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The Sickness and the Cure by DoubleCharms
Chapter 10 : Chapter 10 : No One Stays the Same
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 26


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A/N: Bats wanted this chapter to be titled ‘you die when you see the ring.’ Haha you’ll see why.

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.




Chapter 10 : No One Stays the Same


“No!” Draco barely restrained full on shouting at Ginny, but the frustration he felt echoed clearly off the cavernous ceiling. Ginny stilled and he saw her shoulders stiffen before she turned to look at him. “Your elbow is still dropping; do it over again,” he snapped.

He was standing across from her under the brightly polished chandeliers of the Manor’s private arena regarding her slight frame with clear contempt. His arms were crossed arrogantly across his chest and his eyes narrowed as he watched her halted movements with the saber. She was definitely not as elegant as he hoped she’d be.

His anger, however, didn’t stem from wanting her to be perfect, he knew it could take years for her to master the complexities of Wizard Sabers and he didn’t expect that from her. He was angry because she was making him angry.

It had been a long week of business meetings and sleepless nights only to return to a week of cold disregard and blank stares. She was being difficult; he was being worse. Draco didn’t know how to treat her after he returned from his trip… after he had kissed her. He was caught between being in and out of control and as much as it pained him, he couldn’t ignore how normal he felt.

It had all started with kissing Ginny. It had been a kiss of rights; he had claimed what he knew was his. It wasn’t desperate or pleading or blissful after seven years of scarce thoughts and unsaid words. To him it was as if he and Ginny hadn’t ever been apart and the kiss was just picking up where they had left off. Familiar, powerful, home…

But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t forget her face and the sound of her voice when she told him she moved on. I grew up and forgot about you…

He had never felt so lost and desperate as he did at that moment. Looking at her, Draco had wanted nothing more to curl her broken body into his arms and convince her she was lying to him and to herself, but he couldn’t even bring himself to touch her. Anger had exploded within him, morphing slowly into jealously then self-loathing then stopping at cold indifference.

As soon as he had walked away, he realized he had reacted within the moment. It was something he was trained never to do, it showed indiscipline. But Ginny affected him in a way no other person had been able to before, and she did it with just one glance. After he had time to clear his head and think as objectively as he could about her, he came to the solid conclusion that she had been lying.

But so far his solid conclusion was melting a slow death. He watched her closely under the bright Arena lights for the entire week they had been practicing together for any slip in her armor against him, any long looks, anything that would prove his gut feeling right.

Not once did she show any sort of reaction towards him. She had set the mood between them and it was cold and uncaring and completely convincing.

She was infuriating. And dropping her elbow again.

“Are you concentrating at all?” he sneered at her and though she did not turn to look at him, he saw her back straighten.

“How can I concentrate when you won’t even tell me why I have to do this?” she answered. The saber she held rose slowly and she preformed the maneuver again, this time flawlessly. Though her voice was even, he knew she was furious. Draco stayed quiet and watched as she executed the move over.

Not every Death Eater trained with sabers. Even with the lull in the War and Voldemort’s recent emphasis on fighting and Fight Nights, very few Death Eaters were even allowed to touch a saber. Sword training was supposedly an honor since using sabers in a magical battle was pretty much ineffective. Being allowed to do any extra sword training meant that you were good enough with magic to concentrate on something else for awhile.

But not in Ginny’s case. Draco had realized early on that if Voldemort would let her live to be a Death Eater, he would have no problem letting her die as a Death Eater. He would be able to secretly protect her if she was ever forced to go on a raid with them but he hadn’t figured in the one place he wouldn’t be able to do anything to help her: Fight Night.

The realization that she could be forced to fight any Death Eater and he would be forced to watch, helpless, made his blood freeze. Ginny was disposable and of no use to the Dark Lord, except as entertainment and without the promise of battles against the Order, Voldemort wasn’t one to wait patiently for bloodshed. Secretly teaching Ginny to fight for herself, no matter wand or saber, would be the most effective and underhanded way to protect her.

