Disclaimer: Dance, puppets, DANCE!
Author's Notes: Hi, there =) As promised, this chapter didn't take months to arrive *hides* The next chapter is all planned out and maybe will also take less than months to be published. Let's cross out fingers *crosses*
A little reminder to those who would like to be notified when the next installment out IWNLYLM will come out - don't forget to leave your emails in your reviews.
Once against loads and loads and loads of cookies, hugs, and fluffy stuffed animals to the amazing Jennykins for her outstanding betaing and extra help regarding some aspects of human biology I wasn't fully aware of *scratches head sheepishly*
13 :: Newly Found Dread
Ginny led Draco into the living room, and offered him a seat on the overstuffed armchair. She took the seat on the couch to his right.
Draco sat down quietly, keeping his eyes firmly on the delicate cups while Ginny poured the tea and offered him his. He took the cup silently, offering only a faintly audible "thank you" out of sheer habit, and placed it on the table in front of him, gazing into the steaming auburn liquid.
Ginny kept glancing at the newly Weasley-ed wizard over the rim of her teacup, feeling hopelessly uncomfortable in the existing silence. Draco continued to stare intently into his cup, once in a while taking small sips, but not at all unsettled by the silence. Ginny tried to muster up something to say, but found that the only thing coursing her mind regarding the man beside her was the all too memorable and all too vivid memory of the previous morning. As the thought was noticed, it took great pleasure in replaying itself in the utmost detail in her mind, from the warmth of his bare skin to the rhythm of his cruel lips.
Ginny bit back a groan, chancing a glance at Draco, hoping her musings weren't visible to the outside. Draco was still too consumed in his own little world, his eyes now fixated on the dancing flames in the fireplace. She continued watching him silently, finding the scene resembling the quiet nights in Malfoy Manor's living room, the memory causing an lenient smile to creep across her lips. She was about to lean back into the couch when she noticed him picking up his teacup and tilting it to take a sip, but halting immediately as a stray lock of blazing red hair tumbled onto the front of his face. He released an involuntary whimper.
Ginny winced at the sound, mentally cursing her brothers and hoping they were suffering for their little prank. She noticed Draco chancing a glance at her, obviously hoping she did not hear him. Realizing that she had, he drew his eyes away quickly and covered a quiet growl with a sip of his tea, ignoring the faint burning in his cheeks.
"I'm sorry," she finally offered, hoping that the charm was going to fade away soon.
Draco's back tensed and he continued to watch the fire. "It was not your fault," he replied dismissively, placing the teacup back onto the coffee table.
"I should've at least warned you," Ginny tried to prod him into a conversation, really disliking the silence. She also hoped he would turn to face her, instead of ignoring her presence by staring at the hearth.
Draco didn't reply immediately and it seem as though he would not reply at all, having no desire to be dragged into a forced conversation, but he cleared his throat after a while. "Weasley, please. It was a joke. I'll live," he glanced at her from the corner of his eye, one eyebrow arched delicately.
Ginny noticed tones of ease in his voice and general expression. She tried to return a smile, but he looked away before she could. Wondering if she should feel exasperated, she heaved a sigh, placing her cup down as well and settling deeper into the cushions behind her. She would at least attempt a conversation with him, while they were here, away from rampaging family members. Alone.
Ginny's back stiffened slightly at the realization, but she forced herself to relax against the backrest and watch Draco watching the fire.
"All in all, it was a nice evening," she commented evenly, glancing in the direction of the kitchen, still able to hear buzzing conversation outside in the backyard.
"Yes, it was," Draco replied conversationally, finally looking at her for more than a brief moment. Noticing her comfortable position, he picked up his teacup and leaned against the armchair, taking a more restful position himself. "You have a very nice family. Albeit cruel," he added with a tilt of his red head and a barely noticeable smile. "But nice…"
Ginny grinned, noting his comfort with mild satisfaction, and released a chuckle. To be honest, she didn't quite believe Draco would be able to take the joke as what it was - a joke. She was half expecting him to charge a lawsuit against them for collateral damages and endeavor to send the twins to Azkaban for attempted disfiguration.
"They are quite… eccentric," she agreed with a nod. Watching him elegantly quirk his brow again, she gave in to another chortle. "Okay, okay, they are a handful. And using their inventions on a stranger was really, very cruel," she added with a smile, picking up her teacup and taking a sip.
"They brew this horror themselves?" Draco asked, looking faintly aghast.
