CHAPTER NINE – What he’d always wanted
Just before heading to the kitchen, Ginny decided to make a slight detour into the lounge. She headed straight to the mantelpiece. Rows of pictures of her family sat, smiling and waving to her as she approached them. Looking them over, Ginny spotted a recent photo of herself. It had been taken just before she left for Hogwarts that year. She had been grinning cheekily at the camera, and her red hair had been long and loose in the summer breeze. Smiling to herself, she took it down off the mantle and wiped the dust off the top of the dark wooden frame. Narcissa had said that Draco had a picture of her for years. The idea partially mortified her and partially thrilled her, but even she knew that meant it was probably a candid photo taken by Colin and not nearly as nice as this one was. Thinking that he may want another of her, she made sure the glass was clean and spoke softly to the picture as she went back up the stairs, telling her picture-self to behave while with Draco.
Thankfully, Harry had retreated into his own room, so she was free to pop the picture into her overnight bag. Her stomach started fluttering with butterflies as she thought about a whole night at Malfoy Manor. She breathed deeply for a few minutes and then righted herself to meet the rest of her family downstairs.
Ginny walked into the kitchen at quarter past six and was immediately inundated with comments on how lovely she looked from her family. Charlie and Katie were still helping with dinner, but since Hermione and Ron had finished setting the table, they decided to visit with her while she waited for Draco.
Hermione couldn’t help going on and on about how gorgeous the green looked with Ginny’s red hair, how the silver necklace made her glow - and how the Gryffindor lion in her hair would be the biggest laugh at the Malfoys.
Ron didn’t say much; he just smiled quietly at her, but he could see she was happy so there was no point in arguing. Ginny knew that her dating Draco Malfoy was pretty hard for him to take. She loved him so much for trying to be supportive, even if it was in his own very ‘quiet’ way.
Inwardly, Hermione thought about how happy Ginny had looked since Christmas. As much as she hated to admit it, she knew it was because of Draco. She would never tell Harry or Ron this, but she had been more than impressed with Draco’s behaviour earlier that day. He’d been polite and attentive and had hardly taken his eyes off Ginny all day, certainly not long enough to barrage the people he so obviously didn’t care for with insults.
Hermione just hoped it wasn’t a temporary change in him. She’d known how Harry had felt about Ginny for quite a while, but she didn’t blame the girl for moving on. Ginny couldn’t wait around forever for Harry to get his head out of the clouds. She herself had almost given up on Ron too… but then everything had clicked into place during sixth year and now she was happier than she had ever been. She wanted that happiness for Ginny, and there was something in Draco’s face that afternoon that kept her thinking about it. One could call it humbled amazement that Ginny would even look at him, let alone like him; maybe it was just pure adoration. Whatever it was, Hermione had the strong feeling that all Draco wanted to do was make Ginny happy.
Ginny certainly looked happy… her happiness was almost tangible, and knowing that made it easier for Hermione to be excited for her friend. It wasn’t as though Ginny had been very good at hiding her feelings about Draco anyway. Hermione hadn’t let it slip to the boys, but even during the summer, she remembered Ginny growing suddenly attentive when they would speak about him. She also remembered quite clearly that day at the beginning of the year when they’d caught her drawing out on the grounds. Hermione was clever enough to notice then, but she felt that Ginny would have to be the one that broke the news to them. From then on, though, Hermione had kept her eyes on Draco Malfoy, looking for signs of a changed boy. She’d been pleasantly surprised, but she’d held her secret in, waiting for something like this to occur. Now, Hermione couldn’t help but be thrilled for her friend.
The three Gryffindors visited until Draco stepped through the green flames in the Weasleys' hearth and caught sight of Ginny. He stopped, open mouthed, with only one leg in the Weasleys' kitchen.
“Wow!” was all he said. He grimaced slightly as he remembered suddenly that his other leg was still at Malfoy Manor. He stepped all the way through the Floo and just stood there, gaping at her with a crooked smile and a flush of pink on his cheeks.
Ginny flushed and touched her head in embarrassment.
“Ginny, you look - you look brilliant. You’re beautiful,” Draco sputtered. He hated when he sputtered, but there was nothing to be done.
“Thank you, Draco,” she said quietly, looking around in dismay, now quite aware that they had an audience.