Protect her... The thought slipped into his mind for the thousandth time since he started instructing her. He knew he was doing this because, in all honesty, he knew he had no other choice. He had kissed her and every second that his lips touched hers was worth the harsh words that had followed. She thought she hated him and he was going to prove her wrong.

However, even that daunting task didn’t worry him as much as what he knew was coming. The exhausting saber practices weren’t going to be nearly as rough on her as the other undertakings she was going to have to accomplish. And it was going to be his job to make her do them.

Draco frowned, his eyes trailing after Ginny as she was practicing an attack. To be accepted as a Death Eater, there were only three steps. For someone with desire to be given the Dark Mark, they were simple. The first was the use of an Unforgivable, even better all three. The second was to go on an initiating raid or participate in a Fight Night, sometimes using either as the chance to complete the first step with it. The last step was to accept the Dark Lord, and this was the point Draco had to convince the High Council Ginny could complete.

Most who sought out the Dark Lord were already eager to get the Dark Mark, but Ginny was obviously not eager and she wasn’t going to be easily persuaded. She needed to accept the Dark Mark willingly; she could not be forcibly branded. This was going to be the most important point for Voldemort because if she refused, she would be killed and…

Draco glanced over to where she was slowly twisting the blade of her saber and he felt his throat tighten.

“You’re done for today,” he growled with finality, unable to watch her make mistakes that would injure her if she had to fight but unwilling to keep yelling at her to fix them. Nothing was simple anymore. He turned and began to charm away the obstacles he had conjured for her.

“Are you sure you don’t want to torture me for longer? Usually you’re not satisfied for another two hours.” Again her tone was measured and unemotional but he heard the soft exhale in frustration that followed it.

It had been like that between them since he had returned from the business a week ago and it was beginning to be exhausting. They were constantly battling against each other, but the weapons of choice were even-tempered words and uncaring stabs and the victor would be whoever was stubborn enough to keep the dance going longer. But as much as his opponent was Ginny, Draco couldn’t help but feel like he was fighting himself, against who he knew he should be and who he wanted to be.

And it was all because of her.

“You’re wasting my time, I have better things to do than watch you fail,” Draco told her.

“I'm not failing,” Ginny told him, “I'm not even trying.” The announcement echoed off the cathedral ceiling causing Draco to slowly turn to look at her.

“Do you realize why I am making you do this?” he asked her, his temper rising. Did she not realize he was doing this for her, to save her?

“No. And I don’t care. I count the minutes until I can leave and get away from you,” Ginny narrowed her eyes slightly. She was showing her anger and it surprised him; it was the first solid reaction he had gotten from her since he had gotten back. She was getting tired of pretending and it gave him sudden amusement.

The corner of his mouth lifted slightly. “I'm teaching you to protect yourself, and you don’t think that’s important?”

“But it’s important to you?” Her eyes caught his and he stopped.

“I already answered that question,” he said, impulsively reaching his fingers towards her to tuck a piece of wayward hair behind her ear. He had told her she was important to him but he realized now she didn’t believe it.

“Don’t touch me,” she snapped, stepping back from him quickly. Her eyes were wide and Draco resisted a smile; she was uneasy.

He turned and with a flick of his hand the sabers rose from the table and floated serenely to their horizontal mounting places across the far wall of the Arena. He knew she was thinking hard, he could almost feel the rush of emotions that surrounded her.

“This… the sabers, is what you were taught?” she asked as she watched him.

“Some of it, yes. But everything I was put through was a hundred times worse than anything I've made you do,” Draco told her.

“I thought I was supposed to be trained the same as you, as any other Death Eater?”

“I'm not just any other Death Eater, now am I?”

She was gaining confidence and he could tell. “If you’re not the same as all the rest, why do you still follow… him?”

“I don’t follow the Dark Lord and he knows it. I do what pleases me.”

“Then why…” Ginny stopped herself quickly, grateful that she hadn’t asked the question she had been thinking. She knew why he left, but she didn’t want to hear it from him. “Then what are you doing? If you’re supposedly so strong and everyone realizes it, why is He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named still in control?”

