by CliodnaHPFan

20. 20 :: Lamentations by CliodnaHPFan

21. Chapter 21 :: Happy Endings by CliodnaHPFan

Chapter 1 by CliodnaHPFan
The Broken Road

Disclaimer: This story is not endorsed by, or affiliated with, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, or Warner Bros., Inc. No copyright infringement is intended, and no money is being made.

Summary: Ginny Weasley Potter has gone through a string of men, even suffering through a stint being married to the Savior of the Wizarding World. She keeps her pain bottled up inside, until when she finally snaps, she does something drastic that changes her world forever.

Pairings: DM/GW, GW/HP, GW/OC

Rating: NC-17 eventually, but for now, PG-13 (language)

Author’s Notes: Inspired by the Rascal Flatts song “God Bless the Broken Road (That Led Me Straight to You).”

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


The Broken Road - Chapter One

Ginny leaned against the bathroom door; her eyes squeezed shut as she tried to catch her breath. Fights between herself and her husband had always been volcanic and intense, and tonight had been no exception. Usually the fights were followed by tender make-up sex, but tonight she knew that it would not happen. This time she had had enough.

Tears streamed down her face unbidden as she sucked in deep, calming breaths. Harry had come home late for the third time in a row this week, and she’d had enough, demanding to know his whereabouts. He had immediately bristled and said that he’d been at work late and that if she didn’t trust him, that was her problem, not his.

She had pressed and pressed until he had stormed out of the flat they shared, headed for an undisclosed location. She had been so angry at him that, instead of crying and throwing herself across the bed as her other female friends were wont to do, she flooed the first person she could think of; the only person who could possibly give her advice.

Hermione.

She was in for the surprise of her life. When her head popped into the flames unannounced, there in Hermione’s living room sat her bushy-haired friend and her husband – her fucking husband – on the couch, connected at the lips. Her gasp of utter surprise was enough to make them jump apart, and when Hermione saw her, she began to cry. Harry just stared open-mouthed until Ginny gathered wits enough about her to withdraw her head from the flames.

The only thing she could think to do was go to the loo and take a bath. A nice, long, hot, cleansing bath. It wouldn’t do to cry over it; obviously Harry wasn’t doing any crying for her.

She’d just walked into the small bathroom they shared when she heard the pop of Harry apparating back into their home. She went on about turning on the taps and pouring a bit of purple bubble bath mixture into the water, her movements maddeningly calm, and completely belying the storm that raged beneath the surface.

Harry found her mere moments later, and stood in the doorway, his arms hanging limply at his sides.

“Gin, I don’t know what to say,” he began, his voice soft and soothing. Ginny squeezed her eyes shut – he was using his Auror tricks against her, the bastard! Didn’t he think she’d remember what they’d been taught? Speak softly – lower yourself to their level. Keep your voice steady and even, and as soothing as possible, to encourage cooperation.

“About what?” she asked, forcing her voice to sound level. She knew without turning to look at him that Harry was frowning; could see the lines that creased his forehead. How many times had she run her fingers lovingly over those frown lines, insisting that he needed to smile more? She ignored the pang in her chest and turned off the tap.

“What do you mean, ‘about what?’ You know what I’m talking about. This isn’t like you, to pretend that something doesn’t exist to try and make it go away!” She rounded on him, her cinnamon eyes flashing dangerously.

“And it isn’t like you to run off to your best friend’s flat and snog her senseless after you’ve had a row with your wife!”

His mouth opened and closed several times before he could actually form any words. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to say.”

“How long?” she asked, her voice deadly calm.

“Three months,” he answered without hesitation. She exhaled slowly. She supposed she hadn’t expected a denial from him, since it wasn’t like Harry not to tell her the brutal truth when it mattered, but still – it would have been nice to know that he hadn’t been with the both of them at the same time. And Hermione, she thought bitterly. How could Hermione be consorting with a married man, and still be able to look Ginny in the eye during their once-a-week girl’s day out?

“Do you love her?”

He flinched, and she had her answer.

“Harry, I’d like it if you’d leave.”

He stared at her for a moment. Ginny was nothing if not direct. “But – where would I go? Why don’t you want to talk about this?”

“We have talked about it, and I think that we’ve said just about all we need to say on the subject,” she said, careful to quash the impulse to fold her arms over her chest. It was a defensive mechanism, and Harry would interpret it just that way – and know that it meant that she was hurting.

And then he would stay and try to work things out.

And she just couldn’t deal with that right now.

“All right,” he said resignedly, his shoulders sagging quite a bit. She watched him turn and leave, and she closed the door behind him, pressing her back up against it. That was when the silent tears came, no matter how hard she tried to stop them.

He should have fought harder, she thought. He should have done anything but just walk away from her like that. After four years of marriage, he should have apologized and promised her anything she wanted in the world to make it up to her, if only she would take him back.

Instead he’d simply given up.

She blew out a long breath and pulled her shirt over her head. It wasn’t as though she would have taken him back, she thought, even if he had fought for her. The fact of the thing was that he hadn’t even tried, and that was what really hurt.

She finished shedding her clothes and stepped into the scalding water, welcoming the heat as it seeped into her pores. The jasmine scent of the bubbles permeated her nostrils and helped her to forget the smell of Harry’s musky cologne, for which she was grateful. She sank down into the water until it touched her chin, and her eyes drifted closed.

“Do you, Harry James Potter, take this woman as your wedded wife? To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death do you part?”

“I do, and hereto I pledge Ginny my faithfulness.”


Tears found their way out of the corners of her tightly closed eyes, no matter how she fought them. Her throat constricted, and a strangled cry escaped her. How was it possible for someone to take such a serious vow so lightly?

She opened her eyes, unable to bear the happy images behind them. Outside of the bathroom, she could hear Harry moving about and gathering his things. It was taking too long, she thought. He should have had nearly everything he needed by now. Perhaps he was lingering and trying to wait until she came out of the bathroom, so he could talk to her. If that was the case, he would wait forever and not see her. She would apparate into the bedroom and avoid walking through the hallway and the family room altogether.

Childish, she knew, but what else was to be done? If she showed Harry any weakness, any at all, she knew that she would be lost and things would go back to the way they had been. She would not be able to live with herself if she shared his bed again after finding out that he’d been sharing it with another woman.

Didn’t she deserve more than that?

When the bathwater had gone tepid despite three warming charms, she finally heard the pop that signaled Harry’s leaving. Sighing with relief, she rose from the tub and wrapped a fluffy white towel around her body. Her hair dripped down her back, causing her to shiver as she padded from the bathroom to the bedroom. When she reached it, she automatically closed the door.

It looked the same, though she was willing to bet that if she tried to open Harry’s closet, it would be empty. She didn’t bother to look, and instead went to her dresser and rummaged through it until she found what she was looking for. A pair of worn, baggy flannel pyjama pants and a too-long t-shirt that Charlie had given her last year for Christmas.

The word ‘Romania’ was emblazoned across the t-shirt, bringing a smile to Ginny’s face as she glanced at it. Perhaps Charlie would listen to her… she shook the thought off immediately. This was between her and Harry (and Hermione now, too, she thought bitterly), and she would not bring her family into it. They didn’t need to know about her marital problems – especially not when they all adored Harry the way they did.

She pulled the clothes on and sank onto her bed, pulling the covers up to her chin. Avoiding Harry’s side like the plague, she curled up and closed her eyes. The first thing she was going to do tomorrow morning, she thought tiredly, was buy a single bed.
Finding Her Way by CliodnaHPFan
The Broken Road – Chapter Two :: Finding Her Way

It was a brand new day, in more ways than one.

The sleepless night had been an epiphany for Ginny. She smiled to herself as she ordered her new king-sized bed from the catalog that Neville had loaned her. Making doubly sure that she had filled out all of the information on the order form properly, she sent it off with the tawny owl she’d purchased that morning.

Things had been clearer this morning; more so than they had ever been in her entire life. She was not meant to be with Harry. All of the fates had tried to point it out to her, and she had just been too thick to see the signs.

Him ignoring her until his sixth year in school.

Him breaking up with her after dating for a bit.

Him throwing up when he’d proposed to her (from nerves – or so he’d claimed later).

Him taking up with Hermione.

It was all someone’s sick cosmic joke, and Ginny had been at the butt of it for too long.

Since before she’d married Harry, Ginny had been extremely money-conscious. She had scrimped and saved and refused to buy anything if it cost too much. Harry had been the exact opposite, spending frivolously on whatever he wanted, since he had the money. He felt entitled, and he tried to make her feel the same way – always buying her whatever she showed even the most passing fancy in.

She wondered now if the purchases he had made for her had been motivated by guilt.

Whatever the case was, she had managed to save up a rather large sum of galleons, since he had insisted on purchasing everything for her. Once she had come to this realization, it had triggered more realizations.

Firstly, she didn’t need Harry.

Secondly, she didn’t want to be married to a cheater.

And thirdly, she could buy whatever the bloody hell she wanted, without blinking twice.

Naturally, her first decision had been to replace the bed that they’d shared. She’d taken great pleasure in reducing the old bed to a manageable size and crushing it (repeatedly) beneath her foot. Then she’d shredded the bedcovers.

After that, she’d paid a visit to the most expensive clothier known to the Wizarding world, and she’d purchased a whole new set of robes for work. To add to that, she’d gone into Muggle London and done a good bit of clothes shopping there. She felt like a different person, she reasoned, so why shouldn’t she look like one?

The second thing she had done that morning while she was out was to stop by the Ministry and fill out the necessary papers to begin her divorce from Harry. While Wizarding marriages took a fairly long amount of time to process (the licenses took forever to get approved, since they were looked over individually), Wizarding divorces took less than a week to be finalized.

That meant that, in five to six days, Ginny would be a free woman again. She found that she could hardly wait.

She had grabbed some take-out food for lunch before returning home, where she had proceeded to redecorate everything she could reach with her wand. The sofa was changed to a different color and material, the walls were painted, and different curtains hung at the windows. She’d even changed the floor by chucking the carpet in favor of the natural hardwood appearance.

By the time her bed arrived that evening at six thirty, she was thoroughly exhausted. She flooed Neville and asked him to come over, and he showed up at her flat around seven o’clock.

“I brought provisions,” he said, grinning as he held up a brown paper sack and a white plastic grocery bag. Ginny laughed and gestured him into the kitchen behind her. He gave a low whistle as he walked through the flat. “Damn, Gin – when you said you were fixing up the place, I had no idea you meant this much!”

She shook her head and maintained her smile as she put the chocolate fudge chunk ice cream in the icebox. “I filed for divorce today.”

Neville’s hand froze inside the brown paper bag that held the food, and he stared at her in disbelief. “You’re having me on.”

“I’m not,” she said simply. “Harry and I had a row last night.”

“That’s not reason enough for a divorce, Gin, no matter how mad you are, and no matter how bloody easy they make it,” he protested. Neville had long been a proponent of the sacred institution of marriage, and believed that it should not be entered into lightly. While he approved heartily of the hoops the Ministry made engaged couples jump through, he thoroughly disapproved of the ease with which one could obtain a divorce.

“After we fought, I caught him at Hermione’s, snogging her senseless.”

Neville promptly dropped the Styrofoam container of soup that he’d been holding.

“What? Hermione? You’ve got to be mistaken, Gin. Hermione would never-“

“He admitted to me that it’s been going on for three months right under my nose.”

Neville’s look of shock and disbelief quickly turned to one of utter betrayal and anger on behalf of his best friend.

“What made you wait until this morning to file, then?” he demanded. She smiled and cleaned up the soup. “So that’s why you decided to overhaul the place,” he said wonderingly.

“Absolutely,” she agreed. “I’m a new woman, Nev, and I intend to start behaving like one.”

“I never thought he deserved you anyway,” Neville sniffed, opening a container of pasta. She giggled and wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug.

“I love you, Neville. I would never have gotten through this without you.”

“You’d better love me – I just spilled really hot soup all over my foot. Ow,” he whined, wincing. She rolled her eyes.

“How did you know to bring the ice cream?” she wondered, picking up a fork and dipping it into the spaghetti.

“You looked upset,” he shrugged. “And besides, it’s your favorite. So tell me what all those bags are in there,” he said, indicating the living room with a nod of his head.

“The new me.”

“The new you? What is that supposed to mean?”

“It means that when Harry decided he wanted to chuck me for Hermione, I decided that I needed a new look – so I bought one.” Neville nearly choked on the noodles in his mouth as she stood and modeled her new black boots for him.

“Bloody buggering fuck, Gin, don’t do that to me,” he exclaimed, still coughing a bit. She smiled. “You know what those look like? They look like the boots Pansy wears.”

“How is she, by the way?”

“Spoiled as ever. I had to take her to Paris on holidays for a week,” he lamented, shaking his head. “Nearly cleaned out my Gringott’s account.”

“Wait – where is she right now, that you got to come over here with no problem?” Ginny asked cautiously.

“She’s visiting her Mum, who just happens to be in Greece. Lovely coincidence, don’t you think?”

“Fortunate enough for me, anyway,” she commented, sucking a noodle gracelessly into her mouth. He laughed.

“Don’t get too excited,” he teased. “She’ll be back tomorrow afternoon, and we’re already set to go to some ridiculous party that one of her friends is throwing.”

“Better you than me,” Ginny said flippantly.

“Thanks, I appreciate the sympathy!”

“Hey, you know how I feel about Parkinson’s friends, all right? I don’t envy you a bit.”

“Why don’t you come along and keep me company?” he suggested. It was her turn to choke on her mouthful of food.

“What?” she asked, wiping her mouth with a napkin. “No way. Huh uh. Absolutely not.”

“It’d give you a chance to show off the new you,” he persuaded. She cocked her head to one side and narrowed her eyes at him.

“This wouldn’t by any chance be another of your fiancée’s pathetic attempts at setting me up with someone, would it?”

“Gin, she would never try to set you up with someone while you were married to Harry,” he said, putting on an innocent face.

Ginny snorted derisively. “Right. And that’s why she didn’t invite me to her cousin’s wedding, and why she didn’t keep giving my address out to random men she met at work.”

“I’ll bet Harry didn’t like all of those men constantly knocking at your door,” he laughed.

“He didn’t like Pansy, period. Thankfully I caught most of the men who came to call and let them down easy. Gods, if she was like that when I was married, I’d hate to see what she’s like when she finds out I’m single.”

“You won’t get a good night’s sleep until you take up with one of her friends, you know. Why don’t you make it easy on yourself and just pick the one you find the least repulsive.”

“That’s not going to happen, my friend,” she said, sinking her teeth into a slice of garlic bread. “I just got free – you don’t think I’m going to tie myself down again already, do you?”

“Someday you know that someone is going to come along, and you’re going to fall head over arse in love with him, and want to marry him and be with him all the time.”

“I won’t,” Ginny swore. “I’ll never get married again.”

“Famous last words.”
3 :: Back Into the Fold by CliodnaHPFan
The Broken Road – Chapter 3 :: Back Into the Fold

Ginny was awoken at – hell, she didn’t know what time it was, she only knew that it wasn’t even light outside yet. She stumbled out of bed and padded her way into the living room, where someone was screaming at her from the fireplace.

Harry.

“There you are!” he snarled, his eyes cloudy and dilated. Ginny rubbed her own eyes, not believing what she was seeing. Had Harry been drinking?

“Harry, what do you want? It’s in the middle of the night, and I have to report in at noon.”

“I want to know why you saw fit to have me served with divorce papers!” Oh, yeah. She was fully awake now. Damn, the Ministry was fast.

When she heard Harry snort, she realized that she’d said that last part out loud.

“Yes, the Ministry works fast on this sort of paperwork, and you know it! You had to know that when they saw my name on it, they’d put a rush on it! I’d even be willing to bet that it’s going to be in the Prophet tomorrow morning!”

“This morning, you mean,” she said, yawning. His cheeks darkened as he watched her.

“What’s gotten into you, Ginny? You act like you just don’t care at all!”

“That’s because I don’t,” she agreed, rising from the sofa. “Goodnight, Harry.”

She cast a silencing spell on her flat so she wouldn’t hear his indignant protests for her to return, and then drifted back to sleep in her new bed.

Several hours later, the wand on her nightstand began to glow and vibrate as it emitted high pitched whining noises. She picked it up and muttered “Finite Incantatem,” before forcing herself out of bed. Her work shift was met with both excitement and trepidation; she was going to get to wear her new dress robes, but at the end of her shift, she’d be seeing Harry, when he took over for her.

The day passed without much event, and when Ginny reached the end of her shift, she was almost grateful that she’d be seeing Harry – after all, he was coming to relieve her so she could go home. When he rounded the corner and headed down the hallways towards her, her heart leapt into her throat. He looked angry.

No, he looked more than angry. He looked pissed.

“Have you any idea what you’ve done?” he demanded, coming to a halt in front of her.

“What are you talking about now?” she asked tiredly.

He stared disbelievingly at her for a moment. “Didn’t you read the Prophet this morning?”

“No, I bloody well did not. I was too busy trying to catch up on sleep, since someone interrupted it last night at an ungodly hour.” He had the good sense to blush.

“It’s smeared all over the front page,” he said, fairly snarling at her. “Our divorce, me and Hermione, everything.”

“So? You know as well as I do that when you file for divorce, you have to give a reason for wanting it. I gave my reason.”

“I wouldn’t care if it’d just been me whose name you slandered, but to do it to Hermione? Ginny, she’s supposed to be your friend.”

“Yes, she is supposed to be my friend, isn’t she? But the description of friend doesn’t include sleeping with someone else’s husband, does it?” she asked, her temper flaring.

“She’s dead upset about all of this,” he explained, his tone softer.

“As well she should be,” Ginny snapped. “But I suppose she should have prepared herself for the possibility of this when she took up with a married man, shouldn’t she? Especially when that married man is the Savior of the ruddy world!”

Without giving him a chance to respond, she turned on her heel and stomped down the hallway.

Once she was back inside her flat, she shrugged off the heavy dress robe and chucked the Auror’s uniform beneath, fully intending on taking a long, hot bath, when she heard a strangled cry from the fireplace.

“Sweet Mother of Merlin!” Pansy exclaimed, squeezing her eyes shut. “Put some clothes on, Potter!”

Ginny grabbed a blanket off of the back of her sofa and clutched it to her breast as she heard voices behind Pansy.

“Shut up!” Pansy hissed to whoever was behind her. She opened her eyes and sighed in relief to see Ginny covered.

“This is my flat, in case you hadn’t noticed – I can walk around starkers from noon to night, if I bloody well want to,” Ginny snapped. “What are you doing popping in unannounced like that, anyway?”

“Neville is pestering me to invite you over here for the party, so in an effort to get him to piss off, you’re invited. Now get your freckled arse over here!”

“Over where?” Ginny asked, fighting the heat that caused red splotches to appear on her skin.

When Pansy hesitated before answering, Ginny’s apprehension threatened to swallow her whole. It must be bad, if she was hesitating like that…

“Malfoy Manor.”

Ginny nearly dropped the blanket.

“Uh-uh. No way. Tell Nev I begged off.”

“Shut up and get your arse over here now, Potter,” a voice drawled. Ginny froze as Pansy’s head disappeared from the flames and was replaced with one covered in white-blonde hair instead. “Longbottom won’t even let us have a fucking decent conversation without asking Parkinson to floo you. Get over here now.”

Hearing him refer to everyone by their last names like that irked her, for some reason.

“And what makes you think that I’d come to your house? You’d probably be waiting to hex me to hell and back when I step out of the floo.”

He smirked at her, and the urge to slap the expression from his face made her palm itch. “Don’t worry – I don’t use Imperius on my guests – at least, not on their first visit, anyway. Just ask Longbottom.”

Involuntarily, Ginny’s lips curved up in her amusement at his joke, and an idea flared to life inside of her.

Malfoy was having a party at his home – what better way to get some of her own back, than to go, and mingle with his friends? Harry would be livid.

“What sort of dress?” she asked quickly. He didn’t look surprised as he answered.

“Formal.”

“Give me ten minutes.”

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


When Ginny stepped out of the floo at Malfoy Manor, she was struck dumb. She had imagined that this was a small fête, based on the way Pansy had been talking. Now, at stepping into a throng of people and nearly being swept away by their movement, she wondered why she’d gotten that particular impression. Since when had she ever known Malfoy not to do anything to excess?

After glancing around, she realized that she’d picked the perfect ensemble to wear. The ladies here were all dressed in glittery, lacy floor-length gowns, and the men were all wearing black suits and ties. If she didn’t know better, she would have thought she’d just stepped into a Wizarding wedding reception.

Before she could go off in search of Neville, a hand shot through the crowd and gripped her forearm, dragging her away. When she finally came to a stop, she watched her captor release her and go off in search of better company (presumably). As his white-blonde hair disappeared, she shrugged and turned to see where he’d taken her.

Neville was seated in front of the fireplace, looking completely miserable. She smiled and tapped his shoulder. When he turned and saw her, his face lit up.

“Gin! Oh, thank the Gods,” he swore, hugging her tightly. When he released her, he blinked. “Why do you still have your robe on?”

“I haven’t had a chance to remove it, is all,” she replied, shaking her head. “As soon as I stepped out of the floo, Malfoy dragged me back here to you.”

“Malfoy did?” Neville asked, looking surprised. “How did he know you were coming?”

“He and Pansy paid me a nice little visit via the floo,” she said wryly, her cheeks pinking. Neville arched an eyebrow at her, but didn’t ask any questions, much to her relief. “So here I am.”

“Well, let’s start with putting your robe up, and then we’ll go and have a drink. I’m sorely in need of one right now, and I think you might benefit from it, too.”

“All right,” she said, unfastening her robe and slipping it off of her shoulders. Neville’s eyes widened, and he glanced around. Several of the men at the party had stopped talking and were staring in Ginny’s direction. She seemed oblivious to the attention. “Where do I put it?” she asked.

“Uh…” Neville cleared his throat and tugged on the tie at his throat. Ginny was wearing a short red dress that barely touched her knees. The material looked to be some sort of satin or silk, and perfectly matched the red strappy stiletto heels that were on her feet. Her hair had been pulled up into a graceful twist at the back of her head. “Why don’t we just take it into the coat room?” he suggested.

He placed his hand on the small of Ginny’s back and guided her through the room. Silk, then, he thought, feeling rather overprotective of his best friend at the moment. Every man they passed eyed her as though she was the next course of a delectable meal, and it unnerved him.

A pair of gray eyes was among the throng of those that watched her every movement until she left the room.

Once she’d deposited her robe in the cloak room, she turned back to Neville. “Well?”

“Well what?” he asked.

“You haven’t said a single thing about my new dress,” she said as though she were speaking to a toddler. “And normally you notice my new clothes right away.”

“Is this the new you that you were talking about?”

“Absolutely.”

“It’s very…”

“Very what?”

“Tarty.” Her mouth dropped open for a moment, and then she broke into peals of laughter. He grinned at her.

“Not what I was going for, but it’ll have to do.”

“I don’t think you’ll be lacking for companionship anytime soon,” he remarked, leading her into the main ballroom, where music was playing softly. Several couples were moving fluidly across the floor, and Ginny clapped her hands excitedly, having missed his comment.

“Oh, Neville! Dance with me?”

“Pansy would kill me,” he said, shaking his head. “Best friend or not, she’d kill me if I danced with another woman.”

“Oh,” Ginny pouted, her shoulders slumping. Neville was quick to rethink his no when he saw a tall, dark-haired man heading purposefully towards her.

“All right,” he said, grabbing her hand and yanking her gracelessly onto the floor. She smiled brightly as he wrapped one arm around her waist, and she slipped her delicate hand into his uplifted one. They began moving in time with the music, and Ginny was quick to discover why he’d actually turned her down at first – poor Neville had absolutely no rhythm.

“May I cut in?” Neville frowned as the dark-haired man asked. Ginny smiled, and the decision was made. As Neville made his way back to the outskirts of the dance floor, Pansy approached him.

“Wow,” she said, threading her arm through his. “He didn’t waste any time, did he?”

“Who is that?” The disapproving tone of his voice didn’t slip past his fiancée, and she smiled.

“That’s David Bole. He used to be on the Quidditch team until our fourth year.”

Recognition dawned on Neville’s face, and then his expression darkened significantly. “That’s the bloke that assaulted Alicia during the cup final, isn’t it?”

“Exactly!” Pansy said, pleased that he’d remembered. “He’s always been quite the ladies’ man, as I recall.”

“Don’t tell me that you went out with him – please,” Neville fairly begged, his eyes shut. He loathed hearing about Pansy’s previous conquests. She shrugged her shoulders gently.

“He and Draco were great friends until he graduated. They’ve been in contact ever since. I’m suddenly rather happy that Ginny showed up – I believe she’ll be spoken for for the remainder of the evening.”

“Possessive, is he?” Neville asked, allowing Pansy to wrench him from the ballroom.

“More than you know,” she said, rolling her eyes. On their way back to the parlour, they ran into the host himself.

“Enjoying yourself finally, Longbottom?” he inquired politely. Neville narrowed his eyes. It was the first time that Malfoy had ever spoken to him without some sort of blatant or blanketed insult.

“I was.” Malfoy arched a pale eyebrow in question, and Pansy rolled her eyes again.

“He’s worried about Weasley in there.”

“Why, isn’t she getting on with anyone?” Draco asked, laughter in his voice.

“Quite the opposite,” Pansy replied. “She’s dancing with Bole.”

“Then she’s in good hands,” Draco said, as he drifted off into the crowd.

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Neville muttered under his breath.
4 :: Playing the field by CliodnaHPFan
Chapter 4 :: Playing the Field

Hermione and Harry were sitting at the dining room table enjoying a breakfast of tea and toast. Hermione was flipping through the Daily Prophet, as was her habit to do each morning, when she began to choke on her toast. Harry frowned and put his teacup down.

“All right there, love?”

She nodded and pressed a napkin to her mouth. “Fine,” she choked out, her eyes watering.

“What happened?” he asked, peering over the table at the newspaper. Hermione flipped it shut, but it was too late. Harry stood and moved behind her, reaching for the paper, which she held out of his reach. “What was that?”

“What was what?” she asked innocently, holding the paper behind her back. Harry’s frown deepened.

“Was that a picture of Ginny in there?” he asked, his eyes boring into hers. She averted her eyes so he wouldn’t use his Legilimency on her, but it was too late. “Give me the paper, Hermione.”

“Harry, I really think you should-“

“Give me the paper,” he said, his words clipped. She sighed and held out the paper, which he yanked from her grasp. He opened the paper to the page Hermione had been looking at, and his jaw dropped.

He sank down heavily into one of the high-backed wooden chairs, and stared at the photo that accompanied the biggest story on the Society page.

Courting Season Has Begun!

In what marks the first of several weekly parties given by Draco Malfoy each year, Ginny Potter began reacclimating herself to the dating scene.


Harry stopped reading and focused his attention on the photo. Ginny was wearing a scandalous red dress that he’d never seen before, and she was spinning around the dance floor with a very tall, dark-haired man. The man, identified in the caption beneath the picture as David Bole, was holding Ginny in a way that made Harry’s blood boil.

Hermione was careful to hold her feelings in check as she saw the raw emotions painted across Harry’s face. After all, he and Ginny had been together for a long time, she reasoned, and it was only natural to be jealous when someone chose another’s company over your own – even if it had been something that you’d done that had acted as the catalyst for the entire situation.

Still, it hurt. It hurt to have Harry in her bed every night, whispering words of love and promise to her, and then watching him become jealous over what his ex-wife was doing. It meant that on some level, he still loved her.

And as much as she tried to stomp it down as deep as it could go, Hermione was feeling the green monster, too.

“Why?” he whispered, his eyes fixed on the picture as Ginny threw her head back and laughed. “Why would she be at Malfoy’s house to begin with?”

Hermione sighed. “Don’t you see him back there, in the corner of the photo?”

Harry squinted and peered at it. When he saw what she was talking about, he closed his eyes and gave a heavy sigh. “Damn it, Neville!” he swore. “I knew that Parkinson bint was going to be trouble.”

“Harry,” she chastised gently, taking the paper away. “It isn’t as though you can help who you fall in love with.”

“Would to God that it could be helped,” he muttered. “Would to God that it could.”

Hermione didn’t know whether she should be worried about that statement or not.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


Three days had passed before Ginny received an invitation to Malfoy’s next party, due to be held that same evening. She grimaced; perhaps she would meet someone else there. Bole had been nice, but he’d been all hands. They’d gone out the night after the party, and she had quickly realized that he was not at all what she was looking for.

She smiled to herself as she put the invitation down on the countertop and went into her bedroom to look for an outfit to wear. The dress that she chose this time was a black one with spaghetti straps, floor-length with a slit from ankle to mid-thigh. Her black heels weren’t as tall this time as they had been before; aching feet the morning after had taught her a lesson.

She decided to leave her hair down this time, letting it brush her bared back. With minimal makeup, she was ready.

This time when she stepped out of the floo at the Manor, she was prepared for the throng of people and managed to sidestep them. She wandered down the hall searching for familiar sights, until she found her way back to the cloak room, and deposited her robe.

After chatting politely with several of the guests who recognized her from the first party, she found one who led her back into the parlour, where the drinks were being served. She helped herself to a snifter full of a liquid that smelled distinctly alcoholic, and sipped at it.

“Didn’t expect to see you hitting the brandy this early in the evening,” a voice drawled from behind her. She turned in surprise to see the host himself smirking at her.

“Yes, well. I imagine that a great many people do not expect much from me at all,” she replied, taking a longer drink. “Where are Neville and Pansy?”

“Not here yet. Having a shag at home before they come, if I’m not mistaken.”

Ginny choked on the mouthful of alcohol, and he grinned.

“Excuse me?”

“Didn’t you know about that? She always shags him good and proper before they come to these things, so that the last thing he’ll think about is another woman.”

“That’s a mental image I did not need,” she said, closing her eyes.

“Indeed. Well, have a pleasant evening, Weasley.”

It was only after he’d walked away that she realized that he’d called her by her maiden name.

“Excuse me,” a rich baritone voice beside her said. She turned and found herself face-to-face with Blaise Zabini, and she smiled.

“Blaise! How on earth have you been? I haven’t seen you since you and Lavender called it quits last year.”

“Well,” he said, shrugging. “She’d decided that having a career left no room for a man just now. We parted on good terms – we’re still friends, unlike you and your estranged husband.”

“People change as they get older, I expect,” she said offhandedly, ignoring how much the remark hit home.

“Care to have a spin around the dance floor with me?” he asked, offering her his hand. She accepted with a gracious smile.

“I’d love to.”

Draco watched the pair step onto the dance floor and begin to move, admiring the flash of creamy thigh that her dress afforded him with every turn they made. Truly the youngest Weasley had grown up while she’d been married to Potter, and the changes were noticeable.

Where once she’d moved with the awkwardness of adolescence and one who hadn’t grown into her body yet, now she moved with a sort of effortless grace. She seemed oblivious to the effect that she was having on the men present at the party, so intent was she on enjoying the dance she was involved in.

“Not you, too,” a voice chided him. He turned to see Pansy giving him a knowing look, and he arched an eyebrow.

“Not me what?”

“I saw you,” she said, glancing towards Ginny, and then looking back. “You’re just as taken with her as the rest of the men here, and you’re not hiding it very well.”

“Nonsense.”

“There’s no point in denying it; you’re practically salivating.”

“Let it go, Parkinson. I have no more interest in her than I have in you.”

“And that’s why you invited her tonight?” she asked, her voice thick with amusement. He shrugged nonchalantly.

“I did it as a preventative measure against Longbottom’s whinging. Where is he, by the way?”

“At home, sick. Why don’t you ask her to dance?”

“Because I’m not interested in dancing with her.”

“No,” she mused aloud as he walked away. “You’re interested in much more than that, aren’t you, my friend?”
5 :: Prelude to a Kiss by CliodnaHPFan
Chapter Five :: Prelude to a Kiss

Ginny took a deep breath to steady herself before flooing to her parents’ house. When she arrived, the first thing she smelled was the tantalizing scent of her Mum’s famous chocolate chip cookies. She followed her nose into the kitchen, where Molly greeted her with a hug.

“I’ve been wondering when you were going to pay us a visit,” Molly said, watching Ginny reach for a cookie and take a bite. “Especially with all of the articles about you in the Prophet as of late.” Ginny nearly choked on her cookie.

“There’s been more than one?”

“Don’t you ever read it, dear?” Ginny shook her head, and Molly clucked her tongue. She reached into a pocket of her apron and withdrew the latest copy of the Prophet, and handed it to her daughter. “Turn to the society page.”

Ginny did as she was told, and when she saw the photo of Blaise pressing a kiss to the back of her hand, she began to feel lightheaded. She read the story beneath the photo, and immediately her temper flared.

“It says here that I change men like I change my socks!” she snapped, furious. “And they’ve – oh, no they didn’t – they called me a tart!” Molly hid her smile as she cleared her throat.

“Well, you’ve got to look at it from their perspective, darling. After all, your divorce is barely finalized, and you’ve already been seen with two different men,” she paused for a moment, and then sat down at the table next to Ginny.

“Go ahead and ask me,” Ginny sighed, dropping the paper in disgust.

“I wasn’t going to, but I’ve got to admit that I’m worried about you. What in the world are you doing going to parties at the Malfoy home? You haven’t become wrapped up in anything you ought not to be, have you?”

Ginny’s jaw hung loose a bit before she answered. “No, Mum, I haven’t. I went to the parties for Neville – he and Pansy go, and he needed someone to talk to.”

“And… the men?” her mother prompted.

“A fringe benefit,” Ginny retorted airily. Molly frowned.

“If you need to talk about what happened-“

“No, Mum, I really don’t. I know how much everyone loves Harry, and I know how much everyone loves Hermione. Well, now everyone can love them together.”

“Ginevra Weasley Potter,” Molly reprimanded, her lips pressed into a thin line of disapproval. “It’s true that we love both of them as if they were our own children, but they’re not, and you are. Don’t you dare insinuate for one moment that we care more about them and their welfare than we do about yours.”

Tears sprung to Ginny’s eyes, and she bowed her head in shame, properly chastised. “I was worried.”

“About what? Surely you didn’t believe that we’d choose them over you!” Molly’s cheeks were pink. “I can’t say that I approve of the way you’ve been behaving as of late, but it’s your life, and if this is how you’re working through what happened, then so be it.”

“Mum, you’re amazing. Has anyone told you that lately?” Ginny asked, smiling through the tears that blurred her vision. Molly tried to hide her pleased expression by harrumphing and rose from her seat.

“I can’t imagine that anyone wouldn’t do the same for their only daughter,” she said, pulling another batch of cookies from the oven. “Now tell me about your new fellow.”

“He’s not my fellow,” Ginny said, wiping the tears from her eyes with her shirt sleeve. “I only went out on one date with him, and that was two nights ago.”

“What was wrong with him?” Molly asked, half-turning to look at her daughter.

“Turns out he’s extremely rude and arrogant when in public.” She shrugged as her Mum sighed. “He was so rude to the waitress at the restaurant we went to that I got up and left halfway through dinner.”

“And the first one you dated?”

“After we went for dinner, he tried to grope me.”

“I hope you gave him what for,” Molly said, her eyes flashing at the thought of anyone manhandling her daughter.

“I slapped him,” Ginny admitted, taking the glass of milk her mother offered her.

“Is there going to be another party, then?” Molly asked.

“There’s one tonight. My invitation came just before I came over here.” She was silent for a few moments before she cleared her throat. “Mum… how’s the rest of the family taking my divorce?”

“Well, Ron is understandably upset.” Ginny’s heart sank. “After all, Harry and Hermione were his best friends, and he’s terribly angry at the both of them for this treachery.” Ginny’s eyes shot up to meet her mother’s.

“You mean he’s not… he’s not mad at me?”

“What in the world for?” Molly asked, sounding bewildered. “You weren’t the one who had an affair! Really, Ginevra, do you think this badly of your family?”

“No,” Ginny sighed, relieved. “And everyone else?”

“Your father was heartbroken, I can tell you that much. He so wanted you to be happy, and to have his grandchildren.”

“My life isn’t over yet, Mum. I can still have children.”

“Not without being married first, I hope,” Molly huffed.

“I don’t think I’m cut out for marriage,” Ginny answered softly.

“You just didn’t marry the right man, is all,” her Mum consoled her. “When the right one comes, you’ll know, and you’ll be so happy it will be unbearable.”

“I don’t know if there is a right man for me.”

“He’s out there somewhere, dear. You can’t lose hope. Besides, if you’re not interested in remarrying, why do you bother with dating?”

“Dating is fun – it’s the easy part. It’s the commitment that I can’t handle.”

Molly eyed her daughter thoughtfully. “Don’t let one man shake your faith in all of them. Not all men are so weak willed – just look at your father.”

Ginny smiled. “Not all men are like Dad.”

“And not all men are like Harry, either.”

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


Ginny rolled her mother’s words over in her mind repeatedly as she prepared for the party. She pinned her hair up in a loose bun at the nape of her neck before slipping into her dress. Tonight it was to be a periwinkle frock, off the shoulders and with a flared skirt – perfect for dancing, she thought.

She strapped on a matching pair of shoes that looked very nearly like ballet slippers, and wrapped her robe around herself. Once at the party and her robe put away, she found Neville immediately. He gave a low whistle when she did a twirl for him.

“You’re going to break some hearts tonight,” he said, smiling. She rolled her eyes. “Got anyone in your sights yet?”

“No,” she said, glancing around. Neville handed her a drink, which she sipped from as she surveyed the room. “Wait – where’s Pansy?”

“Dancing with our host,” he said, nodding towards the dance floor. Ginny sought them out. When her eyes located the immaculately groomed white-blonde hair, her grip on her glass tightened.

While it was true that she’d never thought Draco Malfoy to be particularly attractive, she had to admit that there was something about him –something almost magnetic, if she had to choose a word. There was something that automatically drew every eye in the place to him, whether male or female.

And as she watched him dance, something slithered through her. The way his hips moved against Pansy’s as they moved to the latin rhythm; the way his arms held her just so – it was enough to make desire pool in her stomach, and it surprised her.

She realized with a start that it had been nearly three weeks before they’d parted since Harry had touched her. Well then, it was no wonder that watching the erotic dancing on the floor was making her feel needy, was it? She smiled to herself as she took another drink.

Neville, who had been watching Ginny carefully, shook his head. Pansy had mentioned something last week about Draco being interested in Ginny, and since that night, he’d heard nothing but how they needed to be brought together. He’d told Pansy repeatedly that Ginny would never hold any sort of interest in the Malfoy heir.

He was much chagrined to see that Ginny looked very interested, after all.

“Now, why isn’t a lovely lady like yourself out on the dance floor?” Ginny turned and tried to quell her first reaction to the man, which was to gag.

“Derrick,” she managed, forcing a smile. “How lovely to see you again. You’re looking… well.”

“I’ve been playing professional Quidditch for Kenmare for about two years now,” he said proudly. His smile was filled with holes from missing teeth, and it was all Ginny could do not to flinch.

“Let me guess – you’re a Beater.”

“How did you know?”

“You were a Beater for the Slytherin team,” she said, reaching for another glass of alcohol as a house elf passed with a tray of them. Derrick looked pleased.

“Would you-“

“Begging your pardon,” someone interrupted. Ginny turned at the sound of Draco’s voice. “Evening - Derrick, Longbottom. I hope you won’t mind if I borrow your lady friend for a few moments?”

Derrick looked crestfallen, and Neville shook his head, careful to keep his expression neutral. Ginny looked entirely relieved, and handed her drink to Neville as Malfoy led her onto the dance floor.

When he wrapped his arms around her, her breath caught in her throat. “Thank you for that.”

“For what?” he asked calmly.

“For that rescue,” she breathed, shaking her head. “I think he was about to ask me to dance, and there was no one I’d have enjoyed it less with.”

“Even me?” he asked, clearly amused.

“Even you,” she affirmed, moving with him.

“You seem very open to male suitors,” he said, spinning her with ease. “Why should he be any different?”

“He’s not my type,” she said flatly.

“Oh? And what is your type, exactly? Because if you’re looking around here for a hero with a heart of gold, you’re in the wrong place. You’ve more chance of encountering the fallen Dark Lord here.” She froze in his arms and glared at him through narrowed eyes.

“Is that what you think I’m doing?” she hissed. “Looking for a replacement for Harry?”

“Aren’t you?” He dropped his arms, oblivious to the growing number of people who were staring at them.

“Absolutely not,” she snapped. “And how dare you even suggest such a thing.”

“This is my home, I’ll suggest what I like,” he said, his voice cold. He put his arms around her again and began moving with her. “And I suggest you dance until the song is over – we’ve attracted quite the audience.”

She flushed with embarrassment and put her hands on his shoulders. “You know, I thought you’d changed since school, but I can see that I was very much mistaken.”

“Isn’t that nice,” he said, sounding uninterested.

“You’re infuriating!” she snapped.

“And yet you keep accepting my invitations. Why is that, do you think?”

“Why do you keep inviting me?” she fired back. “You hate my ex husband, and you hate me. Yet this is the third time I’ve been here. Why?”

“Why not?” he asked, sounding bored. “Surely you don’t think it’s because I have any vested interest in you?”

“Of course not,” she said, ignoring the heat that rose to her cheeks. “Now if you’ll excuse me, the dance is over, and I need to make a trip to the loo. Kindly point me in that direction.”

“Down the hall, fifth door on the right.” He held her for a moment longer, waiting until she met his eyes. He opened his mouth as if to say something, and then thought better of it and clamped his lips together. She stared after him in confusion before turning and heading into the bathroom.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


“So, who did Ginny dance with last night?” Pansy asked, rolling over and draping her arm over Neville’s bare chest. He groaned and shook his head.

“You know bloody fucking well who she danced with, you evil witch,” he mumbled, enjoying the feel of her fingernails raking lightly down his skin.

“Yes, but I like it better when you tell me that I was right,” she purred.

“You were right. There, happy now?”

“Did you see them dancing?”

“Yes, I watched the whole debacle.”

“Debacle?” she asked, propping herself up on her elbows. “What do you mean by that?”

“I mean that they seemed to be getting on fine, until about halfway through their dance, when they broke apart and stood in the middle of the floor, snapping at each other. When they’d finished dancing, Gin was livid. She made it a point to dance with every man that asked her.”

“And Draco? What did he do?”

“He danced with nearly every other woman in the room.”

“They were just trying to make each other jealous, you know,” she said, giving him a knowing smile as she laid back down. “I don’t know why they’re fighting it so hard. The mutual attraction is obvious.”

“I hate to admit it, but I think you’re right. She turned a pretty shade of red when he asked her to dance.”

“Is that so?” The wheels in Pansy’s mind began to turn rapidly. “Do you have plans for tonight, love?”

“No, why?” he asked cautiously. He knew what that note in her voice meant – she was scheming again.

“I think we ought to have a little dinner party.”

~*~ ~*~ ~*~



Ginny removed her cloak and handed it to Pansy, who eyed her outfit. “What? I thought Neville said I could dress comfortably,” she protested.

“You look fine,” Neville reassured her, wrapping her in a quick hug. She glanced down at her tight (but comfortable) jeans and her snug, long-sleeved shirt. Her hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail.

“Well, once our other guest arrives, we’ll begin dinner,” Pansy said, unable to contain the amusement in her voice. Ginny shot Neville a look and mouthed the words, “other guest?” Before he could do more than give her a helpless look and shrug his shoulders, a noise sounded, signaling someone’s apparition.

“Well, well, I wondered why Parkinson had invited me over,” he drawled. Ginny stiffened with her back turned to him. “And now I know. Evening, Weasley.”

“Evening,” she returned, forcing her voice to stay level. She leveled a glare at Neville, who cleared his throat.

“I think I’d better go see what’s keeping Pansy,” he said, excusing himself from the room. Draco strode forward and sat the bottle of wine he’d brought on the table.

“Interesting ensemble,” he observed.

