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The Sickness and the Cure by DoubleCharms
Chapter 9 : Play the Game
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 24


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A/N: Hello! Sorry for the exceptionally long wait… more at the bottom. But first I would like to apologize to the people who asked when I would be updating. Especially to lalalady who I told this would be out two months ago. ::ashamed::

Summary: Draco left her cold for the promise of greater things, and seven years later, just when everything is perfect, Ginny reappears in his life as a prisoner of the war and her fate becomes his decision. D/G major angst/romance

Warnings: Slight AU; T for now (could go to M in the near future chapters) for slight violence and some steamy situations... you know what I'm talking about, nothing to serious though.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own anything you recognize... it all belongs to the wonderful JK Rowling and her family of publishers. I also do not own these song lyrics and they are not used to promote this story in any way. I actually buy CDs, mostly because I can’t figure out how to download anything.

Eternity will never be enough for me.
The Spill Canvas, This Is For Keeps

Chapter 9: Play the Game

Her bedroom door slammed hard against the wall and though she couldn’t see him from where she was lying frozen on the floor, Ginny could almost picture the mutinous expression on Draco’s cold face. His anger was probably the result of not finding her where he expected, Ginny figured. Hopefully he would realize she had tried to escape and go look for her elsewhere without realizing she was still in here. She knew she wasn’t about to give up any hint that she was actually sprawled half-naked on the other side of the bed.

But unfortunately he wasn’t giving up. It was obvious Draco was angry, but her shallow breathing and hammering heart had nothing to do with her embarrassing predicament and everything to do with the man who was now violently banging open the closet doors and adjoining bathroom. She heard him exhale roughly in irritation and her nervousness soared.

Breathing quietly, she quickly tried to convince her flaccid muscles into moving, but all her worthless wiggling did was make her cotton shorts ride higher up her thighs. Crossing her arms tighter over her chest she sighed. Her escape definitely wasn’t going as planned.

He had always had the ability to put her on edge, if only because she wasn’t sure of herself around him. His cold grey eyes and blank stare could make her shiver, but she knew he had to be covering up something. And whatever he was usually covering up, he was letting it loose right now.

A horrible tearing and cracking sound came from the other side of the bed and she guessed with a grim frown that he had just torn down the beautiful floor sweeping curtains with a low growl.

This isn’t fair! she wanted to yell at him. He could break her down with a glance, he knew how to get what he wanted, and he wasn’t the one lying on the floor without a shirt on. Not that Ginny would have minded if the positions were switched…

No, she scolded herself. This was a game. Everything was a game with him; she had learned that early on. He moved strategically, carefully planned his words and actions, and never did anything that couldn’t get him ahead somehow. In Hogwarts, she knew how to work a conversation with him to her advantage, but now was so… different. He was different. There wasn’t a thing about him she wanted to recognize or love.

But she couldn’t help but wonder if there was something there. He was angry now that he couldn’t find her and Xavi said he had been worried about her… what did it mean?

Nothing, she decided. It meant nothing and he meant nothing. Unwillingly little tears pricked her eyes. They were because of frustration, she told herself, then wished moving her arms from across her chest wasn’t so exhausting so she could wipe the hot tears away.

“Fucking hell, Ginny!” Draco cursed loudly as she heard another chair being knocked over and the sound of the books that occupied it thumping against the floor made her cringe in helplessness.

Don’t find me, don’t find me, she pleaded, half because she didn’t want him to find her shirtless, and the other because she had the overwhelming desire to see him and knew how much trouble that would cause.

“You’re in her somewhere, you couldn’t have left,” he said and she could hear the dangerous growl in his voice. “Come the fuck out!”

His patience was gone, that much was clear. Seconds ticked by and Ginny wondered why he hadn’t looked on the other side of the bed. She was in plain sight and even though the room was quite sizeable, he had given up his search pretty quickly. He was never the patient one, she smirked to herself before she remembered all she had covering her breasts were her slender arms.

“Where the hell are you!” he shouted and Ginny heard more books clatter to the floor then harsh pain flew up her legs. Barely able to lift her head with weak muscles, Ginny looked down at her legs to see the back of a heavy chair fallen against her legs. Had he really just thrown a chair at her? Her eyes narrowed and she tried to wiggle her legs, but all she could do was flex her toes. She sighed, the initial pain was gone and replaced with a dull ache but it didn’t stop a black expression crossing her face.

Then all of a sudden he was kneeling next her lifting the chair away from her body. She felt his hands on her legs briefly but Ginny couldn’t look at him. His presence so overwhelming she had to stop herself from gripping her arms tighter around herself. His black boots stared back at her and the bottom of his robes brushed her stomach lightly making her shiver as she braved a look up at his face. But what she saw there surprised her more than anything.

For a quick moment, she saw complete relief and pain in his eyes before everything disappeared behind his wall of apathetic impassiveness. Confusion and breathlessness hit her harder than she expected, making her stomach jump, but before she could search for the look again his heartless mask was back in place and it made Ginny furious.

Play the game, she reminded herself. He treated her with cold indifference so that’s what she would shove back in his face.

“You could’ve answered me,” Draco accused emotionlessly.

“Yes,” she said coldly, watching as his eyes traveled the length of her body, resting a moment longer on her crossed arms and then on the bandages on her neck and stomach. When his eyes reached hers again, she was ready for him.

“Get up,” he commanded her.

“No,” she said stonily and was rewarded with an impatient glare.

“Why?” he questioned, but Ginny heard his tone. He was angry and unsure of her and the thought made her spirits soar. Maybe she could do this; maybe she could truly be heartless towards him.

