Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute.
December 16th, 2004
Draco comes home more stressed than usual, which is not at all uncommon, but tonight we have plans. Or rather I do and my husband has agreed to play along, although he has no idea what he's in for.
“We are going, aren't we?” I check just in case.
“Yes. Why do you ask?”
“You look tired. But we are going,” I say with more conviction than I feel. I know, I will never be able to guilt him into going if he decides he's too knackered, but I put on my confident face and say, “Your Christmas present requires you to dress warmly. A hat and a scarf are compulsory.” At his raised eyebrow, I look at him pointedly and add, “It really doesn't matter what your hair looks like under it.”
I think he might actually be holding back a smile when he leaves to dress.
We meet downstairs ten minutes later. I try to look stern when I hand him a broom and say, “The destination is the South Gates. The last one to arrive is a dunderhead.” Then I run towards the doors and once outside, I jump on my broom.
By unspoken agreement we arrive at the destination together. It seems that neither of us is willing to upset the shaky balance of our relationship by winning. I reduce the brooms and pocket them.
“Good,” I continue in my 'teacher' voice (recently acquired from Madam Courtiere). “Now you have to choose between the Muggle world as yourself, or the Wizarding world with a Polyjuice.”
Draco blinks slowly. “What if I choose neither?”
“I knew you'd say that. I'm prepared. If you choose neither I call you a coward.”
There's a pause and then I say in my best disdainful expression, “You're a coward, Malfoy!”
After even a longer pause, Draco says, “All right. Now what?”
“Come on, Draco,” I reprimand him. “You're supposed to argue with me and try to prove your courage!” He just looks at me pointedly. “You know, like at school!” I add, exasperated.
I lose my playfulness and say quite seriously. “In short, you have to choose.”
“Uh-uh.” He's looking at me as if I'm really cute. I hate that. Sort of.
“Now I can really see how eloquence wins hearts of the people,” I mock. “Bravo, Home Secretary Malfoy, bravo!”
There is silence in which the position of his left eyebrow tells me all I need to know.
“Fine,” I finally say, sighing. ”Then I get to choose for you.”
“Good.” I nod as if that was what I expected and take two vials out of my pocket. “What took you so long?”
“Wanted to see what you'd do. Portkeys?”
“Yes. Now... which one was which?” I fiddle with both empty vials with a puzzled face on.
“You are messing with me, aren't you?”
I send him a bright grin. “You know me so well! Grab this one.”
He touches the vial and we Teleport.
We arrive into a public toilet booth and have some trouble getting out of there undetected. Or rather we don't get out undetected. But since the elderly woman, who spots us coming out of the booth, is just giving us the evil eye for public indecency, the Statue of Secrecy is unbroken. Draco and I dash out of the door sniggering like a couple of teenagers.
The toilets stand at the edge of the park with a large frozen pond. Despite the cold weather, it's still filled with enthusiastic skaters of all ages and the big Christmas tree in the middle of the pond only adds to the festive atmosphere.
“Skating rink?” There's a slight disbelief in Draco's tone. “You brought me to a skating rink?”
“Relax, Malfoy. It's just a pond with a shiny surface,” I say as I grab his hand and start towards the stall where I plan to borrow two pairs of skates. “You once said you used to like skating when you were a kid. Did you lie?”
“That was years ago! I haven't-” he cuts himself off. “Wait! Why did we have to fly to the South Gates in the first place? You've finally gone barmy, haven't you? We could've Portkeyed form the foyer.”
“Did you enjoy it?” I ask not looking at him.
There is a pause and then I can hear a smile in his voice. “Yes.”
That night Draco doesn't have nightmares.
Mid January, 2005
In January I lose another baby. We don't talk about it, but sometimes when we sleep together, I imagine Draco holding me just a little bit tighter.
January 29th, 2005
Draco's started to arrive later and later every day. During meals he's silent or curt when spoken to. It didn't use to be like this. At first I think it's child-related (don't think, don't think, don't think, don't think!), but then other changes in his behaviour occur. Draco barely eats, his sexual appetite has dropped significantly, and when I do spend the night with him, his sleep is restless like never before. One night I have to wake him from a nightmare twice.
February 10th, 2005
We are dining at the Burrow this evening, but Draco is late. He rarely is and he always sends an owl when that happens. I haven't told him that I worry or anything; I think it's just his good breeding. (Never thought that I'd say it, but Draco knows how to be considerate.) Today, there is no owl, and he finally arrives after we've started on dessert. The knot in my gut loosens.
Draco never goes out of his way to explain himself, but today his 'sorry' is even more dry-cut than usual. This time, the excuse is an unexpected meeting, which is nothing out of the ordinary. His drained looks, however, show that it must be something far serious than an unexpected meeting.