“Bugger off,” she snapped, finally turning to look at him. Her temper faltered for the briefest of moments as she took in his casual appearance. He, too, was wearing jeans, paired with a short-sleeved royal blue t-shirt.

“No thanks,” he replied, smirking at the telltale blush that rose to her cheeks. “Maybe later, if you’re up to it.” Her eyes narrowed to slits.

“You arrogant, self-absorbed-“

“Better watch it,” he cautioned. “Flattery will get you everywhere with me.”

“Oh!” she growled, stomping her foot petulantly. “You are the most infuriating man I’ve ever met!”

“You left out handsome, intelligent, and amazing dancer,” he corrected her, glancing around at his surroundings.

“Right,” she snapped, rolling her eyes.

“Not much of a place, is it? Barely habitable. But I suppose you’re used to it – your flat probably looks exactly the same, doesn’t it?”

“As if you’d ever see the inside of my flat,” she scoffed, folding her arms over her chest.

“Was that an invitation?” he asked, arching an eyebrow.

“Absolutely not!” she said, looking horrified.

“You know what I think?” he drawled, stepping closer to her. She took a step backward, and then another, and another, until she was backed up against the table and he was standing so close that she could smell the mint on his breath. “You don’t know what you want. That’s why you keep coming to my parties and going out with these random men that you don’t even know.”

“What do you care?” she snapped, her pulse racing and her adrenaline beginning to flow.

“I don’t. Just don’t think you’re going to work your way through all of my friends and then try me on for size, because it won’t happen.”

“Don’t flatter yourself - I’d never even considered it!”

“I’m not flattering myself, kitten,” he said, his eyes narrowing slightly. Butterflies erupted in her stomach. “I’m just telling you like it is.”

“Get away from me,” she whispered, her eyes focused on his parted lips. “Now.”

“Or you’ll do what?” he asked, clearly amused.

“Something I’ll regret,” she said, lifting her eyes to his.

“Oh?” he sounded interested, and then his eyes went cold at the threat. “Just try it.”

Anger surged through her at his dismissal, and she propelled herself forward, pressing her mouth to his.
6 :: Paroxysm by CliodnaHPFan
Chapter Six :: Paroxysm

Ginny’s lips remained pressed against Draco’s for roughly five seconds when she came to her senses and pushed him away as hard as she could. He stared at her, his eyes wide. After a few seconds had passed, the surprised look faded from his face and he sneered. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and had just opened his mouth to say something when Pansy and Neville walked in.

“But it looked fine,” Neville protested, giving Pansy a weak smile. “The last time I checked on it, it looked perfect.”

“And when did you check on it last?” Pansy asked, her lips pursed together as her hands flew to her hips.

“About an hour ago,” came his muted response. Pansy rolled her eyes and turned back to her guests.

“We’re going to have to go out for dinner, after all,” she said, not missing the way Ginny averted her eyes and the rosy flush of Draco’s skin. “What sounds good to you?”

“Mystique,” Draco said automatically. Ginny’s eyebrows shot up as everyone began gathering their cloaks, and when they’d gathered around the floo, Neville looked at Ginny.

“Aren’t you coming, Gin?”

“Erm – not this time, thanks,” she declined, shaking her head. Pansy frowned.

“Why in the bloody hell not?”

“Because she can’t afford it,” Draco drawled, his perfect sneer plastered on the perfect face that Ginny really wanted to sock with her perfect fist.

“I can afford it, I just – it’s that – well,” she said, exasperated, “Mystique is the best restaurant in the Wizarding world, and look at how I’m dressed.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Neville said disbelievingly. Pansy tut-tutted and rolled her eyes again.

“Men,” she snapped. “Follow me, Ginny.” She led Ginny into the bedroom she shared with Neville, and began rummaging through her closet. “Will this do?” she asked, holding up a slinky black dress.

“On second thought…” Ginny said uncertainly, looking down at her snug jeans.

“Oh, no, you’re going to wear it now, or you’re going to offend me,” Pansy demanded, shoving the dress at her before leaving the room. With a sigh, Ginny shed her clothes and pulled on Pansy’s dress. It was too snug across the breasts (Pansy had apparently been performing glamour charms on herself for quite some time) and bum (which Pansy had obviously been too proud of to charm), making her look as though she was all boobs and bum.

She transfigured her trainers into high heels and gnawed mercilessly on her bottom lip as she rejoined them. Neville’s eyes nearly popped out of his head, Pansy murmured with frank appreciation, and Malfoy… well, she didn’t bloody well care what Malfoy’s reaction was.

“I’m ready, then.”

“Aren’t you going to wear a cloak or something?” Malfoy snapped. Ginny refused to look at him.

“I didn’t bring one. But since you’re so worried about being seen with me in public, how would it be if I flooed before you did?” She stepped into the floo and called out “Mystique!” before anyone could stop her.

“I’m going after her,” Neville announced. “You guys can catch up.” And then he was gone, leaving Pansy and Draco alone. Pansy turned on him.

“What in the name of Morgaine are you doing?” she demanded.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he sniffed disdainfully.

“You’re not fooling anyone,” she announced, her eyes narrowing at him. “I saw the looks on your faces when Neville and I came back into the kitchen, and I know something happened. Why are you being so nasty to her now? You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, Draco.”

“Mustn’t let the Weasel think that she can just put her dirty paws on me whenever the mood strikes her,” he said, shrugging carelessly. She gritted her teeth.

“And you mustn’t let her think that you’re not interested when it isn’t true,” she shot back, her eyes sparking with anger. He arched an eyebrow at her.

“And who says it isn’t?”

“I say it isn’t,” she declared, poking a slender finger into his chest. “And if you knew what was good for you, you’d quit prancing around in front of her like a ponce and do something about the mutual attraction.”

He decided to ignore the ponce slur – just until he got something clear. “Hang on - mutual attraction, did you say?”

“You’re not stupid, Draco. Test the waters for yourself and find out.” She stepped into the floo and smirked at him before disappearing.

“Ponce?” he sniffed, stepping into the hearth. “I’m more manly than your fiancé any day of the week.”

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


Dinner was uneventful insomuch as Ginny absolutely refused to even look in Draco’s general direction. Whenever he would make a comment or direct a barb at her, she would simply smile beatifically and ignore his presence.

It was really starting to piss him off.

After all, what right did she have? She had kissed him, not the other way around! It wasn’t as though he’d trespassed on some sacred ground or taken advantage of her, or anything like that. If anything, she’d taken advantage of him!

He was just beginning to enjoy the mental images that the phrase brought to mind when he realized that the devil herself was speaking to him. He frowned. “What are you nattering on about now, Parkinson?”

“I was just saying,” she snapped, her patience wearing dangerously thin, “That your next party should be a themed one.”

“Don’t be stupid,” he replied lazily, reaching for his glass of wine. “The next party is already planned out entirely.”

“I realize that,” Pansy retorted. “It’s tomorrow night, so you wouldn’t have the time to change it properly. I meant the one after that.”

“Well, I for one can’t wait to see what lovely color Ginny will be wearing next,” Neville said, smiling in his attempt to draw his best friend into the conversation. It was painfully obvious to Ginny that he’d had just a bit too much wine.

“What does that matter?” Draco asked, his eyes cold. “All that matters to her is that every man in the room notice her and beg for a dance – or a shag. Either way, it’s the same.”

Ginny’s face turned magenta, but still she said nothing to Draco, refusing to let him bait her. “Actually, Nev, I hadn’t planned on going to the next party.”

Only Pansy was close enough to hear Draco’s hiss of anger.

“That’s good,” he drawled, lifting the goblet of tart liquid to his lips. “Since I wasn’t planning on inviting you.”

Ginny’s tenuous grasp on her temper snapped. She rose from the table, tossing her napkin down, and mumbled her excuses to Neville and Pansy before shooting Draco a fiery look and storming out of the restaurant. She barreled out into the street, getting roughly about a half a block away when a hand reached out and grabbed her arm, spinning her around.

“I realize that the Weasleys have no manners, but this is ridiculous! What in the bloody fuck do you think you’re doing, just walking out like that?” Draco demanded, his slate eyes icy with anger.

“I’m going home,” she snapped, her chest heaving in her anger. “I’m tired of listening to your pathetic attempts to insult me!”

“Pathetic?” he echoed, his eyes narrowing into slits.

“Yes, pathetic,” she reiterated. “As if you not inviting me to your next soirée was going to hurt my feelings.” She snorted.

“Of course it didn’t work, since that’s so clearly not why you left, isn’t it?” he challenged. Her mouth opened and closed several times, but no sound came out. Just as he was beginning to look completely satisfied with himself, she did the only thing that she could think of that would make him go away.

She slapped him.

Freckled palm connected with alabaster cheek, and left her skin stinging from the contact. The left side of his face bore her handprint, emblazoned in scarlet for all to see. His eyes went dark gray, and then she was shoved - her back pressed against the brick wall of the building he’d stopped her in front of – and being kissed as though his life depended on it.

There was nothing gentle about the contact whatsoever. Teeth clacked against each other, her fingers tangled mercilessly in his shoulder-length hair, and tongues danced wildly together.

If any passerby on the street had seen them, they might have thought that the two were trying to devour each other. It was partially true – the intensity with which Draco was kissing her was making Ginny feel very much as though he wanted to devour her. The thought didn’t bother her as it probably ought – instead it started a fire low in her belly and gave her an excuse to kiss him back with every bit as much intensity.

After all, if she showed him any weakness, he would find some way to exploit it to his advantage. And she couldn’t have him thinking that she couldn’t give as good as she got, either.

When her lips became sore from the pressure of his mouth, she began to wonder if Draco Malfoy was really as promiscuous as everyone thought him to be. Really, if the man was this into simply kissing her, then he wasn’t getting something he needed, somewhere. She was about to break away and inform him of this when she felt his right hand move to cup her bum. Her gasp of surprise rose into the night air as he finally moved his mouth from hers in order to affix it to the spot just below her ear. When he squeezed gently, she let out a tiny squeak.

And all at once, it was too much. She pushed him away, waiting until his eyes (which had turned such a dark shade of gray that they nearly looked black) met hers before she spoke.

“Follow me.”

She didn’t stop to question whether or not he actually wanted to go home with her; she didn’t really care. She just needed something to stop the aching that had been building up inside of her for nigh to two weeks, and if Malfoy could – er, fill the void, so to speak – then so be it. He’d have to do.

She walked briskly down the sidewalk, not bothering to pause and listen for footsteps, until she reached a store that she was certain had a floo portal inside. She pushed the door open and strode inside, stepping into the floo. When she turned around, she saw that Malfoy was right behind her. He stepped into the floo without hesitation, and she grabbed onto his arm as she said “Ginny Weasley’s flat.”

They hadn’t even made it out of her fireplace before they were pawing wildly at each other. She yanked off his shirt and dropped it carelessly on the floor, and he didn’t protest. Instead he fastened his mouth on hers as his hands found the hem of Pansy’s dress, riding high on her thighs. He pushed it upward, letting his hands slide against her skin as he did.

His palms skimmed over the skin of her outer thighs, then over her hips, and up the sides of her ribcage. He detached himself from her long enough to pull the flimsy piece of material over her head and throw it to a corner of the room, and then his mouth was right back on hers.

His hands roamed over the skin of her back and came to rest at the clasp of her bra, which he fumbled with. Annoyed, she reached down and began unzipping his pants, and pulled her mouth away from his to pant “It’s in the front.”

She had his pants unzipped and pushed halfway down to his knees when her words registered, and his hands deftly unfastened the emerald green bra she’d only worn once before. He pushed it down her arms and cupped a breast in one hand, letting the other hand slide down her back and beneath the worn fabric of her knickers.

He managed somehow to get loose of his pants, and Ginny was surprised – and somewhat relieved, at this stage – to discover that he was now completely unclothed and very ready for her. Her head tilted back as he dipped his head to taste the pale flesh of a breast, and her fingernails dug into the bare skin of his shoulders.

“Malfoy,” she gasped. He didn’t look up from his task.

“Mmm?”

“Now,” she ordered. He didn’t need to be told twice, and pushed her backwards until her bare back was pressed against the wall. With one swift motion, her knickers were gone, and she was standing in front of him, completely bared. She didn’t have time to have doubts about whether or not he thought her body adequate enough, though, because in the next moment, he’d slid a broad hand beneath her knee and pulled a leg up around his hip to gain entrance.

She let out a long, keening moan, unable to help herself. He was still for a moment, enjoying the heat of her. When she began to move her hips, however, he lost his tightly reined control, and began thrusting recklessly into her.

Her fingernails felt like they were permanently embedded in his shoulders at this point, but he didn’t care. A stolen glance at her face revealed that her eyes were closed, and her bottom lip was caught between her teeth. Every time he withdrew and reentered her, the smallest gasp would escape her, and the tiny noise spurred him on.

Beads of sweat broke out on his forehead and even though he felt the urge to close his eyes, he kept them open, his eyes burning into hers. She was watching him through heavily lidded eyes, and her face was flushed – whether from the physical exertion or from pleasure, he wasn’t sure. When her eyes finally closed and she caught her plump lower lip between her teeth, he knew she was close.

His thrusting became more irregular as her slick walls tightened around him, causing him to release a guttural groan. Her grip on his shoulders relaxed just as he emptied hot jets of himself into her. He slumped forward and rested his moist forehead against hers, their sweat mingling together.

Her chest was heaving, effectively rubbing her pebbled nipples against his bare chest, and causing him to shiver. Feeling sapped of all energy, he gently disentangled himself and pulled away, watching her expression carefully.

Her eyes fluttered open, and she gave him a soft smile, which startled him. She began gathering her discarded clothing, and he took her cue to do the same thing, pulling his pants on quickly. When she began humming softly to herself, he turned and stared at her. What the hell was going on?

He only realized that he’d spoken the question aloud when she turned to look at him, her eyebrows arched.

“Absolutely nothing is wrong, Malfoy. Why?”

He was too suspicious to say anything else, and just shook his head. He pulled on his shirt, ran his hands through his hair, and then, with a final look at her, he stepped back into the floo.

Something had gone terribly wrong, he thought. He’d only meant to pick a fight with her when she’d stormed out of the restaurant – after all, how dare she leave their presence like that? – and instead, he’d wound up following her to her flat and shagging her senseless.

A smile curved his lips up slightly – well, that part hadn’t really been so bad. His smile faded as quickly as it had come when it began to sink in. He’d shagged a Weasley. No, it was worse than that – she was a Potter now. He’d shagged the same woman that Harry fucking Potter had been sleeping with for years, and that irked him. He was not one to take castoffs, no matter how enticing their moans were to his ears.

He stopped dead in the middle of the hallway that led to his bedroom, and his eyes widened. Potter hadn’t divorced her. It was the other way around, wasn’t it? So she wasn’t a castoff, after all.

Suddenly those keening, wanton moans could have been Phoenix song, for all he knew. A smirk graced his lips as he entered his room and began discarding his clothes, dropping them neatly over the back of a chair.

Everything would be fine now, as long as she didn’t go blabbing to everyone about what they’d done. He pulled on a pair of silk pyjama pants as he considered the possible ramifications.

She could try to extort money from me. He nearly laughed at this prospect. He’d recognized the designer clothes she’d been wearing as of late, and knew that it was proof that she already had some money. It made him smile even wider at the thought that perhaps she had gone on a shopping spree with Potter’s money and had left him destitute. Of course, he knew that wasn’t true, but it was still a pleasant thought.

She could get pregnant. He shook his head. She was a Weasley and as fertile as they appeared to be, she’d been with Potter for years and, to his knowledge, had never conceived. She had to be on the contraceptive potion – and even if she wasn’t, she was a big girl, and she knew the proper charms to cast to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.

Then again, he thought, sliding beneath the silk sheets of his King sized bed, if she did by some miracle get pregnant, it was possible that she might try and trick him into marriage. The thought made him fume. No one would ever trick him into marriage through a child.

Even as he drifted into sleep, his brow was knit with worry. What had he sacrificed, for a few moments’ pleasure?
7 :: Interlude by CliodnaHPFan
Chapter Seven :: Interlude

Ginny stretched languidly in her bed, enjoying the feel of the down comforter against her bare legs. Smiling sleepily to herself, she rose from the bed and went into the kitchen to make some coffee. She was feeling extraordinarily good today.

She plodded into the kitchen, and her happiness didn’t fade even the slightest when her eyes fell on Harry, sitting rigidly in one of the chairs at the table.

“Good morning,” she said brightly, pulling the coffee from the cabinet. He glared at her.

“And that’s all you’ve got to say to me,” he snapped. “Is good morning?”

“Why, Harry? Aren’t you having a good morning?” she asked, smiling. His scowl deepened.

“What’s come over you, Gin? You’re acting as though our marriage meant nothing at all to you.”

“I beg your pardon,” she said calmly, inhaling the aroma of the coffee brewing. “But I think that you’re the one who acted as though our marriage meant nothing. After all, you’re the one who had the affair, not me, remember?”

“Do you know that Ron won’t even accept my owls now?” he demanded.

“Won’t he?” she asked, genuinely surprised. “Imagine that – him siding with his sister over his friend.”

Harry’s eyes narrowed. “You’re acting oddly this morning – even for you. What’s happened?”

“Absolutely nothing,” she said innocently, pouring herself a cup of coffee. “Isn’t a girl allowed to be happy now and then?”

“Of course, but there has to be a reason you’re so … so… chipper.”

“Nothing in particular,” she said, shrugging. She sipped at the steaming liquid, found it wanting, and stirred in another teaspoonful of sugar. She wasn’t about to tell him that shagging Malfoy had somehow seemed to purge her of all the emptiness and anger that had been building up since that night she’d seen him in the arms of another woman. What good would it do to antagonize him further, when he was doing a decent job of antagonizing himself?

“You know I don’t believe you.”

“Yes, that’s nothing new to me,” she said distractedly, opening the morning’s issue of the Daily Prophet.

“You’re seeing someone, aren’t you?”

“Am I?” she asked, thumbing through the paper to get to the Society pages.

“You are, I knew it!” he declared triumphantly.

“Well, it’s nice of you to inform me,” she said, sounding bored. “Thanks for stopping by.” Her eyes landed on a photo of Pansy and Neville, and she smiled. They’d finally made a public announcement about their engagement. Harry cleared his throat, and she looked up, becoming somewhat annoyed. When he showed her the photo he’d pulled out of his pocket, she paled. The morning had just taken a turn for the worse.

“Where did you get that?” Ginny demanded, her lower lip trembling. Harry tossed it onto the table, unable to bring himself to touch it any longer. “Were you having me followed?”

“I wasn’t having you followed,” he denied, looking away from her. “I followed you myself.”

“What?” she blurted, her cheeks pinking. She was unable to tear her eyes away from the picture and the activity going on within its confines. It was a snapshot of she and Draco in the darkened street the night before, kissing. Her face began to burn when she saw Draco’s hand slip down to clutch her bum.

“Who is he?” Her head snapped up at this question, and she studied his face carefully. Could Harry really not know who the man in the photo was? He still wasn’t making eye contact with her. She could have laughed – he didn’t recognize Draco!

“No one you know,” she lied smoothly, plucking the photo from the tabletop. She shoved it down inside the waistband of her knickers, so that it was resting against the skin of her hip. Harry watched this display with interest.

“So what happened?”

“Nothing you need to know about,” she said, sipping her coffee and directing her eyes back towards the paper. “We’re divorced now, so I don’t have to tell you anything about my life. You’re no longer a part of it.”

“How can you-“ he started.

“No, how can you?” she snapped, her temper spiking. It was too early in the morning to have Harry come and provoke her like this, especially on one of her days off. “You decided what you wanted, Harry, and it wasn’t me! I’d appreciate it if you’d quit barging in whenever you feel like it, and grilling me on my personal life, which has nothing to do with you!”

“Fine,” he said, his teeth grinding together. “Just – fine.” And then he was gone. Relieved, Ginny sagged against the table, lightly smacking her forehead on its surface.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


Several miles away, Draco had finally managed to withdraw from his oversized bed and make it to the shower. He didn’t feel truly awake yet, as though he was moving through a fog. He very nearly always felt that way in the mornings; he was simply a night person, and mornings were harsh.

This morning had been particularly harsh, come to think of it.

He’d awoken from a fairly erotic dream in which he had been shagging a nubile woman from every position and angle imaginable. The problem? The nubile woman was a redhead. And not just any redhead – it had been the nubile redhead he’d shagged last night.

He groaned in frustration as the hot water pelted down against his skin, bringing it back to life and giving him some semblance of wakefulness. He washed his hair and scrubbed himself clean with his favorite soap, trying to ignore the fact that, if he closed his eyes, he could still see her smiling softly in his mind’s eye.

He got out of the shower and wrapped a towel around his waist, then headed back into his bedroom, where he went about his morning ritual. Dry off, get dressed, brush hair. Once every hair was in place, he reached over to the top of his bureau, aiming for his watch. When his hand encountered nothing but the bare wood of the bureau, he turned slate eyes towards it. There was nothing there.

He frowned. He always removed his watch before bed; had done so since he was eighteen years old and received the gift from his Mother. Usually Muggle machinations held no interest for him, but seeing as how his own Mum had thought it nice enough to give it to him, he’d worn it every day. He had grown quite fond of it, actually. The weight of the silver round his wrist was comforting.

Now, however, it seemed he’d been burgled.

He rang for a house elf. When the tiny creature appeared, he crossed his arms over his chest. “Who was in my room last night?”

“No one is being in your room, Master Sir,” the house elf replied timidly. “We is all cleaning the study, like Master Sir told us to.”

He frowned. The house elves were not given to lying - not when they knew that they would be severely punished for doing so. He dismissed the house elf, ignoring her announcement that his breakfast was ready, and massaged his forehead with his fingertips. He already felt naked without the heaviness of the watch. Where in damnation could it be?

He closed his eyes and sighed when an image of red hair flashed behind his closed lids. Just as quickly his eyes flew open, and his jaw dropped.

It must have slipped off during their shag.

He glanced at himself in the mirror one more time before grabbing his cloak and rushing out through the hallway towards the hearth. He had to get that watch back. He only hoped that she hadn’t already found it and hocked it.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


Ginny relaxed on the sofa with her coffee as she read through the paper. It had been a while since the last time she’d done this, she thought. Harry had usually had her out every weekend, either at a Quidditch match, or over at her parents’ house so he could spend time with Ron. It was nice to be able to stay in and relax and do whatever the hell she wanted.

She had just finished an article about the Kenmare Kestrels in the sports section when dust from her fireplace flooded her living room. Coughing, she waved her hand, trying to fan the dust away from her face and see who had caused the mess.

Draco stared at her. It was positively indecent, the way she was dressed. She was lounging on the sofa, her bare legs crossed at the ankles, and wearing nothing but a t-shirt that came to mid-thigh. Just beneath the thin fabric, he could see her black knickers, and something white poking out from beneath the elastic on her leg.

The dust settled enough for her to see that Draco Malfoy – the last person in the world she’d expected to see – had been the one to floo gracelessly into her flat. She sighed. How much more was she going to have to put up with today? She glanced down into her coffee mug, and noticing that there was dust floating at the top of the liquid, she frowned. Rising from her comfortable seat, she went into the kitchen with the mug.

Draco blinked and shook his head before following her.

“Where is it?”

“Where is what?” she asked, rinsing her mug out.

“My watch. Did you sell it already?”

“What watch?” She poured another cup of coffee, and Draco tried not to remember his dream as he eyed the backs of her slender legs.

“The watch that I left here last night on accident,” he snapped coldly. She spooned sugar into her coffee, and then added a tiny bit of milk.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she replied, tasting the liquid. Satisfied, she turned to face him. “What does it look like?”

Momentarily thrown off track by the cinnamon hue of her eyes, he blinked. When he found his voice again, it sounded gruff, even to him. “It’s silver - not that I’d expect a pauper like yourself to recognize a precious metal when you see it.”

“Did you look in the living room before you came in here?” she asked reasonably, ignoring his barb. For some reason today, his snarky nature didn’t bother her at all. He frowned and went back into the other room, where he glanced around.

Nothing. He sighed angrily as she entered the room. “Any luck?”

“No.”

She rolled her eyes and sat her mug down on the end table before getting down on all fours and searching beneath the sofa and chairs. Draco couldn’t move; her arse was sticking up in the air, as though simply waiting for him to touch it. Her shirt had ridden up slightly, and he could see paper sticking out of her knickers where her hip was.

“Men. If it’s not lying out in plain sight, you think it’s hopelessly lost.” She clambered to her feet and held the watch out triumphantly. “It was under the sofa.”

He slid it onto his wrist, welcoming the coolness of it. “What are you hiding?”

“What?” she asked, confused. He pointed to her hip, and immediately heat rose to her cheeks. Her neck and face flushed scarlet. “Oh, that – it’s nothing. Just my to-do list for today.”

“Oh, really.” He was blatantly disbelieving. She didn’t care – he didn’t have to believe her, so long as he left. Post haste.

“Well, you found your watch. You can go now.”

He took a step towards her, and suddenly Ginny got the odd (but distinct) impression that she was being hunted in her own home. She took a step backwards. He continued to move forward until her back was pressed against the wall, and he was standing so close to her that she could feel his breath hot on her face.

“I don’t like it when people lie to me,” he said softly, his eyes dropping to focus on her barely parted lips.

“I don’t owe you anything,” she protested weakly. “Least of all explanations.”

Unable to stop the dream images that were flashing inside his mind, he leaned forward and sucked her bottom lip, gently scraping it with his teeth. She shuddered and closed her eyes, enjoying the sensation more than she should. When she felt his hand on her hip, however, she knew that she’d been had, and she pushed him away.

“You bastard - give it back!” she demanded, holding her hand out. He smirked at her. It really had been too easy to trick her.

“What’s so important about…” his voice died as his eyes fell on the picture. There he was, his arms crushing her to him, kissing her into oblivion. He watched it for a full minute before looking back up at her. “What’s the meaning of this? Where did you get it? Did you have me followed?”

She rolled her eyes at this. “Yes, Malfoy, I had you followed because I knew you were just dying to snog a Weasley.”

He relaxed a bit, though he was still angry. She had a point. “Where did you get this, then?”

She fidgeted and fingered the hem of her nightshirt as she refused to meet his eye. She mumbled something that made Draco’s eyes narrow; something that sounded suspiciously like “Harry.”

“I must be mistaken,” he said coolly, “because I could have sworn that you just said that your ex-husband was the one who had this photo of us together. Your ex-husband, who is my worst enemy, and would do anything to destroy me. Surely you didn’t mean that Harry, did you?”

“It’s not my fault!” she exclaimed, rosy spots arising on her cheeks as she finally turned her eyes to him, glaring. “He’s jealous. He followed me. I had no idea he was there!”

“What exactly does he plan to do with this photograph, then?”

“Nothing, as far as I know,” she said, exasperated. “I don’t think he even knew that it was you in the picture.”

“Right,” he scoffed, glancing down at the item in question again.

“I’m serious,” she said. “If he’d known it was you, surely he would have laid into me more than what he did.”

“He really didn’t know it was me?” he asked, disbelief etched across his features. She shrugged.

“I guess it was just too dark for him to recognize you. Plus you have to admit, you were dressed a little bit differently than usual, so that probably added to the confusion – though why he didn’t recognize your hair, I don’t understand,” she puzzled, frowning. “It’s not as though there are a million people walking around out there with your hair color.”

He stiffened. “And what exactly is wrong with my hair color?”

“I didn’t say there was anything wrong with it, you ponce,” she snapped, turning away from him and heading towards her coffee again.

“That’s the second time in two days that a woman has called me that, and I won’t stand for it!” he snarled. She put her coffee mug down and eyed him thoughtfully.

“You know, you really are quite attractive – for a ferret, I mean.” He could feel the vein in his temple start to throb as his anger rose. “Until you open your mouth, anyway. Why can’t you just keep your bloody gob shut? You’d never pry the women away then, I expect.”

He’d been about to issue forth a scathing insult, but her words stopped him short. “Including you?” he smirked. She arched an eyebrow and closed the distance between them, sliding her arms around his neck. He sucked in a quick breath as she pressed her lips to the side of his neck, letting her tongue dart out to taste his skin.

“Including me,” she murmured, her breath tickling him. He tilted his head back and focused his eyes on the ceiling, rather enjoying the feel of her talented mouth on his skin. Her fingers played with his hair, then gently squeezed his shoulders, causing him to wince. She’d left deep crescent-shaped grooves in his skin, and the wounds were still sensitive. It hadn’t occurred to him to magic them away.

She felt his slightly muscled arms through his jumper, and raised her head, bringing her mouth level with his. She gave him an impish look before she ran her tongue teasingly along his lips, and smiled when he parted them for her. Before he could protest, she had shoved her tongue inside his mouth as she kissed him ruthlessly.

She pressed herself against him, acutely aware of the fact that her knickers were getting damp, and that she could feel his reaction to her nearness. When she pushed him away abruptly, he staggered and stared at her in utter shock.

She held the photograph of the two of them between her fingers and smirked at him.

His cheeks pinked slightly. “That’s a dirty trick.”

“And you fell for it,” she replied sweetly. “Don’t you have somewhere to be?”

“As a matter of fact, I do.” He brushed past her and stepped into the fireplace, not even turning around to get a final glance of her before he left. If he’d looked back, he thought angrily, he might not have left at all.
8 :: Vicissitude by CliodnaHPFan
Chapter Eight :: Vicissitude

Hermione sighed and frowned as she tried to focus her attention on the tome in front of her. It wasn’t going to distract her, and she knew it, but she couldn’t help herself. Ever since she’d been able to pick one up, books had been her way of losing herself; a way of forgetting the troubles that surrounded her.

An escape.

She rubbed her legs together beneath her desk, trying to relieve some of the tension she was feeling, when Harry entered the room. Involuntarily she felt her back stiffen in response. Taking deep breaths, she tried to relax, but it just wasn’t doing any good.

She knew that Harry had been following Ginny; she’d found the photographic evidence stashed deep inside his underwear drawer. She hadn’t been snooping, she reminded herself. She’d been putting away his clean laundry, and had been trying to make room in the already overstuffed drawer for the rest of his things.

When she’d stumbled across the pictures, she’d fallen to the floor, staring at them. She’d blinked repeatedly, trying to tell herself that she wasn’t seeing all the things she thought she saw. For one, it was proof that Harry had been following his ex wife, and that was further proof that he wasn’t ready to be with her.

Secondly, it showed that Ginny had not only moved on, but she’d chosen the one person in the world that would hurt Harry the most – Draco Malfoy. His white-blonde hair had been a dead giveaway. Immediately she’d also realized that Harry didn’t realize who was snogging Ginny so heatedly – if he had recognized Malfoy, the man would have been splattered across the pavement the moment Harry knew.

She’d kept her mouth shut, though, not wanting to interfere with whatever was going on between the love of her life and his former wife. She’d done enough damage as it was, and wasn’t particularly keen on being the one to let Harry know that his ex was letting Malfoy put his hands all over her.

Harry would be furious if he ever found out that she’d known and had kept it from him, but that was a risk she was willing to take – rather than see her lover in Azkaban for the murder of his ex-wife’s new lover.

“Hey,” Harry said softly, giving her shoulder a gentle nudge. She forced a smile to her lips and glanced up.

“Hey.”

“What are you reading?”

“Theories of Advanced Arithmancy,” she rattled off. Immediately he cringed.

“Oh – forget I asked, then.” She rolled her eyes good-naturedly and shook her head.

“Always avoiding a good book,” she teased, looking back down at the pages open in front of her. She’d been reading the same paragraph all morning.

“I would never avoid a good book,” he said, grinning. “I just wanted to tell you that I’m going to a match this weekend, so I’ll be gone Saturday and Sunday.”

“Both days?” she asked, turning concerned eyes to him. She’d never be able to shake the suspicion that he was cheating on her whenever he left her, but she supposed that that was her just desserts – after all, he’d told Ginny he was working late when he was actually coming to see her, hadn’t he?

Harry laughed and wrapped her in a tight hug. “I’ll be with some friends, not another woman,” he assured her, as though reading her thoughts. She closed her eyes and let the warmth of his body seep into her, comforting her.

“Just be careful,” she whispered, tears stinging her eyes.

“I’ll be fine,” he said, pulling away and dropping a light kiss on the top of her head. “And I’ll come back to you, Hermione. Don’t worry.” With that, he turned and went into their room to pack a few things for the weekend.

“I can’t help it,” she whispered, staring after him. “Worrying is what I do best.”

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


It had been a long, stressful week at work, and Ginny was more than happy to be going home for two days of nothing but rest and relaxation. True to his word, Malfoy hadn’t invited her to the two parties he’d had since their argument at the restaurant. More to her surprise, he hadn’t tried to contact her at all since their confrontation the morning after.

Her cheeks began to burn as she thought about their encounter. She’d shagged a total of two men in her life – Harry and Malfoy. Two sworn enemies, different as night and day. Literally. Harry had dark hair and green eyes, and Malfoy had gray eyes and white-blonde hair. Harry had a sunny disposition, though he was rather introverted, for all his fame. Malfoy was cruel and outgoing, and had the reputation to prove it.

Harry was sweet and tender as a lover, and Malfoy – her cheeks began to burn again. Malfoy had been nothing short of animalistic, and she had responded wildly to that. She had enjoyed it, much more so than she’d ever enjoyed making love with Harry.

She ought to be ashamed, she thought. Ought to, but she wasn’t. She deserved something after all she’d been through, and Malfoy had been more than willing to provide what she needed – why should she feel guilty about it?

She patted her pocket lightly as she strolled home, enjoying the cool evening air. The picture went with her everywhere she went – as protection against retaliation, she told herself. Even though she’d changed the wards on her flat to keep Harry out, she still feared that he would get in and find the photo.

So she’d taken to carrying the thing around with her, still pausing at times to staring at it. Sometimes it was hard to believe that it had actually happened – especially now that Malfoy showed no interest in her whatsoever. She shrugged and moved her hand away from her pocket. She supposed that that was how he operated – find a woman, shag her once, and then lose interest. It certainly seemed to be his modus operandi for all of the other women she’d seen on his arm throughout the years.

She stopped in front of a small newsstand and browsed through the papers, barely glancing at the headlines. When her eyes fell on the Daily Prophet, however, she let out a little gasp. She grabbed the paper, fished several knuts out of her pocket, and dropped them on the counter. It seemed her evening walk was over as she apparated home and dropped on the sofa to read.

Lucius Malfoy Found Dead

Azkaban guards reported that upon arriving for their morning shift yesterday, they discovered the lifeless body of Lucius Malfoy inside his cell. Although they are conducting a thorough investigation, no foul play is suspected. Funeral services will be held Wednesday evening at six o’clock p.m. at Malfoy Manor.


Ginny frowned to herself. Why hadn’t she heard about this before seeing it in the paper, like everyone else? She was an Auror, and the Aurors had all been on a rotating schedule as guards for Malfoy’s prison cell. She’d done guard duty there only last week, and was scheduled to guard him again on Friday night.

Why hadn’t she been told about his death?

She dropped the paper onto her coffee table and went into the kitchen to find something to eat. Invariably, her thoughts drifted to Draco, and she wondered how he was taking the news. She knew nothing of his relationship with his father, except that he visited him on the last Sunday of every month. Frankly, she didn’t blame him for not going more. Azkaban was eerie enough, without having to see someone you loved imprisoned there.

Perhaps she ought to go to the funeral tomorrow, she thought. A frown rose to her face, and she shook her head as she began to wash off a potato. Why in the world would she even entertain that thought? Just because she’d shagged the man’s son once, she now felt obligated to go to his funeral?

Her scowl deepened as she used a fork to poke holes in the potato, and then put it on a baking sheet and popped it in the oven.

Still, she mused thoughtfully, it wouldn’t hurt her to show up. Pansy would definitely be going, which meant that Neville would ostensibly be dragged along to accompany her. It wouldn’t look suspicious if she went in order to be an additional pillar of support for the two of them.

She deserted the kitchen in favor of the hearth, tossing in a handful of powder and calling out Neville’s name. When her eyes focused on the scene laid out in front of her, she sucked in a breath.

Draco Malfoy was sandwiched between Neville and Pansy on the sofa, his head in his hands. Pansy was rubbing small, comforting circles on his back, while Neville just stared at the floor and shook his head.

She was just about to back out without saying a word when Malfoy happened to glance up and catch her eye. His eyes were red-rimmed and bloodshot, and he didn’t look as though he’d slept in a while.

“Enjoying the scene?” he snapped acidly. Pansy and Neville looked up at the sound of his voice, and Ginny’s mouth simply opened and closed repeatedly. It seemed that for once in her life, words had deserted her.

“Did you need something, Gin?” Neville asked gently.

“I was actually… I was just … no,” she bit out finally, unable to tear her gaze away from Malfoy’s. “I’m sorry I bothered you.”

She backed slowly out of the hearth, sitting back on her haunches and frowning. She would have simply sent an owl if she’d thought that Malfoy would be at the Longbottom/Parkinson residence – but that was the problem, as of late.

She never stopped to think things through anymore.

If she had, she thought, pulling herself to her feet, she would never have slept with the man in the first place. Now, like it or not, she felt a connection between them – one that she was certain he didn’t feel.

The remainder of her day off passed without much fanfare, and she went on about her normal day-off activities. She cleaned her bedroom and the bathroom, then moved to the living room. Tomorrow when she woke up, she would finish by cleaning the fireplace, and then she’d clean the kitchen before taking the rest of the day off to relax before she had to report in for her shift.

Sleep came fitfully, bringing with it the memory of Malfoy’s mouth on her skin. When she awoke, it was to find that she had literally soaked the sheets with her sweat. She felt as though she were burning alive inside of her own skin, and the feeling shamed her. Yesterday she’d felt sorry for him, and last night she’d lusted for him. Today was his father’s funeral, and she had come to the conclusion that she had no place there – not even tagging along with Neville and Pansy.

It wouldn’t be right for her to pretend as though she’d meant anything to him, other than a quick outlet for some sexual frustration.

She showered quickly, and then pulled her hair back into a loose ponytail at the base of her neck. She pulled on a tank top and a pair of old shorts, and set about changing the sheets on her bed. When she’d finished that task, she set to work on the fireplace.

Two hours later and covered in soot, she was starting to feel better. Cleansed, perhaps, of the object of her thoughts. Any lustful urges she’d had were instantly quelled at the recollection of the red-rimmed eyes she’d glimpsed the night before – and then she felt guilty. Why she should feel that way, she didn’t know, but it didn’t change the fact that she did.

She’d just finished rinsing the soot off of herself and had plunged her hands into the soapy water that filled the kitchen sink when she heard a loud noise in the living room, indicating that someone had apparated. She wiped her hands off on a dishtowel, but before she could turn around, arms had encircled her waist, and someone’s mouth was on the sensitive spot where her neck met her shoulder.

“W-who-“ she stuttered, totally caught off guard.

“Please,” he said, his voice choked. “Please. I just need to feel something tonight.” His soft drawl caressed her ear and caused her eyes to flutter closed, and she relaxed against him.

She was so confused that she didn’t stop to think about her state of dress or the fact that she was sweaty from cleaning all day – nor did she stop to reason why he had chosen to come to her, of all people. There was a time and place for analyzing and cataloguing things, and this was not it.

She lifted her right arm so she could cradle his head with her hand, while her other hand gripped the side of his hip tightly. His mouth moved over her flesh at a fevered pace, dipping to taste the exposed skin of her shoulder before moving back up to sample the flesh just beneath her ear lobe.

Her breath rushed past her lips, and she pushed into him, seeking some sort of release for the feelings that were building. Just as quickly, his hands moved from their position on her waist to cup her breasts, both kneading and caressing with the same touch. The fire was back, building inside of her, rising to incredible heights, and making her wonder that her touch didn’t scorch his smooth alabaster skin.

When she moaned and her knees started to give out, he turned her to face him, and instantly their mouths were fused together. He pulled her shorts down and she kicked them away as her fingers fumbled with the clasp of his dress pants.

Dress pants. Funeral attire.

The realization broke through the haze of lust, and she forced herself to pull away from him, though she was careful not to retreat too far.

“What are we doing?” she breathed through swollen lips.

“I need this,” he said, his voice husky and his eyes cloudy. His hands sought her skin again, and before she could come up with any semblance of a reply, his mouth was fastened to hers. He must be in pain, indeed, she thought, if he had come to her seeking a way out of it.

She opened her mouth to protest, but when his hand moved around to cup her bum and give it a gentle squeeze, all that escaped her lips was his name. It came out as a moan, and it seemed to be what he’d been waiting for. He divested them both of their shirts, and then his pants were a thing of the past. She’d barely wriggled out of her knickers when he hoisted her onto the kitchen table and slid into her.

The sheer heat of her was enough to make him shudder uncontrollably, and his eyes closed as his forehead dropped to her shoulder. When he made no further move, she wrapped her legs around his waist, crossing them at the ankles and shackling him to her.

“Draco,” she breathed, her thumbs gently caressing the back of his neck. “Please.”

He began moving inside of her, slowly – so slowly that she thought he was trying to torture her. His hands moved to her waist, and he held her in place as he sought completion. Her hands slipped from his neck to his shoulders, and she heard a small hiss of pain as her fingertips brushed the marks she’d left on him from the last time they’d come together.

His movements slowly changed from rhythmic and tortuous to jerky and erratic, and suddenly he was spurting hot jets of himself into her.

She was about to ask him if he could keep going when she realized that his shoulders were shaking silently. It wasn’t until she felt the hot splash on her breast that she realized what was happening.

He was crying.

Her own satisfaction was pushed to the back of her mind as she wrapped her arms around him and began whispering soothing words in his ear. How difficult this must have been for him, she wondered, if he had felt overwhelmed enough to cry in front of her? She managed to disentangle herself and push off of the table, all the while whispering to him, and then led him into her bedroom.

She turned down the sheets and helped him into her bed, and without giving it another thought, she crawled in beside him, enfolding him in her arms once again. He cried silently, never once letting a sound slip past his lips, until the sobs dissolved into hiccups. She smoothed his hair away from his face and whispered until her throat was raw from the effort, and when his breathing steadied in sleep, she snuggled closer to him.

He’d shown her more vulnerability in an hour than Harry had ever shown her in his entire life.

She was certain of the bond between them now, no matter how much he denied it or fought it. He had bared his soul to her, and it had shaken the very foundation of her being. To see Draco Malfoy, stripped of all pretense and defenses, reduced to tears, was not something that she would ever forget.
9 :: Dolor by CliodnaHPFan
Chapter Nine :: Dolor

When Ginny awoke, it was to the feel of warm hands exploring her; mapping out every inch of her flesh. She was groggy, but not so much so that his ministrations failed to elicit a response. Her entire body felt keyed up and tense, even just coming out of sleep, and her tired mind vaguely reminded her that she’d been left unsatisfied during their earlier encounter.

Thus it was with abandon that she moaned when the searing heat of his mouth closed over an already erect nipple, alternating between suction and gentle strokes of his tongue. One hand cupped the side of the breast that he was attending to, while the other hand slipped down across her abdomen and came to rest on the apex of her thighs.

She shivered when his fingers lightly brushed ginger curls, and then he was touching her, his fingers seeking out the most sensitive part of her anatomy. When he slid a finger inside and curled it slightly, her back arched off of the bed, and his mouth moved to accommodate her other breast.

His name fell like a mantra from her lips, over and over again, as he slid another finger into her and pumped gently. Her hips rose to meet every thrust of his fingers, and her head thrashed from side to side on the pillow as she rode the wave of pleasure that rushed up to meet her. She cried out his name as release claimed her, her walls clamping around him.

She felt him pull away then, like the tide receding from the shore. Would it build again – perhaps in a bigger wave next time? She wondered. He remained silent, and in the darkness of the room, she could almost imagine that he was smiling at her. She fumbled for a moment, her fingers seeking out the angled planes of his face. When she felt his parted lips, she leaned forward and pressed her mouth to his.