“I'm having an allergic reaction,” she said vaguely and Draco’s eyebrows rose a fraction. He thought she was lying.

“Right,” he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “If you want to stay down there then fine, but either way you’re answering my questions.”

Ginny didn’t answer him, but glared at him steadily. His lips formed a smirk as he looked down at her and Ginny felt her nerve slipping slowly. He was laughing at her.

“Trying to escape?”

She knew immediately it wasn’t the question he had in mind, but she answered him as heartlessly as she could. “Yes.”

“Will you do it again?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know what is going to happen to you if you do?”

“Yes.”

Each answer was filled with hate and disinterest but they didn’t even faze him. Draco looked down at her with all the haughtiness and supremacy that only a true Malfoy could manage. No, she thought to herself, this man could have never lowered himself to worry about her. Xavi had been wrong. He was only after one thing, and she wasn’t it. She was never it.

“You have a Power.” It wasn’t a question, but a statement he knew was true and Ginny knew nothing she could say would convince him otherwise.

“No,” popped out of her mouth emphatically. Ginny tried not to look surprised that she had just lied to him and somehow managed to stay still. Not that it was hard.

“No?”

“No,” she said again, this time with more confidence. But what little assurance she gained drained away with his narrowed eyes.

“Denying it won’t help you,” he told her carefully. “It’s not going to get you your freedom, and it won’t make me give up. I will find out what I want.”

“I don’t care,” she answered him, watching his face carefully. Silence filled the room while they both stared at each other. She knew Draco was sizing her up carefully, but she took the still moment to just watch him.

He had carefully avoided looking at anything except her face and she knew he was struggling to stay calm. Something was bothering him.

“You should care,” he said and it sounded as more of a promise. “The reason you have that slice on your neck is because you touched the Power.”

“No, the reason I have a slice on my neck is because you threw a knife at me while I was tied to a chair,” she glared at him. His eyes flashed at her with annoyance.

“Get off the floor,” he said sharply, his jaw clenching together.

“I already told you I can’t,” she said, feeling her resolve crack along with her voice. She looked up at him and immediately the anger in his expression was gone, replaced with one of cool amusement.

Bending down next to her, he crossed his arms over his knees so that his fingers were dangling close to her stomach. He looked down at her and smiled, but it wasn’t any smile she’d ever seen.

“Is this what you want?” he asked her, brushing his knuckles against the side of her waist sending intense shivers up her spine. His hands were cool and soft as he switched hands and ran the tips of his fingers over her navel. “If you wanted me to touch you, all you had to do was ask,” he told her.

His touch made her want to cry, she had longed for it again for so many years. Now she wanted to shove him away and scream at him to never come near her again, but she was frozen and her traitorous skin prickled and tingled in response to his gliding fingertips. She glared at him, wishing he would stop but her overwhelmed body trembled and she looked away from him when she felt tears brim her eyes.

Her face was next. She felt his thumb trace her jaw and she instinctively tried to move her face away from his touch but her neck muscles felt like they had melted into the floor. She knew she wasn’t in danger, but it didn’t stop the unwanted tears from rolling down her face.

All at once his touch stopped and she could feel his gaze sear into her.

“Ginny…” Draco grabbed her chin between his finger and thumb and forced her face towards him. Unable to resist or keep her head straight, her cheek slid into his hand, his thumb tracking the tears. She looked into his eyes with all the hate she could muster, but was met with confusion and concern.

“I…” he started.

“WHAT’RE YOU DOING?” Xavi shouted from behind Draco, who didn’t even jump at the enraged older man’s harsh voice.

“Xavi!” Ginny exclaimed, relief coating her voice. Draco withdrew his hand like he was burned and looked back to where his uncle was standing. Ginny couldn’t see his face, and frankly, didn’t care. She was happy to see Xavi, even if she didn’t know exactly how he felt about her being a Weasley.

“Duck, why are you on the floor?” Xavi pushed Draco aside and leaned down to help her. Draco was more than willing to move away, his expression mutinous.

“I tried to get out of bed; the Dreamless Sleep potion…” was all Ginny had to say before Xavi started rushing about the room, enraged and concerned. He yanked a blanket from the bed and tucked it around her, then began moving the books and volumes off the bed, all the while mumbling fiercely under his breath.

“How long have you been on the floor, duck?” Xavi asked her fretfully. “You must be freezing! Draco, stop being a dunderhead and do something useful,” Xavi pointed towards Ginny and for one heart stopping second he looked at her and right through her.

Such cold hatred crossed his face that she almost started crying again, but instead watched him step towards her and lean down to gather her in his arms. His hands slid under her back and knees, sliding slowly along her skin and sending shivers through her again. His arms gripped her tightly and he lifted her up, holding her almost reverently for a long moment before stepping forward to set her gently in the large bed.

This reverent touch was so different from the one before, Ginny looked up at him and expected to see a different person standing over her. But her eyes traced the strong jaw and cheeks of Draco’s stony face as he slid his arms out from under her. He didn’t look at her, but before his hands left the cover of the blanket she felt him slid his fingers lightly down her arm and over the palm of her hand.

It was no more than a slight touch, but she knew he had done it on purpose.

“Draco, you mountain troll, how could you let her stay on the floor?”

“It wouldn’t be above her to lie,” Draco sent a withering look over to his great uncle, who didn’t seem put off at all.

“And you didn’t take it as a big hint that she couldn’t move? And what made you feel the need to destroy the room?” Xavi scolded, casting a disapproving glance around the room.