Her question surprised him, but he didn’t show it. “I have better things to do than be worshiped by wizards who don’t know any better.”

“Isn’t that what you wanted, power?” she almost choked on the words, waiting to hear him confirm what she always knew: he had loved something else more than her.

“Being worshiped isn’t power, it’s fear. The Dark Lord reeks of fear.”

“But you have power now. Are you satisfied?”

“I have my Aspect,” he said evenly. It was neither a confirmation nor denial.

“If that’s all you wanted, why didn’t you ever prove that you are the…” she paused, “the Devil’s Servant?”

“Why didn’t you ever confirm it…you knew the truth,” Draco asked her, soaking in her every detail, from her defiant expression to her eyes which told a different story. Every one of his nerves was on end, and they had been like that ever since she had walked back into his life.

“We dig our own graves, Malfoy. I just didn’t care if yours had a name on it or not,” Ginny answered him, meeting his icy gaze.

"So you never told anyone what you know about me?"

"How would I, when my whole explanation revolves around the fact that..." Ginny’s gaze darted to the ground uncomfortably.

"You saw me with my shirt off?" Draco drawled helpfully, but Ginny just looked up at him evenly.

“It’s better than telling everyone I'm responsible for saving your life,” Ginny’s blue eyes were filled with disappointment and guilt. Draco did not flinch but he felt like he had just been hit with a Crucatius Curse. She regretted saving him during his last year at Hogwarts. She regretted saving him…

“You are so contradictory… so different than I would have thought. Everything about you says that you don’t care about having control and power and leadership of Death Eaters, but here you are… exactly like that.” Her eyes were insistent.

“You’re different too; no one stays the same.”

“How am I different?”

“Cold, distrusting… you’re getting quite good at making me believe you don’t really care.”

“If I'm cold and distrusting, it’s because you made me this way,” she looked evenly at him, the wall she had built around herself was back in place and stronger than ever. “But you, you are the most confused I have ever seen you. I always thought that if I ever saw you again, you would be this confident and arrogant person because that’s how I last saw you. No matter how it affected me, you left Hogwarts knowing who you wanted to be and now that you are here…” she trailed off, a slight secure smile playing about her face. “You don’t know what you want, do you?”

Draco didn’t answer her, but he could feel his eyes bore into her. It was as if every word was squeezing his body tighter and tighter. She was the vise and she wasn’t letting up.

“If I didn’t know what I wanted I wouldn’t be here, Ginny,” Draco said carefully, but his voice was menacing all the same. Silence filled the room as he waited for her to continue, but she just took a step away from him.

“Well you made it perfectly clear that I wasn’t what you wanted the first time, so leave me out of it now,” Ginny told him softly. Her pale face met his, unchallenging and unfeeling. She just let the meaning of her words float between them, waiting to hear him test her on them.

But he didn’t.

She turned and walked across the length of the arena. Her trainers treaded silently and he wondered if she wanted to look back at him or was thinking about him. It was enough temptation.

“Ginny,” he called to her, just as her hand touched the door. She jumped slightly at the sound of his voice then stilled.

His heart hammered unexpectedly as she turned to face him and her eyes flicked up towards his. Deep down he knew what she wanted him to say in that moment, but he couldn’t. Or wouldn’t. They stood there for a loaded moment, neither speaking nor breathing.

“Will you accept the Dark Lord?” It was the same question he asked her each time they finished her saber training sessions. It was the only question he could bring himself to ask her, trying to convince himself that she would do it when the time came. Each time he asked it however, came the same reply.

“Never.”

But today was different because before she turned away from him fully, he saw the glimmer of tears reflected in her bright eyes.

His own eyes hardened as he watched her disappear behind the Arena doors. No doubt she would return to Xavi, smiling and laughing. Jealousy hit him hard, but he doused it before he could dwell on why he was envying an old man.