The kiss was gentle, appreciative of what he’d given her. She didn’t want to speak her thanks out loud, because words between them were never right, and the sanctity of this moment was not to be disturbed. Words were weapons to be used against each other, not a means of expressing anything honest.

She kissed him softly, catching his lips up in hers repeatedly. She never bothered to deepen the kiss – it was dizzying enough as it was, without the use of dueling tongues. He responded in kind, and when her hand gently cupped his cheek, he exhaled softly.

When the kissing stopped, the sleeping began. And it seemed as simple as that – in the darkness, with none of their differences brought into the light, they were simply two people; a man and a woman, sharing their grief.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


When daybreak approached bringing with it the blinding sunlight that always flooded her bedroom in the mornings, Ginny crawled out of bed and quickly closed the shades, plunging the room into darkness once more. She climbed back into the bed and snuggled closer to Draco, resting her cheek against the warmth that radiated from his bare back.

When he stiffened, she knew that he was awake.

Instantly she pulled away and turned so that her back was close to his, but they weren’t touching. She’d known, of course, that with the rising of the sun, the closeness she’d imagined between the two of them would disappear – but that didn’t make the sting of it any less real or painful.

Then several things that had niggled at the back of her mind the previous night flooded her consciousness.

First of all, why should he still have the fingernail marks that she’d made on him over a week ago? Shouldn’t they have been healed by now? Secondly, why had he come to her for comfort, rather than one of his regular harpies? And why had he showed such raw emotion in front of her? And why – she squeezed her eyes shut, willing her mind to turn itself off. If it didn’t, she would overthink the situation, and she was tired of thinking.

It was that thought that propelled her into action. She was tired of rehashing everything she’d done wrong, when it did no good. She rolled over and snuggled close to him, stretching out and bringing the front of her body flush with the back of his. She even dared to press several light kisses to the nape of his neck before she drifted into sleep once more.

For his part, Draco had never been more confused in his entire life. He remembered the events of the last few days in snatches – nothing was coming clearly to his memory, as though it was filled with holes. He remembered hearing of his Father’s death and that an Auror had caused it. His first thought had been that it must have been her way of retaliating against him, but once he’d calmed down and thought it over a bit, his next logical thought was Potter.

Potter had always hated his family, and especially his Father. Potter was an Auror and therefore had had ample opportunity. The next thing he remembered was making the funeral arrangements. Then he remembered somehow making it to Pansy’s flat, where he collapsed on the sofa, too drained to think about much of anything.

Pansy had been trying to comfort him when he’d looked up and seen her staring at him with those doe eyes of hers. He remembered seeing the sympathy and concern that she had no business directing at him, and he’d snapped at her.

The next thing to invade his mind was the funeral. He’d suffered through it all, trying his best to ignore the hateful looks and icy glares that more than half of the attendees were shooting in his direction. After all, he was not his father; why should they be angry with him? He could have done nothing to protect the man, even if he’d been there with him.

Then it began. That ache inside of his chest; the feeling of being hollowed out and becoming an empty vessel. As much as he’d loved his father, he’d known that the man’s death was imminent – it had simply been a question of when. He’d always surmised that Lucius’ passing would incite terrible rage in him – but here he was, numb. Devoid of any emotion.

He didn’t like it.

Even anger was something. He needed a shock to the system – something to jolt his nervous system back into action. It was then that a shock of red hair flashed in his mind, and he recalled the emotion in her eyes as she’d stared at him.

He wanted that.

Even if he had to steal it from her or garner it under false pretenses, he wanted someone to feel something towards him – something other than the loathing that these people so clearly felt and didn’t bother to hide. He’d disapparated from his Father’s funeral without a second thought.

She’d been ready and it seemed if he thought about it hard enough, he could almost imagine that she’d been waiting for him. She’d assuaged his tears, and she’d let him take what he wanted from her, without a qualm. She’d never once voiced to him that he’d failed to bring her to orgasm - though it hadn’t gone unnoticed for long – and she’d never asked him for anything more than what he’d offered.

In turn, it had made him want to give her something in return – the only thing he knew how to give, without turning the night into a sparring match. She had accepted his offering, and he’d received a shower of kisses that made him light-headed even now, just at the memory of them. It sounded like such a cliché, and he knew it was stupid, but he just couldn’t think of another phrase to describe it – she had literally stolen his breath away from him.

And then for her to just have fallen asleep next to him, limbs entangled, bodies melded together – well, it spoke volumes. Whether she knew it or not, she trusted him. Had any other woman ever really revealed so much to him as she had?

And then the morning had dawned, and with it had brought the startling realization that she was ashamed of him. She had to be – as soon as the light had begun to flood the room, she’d closed the blinds and drawn the curtains, and anger had flooded through him. So he’d been good enough to bed under cover of darkness, and it was all well and good for him to expose his raw emotional wounds to her, but it was only with the condition that she not be forced to look on his face?

No, he supposed, the reality of what she’d done would probably have killed her.

And then she’d gone and snuggled up to him again, even going so far as to pepper tiny tickling kisses across the back of his neck. His world had exploded into a billion different directions, giving birth to a whole new universe.

What in the holy hell had he gotten himself into?

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


When Ginny awoke the second time, she was unsurprised to find that Malfoy had vacated her bed. She stretched her arms above her head and sighed, her eyes slipping shut again. Moments later, she heard a sound from the other room, and she bolted up in bed, clutching the sheets to her breast. When his white-blonde head appeared around the door, she froze in surprise.

He didn’t say anything as he registered the emotion on her face for what it was – shock. She blinked once, then twice, and he stepped into the room to begin searching for his shoes. They hadn’t been in the kitchen where he’d initially confronted her, so he’d been searching her flat silently for them, so far to no avail.

She watched him glance around, looking for something. When her breath finally returned to her, she managed to climb out of the bed and frowned as she glanced at the floor where he was looking.

“What have you lost?”

He looked up, startled by the sound of her voice, and hit his head on her bed. Swearing to himself, he rubbed the top of his head gently with his right hand. It was then that he realized that she was still naked, and his jaw dropped. She continued to frown and glance around the floor, seemingly unaware of her own nakedness, so he cleared his throat.

“My shoes.”

“Aren’t they in the living room? Maybe the kitchen?” she suggested.

“If they were in there, I would have found them already,” he snapped, his thin patience about to give.

“Right – like you found your watch?” she quipped, finally reaching for a worn robe that had been tossed across the chair of her vanity table. He tried to ignore her as she tied the sash around her slender waist, succeeding for the most part.

She left the room and he continued to search, even dropping to all fours to peer under her bed. Through the open door, he heard “Accio Malfoy’s shoes.” Groaning silently, he stood and watched her walk back into the room, the leather shoes dangling from her fingers.

“Why didn’t you just use your wand?” she asked, handing them over. He frowned and ignored her as he sat on the side of the bed to put them on. “Well?” she repeated.

“Because I don’t have my wand,” he snapped viciously, his eyes flashing. “Satisfied?”

“Not really,” she muttered, sighing. “Look, I know you’re in a hurry and everything, but is there something I can get you? Coffee, or maybe a sobering potion?”

His fingers froze above his shoes, and he turned to give her a look of utter surprise. She thought he was drunk? Had he been slobbering and falling over himself last night, or something?

“I don’t need your courtesy,” he snorted, choosing to ignore her statement for the moment. He finished putting his shoes on and stood, smoothing out the wrinkles in his shirt.

“You needed it last night, though, didn’t you?” she replied, her voice cool but the room fairly crackling with her insinuation. He bristled.

“I don’t need anything from you,” he returned coldly.

“People need other people sometimes,” she sighed, her shoulders still appearing tense. “The sooner you accept that, the better off you’ll be.”

“People who need other people are weak,” he snarled, pushing past her and out into the living room.

“It’s weak to show a little bit of your humanity every now and then?” she demanded, following him. “How little you must think of your friends, then!”

“What friends?” he answered snidely, his lips curling up in a sneer. “Do you even think for one moment that they would still want to be around me if I weren’t richer than God himself?”

“Not everyone is going to be after your money!” she snapped, exasperated. “Pansy and Neville, for example!”

“Don’t presume to know so much,” he drawled, his rage cooling somewhat. “Precious Pansy hangs around me in the hopes of convincing me to attend her wedding, at which point she’ll expect some fantastically expensive gift from me.”

Ginny stared at him, stunned. “And Neville?”

“He comes because Pansy forces him to.”

She was almost afraid enough of his answer not to ask it.

“And me?”

“You…” his voice died as he stared at her – the woman who had accepted him last night, as the broken, sobbing, emotional mass that he had been. The woman who had asked nothing of him; had not, to his knowledge, used the picture of them together as any sort of blackmail. He looked her dead in the eye as he bit out the first thing that rushed unbidden to his lips.

“You do it to piss off your ex-husband.”

She took two steps forward, delivered a stinging slap to his left cheek, and went back into her bedroom, closing the door.

He stared after her for a moment, and then stepped into the newly scrubbed fireplace.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


“What in the hell is going on with them?” Pansy raged, her arms crossed tightly over her chest. Neville stared at her, not knowing what she wanted him to say. “One minute, they hate each other, and the next minute, he’s spending the night at her flat?”

“You wouldn’t have even known that if you hadn’t done the tracking spell…” he started, gesturing helplessly. Her look shot daggers at him, and he held up his hands in supplication. “I just meant that-“

“I know what you meant,” she snapped, shaking her head. “You meant that I meddle too much. Well excuse me for wanting to know where my best friend was after he just disappeared from his own Father’s funeral without so much as a ‘kiss my arse’!”

“Did you ever stop to think that maybe he needed some time alone?” Neville posited softly, his eyes dropping to the lacquered surface of the coffee table in front of him. She paused and glanced at him, knowing that he was thinking of the day that his Grandmother had passed away. She remembered how he’d disappeared for two entire days, retreating to a place where he knew no one would find him. When he’d emerged, he’d made love to her like it would be his last time.

“If he needed time alone, why did he go to her?” She demanded finally. Neville shrugged and kept his eyes trained on the table.

“Maybe he needed someone to be alone with. Ginny has a sixth sense about things like that – she knows when it’s safe to push and she knows when she should drop it. Maybe he just needed to be with someone who wouldn’t push.”

“Neville Longbottom, so help me, if that was a shot at me-“ she started warningly. He grinned weakly.

“You can be rather pushy sometimes, love, but no – I wasn’t taking a cheap shot at you.”

Her shoulders relaxed, and she sighed. “You know, I want my friends to be as happy as I am. Is that asking so much?”

“No, it’s not,” he said reasonably. “But I think that sometimes you have to leave people to their own devices, and let them make their own mistakes. Otherwise how are they going to learn anything?”

“But the waiting and watching is so hard,” she whined, pouting. “Especially when I know how great they’d be together!”

“If it’s meant to be, then it will,” he replied calmly. “Fate does a fine job all her own when it comes to bringing people together – you and I of all people should know that.”

“Yes, but you know that sometimes fate needs a little push.”

“Pans,” he said, rising from his seat, and taking her in his arms. “You know that Malfoy is a stubborn sod who’s used to getting what he wants, but his Father just died. I know that Ginny is a stubborn cow who’s only gotten one thing that she wanted in her entire life – and it just fell apart. You’re going to have to give them time to break on their own.”

“What if they don’t break, Neville?” she breathed, her look pleading.

“They will,” he said with certainty. “Even steel can break.”
10 :: Adumbration by CliodnaHPFan
Chapter Ten :: Adumbration

Draco sat behind the large oak desk in his study, his head in his hands and his eyes closed. How could he have been so incredibly stupid last night? Never before had he let himself go the way he had when he’d been around her; his experiences with women had always been guarded, no matter how well he’d known them. Any show of weakness on his part would have been something they could have used against him – an exploitation device.

Now she had two things to use against him, if she so chose – the photograph, and his emotional display.

He wanted to slam his head against the desk repeatedly. It really had been an exercise in carelessness, and from one so used to being cautious, it made him feel vulnerable. She made him feel vulnerable, and that scared him.

He’d always suspected that she was dangerous. He could tell from the very first time he’d met her, when she’d stuck up for Potter in that bookstore. The protective glint in her eyes had made a cold fear overtake him, paralyzing him for the briefest of moments. It hadn’t been because they had been standing in a very public, conspicuous place, and it hadn’t been because of Potter’s presence.

It had been because he’d known that she’d meant it, with every fiber of her being.

She’d meant for Draco to leave Potter alone, and he had no doubts as to whether or not she would retaliate against him if he hadn’t. And it was in that moment, Draco realized belatedly, that he had begun to hate Potter. Really, truly hate him.

Ginny Weasley had stepped in between them, laying her claim on the Boy Wonder, and offering herself as the barrier to protect him. No matter how inconsequential his Father had made her out to be afterwards, he’d known better. The girl was dangerous; there was no other way to look at it. She meant business.

Her bat bogey hex in his fifth year had confirmed his suspicions that she’d simply been waiting for an excuse to hurt him – and she’d gotten away with it, too. After that, he’d tried to shift his attention away from Potter, not wanting to give her any excuses to attack him again – but it just hadn’t worked. Potter was too easy of a target, setting himself up for every verbal slur and every whispered hex in the hallways.

And then she’d gone and done the unthinkable – she’d dated the four-eyed git. Of course, Potter had never been very bright, and hadn’t been able to hold on to the girl for longer than a few months. Draco had been elated; perhaps she was coming to her senses and realizing how much of a moron the man really was.

Then she’d gone and married him as soon as her seventh year at Hogwarts had ended.

Draco let the frustration wash over him, and his forehead dropped to the desk’s polished surface with a loud thunk.

He’d managed to put her completely out of his mind in the time she was married to Potter, only occasionally running across their names in the Daily Prophet. On those occasions, he would allow himself only a cursory glance at her, and then he would burn the newspaper. It didn’t do to dwell, after all.

When he’d read the news of their impending divorce, however, his world had been changed irrevocably. Thoughts of her had consumed him, no matter the distractions he tried to busy himself with. Dalliances with other women became boring; flying became mundane.

Then Pansy and Longbottom had shown up at one of his parties, and Longbottom had whined the entire evening about the lack of friends present. Pansy had decided to floo her, and he’d insisted on being in the room on the pretense that she was using his floo, after all.

Then he’d popped his head into the fireplace and seen her standing there, wrapped in nothing but a blanket and her hair tousled, her eyes wild – looking for all the world like a goddess from Greek mythology. He’d been proud of himself then; proud that he hadn’t verbally or otherwise acknowledged the fact that she was almost totally naked, proud that he hadn’t tripped over the thickness of his own tongue, and proud that even though the flesh of her thigh was visible to him, he hadn’t been reduced to a slobbering, drooling mess.

She’d shown up at several of his parties, never paying much attention to him and dancing with whomever asked her politely enough. He’d even managed to get in a dance with her, throwing his usual barbs out, as was his habit to do.

He’d been so proud of himself for not giving in, and not dragging her to his bedroom. He wasn’t usually so contained; he was, after all, a creature of desire, and he was used to simply taking what he wanted. He had never been able to figure out why she should be the exception to that rule.

Then they’d had the argument outside of the restaurant, and it had been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. With her standing there, her eyes flashing at him as her words stung him, he’d been backed into a corner. He’d let go of everything he’d known, pushed the warning voices to the very recesses of his mind, and he’d done exactly what he’d wanted to do oh so many years ago in that bookshop.

He’d pushed her against the wall and snogged her senseless.

He’d fully expected her to push him away, struggle, fight – something. But instead she’d bade him follow her, leading him back to her flat, and their coupling had been nothing short of animalistic. Their confrontation the following morning had been much the same – brutal, unforgiving, and intense.

He’d managed to avoid her successfully for just over a week. He’d been proud of that, too – she made him feel unbalanced and light-headed, and he didn’t like the feeling of not being in control. Then his Father had died, and what in the bloody hell had he done? He’d gone straight to her.

Oh, how pride goeth before a fall.

The strangest thing of all was how accepting she’d been. He’d been agonizing over it since before he’d left her flat. Falling asleep next to her had been a faux pas on his part – he’d never spent the night with a paramour, ever. No exceptions to the rule.

Except for her, damn it.

Damn her, and her kindness. Damn her, and her big, brown doe eyes that he suspected saw through him and his cool façade. Damn her, and the floral shampoo she used – even now he couldn’t get the scent out of his nostrils. Damn her, and her supple freckled skin that just begged to be touched and tasted.

He’d always suspected that she was dangerous, only now that his fears had been confirmed, he realized that she was much more dangerous than he’d ever dreamed – and for far more frightening reasons.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


She’d been staring at the photograph of the two of them for nearly twenty minutes when she’d made the decision to destroy it. It wasn’t symbolic; nothing ever was. She was simply tired of hanging on to it. She was tired of the picture’s presence, as though it showed more than what it should. What it should have shown was two people coming together to answer the most basic of nature’s calls.

Instead of showing a recently divorced woman who was supposed to be in mourning for her lost marriage, it showed a woman whose head was thrown back in abandon, thoroughly enjoying the mouth and hands of her ex-husband’s worst enemy.

She put the paper in her kitchen sink, pointed her wand, and murmured “Incendio.” She watched with morbid fascination as the couple in the photo ran out of sight, frightened. When the photo was nothing more than an unrecognizable pile of ash in her sink, she shook her head to try and clear it of the cobwebs that had started to form.

She’d had some vacation time built up, and after the episode with Malfoy that morning, she’d decided that she couldn’t possibly go anywhere near Harry in her present state. He would be able to take one look at her and read every nuance of every thought, and she needed some time to collect herself and prepare for his inevitable onslaught. She’d owled in to say that she was taking some of her accrued vacation time, effective immediately.

She was sure that no one would mind; her vacation time had been accumulating since she’d started work there, and Ministry Officials had tried to persuade her to take some of the time off. They’d been especially insistent around the time of her divorce, but she’d seen no reason to avoid Harry, since their interaction on the job was inevitable at some point.

Now, though – now she needed time to build up her defenses. She didn’t want him to know who she’d been with. More importantly, she didn’t want him to be able to peek into her consciousness and see Malfoy crying; that was something she wanted to remember privately.

She pointed her wand at the sink a second time, this time muttering “Evanesco.” The burnt pile disappeared, and she sagged against the wall – whether in defeat or relief, she wasn’t sure. All she was certain of was that she needed to stay as far away from Malfoy as was humanly possible.

He was a prat to be around, and he could get under her skin like no one else could – and that was saying something, considering the pillocks that she called brothers. What frightened her was her loss of control whenever he touched her. His lips mesmerized her; his fingers set her on fire. Even now her breathing was becoming shallow as she allowed her eyes to slip shut, seeing an image of him behind them.

What was happening to her? She’d been obsessed with Harry before they’d ever even been together, but this was different somehow. With Harry, she’d been content to watch from afar, worshipping him without his knowledge that he was doing so. She’d wanted to show everyone in the world that she was his girlfriend when it happened, and then when they’d gotten married, she’d made sure to invite nearly half of the Wizarding world to their wedding.

With Harry, every touch had been gentle and sweet, and to some extent, loving. She’d felt cherished and important.

With Malfoy, every touch felt as though it started a fever in her blood. She didn’t want to share him with anyone; didn’t want anyone to know about the two of them. It was too private; too personal. The way he’d cried in front of her … she got chills thinking about it. How had it come to be that his defenses had been torn down enough for that to happen? And why had it made her feel vulnerable, causing her to comfort him the way she had?

If she’d had any sense at all, she would have sent him away the moment she’d felt his hot breath on her skin; the soft drawl that spoke volumes to her. She hadn’t, though, because as soon as he’d touched her, her skin had burst into flames. And there had been something in his voice; something so out of place that it had dulled her senses and made her feel weak – need.

She could feel it as though it was something palpable and solid, and it had made her tremble.

She ran her tongue over her dry lips in an attempt to moisten them, and moved into her bedroom cautiously. Ever since the morning’s events, she’d been treating it as though it were a crime scene that needed to be preserved. Ever mindful of the evidence, she hadn’t touched the bed since she’d vacated it to help him find his shoes. She hadn’t touched the sheet that she’d let slip to the floor after she’d slammed the door.

She stepped over the sheet and began rummaging through her dresser, looking for something appropriate to wear. She was starting to feel stifled here – she needed to get out. Why was it that the men that she slept with always made her feel somehow contaminated? Harry had surrounded her, almost suffocating her with his body and his lovemaking. Malfoy had somehow managed to get inside of her, making her feel as though she was being eaten alive from the inside out.

Congratulations, she thought wryly. You’ve finally made me uncomfortable in my own skin.

She pulled a loose, long-sleeved t-shirt over her head, and slipped into a pair of worn, comfortable jeans before she pulled on her socks and trainers. She ran a brush carelessly through her hair once before grabbing her wand and her keys, and slipped out of the flat through the front door.

It had been a while since Harry had taken her to a movie like a normal Muggle, but she found that this afternoon, it was all she could think about. Sitting in a darkened theater where no one could find her sounded all too appealing.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


Hermione scrubbed her teeth diligently with the toothbrush, enjoying the feel of the soft bristles against her gums. She was nothing if not a creature of habit, and she had developed the habit of brushing her teeth every day after lunch, no matter where she was. Presently she was in the restroom of a local movie theater. She couldn’t help it; the popcorn she’d eaten had gotten stuck between her teeth, and it was driving her mad to sit in the darkness and just feel it there.

Harry had asked her to wait and do it after the movie, but she had insisted, saying that she’d never be able to enjoy the movie if she didn’t clean her teeth. He’d relented when she’d pointed out that it meant that she’d stop sucking on her teeth to try and get the popcorn out, and here she was.

She finished brushing and scooped up a handful of water, swishing it around in her mouth before spitting it out. Pulling a paper towel out of the dispenser, she dabbed gently at her mouth, and then tossed it into the waste can.

As soon as she stepped out of the restroom, she knew something was wrong. She could feel it. Her eyes darted around quickly, circling the concession area twice before she could peg what was wrong. Fear rose in her chest as her eyes landed on the shock of red-orange hair, and she was frozen to the spot. What was she doing here? She was supposed to be at work – that was the only way that Harry had even agreed to come out today, was the promise of not having to worry about running into his ex – but there she was.

Hermione watched as she bought popcorn and a soda. After a moment, she seemed to rethink her purchase, and when she walked away from the counter, she held a bag of candy as well. When she raised her head to shove a handful of popcorn into her mouth, her eyes landed on Hermione.

Both women stared at each other for a long moment, and Hermione began to harbor a kernel of hope that the other woman might have actually forgiven her for her transgressions. When Ginny’s stare became icy, the hope sank like a ball of lead into her stomach. She watched as Ginny turned and disappeared inside one of the theaters at the end of the opposite hallway before she turned and made her way back to Harry.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


“You are utterly miserable,” Pansy scolded him, frowning slightly. Draco gave her an uninterested look.

“Is that so?”

“Why else would you have invited me over?” she returned. She smiled, though the smile did not reach her eyes. “What do you need now? Womanly advice? A woman’s perspective?”

“What do you mean, ‘what do I need now’?” he asked, his eyes narrowing slightly.

“You only want to see me when you need something,” she said, the bitterness in her voice surprising him.

“Why do you think that?” he asked, his eyebrows shooting up.

“Because it’s true.” She stood and turned her back to him, choosing to stare out of the window, rather than at him. “Don’t you remember my visit last week? You wanted information on an old friend. The time before that, you needed me to set you up with one of Neville’s friends. Before that, you wanted me to ask Neville to have a look at one of the plants in your greenhouse.” She turned to face him, her eyes cool.

“I don’t-“

“Don’t bother,” she said, waving a hand dismissively. “Just … don’t.”

“If you think that highly of me, then why do you keep coming around when I ask you to, doing the things that I want you to do?”

“Because you’re my friend, as stupid as that sounds,” she sighed, shaking her head. “Friends do things for each other.”

“Then why are you complaining about it now?”

“Friends do things for each other,” she repeated flatly, reaching for her purse. “It’s not a friendship if one just keeps taking and taking without giving anything in return.”

“What do you want from me?” he asked suspiciously.

“Boy, is that a loaded question,” she snapped, fixing the strap of her purse on her shoulder. “Money, jewels, the usual.”

He frowned and sat back in his chair.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she huffed angrily. “All I really want from you is a sympathetic ear every now and then. You’re not the only one in the world who has problems, no matter what you’ve been raised to believe.”

She stomped out of his study, obviously furious with him. He was at a loss, and was sorely reminded of the recent conversation he’d had with someone else.

And there it was again, that pang of feeling whenever he thought of her.

It had been nine days since his Father’s funeral, and he’d made no attempt to contact her. Even more surprising had been her lack of attempts to contact him. He felt paranoid and edgy all the time now, just waiting for the other shoe to drop. He’d shagged her twice, and she had the photograph, in addition to the knowledge of his crying episode.

It was only a matter of time until she combined all of the elements to use against him – wasn’t it?

His train of thought was interrupted by a knock at his door. “Enter,” he called imperiously. He shot to his feet, his eyes widening as a house elf led the object of his desire into his most private sanctuary.

“What kind of messed up game are you playing with me?” she demanded, her eyes blazing like wildfire.

“What in the hell are you talking about?”

“I got your little gift this morning!” she snapped, hurling a rectangular box onto his desk with so much vehemence that it bounced.

“What?” he glanced from her to the box, and then back to her. “I didn’t send you anything!”

“Don’t lie to me,” she snarled. “I don’t want it! I won’t be bought off like the other women you- you-“ she stuttered, allowing him an opening to speak as he observed the blush that began to stain her cheeks.

He arched an eyebrow, starting to feel more in control of the situation. “I didn’t send you anything, I assure you. I haven’t even given you a second thought since our… indiscretion.”

He picked up the box and opened it, momentarily stunned by the sheer volume of diamonds it contained. Someone obviously thought very highly of her. He closed the box and held it out to her.

“What?”

“Take it. I think it’s safe, considering that I’m not the one who sent it,” he said coldly.

“I don’t give a flying fuck if it’s safe,” she snapped, her words catching him off guard.

“So why don’t you want it? Because you think it came from me?”

“Exactly! I don’t want it because I don’t want to feel as though I’m a common whore, trading my body for whatever you think it’s worth!”

“From the contents of the box, I would think you’d be deliriously happy about your estimated worth,” he replied dryly.

Her eyes narrowed. “Why? Because everyone else thinks I’m dirt?” she snapped, surprising him with the venom that saturated her speech. “Because you think I’m a blood traitor? A filthy Weasley?”

“Potter,” he corrected automatically. He knew he’d made a tactical error when she stepped forward menacingly.

“So that’s your game, is it?” she demanded. “Because I was married to Harry, you think you’re going to use me to get to him? Well, I’ve got news for you, ferret. I burned the only evidence of us being together!”

His eyes went cold, and his face glowed with pale fury. “You burned it? Why? Too ashamed to look at it any longer? Too ashamed of what you’d done?”

“I wasn’t ashamed,” she denied defensively, scowling at him. “I just didn’t want you to have anything to use against me.” He tried to ignore the burning low in his belly that meant that he was starting to get aroused, and focused on what she’d said.

“You were afraid I’d use something against you?” he asked icily, dumbfounded. “And why, pray tell, would I want to do that?”

“I don’t know, you tell me! You could use it to blackmail me into sleeping with you again. You could use it to interfere in my divorce from Harry. You could use it to make my parents catatonic. Who knows what your reasoning is!”

“Firstly, I don’t give a damn about your parents. Secondly, I have no desire whatsoever to hold up the divorce proceedings – I like seeing Potter suffer, remember? And thirdly,” he purred, leaning over and placing his palms flat on his desk. “I wouldn’t have to blackmail you to get you back into my bed.”

“And just what the hell is that supposed to mean?” she asked, fighting the flush that she could feel rising in her neck. “Because you’re certifiable if you think I’d ever sleep with you again.”

“It means, kitten, that you’re lying.”

She took a steadying breath before leaning over the desk and placing her palms next to his, bringing her nose to nose with him. His breathing became ragged, and his pupils dilated slightly.

“I think you’re full of shit,” she whispered, her eyes offering a challenge all their own. “I think you’ve got it backwards – I have all the power here, and you hate that, don’t you?”

“Where would you get a ridiculous notion like that?” he asked softly, not moving. To move away now would show weakness, and he was not weak.

“You thought I was going to blackmail you, didn’t you? That’s why you wanted the picture so badly – to destroy the evidence. But then you got angry when I told you that I’d already done it. I wounded your pride,” she said, giving him a fake pout. The sight of her glistening lower lip sticking out ignited the burning in his belly into a small fire. “So to hide it, you turned it around on me.”

“Nice theories. Can you prove anything you’ve said? I didn’t think so,” he said, without waiting for an answer.

“Oh, but I think I can,” she said, arching an eyebrow. He felt his legs begin to tremble. Surely she wouldn’t –

“Is that so?”

She leaned towards him slightly, gratified when he leaned closer as well. “But just because I can prove it doesn’t mean that I want to,” she whispered, her breath tickling his lips. She gave him an impish smile before withdrawing completely and turned to leave the room.

Angry that he’d been bested, he rounded the desk and grabbed her arm, spinning her around to face him. Before she had a chance to fight back, he had pinned her between the wall and himself, his arms holding her captive. His eyes were full of fury, and for a single, fleeting moment, Ginny felt a twinge of real fear.

“I didn’t send you that ruddy necklace,” he snarled dangerously. “If I had, you’d be wearing it and nothing else right now.”

A delicious shiver wracked her body. It did not go unnoticed by him.

“I don’t believe you,” she whispered, her eyes latching onto his.

“I don’t really give a bloody fuck what you believe,” he rejoined.

“Then why are you trying so hard to convince me?”

He was at a loss for an answer, so in lieu of words, he covered her mouth with his. The instant he touched her, the burning that had begun low in his belly erupted into white-hot flames, consuming him from the inside. It wasn’t enough to have her pressed up against the wall like this. It wasn’t enough that she’d raised a slender leg to wrap around him. It wasn’t enough to have her grinding against him the way she was.

He wanted more.

He wrapped his arms around her and hoisted her up, allowing her to lock her legs around his waist as he carried her down the hall and into his bedroom. Once inside, he managed to stumble to the bed, depositing her on top of the silk covered comforter before practically ripping his clothes off. He watched as she did the same, yanking the jumper roughly over her head and tossing it carelessly to the side before wiggling out of her jeans. When she was completely free of clothing, he let loose a feral growl before joining her in his bed.

He claimed her lips again, this time kissing her harder and bruising her. She didn’t seem to mind, and returned the kiss with just as much fervor as she let her hands wander across his back, scraping and scratching, and leaving red marks in the wake of her fingernails.

Foreplay was not an option this time. He was too keyed up; too much adrenaline was pumping through his system, and too fast. He thrust into her roughly, enjoying the noise she made when he did it. She closed her eyes and bucked her hips, urging him on. He would withdraw almost completely, and then force his way back in as roughly as possible.

When her back arched off of the bed and she screamed his name, the last thin thread of his control snapped. He fell over the edge, emptying himself inside of her, and then collapsed on top of her. He was struggling to regain control of his breathing; if he kept up the way he was going, he was sure to hyperventilate.

He rolled off of her and landed on his back beside her, their arms touching. Her chest was heaving as she tried to force her breathing back to normal as well, and that gave him a great deal of satisfaction. To know that he had affected her the same way that she’d affected him – well, at least he wasn’t the only one affected, which meant that he wasn’t the weaker of the two.

He got up and went into the bathroom. When he’d finished with his ablutions, he emerged, only to find her gone. He frowned and glanced around – he’d only been gone a few moments! Where could she have gone in so short a time? He found a pair of his pyjama pants and pulled them on violently, beginning to shake from the anger that coursed through him.

How dare she – how dare she – come to him this way, and then allow things to escalate the way they had! She’d told him that she wouldn’t sleep with him again, and yet she’d allowed it to happen anyway. Fury mixed with fear and held his stomach like a vise grip. What did she want from him, if not his money? What was she after?
11 :: Hubris by CliodnaHPFan
The Broken Road, Chapter 11 :: Hubris

Draco turned the diamond necklace over in his hands, studying the design intently. He recognized the craftsmanship, of that there was no doubt. He'd had plenty of fine jewelry commissioned for his mother over the years, and he knew that his Father had even used the same jeweler for his mistresses, so he was familiar with the work.

It was the who of the matter that bothered him. Who else could afford this sort of bauble? He knew all of the wealthiest Wizards, and he knew that none of them would ever even give the redhead a second glance, let alone send her such an expensive gift anonymously. Anyone who had sent the necklace would have spent enough money on it that they would want to be recognized and thanked profusely for doing so.

He frowned as he turned it over again, and ran his fingers lightly over the hard stones. They were wrapped in gold. His frown deepened as he replaced the necklace in the box and rose from the overstuffed armchair that he'd been sitting in for the better half of the morning. Suspicion had planted itself firmly in the back of his mind, but he had to be sure.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


Ginny remained curled up in a ball on her bed, her body shaking with the force of her sobs as her mother smoothed the hair back from her face.

"It wasn't something you could have prevented," Molly murmured gently, trying to soothe her daughter. "Sometimes when people get what they think they want, they find out that it wasn't really what they wanted at all."

"So you're saying that Harry didn't want me?" Ginny managed brokenly.

"No, sweet. What I'm saying is that Harry has had a hard life – harder than we know, since he would never tell any of us the whole story of what he suffered through at that wretched woman's house. He doesn't know what he wants; he's confused."

"So I'm just supposed to sit here and wait for him to figure it out?"

"Absolutely not," Molly said firmly, giving Ginny a watery smile. "You made the decision for him, poppet. You loved him enough to marry him and devote yourself to him, and it wasn't enough. There's no woman in the world who would fault you for leaving him and reclaiming something of who you used to be before him."

"You don't think any less of me because I gave up, then?"

"You didn't give up, darling! He gave up, not you. He's the one who sought comfort in someone else's arms – so why shouldn't you be allowed to do the same?"

"Because the someone else I went to isn't something I'm proud of."

"It can't be that bad," Molly reassured her. She was surprised when Ginny broke into fresh sobs.

"It can, and it is," Ginny wailed.

"Anyone who can take your mind off of the problems you're having right now can't be that bad," Molly said, her tone not allowing argument. "I don't care who it is – if he gives you comfort, then you shouldn't feel guilty about going to him to get it. As long as you're using precautions, that is," she added delicately.

"I've been taking the potion every day," Ginny replied automatically. "Trust me, I don't want to have this man's children."

"If you're so upset about your relations with him, then why do you keep going back to him?"

"I don't know!" Ginny howled, shoving her face into her pillow. "It's like I can't control myself when I'm around him! He makes me so mad I just want to spit!"

"And this anger is what-"

"Yes!" she said, cutting her Mum off.

"Well that's not so strange," Molly said, shrugging her shoulders. "Your father and I have had many an argument that ended in the bedroom."

"Mum!" Ginny screeched, scandalized. "I do not need to hear this!"

"I'm just saying that physical activity can help purge the anger. Why don't you try talking to your young man after you've-"

"MUM!" Ginny sat straight up and shot her mother a warning look, which Molly smiled at.

"There's my girl. Feeling better now? At least you're not crying anymore."

"No, now I'm too nauseated to cry!"

"Why don't you get dressed, and the two of us can go and pick up some lunch?" Molly suggested. "My treat."

"Mum, I'm not sure that that's such a good-"

"Hush, and get dressed," Molly said, rising to her feet. "We haven't had a Mother-daughter day in a long time, and I think we need one." Ginny smiled at her Mum before throwing her arms around the older woman and squeezing with all of her might.

"I love you, Mum."

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


"Mister Malfoy!" Draco turned as the shop owner boomed his name, pleasant surprise obvious in his voice. "I'm so glad to see you again! What can I do for you?"

"For starters, Tantalus, you can tell me who commissioned this," Draco said, holding the black box out. The balding man took the box from him and stepped behind the counter before opening it.

"Oh. Oh, my. May I ask how it came to be in your possession, and not the young woman for whom it was made?"

"No, you may not," Draco said perfunctorily. "Just tell me who paid for it."

"I'm afraid I can't do that, Mister Malfoy. All of my customers are entitled to their privacy, and this one was adamant that no one know he'd ordered it."

"You're kidding, right? He really told you not to tell anyone?"

"I'm sorry, Sir. I do not joke about something this expensive. It took a very long time to craft."

"And if I were looking into having the piece duplicated, how long would it take, and at what cost to me, hmm?"

"All of our pieces are one of a kind, Mister Malfoy, you know that. I could make another one that was similar, but not the same."

"Time and cost?" Draco repeated, starting to lose his patience.

"Well… if you wanted the same number of diamonds, and the same grade of gold, it would run you somewhere in the area of fifteen thousand galleons."

Draco's eyes nearly popped out of his head.

"And it would take approximately one month to complete."

Draco did some quick math in his head, and the dates just didn't seem to add up – unless the purchaser had meant the necklace for someone other than Ginny.

"Would you like to purchase one?" Tantalus asked hopefully. Draco shook his head and retrieved the box from the counter, snapping the lid closed.

"Not today - some other time, perhaps. For now, I have to get this back to its rightful owner."

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


"This was a good idea. I'm glad I came," Ginny said, smiling at her Mum. She reached for another roll and slathered it with butter.

"Occasionally your Mum has been known to have a good idea or two," Molly teased, smiling.

"Well, chalk this up as one of those times," Ginny said, before sinking her teeth into the buttered bread. Molly shook her head.

"You shouldn't eat that much butter, it'll go straight to your hips." Ginny snorted.

"As if I care how big my hips get."

"How about your rear?" Molly asked, reaching for her napkin. "It'll make your bum spread, too." Ginny nearly choked on the mouthful she'd been about to swallow, and reached for her glass of butterbeer.

"Merlin, Mum! Don't do that to me when I'm eating," she laughed. Molly shrugged and smiled again.

"So, tell me about this mysterious man that you're shagging." Ginny spit some of the liquid out of her mouth, and then gaped at her mother in surprise.

"What?!"

"Tell me all about him. It's been a while since I've had any good gossip. Is he handsome?"

A faint blush stained Ginny's cheeks as she wiped her mouth with her napkin, and Molly suppressed her grin. So her daughter was emotionally involved – whether she wanted to admit it or not.

"Well … he's not Harry," she said tentatively.

"Thank the heavens for that," Molly rejoined, shaking her head.

"Actually," she said, feeling somewhat emboldened by her mother's gentle acceptance, "he's the complete opposite of Harry."

"As in? Give me some examples. The devil's in the details, you know."

"He's fair headed. His eyes are light," Ginny said, trying to give details and still be ambiguous about them. "His skin is pale, not tanned like Harry's."

"So the young man's work must keep him inside," Molly mused thoughtfully. "What does he do?"

"You know, I haven't the foggiest idea," Ginny replied, surprised that she didn't actually know what Draco Malfoy did for a living.

"Interesting. Is he as quiet as Harry?"

"Hardly," Ginny said, giving her mother a wry smile. "He never shuts up."

"Well then, I'd say the two of you are well matched," Molly teased. Ginny giggled. "I always thought your mannerisms were too much for Harry to handle, anyway. You've got a sparkling, outgoing personality, and he's more of a homebody."

"That's just a nice way of saying that I'm demanding, isn't it?"

"You always did have to be the center of attention," Molly laughed. "But then again, you had to fight for the limelight, with brothers like Fred and George. You share a lot of the same personality traits, you know."

Ginny groaned. "Well, I suppose that's better than being compared to old stick-in-the-mud Percy," she grumbled. Molly laughed again.

"You shouldn't talk that way about your brother," she chastised gently, though her eyes sparkled as she spoke.

And from opposite corners of the restaurant, two pairs of eyes watched and waited.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


Hermione paced the floor of the living room for the umpteenth time that night. Harry hadn't gotten home at his usual time, and he hadn't flooed or owled her to let her know if he was all right, which was very unlike him.

She forced herself to settle down and take several deep, calming breaths, before she let out a scream of frustration. It wasn't like her to get so emotional, but when it came to Harry… well, she thought, sinking miserably down onto the sofa, when it came to Harry, she made exceptions for just about everything, didn't she?

Even though she thought it odd, she didn't turn him away after he and Ginny were married, and he came to her for support after their volatile fights. He would sometimes crash on her couch for a bit, and other nights they would go out for dinner or drinks. After a while, even though it felt strange at first, he would hug her or hold her as he told her about their fight. She grew to accept that, and to even cherish those times, since that was as close to Harry as she ever thought she'd get.

Then, nearly four months ago, he'd kissed her for the first time.

She'd been too surprised to respond, and he'd taken it as rejection, leaving quickly. She'd caught up to him after she'd had a few days to think, and she'd told him that she didn't want to lose him – and she'd meant it. She'd loved Harry from the moment they'd met, and she didn't want to risk losing him over anything – especially not something as small as a kiss shared between friends. After all, that's how she'd reasoned it out in her mind – the only logical explanation for the kiss was a combination of his frustration and his friendly affection for her.

Logic had come to a crashing halt the next time he'd kissed her, however – it had hit the brakes sometime between the point where his tongue separated her lips and his hand had cupped a breast.

Her face burned with shame any time she thought of that first time with him; her the shy, blushing virgin, and he the experienced, married man. But really, once he'd touched her, she'd melted, and it had never occurred to her to deny him what he wanted. She loved him that much, that she would give of herself, no matter how much he took without giving in return.

When he'd made it a habit of sleeping with her more than once a week, she began to wonder what he was telling Ginny. He would cancel his lunches with his other friends and his wife, so that he could spend his lunch hour with his mistress. In three months, not two solid days had passed without a visit from him.

Now it had been nearly twenty four hours since she'd even had word from him, and she was starting to worry. She knew that he had a difficult, dangerous job that required him to be secretive at times, but still. Where was he, and what was he doing? She couldn't send him an owl, in case he was doing Auror work, and she had no idea where he'd be in order to floo him. He had some sort of cloaking spell on at all times, so no one could find out where he was.

All she could do now was wait.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


Ginny parted ways with her Mum and headed down the street, strolling leisurely as she looked into store windows. She stopped in front of one and admired the dress that the mannequin in the window wore – it was a sheer sort of lime-green colored material, layered over a satiny material that had white polka dots on it.

"You'd look terrible in that," a voice drawled behind her. She turned slowly and eyed him from head to toe before replying with a shrug.

"And your opinion should matter to me why?"

"Obviously I am the only person you've ever met with any taste," he responded dryly, taking in her current attire. She was wearing a pair of somewhat baggy jeans and a brilliant blue long-sleeved t-shirt.

"That's debatable." She turned and resumed her leisurely stroll, ignoring his presence at her back.

"It's very rude to walk away when someone's speaking to you, I'll have you know."

She glanced sideways at him. He'd fallen into step beside her. "I don't have any manners anyway, remember? Why should the lack of them bother you now?"

"Strangely, it doesn't," he retorted, taking in her look of mild surprise. "I'm wondering, though, how it is that you can be so calm to me today after what happened between us last night."

"Last night is last night," she answered enigmatically, pausing to look into another store window.

"That's much more suited to you," he said, nodding curtly. Her eyebrows shot up.

"Do you really think so?" She examined the pantsuit, admiring the cut of the sleeveless top and the slightly flared pants legs. "It looks like it might show a bit of skin there, in the middle," she said, pointing.

"And? Since when have you had a problem showing your skin?"

"I don't," she said, shrugging. "So, what brings you here? Because I know you're not here just to enjoy my company."

"I think I may know who sent you that gift." She turned sharply and eyed him.

"Oh?"

"I told you it wasn't me, you pigheaded woman," he said, rolling his eyes. He pulled the box out of his pocket and handed it to her.

"I don't want it."

"I told you, it's not from me," he said exasperatedly.

"I don't care who it's from, I don't want it."

"Why not? It's worth thousands of galleons. You could sell it."