“How did you get out of my office?” Draco asked savagely, his eyes narrowing, but Xavi had turned his attentions to Ginny.

“Why are your legs bruising, duck? Are you feeling better? Why didn’t you wait for someone to help you get out of bed?” Xavi peppered her with questions, but Ginny wasn’t listening. Her eyes were focused on Draco, who was standing as far away from the bed as he could and keeping his flashing eyes focused on one of the bedposts. His expression was getting darker by the moment.

“Yes, thank you,” Ginny said distantly, her eyes still unwillingly locked on Draco.

“She was trying to escape,” Draco stated flatly, his eyes carefully avoiding her direction. Xavi just turned and glared at him, but Ginny’s curiosity and wariness turned to cold distain.

“I don’t blame her,” Xavi defended callously. This seemed to break Draco’s own resistance and he pushed away from the wall and advancing on her bed, his eyes now back to their normal cold grey, except now they were sparked with anger.

“How many people know about your Power?” he looked at Ginny, his voice low and menacing. “How did you learn it? What can you control? ANSWER ME!” he shouted at her and for all her muscle weakness, Ginny flinched under his gaze.

But her own coldness did not falter and even though she still could feel the ghostly imprints of his hands on body, she looked at him definitely.

Her stomach lurched as she looked at him, suddenly wishing that he would touch her again. Her body and mind were tearing into two, and she felt hopelessly stuck in the middle. She wanted with all her heart to wrap her arms around him and cry into his shoulder, but her mind was screaming for an escape from his presence.

His anger had caught her in uncertainty, and any answer that she could think of stuck in her throat. The silence infuriated him further.

“That’s it,” Draco pointed at her, “you’re going back in the dungeons. I can’t deal with you.”

Immediately the indecision was gone and Ginny blanched unwillingly. She knew he was just trying to threaten her into telling him, but it was a good threat and she still wasn’t sure what he would do. “What is it that you can’t deal with exactly?” she asked him hotly, her anger rising that he made her feel so helpless. “All I’ve done is pass out and lose blood!”

“Maybe you should have lost a little more!” he suggested coldly. Xavi gasped and they both ignored him.

“You certainly helped it along. If your aim was just a little more to the left you could have been rid of me for good!” Ginny tried to sit up but her body refused to move any more than an angry tremble.

“I missed because I wanted to,” he assured her confidently and Ginny could feel her confidence slip.

“So you’re not mad that you didn’t kill me, just that your perfect reputation has been ruined?” she asked acidly. He looked at her harshly and she watched as hate filled his eyes.

“My perfect reputation died the day I let a dirty Gryffindor in my bed,” he assured her bitingly.

“I’ve almost blocked that year from my memory, but I'm pretty sure that you were the one that decided I was worth it,” she almost dropped her eyes as she felt her pulse increase. He looked down at her with a smug sneer.

“A Malfoy never passes up an easy shag… even a pitiful one as you.”

The room fell miserably silent except for Xavi who tsked loudly, which somehow it made the comment even worse for her. It was almost as if the final blow had been struck, Ginny knew she had lost something. Her cheeks flamed red and she wished that after seven years his words had no effect on her. But the proof dominated the room, and she didn’t even try to deny the shame and hatred flooding through her while Draco just stared coldly on.

Then almost as if he couldn’t bear to look at her anymore, Draco spun towards the door. “Cinch will be here within minutes. Xavi, watch her,” Draco snapped as he calmly stepped over a fallen chair.

Ginny told herself to end it, to let him go and save herself the extra agony. But she didn’t. “So that’s it?” she asked loudly, her voice confident. “One tiny insult and you send me back to your dungeons? You give up pretty easy these days…”

He stopped as soon as he heard her voice, but he didn’t turn around to face her. “I think you’re confusing ‘giving up’ with ‘not giving a shit.’” His voice was quiet, but it slashed through her.

She watched as his hand hit the doorknob and she tried to stop herself. It was like she was salting an open wound, then grinding it in with morbid fascination.

“Am I really that unimportant to you?” she said and congratulated herself when actually turned to look at her this time.

Draco knew he should have felt some sort of guilt for causing the unconcealed look of hurt and question on her face. But he was too frustrated and angry to feel anything towards her. Her blue eyes implored him to say something and a wretched feeling of disappointment flooded through him. The relief in her eyes and voice when Xavi had come into the room and the way she had watched him, her emotions towards him indecipherable, was enough to cloud his vision.

It was also enough to break whatever motivation she had for questioning him so openly. He knew he should have felt so angry when he looked at her and that his comments to her were uncalled for. After all, he would have expected nothing less of Ginny – she wasn’t one to go down without a fight.

But all this, combined with her beautiful, bruised face, and her bandaged body, not to mention finding her on the floor half naked, made Draco feel harsher and more able to cut her deep.

He gave her a piercing look, “I should have let them kill you in front of the Dark Lord. That’s how unimportant you are.”

Silence descended on the room once again, but this time was different. The reaction on Ginny’s face was one he didn’t expect. She almost smiled at him before her eyes went completely vacant. Draco’s furious face stayed frozen only to convince himself to keep the feeling alive. Ginny’s eyes rested on his, however, and he couldn’t deny the feeling of uncertainty floating through him.

“Then why am I alive?”

“Because you’re valuable to the people the Dark Lord hates. He is the one who decided your fate,” Draco spat out at her, carefully avoiding telling her he was the one who gave Voldemort the idea. Knowing Xavi would be quick to correct him and give his fond new patient a reason to think differently, he sent Xavi a glance that told him to keep his mouth shut. The old man was watching him with barely veiled hatred.

