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 fašade. 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.
“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.
“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?
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