"I don't need the money. I don't want it."

"Don't you want to know who it's from?"

"Well… if it's not from you, it can only be from one other person, and he's not someone that I want to accept a gift from ever again."

"Throw it back in his face, then."

"You speak as though I'd ever willingly put myself in close proximity to him again," she sneered.

"Your opportunity is presenting itself as we speak. I don't think he likes me speaking to you – not that I care, really." He smirked.

"What are you talking about?"

"Look behind you." Ginny turned and felt the blood rushing away from her head. Harry was striding towards them from the direction they'd just come, and he was looking fit to be tied.

"Uhm, Malfoy – maybe you'd better go."

"Nonsense. We're not doing anything wrong – yet, anyway." She turned back to him and tried her damnedest not to look amused.

"Are you insinuating that you want to do something wrong with me?" She arched an eyebrow, and he shrugged, though his smirk grew.

"Ginny!" Harry called out. Thrown into a panic, Ginny grabbed Draco's arm and began to run away from Harry. Caught by surprise, Draco ran along with her, and the box containing the diamond necklace became airborne. Harry stopped following them long enough to dive for the box, and upon catching it, looked for all the world as though he'd just caught the golden snitch.

Ginny dragged Draco down the sidewalk several blocks before his senses returned to him, and he stopped, jerking her to a stop beside him.

"What in the bloody fucking hell was that all about?" he panted, trying to catch his breath. Her chest was heaving, and he ignored it temporarily to focus on her flushed cheeks.

"I just couldn't do it," she gasped, shaking her head. "The thought of another confrontation with Harry literally makes me sick to my stomach."

"The thought of confronting him, or the thought of doing it with me around?" Draco asked angrily.

"What?" She asked, bewildered. "Come on, Malfoy – surely you're not jealous, are you?"

"Of what?" he sneered, straightening his back. "I'm the one fucking you, not him, remember?"

Her jaw dropped, and she stared at him. "You say that like it's an ongoing thing. It's only happened twice."

"Three times," he corrected her, arching an eyebrow. "Or are you trying to forget?"

"As if you'd let me," she said, her temper rising. "Is that why you're upset now? Because I didn't stay back there and let you rub it in to Harry that we've slept together?"

"Sleeping together," he said, correcting her again. "Present tense."

"If I didn't know better, I'd think you wanted people to know we'd been together," she said incredulously. "But you were so intent on protecting yourself with that photo – what the hell is going on?"

"I like pissing Potter off, remember? And if I'm not mistaken, you do too, or you would never have shown your face at my parties." He knew he'd struck a nerve when her cheeks turned red.

"I went for Neville," she said defensively. "Not for Harry. I didn't even know photographers were going to be at those stupid parties!"

"The first one, maybe not – but after you saw your picture in the Prophet after that, you knew."

"How was I to know they'd focus on me?" she raged, throwing her arms into the air. "There were plenty of rich and famous people there, so why would they notice me?"

"You dressed to make sure they noticed you," he observed.

"You have got to be kidding me," she mumbled, rubbing her face with her hands. "I dressed the same way that every other woman there was dressed! Besides, what do you care? It's not like you had some sort of vested interest in me, anyway! I was just another party guest to you!"

His silence made her look up, and she frowned when he wouldn't meet her eyes.

"Wasn't I?" she repeated softly. He looked up, his expression masked.

"Yes."

"Well then, what's the point of arguing about this?"

"The point is that currently we are carrying on an affair, and I'll have you know that I have no interest in keeping it secret any longer."

"We are not carrying on an affair!" she seethed. "An affair would imply something ongoing!"

"If it weren't ongoing, you would have stopped after the first time it happened," he said matter-of-factly. She averted her eyes as she thought of their second encounter. He had been so needy and open that she would not have refused him, not for all of the gold in Gringott's. He tilted his head to the side, eyeing her thoughtfully.

"What happened that night?" he ventured. The blush on her cheeks deepened.

"I don't want to talk about it – and I'm surprised that you do." She glanced around to make sure that Harry wasn't approaching, and sighed. "It's been a long day. I'm – I'll –" She wasn't quite sure what to say, so she chose something simple.

"Goodbye."

She started to walk away, but he reached out and grabbed her arm, spinning her around to face him.

"You're not getting away that easily, kitten."

“And just why not?” she demanded wearily. “Look, I don’t know what you want from me. I can’t – I can’t give you anything that you haven’t had before.”

He covered his surprise by scowling. “And who says I want anything from you?”

“If you didn’t, you’d let me go.”

He released her abruptly, and watched as she disappeared down the street.
12 :: Disintegration by CliodnaHPFan
Watery sunlight filtered into the room between the blinds, casting elongated shadows on the floor. Pansy stretched her arms above her head and smiled sleepily – this had always been her favorite kind of weather, ever since she was a small child. She loved the way the air smelled after a heavy rain; the way the rain cleansed everything and washed the old away to reveal the new.

She rolled over and wrapped her arms around Neville’s sleeping form, snuggling as close as she could possibly get. Sometimes, she thought wistfully, she wished she could just crawl inside of him and disappear. Neville was much stronger than people gave him credit for, and for a long time, he had been Pansy’s strength, too.

She squeezed her eyes shut as tightly as she could, willing the tears not to come as she remembered the capture of her parents. The trial had been an horrific ordeal for her – the Ministry had interrogated her repeatedly, though she knew nothing of her parents’ involvement with Voldemort. How could she? She was never at home long enough to know anything about them – hell, she couldn’t even remember what her own bedroom looked like, she’d seen it so few times.

And through it all, her Slytherin friends had kept their distances from her. They were afraid of guilt by association, and after seeing what she’d undergone, they’d deserted her. When the crowd of Judases had fled, there stood Neville Longbottom, offering his hand in friendship, and a shoulder to cry on, if she needed it.

At first she hadn’t understood him, and hadn’t understood why he of all people would offer to stand by her, when even the most loyal of her friends had deserted her, so she’d turned on him. She’d been a spitting, clawing, vicious bitch to him. She winced as she remembered him taking all of her abuse, no matter how stinging it was, and waiting patiently for her to come around.

Which she had, approximately one month after the trial.

Things had gotten progressively worse for Pansy after her parents had been imprisoned in Azkaban. Though the Ministry had officially cleared her of all charges, that didn’t mean that they’d left her alone to be on her merry way. No, they had been following her for a long time, just waiting for her to screw up.

Once the pressure had gotten to her and she didn’t know where else to turn, she’d turned to Neville, who’d opened his door to her, no questions asked. She’d spent that first night on his sofa, crying so hard that her eyes became red and swollen and her throat ached. He hadn’t judged her; instead he’d brought her a soothing potion for her throat, made her a poultice to stop the swelling of her puffy eyes, and had made her soup for dinner.

He’d made her soup.

That had been the proverbial nail in her coffin. The man had not only comforted her and let her rant and rave for however long she needed to do it, he’d also made her dinner. No man had ever made her dinner before. She’d been wined and dined, and men had sent her jewels and pretty trinkets, but no man had ever thought her worthy enough to give her something of himself. Neville had done that selflessly the entire night.

She’d known before the sun had even risen on the next day that she’d fallen in love with him. She didn’t give a damn what any of her supposed friends had to say about it, either. She smiled as she pressed several light kisses to the bare skin of his shoulder, and he sighed in his sleep. Neville was, quite probably, the best thing that had ever happened to her.

“Pans?” his sleepy voice interrupted her reverie.

“Yes, love?”

“What are you doing awake so early?”

“I was just thinking.” He rolled over to face her, and she bit back a giggle at his heavy-lidded eyes. He tried to open them to focus on her, but was still in the arms of sleep.

“’Bout what?”

“Us.”

“Good thoughts, I hope,” he mumbled, clumsily throwing his left arm over her and pulling her closer to his chest.

“Are there any other kind?” she teased lightly. He smiled softly.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too,” she whispered back, tears springing to her eyes again. “More than you know.”

“Hey,” he said, the wavering of her voice waking him up. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” she said, resting her forehead against his chest. He was silent for so long that she thought he’d fallen back asleep.

“Thinking about your parents again?” he asked gently. She nodded against his chest, and felt his arm tighten around her. Neville was exceptionally gifted at knowing her moods; he knew when to press and he knew when to quit talking and just let her be.

It was just one of the many reasons that she loved him so much.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Hermione awoke to a loud crashing noise coming from the kitchen. Wand in hand, she rose slowly from the sofa and tiptoed into the other room softly, not wanting to alert the intruder to her presence. When she saw the raven hair and furious green eyes behind his glasses, she sighed in relief and dropped her wand to her side.

“Harry, thank heavens – I was so worried about you.”

“Where is it?”

“Where is what?” she asked, startled by the anger of his words. He glared at her.

“You know perfectly well what I’m talking about, Hermione. Don’t play stupid – it doesn’t become you.”

“I honestly have no idea what you’re on about,” she said, her confusion apparent on her face.

“The picture,” he snarled, rifling through another drawer. “Where is that picture?”

Hermione’s heart plummeted inside of her chest. So that was where he’d been yesterday – following Ginny again.

“I don’t know,” she said flatly, turning on her heel and moving down the hallway, towards the bathroom, intent on taking a shower. She’d fallen asleep on the sofa waiting for him to come home, and she hadn’t changed out of her clothes, either. She wrinkled her nose as she peeled her shirt off, and had just started to remove her jeans when Harry burst into the room.

“You knew about the picture, didn’t you?” he demanded, grabbing her arms roughly. Her eyes widened, but she remained silent. “And I’ll even bet you knew who was in the photo, and you didn’t tell me.”

“Harry, please let me go.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You’re starting to scare me,” she whispered. He blinked and let go of her arms, his face expressionless. “Yes, I saw the picture. Yes, I knew who was in it.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he repeated flatly.

“Because it’s none of my business,” she replied, sliding her jeans off and turning the tap on. Water began to fill the bathtub and fogged the surface of the mirror over. Hermione thought, very briefly, that it looked very much like a foe glass. She nearly laughed when she caught Harry’s shadowy outline in its reflection of her, and then turned back to the bathtub.

“And I suppose you’re going to tell me that it’s none of my business, either,” he said, not bothering to hide the enmity in his voice. She shrugged.

“I’m not going to tell you anything.”

“Why not?”

“It’s not my place to, Harry. It’s your life.” And if you want to spend it pining after something that you’ve given up, then you’re going to lose what you’ve got.

“But why would she –“ he fumbled for the right words. When he found none, he simply asked, “Why him?”

“Maybe she didn’t mean for it to happen,” Hermione rejoined softly, testing the water temperature with her hand. She poured in a capful of purple liquid and inhaled deeply as the scent of jasmine filled the air. “Maybe it was an accident. Maybe she was drunk. Who knows?”

“How can you be so flippant about it?” he asked, his cheeks flushing with something other than anger as he watched her struggle with her bra clasp.

“I’m not saying I’m not concerned for her,” Hermione said, annoyed. “I just said that there could be any number of explanations for what happened in that picture, and we aren’t privy to them.” Harry reached forward and unhooked her bra, sliding it down her arms. She sucked in a deep breath and turned to face him, her cheeks pink with her bravado.

“Let’s talk about something else,” he suggested throatily, his fingertips skimming lightly down her sides and making her shiver, despite the steam in the room. “Or better yet, let’s not talk at all.”

She barely managed to remove his glasses before his lips came crashing down onto hers.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

“Nev,” Ginny began tentatively, “do you think I dress to get attention?”

Neville laughed, until he saw the serious look on her face. He frowned. “Now who in the world has been accusing you of that? You’ve been dressing a little more… outlandishly than you normally do, but no, I don’t think that you’re doing it on purpose to attract attention.”

“Thanks,” she breathed, playing with the straw from her empty glass. Her eyes were focused on it as she spoke, and Neville was beginning to worry about her. She’d barely made eye contact with him at all since they’d sat down to lunch together, which was very unlike her. In fact, the whole conversation had been subdued today, he realized.

“Gin, what’s going on?” he asked gently. She shrugged.

“Nothing.”

“You’re a terrible liar, do you know that? Look, if you don’t want to talk about it, just say you don’t want to talk about it – though personally, I think talking about things makes you feel better. It always helps to get it out. You keep something inside, and it eats away at you.”

“I know.”

“It’s like I always tell Pansy, you have to-“

“I slept with Malfoy,” she blurted, her cheeks burning immediately. Neville was effectively silenced. “And before you ask, it was consensual, and it was more than once.”

Neville sat speechless for several minutes, and then his lips curved up into a wicked grin. “Was it that good?” Ginny’s eyes widened in surprise, and then she burst into laughter.

“Leave it to you to poke fun at me to make me feel better,” she murmured, looking into his eyes for the first time since they’d met that afternoon. “I was really worried about how you’d take it.”

“How could you have been worried?” he asked, slightly surprised. “I mean, you caught me off guard, but I have to admit that it wasn’t totally unexpected.”

“What?”

“Pansy has been insisting for weeks now that you and Malfoy share some mutual attraction,” he admitted, shaking his head. “I told her she’d gone round the twist, but I guess she was right.”

Ginny dropped her straw in disbelief, and glanced around to make sure that no one was listening. She leaned forward and hissed, “So Malfoy told her that we’d done it?”

“No, no,” Neville denied. “You don’t understand. It’s some women’s intuition thing, or something. She’s been predicting that it would happen since the first party you came to.”

“What?” she demanded, her eyes widening. “Then how do we know that it wasn’t some sort of bet between the two of them, or something?”

“Please,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Pansy does not bet. You know her better than that. Besides, every time she’s talked to him about you, he either shoots her down or changes the subject.”

“Why is she talking to him about me?” she asked, her eyes narrowing.

“Pansy is all about the matchmaking, you know that, Gin,” he said, sighing. “When none of your dates with those other blokes panned out, she just took it as a sign from a higher power that you were meant for Malfoy.”

Ginny snorted at this. “Since when does Pansy believe in something more powerful than herself?”

Neville’s expression clouded over. “She believes in a lot of things that you don’t know about.” Ginny blinked in surprise.

“Gods, Neville, I didn’t mean anything by that, I was just kidding.”

“I know,” he said, rubbing his face with his hands. “Let’s just say that it’s been a long morning.”

“A long, exhausting morning?” Ginny supplied, wagging her eyebrows suggestively. Neville grinned.

“That too.”

“I heard that she shags you rotten before you go out in public,” she commented offhandedly, peeking up to gauge his reaction. He gaped at her.

“Who in Merlin’s name told you that?”

“Who do you think?”

“I know it wasn’t Pansy!”

“You’re not denying it,” she pointed out, smiling. He sputtered.

“And – and you’re not answering my question!” he retorted, his cheeks turning scarlet. “Is it me, or is it getting warm in here?” He reached for his glass of water.

“So it’s true, then,” Ginny affirmed. He nearly choked on the liquid in his mouth, and Ginny shoved a napkin at him.

“Really, come on, now. Who told you such a thing?” he asked, when he’d gotten his breath back.

“It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that now I know it’s true. I was told that she doesn’t want you even thinking about other women, and that’s why she does it.”

“Everyone has insecurities,” he said defensively.

“Even you?”

“Me more so than anyone else, probably,” he said, taking another [smaller] sip of water. “Well, except for your ex, I mean.”

“What does Harry have to do with this?” She asked, confused. “And how would you know what his insecurities are?”

“He’s been sitting at that table in the corner over there since before we got here,” Neville said, not looking up from his drink. Ginny let out a low hiss.

“Maybe he’s just here eating, like us,” she said, frowning.

“Gin,” he said, lifting his eyes to hers. “At some point and time, you’re going to have to address this issue with him. He’s been following you to our lunches every week since you married him.”

“Why didn’t you ever tell me?” she fumed.

“At first I thought it was sweet. Now I think it’s a serious control issue. He doesn’t want to be with only you, but at the same time, no one else can have you, either. It’s a dangerous mindset to get into, you know?”

“He’s not here with –“ she couldn’t bring herself to say Hermione’s name. “Someone?”

“He’s alone.”

“He took a picture of me and Malfoy,” she whispered. Neville’s eyes widened significantly.

“And Malfoy’s still alive to tell the tale?”

“I don’t think he knew who it was in the picture with me,” she said, shifting uncomfortably in her seat, and refusing to meet his eyes. “It was kind of hard to see his face.”

“I’ll ignore the implications of that and just ask how he couldn’t have recognized Malfoy’s hair. It’s nearly white; how can you not know who it is when you see it? No one else in the world has that hair color.”

“That’s what I thought,” she said, her cheeks still burning. “But when he showed me the picture and confronted me about it, he wasn’t nearly as mad as he would’ve been if he’d known.”

“Do I even want to know what you were doing in that picture?” Neville asked warily.

“He was kissing me,” she said, still not looking at him. He narrowed his eyes at her.

“And?”

“And what?”

“There’s something you’re not telling me. You’re being very dodgy today, did you know that?”

“Fine – he was… er, touching me. Let’s just leave it at that.”

“Groping?” Neville supplied.

“You’re just fishing for information now, aren’t you?”

“You didn’t deny it,” he said, his eyes sparkling as he threw her own words back at her. She smiled and shrugged.

“No, I didn’t.”

“And what happened with the picture?”

“I took it from him, and then Malfoy came to look for the watch he’d lost, and he saw it. Then I burned it.”

“Whoa – whoa,” he said, holding his hands up to stop her. “Let’s walk through that last statement. You took the picture from Harry.”

“Yes, I took it, and I shoved it down in my knickers, right by my hip.”

“I won’t even ask why you put it there,” he said, shaking his head. “And then?”

“Then Malfoy showed up, saying that he’d lost his watch at my flat the night before.”

“He spent the night?”

“No, he just – he was just there for a few minutes.”

“A few minutes? Poor form, ferret.”

“Honestly, can we move on to another subject?” she begged. “This is giving me the willies – especially with Harry in the same vicinity.”

“Unless Harry can read lips, we’re fine. He’d only be able to see my half of the conversation, anyway. So then Malfoy showed up?”

“Yes, and I found his watch for him. I guess when I was bent over looking for it, he must have seen the picture poking out of my nightshirt.”

“And he wanted to see it?”

“Yes. He tricked me and pulled it out of my knickers.”

“I don’t even want to know how that happened. What did he do when he saw it?”

“He wanted to know who took it.”

“Did you tell him?”

“In not so many words, yes. And then he flipped out, and I had to trick him to get the picture back, and then he left.”

“Again, I won’t ask about the tricking. So when did the burning come about, and why?”

“I got to thinking about it, and the more I did, the more I realized how dangerous that picture was. Anyone could find it-“

“In your knickers?” he interrupted, scandalized. She ignored him.

“Anyone could find it and blackmail me with it.”

“I’d be willing to bet that he was more concerned that they’d blackmail him with it.”

“Apparently, but I’ll get to that in a minute. So I burned it in my kitchen sink.”

“And then?” he prompted.

“And then I got a very expensive looking piece of jewelry in the post, and I took it to give back to him.”

“What made you think it was Malfoy who sent it?”

“It was very expensive,” she repeated, as though her reasoning was obvious.

“So? Harry has money too, you know.”

She slapped her forehead with the palm of her hand. “Merlin! I never even considered Harry! Malfoy kept denying that he’d sent it, and I thought it was odd. I mean, normally when he does show-offy stuff, he likes to be recognized for it.”

“What did you do with the expensive jewelry?” he asked curiously.

“I left it with Malfoy. He caught up to me yesterday and told me that he thought he knew who’d sent it, and I told him to keep it, because I didn’t care who’d sent it.”

“And I suppose that brings me up to speed on your love life, then, does it?” he asked, amused.

“Please, when you’re referring to my shagging him, do not use the word love in any capacity.”

“Do you at least like him? Because I’d hate to see you give yourself to someone you can’t even stand, just for the sake of convenience.”

“I’ve never really talked to him, so how can I know if I like him or not?”

“You haven’t talked at all?”

“Well… yesterday he did talk to me for a bit, but then it turned into another argument.”

“About?”

“Harry.”

“Ah. I think I’m beginning to see now.”

“Look, I’m not searching for a replacement for Harry,” she began. “And I’m not looking to get married, or engaged, or even date, for that matter.”

“Then why are you even bothering with him?”

“It’s not like we plan it when it happens!” she said defensively. “One thing just sort of leads to another, and… I hate it. I feel like I have no control over myself when he’s around. And sex is all I think about when I look at him.”

“You just got out of a committed relationship. It’s natural not to want to rush into another one straightaway, Gin. But you’d better stop and think about what your affair means to him.”

“Affair?” she asked, recalling Malfoy’s words the night before. “I don’t pretend that he feels anything for me, because I know better.”

“Do you? Nobody likes to feel used – you know that better than anyone else. Maybe you’d better ask him.”

“Even if it did mean something more to him than sex, he wouldn’t tell me,” she said, shaking her head. “He’s too proud. And besides, I’m not sure I want it to be more than sex.”

“But you do want the sex?” Neville asked, frowning.

“Neville, it’s nothing like it was with Harry,” she confided, her voice so low that he could barely hear her. “It’s so good, it’s scary.”

“And you don’t want to ruin it with feelings, right?” he guessed.

“I don’t – I mean, I don’t know –“ she shook her head in frustration. “I don’t know what I want right now! All I know is that I feel like a loose cannon around him, but when we get physical, I never want it to end.”

“And when it’s over?”

“I feel guilty and used.”

“Why guilty?”

“Because I feel like I’m betraying Harry,” she admitted.

“We’ve been over this,” he said firmly. “You’re the betrayee, not the betrayer.” She giggled.

“Thanks, Nev. You always make me feel better.”

“What else are friends for? So are you going to see him again?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think he wants to – and even if he did, I think it’d be dangerous.”

“Why?”

“If Harry is following me, then he might follow me somewhere with Malfoy. And Malfoy said yesterday that he was tired of keeping our affair secret.”

“Surely he wouldn’t go public with the fact that – well, let me think before I speak. No, he would do it.”

“But why?” she asked, desperation in her voice. “He hates my family, and thinks we’re lower than the dirt beneath his shoes, remember? Why would he willingly tell people about us?”

“That’s simple – Harry.”

“He’d tell everyone just to get back at Harry,” she said dully, shaking her head.

“And I for one think that you should let him do it.”

“What?” she asked, her head snapping up. “Why?”

“If you’re out and about with Malfoy, at least you’ll be with a man who will protect you. Even if he’s doing it just to make Harry jealous, and even if he protects you only to keep making Harry jealous, at least you’ll be with someone when you go out. I know it’d make me feel better.”

“But that would be using him!” she protested.

“And what you’re doing now is any better?” he asked gently. Her shoulders slumped in defeat.

“You’re right. I know you’re right. Do you really think that Harry would attack me, given the chance?”

“I think his actions are bordering on stalkerish right now, and I don’t even know if he follows you all the time,” Neville said, his voice low and serious. “Better to have Malfoy with you and let him exchange some nasty words with Harry than to get caught out alone and have no way to escape.”

“And I’m sure Malfoy would delight in every second of every confrontation,” she sighed. “But who’s to say he’d actually do any of what we’re talking about? What if I go back to him and he refuses to have anything to do with me?”

“Then Pansy and I will start accompanying you places.”

“He won’t make it easy on me.”

“So make it seem as though it’s his decision. Twist things so that he thinks he’s the one in control. Pansy does that to me all the time.” Ginny smiled at him. “And consider the sex a fringe benefit, or your reward, or something.”

“I don’t think it really counts as manipulation if you know about it and you continue to let her do it.”

“Yes, but she doesn’t have to know that.”

“I love you, Neville.”

“Do you know how incredibly lucky I am? Two of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met have told me that, and both in the same day.”
13 :: Accord by CliodnaHPFan
The Broken Road, Chapter 13 :: Accord

“Neville, do you think that people don’t get married because they’re afraid of things staying the same?” Ginny asked, staring down into her drink. Neville blinked in surprise and took another swallow of fire whiskey before he answered her.

“That’s an odd question to be asking,” he said finally, giving her a thoughtful look. “I would think that people get married because they love their significant other, and it brings a sort of comfort to be able to have things stay the same.”

“But what about the people who need variety?” she insisted, glancing up at him.

“Those people don’t really need variety, Gin. They’ve somehow managed to convince themselves that something better than what they’ve got exists out there, and they want to find it. Once they’ve got it, though, it becomes routine just like the things they’ve left behind, and they move on to the next new thing.”

“So you’re saying that it’s the thrill of the hunt, and not the capture?”

“Exactly. Those people will become sort of serial creatures – they’ll leave their current lover and move on to the next and the next and the next, and only when they get that far away from what they originally had will they realize what they’ve given up.”

“You’re turning this around on me and making it personal,” she observed, giving him a wry smile.

“It’s your own fault,” he said, shrugging helplessly. “I take you out for drinks to cheer you up, and you get all serious and wax philosophical on me.”

“Who are you trying to fool?” She laughed. “You brought me out for drinks because Pansy was having dinner alone with a friend, and you didn’t want to be alone.”

“A male friend, no less.” He took another drink of his fire whiskey, and Ginny frowned.

“Are you insecure all of a sudden?”

“No, I’m not, really. I just – let’s just say that I’m not overly fond of this male friend.” Realization dawned on Ginny’s face and she arched an eyebrow.

“Oh, she’s with the ferret, then. Why couldn’t you go along?”

“I have no earthly idea. He just flooed her and said that he wanted to have dinner with her, alone so they could talk.”

“That sounds like a very un-Malfoyish thing to do,” she remarked, taking a sip of her drink.

“I know, and that’s what’s got me worried.”

“Well, there’s no point in worrying about it right now,” she said, shrugging. “So let’s talk about something more pleasant.”

“I noticed that you went out with someone last night,” he said, frowning at her.

“And? Am I not allowed to date anymore?”

“It’s just that you know that all men you see have to be approved by me.”

“You didn’t approve of Zabini or Bole,” she pointed out.

“All right, perhaps I should rephrase that. I at least have to meet the blokes you go out with. That way I know who to kill if you come home a crying mess.”

“Please,” she said, laughing. “As if any man could reduce me to a crying, slobbering mess. I like to think I’m a bit stronger than that.”

“What about Harry and the ferret?” he asked seriously. “You had a bit of a cry over both of them, didn’t you?”

“No. I did that to myself, they didn’t do that to me.” She shifted in her seat, uncomfortable. “Besides, it’s not like I’ll be seeing that guy again.”

“Why not? No good in bed?”

She threw her napkin at him. “I don’t shag every man I go out with, though they seem to think they’re entitled to it,” she said darkly. “No, we went to that new club The Grind, and after he stepped on my toes about twenty times, I realized that I’d better call it a night or I’d be crippled by the time the night was over.”

“Here’s to bad dancers!” Neville said, raising his fire whiskey glass into the air. She touched her glass to his, and they both downed their alcohol.

“You just brought me here to get me drunk and take advantage of me, didn’t you?” she asked, smiling. He grinned.

“Naturally.”

“I think that’s grounds for separation, Neville Longbottom.” Ginny and Neville looked up in surprise, and Pansy smirked at them. Neville scrambled clumsily to his feet to allow Pansy to slide into the booth beside him, and proceeded to plant a wet kiss on her cheek.

“Pans, what are you doing here? Finished with dinner already?”

“Not quite. He needed an apertif, so here we are,” she explained coolly, hazarding a quick glance at Ginny. The redhead scrambled to dig the money for her drinks out of her pocket, so she could make a hasty exit before Malfoy got to the table. Just as she had dropped some coins on the table, Malfoy slid into the booth beside her.

“This place is entirely too low brow for me to be seen in,” he drawled, completely ignoring Ginny’s presence. She didn’t know whether to be incensed or grateful that he hadn’t noticed who he was sitting next to, and finally decided to be grateful. Draco Malfoy and the amount of alcohol she’d consumed was definitely not a good combination.

“So why did you come?” Neville asked, unusually bold and loose-tongued, due to the alcohol.

“Pansy wanted to see you, though I can’t imagine why, in the sodding state you’re in.” Draco peered distastefully down his nose at Neville, and then glanced at Ginny, who appeared to be trying to blend in with the booth they were sitting in.

“I’m not totally pissed yet,” he protested, frowning at the blonde man. “Sit still, you. It’s hard to talk to you when you keep moving around like that.”

Ginny slapped her hand to her face while Draco arched an amused eyebrow, and Pansy just shook her head. “How much have you had to drink, love?”

“Half a bottle of fire whiskey,” he said, looking at the table top. He frowned. “A bottle and a half.”

“Oh, sweet, I’d better get you home,” Pansy said, sighing. “You’re going to have the worst headache when you wake up tomorrow.” Ginny watched with a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach as Neville and Pansy rose from the table, said their goodbyes, and disappeared. After they’d gone, she took a deep breath.

“I think I’d better be going, too,” she said, moving to get out of the booth. To her surprise, Malfoy stood and helped her up. “Thanks. Well – have a good night,” she said, feeling awkward. She never knew what to say to him when she left him; “I’ll see you around,” “Talk to you later,” and other phrases all made it sound as though she planned on seeing him again, and she didn’t want to lead him on when she really had no intentions of ever seeing him again.

When it became clear that he was intent on accompanying her back to her flat, however, she could feel the panic rising in her throat. She was weakened by alcohol, and if he decided that he wanted something from her, she would be in no state to deny him or fight him over it. “What are you doing?”

“Seeing that you make it home without splinching yourself,” he said calmly, stepping into the fireplace with her. He gripped her arm gently and called out her address. She was surprised that he remembered it – but then again, he should remember it, since he’d been there several times already.

When they were inside her living room, she turned on him. “Okay, I’m home now. Thanks for making sure I was okay. I can make it from here, I think.”

“So anxious to get rid of me,” he said, amused. “Afraid I came to take advantage of your drunken state?”

“Something like that,” she admitted, her eyes roaming over the angled planes of his face. He gave a light shrug of his shoulders.

“No need to fear. I was simply being chivalrous.”

She snorted. “Hasn’t anyone ever told you that chivalry is dead?”

“What are you implying, exactly? That I have some ulterior motive for seeing you home in one piece?”

“I’m not implying it, I’m saying it outright. What do you want from me?”

“You’re right, there is something I want from you.”

“I knew it! Well? What is it that you want?”

“A cup of coffee, or some similarly caffeinated beverage.”

She stared at him for a full minute before she remembered to close her mouth. “You want coffee? Are you serious?”

“Deadly. I have quite the headache at the moment, and caffeine is the only thing that helps.”

“If I give you a cup of coffee, will you leave?”

“Absolutely.”

“Fine,” she said, sighing. She went into the kitchen. When she finally returned to the living room with two cups of coffee, she found him sitting on her sofa, just staring at the wall. “Hey,” she said gently, holding a mug out to him. He blinked, and then took the drink from her. She took a seat beside him on the sofa, careful not to sit too close to him.

“I didn’t know what to put in it, so I left it black.”

“That’s fine – that’s the way I drink it, anyway.” He took a sip.

“Not me. It has to be light and sweet for me to be able to drink it.”

“What’s the point of drinking coffee if you’re just going to pollute it?” he wondered aloud, giving her a sidelong glance.

“Funny.” She rolled her eyes. They sat in silence for several minutes, and then Ginny blurted out, “Why haven’t you ever married?”

He turned and gave her a sharp look. “Why?”

“Neville and I were discussing this earlier, and I just wondered if people sometimes don’t get married because they’re afraid of things staying the same.” He seemed to relax a bit, and frowned in thought.

“You mean they don’t get married because they’re afraid of things getting stale?”

“Exactly,” she said, nodding.

“If that were the case, why would anyone ever even date the same person for any length of time?”

“I would think they stay with the same person because they’re too lazy to go out and find someone else. Maybe they get married when they run out of things to talk about,” she suggested.

“So you’re telling me that you got married because you didn’t have the energy to find someone else?” he asked, his eyebrows shooting up.

“No, I said some people, not all. Some people actually marry for love,” she said defensively.

“How do you know it was love?”

“I – what? Why would you ask such a thing?”

“Do you still feel the same way about him now as you did when you started out?”

“Of course not,” she snapped, her eyes turning hard. “Back then he hadn’t cheated on me.”

“How do you know?” he persisted. “You doubt his faithfulness now because you’ve caught him being unfaithful. Who’s to say that he wasn’t unfaithful before, and you just didn’t catch him?”

“Is there something that you know that I don’t?” she asked suspiciously.

“I’m just trying to make a point. Had you truly been in love with him, you would have stayed with him, no matter if he had been unfaithful or not.”

“That is absolutely the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard you say, and that’s saying a lot. I did love him, but I’m not going to sit around and be made a fool of!”

“You could have turned a blind eye if you wanted to keep him that badly.”

“Well it’s obvious that I didn’t want to keep him that badly!” she snapped, sitting her empty mug on the coffee table in front of the sofa.

“Which only proves my point, that you didn’t really love him.”

“Love fades! It changes with time.”

“I agree, it does change with time. But it doesn’t fade.”

“How would you know? You’ve never been in love!”

“How can you make that assumption, when you don’t even really know me?”

“If you’d ever been in love with someone, you would have married her.”

“Things are so black and white to you, aren’t they? Never any grey areas. Not all people who are in love get married.”

“What are you talking about? Why not?”

“What I’m saying, kitten, is that things don’t always work out the way that you think they should.”

“Are you telling me that you’ve been in love?” she asked disbelievingly. “The coldest man to come out of Slytherin since his father, and you fell in love?”

“My father was not a cold man,” he said softly, gripping his coffee mug. Ginny bit her lower lip, sensing that she had somehow crossed some invisible line.

“Malfoy, I didn’t – I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to insult you, or anything.”

He sat his mug down on the coffee table and started to stand. “What are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m leaving. I finished my coffee, and I’m leaving, as per our agreement.”

“Wait – don’t go like this,” she said, her shoulders slumping. He half-turned to look at her.

“Like what?”

“Angry at me for some stupid slip of the tongue. We’ve been at each others’ throats for so long, it takes a concentrated effort to be civil towards each other, and I’ve had far too much alcohol tonight to control my tongue. I’m sorry.”

He eyed her thoughtfully. “So now you want me to stay?”

“I didn’t mean that, I just meant that I didn’t want you to leave angry with me. Sit down, and I’ll get you another cup of coffee, and then you can go, all right?” Slowly he sat back down, and she moved into the kitchen to refill his cup. When she returned, he was frowning.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, handing him the cup and reclaiming her seat.

“How am I different?”

“What?”

“You’ve been out with several men since your divorce, and you’ve been open about dating them. How am I different, that you don’t want anyone to know that we’ve been together?”

“Why should it bother you that I don’t want anyone to know?”

“Don’t answer a question with a question. I don’t like the thought of being anyone’s dirty little secret.”

“And I don’t like the thought of you being open about us being together just to flaunt it in Harry’s face. Besides, we haven’t actually been dating, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

“Have you shagged those other men?” Her cheeks turned red.

“I don’t think that’s any of your business.”

“Why can’t you just say no?”

“And why would I do that?”

“Because it would be the truth.” She glared at him.

“And how would you know what the truth is?”

“You’re forgetting that the men you’ve dated have all been close friends of mine – with loose tongues, might I add.” She squeezed her eyes shut.

“Fine,” she snapped, annoyed. “No, I haven’t slept with any of them.”

“So how am I different?”

“I don’t know,” she said stubbornly, refusing to meet his eyes.

“Obviously you have reached some degree of comfort around me,” he drawled coolly. She blinked.

“What?”

“You never allowed any of them into your home, and yet here I am.”

“Yes, under the guise of not allowing me to splinch myself,” she returned crossly.

“Are you saying that if one of those other men had offered to see you inside your home for your own protection that you would have let them?”

“No,” she admitted grudgingly, still not meeting his eyes. “I didn’t know them well enough to trust them inside my flat alone with me.”

“Then how am I different, that you’ve allowed me up here on numerous occasions? Surely you don’t trust me?”

“No,” she said quickly. “I don’t trust you.”

“Then why?”

“I don’t know,” she said, frustrated. “I guess there’s some sort of familiarity with you. I’ve had sex with you, for cripes’ sake, why would I not allow you into my flat?”

“Are you maybe hoping on some level that it will happen again?”

“What?” she gasped, finally looking at him. When she saw his highly amused smirk, she relaxed and rolled her eyes. “Oh, yes, Malfoy. Please, come into my flat so we can have a shag.” She was quiet for a moment, listening to him snicker, and then she tilted her head to the side as she looked at him.

“What?”

“Why do you keep coming here?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You asked me how you were different, and I answered. So now tell me why you keep coming up here.”

“You needed someone to escort you home so you didn’t splinch yourself.”

“Since when do you care if I splinch myself or not?”

“Are you daft? I’d never hear the end of it from Parkinson, because she’d never hear the end of it from Longbottom. They would hold me responsible, since I was the only one there with you.”

“So why are you still here?”

“I have a headache and I needed caffeine. We’ve been through this already, remember?”

“You finished your second cup almost the moment I gave it to you,” she said shrewdly.

“You’re being awfully observant for a drunk woman.”

“Who said I was still drunk?” His eyebrows shot up as he glanced towards the kitchen. “Yes, I keep sobering potions in the kitchen cabinet,” she said, answering his unspoken question.

“So why sober up just for me?” Her cheeks turned crimson.

“I didn’t do it for you,” she denied. She couldn’t very well tell him that she’d taken the sobering potion because she didn’t trust herself around him with that much alcohol in her system; from the moment he’d asked for that first cup of coffee, her brain had kicked into overdrive and she’d begun remembering every last one of their encounters, down to the most minute details. “How’s your head feeling now?”

“Better.” He stood and smoothed imaginary wrinkles out of his shirt, and then headed towards the fireplace. Before he could step inside, however, he felt a hand on his arm, and he turned to face her.

“Thank you for escorting me home – even if you did it for selfish reasons,” she said, smiling. “I appreciate it.” She stood on her tiptoes and planted a soft kiss high on his left cheek. Immediately his fingers flew to the spot her lips had touched, and he stared at her in surprise.

“You’re welcome.” He dropped his hand and looked pointedly down at hers, which was still lightly gripping his arm. She followed his cue and looked down, pulling her hand away when she realized what she was doing. He turned his back to her again and had managed to get one foot inside the fireplace when she spoke again.

“Don’t go.”

Two words, softer than the fluttering of butterfly wings, and he was frozen to the spot. He wasn’t even sure he’d heard her correctly until she spoke again.

“Please don’t go – Draco.”

Slowly, with his heart pounding wildly inside of his chest, he turned to look at her. Her cheeks were flushed, she was breathing rapidly, and her eyes were bright. He wondered briefly if the complete and utter shock he felt was evident on his face.

“You want me to stay?” he asked cautiously. She nodded.

“Yes.”

“For how long?”

“As long as you want to.”

“How long do you want me to stay?”

“All night,” she answered without hesitation. Then, when his eyes widened and his eyebrows shot up in surprise, “Nothing has to happen – I’m just – I’m enjoying your company.”

“If I stayed, something would most definitely happen,” he drawled softly, letting his eyes drift down her body for emphasis. Heat flooded through her.

“I said nothing had to happen, I didn’t say it couldn’t,” she rejoined, sounding bolder than she felt.

“You told me you would never sleep with me again.”

“Right before it happened again,” she reminded him, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “Look, if you don’t want to, it’s not a big deal. I just thought-“

“If I stay with you tonight,” he interrupted, turning to face her fully. He crossed his arms over his chest. “I will not keep it a secret.”

“I don’t care,” she whispered, her lower lip trembling slightly. Discussing this with Neville had been much easier than actually throwing the events into motion, she thought. It’d all been so much easier when it had only been words and not actions.

“You don’t care,” he echoed disbelievingly. “You realize that that means that Potter will know.”

“I understand that,” she said, her throat dry. If he was going to reject her, she wished he’d just do it and get it over with, instead of prolonging the agony. “It doesn’t bother me.”

“You said you didn’t want to be public about it because you didn’t want me to taunt him with it,” he said, arching a pale eyebrow. “So what’s changed?”

“I just realized that I don’t care what Harry thinks,” she replied, mildly surprised to realize that it was the truth. “Who I choose to take to my bed is none of his business.”

“So this is just sex, then?”

“Isn’t that all you want?”

“I’m just clarifying,” he said, avoiding the question. His eyes were cloudy. “So that I know whether you expect me to take you out in public with me or not.”

“I don’t expect anything,” she said honestly. “I’m not asking you to shower me with gifts or take me out all the time. I don’t even expect you to stop sleeping with other women.”

He blinked.

“Then what do you want from me?”

“Your attention and your company – even if you’re only pretending, and even if it’s only for tonight.”

“And after tonight?”

“That’s for you to decide.”

“You know that I won’t tolerate you dating other men,” he warned, watching her take a hesitant step forward.

“I know,” she breathed, taking another step and closing the distance between them.

“I won’t tolerate you sleeping with other men, either,” he said, his voice less forceful than before. She reached up and began to unbutton his white shirt, her eyes focused on the work her fingers were doing.

“I know,” she repeated. He watched her with bated breath, and when she had completely unbuttoned the shirt, he gasped softly. Her hands roamed over his chest, mapping out the ridges and feeling the fine blonde hairs. He bit back a groan when the pad of her thumb brushed a nipple. “Will you stay?”

He didn’t know what to say, so in answer he gripped the hem of her shirt and tugged upward. She raised her arms, allowing him to pull the shirt off, and he dropped it carelessly on the floor. One hand cupped her bum while the other hand moved up and down her back. She lifted her eyes to meet his, and when cinnamon met steel, he lowered his mouth to hers.

If Ginny had expected the kiss to be bruising and forceful, she was utterly surprised by the tenderness he was exhibiting. His tongue probed her mouth unhurriedly and with deliberate strokes. She reached up to bury her hands in his hair, reveling in the feel of the silky strands sifting between her fingers.

His fingertips danced lightly across her back, causing gooseflesh to arise on her skin. When the dance was finished, his fingers slid down, following the path of her spine, and slipped beneath the waistband of the jeans she’d worn out that evening. His mouth moved away from hers and trailed kisses down the line of her jaw, pausing for a moment to nuzzle the skin just below her ear.

She arched her back when the searing heat of his mouth found her neck. When his tongue darted out to taste the flesh of her collarbone, she sank her fingernails into his shoulders. He groaned and raised a hand to cup the flesh of a breast through her satiny bra, rubbing his finger over the already pebbled nipple.

He moved down and pressed several light kisses to the exposed top of her breast, reveling in the whimpering that escaped her lips. He dipped his tongue between the valley of her breasts, and the whimpering turned into a moan.

“Draco,” she whispered pleadingly. The sound of his name falling from her lips shot straight to his groin, and he pulled away from her.

“Bed. Now,” he commanded. She nodded and led him into her bedroom. Before she could turn to face him, however, he’d wrapped his arms around her and pressed his chest to her back. In this position, she could feel his arousal pressing against her bum. She ground herself into him, shivering when his throaty moan tickled her ear. His hands found her breasts and began to knead gently. She threw her head back, resting it on his shoulder, and lifted a hand to stroke the side of his face.

His fingers deftly unfastened the clasp of the bra, remembering that she liked the kind that hooked in the front, and the creamy globes of skin were exposed. He bent to kiss her neck as he caught her nipples between thumb and forefinger and rolled them gently. When he sucked gently on the sensitive spot at the base of her throat, wetness flooded her knickers.

After a moment he stopped sucking and put his hands on her hips, turning her to face him. Immediately her hands went to the fastening of his pants, and he watched as she unbuttoned and unzipped them, then pushed them down his legs. She helped him step out of them, and then knelt in front of him. When her mouth closed over his throbbing erection, he had to start reciting potions ingredients in his mind to keep from climaxing too quickly.

The motion of her tongue felt sinfully good as she ran it along his length. He watched her head moved back and forth as she took him in, and nearly fainted when she lifted her eyes to meet his. She kept her eyes focused on his face as she pleasured him, enjoying the half-crazed look on his face. He stiffened, feeling a familiar tingling begin at the base of his spine, and he put his hands on her shoulders to stop her.