Ginny looked almost defeated and lost.

Draco felt like the dark evil person he was supposed to be.

“You really don’t care do you…?” she asked, her voice trailing off, but he knew she thought she knew the answer as soon as she asked the question.

“The dungeon awaits you…” Draco said with a cruel smile that hurt him more than anything.

“You cared seven years ago enough to save my life,” she told him, and he unwillingly remembered the way her lips had mouthed her love as her brother carried her away from him off out of the fight.

But he also remembered the punishment he endured for it: a Crucio so extensive and solid from Voldemort himself that Draco could still feel slight tremors if he thought too long about the moment. He knew with every fiber of his being that the Crucio had been worth it to save her life, but he would never tell another soul of that traitorous feeling. The excruciatingly painful moment was engrained into his muscle memory, but late at night, his could feel Ginny lying next to him or wrapping her arms around him.

Muscle memory was a curse.

His eyes narrowed and he had no regrets about speaking the truth, even though it came out double edged. “Seven years has been an eternity, more than long enough to learn from my mistakes.”

She looked at him, her blue eyes somehow brighter and more piercing in the sunlight that filled the room. This time, she made no attempt to conceal her hatred for him.

“You destroy everything you touch… you haven’t learned from that mistake,” she said and Draco felt her words surround him, slashing at him as they repeated over and over in his mind.

Suddenly the room was too much for him, and he couldn’t be in her presence any longer. With one swift and hateful look he turned and stalked out of the room, slamming the door so hard he knew the whole room would rattle with its impact.

But he did not leave the hallway, staying close to her door, his hand on the cold ornate knob. He waited, for what he didn’t know. And then he heard her.

“Liar! I hate you…”

It was her voice clearly, strong, though not quite loud. He knew he had hurt her badly, but he still wondered if he had made her cry again. The thought was almost too much for him and as his hand left the icy doorknob of her room, he wished he had just stayed away… for both their sakes.

-

Ginny didn’t cry when he left and she regretted her hateful outburst in front of Xavi even though she had the suspicion that he knew she didn’t mean what she had said.

And she hadn’t. Truly, she didn’t hate Draco. Though the moment that he told her she should have died in front of Voldemort, she knew it was all over for her. What he said was harsh enough for her to realize he meant it. She would have forgiven the ‘mediocre shag’ comment because she knew he was his way of chipping at her any way he could, but not that. It was almost like he was scared of her, she thought, amused.

But it hadn’t distracted her from how she felt about him. For a long time after he left, she had stared at the closed door, waiting to see if he would come back and wishing with all her might that she hadn’t pushed for answers she wasn’t ready to hear. Xavi had tended to her, making her strong potions and trying to get her to read. But she lay in her bed, eventually gaining the strength to curl around her pillow, and took comfort in watching the familiar motions of potion making.

But she didn’t forget Draco’s promise to send her to the dungeons, and for the entire week after, Ginny waited on edge for the order or for Cinch to come and haul her away. Every time a knock would sound on her bedroom door, she would tense with fear only to watch Xavi shuffle into the room with an armload of books and manuscripts for her to read or a house elf enter with her dinner.

She was healing, though slower than she would have liked. She wasn’t in pain, but fatigue plagued her constantly. She couldn’t sleep for long; the overwhelming feeling of complete vulnerability from just closing her eyes and knowing Draco was only doors and walls away was enough motivation to keep her awake. That, and she never failed to dream of him: silent, wide-eyed, detached dreams that left her feeling emotionally exposed and defenseless all over again.

Helping with Xavi’s research distracted her, but only for a little while… and there was always the oppressing darkness of the night that reminded her of where she was and who was watching her.

It was only a feeling, but she could sense Draco was watching her closely. Xavi was the only person that she ever saw however, besides for the few bowing and scraping house elves that brought her meals and locked her doors at night. It was only until she realized that she had not left her suite of rooms the whole week did she recognize that Draco had indeed sent her back to the dungeons. However more comfortable and pleasant this confinement seemed Ginny saw it for what it was.

It was clear that Draco had sealed her fate to become a Death Eater. The very thought of having to wake up every morning to the Dark Mark permanently on her wrist as a silent reminder of betrayal and evil made her stomach tighten with dread.

Ginny knew that she shouldn’t concentrate on what her dismal future might hold, but she felt the thoughts hovering over her. It was just as well, ignoring the facts only led to being blindly manipulated and Ginny found that she liked to have control.

And I'm in the one place where I have no control over anything, she thought contemptuously. Shuffling to the door of her room leading out to the hallway, she tugged on the door knob harshly. She needed out! She needed…

Her thoughts of Draco always stopped there. If he was monitoring her somehow, she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of knowing she was thinking about him, no matter the emotion that accompanied it. Her feelings towards him were more confused and incomprehensible as ever and a part of her was relieved that she didn’t have to see him. The other part however, wondered why he didn’t come to make sure she was being tortured. He didn’t care, she reminded herself daily.

But even though she felt trapped, in a weird way, she felt like this room was where she was supposed to be. At home, everyone had their part in the war; their lives were set and focused. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Lukas and Emlyn… they were all Aurors or Aspects, they knew their purpose, they had something to fight for and wake up each morning for. And then there was Ginny, little lost Ginny. Even with her Healer training and everything that she could have done to help in the war, she still felt like the only one without a purpose.

