*** first wish ***
“So, do we have ourselves a deal, little girl?”
Clenching her jaws, Ginny stared long and hard at the inquiring former Slytherin before her. “No, Malfoy, I am not selling my soul to you, no matter how much you offer.”
“Oh, come off it, Ginevra! It’s not like I’m asking to forfeit the damn thing for good. I’m just asking you to lease it, temporarily, for the sake of progress. And it’s not like you’ll be doing it for free. I think seven wishes are more than enough to cover the inconvenience.”
“Inconvenience?” Again she glanced up from the letter she had been writing. “You want to cut out a chunk of my soul, Malfoy. I think it would be a bit more than ‘a little inconvenient’ for my person.”
“Please! You don’t even use it,” Draco scoffed dismissively. “I bet a Galleon you can’t even tell me where exactly on your person it’s located.”
“Maybe you have no need for a soul in your everyday existence, but I sure as hell do!” Ginny barked, still incredulous that the bastard had brought up the issue. As if human souls were a matter of such meager importance that they could be used as some second-hand merchandise for the convenience of mad magical experimentalists.
“Honestly, Weasley, I give you my utmost sincerest promise, I would even swear it on the Malfoy Code, that whatever I take of your soul shall promptly be replaced where it belongs as soon as I am done using it,” he said in his most faithful imitation of truthfulness. “I’ll even compensate you if there was something amiss.”
“Something amiss? Something amiss? You plan on having ‘something amiss’ while playing around with a chunk of my soul? And then you wonder at the reason the majority of St. Mungo’s Head Healers scamper away when you pass them in the halls?”
“That is just a coincidence,” Draco injected almost defensively. “Each and every time.”
“Oh?” Ginny arched a brow, stifling a smirk. She knew how secretly sensitive Draco was about the rumors of his mental health, all with the abundant familial history. Still, if he had the audacity to bother her with such things, she would take pleasure in needling him. “Is it a coincidence also that Healer Brombey was admitted as a patient in his own ward two hours after his last session with you?”
“Healer Brombey was a weak and lonely man,” Draco intoned placidly, repeating the same words he used relentlessly when countered with accusations. “His mind was never completely stable and the breakdown was bound to happen sooner or later. I had neither hand nor influence in his situation.”
“Whatever helps you sleep at night, Malfoy,” she spoke with careful nonchalance, returning to her letter, leaving enough lingering suspicion in the air to unsettle the Slytherin prat.
“In any case,” Draco stressed pointedly, letting her know he knew very well what she was trying to do. “We are diverting from the subject.”
“We didn’t have a subject,” Ginny blurted disinterestedly, not tearing her eyes from the parchment. “It was only you talking and me trying to ignore the incessant babble.”
“No, we did have a subject, Ginevra. Subject of you giving me your soul. So, you think Thursday would be convenient for you?” he asked plainly, summoning a small dragon-hide clad organizer with the help of his wand and beginning to flick through the pages. “I have Wednesday all filled up, but I think I could move some things around this Friday if it’s better for you.”
Ginny sighed heavily, placed down her quill and took off her reading glasses, staring at Draco for a long moment before speaking again. “Malfoy, you are delusional and compulsive and I pity your house elves for how anal you must be as well.”
“You can’t prove anything,” he reminded her with a smile. “Neither can my father’s retainers and so I remain free. Now, about that soul of yours—“
“Malfoy, I am not giving you my soul and that is it! Stop it, already!”
“Not ‘giving’, woman, ‘renting’. Seven wishes are never to be trifled with.”
“I am a witch, Malfoy, quite a capable one at that. I have a profession I enjoy and a family that loves me. What can you possibly offer me that I cannot get myself?” she demanded half-heartedly, growing tired under Draco’s continuing assaults and the spurring headache.
“I am a Malfoy, a Slytherin and quite wealthy. A lot, Ginevra, believe me. A lot.”