When she pulled her mouth away from him, the cool air of the room assaulted him. Grateful that she didn’t ask any questions, he pulled her to her feet and divested her of her jeans and knickers as quickly as his trembling fingers could manage. When they were both completely naked, she stepped towards the bed, beckoning him to her with the slow motion of her index finger.

He followed, and when she laid down on the bed, he positioned himself over her. She parted her legs silently in invitation, and with their eyes locked, he slid into her. A single moment of stillness was quickly followed by the beginnings of rhythmic thrusting. Their breaths met and mingled somewhere between their bodies just before he captured her lips with his. What had been tender before now became consuming; she wrapped her legs around him, forcing him deeper. His tongue mimicked the movements of his member, sliding in and out of her mouth as his hips moved.

The sweat that beaded on his forehead and the moisture that covered her chest were ignored as he felt the tightening and then release of his orgasm. He spilled himself into her in hot jets, surprised by the force of his climax. His release seemed to trigger her own, and he groaned with pleasure as her slick walls convulsed around him. She moaned and thrashed her head about on the pillow, fanning her titian hair out on the pillow.

He rested his forehead against hers as they both struggled to catch their breath, and when he made as though to move away from her, she locked her legs around him.

“Stay – for just a minute, please,” she asked, her voice shaky. He closed his eyes and caught her lips between his repeatedly, until her head was reeling and her limbs were so shaky that she couldn’t hold him any longer. Gently he disengaged himself and rolled onto his back. She shivered at the loss of his warmth, and the motion caused him to glance at her.

He didn’t trust himself to speak. He didn’t know what to think about what had just happened, either. She had offered herself to him, practically begging him to stay the night with her, and had said that there were no strings attached. When she’d undone his shirt and touched his chest, the last shred of control he’d been using to reign in his desire all evening broke, and he’d started to touch her back.

Once he’d begun to touch her, he’d intended to be assertive and let her know just who she’d given herself to. Somehow, though, he’d wound up kissing her like his life depended on it; as though she held the very last bit of air that he needed to survive. In short, he’d been kissing her as though he cared about her.

She sat up and reached for the downy comforter that had gotten pushed to the end of the bed, and pulled it up, draping it over both of them. He was at once surprised and hurt when she turned her back to him and curled up with the coverlet tucked around her. He hadn’t expected… well, he didn’t know what he’d expected.

She was certainly more than he’d ever bargained for.
14 :: Eclipsed by CliodnaHPFan
The Broken Road, Chapter 14 :: Eclipsed

Ginny awoke sore, but blissfully sated, to the smell of coffee drifting into her bedroom. She smiled softly and pressed her face into her pillow to suppress the giddy laughter that wanted to escape her. Malfoy had woken her no less than three times during the night, and even though she’d been tired, she’d been happy to oblige.

She stretched languidly, and when her hand met warm flesh, her eyes flew open in surprise. She turned her head to see Malfoy lying beside her beneath the coverlet, sleeping soundly. Panic filled her – if he was in her bed, then who had started the coffee? She started to sit up, clutching the coverlet to her breast.

“Sleep,” he commanded tiredly.

“But the coffee – someone’s here,” she whispered fiercely.

“I charmed the coffee pot to start on its own, since you don’t have house elves to do it for you,” he explained, mumbling. Relief flooded through her, and she laid back down, snuggling beneath the coverlet. She shivered as she pulled the blanket up to her neck. “Cold?” he mumbled.

“A little,” she admitted. He surprised her by reaching out and yanking her towards him. She was going to protest, but when the heat from his chest warmed her back, she clamped her lips together and snuggled into him. To her surprise, he groaned.

“I’m trying to be nice and keep you warm, here,” he said, his breath warm on her ear. “So stop trying to get into my pants again.”

She giggled as he slung his right arm over her. “You’re not even wearing pants,” she pointed out. “And I’m too sore right now for what you’re suggesting. Anyway, if I wanted to get into your pants, I wouldn’t have to try, I’d just do it.”

“Are you always this feisty the morning after?” he asked, his tone light.

“I thought you wanted to sleep,” she pointed out, closing her eyes. “Neither one of us got very much rest last night.”

“Are you saying that you didn’t enjoy it?”

“I’m not saying that at all,” she said, feeling the heat rise into her cheeks, even though he couldn’t see her face. “I’m just saying that neither of us has rested properly.”

“Not really something I’m concerned about,” he murmured, his eyes slipping shut. Only when his breathing had steadied and she was sure he was asleep did she let herself drift away as well.

The second time that Ginny woke up, the first thing that she was aware of was that she was alone in the bed. She frowned and rubbed her eyes before stumbling out of bed and into the bathroom. She washed her face and brushed her teeth, and moved back into her room. She had just slipped on a pair of knickers when he startled her.

“You must have been more tired than I was,” he drawled, fastening a button at his wrist. She jumped and let out a startled cry, and then rolled her eyes at his arched eyebrow.

“You scared the wits out of me!” she exclaimed, digging through her dresser. She stopped with her hand in a drawer and shot an accusatory glare at him. “What are you still doing here?”

“Expecting someone else?”

“No, I just wondered – I mean, I thought – well, I guess I thought that you’d be in a hurry to get out of here, once you realized where you were,” she admitted candidly, withdrawing a green t-shirt from the drawer.

He ignored her comment and turned his nose up at the garment she’d chosen. “You can’t wear that.”

“Why not? It’s clean, and it fits. That’s all I’m worried about.”

“You can’t wear that where I’m taking you.”

She stopped and turned to stare at him. “You’re taking me somewhere?”

“It’s nearly time for lunch. Neither of us has eaten, and you don’t have any food here, either.” She was mortified. He’d looked inside her icebox? All she had was milk and a box of leftover takeout food!

“That doesn’t mean you need to feel obligated to feed me,” she protested.

“I’m sure you’ve worked up quite an appetite,” he said coolly, his eyes dropping to her uncovered breasts. “I know I have.”

Despite the heat that rose into her cheeks, she was aroused. Why was it that every time she was around him, all she thought about was sex? He tilted his head as though he could read her thoughts, and he smirked at her.

“Relax, kitten. After lunch, we can come back here and satisfy a different type of hunger.” If she could have sunk into the floor at that moment, she gladly would have done so.

“Why do I feel like a complete nymphomaniac right now?” she wailed, turning her back to him so she could filter through the clothes in her closet.

“Because you’re thinking about sex right now, despite the fact that you’ve been shagged good and proper four times in less than twenty four hours,” he said matter-of-factly. She smacked her forehead with the palm of her hand and shook her head. “No shame in that. You’ve got a healthy sexual appetite.”

“Is that what they call it now?” she snapped, yanking a silk blouse off of its hanger.

“Don’t worry, I’ve a healthy one as well.”

“No, you’re a man. Men are supposed to be full of lust. When a woman is, she gets labeled with all sorts of unflattering names.” She pulled a pair of black slacks from their hanger and pulled them on.

“Who’s going to label you?” he asked interestedly.

“Everyone,” she sighed, slipping the shirt on.

“Unless I’m very much mistaken – which I rarely am – there’s only two of us here, and I’m not labeling you anything. How is anyone else going to know what’s going on behind closed doors – aren’t you going to wear a bra with that?”

“No, I’m not. I like the feel of the silk against my skin, and besides, you have a reputation, you know. It’s not like people are going to see us together and not draw the right conclusions, you know?”

“And those conclusions would be what, exactly?”

“That we’re sleeping together,” she said, as though she were speaking to a toddler. He watched as she began pulling the brush violently through her hair. “They’re going to wonder how much you’re paying me, or at the very least what else you’re getting out of it.”

“You think that people are going to see us together and automatically assume that you’re my whore?” he asked, surprised. “If that’s the case, why-“

“Because I wanted to,” she answered softly, not meeting his eyes. “And as long as you don’t treat me like a whore, we’ll be fine.”

“Are you ready to go, then?” he asked, her words echoing in his mind. She nodded and stood before slipping her feet into her shoes and following him to the fireplace.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


“Last night was terribly romantic, Harry,” Hermione gushed happily, giving her lover a warm smile. She didn’t tell him that the reason she was happy was because she’d had him home for an entire night. He grinned back across the table.

“It was the least I could do to apologize for accusing you of something you didn’t do,” he said, shaking his head. She blushed and looked down at her half-eaten salad.

“You don’t have to apologize to me,” she said quietly. “You don’t owe me any explanation for your actions.” We’re not married, so you don’t have to tell me anything. I’m just grateful for what you do share with me.

“You know I have to apologize to you,” he said, leaning forward and giving her an intense look. “You’ve been my closest friend for a long time, and I don’t like keeping things from you.”

And that’s why you kept it from me that you’d been following Ginny? She wondered. She gave herself a mental kick for allowing the thought to surface – she was doing her best to try not to judge Harry for his actions. She loved him too much to entertain any petty grudges against him before their relationship had even really begun.

She forced a smile and looked up. As soon as she did, her smile froze in place, and her heart sank into her stomach. Walking through the door of the restaurant were the last two people she wanted to see – Draco Malfoy and Ginny. Harry frowned at her expression and turned to see what she was looking at. When he did, his back stiffened and his eyes narrowed. His glare shot daggers in their direction, though they never even so much as glanced in his direction.

“Harry,” Hermione whispered, discomfort roiling around in her stomach like a riptide, “why don’t we go ahead and leave? I’d like to stop by Honeydukes’ on the way home, to pick up some Sugar Quills, since I’m out. I’ll even throw in a box of chocolate frogs for you, my treat.”

Harry didn’t answer, and only continued to stare at his ex-wife and his most hated enemy as they were escorted to a private booth by the hostess. Once they had been seated, Ginny leaned across the table and pushed some of Malfoy’s white-blonde locks away from his face. Hermione thought that they looked like a couple who were very much in love, though she wouldn’t have believed it if she hadn’t seen it with her own eyes.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


“Is this your favorite restaurant, then?” Ginny asked, glancing down at the menu. The prices were outrageous, and she wasn’t sure that she was comfortable with Malfoy paying for her meal.

“Not my favorite, but definitely one of the few that I prefer,” he drawled coolly, his eyes focused on her. She looked up and smiled. “What?”

“Your hair,” she said, shaking her head. She reached forward and used her fingertips to smooth one unruly lock away from his eyes. He stared at her, his gray eyes darkening.

“You know, for someone who doesn’t want the world to know that we’re sleeping together, you’re certainly putting on a good show for the other patrons.”

Ginny blinked. “I just pushed your hair out of your face,” she protested, feeling the heat rise to her cheeks. She focused her attention back on the menu, which was on the table in front of her.

“It was a very intimate gesture,” he insisted, glancing casually around the restaurant. When his eyes met burning viridian orbs that emanated waves of hate, he smirked and inclined his head. Turning his attention back to Ginny, he saw that she hadn’t been paying attention, and had no idea that her ex-husband was present with his own lover. He leaned forward and extended his hand, palm up, on the table top. She stared at it uncertainly before putting her own hand in it.

“Now who’s initiating intimate contact?” she asked, her heart fluttering wildly.

“Nonsense, I’m just holding your hand,” he replied, arching an eyebrow at her.

“Holding hands is a very romantic gesture,” she pressed, trying not to swoon when he began stroking her hand with his thumb.

“Is it?” he asked, amused. “Am I not allowed to be romantic with you after last night, then?”

Her blush was so profuse that she was afraid he might be able to feel the heat from it across the table. “I didn’t say that. I just meant-“

“You just meant that you thought when you offered yourself to me last night that I was only going to use you for sex,” he finished, enjoying the way she shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “But you’re wrong. I told you I wouldn’t keep our affair a secret any longer, and I meant it. I think it will be rather enjoyable to have a ready escort to parties and other affairs without having to worry about how the evening will turn out.”

“So that’s it, then,” she said, disappointment flooding through her. “You’re going to flaunt me in public as a respectable date, and then just use me at night?”

“I thought you didn’t care what happened today, as long as I stayed with you last night,” he said, throwing her words back at her. She flinched. “Isn’t that what you said?”

“You know it is,” she said stiffly, resisting the urge to pull her hand away from his. “But I also told you this morning that I won’t be just your whore, either. I won’t tolerate you treating me like one, and you’ve already started.”

“How is that, pray tell?”

“You’re taking me out to a very expensive restaurant after a night of sex to show me off to people – don’t think I don’t know why I’m here. I smelled his cologne the moment I walked through the door,” she said, startling him. “And now you’re telling me that you’re going to take me as your date to parties with the expectation of sex afterwards.”

“So?” he asked, still reeling from the revelation that she’d known her ex was present.

“Don’t be obtuse, Malfoy. I know what the high class whores in Knockturn Alley do for a night’s wages – Merlin knows that I’ve interrogated more than a few,” she said bitterly.

“Let’s get a few things straight right now,” he said, his eyes turning cold. “You came to me, not the other way around. I told you repeatedly that I would not hide this from anyone, least of all Potter. And if I wanted a whore, then I would go and get one, because I assure you that a whore would be less trouble than you.”

“Perhaps,” she said, her temper spiking, “but a whore wouldn’t provide you with the opportunity to goad Harry the way I have, would she?”

“What exactly is it that you want from me?” he demanded, his grip on her hand tightening.

“A little common courtesy would be nice,” she said, yanking her hand out of his. “That is all I have ever wanted from anyone. I realize now that it may be too much to ask of you.”

“Do you really expect me to walk around opening doors and pulling out chairs for you?” he sneered.

“No, because those are romantic, considerate gestures. Those are things that people in love do. I only expect you to treat me like a human being, Malfoy. Not simply as an object to get back at someone you hate.”

“And while we’re on the subject, since I’m fucking you, call me Draco. No more of this ‘Malfoy’ nonsense, now that we’re on more intimate terms.” He rose from his seat and slid into the booth beside her. She stiffened and glared at him.

“What in the hell are you doing?”

“I’m shielding you from the inevitable. Potter can see you perfectly from where he’s sitting. With me here, he can’t see you at all.”

“I thought you wanted him to see me with you,” she said bitterly.

“He has. Now that I’ve moved over here, he’ll think I just did it to get closer to you, and it’ll drive him mad.”

“How long do you plan to use me like this?” she whispered dejectedly.

“As long as it’s fun,” he said simply.

“You’re despicable,” she said, turning her head away from him, so he wouldn’t see the tears that had spilled over onto her cheeks.

“And yet you wanted to sleep with me, so what does that say about you?”

“It speaks volumes about me,” she sighed. She lifted a hand to wipe the moisture from her face, but he saw the movement and caught her chin in his hand, forcing her to turn and look at him. Disgust and curiosity mingled in his expression when she jerked away and used her napkin to dry her eyes.

“Why are you crying?”

“Why do you care?” she challenged.

“I don’t.”

“Then why bother asking why?”

He narrowed his eyes at her, but instead of replying, he gripped her chin gently with his hand and pulled her towards him. His lips descended on hers, and she was instantly reminded of the first time they’d been together last night. After they’d both climaxed and were lying still entangled, he’d kissed her in such a way that it had made her dizzy. It was the same kind of kiss he was giving her now; one that immediately dried her tears and sent desire spiking through her veins.

Their surroundings melted away, and all Ginny was aware of was the sensation of his lips on hers; his tongue dancing with hers, and the warmth that emanated from him. His hand moved up to cup a breast through her shirt, and she moaned into the kiss.

“What in the hell are you doing?” Draco slid his tongue against hers one more time before he stopped kissing her and turned to smirk at Harry.

“I know you’re slow witted, Potter, but I would think that even you could see what I am doing.”

The fog around Ginny’s mind lifted just enough that she became aware of Draco’s hand still on her breast. His thumb was tracing lazy circles around the hardened nipple, and it was making her feel weak. Wisely she kept her mouth shut; she wouldn’t have known what to say to Harry, even if she could have found her voice at that moment.

“This is a public place,” Harry reminded him, his eyes wild. “And you’re pawing her in front of everyone!”

“Well, you know me,” Draco said lazily, keenly aware of how Ginny looked to Harry at the moment – her lips were swollen from kissing, his hand was on her breast, and her eyes were darkened by lust. “I never have been very good at keeping my love life a secret – I suppose I could learn something from you on that front. By the way,” he said, his eyes sparkling viciously, “how is the Mudblood doing these days?”

Harry’s hands clenched into fists, and Malfoy sniggered. “Don’t call her that,” Harry hissed. “You’ve no right to talk about her, or even think about her!”

“Just as you have no right to talk or think about my lady friend here, either,” Draco shot back coldly. “She’s not your wife anymore. She’s with me now.”

Harry snorted. “You’re even stupider than I thought if you think that I’m going to believe that you have any interest in her past trying to piss me off.”

The amusement in Draco’s eyes died, and the hand that had been touching Ginny dropped. She bit her lower lip as she watched Draco rise from the booth and stand nose-to-nose with Harry.

“The world doesn’t revolve around you, Potter, contrary to what you believe,” he said, his voice low and dangerous. “And pissing you off isn’t the reason she’s with me – it’s just a fringe benefit.”

Harry frowned at the Restaurant Owner, who was heading towards them. “This isn’t over,” he warned Draco softly. “I’ll find you again, and when I do, we’ll finish this conversation.”

“I look forward to it,” Draco hissed.

Ginny watched as Harry strode away, and Malfoy slowly lowered himself back into the booth beside her. She knew better than to say anything to him with his temper flared as high as it was, so she continued to remain silent. The waitress came and took their orders, and then brought their food. The entire meal was taken in silence, and Ginny wondered how long it would take for his anger to abate.

When they had finished eating and rose to leave, Ginny paused. “What about the check?” she asked.

“I have a tab here,” he said curtly. She nodded and followed him out of the restaurant, wondering what was going to happen next. He didn’t seem to be in the mood for much of anything at the moment, so she stopped at a street vendor and ordered two coffees. He watched her silently as she paid, and then took the Styrofoam cup she offered him. They’d walked three blocks when he tossed the empty cup in a trash can and turned to look at her.

“How did you know I had a headache?” he asked simply.

“Are you kidding?” she smiled. “Harry’s enough to give anyone a headache.”

The side of his mouth turned up in a sort of wry grin. “How did you live with it for so long?”

She shrugged and took a drink of her coffee before answering. “I suppose I was able to block it out because we didn’t see each other very often. I worked at night, he worked during the day, and the only times we really spent a significant amount of time together were our days off or on Holidays.”

“You didn’t make time for each other, then?” he asked curiously.

“No, we didn’t,” she said, pausing thoughtfully. “I guess you could almost say that I loved my job more than I loved spending time with Harry. All he did when we were together was talk about Quidditch, anyway. And while I love Quidditch, it’s not the only thing in the world worthy of discussion.”

“Yes, well,” he said, shaking his head. “At least your significant other had something of some interest to talk about. Every woman I’ve ever dated has wanted to talk about nothing other than me – or her supposed future with me.”

Ginny smiled. “I would think that talking about yourself would be something that appealed to you.”

“Most of the time, yes. With these women? Absolutely not. I remember one date where I was particularly tempted to eat a puking pastille just to be able to go home and go to bed.” He grinned when she burst into laughter.

“You must have been desperate, to use a Weasley product,” she said, her eyes crinkling up in her laughter. “I’m surprised you didn’t just tolerate her long enough to get her into your bed, though.”

“I’m not an easy shag, if that’s what you’re implying,” he said, his eyebrows so high they nearly disappeared into his hairline. “I don’t sleep with just every woman that throws herself at me, no matter how easy they make it.”

Her cheeks burned and she looked away from him. “Just those who have some other use to you,” she commented softly.

He opened his mouth to say something, and then promptly shut it again. That wasn’t what he’d meant, but even if he told her that, she probably wouldn’t believe him. “So how do you decide to sleep with someone, when you do?” he probed.

She gave him a strange look before she answered. “The first time I did it for love. The second time, I did it just to feel again.”

“Are you telling me that you’ve only ever slept with two men?” he asked incredulously.

“I’m not promiscuous,” was all she would say.

“You’re a prude,” he suggested.

“You’ve slept with me. Do any of those encounters lead you to believe that I’m a prude?” He frowned at this. She’d proved to him that she was nothing short of a hellcat in bed, and the thought of any other man seeing that side of her made his blood boil.

“When did you find time to sleep with Scarhead if you never saw each other?” he asked, changing the focus of the conversation abruptly.

“We made time at least once a week. I don’t think he found our encounters very satisfying,” she said, her lips turning down in a thoughtful frown.

“Why would you think that?”

“Well, he found another woman, didn’t he?” she asked reasonably. “Obviously I wasn’t satisfying something that he needed fulfilled.”

“I always knew Potter was a poofter,” he remarked, eliciting a scandalized giggle from her.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” she clarified, rolling her eyes as she smiled. When he yawned, she looked away from him. “I think I’m going to head home.”

“Oh? Ready to be rid of me so quickly?”

“I’m in no danger of splinching myself right now,” she pointed out, smiling again. “And you look like you could use some more rest.”

“Is that a remark about my stellar good looks being less than what you think they ought to be?”

“Don’t be stupid, you’re as handsome as ever.” Once the words had slipped past her lips, she exhaled slowly. Why had she said such a thing? It was true, but still… she didn’t need to be doing anything that would inflate his ego or give him more control over her than he already had.

He looked mildly surprised at first, and then the expression melted into his patented smirk, and she rolled her eyes.

“Goodbye, Draco,” she huffed, shaking her head. She turned to step inside of the building they were standing in front of, but he stopped her with a gentle hand on her arm.

“Don’t go.”

She froze in place as she looked at him with wide eyes. The same words that she’d said to him less than twenty four hours before echoed in her ears.

“What?” she asked breathlessly.

“Don’t go. I don’t want to be alone today,” he admitted softly. Her heart sank, but butterflies still erupted in her stomach. It was one thing for him to want her around just so he wasn’t alone, but it was another thing entirely for him to ask her to be the one to keep him company. She was confused.

“What do you want to do?”

“Would you like to see the Manor?”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” she asked shrewdly. “Your Mother-“

“My Mother won’t mind meeting you, and if we’re going to be appearing out in public together, she might as well meet you now, before the pictures hit the papers.”

“But – aren’t there wards to keep people like me out?” she asked, confused.

“People like you?” he echoed incredulously.

“Blood traitors,” she said quietly, looking away from him. “Aurors. Weasleys. Potters. Take your pick.”

“You’re a pureblood,” he said, shrugging. “And you’re not in uniform, so don’t worry about it. Besides, you’ll be with me, and I know how to lower any wards that would keep you from coming inside.”

“Are you sure that your Mother-“

“My Mother won’t mind in the least, I assure you,” he said dryly. When she gave him a questioning look, he sighed. “You asked me why I never married. It’s because of my Mother.”

“Really?” she was surprised. “My Mum practically dragged me to the altar, she wanted me to get married so badly.”

“My Mother wants me to get married, make no mistake about that,” he said, beginning to walk again. “She just hasn’t approved of anyone yet.”

“Isn’t that your job, since you’ll be the one married to the woman?”

“Yes, but she has to have a say in the genetic makeup of her unborn grandchildren.”

Ginny couldn’t help it; she laughed. When he glared at her, she laughed harder.

“And just what is so funny?”

“I just can’t see you with children.”

“And I can’t see you with anything less than a houseful,” he snapped. The smile faded from her lips.

“So you assume that just because I came from a large family that I want one myself,” she said angrily.

“Don’t you?”

“I think two children would be enough for me.”

“Why didn’t you have children with Potter? Surely you have the legendary Weasley fertility?” When her cheeks turned pink and she didn’t answer, he frowned. “Don’t you?”

“I’m perfectly fine,” she snapped, keeping her eyes forward. Then it dawned on him.

“Potter can’t have children, can he?”

“What business is it of yours whether he can or not?” She threw her empty cup into the waste can they passed as violently as she possibly could.

“Did you know that when you married him?”

“Of course I didn’t know! Do you think I would have thrown away my chance to have children like that?”

“So I take it that the Mudblood doesn’t know, either.”

“She might know – who knows what Harry’s told her. I don’t really care.”

“Didn’t you ever think about having an affair just to get pregnant?” The glare she shot him would have frozen flames.

“I do not cheat – ever,” she said, putting particularly strong emphasis on the last word. “I do not lay down with just any man with the sole intent of getting impregnated. If that was all I wanted, I could have done it years ago. I’ve had plenty of offers – hell, I could even do it now if I wanted to.”

“Now?” he asked, his eyes narrowing. “I hope you’re not suggesting what I think you are.”

“I wasn’t suggesting you get me pregnant, if that’s what you mean,” she snapped. His eyes narrowed further.

“I told you that I would not allow-“

“And I didn’t say I would, either – I said I could, if I wanted to!” she exclaimed.

“What would be wrong with having my child, as opposed to those other men?” he snarled. “I’ve certainly got more money than all of them combined, and I have better genes.”

“Are you seriously pitching yourself as the potential father to my unborn, unconceived child?” she asked, snorting. He stiffened.

“No, I wouldn’t dream of having children with the likes of you.”

“Really,” she said flatly. “I would never have guessed that. Draco Malfoy not wanting Ginny Weasley Potter to bear his children. Wow, you really sideswiped me with that one – never saw it coming.”

There was a deadness to her voice that he didn’t like, though he couldn’t put his finger on just why he didn’t like it. He opened his mouth to speak, but she beat him to the punch.

“Look, let’s just talk about something else, okay? This is obviously a very sensitive subject to both of us, and there’s no point in even discussing it, since I’m using you for sex and you’re using me for revenge. All right?”

He stared at her, his jaw hanging a bit loose. She shifted uncomfortably where she stood. “What?”

“You just said that you were using me for sex,” he repeated incredulously.

“So?”

“Why don’t we make a stop at your flat before we visit the Manor?” he suggested silkily, surprising her.

“Oooookay – why? Did you leave something-“ her words died as he pulled her flush against him, kissing her with a wild intensity that caused her blood to boil in her veins. When he pulled away, her eyes were wide and unfocused. “All right, but you’re apparating us both. I don’t think I can do it now.”

Three hours later found them both freshly showered and dressed – at Draco’s insistence this time, Ginny had put a bra on. They had just stepped inside the Manor when Narcissa Malfoy appeared in the foyer wearing a brilliant smile for her only child.

“Mum,” he said, wrapping her in a tight hug. He stepped away and gestured towards Ginny. “This is Ginny Wea- Ginny Potter,” he corrected himself. Narcissa smiled politely at her.

“I know who she is, poppet. I recognize her from the pictures in the Society pages. It’s very nice to meet you, Miss Potter,” Narcissa said, extending a smooth hand. Ginny shook it quickly and smiled in return.

“It’s very nice to meet you, too, Mrs. Malfoy. You have a lovely home.”

“Why thank you. Draco, she’s just enchanting,” Narcissa cooed. Draco bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing, and nodded instead. “What brings you home, darling? Are you staying for dinner?”

“We’d love to, Mum,” Draco offered. “But first I’m going to show Ginny around the Manor. I promised to.” Ginny bit back her surprise when he held his arm out to her, and she slipped her hand into the crook of his elbow, letting him guide her away from his Mother.

“Let me guess,” she whispered. “The only room that you’re going to show me is your bedroom.” He sniggered and shook his head.

“No, although I expect you’ll be familiar with it soon enough,” he promised. A shiver of anticipation ran down her spine. “I’m actually going to give you a somewhat abbreviated tour – if I gave you the full tour, we’d be here all bloody night.”

She didn’t acknowledge the voice inside of her head that said she wouldn’t mind that one bit, and listened politely as he pointed out various knickknacks and made notes about the architecture of the Manor. When they turned down a hallway that was sparsely decorated, she frowned.

“This part of the Manor doesn’t seem as lived in as the other parts,” she said, glancing around. He shrugged.

“I’m not at home much.”

“This is your wing of the Manor? The entire wing?” she asked, her voice belying her amazement. He arched an eyebrow at her and led her towards the end of the dimly lit hallway.

“You sound as though you can’t believe that I have an entire wing to myself. My mother has two wings, so this is small compared to my parents’ rooms.”

“Oh,” she squeaked, feeling small. He pushed open a door on their left and motioned her inside. As soon as she stepped over the threshold, she smelled his scent. Butterflies erupted in her stomach as she glanced around his bedroom; it was obviously his sanctuary, and she felt like an outsider there.

“This is it,” he said, keeping his eyes on her as she looked around. He watched with curiosity as she stepped forward and ran her fingertips over the opulent bed covering. How different it was to have someone here with him, in his favorite room in the Manor – he’d only ever allowed his parents and two of his best friends inside this room. It was interesting to see it through her eyes.

“Oh,” she breathed, her attention drawn to the view that his windows provided. She stared out at the Malfoy gardens, her breath catching in her throat at the sight of the brightly colored flowers that caught her eye. “This is lovely.”

He crossed his arms over his chest and reclined against the doorframe, content to simply watch her observe. When she finally moved from the window, she glanced at his bookshelf, then moved to run a finger reverently across the polished oak of his desk, and finally stopped to feel the velvety fabric of the drapes that hung around his four-poster bed. She wasn’t surprised that he had a much more expensive version than the beds that Hogwarts had provided. She’d always secretly wished she’d had one when she’d lived at home.

She stopped at the foot of his bed, wrapping one arm around the oak pillar, and focused her attention on him. “It’s a lovely room. If I were you, I’d never leave it.”

“If you were in it, I probably wouldn’t either,” he drawled. Her heart leapt into her throat. Had that been only a sexual innuendo, or had it maybe been something more?

“I don’t know how you can stand to look at my bedroom, when you’ve got this waiting for you,” she said, surprised at how steady her voice sounded.

He arched an eyebrow at her. “I wasn’t paying attention to your bedroom when I was there - or any other part of your flat, for that matter.”

She didn’t fight the blush that stained her cheeks, and met his gaze, feeling that she understood completely. It was easy to lose track of her surroundings when his hands were on her, and she wondered if he was thinking the same thing about her.

“Thank you for showing me around,” she said softly.

“The tour isn’t over yet.”

“There’s more? Are you going to be able to finish showing me around before dinner?”

He took a step towards her, and the familiar look in his eyes made her knees feel suddenly weak. “Don’t worry – Mother likes to take her meals late in the evening. If we’re not finished by the time dinner is served,” he said, reaching for her, “then she’ll wait.”
15 :: Revivifying, Part I by CliodnaHPFan
The Broken Road, Chapter 15: Revivifying

“Draco Malfoy?” Molly Weasley boomed. Ginny cringed. “The man you’ve been sleeping with – the one you were telling me about – is Draco Malfoy?”

“Now, Mum,” Ginny said soothingly. “There’s no need to go and get upset about this. After all, you’re the one who told me that it was all right.”

“That was before I knew who it was!” Molly said, slamming the frying pan onto the stove for emphasis.

“So it’s all right to condone me sleeping with some random bloke that you don’t even know, but it’s not all right for it to be Malfoy?”

Molly pursed her lips together and refused to answer as she placed the strips of bacon into the pan.

“You know, he’s really not – he’s-“ she searched for the right words to make her mother understand. “He’s not completely abhorrent,” she finished finally.

“Oh, well that just makes it so much better.”

“Mum, I told you that we fight more than anything else,” Ginny protested. “But he has his moments when he can be tolerable. I had dinner with him and his Mum two nights ago, and she was really decent to me.”

Molly stopped what she was doing and turned to look at her daughter. “You had dinner with Narcissa Malfoy?”

“Yes,” Ginny said, relieved that her Mother was actually starting to look interested. “And it was lovely, and she was very hospitable. Neither one of them uttered so much as an unkind word to me all evening.”

“Why did he take you to meet her? Did you ask him to?”

“Absolutely not. He said that she was going to see us together in the papers, and he wanted me to meet her before she found out about me the other way.”

“How smart of him,” Molly sniffed, turning her back to Ginny again. “Too bad for me that my daughter didn’t afford me the same courtesy.”

“Mum, it never even crossed my mind,” Ginny said, surprised. “I thought that since we’d talked about it and you were okay with it, it wouldn’t matter who it was that I was sleeping with.”

“But you’re not just sleeping with him, are you? You’re going out on dates and such.”

“Yes, well,” Ginny said, rolling her eyes before she turned to glance out the window. “That’s his idea, not mine.”

“Do you not want to date him?”

“I’m not dating him, Mum. We’re using each other. It actually works out quite nicely, I’d say.”

“Using each other? To what purpose?”

“I’m using him for sex, and he’s using me to get back at Harry for everything that Harry’s ever done to him.”

“And you’re just letting him hurt Harry like that?” Molly asked incredulously. “I thought you loved Harry.”

“I thought I did, too,” Ginny said softly. “And I thought Harry loved me, but obviously I was very mistaken. Besides, it’s not like I have to interact with Harry. Malfoy and I go out, they take our pictures, and publish them the next morning. I’m not really doing anything.”

“Is he paying you?” Molly asked suspiciously.

“Mum!” Ginny snapped. “I am not now, nor will I ever be, a whore. No, he is not paying me. I am doing this of my own free will. I already told you that I get something out of it, too.”

“Are you planning on marrying this young man anytime in the future?”

“Absolutely not!” Ginny snorted. “Does Malfoy look like the type who would settle down – and with me, no less?”

“So you’re good enough to sleep with, but not good enough to marry?”

“Mum!” Ginny rubbed her face with her hands and shook her head. “I don’t really care about marriage right now. It’s honestly the furthest thing from my mind.”

“Do you at least get some romance out of the deal?” Molly pleaded. Ginny gave her a wry smile.

“We have romantic moments, though I’d be willing to bet my entire life’s savings that they are all completely accidental.”

Molly sat down heavily at the table and eyed her only female offspring. “Your brothers aren’t going to take this sitting down, you know.”

“I realize that. That’s why I wanted to keep it a secret for so long.”

“Ron will be especially furious.”

“I know. Trust me, I know.”

“Perhaps you should bring him over here to have dinner with the family, and –“

“No!” Ginny cut her off, shaking her head vehemently. “It’d be like bringing a sacrificial lamb into the lion’s den!”

“Why don’t you ask him, and let him decide?” Molly suggested gently. “If the two of you are going to be seen together for any amount of time, I would at least like to meet him.”

“I really don’t think that that’s such a good idea, Mum. He’s not exactly the nicest person in the world.”

“What if it was just dinner with your Dad and I? Would that make it any better?”

“I don’t know,” Ginny said uncertainly.

“Ask him,” Molly insisted. “Ask him, and see what he says. Then let me know.”

“You really don’t know what you’re getting yourself into,” Ginny protested. “But I’ll try.”

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


“What can I get for you this fine afternoon, Mrs. Potter?” The barista at this particular coffee shop had always been very nice to Ginny – which was why she kept coming back, and recommending people to get their coffee there as well. She had a feeling that the woman knew that Ginny was responsible for nearly half of her business, and wondered if that was the reason behind the politeness. “The usual?”

“No, actually I’m in sort of a mood today, believe it or not,” Ginny laughed. “How about the usual with vanilla instead of chocolate?”

“Coming right up.”

“Make that two,” a male voice behind her said. She frowned and blew out a sigh as the barista nodded and began working on the coffees. Ginny didn’t turn around.

“What are you doing here?”

“This has always been your favorite coffee shop, and you’ve always taken coffee on Tuesday mornings here,” the man supplied.

“So you just happened to be here at the same exact time that you knew I would be?”

“Two vanillas,” the barista said, placing them on the counter. Ginny started to pay for hers, when the money for both of the drinks was placed on the counter by a calloused hand. She turned and glared at him.

“I don’t need you to pay for my coffee,” she snapped, finally meeting his emerald eyes. “And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t follow me around.” She threw her own money down on the counter, grabbed her coffee, and stormed out of the shop. She’d gotten a block away when she felt him behind her.

“So I can’t even pay for your coffee now?” he asked, sounding stung.

“You don’t get to have anything to do with me anymore,” she clarified, still walking.

“I can’t pay for a coffee, but Malfoy can wine and dine you?” he asked bitterly. She stopped and turned to glare at him.

“Exactly what are you insinuating, Harry?”

“I’m not insinuating anything, Ginny,” he returned, narrowing his eyes at her. “I’m saying it outright.”

“Funny, I haven’t heard you say anything that was worth listening to.”

“So you’re content to let him parade you around like his whore?”

“Don’t you dare call me that,” she hissed dangerously. “Don’t ever call me that. I’m with him because I choose to be, not because of what he can give me!”

“How can you do this to me?” he demanded. “You’re making me look like a fool by letting my enemy use you this way!”

“Everything’s always about you, isn’t it, Harry?”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“I couldn’t possibly be seeing Draco Malfoy for any reason other than to get back at you and make you look like a fool, is that it?”

“Well, you know what they say,” he said, his eyes still sparkling with anger. “If the shoe fits…”

“Don’t be a damned idiot, Harry,” she said, regaining some of her composure. “I have reasons for seeing Draco, and they have nothing to do with his money, I can assure you.” She enjoyed the scarlet color that rose into his cheeks as he realized what she meant.

“So you are his whore!” Harry cried angrily. Ginny felt the heat rising into her own cheeks as she stepped forward and slapped him.

“I told you not to call me that!” she snarled.

“What else do you call it?” he asked, rubbing his cheek gently. “He takes you out to fancy restaurants and foots the bill, and you sleep with him in return? The last time I checked, that would make you a-“ She silently dared him to say it. He shook his head.

“Don’t people in relationships sleep together?” she hurled at him. “Isn’t that what we did, Harry? And didn’t you take me out to fancy places and foot the bill before we were married?”

“That doesn’t count!” he protested. “We were in love! You know Malfoy doesn’t love you – he doesn’t love anyone but himself!”

“Then the two of you have something in common, don’t you?” she returned.

“How can you say that? Ginny, you know I loved you! I would have done anything for you!”

“Anything except stay faithful, apparently.”

“That’s not fair. I can’t control who I fall in love with any more than you can.”

“Maybe not, but you could have controlled whether or not you slept with someone else!”

“So you’re not in love with him, then?”

“What?” she asked, startled by the question.

“I just said that I can’t control who I fall in love with any more than you can, and instead of telling me that you love him, you turned it back on me. You’re not in love with him, are you?”

“Don’t pretend to know what I feel,” she said, hoping that he didn’t hear her voice shaking. “My private life is just that – private. I didn’t talk about you to anyone when we were together, and I won’t talk about him, either.”

“Why are you so hell-bent on defending him? You know that if he was in the same position he wouldn’t return the favor!”

“Do I care about that?” she yelled. Passerby had stopped walking to watch the spectacle unfolding in front of them, though Ginny paid them no mind. “Go ahead and ask me if I care whether or not Draco Malfoy would defend me,” she dared.

“Surely your Mother can’t approve of this,” Harry said weakly, glancing at the people who had stopped and were staring.

“My Mother supports me, no matter what I do!”

“I find it hard to believe that your Mum would approve of you with Malfoy.”

“If she didn’t approve of him, why would she invite him over for dinner?” Ginny retorted, feeling smug.

“Malfoy is going to have dinner at the Burrow?” Harry asked, stung. It was only when she saw the look on his face that she realized how much her barb had actually hurt him. He hadn’t been welcome in her family home since news of their divorce and his infidelity had become public fodder, and here she was, telling him that his worst enemy was welcome where he was not.

“Harry,” she said, her voice softer now. “Don’t make this any harder than it has to be. We’re divorced, and I’m moving on with my life. Move on with yours, and leave me be, please.”

“I’ve tried,” he said miserably, slumping against the wall of the building they’d been arguing in front of. “Believe me, I’ve tried. I don’t know why, but I can’t.”

“You can’t accept me moving on, or you can’t accept that I’ve moved on to someone that you don’t approve of?” she asked firmly. “Either way, it’s out of your hands. I decide who I keep company with, and you have no bearing on that decision.”

“I can’t stand the thought that he’s just going to use you and then toss you aside,” he said, his posture straightening a little bit.

“Why not? You pretty much did the same thing, Harry.” She watched his jaw drop, and he stuttered for a moment before falling silent. “I’m leaving now, and I’d appreciate it if you left me alone.”

She didn’t look back as she made her way down the street.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


When she stepped inside her flat, the first thing she was aware of was the spicy scent of his cologne. The second thing that caught her attention was his customary white, button-down shirt slung neatly across the arm of her sofa. She sat her coffee cup down on an end table and unbuttoned her coat, tossing it over his shirt.

She moved into the hallway, where she noticed his shoes placed neatly beside the bedroom door. Getting the hint, she removed her shoes and placed them next to his before she pushed the bedroom door open. His slacks were folded perfectly and rested on the top of her dresser. Her eyes wandered over the room, dimly lit with candles, and came to rest on his naked form, stretched out on her bed atop the coverlet.

“You were supposed to be naked by the time you got in here,” he drawled, eyeing her.

“I caught on late,” she said. She shrugged out of her shirt and jeans, and approached him in her bra and knickers. “I really appreciate the whole seduction scene and all, but why bother? By this time you know I’m a sure thing. Seduction isn’t necessary.”

“Who says it was for you?” he asked coolly. She sighed and removed the rest of her clothing before sliding onto the bed next to him. Immediately his hands were on her, caressing the smooth skin of her outer thigh. She exhaled slowly and let her eyes flutter closed. “Have a stressful day?”

“What’s next, are you going to want to talk about the weather?” she asked.

“I was only being polite.”

“Well you can save it for someone else,” she snapped. His hand stopped moving, and he frowned at her.

“First you want some common courtesy, and then when I give it to you, you tell me to save it,” he said, his eyes hardening. “Which one is it?”

“Look, I’m sorry,” she breathed, her eyes still closed. She missed the genuine look of surprise that passed across his features. “I did have a bad day, and I shouldn’t take it out on you.”

“Apology accepted,” he said regally. She grinned and opened her eyes to find him staring intensely at her.

“What?”

“How is he, then?”

“Who?”

“Potter.”

“How did you know it was him?” He gave her a look that clearly told her she was daft for even asking, and she fought the smile that tried to turn her lips up again. “He’s fine – a bit on the slow side, but otherwise unscathed.”

“I doubt that,” he drawled, his hand finally resuming its movement.

“Am I that transparent that you knew the source of my anger?”

“You don’t have to be transparent for that,” he said coolly, letting his hand glide across the slightly curved surface of her stomach. “Potter brings out the best in a lot of us.”

She giggled, despite the tingling sensation that his hand was creating on her skin. “Apparently.”

“Let me guess – the argument was about yours truly?”

“If you weren’t so arrogant, I’d be surprised that you reached that conclusion,” she said, watching his expression. “You should be pleased.”

“Why is that?”

“Your association with me is having the precise effect that you wanted it to have. Harry is practically going bonkers over the thought of you and I together.”

“You make it sound like a business transaction,” he said, wrinkling his nose slightly in distaste.

“Isn’t that what it- ungh,” she uttered, rendered speechless as his mouth descended on her neck. He explored the skin of her neck and the sensitive spot just under her ear before coming to rest on her collarbone. He sucked lightly, and heat flooded through her.

“Has anyone ever told you that you talk entirely too much?” he murmured, letting his hand drift down across her belly, in search of places more sensitive to the touch of his fingers. She arched her back in response as he found what he sought.

“Often,” she managed, gasping. How in the world was he able to carry on a conversation when he was assaulting her body like this? She wondered vaguely. He surprised her by choosing to use his mouth for other purposes besides their conversation.

Just as the first wave of her climax washed over her, he asked, “So when am I having dinner with your parents?”
16 :: Revivifying, Part II by CliodnaHPFan
The Broken Road, Chapter 16 :: Revivifying, Part II

Ginny was shocked speechless.

She stared at him for a full minute, trying to force her brain out of its pleasured state and resume coherent thought. What seemed like an eternity later, she blurted, “How did you know about that?”

“I’m not completely without eyes and ears,” he said nonchalantly, crawling up her body and stopping when his face was above hers.

“Did you have me followed?” she demanded.