"'Weasley-Do - Make the whole world a Weasley'," she recited with a cheeky smile. . "It's from their prank shop in the Diagon Alley. They develop and produce every prank themselves, often testing on unsuspecting family members," she explained with a rueful nod, remembering the numerous underdeveloped candy incidents she endured in her life. "Well, and you…"
"Really?" he drawled, glancing away for a moment, his expression flashing somewhere between interest and deviousness.
"Yeah," Ginny smiled, only slightly concerned about his expression. "Congratulations, Draco, you've been officially branded by the twins as likeable. Actually, I'm surprised they didn't try to poison you. The whole family aren't as fond of Slytherins as one may assume," she offered a chuckle, but was immediately retaliated with faint glare and a sudden stiff air about Draco. Ginny bit back her laughter, not understanding what could've caused such a drastic switch, but said nothing.
Silence settled back again and Ginny found it this time being more unnerving as Draco's eyes were no longer staring into the fireplace, but rather kept watching her. Trying to ignore the awkward warmth spreading on her face, Ginny took the final sip from her tea and put down the cup. She relaxed back into the cushions and glanced at Draco cautiously. He was still staring at her, but his glare softened into a more neutral look when Ginny matched him with her own stare.
The silence prolonged and once again Draco didn't seem at all troubled by it or the staring contest they were engaged in. That is, until their staring was broken off by some lumbering sounds coming from upstairs as Molly descended down the stairs in a slightly disheveled appearance, straightening her robes and fixing her hair with a quick spell. She entered the living room, surveying the young pair with a pleased expression and a soft smile.
"Well, those two are all taken care of. Of course, I'm afraid they won't be able to walk for the upcoming days, but lets not worry about that, shall we?" she petted Draco absently on the shoulder, glancing away for a moment, before looking back at Ginny. "Ginny dear, could you bring them few packs of ice later on? No, no, not now dear, let them stew for a while. Well, I'll be heading back outside. You two feel free to stay here, I doubt anyone would mind your absence," Molly smiled one last time at them and disappeared into the kitchen.
Ginny smiled back at her mother, watching her step into the backyard and hearing the soft latching of the door as she closed it behind her. "I'll be right back," she intoned to Draco with a meaningful glance and hurried into the kitchen, pulling out four packs of ice and heading upstairs. She was still somewhat furious at her brothers for their prank, but she couldn't let them stay up there suffering. She never could.
She trailed silently upstairs into their old bedroom and slowly opened the door, glancing in on her twin brothers. . She propped one hand on her hip, giving them the sternest of looks she could muster at the pitiful sight - a look that assured them they deserved everything they got - and tossed the ice packs to them, wordlessly leaving and returning downstairs.
Ginny trailed back into the living room, reclaiming her seat on the couch and sighed tiredly. "Those two… you would think after all the punishments they would learn…"
"What are you planning to do?" came a casual drawl from the armchair beside her.
Ginny blinked, subtly furrowing her brows at Draco. "Err, well, I think Mum already took care of the--"
"About Potter," Draco snipped, vague exasperation lacing his tone. "About yourself. "
Ginny blinked again, her shoulders tensing at the mention of Harry. Well, she hadn't thought about that since her arrival home, to be completely honest. Actually she hadn't thought about it at all and was quite settled with the situation. She knew her mother wouldn't mind her staying at The Burrow for a while; she would be thrilled, in fact. But-- but whom did Draco think he was to ask her that in such an accusatory voice? Honestly, she couldn't see why he would consider this his business. Her expression tightened into a haughty replica of her usual features and she opened her mouth to reply, but was disrupted by his voice again.
"Or are you planning on hiding behind your Mother's robes until it blows away? Where is that Gryffindor bravery everyone keeps blathering about?"
Ginny stared at him. In a matter of mere minutes and right in front of her eyes, Draco had retraced the past ten years and comfortably resettled back into his annoying Slytherin prat persona. His voice was brisk and derisive. He was looking at her with barely visible ire in his eyes, and his lip was slightly quirked into that infamous Malfoy sneer.
"I don't see how it is any of your business if I do stay home for a while," she spoke evenly, with her chin jutted up in defiance. She clenched her jaw, immediately grateful she had the sense to do so and prevent any sounds that might've emanated from her at the sight of Draco.
He arched a single immaculately shaped brow and was watching her with an amused smirk. Even the flaming mop of red hair atop of his head wasn't able to squash the perfect image of the scornful seventh year Draco Malfoy she'd hated so much. In fact, it seemed that the Weasley hair itself was jeering her.