Taking the hint, the two other couples excused themselves in order to let Draco and Ginny have a moment alone before Mr. and Mrs. Weasley would see them off.
As the door closed behind them, Ginny slowly raised her wand and quietly cast a charm over the back of his robes. He looked at her questioningly and she blushed. “You had soot on your shoulder from the Floo.”
“Oh, thank you.” Draco looked down and had a knowing smirk on his face. “Is there soot anywhere else?”
Ginny shook her head and grinned. “Ask me again when we Floo back.”
“Actually, we’re not. Flooing back, I mean. I can Apparate-“
“I can’t. I’m not 17 yet.”
“You can Side-Along Apparate with me.” He looked at her nervously.
“I thought that was really dangerous, Draco.” Ginny tried to hide a smile at his reticence.
Draco could tell she was having him on, so he smirked a bit before replying. “Not if you’re Apparating with someone with as much natural talent as I have.” His smirk turned to a soft smile when he reminded her about his upbringing. “My father taught me to Apparate when I was thirteen. It seems that it’s a useful tool for future Death Eaters.” Though his teasing had turned somewhat solemn, Draco winked. “I am pretty good at it, I promise.”
Ginny grinned up at him, not worried in the slightest. “Alright, we Apparate. Ready then?” She grabbed his hand.
Conveniently, her parents chose that moment to join them in the kitchen. “Everything sorted, kids?” Molly rang out as she walked toward them, encasing her daughter in a warm hug.
Ginny nodded before reminding her mother about the house-elf that would be coming later to pick up her overnight bag. She asked her to tell the elf to be careful, as there was something breakable right up top, and Draco caught her eye curiously. He was speaking to her father, but he made a mental note to ask her about that later.
Ginny was just about to step outside with Draco when a loud, crackly voice came from the kitchen entry. “You wear that lion with pride, Gin!” Ron had finally said something.
Draco looked down at her once again with amused curiosity, but Ginny didn’t explain. She just giggled and said, “Thanks, Ron. I will. See you tomorrow, big brother.”
Moments later, they were out the door and a soft pop indicated that they were gone.
The two appeared in the rose garden enchanted to bloom all year long. The smell was intoxicating, and Ginny couldn’t help but gape as she turned around and took it all in. It was so beautiful that Ginny could hardly stand.
Draco held her close, partially so she’d stay upright, but also because he’d wanted to do it since she’d hugged him earlier that day.
“Wow, Draco! Where are we?” she asked breathily. Her eyes were wide with amazement.
“This,” he gestured around them, “is my mother’s favourite rose garden. That is my house over there.” He pointed into the dark void behind them. Ginny could vaguely see a golden light coming from inside the vast darkness.
“We’re at the back of the house. It’s darker. The front is where most of the guests will be arriving. We have time yet. I wanted to bring you here to the rose garden to talk to you before the ball.” Draco smiled at her with a shyness that just didn’t seem like it belonged on him. He grabbed her hand leading her to a bench by a fountain.
Ginny followed and though her cheeks grew warm, she kept her hand safely tucked with his.
“Ginny, I- I wanted to say something to you since, well, since I found out it was you who’d I’d been writing to. No. Even before that, but I was just too busy being a prat to-”
“Draco? Draco, dear, are you back here?” Narcissa’s voice echoed through the garden. “There you are, dear, and you’ve brought Ginny as well. Wonderful. Hello again, Miss Weasley. I’m so happy to finally have you here with us.” Narcissa walked slowly towards Ginny with an outstretched hand. Once Ginny clasped it, Narcissa drew her in for an informal hug and softly kissed each of her cheeks.
Ginny wasn’t sure how to respond. Draco was no help at all. He was still silently cursing his mother for her interruption. With a smile, Narcissa went on, “You look lovely this evening, Ginny. May I call you Ginny?”
“Yes, of course you can, Mrs. Malfoy. Thank you so much for everything,” Ginny replied smoothly. “The dress and all of it. It’s just too much.” She softly touched her new earrings. “You went to so much trouble.”
“Think nothing of it, my dear. I’m glad you liked them. I’ll have you know, you look much prettier than I did at my first Malfoy ball. I was terrified.”
“I know the feeling.” Ginny smiled as Narcissa gathered her arm in hers and led her through the garden towards the dark house.