“I don’t have to have you followed,” he said, frowning. “I have sources everywhere.”

“So someone watched me and Harry fighting, and then reported it back to you?” she asked, panic filling her stomach and making it churn uncomfortably.

“More like someone was passing by and caught the action,” he corrected, gazing intently at her.

“And they told you… everything?”

“No.”

“Oh,” she sighed, sounding relieved.

“They let me have the memory for my pensieve.”

Ginny felt her face flush as her jaw dropped. “So you saw the entire thing yourself? Why didn’t you say something earlier?”

“What was there to say?” he asked, shrugging. “He attacked, you defended – quite stunningly, I might add – I don’t think I could have done better myself.” He thought for a moment. “Much, anyway.”

“So you enjoyed seeing us fight?” she asked, humiliated.

“I wouldn’t say ‘enjoyed’ so much as ‘relished.’”

“What’s the difference? They mean the same thing!”

“Actually, kitten, ‘relished’ means I more than ‘enjoyed’ it.”

She let out the breath she’d been holding and glared at him.

“Why the look of such venom?” he asked, tilting his head slightly as he watched her. “Did you say things that I wasn’t meant to hear?”

“No,” she said, pausing to think. “I don’t think so.”

“Not even the part about us having a – what did you call it? Ah, yes – a relationship?”

“We do have a relationship, of sorts. Not a normal one, by any conventional means or definitions, but we do, like it or not.”

“What about the part where you said you didn’t care if I defended you or not?”

“What about it? I’ve no problem with you hearing that, or knowing that I said it,” she said defiantly. “I said nothing wrong today. I didn’t violate our agreement. I didn’t allude to relationships with other men, only you. I’ve kept to your terms. Hell, I think I even helped you irritate him today.”

Draco was silent as he eyed her for a moment. She shifted uneasily beneath his gaze.

“So when are we having dinner with your parents?” Her eyes widened.

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me.”

“You can’t actually mean to go – I mean, you can’t really want to-“

“I was invited by your Mother, was I not?”

“Well, yes, but-“

“She asked, and I have accepted. When are we going?”

“You’re really going to have dinner at the Burrow?” she blurted disbelievingly.

“Why shouldn’t I?”

“Well…” she caught at her bottom lip with her teeth, worrying it for a moment before answering. “The Burrow isn’t exactly what you’re used to, you know. It’s a lot different from the Manor that you live in – and you’ve always kind of hated my family, since we’re not exactly the richest people in the world.”

“I hope you’re not implying that I would be a rude houseguest,” he said, his eyes turning frosty.

“I can’t say I didn’t worry about that,” she admitted, averting her eyes. “But on the other hand, I didn’t even think you’d accept to begin with. I told my Mum that, and she insisted I ask you anyway.”

“I like her already.”

“Why do you even want to meet my parents?” she asked, confused. “Are you just going to tolerate their presence as another way to hurt Harry?”

“Concerned about your precious ex-husband now, are you?” he asked icily.

“It’s not that,” she sighed. “Never mind. I’ll ask her when she wants us to come over. What time is convenient for you?”

“Whenever is convenient for her. The sooner the better, as I have to leave town on a business trip this weekend.”

“I’ll let her know that.”

“Good. Now that that’s settled,” he breathed, sliding into her, “on to more interesting things.”

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


Mum,

Sorry about sending you the owl, but I’m rather busy at the moment, and can’t find the time to get over there. Draco has said he’d love to join us for dinner one night, so let me know when you want us there. It can’t be this weekend, because he’s going out of town on business, but anytime before or after that would be fine. Let me know!

Love,
Ginny


“That sounds fine,” Draco said, handing the parchment back to Ginny. She rolled her eyes and snatched it away.

“So now you’re monitoring my correspondence?”

“I’m not monitoring anything,” he said, frowning slightly.

“You’re having me watched when I go out, and you’re proofreading my letter to my Mum,” she pointed out, rolling the parchment up and sealing it. “I’m starting to feel like a little bit more than a tool for revenge.”

“Is that so?” he asked disinterestedly.

“Yes, that’s so, Master Malfoy,” she taunted, straightening her back and batting her eyelashes at him. To her surprise, he laughed.

“And pray tell, just what are you starting to feel like, in regards to me?”

“I don’t know,” she said, deflating. “Almost friends, maybe?”

“Really.”

“Well, we have our moments where we get along,” she said reasonably, moving to hand the parchment to the small caramel-colored owl that sat perched on her windowsill. When she had given the creature the address and turned around, Draco was leaning against the wall with his arms folded across his chest. “Is it wrong to enjoy your company sometimes?”

“Not entirely. I’m just surprised that you’d admit it so freely.”

“Why should that surprise you?” she asked curiously. “I’m not one to deny it, when it’s the truth. I even told my Mum that we get along sometimes.”

“You told her that we get along sometimes?” he asked incredulously.

“Well, yes. Why?”

“Now she’s going to have a bad impression of me before I even get there.”

“Oh, I don’t think you need to worry about that,” she said, smiling.

“Oh?”

“She’s always had a rather low opinion of you – especially since she loved Harry so well, and Harry hated you.”

“Oh. I’ve got my work cut out for me then, haven’t I?”

“What do you mean?”

“If I’m to get into her good graces, I’ve got a lot of history to overcome.”

“Again, why does it matter if she likes you? I’d almost rather she didn’t.”

“Why is that?” he asked, frowning.

“Because I don’t want her to be upset when you leave.”

“I’m only going away for the weekend,” he began.

“I meant, when this thing,” she gestured between the two of them. “Is over.”

He stared silently at her for a moment. “So you’re already planning the end of our arrangement? Am I that bad, that you want to be rid of me so quickly?”

“I didn’t mean it like that,” she said softly. “I just meant that I don’t want her to start liking you and get attached to you, because if she does, it will just hurt her when you tire of me and leave.”

He pushed himself off of the wall and closed the distance between them. “Her – or you?”

Her face flushed and she turned away from him. “Her. I said her, didn’t I?” she asked uncertainly.

“Your mouth said her,” he returned, reaching out to wrap his arms around her waist and draw her close. She shivered when his warm breath tickled the hairs beside her ear. “But your eyes said you.”

“I already told you that I like you,” she whispered, closing her eyes. “But that doesn’t mean that I want to get attached to you.”

“Would it be such a bad thing?”

“Yes, it would.”

“It would make your end of our bargain easier to tolerate, if you were attached to me, wouldn’t it?”

“No, it would only make things worse.”

“How so?” Gently she broke free of his grasp and took a few shaky steps away before she turned to face him.

“Because then I would care about you on more than a physical or friendly level, and I’d know that you were still only using me. I’d take it for as long as I could possibly stand before it would start breaking me down. It would hurt too much, and I think I’ve put myself through enough already.”

“Can you honestly say that you can sleep with me and feel nothing at all for me?”

“I never said that,” she said, shaking her head slowly. “I told you that I like you, and I told you that I enjoy our physical activities. So yes, I do feel something for you – just not more than that, and I’d like to keep it that way.”

“What exactly does the word ‘like’ entail?” he asked, folding his arms over his chest again. Ginny realized with a start that it was a defensive gesture, and she frowned.

“I don’t know – I suppose it means that when we’re getting along, it’s nice to spend time with you.”

“And when we’re not getting along?”

“Then I pretty much want to choke you to death.”

He laughed for the second time that night, catching her off guard.

“Draco, may I ask you something personal?”

“I think I can field one personal question every few millennia,” he said snarkily, arching an eyebrow.

“Do you like me?”

“You haven’t defined the word precisely enough for me to judge by your standards.”

“How do you define like?”

“I’ll get back to you on that one.”

“You’re only putting off the inevitable,” she said, pursing her lips. “You know that I’m going to pester the living hell out of you until you answer me.”

“Then the answer is no, I don’t like you at all.”

“And you’re not going to get away with just saying anything so you can get out of answering the question truthfully, either.”

“I am being truthful. The more you ask, the more I dislike you.” She smiled at him, and was rendered utterly breathless when he smiled back.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


“Do I look all right?” Ginny asked, turning in front of the mirror to inspect the back of her outfit for wrinkles.

“You’re just going to eat dinner with your parents – what does it matter what you look like?”

“As if you would be anything less than impeccably dressed for dinner with your mother,” she retorted, turning in the opposite direction, and scrutinizing herself from a different angle. “Do I look all right? Honestly.”

“So help me, if you’re asking me if you look fat –“

She laughed. “I wasn’t going to. Why? Do you think I do?” He growled at her, and she smiled at him. “I was joking. But I would like an honest opinion of how I look. Is the shirt too flashy?”

He eyed her royal blue silk shirt and form-fitting black slacks, and shook his head. “You look shaggable enough.”

“I don’t want to look shaggable for my parents!” she wailed, dropping her arms to her sides. Draco put his hands on her arms and turned her to face him.

“You look fine,” he said slowly, enunciating each word.

“Thank you,” she breathed, her pulse quickening as she realized that his thumbs were stroking her arms. When he made no move to let her go, she looked up at him. “Draco?”

“Yes?”

“You’re going to have to let go of me sometime so I can find my shoes.” He blinked, and something flickered across his face. Before Ginny could tell what it was, though, it was gone. He dropped his hands and watched her scurry around the room, turning chairs over and peeking beneath the bed in search of her shoes.

He glanced around and his eyes fell on a pair of black slip-on shoes. He bent down and picked them up, and then cleared his throat.

“Kinda busy here,” came her muffled voice. She was searching under the bed.

“I have something I think you’ll be interested in,” he said, smirking. Her head popped up from the side of the bed, and she sighed gratefully. She stood and moved towards him, holding her hand out.

“Thanks,” she said. “I would have been looking for them all night, and we’d have been late.” When he didn’t hand over the shoes and simply smirked at her, she frowned. “Give them to me.”

“What will you give me for them?”

“A good wallop, that’s what – now give them to me!”

“You’re going to have to do better than that.”

“What could I possibly have that you’d want?” she asked, exasperated. “Tell me what it is, and I’ll give it to you.”

“No matter what it is?” he asked, interested.

“No matter what it is,” she promised, reaching for the shoes. He pulled them out of her reach, and gave her a serious look.

“I have your word on that?”

“I haven’t gone back on my word yet,” she snapped, jumping up to grab at the shoes. He held them just beyond the range of her arms.

“I’m extracting a promise from you now, on the condition that I can collect on it at a later date.”

“No!” she protested, her struggle temporarily forgotten. “That’s not fair! You could come back when I’m fifty years old and ask me for a favor!”

“Then no shoes.”

“Let’s compromise,” she said quickly, eyeing her shoes. “You give me the shoes, and I’ll let you collect on my promise anytime you want – within the next thirty days.”

“Hmm,” he said, thinking it over. “What is the possibility that I’ll need something from you in the next thirty days?”

“Going once,” she said, holding up her index finger.

“I suppose I could always think of something, though it seems an awful shame to waste such a good promise on something I haven’t given much thought to.”

“Going twice,” she said, adding her middle finger. He shrugged.

“Ah, well. It’ll be fun to try and think of something, anyway.” He handed her the shoes, and she pushed him gently.

“Prat.” She slipped her shoes on and sighed. “You’d get along famously with my brothers. It’s a shame that they all want to kill you.”

“Shame, indeed,” he huffed, checking his hair in the mirror. “It’s an utter travesty.”

“At any rate, we’d better get going. Oh, your hair looks fine, you poncy git!” She grabbed his arm and led him to the fireplace. She pulled him inside and called out “The Burrow!”

When they stepped out of the fireplace, Ginny was overcome by a case of the nerves. Suddenly she was trembling – would her parents like Draco? Would they approve of him? She busied herself with brushing the soot off of his shoulders and back, not noticing that he had gone completely still.

“Ginny, darling!” Her Mother cooed, stepping forward to wrap her in a tight embrace. “I was starting to worry that you weren’t going to show up! Why don’t you introduce us?” she asked, smiling at Draco.

Ginny was gobsmacked when Draco gave her Mother his most charming smile and lifted the back of her hand to his lips. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Weasley.”

“Oh,” Molly said, her cheeks turning a shade of pink that Ginny had never seen before. “Well. You don’t have to be so formal with us. Just make yourself at home. Mr. Malfoy, this is my husband, Arthur.”

“Please, call me Draco,” he said, before turning to Ginny’s father. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Mr. Weasley. Ginny’s told me so much about you.”

“She has?” Arthur asked, sounding surprised and suspicious at the same time. He glanced over Draco’s shoulder at Ginny, who was still standing in front of the fireplace, looking helplessly lost. “Nothing bad, I hope.”

“Not terribly,” Draco agreed, flashing his most winning smile. “She did mention something about you having a collection of radios, though.”

“Muggle devices,” Arthur agreed, nodding. “But I doubt that they’d be of much interest to you.”

“Of course they would,” Draco protested. “I own stock in a Muggle company that manufactures radio components.”

“Really?” Arthur asked, his eyes lighting up. Molly shook her head and motioned to Ginny.

“Come, dear. If they’re going to start talking about such things, we’ll never get a word in edgewise, and we’ll be bored to death to boot.”

Ginny’s eyes flew from Draco to her Mum, and then back again. It was the first time she’d heard Draco mention what he did for a living, and she was terribly curious. On the other hand, if he was getting along with her father, she didn’t want to do anything that would interfere with that. She followed her mother into the kitchen.

“Well, he didn’t seem nearly as bad as you’ve made him out to be,” Molly said, raising her eyebrows. Ginny gaped at her mother. “What?”

“I can’t believe it,” she said, dropping into a chair. “He’s been here less than five minutes, and he’s already got the both of you completely snowed.”

“The boy has a certain charm,” Molly admitted, patting Ginny’s shoulder gently. “I can see why you’re attracted to him.”

“I hope you’re not suggesting that I’m attracted to his personality,” Ginny said, snorting.

“And why not? He seemed perfectly fine to me. Nice boy like that, it’s a wonder he isn’t married yet.”

“Mum,” Ginny said warningly. “I really don’t think this is a good topic for us to start on.”

“And why is that? Is it a crime for me to want to know why such a nice young man is unattached?”

“No, it’s not, but it’s his life you’d be prying into if you asked. I’m begging you, Mum, don’t pull another Harry with me.”

“What on earth are you talking about?”

“The first time Harry came to dinner after we started dating, you grilled him on every subject imaginable, and you knew him! I can’t imagine what you’d do to Draco!”

“I’d like to get to know him,” Molly huffed indignantly. “And how am I supposed to do that without asking questions?”

“Why don’t you wait and just take whatever information he offers you?”

“And let him think I’m not interested in the man who’s seeing my only daughter? Absolutely not. Don’t worry about a thing, dear – I promise to behave myself.”

Ginny eyed her warily. “I’m not sure that that’s cause to relax.”

“Pish tush,” Molly said, shaking her head. “Now help me carry the food into the dining room.”

When Ginny entered the dining room, she was surprised to see her father and Draco deep in quiet conversation.

“All right, boys, it’s time to stop talking and eat,” Molly announced, smiling. Arthur looked up and nodded.

“Excellent.” Then, to Draco he said quietly, “I’d be interested in finishing this conversation later.”

“Absolutely, Sir.”

Ginny sat the basket of freshly baked rolls on the table before she lifted her eyes to glance at Draco. He was reclining in his chair, his eyes focused on her, and wearing an unreadable expression.

Her heart gave a crazy leap when he rose from the chair and started towards her, only to plummet into her stomach when he took a seat at the table. Ginny started to sit opposite of him and put the safety of a table between them, but before she could, her mother pointed her to the chair beside Draco.

“Have a seat so we can start the meal, Ginny.” Silently cursing her meddling mother, Ginny sank into the chair beside Draco and refused to give him so much as a sidelong glance. Whatever torture her mother had devised for the evening, she would suffer it in silence, and pray for the night to end early and deliver her from mortification.

“Thank you for having me over for dinner,” Draco began politely. “I’ve been asking Ginny when I would be able to meet her parents.” Ginny turned and gave him a look of complete surprise, despite her resolution just moments before not to look at him.

“I’ve been wondering myself when she would introduce me to her young man,” Molly replied, smiling broadly. “She’s been talking about you for ages, so naturally I was very curious to meet you.”

“Oh? I hope she hasn’t said anything too unflattering about me,” he said, ignoring Ginny’s glare. She focused her eyes on the table, thinking that if looks could kill, Draco would have been long gone by now.

“Quite the opposite, actually,” Molly said, passing the basket of bread down to her husband. “She seemed quite taken with you.”

“Mother!” Ginny groaned, her head sinking into her hands. Her mother was making things worse – now when she and Draco were alone, all he was going to want to do was revisit this night and gloat about it.

“I’m only telling the truth,” Molly said defensively. “Besides, it was nice to see you moving on, after what Harry did to you.”

“Bit of nasty business, that,” Arthur agreed, a frown creasing his forehead. “I never figured Harry for the cheating kind – he always seemed so -” When Arthur’s voice faltered, Ginny held her breath, waiting for Draco to add his two cents. When the expected barb never came, she glanced at him. He returned the look with raised eyebrows, and she finally exhaled.

“But that’s over now, and she’s happy again.”

“How can you tell?” Draco asked, smiling. Ginny suddenly wished she could somehow sink into the floor. The next thing she knew, her mother would be hauling out her baby pictures to show him.

“A mother can always tell,” Molly said, shooting a smile at her daughter.

“At any rate, it’s very nice to have her smiling again,” Arthur said, giving his daughter a soft look. Ginny couldn’t help herself and smiled back at him.

“Thanks, Dad.” She reached for her glass of water and brought it to her lips only to slosh a bit over the side when a hand squeezed her knee beneath the table. She looked down at the dark stain on her blue shirt before shooting a sidelong glare at Draco, who was seemingly oblivious to her plight.

“So, what have the two of you got planned for this weekend?” Arthur asked pleasantly.

“Draco’s going out of town,” Ginny said automatically.

“Oh. Business trip, I’d wager?”

“Precisely,” Draco affirmed, nodding. “Terribly boring stuff, too. Nothing fun at all.”

“What do you have planned, dear?” Molly asked, turning to Ginny. Draco appeared interested as well, and Ginny squirmed slightly with three pairs of eyes focused on her.

“I don’t really plan ahead,” she admitted, shaking her head. “If Neville’s free, we might go out to dinner or have drinks together, but that’s about it. I’m afraid I’m not very exciting.”

“You don’t have any plans?” Molly asked, frowning. “So you’re just going to stay in that little flat, alone all weekend?”

“Mum, it’s not that bad, really. I did take some vacation time from work in order to rest, remember? This is the perfect opportunity for that. I might stop by the bookshop and buy a new book to read – will that make you feel better, knowing I have something to do?”

“Not really,” Molly sniffled. “I’d feel better if you had a man there with you.”

“I’m quite capable of taking care of myself, Mum. You know that. I’ve been there alone plenty of times since Harry moved out, and you’ve never said anything about it before,” she pointed out.

“Yes, but that was before you had Draco to look after you.” Ginny’s cheeks flushed, and out of the corner of her eye, she could plainly see Draco’s amusement etched across his angled features.

“Draco does not need to look after me as though I’m a toddler,” Ginny snapped. “He has better things to do than spend every waking moment making sure that I’m all right.”

“Do I, now?” Draco drawled lazily, drawing Ginny’s glare. “You know, you’re more than welcome to accompany me on my business trip. It might be nice to have some … company.” Ginny’s pulse sped up as she realized the implications of his statement. Of course it was nothing more than a lecherous offer, and she wondered if her parents realized that.

“Absolutely not, darling,” Ginny purred, forcing a smile. “I wouldn’t hear of it – me, disturbing your work?”

“I rather think you’d be more of a distraction than anything else if you went, anyway,” he said coolly, shrugging. Her temper spiked again, but after glimpsing the confused look on her Mother’s face, she held her tongue.

“Well,” Molly began, rising to clear some of the dishes away. Ginny was surprised when Draco stood as well.

“Let me help you with that, Mrs. Weasley,” he offered, scooping up both his empty plate and Ginny’s.

“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” Molly said, her cheeks pinking. Ginny leaned back in her chair and folded her arms defiantly over her chest as Draco followed her Mum into the kitchen.

“Are you all right?” Arthur asked gently. Ginny pursed her lips together and gave him a curt nod. “I’m only asking because right now, you look fit to burst.”

“Do you like him?” she hissed, her eyes darting towards the kitchen door, just to make sure that no one was entering the room.

“He seems pleasant enough,” Arthur said, nodding.

“After all the years of hating his father and everything he stood for, you like him this quickly?”

“Ginevra,” Arthur said sternly. “I’m surprised at you. The son is not the father, by any means. If you need proof of that, look at Percy and I.”

Shame flooded through her, and her head dropped. “I’m sorry, Dad. I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Besides, you’re the one dating him, not me,” Arthur added, taking a long drink of his water. “I don’t know why, but it seems that you don’t want your mother and I to like him. Is that the case?”

“No, it’s really not,” Ginny admitted. “I just – I guess I just didn’t think it would happen so quickly.”

“We liked Harry immediately.”

“But that was Harry. This is Draco – they’re two completely different men.”

“How so?”

“Harry was shy and Draco’s outgoing, for one.”

“Just like you.” Ginny ignored him.

“Harry was clumsy, and Draco’s got a sort of grace about him, no matter what he does.”

“Again, just like you.” Ginny took a deep breath.

“Harry was slow to anger, and Draco has a very quick temper.”

“Sounds like someone I know and love. I’d say the two of you are well matched – much more so than you and Harry ever were.” Ginny gaped at him in disbelief.

“Dad, how can you say that?”

“How can you not see it?” Arthur challenged. “Your love for Harry was hardly more than hero worship, you said so yourself on many occasions. I think the two of you got married because everyone expected you to, and look how miserably it turned out.”

“Dad,” she said softly, tears springing unbidden to her eyes. “Please, don’t.”

“Don’t what? Don’t tell you that this time, you’ve got a chance at real happiness? The young man may not be what we’d initially hoped for in your husband, but it’s obvious to me that the two of you are completely smitten with one another.”

“Dad,” she begged, shaking her head. Tears were rolling down her cheeks and splashing unnoticed onto her shirt.

“What’s so wrong with seizing the happiness that’s been offered to you?”

“Because he doesn’t care about me – at least, not the way you seem to think he does.”

“What about you? Do you care about him?”

“That’s irrelevant.” She brushed the tears from her cheek, angry with herself for having cried over nothing.

“Why doesn’t it matter?” he persisted.

“Because when he’s through getting what he wants from me, he’ll leave. I won’t allow myself to care about him when I know that that’s the inevitable outcome.”

“You’re only fooling yourself,” Arthur said sternly, leaning back in his chair. “You care about him already, whether you want to admit it or not. It’s there, obvious in every mannerism, every stolen look. You think that your Dad is too old to notice these things, but you’re wrong. I see them clearer than you do.”

“It isn’t just a question of me caring about him and him caring about me. It isn’t that simple, Dad.”

“Nothing is ever simple. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth investigating – or fighting for, if it comes to that.” Ginny was silent as she stared down at her hands.

“I wonder what’s taking your mother so long,” Arthur murmured, frowning in the direction of the kitchen door.

“Oh, no,” Ginny wailed. “Mum’s probably in there interrogating him!” She started to get up, but as soon as she did, Draco and her mother reappeared. Her mother carried a large, chocolate frosted cake, and Draco was carrying plates.

“Where are you going, darling?” Molly asked, flashing a brilliant smile at her daughter.

“To drown myself in the lake,” Ginny muttered, not looking at Draco. She sat back down and glanced at her father, who was shaking his head.

“The cake smells delicious, Molly,” Arthur said, smiling at his wife. She sat the cake down on the table and picked up a knife.

“Thank you, dear – do you want a small piece or a large one?”

“You know if given the choice, I always like a larger piece,” he admonished gently. Molly giggled. Ginny was mortified. Her mother had just giggled like a schoolgirl in front of Draco. How much worse was the evening going to get? She wondered.

When she heard the back door opening and then closing, she knew she shouldn’t have even dared to think the question. The door from the kitchen opened, and Ron stood in front of them, with eyes only for the cake.

“Ron,” Molly said, surprised. She glanced at Draco, who didn’t seem bothered in the slightest by the appearance of her youngest son. “What are you doing here, dear?”

“You made your chocolate cake,” Ron said, sniffing gingerly.

“What, do you have some kind of radar for chocolate cake?” Ginny snapped.

Ron looked up and frowned at her. “Bloody hell, Gin, I was stopping by here to give Dad something, and I smelled it, so I-“ his voice died as he finally seemed to notice the blonde man standing by his mother. His back stiffened. “What’s going on here?”

“Ginny and Draco were just having dinner with us,” Arthur explained, his voice gentle. “We were just about to have a slice of cake. Can you stay and share some with us?”

Ron’s eyes darted from Ginny, to Draco, and then back to his scarlet-faced sister. “You brought Draco Malfoy into this house?”

“Yes, I did,” Ginny said, thrusting her chin out defiantly.

“Why?” Ron’s anger seemed to be melting into confusion, and Ginny didn’t know whether or not she should be grateful for that. There had been many times in the past when the same thing had happened and she thought their fight to be over, when he had only come back hours later, madder than ever and hell bent on revenge.

“Because,” she stopped and took a deep breath. “Because he and I have been seeing each other, and Mum wanted to meet him.”

The color drained from Ron’s face, and Ginny watched nervously as he turned to Draco, his eyes hard and cold. Draco didn’t say a word, and simply stood there, letting Ron scrutinize him. After several very tense moments had passed, Ron slowly held out his hand. Draco accepted the offer and shook it.

“If you hurt her, you’re a dead man.”

Draco didn’t say anything, and Ron let go of his hand quickly. He sat down at the table across from his sister, who was staring at him with raised eyebrows.

“What? I want some cake.”

“Oh, mercy!” Molly said, snapping back into reality. “Right, the cake.” She began slicing it and placing it on plates, which Draco passed around the table. When everyone had a piece and was seated, Molly smiled at Ron.

“It’s good to see you, dear. You don’t visit often enough.”

“You know that my job keeps me on the road,” Ron said, before stuffing a huge bite of chocolate into his mouth.

“Ugh, Ron, that’s disgusting,” Ginny said, grimacing. “You’re supposed to chew your food before you swallow it, you know.”

Ron replied by opening his mouth and showing her exactly how much he’d chewed. She snorted with laughter.

“Now, you two, there’s a guest present, and you’re behaving like you’re eleven years old again.”

“What can I say? Ron brings out the best in me,” Ginny remarked, crossing her eyes at her brother. He laughed so hard that he nearly choked on his mouthful of cake.

“Really!” Molly said, exasperated. She turned to apologize to Draco, but his attention was completely focused on Ginny.

“So, Ron,” Ginny began, picking up her glass of water. “How goes the life of a Quidditch star?”

“It goes. Sometimes I think it would keep on going, regardless of whether I’m present to live it or not.”

“Yes, I know it must be hard for you,” Ginny said, wearing a false pout. “Women practically clawing each other’s eyes out to get to you, a salary that affords a wealthy lifestyle, and getting to beat the living hell out of other people in the air. You poor, poor thing, you.”

Ron’s response was to fling a bit of cake at her with his fork. To the siblings’ surprise, Draco laughed.

“I’m terribly sorry, Draco,” Molly began, shaking her head. “You must be used to better table manners than my children are exhibiting this evening, and-“

“It’s fine,” Draco reassured her, grinning. “I’m not bothered in the slightest, I promise you.” He turned to Ron, who was eyeing him suspiciously. Ginny felt a surge of affection. Here was Ron - her brother, her closest sibling. Surely he would afford her some solidarity – he’d not be taken in by Draco’s act. “You play for the Tornadoes, right?”

“Yeah.” Ron’s answer was clipped. Ginny smiled.

“But aren’t you a Cannons fan?”

“Yeah,” Ron’s answer was more cautious this time. He’d been teased and tormented by various people since he’d declared his love for the Cannons at a young age.

“So why don’t you play for them?”

“My hair clashes with the uniform.” Ginny snorted with laughter, and Molly rolled her eyes. Draco frowned slightly, as though unsure whether or not Ron was being serious. After a moment, he smiled slightly, and Ron shrugged. “I got drafted – I didn’t get to choose who I play for.”

“Why haven’t you tried to trade?”

“I did, my first year in the league. The Cannons just couldn’t afford me, I suppose.”

“That doesn’t surprise me,” Draco said, his eyes narrowing thoughtfully. “Don’t the Tornadoes have the best paid team in the league?”

“Well – yeah,” Ron said, nodding. He seemed a bit surprised that Draco would know such a thing. “It used to be Puddlemere, but then our team was bought out by someone new, and they raised our salaries.”

“You know, you didn’t do too badly against the Magpies last weekend.”

“We still lost,” Ron said, shrugging. “Doesn’t matter how well we played, our Captain works us to the bone after a loss.”

“Well, the Magpies are the best team in the league right now. They were undefeated the last time I looked. Your Captain should take that into consideration,” Draco said reasonably. Ginny watched with a sinking heart as Ron’s face lit up. No, no, no! It seemed that she had overestimated Ron’s loathing for Draco, and had underestimated his love of Quidditch talk. Ron was succumbing to Draco’s charms, too. “It seems to me that he’d hold you all in high regard, being able to hold your own against them for a twelve hour game.”

“I know,” Ron agreed, nodding enthusiastically. “Maybe you ought to go and talk to him. He might listen to you.”

“I’m afraid that all this Quidditch talk is over my head,” Molly said. She rose from her seat and began clearing the table. This time, Ginny stood so quickly that she nearly knocked her chair over.

“I’ll help.” She couldn’t stand it another minute – watching Draco reel her family in; making them like him the way he was doing. It made her stomach turn. She gathered up the dirty dishes in front of her, and then reached for Draco’s, not feeling his eyes watching her every move. Ron exchanged a look with his father, then proceeded to help himself to a second piece of cake.

When she had reached the safety of the kitchen, Ginny dropped the dishes in the sink and slumped against the counter.

“What in the world has gotten into you?” Molly asked, perplexed. “You’ve practically ignored the boy all evening, and then when your brother comes in, you light up like a candle.”

“I don’t really want to go through this with you right now, Mum,” Ginny said quietly, taking several deep, calming breaths.

“Well,” Molly said, her lips thinning into a tight line, “that’s just too bad, now, isn’t it?”

“What did you talk about when he was in here with you earlier?” Ginny asked, lifting her head just enough so that she could see her mother’s face.

“Nothing much,” Molly replied, averting her eyes. Ginny narrowed her eyes.

“Mum, you’re a terrible liar.”

“It’s none of your business, young lady.”

“Please, just tell me that you didn’t bring up marriage or children to him, please,” Ginny begged. When her mother remained silent, Ginny’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “You have no idea what you’ve done.”

“Well then, that makes two of us, doesn’t it?” Molly snapped. Ginny looked up, surprised.

“What?”

“You have no idea what you’re doing, Ginevra. He’s a nice young man, and he wants to have a family someday. He’s so much like you that it nearly hurt me to talk to him – and you’ve behaved all evening as though he were a leper, or something equally as bad.”

“I have not!” Ginny protested, knowing before the words left her mouth that her mother was telling the truth. She’d never even given him a chance, had she? But then, she thought vehemently, he’d only been nice to her family in order to curry their favor over Harry, hadn’t he?

“You know better than that,” Molly admonished. Then her expression softened, and she patted Ginny’s shoulder. “Why are you fighting it so hard?”

“Fighting what?”

“Your attraction to him.”

“I’m not fighting it, that’s why we’re even together in any capacity right now,” Ginny said miserably. “I couldn’t fight it. I’m weak when I’m around him. I spend all my time away from him trying to build up these walls to keep him out, and then when he’s near me, it’s like the walls just poof! They up and disappear.”

“I meant emotionally, not physically,” Molly clarified, clearing her throat.

“It applies both ways. I don’t want to get attached to him because I know he’s going to leave, and I don’t think I could handle it if I really cared about him.”

“Oh, Poppet,” Molly said sympathetically. “You already care about him. I see it, and I know your father sees it. What makes you think that he can’t see it, too?”

“If he saw anything of the sort – and that’s not an admission, by the way – then he would exploit it to the fullest. He would use my love against me, and that’s not something I’m willing to chance.”

“Oh,” Molly gasped, her hand fluttering to her mouth.

“What?” Ginny asked, her forehead creasing as she frowned.

“You just said love,” Molly whispered.

“No!” Ginny held up her hands. “No! Mum, that’s not what I meant, I swear! I didn’t mean-“

“Didn’t mean what?”

“That I love Draco!”

In the heat of their conversation, neither woman had noticed that the door that led to the dining room had been opened. In the doorway stood a very red-faced Ron, and behind him, a very shocked Draco. Molly was the first to notice the men, and she pasted on a smile.

“Can I get you boys something?”

Ginny froze, her back to the door, and squeezed her eyes shut. She prayed fervently that Draco wasn’t actually behind her – perhaps this was all just a bad dream, and she’d wake up at any moment.

“We were just – worried,” Ron stammered in explanation. “Things were quiet in here, and Dad asked us to check on you.”

“We’re fine, as you can see,” Molly chirped, smiling.

“Er – right,” Ron said. “Well, I’ve got to be going anyway.” He pushed his way into the kitchen and gave his mother a quick hug. “I’ll stop by again sometime this week, I promise.”

“I’ll remember that, young man.”

“Bye, Gin.” He hugged his sister, who barely lifted her arms to hug him back. He moved past her and nodded curtly at Draco. “Malfoy.”

“Weasley.” Until Ginny had heard his voice, she could pretend that he wasn’t really there. At the sound of his familiar drawl, she nearly burst into tears. Really, could this night get any worse?

“Well, I think it’s time for me to go in and check on my husband,” Molly said, shooting a worried glance at her stiff daughter. “If the two of you decide to leave before I see you again, it was a pleasure having you over. I hope you come back soon.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Weasley.”

With one final, fleeting glance at Ginny, Molly practically fled the room.

“It wasn’t what you think,” Ginny said immediately, her voice barely audible. “I swear to you, it wasn’t.”

“And what do I think it was?” Draco asked, arching an eyebrow.

“I know what it must have sounded like, and I’m telling you, that isn’t what it was.”

“You mean to tell me that you didn’t just stand there and say that you love me?”

“No – I mean, I did say that, but you don’t understand-“

“If you’re going to argue with me, at least have the courtesy to do it to my face,” he said calmly. Slowly she turned around and lifted her eyes to meet his. She could feel the walls she’d been building all evening come crashing down around her as he stared at her, waiting for her to speak.

“I- I didn’t-“ She spread her hands in a helpless gesture, hating the heat that she felt rising in her cheeks. Her heart was beating irregularly, and butterflies had erupted in her stomach. How was she going to explain this?

“Why don’t we leave?” he suggested, taking a step towards her. “Go somewhere more private, to continue this conversation?”

She let her shoulder sag in defeat, and nodded. She watched with apprehension as he stepped forward and grabbed her arm before apparating them both away. When her head had stopped reeling, she was surprised to see that they were standing in his bedroom at the Manor. He released her arm and moved away from her.

She watched as he removed his watch and placed it atop his dresser, and then kicked off his shoes and placed them against the wall. When he started to unbutton his shirt, Ginny shook her head to clear it of the cobwebs that had been forming.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m undressing,” he said calmly. “I should think you could see that.”

“Yes, I do see that, but I didn’t mean it in the literal sense of the word. I meant, why aren’t we arguing about what just happened?”

He finished unbuttoning his shirt and let it just hang open as he looked over at her. “What’s there to argue about?”

“You heard me say – what I said,” she finished quickly, looking down at the floor as he eyed her. “And I told you it wasn’t what you thought, and you’re just going to let it go at that?”

“I have much more interesting things in mind than fighting with you over a slip of the tongue,” he murmured, moving closer to her. Her heart jumped into her throat, and it seemed that the air in the room had just gotten heavier. It must have, since she seemed to have difficulty breathing all of a sudden.

“It doesn’t bother you, then?” she whispered, her eyes focused on his lips. He stopped moving when their noses were nearly touching.

“Should it bother me that you’re madly in love with me?”

“I’m not-“

“It doesn’t bother me in the slightest.”

“But I’m not-“

“It’s not as repellent as I’d thought it might be, if it happened. As a matter of fact, it’s actually rather appealing to me.” She glanced up, her knees weakening at the look on his face. “What man can resist a woman who’s in love with him?”

“I didn’t say-“

“You said it.” His words had an air of finality about them that left no room for further argument. Instead, she simply stared at him until his lips descended on hers.

Her arms automatically encircled his neck, as though she had no control over them, and she kissed him back wildly. He groaned into the kiss as his hands found purchase on her hips, and she pressed herself against him.

When his hands moved around to squeeze her bum, she shivered. Wanting to be closer to him, she pushed his shirt off of his shoulders and began exploring the planes of his chest with her fingertips.

Clothing became an impediment to their shared goal and was hurriedly discarded. Mouths moved together as they tumbled onto the bed, and fingers entwined as they joined. They climaxed simultaneously and, neither one trusting words at the moment, silently drifted into sleep, their hands still joined.
17 :: Euphoria by CliodnaHPFan
The Broken Road, Chapter 17 :: Euphoria

She’d been easy enough to ignore when their tryst began.

Oh, sure - on some level he’d recognized that he’d had an unhealthy fascination with her from the moment they’d met. He wasn’t denying that at all, he thought, staring up into the darkness. His unhealthy fascination with her had somehow morphed into something else now, though; something entirely too difficult for words.

The problem was, he realized belatedly, that he liked her. Not in the usual ‘you can get me what I want’ sense of the word, and not in the sometimes-used ‘I can justify taking what I want from you because I am that damned good, or you’re just too stupid to resist me’ sense of the word, either.

He actually, truly, honestly liked her. And that scared him to death.

She’d been right earlier, when she’d said that bit about almost being friends, but he thought there was more to it than that. When he caught her watching him on occasion with that silly smile on her face, perhaps it was more than the embarrassment he’d originally chalked it up to. Maybe when she paid for things, it was more than her not wanting to be a ‘kept woman.’ Possibly when she kissed him and he felt that electricity thrumming through his body, it was something more than just a kiss.

He growled under his breath and rolled onto his side, facing away from her. Why was it that he’d woken up in the middle of the bloody night, and all he could think about was the woman lying beside him? And why wasn’t she awake, thinking about him?

He frowned. She’d said that she loved him, and then denied it. He hadn’t cared at the time if she’d meant it or not; he’d just been surprised to hear the words ‘love’ and ‘Draco’ falling from her lips in the same sentence. He’d felt at that moment that somehow, even if she meant it just the tiniest little bit, he could see himself spending his time only with her – and that had been a startling epiphany for him. No woman had ever satisfied him so completely that he’d wanted to spend time outside of the bedroom with her, as well as inside.

Not that he had any complaints about the activities that took place inside the bedroom - their sex life was incredible. He’d never had such good sex before – she gave as well as she took, and that was rare in the women that he’d encountered in the bedroom. Most of them wanted nothing more than to please him, with no thoughts to their own pleasure. While sometimes it was exactly what he wanted, more often than not, it pissed him off. Giving pleasure was nearly as much fun as receiving it, and he felt cheated when deprived of the privilege.

With Ginny, nearly everything seemed to be give and take. Paying for their outings, arguing, sex – even day to day, basic conversation. It made for a nice change, and made Draco feel like a normal person rather than a pariah of the Wizarding world. If he’d realized how his last name would affect him after his father’s death, he probably would have left the country to start over somewhere else, where no one had ever heard of him.

And yet Ginny had not treated him that way. At least, not because of his last name or his father, he realized. She had treated him the same way he’d treated her, and when he’d changed, so had she. And there it was again - that sense of balance that she seemed to create.

Potter was a damned fool, he thought vehemently. Ginny had brought stability and order to his personal life, the likes of which Draco had never experienced before her. She balanced the anger with the affection. She tempered the unhappiness with joy. Potter had given all of that up, and for what? A roll in the sheets with a bushy-haired bookworm who would do nothing more than gaze adoringly at him? Who would want a woman that would just stand by your side and hang on every word you said, without letting you know when you were making a mistake, or telling you if your hair looked bad, for fear of fighting with you or upsetting you?

Well, Draco thought wryly. At one time, that’s what I thought I wanted.

He half-turned on the bed when he heard her whimper in her sleep, and tried to focus his eyes on her. In the darkness, it was useless. He grabbed his wand from the side table and whispered “Lumos.” Dim light filled the room, not so bright that it would disturb her slumber, but just bright enough for him to be able to get a good look at her.

Was it possible for her to love him, in any capacity? He wondered. Was she attached to him at all? If he left her that very moment, would she long for her lost lover, or would she move on with her life as though he had been nothing but a temporary distraction? He shook his head, trying to shake the thoughts away, but they clung to him.

He’d gone to her parents’ home earlier that night prepared to win them over by any means possible, both as another jab at the Boy Who Lived To Be the Man Who Annoyed the Hell Out Of Everyone, and as a way to find out what made her the way she was; what made her tick. He hadn’t expected to actually enjoy himself. Her mother had turned out to be a splendid cook, and her father was an interesting man. Even her brother, whom he had tormented and teased for years, had turned out to be a pretty decent fellow.

What was the world coming to, when you couldn’t even hate your enemies anymore?

The realization of what was happening came to him accompanied by a rush of sheer and total amazement. He was falling in love with Ginny Weasley Potter – and there wasn’t a damned thing he could do to stop himself, short of performing an Unforgivable.

He looked at her sleeping form with a new sort of wonder. As though sensing his gaze, she sighed and turned her head towards him. Her eyes fluttered open, and she blinked several times before she was able to focus them on him.

“Is something wrong?” she asked, her voice scratchy from sleep.

“No, nothing.”

“I didn’t kick you, did I?” she asked, looking a bit more alert and a bit alarmed at the same time. He shook his head.

“No, you didn’t.” She relaxed a bit, and her eyes became hooded again.

“Then why are you awake? Did you have a nightmare?”

“No. Sometimes I just wake up in the middle of the night for no particular reason.”

“Oh.” She seemed to turn this over in her mind for a minute, and then: “Do you want to be alone? Because I can leave if you want me to.”

“Do you want to leave?”

“No,” she said, exhaling slowly. Sometimes the truth hurt. “Not really.”

“Then why did you even ask?”

“I just thought that you might want some time away from me. We have been spending a lot of time around each other lately, and I don’t want you to get annoyed with me – well,” she said, noticing his arched eyebrow, “at least no more than you usually are.”

“You’re free to go if you like,” he said, shrugging. “I’m not going to force you to stay with me.”

His heart did a crazy leap when she started to push the coverlet back, and he cleared his throat.

“But I’d like it if you did stay.” She nodded and without hesitation snuggled back underneath the coverlet. He had to bite back a laugh at the satisfied little half-smile that caused her lips to curl up.

“Do you need something to help you get back to sleep?” she asked, turning her face towards him again.

“Like what?”

“Warm milk, a cup of tea, or some chocolate?”

“Is that what helps you get back to sleep?”

“Not really,” she said, laughing softly. “None of those ever worked for me.”

“So what helps you?”

“You’ll just think it’s stupid,” she accused, looking away.

“Try me.”

“Fine. But I’m only telling you this so we can both get back to sleep, because I know that if I don’t, you’ll keep me awake all night trying to find out.”

“Get on with it then, woman.”

“When I close my eyes,” she said, closing them for emphasis, “I picture myself in a location that I want to visit. I imagine myself there with someone I care about, and I try to picture what things we’d do together.”

“Does it work?” he asked curiously. She nodded.

“Most of the time, yeah.”

“But not all the time?”

“Fantasy is a nice escape from real life, but I can’t lose myself in it,” she said reasonably. “Besides, I don’t always need it to fall asleep. There are other methods.”

“Oh?” he asked, moving closer. She laughed and shook her head.

“I didn’t mean what you’re thinking, although physical activity certainly helps one get tired quickly.”