Ginny gulped inaudibly, continuing to glare at him. She wasn't that sure now that he looked at her, his expression assuring her none too gently that is was indeed his business. But was it? Did the fact that he seemingly voluntarily placed himself between her and Harry as a human shield, make it his business? But now she was away from his abode and out from under his responsibility. Was it still his business?
Not if he doesn't want it, a tiny gleeful voice piped up at the back of her mind. And it was right, he had no obligation towards her to care or to even check up on her well-being, and yet here he was - as a annoying as ever and inquiring about her. Does he want to make it his business?
"Hmm?" Ginny blinked out of her reverie, refocusing her eyes on the wizard before her. It seemed he'd been trying to get her attention for a while now and by the fidgeting of his hands she guessed he was quite close to just shaking her out of her daze, manners be damned.
"Your personal Gringotts vault, what is the number?" he barked, annoyed by her dazedness. "Where is the key? Where are you planning on living? Where would you find an apartment?"
Ginny blinked again, trying to grasp what he was saying. She obviously understood the words and their meanings, but was absolutely unable to comprehend what he was getting at.
Exasperated by her silence, Draco growled irritable, continuing. "How do you pay the bills? How do you ward your house against intruders? I can go on like this, Weasley, until you answer me at least one of these questions…"
"What are you on about, Malfoy?"
Draco closed his eyes for a moment, letting his composure slip back in after the momentary imperfection. He licked his lips absently and clenched his jaw, once again setting his gaze onto Ginny. "Answer me at least one of those questions…"
"What--" Ginny continued to frown, shaking her head a little. She tried to read in his impenetrable eyes the meaning of his odd questions, but saw nothing beyond the guarding gossamer. Instead she shook her head again, this time as if indulging a rambling child, and decided to just answer one of the presented questions. She went through the questions in her mind with a bored expression, rolling her eyes at Draco's oddity. They were simple basic questions, what on earth would make him think she could not answer them? Of all the bloody stupid things--
Personal Gringotts vault, number… umm, number… Okay, lets start with the fact that I haven't used my personal account in ages and the one I do use is a joint account with--
Okay, never mind. The key. Right, I probably have it somewhere up in my room… for my personal vault, at least. No, I actually gave it for safekeeping to--
Living! - This is ridiculous! - I'm going to stay here for a couple of days. Well, obviously not forever, I'm not hiding behind my Mummy for Merlin's sake. Well, where do I look for a place then? Umm… err… well, this is indeed ridiculous! Where did I found the house, then? Oh. Yeah. I didn't, it was found by--
Ginny stopped her inner dialogue and covered her mouth with her hand, suddenly feeling tired again. Her eyes trailed away aimlessly and she knew there was no use in continuing her search - it was Harry who paid the bills and warded their house against intruders. She was horrified and sickened, but she couldn't quite pinpoint why.
As if reading her like an open book, Draco shook his head subtly. Exhaling sharply, he tilted his head aback to lean it on the backrest and stared at the ceiling fixatedly. "It is Potter, isn't it? He was the one to know the answers?"
Ginny suddenly felt very uncomfortable, though gradually more bothered. "What is your point, Malfoy?"
She expected him to snap at her with some scathing comment, to tell her off and belittle her on the spot; sensing her discomfort and milking it for all he could get. He looked at her for a long while before speaking again, his voice lacking the usual cutting edge.
"For starters, your life savings are locked in a vault to which only your--Potter can get, leaving you in a financial draught. At least for the upcoming month…" he replied casually, almost conversationally, all the while staring up at the ceiling. "Then there's the fact that you obviously lack the everyday skills of taking care of yourself as an adult, what with you not knowing simple necessities such as warding a premise or paying a bill. "
Ginny just stared at him for the longest of times, hoping that the realization wouldn't sink in any further. She continued to search her mind for those simple answers she should have known. She must have known them, for it was absolutely ridiculous and preposterous that she didn't. Harry couldn't have taken care of every single little detail about their household, the billing and all the other things she couldn't even think of at this moment. It was impossible. Didn't she ever notice? Wondered? Tried to do something?
How could I not? her mind shrieked in incredulity. Ridiculous!
She was a strong, self-sufficient woman, who was respected by her family, friends and society in general. She had a steady, well-paying position, where she was adored and appreciated as well. Ginny was a woman, a grown woman, who knew what she wanted and acted to get it. She was not babied by her husband and just because Draco Malfoy had the audacity to sit here and suggest such a foul and absurd notion, did not mean that he was correct in way, shape or form!