She loved to be at the hospital, healing wizards and witches, perfecting her technique and helping people. But she had always felt that there was something else lingering out there for her to realize. She supposed she had felt it acutely when realized that the hospital was just a safe and protected place to be every day. There was no danger for her, nothing to strive towards. These feelings had only been intensified by the letter she had received from Dumbledore after his death her sixth year. It haunted her more than she would have liked.

Be strong, he had written in his final letter to her, for the glory might belong to others but you will win the war.

What did he know? How much did he know before he died? Questions haunted her whenever she thought about her former Headmaster. But, around her second year of Healer training she had forgotten about the small scroll hidden in her bedroom at the Burrow. University was taking up most of her time, and she had made fresh new goals without the thought of her previous relationship with Draco driving her life.

But now, as she sat on the fluffy blue bedspread in her elegant bedroom and stared out the window, she remembered the lasting words of Dumbledore. Winning the war was Harry’s job, why did the crazy old wizard think she, a spottily-talented Healer, brilliant researcher, and a Weasley to boot, could bring down the Dark realm.

The first obvious answer was Draco Malfoy. It was his mansion she was confined to and she could not overlook the coincidence that it was his Power that fueled the Dark Lord’s.

Did Dumbledore think she would kill Draco? He was an Aspect, and she knew her magical ability was no match for his from her training sessions with Harry. Revenge for Bill’s death was always in the back of her mind, but somehow she couldn’t justify the idea of killing Draco for it. She also resigned to the fact that Bill wouldn’t want his baby sister to commit murder for him, no matter what. But she also knew that wasn’t the reason she wouldn’t even think about the dark idea.

She could not forget the way he had touched her and looked at her when he saw her tears. Seven years was a long time between them, and as sure as she knew that though Draco had been able to shove aside his feelings for her (if they had actually been there in the first place), she knew that she could not forget her feelings for him.

Forgetting was different than forgiving however, she reminded herself. And knowing she wouldn’t forget didn’t mean she wouldn’t do her best to ignore her feelings. Draco deserved every painful, dismal moment she could give him. As she traced her fingertips over the words in the latest book she was reading, she resurrected the long time wish that he got the chance to feel how heartbreaking it is to love completely and be left so harshly. She smiled for a moment, realizing how utterly Slytherin she sounded, scheming paybacks and wishing for hurt in the most subtle of ways. Draco had told her many times during their friendship that they were more alike than she realized. She had always shrugged it off, telling him that Slytherin and Gryffindor had nothing in common except wands.

But maybe he wasn’t wrong. Ginny was almost as good as Draco at masking emotions, she learned today, though he obviously had a bit more practice over it. One painful comment from him and she was destroyed.

Ginny barely jumped in surprise when a knock sounded at the door. Xavi didn’t even wait for her to answer before he started shouting to her.

“Ginny, duck, I’ve got a surprise for you! Two in fact!” Xavi announced as he bustled in the door. Ginny didn’t notice that she didn’t hear the lock click back because she was concentrating on the piles of clothes he was levitating in front of him. He set them down on the bed with a wave of his wand then turned to smile happily at Ginny’s overly pleased face.

For the past week, she had been alternating between her hospital scrubs and men’s t-shirt and shorts and found herself somewhat annoyed that even with the vast amount of money he loved to brag about, Draco couldn’t spend a few Galleons to get her something that actually fit. But here was something she could wear! Quite unlike herself, Ginny giggled in delight as she sifted through the neatly folded piles of jumpers, jeans, and shirts.

This was something she could relate to, she thought to herself. The past month felt illusory and she had worked hard to keep a hold on her reality. But there was nothing like a good pair of jeans to make a girl feel like herself again. She didn’t even care that it was paid for by a bloodthirsty Malfoy; Ginny just wanted something clean even if they were all Muggle clothes.

“Do you like what I brought?” Xavi asked her, smiling lightheartedly at her bright face.

“Can’t you tell?” Ginny teased as she held up a particularly elegant pair of designer jeans that were surprisingly her correct size.

“Well then, pick out something to wear and put it on. My second surprise is waiting!” Xavi turned his attention to one of the books Ginny had been taking notes from and began reviewing what she was reading. Ginny merrily picked through the clothes then dashed into the adjoining bathroom to change.

She slipped into the jeans quickly, relishing the feeling of regaining some normalcy, but when she pulled the jumper over her head her breath caught.

"They smell..." familiar Ginny finished to herself. She smelled the jumper again, trying to place why it evoked such a strong emotion, but she couldn’t identify it.

Xavi must have heard her through the closed door because he yelled back at her. "I got them from the attic. Lady Malfoy loved fashion," she heard him explain through the door.

“Loved?” Ginny questioned.

“Yes, duck. Lady Malfoy, keep her soul, unfortunately passed away almost over six years ago now,” Xavi told her and Ginny heard the slight tense tone in his voice. She couldn’t help remembering how protective Malfoy was of his mother and she felt a little hitch in her stomach when she realized how lost he must have been. “That’s how I came to live here; I was her personal Healer here at the Manor when she first became ill.”

“So why are you still here?” Ginny asked through the door, pulling on a pair of ankle socks.

“I did quite a bit of research while looking after Lady Malfoy and Master Malfoy decided that he would let me continue here after her untimely death.”

But she didn’t really pay attention to the answer. So Draco gave her his Mum’s old clothes, she realized with a shake of her head. Actually, he probably didn’t even know Xavi took the clothes. What else could she have expected though? Still extremely thankful for the thoughtfulness of her new friend, she sat down on the closed toilet with a sigh to tie on a pair of trainers, also curiously exactly in her size. Opening the door to the bathroom, she emerged and immediately took a look at herself in the full length mirror that stood in the corner of the room.