I don't think Draco's aware of it, but I always know when it's the Minister that's held him up. There's something in his face that tells me he doesn't like the man. It took me a while to tell the difference between Draco not liking someone and not liking them, but by now I've learned to read him pretty well. By the set of his jaw and the tension in his posture today, I can see that the day has been extremely unpleasant for him. Frankly, I don't think Draco likes his job all that well, which is weird, given that he practically lives at the Ministry.
Just as always, his arrival tones the mood down a bit, but Mum still fusses with food, George cracks jokes and Angelina smiles serenely which is not really her. (I think she might be pregnant and the thought sends a pang through my body.) Dad talks about his day and Draco eats quietly. The detached pose is not really uncommon, but it's the way he's detached that catches my attention. I was wrong before - he isn't just tired and drawn. He's deathly pale and obviously doesn't feel well.
“Are you all right?” I ask him quietly so as not to draw attention.
“Whoa, Malfoy,” my brother cries before Draco has a chance to answer, “You look even paler than usual. Did you forget to drain your daily victim?”
The quip about my husband being a vampire isn't new, and would usually result in amusing banter, but not today. Instead, Draco offers a quiet “excuse me”, stands up, and for a moment grips the edge of the table. By the time he starts falling, my brother and I are already there. It takes a couple of seconds for George and Dad to carry Draco to the couch and lay him down, but it's only after Angie's gasp that I see the blood on Dad's hand and cuff.
“It's his shoulder,” Dad says, but Mum is already removing Draco's shirt.
“George, dear, could you bring me the first aid kit, please?” Mum asks, as she murmurs the basic diagnostic spells over the wound.
I'm not usually queasy about blood, but this time I feel slightly nauseous. When we remove the messy bandages, I grab two tea towels to clean all the oozing blood up. There's a lot of it.
“It's just a flesh wound; nothing to worry about,” Mum informs us.
“Doesn't feel that way,” Draco croaks, although his eyes are still closed.
“Cutting Hex?” my Mum asks.
Draco grunts his agreement.
“Who dressed your wound?” Mum suddenly demands, sounding put-out.
I don’t give Draco time to answer. “You did it yourself, didn't you? Should we expect the Aurors any minute now? What happened? You did dress the wound yourself, just look at this mess! Did you take any pain potions? Is there even going to be an investigation or did you just cover it up?”
He cuts my babble with a curt, “Don't be ridiculous.” His words are heavy and measured, but I can't tell if it's because of the fatigue or something else. “I'm a State Secretary. Of course I reported the incident myself.”
“Incident?” I interject incredulously. “Only you would call something like this an incident when you're the one injured. You didn't kill the other guy, did you?” I ask flippantly, but when I see Draco's face, the blood in my veins freezes.
He closes his eyes, but it's such a sudden and involuntary reaction that it hides very little. For a moment a chilly hush settles over the room.
“Did someone attack you?” Mum asks.
At first I expect him to ignore the question, but as the silence drags on I start thinking, what if he says 'just a muggle'? So when Draco finally opens his eyes and utters, “Nott,” it's almost a relief. But at the same time his quiet answer is accompanied with such a cold and arrogant look that I instantly realise that he's killed someone we went to school with. Even the fact that none of us liked the man doesn't make it at all better.
I'm shocked to see that absolutely everyone – even Mum - backs down from Draco's challenging stare and remember that it's not simply my husband that's committed a crime. It's his position as the State Secretary that makes others careful. Without any further questions, one by one, everybody exits the room until it's only Mum and me. Soon, the wound is dressed, and there's just the two of us.
A cold, numbing fear that Nott must have been murdered because of a political power struggle or even some petty argument grips me. So I simply sit there, staring quietly at the rug, while in my peripheral vision Draco is putting his shirt on. It's obvious that he's in pain, but I let him struggle. I don't think I can touch him right now.
“Gin,” he says. Although his voice is cool, I know it's his way of asking for help.
When I don't react, he raises his eyes at me, but whatever the expression on my face is, I don't want him to see it. More importantly, I don't want to know what's on his. I turn away and go back to the dining room.
April 14th, 2001
“Perhaps we could discuss this over lunch? I have a break coming.”
I manage to not let my lower jaw drop to the floor and try to remain unflappable. Did the rising star politician, Draco Malfoy, really ask a Weasley out for lunch? Even if it is just a work lunch, it's still pretty weird.
“My treat,” he says when I hesitate. He really must want to finish this project quickly if he's willing to upset his stomach by eating with me, of all people.
I look down at my clothes.
“What? I'm in work clothes too,” he assures me. “We'll go somewhere simple.”
Right. I take a look at Malfoy. I think that his 'work clothes' and mine are not even in the same realm of clothes, let alone them being in the same category.