Her gaze hardened into a glare and she noticed Draco's subtle reaction as he clenched his jaw once again. "What exactly are you getting at, Malfoy?"
Draco steadied his cool gaze at her, seemingly unfazed by the hostility in her voice. "You know exactly what I'm getting at, Weasley. "
"Are you suggesting I can't take care of myself?"
"Are you suggesting that you can? Because over the past weeks the only time I saw you have a backbone was when I was driving you out of your redheaded mind," Draco drawled spitefully, sliding his indifferent eyes to rest on her once again.
"Obviously, Malfoy, since you drive me out of my mind on each occasion that our paths cross," she spat back, unable to keep her voice as even as his. "And what on earth gives you the right to even think that you know anything about me?"
Ginny was panicking and when she panicked, she lashed out at the closest person around her. Luckily that person was Draco Malfoy, which made the lashing out all that natural and easy. She jumped to her feet, which surprisingly enough didn't feel wobbly. Fists clenched, hair tussled, and small pink lips set in a cruel line. She glared at him fiercely, hoping to see him recoil and run away. "You saw me at my worst once, twice, and you think you know everything there is to know? You know nothing, Malfoy, nothing!"
In a swift motion Draco was on his feet as well, glaring down at the petite hellion and visibly trying not to loom over her. "I know that the simple mention of Potter's name sends into a fidgeting act. I know you are unable to hold your ground against him and I know that somewhere in the depth of your poor little soul you wish things would go back to the way they were before he--"
"And what is so wrong about that, Malfoy? I used to love the man! He was my everything! He was the one I would have willingly given my life for! He was a caretaker, a husband, a kindred spirit! What is so utterly wrong about wanting to be with the man I loved?"
Ginny's mind was reeling with blazing rage. She couldn't believe how much hatred boiled within her at the sound of Draco's voice - smooth, indifferent and unrightfully accusing. She felt her insides flair up and wanted nothing more than to bash that horribly calm expression off his face, to see him at his worst, to see him broken and shattered and crying out of control. Her fists trembled violently and her whole body seemingly gave way, refusing to stand as a barrier between the destructive fire within and the outside world. Something snapped, sending the savage tendrils of her anger lashing out, whipping at the tea service and sending it plummeting across the room.
Ginny yelped in surprise, jumping out of the way of clattering silverware, and sent a bewildered glare at the shattered teacups, eyes wide as saucers and chest laboring for a breath. She took her time to simmer down, recollecting what exactly happened in the recent fleeting moments. She glanced back at Draco, who seemed not at all surprised, nor puzzled by her uncontrolled outburst.
"Nothing," he replied evenly, his voice barely audible to her through the deafening buzzing in her ears. "If not for the fact that you used the past tense five times in your little tirade…"
It took Ginny a few moments to comprehend that he was replying to her own question, and when she finally understood, it really didn't matter anymore. She cast her eyes downwards and moved away to pick up the broken cups and scattered shards of china, not quite wishing to use her wand so soon after the outburst of pure magic. Of course, it wasn't the first time it had happened to her, but the experience was always unnerving, especially when it was accompanied by a scorning voice, hissing that she was unable to control herself. A voice that sounded morbidly like a raven-haired wizard she once knew.
She sensed a shift in the air beside her and caught the sight of Draco crouching down and picking up shards of broken china out of the corner of her eye. He remained silent and for that she was grateful. She wasn't quite sure how to react to him if he did say something. She wasn't positive she was angry at him and she was tired of shouting, but being civil to him if he continued provoking her was out of the question. So she preferred the silence for the first time.
After picking up every last visible shard and the silverware off the floor and piling it onto the tray that remained entire through the crash, Ginny silently headed into the kitchen. Draco muttered a final cleaning charm for the unnoticed shards, and then followed her. She glanced out of the window on her way to the sink, noticing the still active atmosphere outside as opposed to the withered air about her, before setting about washing the dishes.
Ginny watched the numerous children run to and fro, delighted in their new games; brothers and cousins engaged in avid discussions about matters of the world; sisters-in-law were huddled together at the table, giggling jubilantly at some random gossips. Hermione was the odd one out and was the only one chatting with someone out of her age group, more specifically Ginny's father and one of her mother's brothers, Uncle Isaac. There was something strange about Hermione's expression, something very troubled, as she seemed to ask the grown men some questions and they appeared to answer casually.