She pushed her fingers through her strawberry hair, watching it fall in loose waves down her back. The jeans rested dangerously low on her hip bones and she had picked a plain white t-shirt that covered the bulky bandages on her stomach. The bandage on her neck stood out noticeably making her face look paler and her eyes look wider.

“You’re looking better,” the mirror’s whimsical voice commented, and Ginny had to agree.

"Thank you," she told the mirror, then turning towards Xavi, thanked him also. “So what’s this surprise?”

“I'm taking you on a tour of the Manor!” he looked ecstatic and Ginny knew he was gauging her reaction but all she could push out was a strange open mouthed gap. Her stomach dropped with a slight panic, but Xavi pretended not to notice her change in attitude. “So grab a jacket; it might be summer, but the wind is high today.”

“I don’t think this is such a good idea…” Ginny protested. She was restless, but she knew who lurked outside of her safe little walls.

“Why, are you still feeling tired?” he asked, peering at her curiously. A faint twinkle glistened in his eye and Ginny wondered if he had an ulterior motive.

“No, well, yes. It’s just I…”

“You’ve spent too much time in this room, duck. I insist as your Healer that you come on a short walk with me. It’s a beautiful day and I don’t want to miss it!” Xavi chirped, his excitement infectious. He slapped on a bowler hat over his striped sweat band and gave her a pointed look before opening the door and stepping into the hallway.

Ginny grabbed a blue trackie from the bed and left her uncertainties before following Xavi out of her room.

She listened to Xavi talk for a few minutes as he led her around various floors, showing her a staggering amount of rooms, paintings, artworks, and furniture pieces. Everything she saw was gorgeous and elegant but it was completely beyond Ginny to be able to appreciate it. Her attention was elsewhere and Xavi looked like he knew it.

“This is a beautiful place, Ginny, if you can look past the owner. Draco is very proud and protective of his home.”

“I thought Lord Malfoy owned everything,” she questioned as she touched the corner of the large formal dining table that dominated the family dining area, as Xavi described it. Ginny wondered, slightly curious, if this cavernous hall was where Draco ate every day and remembered with a pang her own family kitchen table. It stood wobbly on three legs and a makeshift piece of wood and had scrapes, burns, and holes peppered all over its surface. But some of her most cherished memories were around that table and she wondered what kind of memories this cold, shiny, elegant table possessed for Draco.

“Lord Malfoy hasn’t owned a galleon of the Malfoy fortune since the death of Lady Malfoy. The day she died, he signed everything over to Draco… the businesses, the holdings, the Manor, their lands,” Xavi explained, then pointed to an elegant portrait of Narcissa Malfoy that hung above the massive fireplace in the room. She was very beautiful, Ginny admitted. And she looked kind.

“Lord Malfoy must have been very upset when his wife died to give everything up,” Ginny commented.

“I'm not sure Lucius looked at it that way. I think he was more pleased to be able to concentrate solely on serving his Master without the burden of extra responsibilities.” Xavi had a curious look on his face, but Ginny decided it wasn’t wise to press him.

“Oh,” Ginny said when she couldn’t think of an appropriate response, but carefully noted that Xavi seemed to have suspicions about Lucius Malfoy.

They continued their tour and Xavi showed her countless rooms, all of which he knew the names of, that Ginny was sure he was making things up as he talked. She was completely lost as he led her up and down winding staircases and through doors and hallways but when they rounded a corner she immediately recognized the window on the fourth floor where she had first fainted.

“Draco’s study is down that way,” Xavi pointed amiably. “And I don’t know if you remember any of the events, but this is where you made a ruckus to wake the dead.” He smiled at her fondly. Ginny didn’t remember and wasn’t trying to either. She was more concerned with the possibility of Draco’s office door flying open and him venturing out.

Xavi saw her long glance back towards the large door. “Yes, he’s in there, but his business will keep him.”

Ginny didn’t relax, but nodded all the same.

They continued on downstairs where Xavi showed her more rooms, none of which she was very interested in. She longed to see something familiar: a library, a kitchen, a garden. Anything but more beds and sofas and artwork. It was almost as if Xavi wanted to bore her when he knew what she really wanted to see. He was up to something, she eyed him warily.

Surprisingly, they reached the ground floor and ambled through a pair of beautiful French doors, across a large flat stone courtyard and through blooming gardens. It was breathtaking. Lush green grass met them and they walked slowly around fountains and flowers on gray gravel paths. It was almost too gorgeous to imagine. The blue sky overhead contrasted vividly with the clear sparkling water and vibrant colors of the flowers. White clouds danced through the sun rays and the wind picked up as the reached an edge of the flowers. It was a beautiful day, Ginny realized and she inhaled the warm air, reinforcing her determination to be brave and fight.

“This is magical, Xavi,” Ginny told him as they stood side by side, surveying the flowers swaying with the breeze.

“I agree,” Xavi answered. Ginny felt suddenly awkward though when she couldn’t think of anything else to say. As much as Xavi had become a friend, their conversations consisted of mostly medical things. She knew pretty much nothing about him except what he told her the first day they met. He, on the other hand, was staggeringly perceptive and seemed to know a lot about her.

“So, tell me, what was Draco like in school?” Xavi asked her, looking strangely curious. Ginny stilled, feeling her cheeks go red as she struggled to think of an answer that didn’t sound suggestive to her true feelings. She had been around Xavi long enough to know that what seemed like a simple question was really a carefully worded statement meant to draw out the most interesting answer. She smiled briefly; what was he really asking?

"He was obsessed with being the perfect son; everything he did was to gain his father's approval."