Draco flicked his wrist and this time the remaining sabers flew with reckless speed towards their destinations, clattering into their holding pegs. But tossing around swords wasn’t satisfying him and with a tremble the room exploded with the emotions he couldn’t contain anymore.

He felt the same way after he had kissed her except this time it was multiplied and amplified by the exhausting week of trying to match her attitude and anticipate her moves. He wanted her. It was so simple but he knew he could never admit it to her, much less himself. His frustration and anger and hurt blurred against the high walls and ceiling of the arena in swirls of darkness. His fists clenched.

He couldn’t stop hurting her; it was like an ingrained part of him. He didn’t know how to fix the things between them and he felt with unwavering certainty that everything he was doing was making it worse. He just didn’t want to feel so damaged anymore.

But his thoughts were interrupted when he felt the presence of his father approaching the arena quickly and within a second his magic evaporated and the room was once again filled with the light from the ornate chandeliers. And not a moment after that, the large doors swung wide and Lucius strode confidently into the room.

As always, his distinct and pungent cologne preceded him and Draco tried to forget the unwelcome memories the scent inspired.

“Draco,” his father greeted him, an oily smirk pasting on his face. Formalities always stood between them, along with a great deal of pretense.

“Father,” Draco answered as Lucius stopped in front of him. Their eyes met, identical in color and suspicion until Lucius broke into another one of his forced smiles.

“How was Berlin?”

“I was in Madrid. Everything went fine; I haven’t destroyed the family business.”

“I had every faith in you the day I signed it over to you, Draco.”

“Thank you, father,” he said calmly, though he couldn’t ignore the glimmer of pride that shot through him. His father continued to gaze at him peculiarly, and Draco felt an uneasy shift between them. Lucius rarely came to the Manor anymore, only appearing when he needed or wanted something. “This is an unexpected visit,” Draco said with dying congeniality.

It was not meant to be harsh, but his father used it to take control of the conversation. “You asked some unexpected questions while you were gone, I came to find out why,” he fired back.

“I wasn’t aware you cared how I ran M.I. these days,” Draco said lightly, but he knew what his father had meant. While away from the threat of direct repercussions, Draco had made some very intimidating inquiries into the capture of Ginny. He was careful but apparently not discreet enough to keep it from getting back to his father. Draco wondered briefly if Voldemort approved of his investigation.

“I wasn’t aware you cared so much about finding the one you termed as ‘traitor,’” Lucius barely restrained a sneer.

“I was betrayed and you expect me to do nothing?”

“Betrayal implies that you were injured in some fashion. You’re being a child, Draco,” Lucius looked down his nose at Draco.

“I was blamed for an act I didn’t commit. Whoever did it has turned on one of their leaders; they are a traitor.”

“You were given a gift! The Weasley girl was a major capture and you screwed it up!”

“Someone wanted me to take the fall, Father, and I want to know who. Stay out of it,” Draco warned, but his father was not easily intimidated especially when he was the one who taught Draco the art of inspiring fear.

“This isn’t about the Robes is it? You want to know who was responsible for making the little brat bleed,” Lucius snarled. Draco blinked, but was not swayed.

“Everything she got, she deserved,” he spat out, hearing how truthful the words sounded to him and feeling how it made his stomach knot. The viciousness of the statement gave his father pause.

“You are spending a lot of time with her for just trying to convert her to the way of the Dark Lord,” he commented evenly, his eyes wandering to the display of sabers on the wall.

“She is stubborn,” Draco returned, his eyes following his father’s gaze.

“You are not sure you can do it?” Lucius pressed and Draco felt the uneasiness return. His father was never so insistent and Draco wondered what he was getting at.

“She will be turned, one way or another,” he said carefully and the arena returned to silence. Lucius looked around as if he was suddenly interested in the décor and Draco watched him suspiciously.

“The Dark Lord asks after you,” Lucius said after a moment. Draco’s eyebrows rose fractionally. He was prolonging their conversation. Why? Curiosity and mistrust bubbled in him and he instinctively felt for Ginny’s presence in the Manor without thinking if she would feel his Aspect touch. Relief and longing made his heart beat faster as he felt her tingling presence along with Xavi’s.