“When these scenarios play out in your mind, do you see the face of the person you’re with, or do you imagine a nameless, faceless person?”

“It helps if I give him a face,” she said, smiling. She closed her eyes and snuggled deeper beneath the coverlet. “It just makes it easier to picture.”

“Do you picture people you know?”

“Sometimes.”

“Do you picture people I know?” Her eyes snapped open and she looked at him, searching for any signs that he was taking the mickey out of her.

“Sometimes,” she answered neutrally. “Do you not want to go back to sleep?”

“Suddenly I find that I’m not very tired anymore.” He moved closer still, and her breathing became uneven.

“Oh? Is there anything I can do to help?”

“There might be,” he whispered, his mouth nearly touching hers. “But we’ll talk about it after I’ve kissed you.”

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


When Ginny awoke, it was to the soft strains of a melody being coaxed from a violin. It was sad and beautiful at the same time, and it made her skin tingle. She opened her eyes fully and glanced around, remembering where she was at the same time her eyes landed on him. He was standing in front of a device that she recognized to be a Muggle radio, and he was listening intently to the music pouring forth from it.

She sat up slowly and clutched the sheet to her breast, and watched him become absorbed in the music. His eyes were closed as he listened, the look on his face was nothing short of serene, and it took her breath away.

When the music began to fade, he startled her by asking, “Does music soothe you?”

“Yes,” she said. Then, “How did you know I was awake?” He opened his eyes and turned to her. Something was different, she thought. Something in his demeanor had changed since last night – he was acting differently, and he was speaking to her differently. He was even looking at her in a way he hadn’t done before.

“Your breathing changed,” he said simply. She stared at him as he selected a shirt from his closet. “I have found that music will soothe me, even on the worst of days.”

“Just classical music?”

“It varies. For the most part, yes - a piano will do the trick, but if I want to relax completely, I need a violin.”

“Are you having a bad day today?” she asked cautiously. He turned and gave her a thoughtful look as he pulled the shirt over his head.

“No, not especially.” He turned his back to her again and began rummaging through one of his dresser drawers. She took the opportunity to slide out of the bed and pull her black slacks on, and had just pulled her shirt up over her arms when he spoke again. “Do you have plans for today?”

“I don’t know. Do I?” she asked distractedly, fumbling with the top button of her shirt. She was so busy with her task that she missed his fleeting smile. “What did you have in mind?”

“First of all, I think we should drop by your flat, so you can change. Then I think we’ll take brunch at this quaint little restaurant I happened to find a few years ago –“ he stopped speaking when he saw her look of surprise. “Is something the matter?”

“N-no,” she stammered, focusing her attention back on the difficult button. “It sounds nice.”

After an hour of his company, she was able to finally put her finger on exactly what the something different about him was. He was being nice to her – treating her almost like a friend. It warmed her heart and worried her at the same time. She just wasn’t sure if it was possible for Draco Malfoy to be nice to someone without wanting something from them in return.

Once she’d showered and changed her clothes, Draco approached her with his elbow extended, and she put her hand through it. “Shall we go, then?”

“Where are we-“ Before she could finish her question, he had apparated them both. When the dizziness subsided and she was able to take in her surroundings, she gasped. “Are we in-“

“Italy, yes,” he said nonchalantly. He escorted her down the street and into the small restaurant on the corner. The host guided them to the table, and spoke to Draco in Italian. When Draco answered back in the native tongue, Ginny was dumbfounded. The host nodded and smiled before walking away, and Draco slid into the booth across from her.

“You can speak Italian?”

“Of course I can,” he said, taking a sip of water. “Can’t you?”

“No,” she said, feeling strangely inadequate all of a sudden. “I can barely manage English.” He grinned. “How many other languages do you know?” she asked suspiciously.

“French, Spanish, and Latin,” he said, ticking them off on his long fingers. “Three.”

“So you know five languages.”

“It would appear that way, wouldn’t it?”

“How many are you actually fluent in?”

“Four.”

“Latin give you much of a problem?”

“It’s just that it’s not spoken very much anymore, and – wait,” he said, glancing up. “How did you know it was Latin?”

“I just guessed,” she said, shrugging her shoulders gently. “So tell me how you found this place – it’s very… er… cozy.” She’d been about to say romantic, but thought better of it.

“My mother and I actually stumbled across it last summer during one of her infamous shopping excursions,” he explained, his eyes locked on hers. “She’d probably enjoy it if you accompanied her sometime.”

“Oh,” Ginny said, surprised.

“What? Don’t you like my Mother?” he asked, amusement in his voice.

“Well, yes, I did like her. Why? Didn’t you like my parents?”

“They weren’t exactly what I thought they’d be,” he said. “But they weren’t entirely unpleasant to be around.”

Ginny thought it would be asking too much if she wanted to hear more than that from him on the subject, so she changed gears. “I hope my being there last night didn’t bother you too much.”

“Being where? At your own parents’ house?”

“No, I meant being in your room with you,” she said, fingering the edge of the napkin that was in her lap. “I know that you’re a private person, and I didn’t mean to intrude on that by staying.”

“Oh, that,” he said, waving his hand dismissively. “Trust me, if you had been bothering me, I would have let you know.”

“You know, I don’t remember you ever being sensitive enough to like music,” she commented, giving him a small smile. He arched an eyebrow.

“Just because a man doesn’t go around saving everyone needlessly doesn’t mean that he isn’t sensitive to certain things.” Ginny laughed softly at his barb, surprised that she wasn’t bothered by it in the least. “Besides, if you lived in Slytherin and showed sensitivity of any kind, it was an invitation for trouble.”

“Well, then let’s not say you were sensitive. Let’s just say you had an affinity for music,” she suggested. He grinned.

“I do believe you’re catching on,” he teased. She smiled back at him. A tall man dressed in a white shirt and black vest approached their table and placed several platefuls of food on it before saying something to Draco. Draco nodded back silently, and the man left. “Brunch is served.”

Ginny stared at all of the food spread out before her. Plates were filled with eggs, bacon, steaming hotcakes, and several dishes she didn’t recognize. She helped herself to the bowl of fruit that was closest to her, and after taking several bites of some sort of melon, she realized that Draco hadn’t eaten a morsel. Her fork froze halfway to her mouth.

“Why aren’t you eating?”

“I’ll eat in a moment.”

She eyed him suspiciously as she put her fork down. “What’s going on?”

“What do you mean? Is the food not to your liking?”

“The food is fine – I was talking about you.”

“What about me?”

“Why are you being so nice to me?”

“Am I not allowed to be nice?”

“You are, but it’s just so out of character for you to be nice all of the time.”

“So you suspect that I have an ulterior motive, then?”

“Yes, I do.”

“In the interest of saving time, you’re quite right.”

“Well? What is it then?”

“I’d rather not reveal that just yet,” he said enigmatically, reaching for a plate of the food that she didn’t recognize. “All things in due time – let’s not rush. We have the whole day to ourselves, and we’re in Italy. Aren’t there things you’d like to do here?”

“I won’t be able to enjoy a bit of it knowing that you’ve got something planned that you won’t tell me about,” she pouted.

“Just try to put it out of your mind, then.”

“It won’t work,” she grumbled.

“I’ll bet I can show you things that will distract you,” he said nonchalantly. She smothered a laugh, and he looked up at the sound. “How was that funny?”

“I’m sorry,” she said, her shoulders shaking with silent laughter. “I need to get my mind out of the gutter, I think.” Realization dawned on him, and he gave her a wicked look that made her shudder with anticipation.

“Yes, well. That will come later.”

“So you have the day planned out, then?” she asked, sipping her coffee.

“Not entirely, though I have a rough itinerary outlined in my head. How do you like the coffee?”

“It’s richer than anything I’ve had before,” she said appreciatively. “It’s wonderful. Do you come here often?”

“Not really.”

“But they all seem to know you,” she said, gesturing towards the staff. He shrugged.

“My father used to bring my mother here quite often – it’s possible that they’ve mistaken me for him.”

“But you said that you just stumbled across it a few years ago with your Mother,” she protested.

“My father hadn’t brought her here in a while, so Mum had forgotten all about it,” he explained, taking a sip of his own coffee. “When we walked past it, she recalled it, and told me about it.”

“Oh,” she said, finally forsaking her half-eaten food for the coffee. He smiled.

“You seem to like the coffee more than anything else present.”

“Is that bad?”

“No, I just find it rather amusing.”

“Why is that?”

“It’s very nearly the same reaction I had the first time I came here. As a matter of fact, I like the coffee so well that it’s the only kind served at the Manor.”

“If you enjoy it so much, why aren’t you drinking more of it?” she asked curiously.

“Too much caffeine makes me edgy,” he said, shaking his head. “If I could, I’d drink it all day long.”

“Hm.” She took another sip.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“What was that ‘hm’ for?”

“You’re a very interesting person, Draco Malfoy.” She cocked her head at him. “It seems like I’ve learned more about you in the last twenty four hours than I have in the last several years.”

“The same could be said about you in that regard,” he said, his voice low. “I think we have more in common than we’d originally thought.”

“You know, I think you might be right. Does that upset you?”

“Why would it upset me?”

“You’ve always thought that you were above me, not like me,” she said reasonably. “Do you still think that?”

“Only when we’re in bed.” Ginny’s cheeks flushed scarlet, and he chuckled. “Are you finished eating?”

“I think so, yes.”

“Well, then. On to bigger and better things, right?” He rose from the booth and waited for her to rise, and then led her out of the restaurant. For a while, they were content just to stroll amicably down the street, taking in the sights.

“Oh, isn’t it beautiful?” Ginny exclaimed, spotting a flowing fountain in front of them. Draco smiled.

“Indeed.”

“Can we get closer to it?”

“I believe we are headed in that direction,” he said, nodding.

When they reached the fountain, Ginny was breathless. “Oh, the water’s so clear!”

“This is the Fontana di Trevi. Italian legend says that if you throw a coin into the water, you will return to Rome someday.”

Ginny fished in the pocket of her jeans for a coin, and Draco laughed. He handed her one of his own, and she smiled her thanks.

“Should I make a wish on it? Or would that be bad luck, since it’s already got a sort of wish attached to it?”

“I don’t think it would hurt,” Draco said, still grinning. He watched as she closed her eyes and then pressed a kiss to the silver before throwing it into the fountain. “What was the kiss for?”

“To seal in the wish,” she said, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. “Haven’t you ever done that?”

“Never heard of that,” he admitted. She sat down on the side of the fountain and dipped her fingers in the cool water as she stared up at the architecture of the building that the fountain was in front of. After a moment, she turned to give him a mischievous grin.

“Jealous?”

“What?” he asked, caught off guard by the question.

“Nothing, I was just teasing,” she said, shaking her head. She looked away, but the smile stayed plastered on her face.

“Jealous of what?”

“Nothing.”

“No, jealous of what?”

“The coin.” She laughed softly as she glanced up and caught his startled expression. “I was just kidding, Draco.”

“Why would I be jealous of the coin getting a kiss, when I get so much more?” he drawled. She laughed and shook her head.

“Ah, but the coin got a kiss in broad daylight, in view of anyone who cared to see, didn’t it?”

“Then I’d wager that any man watching would have been envious of it.” She bit her bottom lip.

“This is nice.”

“What?”

“Talking to you like this. Laughing. Joking. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so relaxed before.”

“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself.”

“I am,” she said honestly, aiming another warm smile at him. “I wish it could be like this between us all the time.”

“But then you’d never want to leave me, and I’d never get any privacy,” he said, shaking his head. She arched an eyebrow.

“Well someone’s full of themselves, aren’t they?”

“Are you trying to say that I’m conceited?”

“I suppose you wouldn’t call it that,” she giggled. “You’d call it being self-assured.”

“You’re really getting too good at that,” he said, grinning. “You took the words right out of my mouth.” Ginny stood and smoothed her jeans out before she looked at him again.

“I suppose I’ve kept you here long enough, haven’t I?”

“I don’t mind.”

She smiled at him again, and suddenly the air between them felt charged with electricity. Here no one knew them – they were just a man and a woman, standing in front of one of the most romantic places in the world. He closed the distance between them with two slow steps, and raised a hand to cup her cheek. When his thumb moved gently over her cheekbone, her lips parted and her breathing became uneven.

As soon as he began to move forward, her eyes fluttered closed. Their lips met in what Ginny had always imagined a kiss should be like; it was sweet and soft and slow. Her heart was pounding, her knees were weak, and her stomach was doing somersaults. This was how she’d always imagined kissing Harry would be like when she was younger. After kissing him so many times and not feeling the spark she’d hoped for, she’d started to believe that they kiss of her dreams was nothing more than a figment of her overactive imagination.

She understood now that she had simply been kissing the wrong man.

When the kiss ended, she was reluctant to open her eyes, lest he be a dream and disappear. When she finally opened them, he was standing in front of her still, with his hand lingering on her cheek. She reached up and hesitantly covered his hand with hers and gave it a gentle squeeze.

She kept her hand there until he shifted, and then she let her hand drop to her side. She was surprised when he reached down and took her hand in his, threading his fingers through hers. The fluttering in her stomach erupted into full-fledged butterflies, and she struggled not to cry. She didn’t know why the simple gesture moved her so – perhaps she was affected because it was Draco and therefore unexpected, or maybe she was simply enchanted by the romantic atmosphere. Whatever the case, she couldn’t remember ever having such a good day.
18 :: Judgment by CliodnaHPFan
The Broken Road, Chapter 18 :: Judgment

Whoever said that falling in love was easy had been right, he thought. It was the falling out of love that was a bitch.

He sat on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands, and wept. It had been a long time since Harry Potter had cried – the last time he could remember doing it was when Sirius had died.

He wept for what he'd had, and then tossed aside. He wept for what might have been. And he wept for Hermione, and the mess that he'd gotten her into. At least that was the one constant in his life – he always had the ability to muck things up good and proper whenever it seemed that anything was going too well for him.

He pulled his glasses off and wiped his eyes angrily with the sleeve of his shirt. He'd been emotionally stunted ever since he could remember, and everyone who had ever been close to him understood that. Why was it, then, that Ginny didn't seem to anymore? It wasn't his fault if he was terrible at maintaining relationships – it was the direct result of being brought up in the Dursley home. She knew that.

Ginny had been a wonderful girlfriend, and an even better wife. Though he would have liked to have spent more time with her, things were still good between them. But he'd grown bored with having the same thing every day, and not seeing his home life as finally having the stability he'd always wanted, he'd sought out something new and exciting. Hermione.

He nearly snorted. If anyone else knew that he thought Hermione was exciting… well, people would just laugh at him for thinking such a thing, wouldn't they? But to him, she had been exciting, because being with her had been different from being with Ginny. Where Ginny had always been a sort of independent woman when it came to matters of the heart (or the bedroom), Hermione had been shy and retiring and completely willing to let Harry take the reins of her heart and guide her wherever he wished. That kind of power over someone was intoxicating, and he'd let it go to his head.

He'd let himself think that he was in love with Hermione because of it.

Once he'd left Ginny and moved in with Hermione, however, things had changed drastically. Suddenly Hermione wasn't exciting anymore – she was clingy and jealous, and if he were completely honest, sometimes she was downright whiny. He still cared about her, but it wasn't what he'd thought it was before he'd moved in.

Now Ginny was exciting again, and the realization of that had hit him hard. He had actually loved Ginny. He must have, because he'd never once considered her clingy or jealous or whiny. He'd always enjoyed spending time with her, because she was interested in so many different things like he was – unlike Hermione, who was mostly interested in her books.

But now he had a problem, and a serious one at that. They were divorced, and she was seeing someone else. Not just anyone else – she was seeing Draco fucking Malfoy. How in the hell that had happened, he had no earthly idea. He had no doubts that the blonde was doing it just to get back at him, but why was Ginny doing it? Surely she wouldn't be so callous just to do it as a personal stab at him, would she? No, he decided, shaking his head. Ginny had too much pride to do something just to get back at him.

Didn't she?

Perhaps he didn't know Ginny as well as he thought he did. He'd been convinced when he'd started his affair that if Ginny ever found out, she would cry and throw a tantrum and they'd fight, but he'd never once imagined that she'd divorce him. She'd filed those papers and never once looked back, it seemed. How was it that she was able to let go of him so quickly?

He thought he'd already let go of her when he'd started sleeping with Hermione, but apparently that had only been temporary. Now she was a constant in his mind; his thoughts of Ginny and Hermione often mingled so much that he'd started to get confused. He'd even caught himself about to call Hermione Ginny when they'd been having sex a few days ago – thank Merlin he'd stopped before he'd spoken.

He rubbed his aching temple before rising from the bed and padding slowly into the bathroom. Hermione was at work, which in truth was where Harry should have been as well – but today he hadn't felt like it. He hadn't felt like going in and pulling his shift as a guard at Azkaban.

Babysitting criminals hadn't been the idea when he'd decided to become an Auror, after all.

Perhaps he would go over to Ginny's flat today (how odd that it should be just her flat, when in truth he'd been the one to pick it out) and have a little chat with her. Maybe see how her life was going, and ask her out to dinner one night – just a friendly dinner, with no strings attached, to show that there were no hard feelings on his end. It was just a friendly gesture.

Or at least, that's what he kept telling himself.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~


Ginny hummed to herself as she dusted off the mantel above the fireplace. Draco had been gone on his trip for a total of six hours, and already she found herself lamenting the fact that she would have to sleep alone tonight. She missed his touch, she missed his smell – but most of all, she found that she missed his company.

Strange that Draco Malfoy should grow on her the way he had, she thought with a smile. When they were alone together, he was really quite charming and pleasant. When they were out in public, he was still charming, only it was a different kind of charm. Ginny could see right through it, and knew that he was doing it for the benefit of anyone that might be watching.

What she didn't understand was why it seemed so important to him to hide the fact in public that he genuinely enjoyed her company. She frowned as she pushed a stray hair away from her face. Maybe he was too on edge to really enjoy any company in public. Maybe he was a better actor than she thought, and he was only pretending when they were alone. Who knew why he did the things that he did? And why was she wasting her time trying to figure him out, when she knew it was impossible anyway?

After all, she thought wryly, she'd thought she'd had Harry figured out.

She shook her head and took out a bottle of Mrs. Scower's Magical Mess Remover. She spread some of the solution on the floor in front of the fireplace and began to scrub the soot away. If she'd inherited nothing else from her mother, Ginny had at least gotten the yen for manual labor when she needed to think, or when she needed to work off some extra energy.

Today it was nervous energy that she was trying to purge herself of.

She pushed another wisp of hair out of her eyes and tried desperately to put Draco out of her mind. She knew that if she didn't, she'd think about him all weekend and drive herself mad doing it. Frustrated with her lack of progress (whether on the soot or her thought pattern, she wasn't sure), she threw the black washcloth down and clambered to her feet, abandoning her cleaning for the moment.

A shower was in order. Perhaps that would make her feel better. She padded into the bathroom and stripped her sweaty clothes off before stepping beneath the hot spray and closing her eyes. Immediately she was bombarded with images of Draco; memories of the previous day, when he'd taken her to Italy. Her eyes flew open and she swore loudly.

Why in the hell couldn't she shake him from her thoughts? She finished her shower more quickly than she normally would have, and wrapped a towel around herself. What she really needed was a drink, she decided. She thought about flooing Neville to invite him along, and then decided against it. No, what she really needed was some time alone.

She dressed quickly and ran a brush through her hair before heading to the Three Broomsticks. After stepping inside, she chose a booth near the back – the furthest away from the door that she could manage, since it was chilly outside and she didn't want the draft from the opening and closing door to bother her.

Once the bottle of firewhiskey had been brought to her table, she wasted no time in downing a glassful. The second glass she took her time with, enjoying the slight buzz she'd gotten from the first glass. As she nursed the drink, she allowed herself a quick glance around the establishment. When her eyes fell on the unruly mop of raven hair at the bar, she stiffened.

It was just her luck that at that same moment, he turned and caught her looking at him.

She groaned silently when he stood up and began making his way towards her. She stopped drinking – if he was going to start a fight, she wanted to be able to wallop him good and proper, and not be drunk when she got her chance.

He sat down uninvited and gave her a watery smile.

"Hey," he said softly.

"Hi," she answered, her back straight and proud. "What do you want?"

"I don't want anything," he said, shaking his head. "I just wanted to say hello and see how you were doing."

"As you can see, I'm perfectly fine."

"Why does it have to be this way?" he asked brokenly.

"What way?"

"This way," he said, spreading his hands in a helpless gesture. "With you always snapping at me and never treating me like a decent human being."

"Excuse me?" she snorted. "If I am treating you subhumanly, then I can assure you that you deserve every bit of it."

"I thought we could move past this and be friends."

She stared at him, trying to gauge his staidness. When she finally decided that yes, he was sober, and yes, he was indeed serious, she shook her head. "No, we can't."

"Ever?" Was that a hint of desperation in his voice? She wondered.

"Not as far as I can tell," she said, making sure that she met his eyes, so he could see how serious she was. If he was using his Legilimency, then he would be doubly sure of the sincerity of her answer. "You betrayed me, Harry, and that's something that I don't take lightly."

"So there's no chance for me to repair this?"

"There's nothing here to repair anymore," she said, shaking her head again. "I've moved on. I thought you had, too – by the way," she said, craning her neck to look around the bar. "Where is the little woman?"

"She's visiting her parents," he lied. She arched an eyebrow at him, and he was suddenly reminded of the man she'd been keeping company with. "Where's the ferret?"

"None of your business."

He stared intently at her for several moments, and then dropped his eyes to the table top. "Ginny, please. Give me a chance to make this right. I promise I won't screw it up."

"What exactly are you asking of me, Harry?" she wondered aloud. "Are you asking to be my friend, or are you asking to share my bed again?"

"Both," he answered honestly. She frowned and tilted her head to one side, studying him.

"I have friends already – and as I'm sure you know, I don't need anyone else to share my bed; that position has been taken already, too."

"Yes, almost immediately after I vacated it, it would seem," he snapped. She gave a light shrug of her shoulders before reaching into her pocket for her money.

"If that was the case, he would have been sharing my bed before we were even divorced – and we both know that that's not what happened. Really, what upsets you more? The fact that Hermione is old news now, or the fact that I've moved on and am sleeping with someone else?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," he said defensively. She rolled her eyes and placed her money on the table. When she stood up and started to make her way towards the door, he jumped up and moved in front of her.

"Harry, move," she said impatiently.

"Not until you listen to me."

"I think I've listened to you quite enough, thank you," she snapped, her eyes turning cold. "I've certainly given you more time of day than most ex-wives would in my situation." She tried to sidestep him, but was startled into stillness when his hand darted out and grabbed her upper arm. "Take your hand off of me."

"No," he said, his grip tightening painfully. She winced. "You have to understand that I made a mistake, and I want to fix it now."

"And you have to get it through your thick skull that you can't fix it!" she snarled, trying to pull free of his hand. His grip tightened further, and Ginny yelped in pain. Surely there would be a bruise on her arm in the shape of his hand when he finally released her.

"You're going to see," he said, lowering his voice. Several patrons had turned to look, as well as Madam Rosmerta, who was staring at the display unabashedly, her jaw hanging loose. "I'm going to make you see."

A shiver of apprehension ran down Ginny's spine at the decidedly dangerous look in Harry's once beautiful emerald eyes. They burned with a sort of intensity that made unease spring up in her stomach and sent warning signals to her brain.

"Harry, you're hurting me," she said quietly, glancing down at his hand on her arm for emphasis. "If you're trying to be my friend again, this is a damned poor way to go about it."

He dropped his hand as though it had been burned, and his expression became one of horror. "Oh, Gods, Ginny – I'm sorry, really. I didn't mean-"

"You never do," she interrupted, avoiding his eyes as she stepped around him and walked steadily towards the door. Once she was outside, tears clouded her vision and made everything blurry.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~


Draco had never been more relieved to see the inside of his bedroom. The trip had been a long and exhausting one, and the new labor contracts had taken forever to negotiate. The meetings had been tedious for more reasons than that, though – his thoughts kept sneaking back to a red-headed woman that he knew was home, just waiting for him to return. A slow smile crept to his lips as he tossed his heavy cloak onto the foot of his bed.

The day before he'd left, they'd had an extremely pleasant day. He had to admit that it was one of the best days he'd had in a long time – and the enjoyment was compounded by the knowledge that she'd been enjoying herself as well. From the serious conversations to the flirtatious teasing, he'd enjoyed every last moment of her company.

It was too bad, he thought, that he hadn't asked her to accompany him on his business trip. She would have been a welcome distraction from all of the boring businessmen who had fought for his attention. He sniggered softly – no, he would never have even gone to the damned meetings if she'd been with him. She hadn't spent the night with him after their trip to Rome, and that made it three consecutive nights that he hadn't been near her; three consecutive days and nights of not being able to touch her or taste her or even look at her.

He found that he actually missed her smile almost as much as he missed the feel of her skin on his, and that was somewhat surprising.

He loosened his tie and started to kick off his shoes before he realized what he was doing. He had been home less than two minutes, and he was obsessing about his mistress. He frowned at the thought and forced himself to continue undressing. Mistress sounded so crass when he thought about it – it suggested intimate physical contact, but nothing more, and that was definitely not what was going on between them.

What was going on between them, exactly?

She'd agreed to the terms he'd set forth when they'd started seeing each other, and why? Just so she could share his bed? His frown deepened. That didn't sound like something she'd do, and he had to wonder about it. Did she really enjoy his company that much? She'd asked for nothing of his, and he'd demanded everything from her – her time, her attention, and even a meeting with her family.

He cast a cursory glance around his room before lying down on his bed and closing his eyes. His entire body ached to be near her; his hands itched to touch her satiny skin. He would not give in to this urge, however – she would take it as a sign of weakness on his part if he sought her out immediately after his return.

Wouldn't she?

He tossed and turned for nearly an hour as he tried to banish images of her from his mind's eye, to no avail. Finally, when he could hear the giant clock in the hallway striking twelve, he rose from his bed and slipped his shoes on. Damn his pride, and damn his stubbornness – he needed to see her.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~


Ginny sat up in her bed when she heard the sound of someone flooing into her flat. There were only a handful of people who were allowed access to her floo, and for someone to visit her at this time of night, something had to be wrong.

She threw the covers off and stood up, but before she could leave her bedroom to investigate, the visitor showed himself. As soon as she saw the cool slate of his eyes and the flaxen strands that hung loosely around his face, her knees began to feel weak and butterflies erupted in the pit of her stomach.

"You're back," she said, feeling stupid. He folded his arms over his chest as he leaned against the doorframe, and drank in the sight of her.

"You have a gift for stating the obvious," he drawled. She rolled her eyes and put her hands on her hips.

"Thanks for pointing that out," she said sarcastically. Then her expression softened. "How was your trip?"

"Boring."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"Are you?" he asked, arching an eyebrow as he looked at her. The gesture was a normal one, but for some reason it made her heart leap. He cocked his head to the side. "No, I don't think you are."

"Don't be stupid," she said, struggling to keep her voice steady. "Of course I am. Did you think I wanted you to go away and not enjoy yourself?"

"And by enjoy myself, you mean what, exactly?"

"I didn't mean anything by it," she said, her face turning red. "I just meant that – oh, sod it all," she said, throwing her hands up in exasperation. "Never mind what I meant!" Draco's eyes narrowed into slits.

"What did you do this weekend?" he took a stealthy step towards her, and she blinked.

"I did some cleaning, and I went out for a few drinks."

"Alone?" he asked suspiciously.

"Of course I went alone," she said, bewildered. "If you don't believe me, you can ask Rosmerta. She saw me there."

"And what in the bloody fucking hell is this, then?" he snarled, indicating her right arm. She looked down and paled – she'd forgotten about the bruise that Harry had bestowed upon her. Four perfect, slender finger-shaped bruises were plainly visible on her arm where he'd held her. She took a steadying breath before meeting Draco's eyes, which had gone cold with pale fury.

"Someone wanted me to have a drink with him, and I said no."

He glared at her for a moment, and then his lips tightened into a thin line. "I don't think I need to ask to know who it was."

"No, I'm sure you don't," she said softly, looking down again.

"Were the two of you fighting? What else happened? Do you have bruises anywhere else?"

"We weren't fighting, but we were arguing. I don't have bruises anywhere else, although you're welcome to check if you'd like," she said caustically.

"I will, actually." She blinked, startled.

"What?"

"I want to have a look," he said calmly, the anger still there, but held in check. "He's already going to pay for this, but if I find that he's left marks anywhere else-"

"He hasn't," she snapped finally. "I was trying to leave, and he grabbed my arm. That's it. Like I said, ask Rosmerta if you don't believe me – she saw everything."

"Why didn't you contact me when it happened?"

"I didn't want to bother you while you were on a business trip," she said incredulously. "Besides, what would you have been able to do?"

"I would have hexed him to hell and back."

"In front of all of Rosmerta's patrons? You'd have been in Azkaban before you could blink! And while I'm sure that Harry would love to see that happen, I wouldn't!"

"Why?" he asked suspiciously.

"Because I care about you, you great stupid git!" she yelled, stomping a foot petulantly. He fell silent and simply stared at her. He stared for so long that she started to squirm under his gaze.

Without speaking a word, he closed the distance between them and slipped a hand behind her to cradle her head, and brought his mouth to hers. She kissed him back with equal fervor, and he moaned as she pressed herself against him. His desire for her was obvious as it pressed against her leg, and her pulse began to race so fast that she wondered if she might go into some sort of shock from it.

Then coherent thought stopped as his tongue parted her lips and gained entrance. The kiss was wild and made Ginny's head spin crazily. Her arms were locked around his neck as he backed her towards the bed. When the backs of her knees hit the edge of the mattress, he pushed her gently, falling onto the bed with her.

His mouth moved from hers to explore her neck, creating a tingling sensation on her skin wherever it touched. She closed her eyes and arched her back, needing to be closer to him. She'd done nothing but think about him for the last three days, and now he was here, and in her bed, and touching her. Nothing else mattered.

She tugged at the shorts she'd been wearing as pyjamas, and he helped her tug them off. Just as quickly, his pants were gone, and when he slid into her, she let out a low moan of satisfaction. His eyes slipped shut as he savored the sensation of being inside of her after imagining it for the time he'd been gone. Somehow his imagination had managed to forget how good this felt; had neglected to convey the glorious heat and perfect fit of her slick walls.

He stayed still for a few moments, simply enjoying the feel of her surrounding him. When she wriggled her hips slightly, he was spurred into action. At first his movements were slow and rhythmic, but when she began bucking her hips against him, his control snapped. His thrusts came hard and fast, causing Ginny to cry out his name repeatedly. When she climaxed, she wrapped her legs around him and brought his face to hers, capturing his lips in a brutal kiss. The combined feel of her walls tightening around him and the demanding kiss was enough to push him over the edge as well. Their mouths remained locked together as he emptied himself inside of her, causing him to moan inside the kiss.

They stayed locked together for several minutes, and finally, when his breathing had steadied, he lifted his head to meet her eyes.

"Welcome home," she said, smiling wickedly. A slow grin spread across his face, and he shook his head.

"You're twisted."

"And you like it."

"Was that a welcome home shag for me, or was it an 'I'm glad you're back' shag for you?"

"Both," she admitted, laughing. He pulled away and lay beside her, rolling onto his side and propping his head up with his hand so he could look at her.

"So you admit that you missed me desperately, then," he said, smirking. She rolled her eyes.

"Of course, since I ran right to the Manor the moment you got back," she teased. His cheeks turned slightly pink.

"I didn't come here the moment I got back," he said, sounding defensive. She reached over and touched his cheek gently.

"I was only teasing. I'm glad you came over."

"Are you?" he asked softly, his eyes roaming over her face.

"I am. I'm very glad you came to see me," she whispered back, letting her hand drop. She watched his eyes move down and stop on the bruises that marred the pale skin of her upper arm. The marks had turned a violent purple shade, and looked very much out of place on her otherwise creamy complexion. He frowned and bent his head, catching her by complete surprise when he pressed his lips lightly to the angry marks.

"I'll kill him for touching you," he swore, lifting his eyes to hers. Emotion rushed through her like a tidal wave, constricting her throat and making it hard for her to breathe.

"I don't want you to do anything that's going to get you thrown into Azkaban," she returned, her voice shaking. "Harry has three shifts a week as a guard there, and there's no telling what he'd do to you when he was unsupervised – and you wouldn't have a way to defend yourself against him."

"I've got to do something," he said angrily, shaking his head. "I can't just let him think that he can get away with this."

"I know that I can't talk you out of this," she began, her eyes fairly glowing in the dim light of the room. "But whatever you do, please be careful. I don't want you to get caught and-" she stopped herself. She'd been about to say that she didn't want him to do anything that got him taken away from her. The thought made her cheeks burn.

"And what?" he prompted, his eyebrows shooting up. She shook her head and glanced away from him, and he had the answer to every question he'd been asking himself earlier – she didn't see this as a simple agreement between them, after all. He didn't know why it had happened, and he wasn't sure how, but he knew that she'd been telling the truth earlier – she cared about him. The realization that he was more to her than just a casual shag made his head feel foggy.

"I just don't want anything to happen to you, okay?" she asked softly, her eyes focused on the sheets. He reached out and tilted her chin up with his forefinger, forcing her to look him in the eye.

"Would you miss me terribly if something happened to me?" He smirked.

"Quit being a prat," she said exasperatedly. "You're not taking me seriously at all!"

"Oh, kitten," he said, shaking his head. "I'm taking you very seriously."

"Why do you call me that?" she asked curiously.

"What? Kitten?"

"Yeah."

"Because you remind me of one."

"That's sort of disappointing," she said, laughing. "Kittens are tame and weak."

"Kittens have sharp claws," he corrected her, lightly running a finger over her bottom lip. Her breathing became ragged as his finger trailed down over her chin, back across her jawline, and down the length of her throat. When his finger traced her collarbone, she shivered. "I would call you a wildcat, but it doesn't have quite the same ring, now, does it?"

"No," she agreed, her eyes slipping shut.

"Do you dislike it when I call you kitten?"

"No," she admitted, another shiver racking her body.

He smiled.

"I didn't think so. Now why don't you tell me your idea of getting back at Potter – the one that will keep me out of Azkaban?"

"I don't have a plan," she said breathlessly, opening her eyes. "But it has to be something that he doesn't see coming, and it would work better if it were subtle."

"As in?"

"I would tell you to date me, but since you're already doing that, I have no idea what to do."

"I thought you didn't like being a tool for revenge," he said, highly amused. His finger was tracing the outline of a breast now, and he was thoroughly enjoying the way her nipple hardened as he watched.

"I don't mind it so much anymore," she admitted, her eyes hooded as she looked at him. "I rather think that I'm getting the better end of the bargain."

"Oh?" he asked interestedly. "And how is that?"

"I don't have to worry about impressing anyone. All I have to worry about is the next shag." He laughed before he could stop himself – a deep, throaty sound that shot through Ginny and went straight to her core.

"Who said I was trying to impress anyone?"

"I'm not stupid, Draco. I know you're using me to get to Harry."

"And that doesn't bother you any longer?"

"Not really, no."

"What's changed?"

She didn't speak – instead, she held up her bruised arm and glanced down at it.

"I see. So it took him physically hurting you to make you see what an incredible jackass he is?"

"No. It just made me realize that he can be dangerous when he wants to be."

"Are you frightened of him?"

"I'm not scared of him, I'm scared of not really knowing what he's capable of."

"In that case, are you frightened of me as well?"

"Absolutely not."

"I can be cruel."

"I know."

"And you're still not frightened?"

"No. Should I be? Am I in danger when I'm around you – are you planning something that I don't know about?"

"Everyone is in danger when they're around me," he said, arching an eyebrow. "I would have thought that your family would have ingrained that belief in you."

"I like to judge people on their merits, not on their reputation."

"That's very diplomatic of you," he drawled, his finger moving down across her stomach.

"Am I in danger around you?" she repeated softly.

"What do you think?"

"I don't feel like I am."

"Then I suppose you're safe, aren't you?"

"How do I know for sure?"

"This is not the time to start doubting me, kitten. You're in a decidedly disadvantaged position, in case you hadn't noticed," he smirked, indicating the path of his wayward finger. She sucked in a ragged breath as his hand moved below her navel.

"You play dirty," she observed, moving her hips slightly. His smirk turned into a satisfied smile.

"As if there were any other way to play."
19 :: Acumen by CliodnaHPFan
The Broken Road, Chapter 19 :: Acumen

There was nowhere left to turn. In a cruel twist of fate that she’d had no control over, she had fallen in love with her best friend. Because of that simple fact, she’d been ostracized by her friends as surely as though she’d been condemned to carry some dreaded disease that had no cure.

There was nothing left to do, then, but wait. And oh, how Hermione hated waiting for anything. Why should she be punished and persecuted for falling in love? She had no more control over who she loved than she had control over the weather, so why was everyone acting as though she’d committed some cardinal, unforgivable sin?

Love was never wrong. Was it?

Lately she’d been having doubts about everything, and that was very much out of character for her. She’d begun doubting her accuracy at her job in the Ministry, and had started making stupid mistakes. She’d started to forget things easily. She’d thought at first that it was just the giddy aftermath of Harry’s divorce and his moving in with her.
Now she wondered if giddy aftermath was the right terminology for what was going on. She was positively distracted by him every second of the day. Where was he? What was he doing? Was he with someone else? Was he following her?

She understood that it was difficult for Harry to simply let go of the woman he’d taken to wife and lived with for several years, but her patience was beginning to wear thin. She missed having Harry’s absolute attention when they were together, and she missed the special smiles that he used to give her. It made her wonder who he was saving them for now.

She sighed and shook her head to try and clear her mind of the traitorous thoughts she was having, but they refused to budge. When they’d entered into this tryst, Harry had behaved as though he’d die if he wasn’t with her. Now she just wished that he would make up his mind, since he didn’t seem to know what he wanted anymore. She knew that if he stayed, things would have to change between them. She also knew that, should he choose to leave and seek happiness elsewhere, it would crush her.

Perhaps it was no more than she deserved, she thought bitterly. She’d already lost her two dearest friends as a result of her affair – Ginny for obvious reasons, and Ron, who had labeled her a traitor the moment he’d got wind of her situation. Even if she and Harry were through that very moment, she knew it wouldn’t do any good. She’d lost Ron forever – there was no turning back now.

She had no choice but to plow ahead and pray for the best.

How nice it would have been, though, to have had someone to talk to about it all! She thought wistfully, ducking into Honeyduke’s just as a light rain began to fall. She shivered and headed towards the Sugar Quills – her favorite sweet – and had just reached for a box when she heard the tinkling of familiar laughter.

She turned slowly and glanced in the direction of the offensive noise, stiffening involuntarily when she saw the distinctive head of white-blonde hair next to the equally unique head of copper hair. Ginny was laughing at something he had said, her eyes crinkled up in the corners and her smile wide. It was an expression that made Hermione’s chest ache; Ginny was genuinely happy, and when was the last time she’d felt that way?

She really wished her old friend no ill will; they had simply fallen in love with the same man, and that was something that couldn’t be helped. Hermione turned back to her box of treats and took it to the counter to pay for it, trying to ignore the pain that was welling up inside of her. She paid for her items and ducked out of the shop as quickly as she could, hoping that she’d gone unnoticed.

When she reached home without incident, she was sure that she hadn’t been seen. She went inside her flat and closed the door, heading straight for the bedroom. She threw herself face first onto the bed and finally let loose of all of the pent-up emotion that had been building for the last several weeks. The result was only the release of some of the pressure in the form of tears, but also a terrible headache from the force of her crying.

And she didn’t really feel that much better anyway, she thought, sniffling. But she didn’t know how else to release the pressure; she didn’t have flying as an outlet like Harry did, and she didn’t know what Ginny did to feel better, but she was sure she didn’t have that, either. There was no way that she could concentrate properly on a book with the headache she had, so what was a girl to do?

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


“Mother wants us to come and have dinner with her,” Pansy said, flipping through the pages of a magazine. Neville didn’t look away from the plant that he was tending to.

“That’s nice. When?”

Pansy glanced up at him, arching an eyebrow. The tone of his voice clearly indicated that he wasn’t paying attention. “Tomorrow night.”

“Mmm hmm.”

“She wants to discuss the details of the wedding.”

“Okay.” She closed her magazine and frowned at him.

“She’s decided that she’s going to marry you instead of me.”

“All right.”

“Neville!” she shrieked, throwing the magazine onto the table in front of her. He jumped, startled by her outburst, and made a quick check of the plant to make sure that he hadn’t harmed it before he looked up at her.

“What?”

“You are not paying attention to me!”

“I am, too,” he said defensively. “You said … er… “Pansy put her hands on her hips and glared at him as his face turned scarlet. “You said something about your Mother.”

“I said that she was going to marry you instead of me, you pillock! See? You weren’t listening!”

“That’s not fair,” he said, moving away from the table. “You know that when I’m working with my plants, they require my full attention.”

“Yes, well,” she pouted. “When I’m with you, I require your full attention, too.” He closed the distance between them and wrapped her in his arms.

“What’s really bothering you, love? You’ve been short-tempered with everyone lately.”

“I don’t know,” she lied, burying her head in his chest. He frowned as he rested his chin on her head.

“Pansy, I can tell that you’re not telling me the truth. Is it so bad that you would want to keep it from me? Whatever it is, we’ll handle it together. I promise.”

Pansy heaved a deep sigh and mumbled something into his shirt. His frown deepened.

“I can’t hear you. What did you say?” She mumbled again, louder this time. He pushed away gently and held her at arms’ length. “Tell me again.”

She glanced down at her feet once before looking back up at him. “I’m pregnant.”

Neville’s jaw dropped.

“Well? Aren’t you going to say anything?” she begged, her eyebrows knitting in worry.

“We’re going to have a – I’m going to be a –“ he swallowed hard. “Are you sure? I mean, are you absolutely positive?

“Yes, I’m sure!” she snapped. “I saw the Mediwitch last week!”

“You’ve kept this to yourself for a whole week?” He laughed softly and pulled her closer. “Well then, it’s no wonder you’ve been so short with everyone, having to carry a secret like that around.”

“You’re not upset?” she asked incredulously.

“Why in Merlin’s name would I be upset?” he asked, puzzled. “I’m going to be a father! We’re going to be a family!”

“You –“ She paused to take a deep breath. “You mean you’re happy about this?”

“Why wouldn’t I be? Aren’t you?”

“I’m not sure,” she admitted, averting her eyes. “I mean, I wanted kids eventually, but we’re not even married yet. Doesn’t that seem a bit soon to you?”

“I know we didn’t plan for it, but now that it’s going to happen, I can’t wait. Just think about it – you and I, Mum and Dad.” Pansy paled.

“I don’t know if I can be someone’s Mum,” she said, shaking her head.

“Why in the world not?”

“I’m too selfish and wrapped up in my own affairs to worry about a baby.”

“Nonsense. You wait and see – the moment the baby arrives, he or she will be the center of your universe. You’ll forget all about me.” He gave her a reassuring smile, and she sighed. She closed her eyes as she rested her cheek against his chest.

“How can you have so much faith in me, when I have none in myself?”

“I have enough faith in you for both of us, love. When the time comes, I have no doubt that you’ll be a great Mum.”

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


When Harry stormed into the flat, Hermione barely glanced up from her book. It had become the norm, whether or not she liked it, for Harry to be angry upon returning home. As a matter of fact, she realized suddenly, Harry never came home when he wasn’t angry. She adjusted the light in the room, making it slightly brighter, and went back to her book. It was unusual for her to be reading a book like this, but for some reason, a trashy romance novel seemed like the perfect choice today.

“Hermione?” Harry called from the living room.

“In the bedroom,” she called back distractedly. She smelled him before she saw him – he favored one particular brand of cologne, and she’d grown to love it not because of the smell, but because it was what he wore.

“What are you doing?”

“Reading.”