Ginny had never seen Malfoy Manor, but every description she’d ever heard certainly didn’t do it justice. Her head turned at every portrait and tapestry. The colours were rich and the wood was antique. She had thought it would have been a cold place, but Ginny felt the warmth and knew that this was a safe place and that she was welcome here. She allowed herself to be taken through the big doors toward the sitting room just outside the buzzing ballroom.
“It’s almost our turn to be announced, Ginny.” Draco came behind her and put his arm at her waist.
“How exactly does this work, Draco? We just… we just walk in together?”
He leaned into her ear as his mother said something to the nearest house-elf. “The guests came and were announced some time between 6pm and now. After us, Mum and Severus… Professor Snape will be announced. After twenty minutes of mingling and ogling everyone else’s clothes, a bell will ring, and you and I will follow Mum and Professor Snape into the banquet hall. After dinner, we’ll come back into the ballroom and we’ll dance. Easy.”
“Alright. I think I can do this. Will anyone I know be in there, or are all of these people going to think you’re slumming?” she asked quietly with an arched eyebrow. She really hadn’t worried until just that moment how this would make him look among the people he associated with.
Draco gave her a hard look, his gray eyes boring into hers, and then said quite seriously, “Half of the Ministry will be in there, most of the Hogwarts’ teachers, some ‘friends’ of my parents, and even a few students from school. Most of them are of age, of course, and almost all are from Slytherin, but there are a few from other houses as well. There will even be some Muggleborns. It’s not a Death Eater reunion or anything,” he added with a sly smile. He pulled her close to him and spoke softly in her ear. “Besides, I’m not worried about what any of them think. I know I’m not slumming.” He pulled back to look at her face again and said, “In fact, you should be more concerned with them wondering what you’re doing here with an ‘evil Malfoy’ rather than ‘The Boy Who Lived.’ Most people think you two are destined to be together.”
“Luckily, I think Divination is a load of codswollop.” Ginny smoothed down her dress with a grin. “I’m here with the boy I chose. Destiny had nothing to do with it,” she whispered with a soft smile as he led her through the large oak doors.
An echoing, disembodied voice announced their arrival in the ballroom. “Master Draco Malfoy and Miss Ginevra Weasley.”
Quite a few people, in fact almost everyone, stopped speaking and watched the pair descend the stairs slowly.
“At least Ginevra sounds better with Malfoy,” Ginny muttered under her breath.
Draco smirked down at her and whispered, “Oh? Planning the wedding already, are we, love?”
Ginny tried to control her blush but was unsuccessful. “That’s not what I meant. I- I meant that Ginevra sounded better paired with-” She looked horrified at what she was about to say. “I mean, it sounded better being announced with Malfoy. ‘Ginny’ sounds like a little girl’s name- I- I would never have presumed-”
Draco cut her off by raising her hand to his lips and then pulling her into a soft embrace. Leaning into her ear, he murmured, “It wouldn’t be presuming anything that I hadn’t already thought about dozens of times today.”
Ginny’s blush was now in full form. Honestly, she probably would have fallen through the floor if he hadn’t been there holding her up. She smiled shyly then turned to the mass of people watching them.
The next few moments were a blur. She was introduced to what felt like the whole wizarding community in Britain, and everyone knew exactly whom she was so they all asked after her family and after Harry the celebrity. As Draco had said, there were people Ginny knew from school, and she was happy to say quick hellos to them as they mingled. Even Professor McGonagall and her sister Fiona managed to find Ginny, shake hands with her and tell her how lovely she looked.
The mingling wasn’t turning out too badly. In fact, Draco had barely left her side for most of it. When he was occasionally held up by someone, Ginny managed to take a brief moment to look around. She wasn’t surprised at some of the looks she got from the Slytherins that she could see, but she nearly fell over flat when Pansy Parkinson, in a bright pink frilly thing, dragged her oafish, sour-faced boyfriend Goyle over to shake Ginny’s hand. Draco had seen Pansy move toward Ginny, so he quickly ended the conversation he was having with Morgan Milton of the Falmouth Falcons in order to stand behind his two ‘friends’.
“Why, Weasley, you look stunning tonight.” Pansy’s false smile seemed neither friendly nor welcoming; Instead, it was dripping with something much more vile. “In every way, ’Mistress of the Evening’. I can’t say I’m not surprised to see you here, and wearing a necklace like that no less, but I’m glad we’ve finally pinpointed what’s been wrong with Draco lately. ‘Tis a shame he’s not a poofter.”