“Oh bollocks, Ferret, you can’t buy happiness,” she scoffed, rolling her eyes at his clichéd beliefs. “Didn’t you learn anything from those Disney movies they showed us in Muggle Studies?”
“They were made by Muggles, Weasley. I obviously slept through them.”
“Walt was a wizard, you dimwit. And a Slytherin at that. How the hell you got a full mark on your NEWTs I shall never understand.”
“Yes, yes, all right. But think about it, Ginevra. Seven wishes. Anything you want in the entire world could be yours – that little white cottage in the countryside to settle down in, some of the rarest potion ingredients for your pharmacy to make the healing potions for those poor sick children in St. Mungo’s, trips around the world to learn of other sorts of magic there are out there, all to better yourself and help you better the world…”
He was speaking softly, alluringly, each promise forming itself from the swirling fog that surreptitiously crept out of the tip of his wand and clouded her mind. His eyes were imploring, piercing and ostensibly sincere; his voice open, even and so appealing. He was speaking to her of things she had been dreaming of, secretly and not so secretly, but it was all becoming real before her eyes as he flicked his wand. The fog from the visions before her was softening her mind, because she found herself wondering how badly she needed her soul anyway, and if she couldn’t spare it for a few days. Eyes glazed, she gulped and glanced at her charmer, realizing she was looking into a snake’s eyes, yet nonetheless being unable to withstand the sweetest poison of temptation.
“No, I don’t think—“ But even to herself she didn’t sound that convinced anymore.
“Ginevra, I could even help you help yourself,” he whispered eagerly, feeling her loosening countenance. “Not all the wishes must be so humane. No one should judge you if you ask for recognition in yourself and your work, some personal vendettas dealt with and even… even to draw the attention of some of the more eligible bachelors in our society.”
Here the luring trill of the bewitching viper gave a crooked note and the whole song became as heinous to the ear as the sight of the snake to the eye. Ginny snapped out of the stupor and pierced the serpent with a deathly glare that would have caused a lesser man to quiver and back away, at the very least.
Draco mentally kicked himself. He should’ve known who he was dealing with. He should have known that suggesting something less than complete altruism, complete personal sacrifice for the sake of ‘Greater Good’, let alone something as outrageous and sinister as a little bit of selfishness, would yank the redhead back to the side of reason. He really had his own stupidity to blame.
“Why did you come to bother me with this nonsense, anyway?” she snapped more irritably than before, putting on her fine-rimmed glasses and averting her attention to the letter on the desk, the still swirling pink fog that desperately attempted to placate her again, ignored like a lost and unwanted puppy. “Go buy something shiny for one of your playthings and take their soul, I’m sure they wouldn’t even notice it is gone.”
“Ginevra, I am experimenting with Unicorn magic,” he breathed exasperatedly, as if the sole act of having to explain himself seemed ridiculous. “Do you really think it would really weave placidly with the essence of an…” He smirked here, his features curving into an almost inappropriately suggestive expression. “… Experienced woman.”
The moment comprehension hit her, Ginny’s cheeks reddened. The blush spread furiously, down her neck and up to the tips of her ears, while her hazel eyes flashed red and the quill with which she’d been writing, all the while trying to ignore her conversant, snapped with an echo.
The painfully obvious manifestation of Ginny’s embarrassment hardly fazed Draco, and his smile only broadened. Oh, he knew very well that the dangerously thin ice he had been traipsing on a moment ago was instantly vaporized by the boiling dark waters beneath the surface, but that was just part of the fun of teasing a sleeping dragon. He absolutely ridiculously delighted in the way she burst out, sweeping everything on her path out of the way with the ferociousness of her temper. It made him feel warm and fuzzy for some odd undecipherable reason that his Head Healers found alarming.
When Ginny finally managed to speak, her voice was quiet and velvety, albeit a bit strained. “Malfoy, try to imagine all the colorful ways I can cause irreversible damage to your scrawny body. And now try to calculate the exact amount of time it will take me to reach my wand. In case you’re having trouble with your calculus, you have exactly three seconds to get the hell out of my office before my blood begins to boil.”