“No, I meant what are you doing home? I went by to take you out to lunch, and they said you’d owled in this morning.”

“You were going to take me out to lunch?” she asked, surprised enough to look up from the yellowed pages of her book. “Why?”

“Because I thought you might like to eat sometime today,” he returned, frowning. “Are you sick?”

“Not really,” she said, shaking her head.

“Do you have a migraine?”

“Not anymore. I took some headache relief potion that Severus sent me, and I feel much better now.” Harry grimaced. He’d never really grown accustomed to the tentative friendship that had formed between Hermione and Snape after the fall of Voldemort, and to hear her referring to him by his first name made his skin crawl.

“Are you going to go into work later?”

“Why would I do that? I’ve already got the entire day off.”

“It’s not like you to not go into work, Hermione,” he said finally, sitting at the foot of the bed near her bare feet. “Is something the matter?”

“Harry,” she sighed, putting her bookmark in between the pages she’d been reading. She set her book down on the nightstand that was nearby and looked back at him. “Nothing is the matter. I’m fine. I just didn’t feel like going in to work today. It’s not something I plan to make a habit of doing; I just felt like I had enough sick days built up that they wouldn’t miss me for a day.”

He seemed to relax a bit at this. “Have you eaten lunch already?”

“No. When I get headaches, it makes me nauseated to even think about eating.”

“But you said you took the potion,” he protested.

“I did. And I feel better.”

“So do you want to go get something to eat with me?”

“What were you thinking about?”

“Why can’t you just tell me yes or no?” he asked, frustrated. “Do you not want to eat with me?”

“Harry, don’t be ridiculous,” she chastised gently, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. “I just wondered where you wanted to go so I would know how to dress.”

“Oh.”

“Besides, we haven’t eaten lunch together in weeks,” she said softly, rising from the bed and turning her back to him as she moved towards the dresser. She retrieved her hairbrush off of it and began pulling it through her hair.

“I know, and I’m sorry,” he said quickly. “I was thinking something outside – it’s cool outside today, not freezing cold, and I thought it would be a nice change.”

She turned and gave him a surprised look. “It would,” she agreed, smiling.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


“I’m worried about you, dear.”

“I’m fine, Mother. I promise.”

“Are you sure? I’ve been meaning to check in on you for the past few days, and I kept getting distracted.”

“I understand, but I’m fine. Really.”

“And how is Ginevra? I haven’t seen anything in the papers lately about the two of you, but I heard from Giovanni that you brought her to the Roscioli.”

“That was last week, Mother. I’m surprised that Giovanni didn’t contact you sooner to tell you,” Draco said, his lips twisting in a wry smile. His Mother smiled brilliantly at him from the green flames of the fireplace in his bedroom.

“How did she like it?”

“I think she was more enamored of the coffee than anything else,” he said, shaking his head. Narcissa laughed softly.

“A woman after my own heart, I see. I should be home in a few days, darling. You know where to find me, don’t you?”

“Yes, Mother. You stay in the same place every time you visit. I know exactly how to reach you, though I can assure you, I won’t need to.”

Narcissa’s disembodied head eyed him thoughtfully, and he arched an eyebrow at her.

“What is it? I can tell you’re dying to say something.”

“I was just wondering when you’re going to ask the creature to marry you, is all,” she said nonchalantly. He blinked at her.

“Excuse me?”

“She’s perfect, you know. She’s pureblooded, she’s lovely, and I can tell that she has spirit. She’s obviously captured your attention. Has she captured your heart as well?”

Draco opened and closed his mouth several times before he found his voice. “You like her, then?”

“Absolutely. She’s the only woman you’ve brought home that has shown me the proper respect as your mother. Not to mention that she has lovely table manners as well.”

Draco smiled slightly at this.

“So you approve of her because of her table manners?”

“No, I approve of her because you like her.”

“And how can you tell that?”

“A mother can always tell these things. You didn’t really like any of the other women you brought home to meet me; you treated them poorly.”

“And I treated her differently?” he asked, interested.

“You treated her with respect.” Narcissa turned and said something to someone behind her, then turned back to her son. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to end this conversation, darling. My dinner has just been brought to me, and I’d like to eat it before it gets cold.”

“Absolutely, go enjoy your dinner. Have fun, and I’ll see you when you get back.”

“There’s no need to go to a jeweler, you know,” she said shrewdly. “There are plenty of perfectly beautiful rings in the family vault. Go and look for yourself.”

“Mother, I never said I was going to propose to her.”

“You didn’t have to. Ciao, darling!” With that, her head disappeared from the flames. Draco rose from his chair and ran his fingers through his unruly hair. His mother’s floo call had woken him from a deep sleep and vivid dreams about Ginny.

Just as he was about to climb back into bed, he heard the fireplace pop again. “What’d you forget?” he asked, without turning around.

“I haven’t forgotten anything,” came the tart reply. Draco turned to see Pansy glaring at him.

“Oh – hey, Parkinson. I thought you were someone else.”

“Obviously.”

“Wait – what in the ruddy hell are you doing flooing me at this ungodly hour of the morning?”

“Better yet, what in the ruddy hell are you doing up at this ungodly hour of the morning?” she shot back. He shook his head.

“Just tell me what you wanted.”

“Aren’t we just a ray of sunshine today?”

“Parkinson,” he said warningly. She rolled her eyes.

“Fine. Neville and I want you to meet us for dinner tonight.”

“Is something wrong?” he asked, studying her face. She looked paler than usual, but that could have been a side effect of the green flames that were surrounding her.

“No, nothing’s wrong,” she sighed impatiently. “Does something have to be wrong for us to invite you to dinner? Honestly!”

“Where should I meet you, and at what time?”

“Renaldo’s at eight thirty. And you can bring Ginny.”

Draco shot her an irritated look. “As if I needed your permission to bring my girlfriend.”

Pansy’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Girlfriend?” she echoed. “That sounds serious. Are you going to propose?”

“What?” he demanded. “Where do you infernal women get me proposing out of dating her?”

“You’ve never, ever referred to a woman as your girlfriend, Draco Malfoy – or at least, not since I’ve known you.”

“I take it back, then.”

“Too late now. Does she know that you’re this serious?”

Draco threw his hands up in the air in frustration. “Who in the bloody fucking hell said that I was serious? It was a slip of the tongue – one that I don’t intend to repeat!”

“Don’t get so defensive,” she said. “Personally I think it’s fantastic.”

“You do?”

“Ginny’s perfect for you. She’s got a temper, so she won’t take any of your shit when you get mad. She’s sweet enough to take care of you when you need it. And she’s apparently got the same sex drive as you.”

“And how would you know about her sex drive?”

“I don’t know about hers, but I know something about yours, and you would’ve lost interest in her in the beginning if she couldn’t keep up with you in the bedroom,” she said, shrugging. “Anyway, meet us there. I’ll see you later.”

For the second time in less than an hour, Draco was left feeling as though everyone in his life knew more about him than he did.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


Ginny had just stepped out of the shower when she heard the pop in her flat signaling someone’s apparition. With her towel wrapped tightly around her, she moved into her bedroom. Draco was sitting on the edge of her bed, a smirk already plastered on his face.

“Waiting for me, were you, kitten?” Ginny smiled and rolled her eyes.

“Pleasure to see you, too.”

“It would be even more of a pleasure if I got to see all of you,” he replied coolly, his eyebrow arched. Warmth shot through her and collected in a puddle in the pit of her stomach. Her smile softened.

“Is that what you came over here for? To see all of me?”

“No, it’s a fringe benefit,” he drawled, rising from the bed and moving towards her. “I actually came to tell you that we’re going out for dinner tonight.”

“Oh?” she asked, her pulse racing as he closed the distance between them.

“Parkinson and Longbottom are meeting us there,” he murmured, his eyes on the pale flesh of her breasts that was just visible above the towel. He touched his fingertip to her collarbone, tracing it lightly through the moisture that remained from her dripping hair. She shivered.

“What should I wear?” she asked distractedly.

“You know, I find it interesting that I haven’t seen you in over eight hours, and you’re worried about what to wear for dinner.”

“You were the one who wanted a night alone, remember?” she pointed out, her eyes slipping shut. “If you suffered last night without a woman’s touch, it’s through no one’s fault but your own.”

“Why don’t you make it up to me now?” he suggested silkily.

“What time do we have to meet them?”

“What does it matter?”

“I want to know how much time we have,” she said, opening her eyes and meeting his. He gave her a wicked smile and pulled the towel down, letting it puddle around her feet.

“We have hours. Now show me how much you missed me.”
20 :: Lamentations by CliodnaHPFan
The Broken Road, Chapter 20 :: Lamentations

“Ginny! You look stunning,” Neville said, grinning as he wrapped his dearest friend in a tight hug. Draco’s lips thinned and his countenance darkened as he watched the display.

“All right, Longbottom, you can stop pawing my date.” Ginny turned and gave him a surprised look as Pansy rolled her eyes.

“As if Neville has any interest in her,” she said acidly, wrapping Draco in a quick hug as well. If their hug wasn’t as warm as the one Ginny and Neville had shared, no one said anything about it.

“How have you been?” Ginny asked, turning to Pansy with a genuine smile. “I haven’t heard from you two in a while – I was beginning to wonder if maybe you hadn’t run off and eloped.”

“Not yet,” Pansy said, returning the smile. Draco watched in mild amazement as the two women managed to carry on a somewhat decent conversation, and he wondered at it. Did Ginny just have the effect of putting anyone at ease like that? It seemed as though the two women were getting along like they were old friends instead of former enemies, and it made him wonder.

“So,” Neville said, clearing his throat. Draco arched an eyebrow as he turned to look at him. “How are the two of you getting along? Everything going well?”

“Everything is fine,” Draco replied coolly. Neville glanced at his friend, who was disappearing into the kitchen with his fiancé.

“She seems happy enough,” he muttered. Draco’s eyes narrowed.

“And what exactly is that supposed to mean?” Neville turned back to Draco.

“It means exactly that if you hurt her, I will kill you.” Draco’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. He’d never heard Longbottom sound so certain and – well, dangerous.

“Is that so.”

“Yes, that’s so. You may not consider me much of a threat, but I will be if you do anything to screw this up. She’s been hurt enough without having to factor you into the equation.”

“I’ve already been threatened by her brother,” Draco drawled calmly, pouring himself a snifter full of the brandy that had been set out for dinner. “I don’t need the overprotective act from you, too, Longbottom.”

“Oh yes you do,” Neville asserted, his expression deadly serious. “I don’t think you truly understand what you’ve gotten yourself into, here, Malfoy. There are a lot of people who love her and will do anything to keep her from getting hurt again.”

“I realize that.”

“Do you?” Neville tilted his head to study Draco for a moment. “If you realize that, then surely you also realize that should you do anything to screw up what you have with her, Harry will be right there, trying to get her back.”

Draco’s eyes snapped up and narrowed as he glared at the man across from him. “She’d never have him back. Besides, Potter isn’t going to have a chance to try and win her back.”

“You’d better make damn sure of that,” Neville said, plastering a smile on his face as the women re-entered the room. Draco had begun feeling strangely lightheaded. From the way that the other man had been talking, he would almost think that Longbottom wanted him and Ginny together. Was that even possible, considering that Longbottom had always hated him?

“Uh oh,” Pansy said, smiling cautiously at the two men. “It looks like we may have interrupted some serious conversation,” she said, turning to see if Ginny had seen what she had. The thin line of Ginny’s lips pressed together told her that she had. The men were standing several feet apart, their eyes hard and their backs stiff. Whatever they had been discussing in the women’s absence hadn’t been pleasant.

“Not really,” Neville said, shaking his head and giving Pansy a weak smile. She arched an eyebrow at him but said nothing – she would find out exactly what had been said as soon as their guests were gone. “What is that tantalizing smell?” he asked, changing the subject abruptly.

“Turkey,” she said simply, placing a dish of jacket potatoes on the table. Ginny deposited the dish of rolls she had been carrying, and smiled as Neville’s eyes lit up.

“You made a turkey?” Draco asked, cautious skepticism in his voice. “I’ve never known you to cook.”

“I didn’t say I made it,” she said, her voice taking on an icy edge. “He asked what the smell was, and I told him.”

Ginny cleared her throat as Draco opened his mouth to reply. “I think it smells lovely, too. I’m so hungry, the smell of it is making my mouth water.”

“Why don’t we go ahead and have a seat?” Neville suggested, gesturing to the dinner table.

“Absolutely,” Ginny replied, hurrying to sit down. Draco frowned as Neville helped Pansy into her seat, and then took one of his own. They all gave Draco expectant looks, waiting for him to be seated, too.

“Why are we sitting down when the food isn’t even ready yet?” he asked coolly.

“Sometimes it’s nice to have a little pre-dinner conversation,” Neville said calmly. Ginny nodded in agreement.

“That’s usually done in the parlor,” Draco returned dryly. “Or in your case, the living room.”

“Draco, for fuck’s sake, just sit down,” Pansy snapped irritably. Too startled for one of his immediate witty remarks, Draco did as he was told and sat down at the table beside Ginny. “I might as well get this over with,” Pansy said, pinching the bridge of her nose.

“I knew there was an ulterior motive for inviting us over tonight,” Draco snipped. The noise that came from Pansy could only be described as a growl, and Neville placed his hand gently on her arm to try and calm her down.

“Draco,” Ginny intoned gently, shaking her head when he looked at her. His frown deepened, but he kept his lips clamped together while Pansy made an effort to calm herself. After several deep breaths and some softly whispered words of encouragement from Neville, she lifted her eyes to meet Draco’s.

“I’m pregnant.”

Draco’s jaw dropped, and Ginny bit her lip, waiting for his response. He glanced between Pansy and Neville, noting the extremely pleased look that the latter wore, and the half-worried, half-angry look that Pansy was donning.

“By your own consent?” he blurted. Neville’s eyes snapped over to his, full of fury.

“Are you trying to suggest that I’ve done something to my fiancée?” Neville demanded, his expression turning stony. Warning flags went up in Ginny’s mind at the tone of voice he was using to address Draco – it was rare for Neville to get so angry, but she’d seen his temper enough to know that Draco was edging into very dangerous territory.

“Draco,” she said, turning to him with a weak smile, “why don’t you and I go and get the turkey, so Pansy doesn’t have to carry it?”

“You expect me to come over here and work like a house elf when I’m a guest?” he asked incredulously.

“No,” she said impatiently. “I expect you to do it as a favor to your friend, Pansy.”

She didn’t wait for his answer before rising from her chair and practically dragging him behind her into the kitchen. Once they were safely inside and the door had closed, she turned on him.

“What in the bloody hell do you think you’re doing? Have you lost your mind?”

“I beg your pardon?” he asked, his eyes narrowing dangerously.

“They invited us over here just to tell us that she’s pregnant, and instead of congratulating them, you immediately insinuate that Neville’s done something wrong!”

“In case you hadn’t noticed, she didn’t look particularly pleased about the whole situation,” he pointed out coldly, watching her slip oven mitts on and remove the turkey from the oven. When she’d placed it on the stovetop, she yanked the mitts off and threw them at his chest.

“I did notice that, actually! But instead of accusing Neville of some sort of wrongdoing, I asked her what was wrong!”

“And?”

“And she’s worried that she won’t make a good mother!” Ginny hissed, her eyes darting furtively towards the door. “That’s why she’s so upset, Draco. She’s worried out of her mind!”

“What?” He gave her a look of utter disbelief. “I’ve never known her to doubt success at anything she undertakes.”

“Well she’s doubting herself now!” she insisted, her hands flying to her hips. “Becoming a parent is a big step in her relationship with Neville, and it’s a big change in anyone’s life.”

“How would you know?” he sneered, his anger getting the best of him. “You’ve never been pregnant.” She clamped her lips together and turned her back to him, rummaging through a drawer for another set of oven mitts. Her silence bothered him. “I said, you’ve never been pregnant.”

“I heard what you said,” she replied, her voice deathly calm. A shudder shot through him as he took a step forward.

“You’re not agreeing with me,” he said coolly.

“That’s because you’re wrong,” she said, pulling a set of mitts out of the drawer. She’d just slipped them on when he grabbed her by the shoulders and forced her to turn and face him.

“You lied to me! You told me that Potter couldn’t get you pregnant!”

“No, if you’d been listening, you’d remember that I didn’t say anything,” she snapped, trying to wriggle away from him. It was no use; his grip on her shoulders was so tight, it was nigh to bruising.

“If he can’t have children, how could you get pregnant - unless you cheated on him with someone?”

She wasn’t so restrained that she couldn’t get her hand free, but he was still surprised when she slapped him.

“Let me go!” She gave him a good, hard shove and broke away from him. Her eyes were wild and full of unshed tears when she turned back to him. “I never said that just because Harry couldn’t have children that I couldn’t get pregnant – you assumed that!”

“Potter got you pregnant?” he asked skeptically, his chest throbbing painfully where she’d shoved him.

“Several times, not that it mattered!”

“Then how do you know that the problem didn’t lie with you?”

“How dare you,” she hissed, tears falling from her eyes, despite her efforts not to cry. She ignored them. “I went to Muggle doctors and Mediwitches, and they all said that I was fine, and that there was no reason for me to be miscarrying the way I was. And what the hell does it matter to you, anyway? It’s not like we’re ever going to have children together, so why are you even bringing it up? Just to hurt me?”

He opened his mouth, but before he could reply, she shook her head.

“Save it,” she said, turning her eyes away from him. “I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care. Just drop it.”

“You accused me, and I deserve a chance to defend myself.”

“Don’t bother,” she snorted, pushing past him and out of the kitchen. He heard some raised voices from the other room, and waited until they’d died down before exiting the kitchen himself. Neville and Pansy were seated at the table in the same spots they’d been in before he and Ginny had gone into the kitchen, and they shot him angry glares as he sat back down.

“I’ll go get the turkey,” Neville said finally, rising from the table. When he’d gone, Draco waited for Pansy to say something to him. He was utterly surprised when she remained silent and didn’t even make eye contact with him.

After several minutes of the silent treatment, though, he began to grow weary of it. Neville had brought the turkey in, sat it on the table, and was carving it. He put some on Pansy’s plate, along with some of each of the side dishes, and did the same for himself. When they started eating, Draco frowned.

“It’s rude to start eating without everyone present,” he snarked.

“Everyone is present,” Neville said sharply. Draco stiffened in his seat.

“No, they aren’t. Where is she, in the loo, or something? Having a good cry at my expense?”

“You’re an insensitive prat,” Pansy said calmly, taking a sip of her wine. “She went home.”

“She did not.”

“I assure you, she did - and with good reason, from what I understand.” Pansy shot him a look of utter disgust before picking up her fork.

Draco said nothing. Instead, he simply rose from his seat, strode to the floo, and disappeared.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


He couldn’t remember ever being so angry in his entire life, and for Draco Malfoy, that was saying something.

She’d blocked off his access to her floo. She was returning owls without reading the letters he’d sent. She was refusing to answer the door when he knocked.

He was at his wit’s end.

He’d never been denied access to anything he wanted, and to have it happen now was just unacceptable. How dare she refuse him like this? What had he done that was so terrible, that she should treat him like… oh.

Well, he thought, it wasn’t as though he’d actually done something terrible, was it? He’d simply asked if she’d gotten pregnant by someone other than her husband. It had seemed logical at the time – if Potter was sterile, then how in Merlin’s name would she have gotten impregnated by him? It wasn’t his fault that he’d forgotten how vehemently she reacted when accused of cheating.

And Salazar be damned, why was he dwelling on this so much? He shoved the plate of eggs away from him and rubbed his face with the palms of his hands. She was just a woman; another bloody useless woman just like all of the others he’d ever been with. She had jumped to conclusions and ruined a perfectly good arrangement between the two of them, the blithering idiot.

And still… he rose from the table so angrily that he knocked his chair over. He vaguely registered the sounds of the house elves scurrying to put things to rights as he strode down the corridor towards his room.

In a rare moment of honesty, he admitted to himself that Ginny hadn’t been like all of the rest of them. She’d had no interest in his money; had never asked him to pay for any of their outings or buy her anything. She’d spoken to him as though he were a confidante, and the looks she’d given him… his stomach wasn’t the only thing that burned as he recalled the heated looks she’d given him when they were in the midst of their physical activities.

She’d looked at him like he was a man – and not just a flesh-and-blood man, but one who could’ve hung the moon. No one had ever looked at him like that before. It had been intoxicating to know that she was enjoying him as much as he was enjoying her, and he’d reveled in that knowledge. He’d rather enjoyed the feeling of being wanted as a man, and not simply as financial stability.

And now it was gone.

He’d waited so long for it; had waited so long for her. Potter had never stood a chance, as far as he was concerned. Once she had discarded him, Draco had moved in and marked her as his own. Every male within a one-thousand mile radius knew better than to even look at her the wrong way, or Draco would be all over them, making them regret it.

She was his, damn it, and that was all there was to it.

“Should you do anything to screw up what you have with her, Harry will be right there, trying to get her back.”

Longbottom’s words came back to haunt him, and it was like a punch in the gut. The wind was knocked from him, and he had to stop walking and reach out a hand to brace himself on the wall. The thought of Potter touching her made him physically ill. There was only one thing to be done about it, and he’d better do it quickly, if he wanted to ensure that she remained his.

But how to go about it?

Oh, this would require mending some bridges. Thankfully he hadn’t completely burned them; they were only slightly charred. But could they be repaired in time?

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


“Are you apologizing to me, Draco Malfoy?” Pansy asked, dumbstruck.

“What do you think?” he snapped. Pansy arched an eyebrow, and Draco sighed. “Fine. You already know how difficult this is for me, and yet you insist on making it harder.”

“Get used to it,” she said blithely. “Especially since I think that very shortly, you’re going to need this experience to look back on.”

“Pardon?”

“You’re going to need this experience,” she repeated patiently, examining her nails. “When you apologize to Ginny, I mean.”

His cheeks flushed slightly, and he was suddenly grateful that the green flames of the fireplace concealed as much as they did. He gritted his teeth and closed his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he ground out. She tilted her head at him and gave him a dubious smile.

“What was that? I’m afraid I didn’t hear you.”

His eyes narrowed. If looks could kill, then Pansy was sure that she would have been lying on the floor, stone cold. The thought pleased her immensely, and it was all she could do not to laugh.

“Don’t get used to this,” he snapped.

“Used to what?”

“Wielding this much power over me. It won’t happen again.”

“Not for me,” she agreed. “But for a certain redhead I know – well, perhaps you should get used to being dominated every once in a while.”

Heat flooded through him as he considered all of the ways in which he’d enjoy being dominated by Ginny, but he said nothing.

“Now, I believe you were in the middle of something…?” she prompted, her feline smile stretching wider.

“I’m sorry,” he forced out again.

“For what, exactly?”

“For ruining your announcement,” he said, barely keeping his temper in check. He needed Pansy’s help, or he’d never get through this. He hadn’t counted on her making things so difficult, though, or he might have second guessed himself before undertaking this task.

“And?”

“And for making Ginny angry enough to run out.”

“And?”

“And for…” he ground his teeth together for a moment. “For accusing your boyfriend-“

“Fiancé,” she corrected.

“Your fiancé of doing something wrong. Is that enough now?”

“Hmmm.” She tapped a finger to her chin, and Draco resisted the overwhelming urge to reach through the flames and strangle her. “I suppose that will do for now.”

“Sweet Salazar, finally,” he breathed, his jaw working back and forth from the strain of having to apologize.

“So what do you want?”

“What?”

“You would never have lowered yourself to apologize to me unless you had some sort of use for me.”

“I need help with Ginny,” he said bluntly. She blinked.

“Sugar, you need more than help, and I’m not sure I’m the person who can give it to you.”

“You can help me with what I need,” he insisted.

“All right, I’ll bite. What do you need?”

“I don’t want to discuss it over the floo. We’ll meet somewhere and go over the details.” Her face lit up.

“Oh, this does sound intriguing!” she said, very nearly clapping her hands together in excitement. “When and where?”

“Eleven. We’ll meet for lunch at Renaldo’s.”

“That’s a bit early for lunch, isn’t it?”

“I want to get this taken care of. There is some urgency to the matter at hand, so no, I don’t think it’s too early.”

I just hope it isn’t too late.
Chapter 21 :: Happy Endings by CliodnaHPFan
“So what do you think?” Draco asked, finally relaxing in his seat. Pansy stared at him.

“I think that you’re a complete pillock if you think that this is actually going to work,” she said honestly, shaking her head. “The woman is put out with you, Draco. She’s so angry that she won’t even accept your owls, and you’re going to propose marriage to her? That’s just insanity.”

“So what you’re telling me is that you believe she will turn me down?” he asked, frowning.

“I don’t believe it, darling, I know it.”

“Why? What’s your reasoning?”

“Are you serious?”

One look at his troubled countenance told Pansy everything she needed to know. She took a deep breath and adjusted herself in the hard, high-backed chair, trying to get comfortable.

“Okay, for starters, why do you even want to marry her? Is it just to keep her away from Potter, or is it just for the sex? Or could it possibly be for something more than either of those?”

“I don’t know.”

“All right, let’s start simple. How do you feel about her reconciling with Potter? Is that something that you want to happen, or something that you’d rather prevent?”

“I don’t want her back with Potter,” he admitted, his slate eyes darkening.

“Why?”

“What do you mean, why? He’s the biggest arse I’ve ever met in my entire life, not to mention that he cheated on her.”

“So you don’t think that he deserves her.”

“I know he doesn’t deserve her - and the thought of him even touching her makes me ill, so don’t mention it again.”

“Interesting,” Pansy observed softly, studying his face. “Does that mean that you think you deserve her? And be honest, because I’ll know if you’re lying to me – and so will she.”

“I never said that,” he snapped, his cheeks coloring slightly. “But at least I haven’t cheated on her.”

“You’ve been together mere weeks, and she was married to him for years. What makes you think that you won’t cheat eventually?”

“I have more sense than that. I know that cheating would jeopardize everything, especially since she’s been through it once already.”

“How do you know that Potter didn’t go into their marriage the same way, thinking that he’d never cheat or do anything to risk losing her?” Draco glowered at her.

“I am not Potter,” he ground out through clenched teeth. “I don’t let my dick do my thinking for me.”

“Is that why the two of you got together in the first place?” she asked, smirking. “Because you had a brilliant conversation?”

“You know damn well what caused our first encounter,” he snarled. “So we shagged, and it started a chain reaction of more shagging. The sex is fucking fantastic – the best I’ve ever had.”

“Is that what keeps you going back? Just the sex?”

“Yes!” When she simply stared at him, he relented. “At first.”

“And now?”

“Look, I haven’t told anyone this, but since you’re pissing me off, I’ll tell you just to make you shut up.. If you ever tell anyone else, ever, even your – even Longbottom,” he spat. “Then I’ll hex you to hell and back again.”

“Ooh, this sounds interesting. All right, I won’t tell.”

“The day of my father’s funeral-“ His voice trailed off, and for the first time she could ever remember, he refused to meet her eyes.

“Oh,” she breathed, realization dawning on her. “You went to see her, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” he said, shame and relief mingling in his voice. Shame that he’d been so weak as to need her that day, and relief that he hadn’t actually had to say the words out loud for Pansy to understand what he’d been trying to tell her.

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

“Come now, you must have a reason. Otherwise you would have just gone off alone somewhere.”

“I needed…” He frowned. “I needed to be with someone that wouldn’t pity me.”

“And she didn’t shag you out of pity?”

“I don’t think she did.”

“You don’t know?”

“It’s not like I asked her,” he snapped. “We shagged, we slept together. That was it.”

“And it made you feel better?”

“Yes.” Then, “No.”

“Well? Which one is it?”

“I felt better while I was with her. Release is good, and she didn’t talk down to me or give me false sympathy. She … she …”

“She accepted you, flaws and all, and didn’t say a word about why you were there,” Pansy supplied. Draco frowned again.

“I suppose.”

“And?”

“And the morning after, she still didn’t say a word about the night before. It unnerved me.”

“Well, that and the fact that you’d woken up next to someone else,” she surmised.

“How the fuck are you doing that?”

“Doing what?”

“Have you suddenly learned Legilimency?”

“No, but thanks for telling me that I’m right,” she smirked. His jaw worked back and forth angrily. “So you woke up next to someone for the first time in your life. How did it feel?”

“Confusing.”

“Not an unusual reaction. What was better, the sex, or the waking up and finding that she hadn’t left you?”

“Why in the hell should that matter?”

“Just answer the question.”

“It’s irrelevant.”

“It’s very pertinent, I assure you. Didn’t you feel the slightest bit happy when you woke up to her?”

“I was happier with the sex the night before,” he said. She studied his face silently for a moment, contemplating.

“Is the sex really that important to you?”

“Don’t be an imbecile,” he snapped. “Of course the sex is important. It’s what started this whole damned fiasco in the first place.”

“Do you want children?”

“Eventually.”

“Do you think you’d be too repulsed by a swollen belly to touch her, if she became pregnant?”

“What a ludicrous question.”

“It’s an honest one. Answer it.”

Draco sighed and tried to picture Ginny with a pregnant figure, her belly swollen with his child inside. Something about the thought made his chest swell and his limbs tingle, and he shook his head to try and rid himself of the image.

“No, I wouldn’t be repulsed,” he answered candidly. Pansy looked mildly surprised.

“All right. I think you may have a chance at this, but only if you tell her how you feel. How do you feel?”

“I did not bloody well come here to discuss my feelings with you!”

“That’s all right, since you’ve pretty much already told me how you feel, anyway.”

“I have not.”

“Directly, no. But indirectly, you’ve made it abundantly clear.”

“How is that, pray tell?”

“You’re in love with her. Is it so hard to admit?”

“You think-“

“And if you want to marry her for any other reason, then I highly suggest that you go get stuffed.”

“What?” he demanded.

“She’s already been a part of one marriage that was one-sided. She doesn’t need that again.”

“What are you saying, exactly? That she loved him and he didn’t love her?”

“Pretty much,” she asserted, nodding. “She gave him everything she had when she was with him, and he just took and took without giving in return. If she gets into another permanent relationship like that, it would destroy her. So what I’m telling you is that if you don’t love her and won’t be totally committed to her, don’t ask her to marry you.”

“Are you trying to suggest that I’d be unfaithful to her? Because if you are, we’ve already covered-”

“The Malfoy men aren’t necessarily known for their fidelity,” she said, shrugging.

“I would never-“

“Now do you understand why she got so angry with you?”

“What?”

“You suggested that she cheated on her husband. She got mad. Now you’re getting angry with me because I’ve suggested that you might cheat on your future wife. Do you see now why she got so angry?”

“Why do you insist on turning things around on me, you infernal woman?”

“Because you’ve got to understand how things are now, before you become irrevocably tangled in them.”

“You’re speaking in riddles,” he accused, taking a long drink of his water.

“I’m telling you the truth. Someone has to.”

“So I should apologize to her for accusing her of infidelity, even though she’s no longer married to the pillock?”

“That would be a good start, yes. Then if I were you, I’d tell her that I love her.”

“I don’t-“

“Tell her.”

“How do you know how I feel about her?” he snapped, leaning forward slightly.

Pansy shook her head and gave him a secretive smile. Instead of answering his question, she replied, “I know that she loves you.”

“What? How?”

“Can’t you tell?” He shook his head, and she sighed in exasperation. “She took you home to meet her parents, for Salazar’s sake!”

“So? I took her to meet my mother before that. She only did it because I’d done it first.”

“Do you even realize what it must have taken for her to take you over there, knowing how much animosity there’s been between your family and hers? Surely you can’t really be this thick!”

“I am not thick, thank you very much,” he snapped.

“What I don’t understand is why her family actually liked you,” she mused.

“They did?”

“Being with you makes Ginny happy. She told her Mum that long before she took you home to meet her parents. They know that you make her happy for whatever reason, and that’s all they need to know.”

“So her parents approve of us, then?”

“Yes, poor things. Or they did, anyway, until they found out that you’d fought, and what you’d fought over.”

“Fuck!” he hissed. “She told them? Why would she tell people what we fought about?”

“Everyone needs someone to talk to when they’re upset, Draco. She talks to her Mum when she gets upset.”

“So now her Mother probably hates me.”

“I wouldn’t say that. I’d say she’s probably upset with you for upsetting her daughter. Hate is such a strong word. I’m sure that if the two of you made up, Molly would forget all about it.”

“Molly?” he echoed, arching an eyebrow.

“It’s her Mother’s name.”

“I know that – I was just wondering when you became so familiar with her that you felt comfortable calling her by her given name.”

“Neville and Ginny are best friends, you twit. Doesn’t it stand to reason that he visits there a lot?”

“Him, yes. You, not so much.”

“I’ve been over there with him a few times.”

“And you’ve managed to reach that level of familiarity with her already?”

“She’s a very nice woman – very personable. It’s hard not to like her.”

“So I should tell Ginny how I feel,” he said, changing the subject in order to avoid agreeing with her.

“Apologize, and then tell her how you feel. If you do that, you might have a chance in hell.”

“Your enthusiasm and optimism are heartening,” he said dryly.

“I’m a lot more optimistic that you’re going to have the door slammed in your face – if you even manage to get it open in the first place,” she said, smiling. “But I don’t think that that will stop you from trying, if you’ve decided that she’s really what you want.”

“Do you have any suggestions on how to get the door open?”

“I might be able to help you with that, if nothing else,” she said, nodding. “Although you realize that this is something you’re going to have to do face to face.”

“Just get me in the door. I know what to do from there.”

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

“It’s a really nice offer, but no thanks,” Ginny said, smiling sweetly. Pansy arched an eyebrow.

“Are you going to let Draco do this to you?”

“Do what?”

“Turn you into a shut-in for fear of running into him.”

“Draco hasn’t done anything of the sort,” Ginny said defensively. “I’m just tired, is all.”

“Just like you’ve been tired every night this week?” Pansy accused.

“You haven’t pushed this hard before,” Ginny said, frowning. “What are you up to?”

“I object to the insinuation that I have an agenda.”

“You do have an agenda,” Ginny laughed. “Always. There’s a reason behind everything you do.”

“That speaks very highly of my character, I should think,” Pansy said, sniffing. “I never do anything without purpose, which is more than most people can say for themselves.”

“So what’s your purpose tonight?”

“To go out and dance and have fun before I’m tied down to the flat with a screaming brat to take care of.”

Ginny laughed in surprise. “You shouldn’t talk about your baby like that – I’m going to tell him you said that, when he gets old enough not to be scarred by the knowledge.”

“He?” Pansy repeated, frowning. “And where on earth did you get the ridiculous idea that the baby is a boy? Have you been talking to Neville again?”

“He’s convinced me,” Ginny agreed.

“Nonsense. My womb is too intelligent to allow me to give birth to a male.”

“What’s wrong with having a son?”

“There’s nothing wrong with it, per se. But I am having a girl. End of argument.”

“All right,” Ginny said, holding her hands up in surrender. “The baby is a girl.”

“Now that you’re starting to sound sensible, get your dancing shoes on and get ready. I’ll swing by there in about fifteen minutes, so don’t take too long primping.” With a flash, Pansy’s head disappeared from the fireplace, and Ginny laughed. Pansy was determined, if nothing else. She had to give her credit for that.

There was no use in arguing with the woman, and Ginny knew it. She moved into the bedroom and sorted through her closet, looking for something that would be comfortable to dance in, but would also be just daring enough to get her noticed. She finally decided on a short emerald green dress, barely long enough to reach mid-thigh.

She hadn’t been bold enough to wear it yet, but now seemed as good a time as any – especially if she was going to be in a darkened club.

She pulled her jeans and jumper off and slipped the dress over her head. It was a bit snug and revealed a good bit of pale cleavage, but she had to admit that it made her legs look longer. That was never a bad thing. She brushed her hair and used her wand to charm it into a loose knot at the back of her head. She had just slipped on her green heels when she heard the pop of Pansy’s arrival.

“I’ll be right out, Pansy.” She took one last look at herself in the mirror before heading out into the living room. Pansy was wearing a stunning violent purple dress that made Ginny feel as though she’d been too modest in choosing her own clothes.

“Ready?”

Ginny nodded.

“Grab hold of me; I’m going to apparate us both there.” Ginny nodded and wrapped her right arm around Pansy’s left. When the dizziness had faded and her head had stopped spinning, Ginny glanced around. She was painfully aware of the loud, thumping music and the smoky air. She released her grip on Pansy and coughed.

“Sorry about the smoke,” Pansy yelled over the din. “There’s a private room in the back that’s strictly smoke-free. Come on.” She pulled Ginny behind her as she wove through the throngs of dancing people, only stopping when she reached a blood red door. “In here.”

Ginny stepped inside, freezing when she looked around. The room was filled with the warm glow of several lit candles. In one corner was a small bar, and a large velvet-covered sofa stretched across two walls.

In the middle of the sofa was Draco Malfoy.

Ginny tried to turn and push her way back out of the room, but the door had been closed behind her, and she didn’t know how to open it. There was no knob to turn and no bar to push, and she could only imagine what spells were guarding this room if it belonged to him.

She sucked in a deep breath and turned back to him. I’m going to kill you when I get out of here, Pansy Parkinson! Once a Slytherin, always a Slytherin. Though his body language exuded confidence and a relaxed air, she could see the intense look in his eyes as he studied her.

“Let me out.”

“No.”

“Draco, I’m warning you-“

“We have some things to discuss, and it’s going to take a while. Why don’t you have a seat?”

“Next to you?” She snorted. She folded her arms across her chest. “Not bloody likely.”

“You’re going to tire of standing,” he pointed out calmly, letting his eyes drop to the floor. “Especially if you plan on keeping those on.”

She felt the warm flush of her skin as his eyes traveled upward from her feet, and tried to fight it down. Why was it that every time she got near him, all she could think about was being in bed with him?

“Fine,” she said, sitting on the furthermost edge of the sofa. “Let’s get this over with so I can go and hurt your best friend.”

“So anxious to get away from me, aren’t you?”

“I have good reason to be,” she said, crossing her legs. She suppressed the shudder that rose as he eyed her legs for the second time.

“I’m sorry.” She turned to look at him, her eyes wide with surprise.

“You’re sorry? For what?”

“For accusing you of sleeping with someone other than your husband,” he said, the words leaving him in a rush of air. She bit her bottom lip in thought. She hadn’t counted on him apologizing for anything – ever. Hearing him say that he was sorry turned the tables on her.

“You say you’re sorry, and you just expect everything to be the way it was?” she asked softly. He frowned.

“Does it not help?”

“It helps, but it doesn’t make everything better,” she explained, glancing away from him. “You hurt me.”

“I know, and I’m sorry.”

Her eyes snapped back to meet his, and her breath caught in her throat as he rose from his spot on the sofa and sat down so close to her that their knees were touching.

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Because I want to fix things between us.”

“You don’t have to do this anymore. Your plan worked, and Harry is sufficiently jealous of you now.”

“Merlin’s fucking beard, Ginny!” he swore, rubbing his face with his hands. When he dropped his hands, she was studying him intently. “Why do you just assume that that’s why I continue on with you?”

“Because you’ve never told me anything different,” she said reasonably. “And I’m not stupid enough to believe that you’d ever allow yourself to care for me.”

“When did you decide that I was incapable of making my own decisions about how I feel?” he asked, his words clipped.

“I just thought that-“

“Yes, well – you thought wrong.”

“So what are you trying to tell me? That there’s another reason that you continue to see me?”

“There are a great many more reasons why I continue to see you,” he drawled. “But I will get into those at a later time – suffice it to say that I enjoy your company.”

“In the bedroom,” she snorted, rolling her eyes.

“Damn it, woman, will you shut up, or do I have to shut you up myself?”

“I think you should shut up, since I’ve heard all of this bef-“ She was cut off when his mouth covered hers. At first the kiss was insistent and searching – but before her head could stop reeling from the contact, the kiss turned slow and soft.

His tongue plundered her mouth, mapping out every surface it could reach. Her heart was in her throat as his palms cupped her cheeks, holding her in place – not that she would have moved even if he hadn’t been holding her. When his thumbs gently caressed her cheekbones, she began to tremble.

When he didn’t show any signs of stopping, Ginny forced herself to pull away gently. She was somewhat relieved to notice that she wasn’t the only one struggling for breath; Draco’s chest was heaving slightly with the extra effort.

“Draco, I don’t think-“

“I love you,” he blurted, blanching as soon as the words had escaped his lips. The dizziness returned, and when she opened her mouth to say something, only a tiny squeak came forth.

“I want you to stop saying that I’m only continuing this affair because I want to get back at Potter,” he ordered, his confidence returning with a vengeance. She hadn’t left after he’d said it, and she hadn’t laughed him into oblivion, so he was fairly certain that he was on steady ground. “Like I told him, it’s only a fringe benefit of seeing you.”

Ginny squeaked again.

“And before you jump to conclusions, I’m not telling you just to get you back into my bed, either, since I could do that without telling you how I feel.” His smirk made it harder to breathe, and although her brain registered that he’d said something vaguely asinine, she couldn’t for the life of her pin down what it was. She was still struck dumb from his profession, and it was clouding her ability to think clearly.

It was only after he’d been silent for a few moments that she realized he was watching her, and waiting for a response.

“W-what?” she stammered.

“Didn’t you hear what I just said?”

“You’re not telling me to get me back into your bed,” she repeated breathily.

“Is that all you heard?” When she nodded, he swore under his breath. “I’ve just asked you to marry me, and you’re not even paying attention!”

“Marry you?” She could feel her eyes widening to what she was sure were comic proportions.

“Yes.” He gestured to the black velvet box that was extended towards her, and she took it with shaking hands. She fumbled for a moment with the lid, unable to get the box open due to clumsy fingers. When she finally managed to open it, one hand flew to cover her mouth.

Inside was a platinum band with one very large diamond in the center, flanked by a smaller diamond on either side. She lifted her eyes to his.

“You’re serious.”

“Of course I’m serious,” he said, fighting not to roll his eyes. “I wouldn’t have asked if I wasn’t completely certain.”

“I can’t.” She held the box out to him, and he frowned.

“Why in the hell not?”

“You don’t know me well enough to love me, let alone marry me.”

“You don’t know me, and you love me.” The color rose high in her cheeks, and he knew that he was right. “So what’s the difference?”

“The difference is that I wouldn’t get tired of you, whereas you’re sure to tire of me.”

“What gives you that ridiculous idea?”

“You’ve never kept any woman around for very long,” she observed, her eyes falling to the sparkling gems on the ring. “And I won’t tolerate you making a cuckold of me after you’ve grown tired of me.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” he said angrily. “Why does everyone just assume that I’m going to be unfaithful? Would it make you feel better if we had the old binding spells performed at the wedding?”

“Those spells haven’t been used in ages, and they’re permanent, Draco. Permanent. If you cheated on me, the spells would have no mercy.”

“Don’t you think I’m familiar with the consequences? If it’s the only way to prove that I’m serious, then so be it.”

“I’m not sure I’m ready for marriage again so soon. Harry and I have only been divorced for-“

“Six weeks, three days, and eleven hours,” he supplied, looking bored. She blinked in surprise. “And that was enough time for you to fall madly in love with me.”

“You’re just really sure of yourself, aren’t you?”

“I’m being practical. You love me, the sentiment is returned, and I’ve asked you to marry me. Now say yes already, so we can start shagging and you can have the family you want so much.”

“As if we needed a reason to spend more time in the bedroom,” she said softly, looking at him through half-lidded eyes. His mouth opened in surprise.

“Are you – have you come to your senses, then?”

“No; I’m quite out of my mind. I’m sure of it, because I’m saying yes, and I’d have to be round the twist for saying it.”

“It’s about damned time,” he asserted, plucking the ring from the box and holding it up. She extended the fingers of her left hand, and he slid it onto her ring finger. She was only able to admire it for a moment before he crushed her to him and claimed her mouth with his.

On the other side of the door, Pansy removed the Extendable ear she’d been using and walked away, smiling from ear to ear.


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