Ginny tried to ignore the venom and replied with sweetness that seemed a little less than genuine, given the circumstances. “Thank you, Parkinson. You look very nice too. I’ve often thought that pink was a complimentary colour for you… ever since the Yule Ball during the TriWizard Tournament.” Her hand absentmindedly went to her throat and the warmth of the flame reminded her of who gave it to her and how much he obviously cared for her. She knew Pansy’s bitterness was born out of spite and jealousy, so she was able to easily let it slide right off her back.
“Pansy. Greg.” Draco’s deep voice caused all three to turn toward him. “Have you been here long?” He walked through the couple to reach Ginny’s side, putting his arm around her waist, making it clear what his intentions towards her were. “I hope you’ve been playing nice with my dear Ginny, Pansy. She doesn’t know about your ‘claws’.” He looked at her pointedly.
“Why, Draco, we were just telling Weasley here how relieved we were that you ended up in love with a Gryff rather than a poof. It’s a better explanation for your lack of serious girlfriends since fourth year… since you weren’t exactly chasing down any boys either. Taking the occasional girl out for a snogging session hardly counts. We were all getting a bit worried.”
“Well, Pansy, it’s so thoughtful, and frankly, out of character for you to be concerned for me. I’d wager you were far more worried that it was my one date with you that would cause me to question my masculinity. I’ve certainly never fancied boys before, and thankfully our one date wasn’t horrible enough to send me searching for manly comfort. No, it was after seeing Weasley here brave Longbottom’s horrendous dancing with grace and a smile that made me realize that if I couldn’t have her, I would rather not have a girlfriend. See… nothing to do with our horrendous date, Pansy. Never fear.” And with a smirk, he led an open-mouthed Ginny to the banquet hall entrance, away from the glowering girl and her moody boyfriend.
Once they had sat down to dinner, Ginny leaned to Draco and whispered, “What you said to Parkinson about the Yule Ball, was that true?"
“Every word.” He winked at her. “Though I admit, I was already besotted with you before ever agreeing to escort that bint.” He squeezed her hand before turning his attention to his mother, who was welcoming the guests seated at the long table.
“Thank you all for coming tonight. It has been a holiday tradition for generations here at the Manor. I am so glad that this year we have more than just the season to celebrate. We also have the downfall of the Dark Lord to be grateful for as well. Too long has darkness pervaded this house, and I am happy to invite the light in. So, let us raise our glasses and toast, to peace and a happier future.”
“To peace…” echoed throughout the hall.
The banquet began and was wonderful. The meal was elaborate and very tasty, but Ginny’s mind was decidedly elsewhere. Luckily, as a Weasley, she’d never had a problem eating, even when her thoughts were occupied with the young man to her left.
Ginny was sitting between Draco and Narcissa, but he was happily fielding questions from the Minster for Magical Games and Sports who sat on his left… something about tryouts for professional Quidditch teams in the spring, so Ginny spent most of the meal speaking to Narcissa. The woman was so kind and gracious that Ginny at once felt right at ease.
Mrs. Malfoy could see the overwhelming pressure on Ginny’s shoulders. It was almost as though Draco could feel it as well, because every so often he would turn to her and squeeze her hand under the table or give her a sly smile, something that secretly amused Narcissa.
Every time he touched Ginny, her skin tingled with sensations she’d never felt before every time he touched her. It felt like water pouring over her, telling her that it would be okay. Each time he did it, a little weight of worry and nerves seem to wash away. His mother smiled.
Once dinner was concluded, Ginny, Draco, his mother, and Professor Snape led the way back to the ballroom. Draco mentioned quietly to Ginny that both couples would be expected to begin the dance
“I hope I don’t make an utter fool of you, Draco. I’m not used to being the center of attention.” Ginny looked up at him with worried eyes.
“You’ve always been at the center of mine.” He flushed the tiniest bit of pink but went on, “Don’t worry, Ginny. Tonight will be perfect.”
She smiled as he swirled her onto the dance floor. “Why will tonight be perfect, Draco?”