“Come now, Ginevra,” he purred, not even thinking of taking cover. “I meant nothing hurtful by my words. I simply meant that the Unicorn magic I dabble with now, would work better with the pure—“
“One,” Ginny whispered, closing her eyes.
“—virginal magic such as yours,” Draco finished with a soothing tone that was designed years ago especially to push the seething redhead over the brim.
When Draco Malfoy awoke three weeks later in a private room in St. Mungo’s Janus Thickey ward, a tiny voice at the back of his throbbing head tentatively suggested that his conversation with the youngest member of the Weasley clan had not gone as well as one might have hoped for. Not only did he not acquire the needed agreement of said redhead to volunteer her soul for the sake of his experiments, but apparently he had managed to anger her enough for her to send him to hospital in a vegetative state for an absurdly long period of time.
Something told him he might have slightly miscalculated his approach.
It took him a full week to regain the motoric abilities that had dwindled in his dormant state; another few days to convince the healers against their better judgment that he was well enough to be released; seventy-two hours to placate his frantically worried mother that indeed he did not suffer from any lasting side effects; four hours to weasel, blackmail, threaten and basically bully the meek Ministry official into allowing him to visit his attacker on one of the restricted lower floors of the Ministry, which usually contained the unstable criminals before their trial; and eventually, five seconds to feel the razor-sharp tendril of Ginny’s wandless magic press stoically to the thin expanse of pallid skin that covered his jugular vein.
“Hello, Malfoy,” murmured the little shadow of a girl sitting across the table. “You’re not dead.”
“You sound almost happy,” he remarked lightheartedly, pressing down the nervousness that the cool feeling of an invisible knife summoned in him. “But in all honestly, Weasley, you look like shite.”
“I’ve spent four weeks in a detention cell,” she informed him plaintively. “They want to try me for attempted murder.” Pausing, Ginny evened him with an unnervingly boring gaze. “Malfoy, get me out of here, get me out of here five minutes ago.”
“Weasley, unfortunately, you overestimate my abilities. They’ve detained you and taken your wand; they obviously think you are dangerous to the public,” he spoke his mind, feeling the slight stress of the magical razor increase. “Now, I’ll obviously do whatever I can to lessen the charges, at the very least, but you have to understand that there’s a limit to my influence. Meanwhile take a deep breath and, please, pull away your magic. It is quite unnerving to talk with a knife pressing against my throat,” he stated archly, sensing the pressure on his skin dissipate. “Glad to see you’ve been practicing your wandless magic.”
“Had a lot of free time on my hands,” Ginny responded calmly, staring at him through a curtain of soiled hair. “They refused to give me books, seeing as they found parchments imbedded in your flesh three inches deep.”
Draco vaguely remembered something about thin long cuts on the side of his stomach and made a mental note to research manipulation of parchment density thoroughly in the future. Meanwhile, he found himself, as always, immensely unnerved by the fact that little Ginny Weasley wielded such magic that could knock a grown man out of this world and halfway to the next one when mightily incensed. He couldn’t help it – he smirked.
“Who taught you this magic, little girl? Some idiot, no doubt, if they hadn’t thought of teaching you how to control it as well,” he added offhandedly, boring his stare into the blearily flickering flames in the redhead’s eyes. “Of course, you should’ve thought about it yourself years ago. You cannot walk around with such force bottled inside of you, with your temper running wild. So, who was it? It wasn’t Potter, the pillock could barely transform a porcupine into a pin-cushion. Not the Mudblood either, she would never teach anything harmful, let alone such intense detrimental magic. You know, you’ll find it funny, really, but it even had slight traces of some of the more common Dar—“
Here he bit his tongue, breath suddenly catching in his throat as the thought formed itself more solidly in his mind. The outskirts of his vision blurred and the only thing he was able to focus on was the defiant glare of a little redheaded girl, who looked too dirty and too angry to be considered a respectable member of the society. A respectable member of the society that she has been up until five weeks ago when he approached her with a seemingly harmless proposition and somehow brought back up some hibernating magic, some unwelcomed memories perhaps, as well.