Ginny shook her head, reminding herself she had enough issues of her own to worry about, and heaved a sigh. She saw Draco out of the corner of her eye, leaning against the doorframe and still continuing to watch her.
What was she going to do? For starters, a headache speared through her mind, clouding anything beside the repetitive actions of scrubbing the dishes and washing the soap off. Second of all, she was still confused and had absolutely no idea about anything. She did know she had to get a grip on herself and soon. Figure out whatever it was she needed to figure out, so she could move on with everything.
She just wished someone could point her in the right direction.
Her attention was suddenly cut off by a commotion coming from outside. She glanced up, frowning, and noticed every single family member stop whatever they were doing before and dash over to the garden patch where she'd observed Hermione talking to her father and uncle only minutes ago. Eyes widening in realization, she dropped the dishes and hurried outside, following Draco, who was already halfway across the field.
"What is going on? What is it? What is it?" she demanded an explanation, still following Draco as he shouldered his way into the center of the gathered family members. Finally arriving there, she froze in terror, seeing Hermione crouching on the ground with a gruesome expression of pain on her face, clutching at her stomach.
"Her water just broke," Molly exclaimed, crouching beside the writhing girl. "But I don't understand… something's wrong," she determined finally, glancing up at Arthur and then Ron with concerned eyes.
Ginny's ears were instantly filled with waves of deafening white noise. She saw Ron, kneeling on the other side of Hermione, eyes wide and face changing colors rapidly from bright pink, to deep scarlet, to concerning shade of white and finally bright green. His breath seemed to be dragged in, in disturbing hiccups while his hands went futilely fidgeting for his wand that immediately slipped through the quaking fingers like they were nothing but jelly.
"The hospital," Ron muttered, trying to grab his wand again. "We must take her to the hospital." But his attempts with the wand were futile and his fingers refused to acquiesce.
Suddenly someone groaned beside her, muttered a charm and levitated Hermione gently into the air. "Move!" the same someone barked out and everybody parted to give way, as he hurried back into the house, followed by Ginny's parents, some other family members and a very frantic Ron Weasley, who flailed his arms about and demanded from Draco to put down his wife, claiming he was capable enough to perform a levitating charm himself.
Ginny was glad Draco ignored her brother then, heading inside and most probably towards the fireplace in order to Floo to St. Mungo's Hospital, because as she glanced down at the spot where Hermione laid mere minutes ago, she saw large stains of darkly crimson blood.
Heart tightening in newly found dread, she quickly charmed the blood away and left Percy in charge of keeping everybody calm and at the Burrow; the hospital did not need panicked hordes of Weasleys and Prewetts on their hands.
Silently praying to every deity she ever knew existed, she rushed back into the house, joining Bill on his way to the hospital.
He spent the whole evening looking at her, wishing he could hold her closer, kiss her softly, trace his fingers upon her naked back in tiny loops and invisible flowers. But most of all, he wanted to grip her arm firmly until those dark violet marks bloomed again on every squared inch of her pale creamy skin. He wanted to brand her again. Make her, his once and for all. Make her remember and cause those hot, delicious tears to roll down her cinnamon-dusted cheeks. He wanted to see the fear he studded into her heart long ago, shining once again through those brilliant honey-coated eyes he loved so much.
His plan was almost immaculate. He couldn't believe it would be this easy to pretend to be one of the Weasleys, to this extent. A simple Polyjuice brew and he had gotten closer to her than she probably would've liked. He couldn't help the small smile at the thought.
Stupid little girl, what was she thinking?
The only thing that irked him beyond reason was ruddy Malfoy crashing the gathering, uninvited and seemingly charming everyone around. The parasite had had the audacity to ogle Ginny throughout the evening and then disappear along with her for over an hour.
Rotten piece of pureblooded trash, as useless as his father, and far more aggravating.
He snarled suddenly, his fists clutching tightly at his robes until the already pale knuckles became even whiter.
The moment I get what is rightfully mine, he will pay for every single moment he dared to spend with her. For every single glance and every single breath. And if there was something more than that pathetic attempt of chivalry… I will spend the next decade causing him unbearable pain, until he is nothing more than a shell of a boy he is.
He threw a hateful glare at Draco's back, as the other wizard levitated the aching woman over to the receptionist, smothering the threatening sneer from appearing on this foreign face.
Author's Notes: I'm a little bit troubled by Draco's characterization here, but I hope you won't find it too unbearable.
Cookies to whomever guesses who Harry is Polyjuiced as =P