He brought her in close and whispered softly in her ear, “Because I’m dancing with the girl I’ve loved since I was twelve. My father is gone and the Dark Lord is dead, so there is nothing in the way of my being with her forever. You see? Everything is exactly as it should be.”
Ginny didn’t know what to say to that, so she just let him hold her close as she put her head on his chest. He smelled like spicy soap and aftershave. She knew she could smell that forever and never be tired of it. Inclining her head, she watched him with her head still on his shoulder. He had a look of such serenity on his face as they turned about the room; his gray eyes had a spark to them and his smile was genuine. Overwhelmed, she murmured more to herself than to him, “I think I love you, Draco Malfoy.”
Draco stopped dancing and looked down at her. “I’ve loved only you for as long as I can remember, Ginny.” He raised his hand to her cheek, and then, not caring that they were surrounded by hundreds of observers, he leaned down and kissed her gently like he’d wanted to do forever. She sighed into his mouth. They stood there, oblivious to the crowd parting around them, until he finally pulled away from her. She clung to him as if she would lose her footing otherwise.
Still holding her hand, he guided her off the dance floor and out onto the balcony overlooking the rose garden they had been standing in earlier that evening.
“I’ve wanted to do that for a very long time, Ginny.” He held her close. She turned her head up to him and he kissed her once again. “Every day for five years, Gin,” he whispered, touching the edges of her mouth with the tip of his tongue. She opened her lips for him and they stood there, snogging on the balcony, not caring that they were missing the rest of the ball. Gently, her hands roamed to the back of his neck, where she played with his fine blond hair. At the same time, he’d pulled her curls from the top of her head and was softly stroking the tendrils that fell around her face, while he kissed her passionately, afraid that letting go would make this magical vision of happiness disappear.
Eventually, the kisses slowed. Languidly, he began kissing the side of her lips and then her jaw all the way to her neck, inhaling her sweet scent. He leaned his head against hers and took a deep breath. “Wow. Ginny, I, I’m-” Draco tried to speak, but she had begun to nibble his ear and kiss his neck. “When- When did you know you loved me, Gin?”
She said breathily between kisses, “I’ve watched you since… I became a… prefect….” Looking up at him, she continued, “You pulled my chair out once during a meeting, and I caught you watching me a few times. I began to think about you, wondering if you were at all like what I’d thought. I looked for you during meals and watched for you between classes… and then I realized that my very best friend Bleddri, who I adored on the inside because he was sweet and funny and sardonic and wonderful, was the blond git that I was incredibly attracted to on the outside because of his dashing good looks, sexy voice and ah… that smirk. Then I knew and I was afraid. But I’m not afraid anymore.”
They’d stopped kissing by now, and he reached up and touched her face again. “There is nothing to be afraid of, love.”
She smiled softly and put her hand on his. “I meant what I said in there, Draco. I do love you.”
Draco nuzzled her neck and held her close. Something deep within him filled him with warmth.
“Ginny, have I told you how glad I am that you’re rubbish at History of Magic?”
“What?” She laughed out loud; making the eternal flame at her throat tickled his chin. She absentmindedly played with the pin on his chest while he looked up through his long lashes at her.
“If Binns didn’t put you to sleep - Granger, too - then Vaina would never have fallen in love with Bleddri and he would never have gotten what he’d always wanted.”
“And what’s that, Bleddri?” she asked gently, leaning towards him, her lips almost touching his.
“Just you, Ginny. It's always been just you.” The soft words died on his lips as he closed the distance and kissed her again, while the cheers inside counted down the New Year.
Author notes: The last chapter. Thank you all for reading... and in some cases (*cough FW & seegrim cough*) nagging me until I finished it.
You know, the story only took three weeks to write, but it took over a year to type. I like to blame the baby... but in reality it was hard for me to let this story out into the big world, because I loved the fluffy goodness and didn't want to invite fluff-haters or criticism. However, after I got more comfortable in my own skin, I knew that my writing had gotten much better since the beginning, so I was worried it might appear choppy. That being said, I hope they changes in my writing style that I show in this last chapter aren't too abrupt.
I hope you enjoyed it, and a big HUGE thank you to my wonderful betas. Colleen (sue_bridehead), Katie (Mourning Broken Angel), and Jess (rarity/forgetablelove) all tag-teamed this final chapter and I really really appreciate you all! *huggles to you*
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