“Get me out of here,” she bit out, desperation adorning the anger in her voice. “I hate being locked up.”
He stared at her long and hard, his eyes slightly widened as all the possibilities of her inner turmoil rushed through his head as a forceful, overwhelming torrent. Oh, how much she must have suffered then, in the dark, miles beneath the ground, alone in a locked chamber with a snake. Oh, how much she must have hated herself now, to still be having traces of that still in her.
His stomach churned, lurching at the cruelty, and the unfairness, at the beauty of the situation. And there was always beauty in every situation, he reminded himself. As long as there is a way to use the situation in one’s favor, there is always beauty in it, there is always profit.
He could help her, he knew it. One must fight fire with fire, and this kind of fire Draco was more than enough equipped to fight. He could help her, really. Rid the hazel eyes of the dark smudges, bring back the rouge to her cheeks, wipe the mind and heart clean of any lingering black shadows. Of course he could, and if he couldn’t, he could easily find someone who could do a better job, anyway. He could reach out, do her a favor, erase the terror he accidentally brought back into her life. And he would. He definitely would help this tortured girl, whose pain was partially by his fault, partially by his father’s.
He would just add a tiny clause to his offer.
“Ginny,” he spoke softly, cold tendrils of excitement struggling to be contained beneath his veneer. He couldn’t let her sense his glee at this opportunity to have his way after all. He mustn’t look all too sympathetic, and so his expression remained as aloof as he could afford it to be without looking arrogant. “I could help you.”
Her eye narrowed, but a moment later she breathed deeply and rolled her eyes, refusing to take him seriously. “Just get me out of here, Malfoy. That’s all the help I want from you. It’s your fault I’m here, so you fix this mess.”
“Ginevra, I could take away…” For a moment he wondered if he wasn’t risking another three weeks at the hospital. Still, he would not be cowered by fear. “I could make sure whatever… dark was left in you be cleansed.”
“Dumbledore himself couldn’t disentangle the strands. You think you could?” she asked and there was obvious scorn in her voice as she laughed him off.
He knew he was twisted and distorted, but the cruelty in her tone made her all the more beautiful. “He was far from being the strongest cleanser in our midst.”
“You think you’re stronger than Dumbledore? Does me ridiculing you bring some sort of sick pleasure to you, Malfoy?”
“Not me, Weasley,” he snapped harshly, finding the anger she incurred far less than displeasing. “But money buys power. Even magical power.”
Her eyes narrowed again as she weighted his words. She understood it to be true – the wealthiest family in the whole of Britain would indeed be able to employ the best of the best. But at what price…?
“And you would do it out of the kindness of your heart? All for that fuzzy warm feeling you get whenever helping a maimed furry animal?”
Draco could feel the hissing and spitting within her mind, traces of that which she hated, but resorted to in such a defenseless situation. He was silently amazed to see little Ginny Weasley – Healer and a talented potion-brewer who donated almost too much of herself to the hospital, the children, her friends and her family; who recoiled at the thought of wishing anything solely for herself – so callous and crass, her ridges jagged and unyielding against his attempts of smooth-talking her. He could see how the dark memories, the dark burst of magic he provoked, infected her with disgust and cynicism, like a detrimental parasite. He could see how she slowly yet surely turned to hate herself.
He smirked. “You know my little black self better than that, Ginevra. My previous offer still stands, and as it seems, it is your only way out of… here,” he said, glancing around the drab visiting room.
“My soul for seven wishes?” she echoed skeptically. “One of them being getting me out of Ministry’s claws, another one to clean up the dark mess you caused, am I right? I’ll ask for a glass of water and that’ll be another one, and so on. I’ve read about genies and I know about Malfoys. A combination of both is highly disturbing.”