“Are you sure you know what the word 'simple' means?” I ask instead, and I'm lucky I don't bet on it. Turns out, he does.
We do this lunch thing twice more and it's surprisingly nice. Despite his extremely cool exterior, Draco Malfoy is very polite and professional. Not at all like I remember him from school.
At first, the project is dragging its legs, but since it's Draco's department that's behind all the time, he has no room to talk. Then the project is finished and I don't see Draco for weeks.
February 10th, 2005
Numbly I return into the dining room. Draco's being 'on the other side' used to be intellectual knowledge, but now it's a stark reality for me. The realisation that the all-powerful Death Eater Draco Malfoy is living under the same roof with me hits me hard and I don't want to go home.
Everyone is sitting at the table just as before. The atmosphere in the dining room is subdued, but when Draco re-enters, even the temperature seems to drop. He must be aware of it, but he sits down and resumes eating as if nothing's happened. But of course, it's not him that has had the rug pulled out from under him.
“The morning papers will inform you of the regretful passing of Foreign Secretary,” he says. The tense silence that Draco's words are greeted with does not perturb him and he continues, “The second piece of news is that our esteemed Minister of Magic has decided to skip the lawful election rigmarole and appointed the current Home Secretary to the vacant position.”
“So it's a par for the course to kill for a promotion these days?” I ask hollowly.
His eyes, when he turns to look at me, are steel-grey pools of liquid mirror: empty and devoid of any feeling.
“Yes, it is,” he says clearly.
It's all Harry's fault, I think right then.
February 13th, 2005
I don't blame Harry. Not really. It was my decision to marry a man I knew was evil and I'm going to have to live with that. I haven't decided what I'm going to do yet. I can't just leave him; neither the law nor my husband would allow it. At the same time I can't even imagine letting him touch me ever again, nor can I see myself continuing this empty coexistence.
Our quiet mausoleum has turned into... something that is even more depressing than a mausoleum just after funerals. It's been days, but I'm not talking to my husband, and for once, it's completely mutual. It's as if we don't exist to each other. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of him on the stairs or in the corridors, but mostly, I try to stay clear of him. It doesn't stop the hurt.
On the third day there's a knock on my door and foolishly I call, “Enter.” It is indeed my dinner, but to my shock it's not a House Elf who's carting the food in.
I know that our silent truce must be over but I'm still not sure how I should react, so I take the plate to the table and start eating.
From the corner of my eye I see Draco sitting down on my bed.
“How long are you planning to ignore me?”
“Idnno,” I press out while chewing, “'Aven't deshide' ye'.”
“Is there anything I can do to make it better?”
He sounds calm and businesslike. It's his 'crisis mode' tone, but there's this strange undertone I cannot easily define. If it were anyone but him, I'd call it anxiousness or sadness or something in between. Something that indicates vulnerability that Draco Malfoy is incapable of displaying.
“No. I don't think it's ever going to get better,” I tell him. The food is stuck in my throat and I have hard time swallowing.
“Will you at least let me explain?”
“What does it matter how it happened? You killed a man, Draco.”
“So have half your family. So has Potter.”
I can't help but look at him now. “But that was war! That's different and you know it!”
“Yes, it is! I know what the difference is, but do you? You have no idea what really happened and you've already labelled me a murderer. Won't you at least hear me out before deciding how unworthy I am?”
“Unworthy of what?” I don't pause to think. “And what do you care anyway? What does it matter what I think? You never wanted to marry me in the first place; we don't have children. Why can't we just wait it out and get that divorce when the five-year minimum term expires?”
“The five-year minimum sentence you mean?”
His lips twist into an unpleasant sneer which I try to return, though I'm afraid that a few seconds more and I'll start crying. I abandon my food and go to the vanity mirror.
“Yes, that's what I mean. I know,” I have to pause to swallow before continuing, “I know that I agreed to this marriage of my own free will, but now... I want out. I want to move back to the Burrow and I want you to leave me alone. Given who you are, I'm sure neither of us will be imprisoned.”
There's an unpleasant pause. “Unless I say otherwise.”
Now the tears do fall, but I ignore them as I take the brush and start slowly combing through my long tresses.
“So that's it then? I stay married to you or rot in Azkaban?” I sniff and wipe my eyes angrily. “And if I stay, will you order me into your bedroom, too? That would be rape, you know.”
I look at him accusingly through the mirror, but he's facing the window and I can't see his face.
“I didn't say that.” I hear how he presses the words through his clenched teeth. “Look, all I'm asking of you is to hear me out and if after that you still want to leave me...”
“You'll let me go?” I ask disbelievingly.
He turns his gaze straight at me and for a long moment we just stare at each other. The mask of hardness on his face slowly melts into one of his intense looks I never know how to interpret. The strange thing is though, that for the first time, it gives me hope that he actually might care about what I think or feel in regards to anything. Momentarily forgetting that it's actually late in the evening, I start arranging my hair up into a bun.