"Very observant.”

“Not really, he was quite obvious about it some days.”

“Yes, Draco is particular that way. But when love of his father was denied for so long, he worked for what he couldn’t have.”

“In school, he was always of the opinion that he was entitled to whatever he wanted,” Ginny said, then pressed her lips together in irritation. She shouldn’t have volunteered the information.

“But what did he work the most hard for? Was it something he thought he couldn’t have, I wonder?” Xavi asked the question and Ginny knew he wasn’t looking for a response from her. But she knew the answer anyway: Draco had worked hard to get her. Well, she thought he had, obviously she was wrong. Ginny turned away from Xavi so he wouldn’t see her face and looked out over the flowers.

“Was he much like he is now?” Xavi asked her.

“No,” Ginny answered quickly, thinking of their heated shouting matches. Well, maybe he was a tiny bit the same, she thought.

“What was he like in school?” Xavi asked again and Ginny knew he wasn’t satisfied with her first answer.

“Driven, arrogant,” ...charming. Ginny bent down and picked up a beautiful pink flower and twirled it between her fingers. “He always knew what he wanted and how to get it.”

Xavi looked at her closely and Ginny knew he was satisfied with her answer but had a thousand other questions waiting. "How do you know so much about Master Malfoy?"

"We went to school together,” Ginny said, purposefully dismissive and reserved. She didn’t know why, but she felt Xavi knew much more about Draco’s school days then he was letting on. Which, consequently, meant he knew a little bit about her.

"How do you know so much about Draco?" Xavi asked again, his eyes fixed on her.

"We were...” Ginny stopped as she looked back towards the Manor and noticed a figure descending quickly on them. There was only one person she knew who had such a distinctive prowling superior walk. Draco was stalking towards them, his robes flying out behind him threateningly.

Overcoming the overwhelming feeling to turn and run as fast as she could deeper into the maze of the garden, Ginny stood her ground and reminded herself that she was not a coward. He was probably coming to drag her back to the Manor and lock her up in a room and slide her meals through a slot in the door. She could manage that and it would make for a good fight.

Get a grip, she told herself. He was probably out enjoying the nice day. Or he was furious that Xavi had let her out of her room and she looked over to see if the older man was nervous. Xavi looked cheerful and unaffected, even waving at Draco as he approached. Ginny gaped in amazement, then remembered how informally Xavi had treated Draco.

It was only a few more moments before Draco reached them and when he did he kept his eyes curiously set on Xavi.

“What did I tell you!” he demanded, his grey eyes were narrowed from the sunlight, but Ginny felt the full effect and he wasn’t even looking at her.

“And what did I tell you!” Xavi yelled back, his cheerful mood diminished under his great nephew’s glare. Draco looked mutinous. It was obviously some sort of conversation that only the two of them understood.

“What are those?” Draco pointed at her clothes. Ginny gaped at him incredulously. Just what the hell did that mean?

“I got them from the attic,” Xavi looked at him suggestively and Ginny thought he never looked more like a Malfoy than he did at that moment. Draco’s narrowed eyes looked blank for only a moment before his face darkened in outrage.

“I told you not to interfere!” Draco half shouted. She could see the muscle in his jaw twitch and she took an involuntary step back. Draco noticed and though he didn’t look at her, his expression softened immediately.

“And I'm not! The poor duck had nothing to wear, not that you would know or care!”

Draco looked almost penitent, but Ginny chalked it up to the bright sunlight.

“That’s not your only motivation, is it?” Draco accused and Ginny turned her own narrowed gaze on Xavi who looked surprisingly innocent.

“No, its not, but I'm too tired to explain it to you right now. I'm heading back to my rooms for a nap, I hope you’ll be a gentleman and offer to continue Ginny’s tour of the Manor, Draco.”

It was possibly the most confusing conversation Ginny had ever heard. Obviously something was said, and both Xavi and Draco knew what the fight was about but as Ginny stood in shocked silence, watching Xavi do his shuffle-step back towards the Manor, she couldn’t help but wonder what had just happened. Did Draco Malfoy, an Aspect, the High Death Eater, really just get put in his place by an elderly man… again? Xavi was almost back to the house before she realized that she was standing very close to Draco in the beautiful garden.

Draco was now watching her. Her hair was flying out behind her in the breeze with wayward strands twirling back to press quickly against her face before being carried off again. The sun touched her still pale face making her look more ill than he knew she was, but somehow she still looked beautiful. Draco was entranced just watching expressions fly across her confused face. She was so close to him…

“I'm going back, too,” Ginny announced suddenly and started off towards the house with the intent of leaving him behind. But Draco quickly caught up to her.

“I’ll take you around. If that’s what you want.” His offer sounded surprisingly hesitant, and Ginny almost agreed.

“No, I think I’d like a rest,” she told him, then started off down the path towards the manor.

“Are you tired?”

“I'm not up to spending time with you, if that’s what you mean.”

“Fine.” Draco’s face looked so blank that Ginny wondered for a moment if he was actually thinking anything. “I’ll take you back to your room then.”

“You mean my prison?” Ginny said smartly, then wished she hadn’t said anything at all.

“You could have left your room at any time. The door was never locked.”

“What do you mean? I see the house elves lock it every night and I tried to get out today and the doorknob wouldn’t even twist. Is it one of those fancy doors that you have to kick twice then say the magic word?” she gave him a sarcastic look and he glared back at her.

“No,” he said, his voice calm. “The house elves lock it for your protection at night. During the day it’s just charmed so that you can’t… go wandering off with the wrong intentions,” he told her carefully and she saw the corner of his mouth twitch.