“You have little choice, don’t you?” he countered almost meanly. “Let me tell you what – I’ll make this entire incident evaporate and summon a cleanser to rid you of your little dark leech, and we’ll consider it one wish. As for a glass of water,” he paused, pondering. “Well, you should never drink anything a Malfoy offers you anyway.”
Ginny furrowed her brows agitatedly, obviously concerned that his words were beginning to have sense in her mind. “This is ridiculous,” she finally concluded, shaking her head. “This still doesn’t change the fact that you want my soul to experiment with. Malfoy, you can’t be serious about it. It’s a soul! Why the hell do you want it so bad, anyway?”
Draco paused, only realizing he had leaned closer to her when the desire to draw away grew into a sudden necessity. She stared at him unflinchingly, obviously realizing he was more than reluctant to share that information with her, and it only piqued her interest. “It’s on a need-to-know basis, and you don’t need to know.”
“It’s my soul you want to play around with, Malfoy. I’m not giving it away to some unknown purposes.”
“As I’ve mentioned before – you don’t have a choice here,” Draco almost growled, growing irritable at the wakening insolence in the girl.
The redhead simply smiled, rubbing her forehead tiredly before glancing at him through the dirty hair again. “Neither do you, it seems. My deductive abilities were always a bit impaired, but it seems you are overly eager to recruit specifically me into your current experiment. If it wasn’t so desperately important to you that it should me, you wouldn’t have approached me in the first place, knowing how much you hate me and all I stand for. So, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s the Weasley blood, perhaps it’s the blood purity or my blasted connection with Voldemort, but,” she trailed off, staring at the former Slytherin, his expression carefully sculptured to show nothing but the aristocratic beauty. “But it is you who needs me.”
At her emphasize on the word ‘need’, he sneered. He couldn’t help it, for she hit it straight in the heart of the matter and he hated the fact that she was cleverer than he wished to think. Also hated ‘needing’ something – or someone – and having a living being be knowledgeable of it.
“So speak, Malfoy,” she continued quietly, tiredly. “Speak, while this blasted dark magic drills a hole inside my head, and I can’t seem to see reason clearly.”
She was giving him an opportunity to grasp at her, to convince her, albeit against her better judgment, but still draw her over and make her do as he wished. Indeed he hated her knowing things he wished to keep hidden, but he was not going to let slip away because of that.
“All right,” he managed to break through his own silent barrier. “All right, Ginevra, you’re right. It is you I need right now, because another specimen such as yourself would be hard to come by soon enough.”
She grimaced at him calling her a specimen, but said nothing, just closing her eyes, overwhelmed with exhaustion, and gesturing at him to continue speaking.
Sneering again at her careless hand wave and how it managed to seem so imperious and insulting. “As I mentioned earlier, I am working with unicorn magic,” he spoke brusquely now, a bit tensely, as if afraid his words were going to be used against him in some celestial court of law. “I’ve discovered that under some conditions the essence of their magic can be harmlessly isolated and blended with other magical essences. What becomes of that is an essence mixture that combines the magical properties of its both parts and doubly strengthens the magical potential. When I finally managed to inlay the mixture into a wand I was ecstatic, but…”
Ginny arched a brow, waiting for him to continue. He, on the other hand, was quite unwilling to retell the tales of his failure. “But,” she prompted lightly.
“Well, the wands didn’t work as well as hoped for. Essence of phoenix magic reacted solely to the presence of phoenixes, dragon essence to the presence of dragons, kelpie to kelpies and so on and so forth. Wands containing the mixture of mermaid scales were only useful to merfolk themselves. In short, the wands become extremely powerful, however completely useless when held by human wizards. That is when I understood that human magical essence could also be isolated and used in such a mixture.”
“And of course your suicidal tendencies just had to push you to consider me as a sure candidate for such an experiment,” Ginny injected dryly.