“Why do you do that?” he suddenly asks.
“Your hair? Why do you put it into that…” He swirls a finger towards my hair.
“Bun? It looks perfectly sensible.” The change of topic throws me. “It's not my fault you don't like the colour. And I refuse to dye it just because your family's inbreeding has weeded all the colour out of your cells.”
There's a short pause.
“I don't dislike the colour.”
“Yeah. Right.” My voice is just as flat as his.
“No, really. I don't have anything against red. It's just that... this bun you insist on wearing. You never wore it before the marriage and... you look a bit like my mother with it. Not that she's not beautiful but-”
“Your mother! Don't be ridiculous! She's blonde!”
Draco does that annoying man expression that can only be interpreted as 'Women!', then he shrugs and says tiredly, “It doesn't matter. We've steered off topic. My point is that you are not leaving me without hearing me out. Come and find me when you're ready.”
With these words he leaves me to my thoughts.
Half an hour later I go to his study. Draco's expression is neutral when he raises his eyes to mine.
“How do you like my hair?” I ask without a preamble.
Draco tilts his head, which means I've surprised him. “Like you wore it during the Ministry training. Messy. Down or in braids. If worst comes to worst, then in a French twist.”
I frown. “But those styles were part of my girly-look. I can't wear my hair like that any more. And what's wrong with a bun?”
“I liked the girly-look. Bun is too serious, it doesn't suit you.”
I almost exclaim, 'It so does!', but then I pause in mid breath and mutter, “Fine. I'll listen to what you have to say about Nott's murder.”
Even though I've been looking at the painting behind him, I somehow see his jaw tic as he hears the last word. Slowly he puts the parchments he's holding on the desk and nods.
“Do you really want to know or are you just humouring me?”
'Yes, I'm humouring you', I think sarcastically but know better than to say it out loud.
Draco seems to hear it anyway. “Right,” he says. “Nott hexed me, we fought, I hexed him right back. He died.”
“That's it? No whys or hows?”
“Then I dragged my wounded self to the Minister's personal quarters and told Higgs that I overheard how Nott and three other Ministry officials were planning to overthrow him. Nott found out about me snooping and attacked me. Obviously, I had to hex him in self-defence, a service for which our gracious, all-forgiving Minister Higgs granted me the vacant post of Foreign Secretary.” Draco shrugs as he picks up the documents he was reading before. “Case closed.”
Part of me doesn't want to believe he's telling the truth, but another part of me knows that it's probably just my disappointment I don't want to acknowledge. Despite the sarcasm, I conclude that essentially he must be telling the truth.
I watch him for a beat more before my legs automatically start carrying me out of the room and along the corridor. I feel sort of numb. Or devastated. Whichever. There is no cause to fear any more – the worst has already happened. Now I finally understand that the fear keeping me up late at nights hasn't been the fear of him, but for him. I've been afraid that the moment he provides me with evidence of his evilness, all the warmth and goodwill I feel for him will become unjustified.
That Draco's actions were self-serving, I expected; that he actually showed any loyalty to the Minister, I didn't. He supported the regime he doesn't even believe in.
At first, when the offer of marriage came, my parents told me they would hide me in the Pyrenees if I so wished. Even though in truth I had no idea what to do, I told them it wasn't necessary. I knew that the whole family would suffer if I even thought of refusing the offer, not to mention any attempt at fleeing. Shacklebolt said that it would give us a way into their clique but Hermione laughed the idea out.
“Malfoy would never trust her,” she said. I was agreed.
When we are alone, Harry blurted, “I think you should do it.”
“Agree. We won't have another chance like this. Ginny, you must see it's a perfect opportunity!”
Up to that moment I thought that Harry had stayed silent on the topic of marriage from sheer indignant anger. I thought that he'd be as furious about it as Ron and my parents. I thought that he would fight for me.
I should have known better.
“Just think!” he continued, although it seemed to me that he was trying to convince himself as much as me. “You could do so much for our side!” And off he goes.
Numbly, I let him rant. I’d known that it hadn't been easy for him all these years. He's obviously been feeling guilty for not loving me enough, and deflecting any attempts by my family to throw us together must have been exhausting. So it was kind of a perfect opportunity to break free, I could understand that. An opportunity to get rid of me for once and for all.
Despite understanding, at that moment I hated him like I never had before. Finally he stopped talking and looked at me. There was shame in his eyes now and tears in mine. The next morning I wrote Draco to arrange the first negotiation meeting.
Author notes: Is it me or is it getting even colder? Will the winter ever be over? Tell me what you think. I really want to know - your feedback warms me. :)
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