“So you don’t trust me not to run away?”

“Intentions are everything. You’ve obviously been trying, or you would have been able to get out of your room sooner.”

“I didn’t even think about leaving until you came out here. So it rather seems like company is everything,” she corrected him. They walked through the garden in silence, Ginny was trying to look like she knew where she was going but the garden was big and she was sure she had just made a wrong turn.

They walked down the new path lined with colorful flowers she hadn’t seen before. The sun was hitting them strongly, but the wind made day cool. It was an odd feeling to Ginny to be in such bright sunlight walk next to someone she associated darkness with. His short blond hair looked almost translucent in the light and his pale skin shone horribly making the dark circles under his eyes stand out. He was silent, striding next to her and only after a few moments, Ginny realized she had stopped looking for a path back to the house.

“Xavi says you’re getting better,” Draco said after a moment as they crunched along the gravel pathway.

“He’s right,” she said evasively, resisting the sudden itching of her stitches in her neck.

They were quiet again, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable silence for her. She placed the pink flower she had been twirling in her hand since before Xavi left behind her ear so she could touch the silky petals of a white flower. It was calm and Ginny found herself drawn to it.

“I like this place,” Ginny whispered to herself, then realized that Draco heard her. He watched her as she stood and walked away from him, following the path of the flowers further away.

“I thought you might,” Draco told her, but when she turned around he wasn’t looking at her. “You won’t be allowed out here alone,” he said suddenly.

“Why?” Ginny asked, keeping the sudden frustration out of her voice. More rules were coming.

“No matter how safe you think this manor is, Weasley, it’s not safe enough for you to go wandering around by yourself,” he looked at her, his eyes carefully watching her.

“Why does it matter if I'm safe if I'm as unimportant as you say I am…?” Ginny reminded him, looking away. It hurt to even say those words and she regretted asking him for an answer.

Acting unconcerned with his presence, her hand reached out to touch another flower when Draco’s fingers wrapped around hers tightly and spun her towards him. He was so close she tried to take a defensive step back, but he held her tightly. His face was unreadable, but she saw the curious look in his eye she had noticed before.

“I said you are unimportant to the Dark Lord,” Draco told her, his voice harsh. Ginny’s gaze flicked downward but Draco tipped her chin up so that her eyes reached his again. “I never said you were unimportant to me.”

Her breathing stopped for only a moment as she listened to his words. He watched her then boldly ran his hand along her cheek and into her hair, pulling her closer to him. She did nothing to stop him as his lips touched hers softly.

The wind picked up around them and Ginny could feel her hair toss around them, but it didn’t matter. Draco was kissing her.

It was perfect for a moment. His lips felt the same, insistent and confident. And then they were gone.

He didn’t let her go, but he didn’t look at her either. Ginny was grateful. She could smell the scent that hung on Draco’s clothes, the one she could never forget. She almost laid her cheek against his chest, but stopped herself and tried to remember that this wasn’t real.

“I'm leaving for…” he stopped, his jaw clenched. “I'm leaving tomorrow,” he amended, “and I’ll be gone for a week. Your training will start when I get back.” Every unwilling emotion from Draco’s sudden kiss died.

“Training,” Ginny repeated dully, trying to disguise the hurt in her voice. She didn’t know what she expected he would say after kissing her so suddenly, but she didn’t expect him to talk about training. The thought made her stomach turn and she untangled herself from his grasp calmly and moved away. “For a moment I forgot…” she looked down at the flower she was still holding.

“Forgot that you’re to be trained?”

“No. I forgot how cruel you are,” Ginny said angrily, her heart suddenly squeezing. "I was captured, Malfoy. I didn’t show up randomly so you could kiss me. You made your choice a long time ago, and I made mine.”

He didn’t have the right, she told herself, to fool with her emotions like this. He gave her up seven years ago and left for a life he wanted more than her. He couldn’t pretend nothing happened between them and he couldn’t pretend he hadn’t hurt her; he couldn’t kiss her like that.

His composure was controlled and calm. “I wasn’t aware you had a choice.”

“Everyone has choices, I grew up and forgot about you,” she said evenly. She wished with all her heart that what she said would actually mean something to him, but Draco’s face was blank. He looked as indifferent as ever. Ginny resisted another hurtful comment and just turned away from him unable to hold her composure.

When she looked back, Draco was already walking away.
A/N: So what did you think? I hope you all liked it, especially the part about it being over 9thou words. Whew! Anyways, there are some clues in there as to what’s happening next, and there is good stuff up for the next chapter! As always, I'm probably insanely obvious, but humor me so that I can feel sneaky!

So while I’ve been on my self proclaimed holiday (a uk word! Aren’t you proud?) I have been NOT sitting around twiddling my thumbs, as some of you may have thought. I had finals, working out my summer income plans, and a whole bunch of other headache inducing responsibilities. Gah! Some of that definitely cut into my writing time, but I have been working on TSTC and other stuff somewhat regularly. I needed time to get back into it so I wrote some other things and worked out my kinks… all that fun stuff. But, I hope to post in better time from now on, and if you ask real nicely I may put out some extra stuff :)

So, I missed you guys! Thank you to everyone who reviewed and was patient with me! A special thank you to everyone who sent me encouraging messages to get on with it – you guys were such great motivation! Thank you to everyone who I didn’t get to talk to, and thanks to all you silent ones out there!

Until next time, have a great week! Enjoy the summer holiday (there it is again!) and read, review, and all that good stuff! -xxx DC


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