“It might surprise you, Weasley, but I do not enjoy your company, so no, you were very far from my mind when the idea struck me,” he responded coolly, subtly sneering at her smirking expression. “I knew I had to use someone magically capable, for once, and so I naturally turned to the most powerful wizard I knew.”
“Myself, yes, indeed,” he sniffed haughtily, eagerly trying to ignore the disbelieving wryness in her tone. “However, it didn’t quite stick.”
Ginny snorted, rolling her eyes.
Valiantly ignoring her, Draco continued. “I’ve tried other wizards, but all essences were rejected quite forcibly. I was beginning to lose faith when a random chance meeting reminded me that unicorns as creatures were wary of human males and preferred dealing with females, preferably kind, young and, ahem, chaste.”
Ginny clenched fists, squaring her jaws, and glared at her conversant, reminded of the exact words that caused her last outburst. Her eyes flashed red – with fury, indignation, and subtle embarrassment – and she silently decided to hate Draco even more.
Of which Draco was painfully aware, for the sharp pressure near his artery spurred momentarily, beginning to break skin and thirst for blood. Slightly panicked and greatly irritated with the damn Weasley temper, he fisted his hand and hit the table, breaking her concentration and drawing her attention to his own seething gaze. “Look, Weasley, I was not at fault for the way the knowledge came to me, so you can’t possibly hold against me the fact that I simply know it! So you’re a virgin! Big bloody deal! Believe me, is it not one of your shortcomings,” he barked at her, hoping to force some sense into that thick head of hers. “Your affinity for alternatively erupt in murderous sprees and caretaking Mother Goose routines, in fact is! Put away the damn knife!”
She did as was told, slumping against the backrest of her chair and covering her face with her hands. “So, you needed a goody-two-shoes, and obviously you thought of me.”
“Not at all,” he replied, massaging the reddening skin of his throat. “I’ve tried children, adolescents and grown female subjects with prominent kindness and compassion as their attributes, but nothing stuck. The magical essence wasn’t strong enough. And if I tried to seek strong witches, the mushy-factors – as I came to call them – decreased drastically. That along with the need for a full-fledged witch of formidable capability and still… chaste, brought the choices to a halting zero. Again, I was sure to have lost all hope and was about to abandon the research altogether. But then, at the hospital ball, after our little… encounter, I knew it had to be you. Your mushy factors are vast; if my recent stay at the hospital anything to judge by, your magical abilities are strong enough to not only bind with other essences, but also whip them into a total and desperate subordination; and, well, obviously the chasteness.”
“I was drunk,” Ginny growled through her hands, reminded of the awful night she chose to confide in Draco the hardships of being a virgin in her early twenties.
“Yes, and I thank Ogden from the bottom of my heart, now if you would just agree already, I could proceed to getting you out of this dingy hole and into some nice little cage at my laboratory.”
Slamming her hands onto the table, she threw at him a dagger glare.
“The cage thing was obviously a badly formed joke. Apologies. Now, should I take the overbearing silence and the death-glaring as a cheerful ‘yes’?”
Ginny groaned loudly and brought her head onto the table as well with a loud thud.
“Wonderful then! Now, just make a wish and I’ll be on my way.”
Ginny whimpered from her perch on the table. “I get my soul back, intact and healthy, Malfoy,” she murmured warningly.
“Of course, Weasley! Who do you take me for? Don’t answer that. Just make a wish.”
She raised her head just a bit, warily glancing at Draco and baring the red angry mark on her forehead from the seemingly dull thud. “Do I really have to make a wish? You know what I want, why do I have to say it out loud?”
“How else can I trick you? Kidding again. Just say it.”
Sighing, deeply, mournfully, Ginny glanced upwards, as if cursing whatever being that found the current situation amusing and finally spoke. “I wish the matter of my attack on you to be forgotten by everyone and over with already. And in the same wish, I want to be rid and immune to any and all Dark Arts. As you promised.”
Something sinister sparked in Draco’s eyes and he found himself grinning unpleasantly. “Your wish is my command.”
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