Realizing he was getting distracted, Draco snapped back to the conversation. “He has no need to ask, he already knows,” his eyes narrowed perceptibly.

“Yes, yes… I'm foolish to say so,” Lucius trailed off, regally studying a stone of the wall.

“Why are you here?”

“I am getting old, Draco.” Lucius sighed. It sounded like he was reminiscing.

“So are we all, Father,” Draco answered vaguely and was surprised when Lucius smiled almost genuinely.

“M.I. was important to me, as you know, and one of my proudest days was handing the company over to you,” Lucius told him, turning for a moment then walking slowly towards the display of sabers.

“I was honored to be given the responsibly,” Draco worded the comment carefully since one of his father’s proudest moments turned out to be one of Draco’s worst. He had wanted the company, but not under the situation it was given to him.

“My point, Draco… my son… is that I want you to have that moment for yourself,” Lucius paused and Draco thought for a second he had misheard his father.

“What are you saying?” Draco tried, hoping it wasn’t what he thought his father was going to say.

“I want you to marry and have a son so that you can give M.I. to him, that is my wish for you,” Lucius looked away from where he had been studying a sword and took in Draco’s suddenly livid face.

“Your wish for me?” he questioned, his throat tightening.

“Yes, my only wish for you,” Lucius looked pleased with himself.

Draco felt the shock rise up in him. “Do you remember the last time you said those words to me?”

“I couldn’t have, this is what I want for you,” Lucius dismissed it.

“You’re wrong. You said the exact same thing to me the night I agreed to become The Apprentice. You said it was your only wish for me to gain unlimited power within the Death Eaters.”

“And you have done brilliantly,” Lucius said calmly, “but the wishes of an old man can change.”

“That’s shit. You aren’t an old man, and you haven’t changed at all since I’ve been alive. The only thing that is important to you is your reputation within the Death Eaters and now you’re telling me that you think it’s important for me to GET MARRIED?”

“It was always my intention to see you pass on the family business, Draco, don’t get so worked up over nothing.”

“Do you have some sort of disillusioned idea that this is going to bring me more power within the Death Eaters?”

“Certainly not, the Dark Lord could care less what you do with your free time,” Lucius explained.

“I do not have free time. I am the Apprentice,” Draco said harshly.

“Stop being dramatic,” Lucius scolded. “It is a simple request. Find a witch, pass on the business. Preferably before I'm dead. You spend enough time out with women; it should be simple for you.”

Draco was speechless. He had never seen his father so insistent over something so absurd. Lucius cared more about house elves than he did about Draco’s social life. “Have you been in the whiskey?” Draco looked at him, incredulous. Lucius darkened.

“I am not making this request lightly!” Lucius barked harshly, his voice sharp enough to echo across the arena.

“I understand,” Draco said mollified, trying hard to hide his confusion and slight alarm.

“Do it now, while the War is still at a stall,” Lucius said crisply, as though he were issuing orders for a raid. Draco just stared at his father, trying to keep the shock out of his expression. His father nodded curtly taking his silence for agreement, then turned and walked across the arena, his boots clicking loudly against the stone. But when his hand raised to open the door magically, he turned and looked at his son. “I hope you take this seriously because I meant what I said. I wish for you to do this.”

Draco’s barely perceptible nod was enough for his father. He realized he was beyond taking orders from his father; he had been since the day the snake tattoo had been seared into his arm. But the little boy that Draco held suppressed inside so effectively for so many years clamored to life at the prospect of pleasing his father once more. But he turned away as Lucius began to close the doors to the arena, and in his stunned state Draco missed the narrowed, loaded stare Lucius shot at him before disappearing.

-

Ginny walked slowly through the maze of hallways nervously chewing on her lip. Her feet sunk into the expensive rugs, silencing her steps as she followed behind a small house elf. She could probably find her way to Draco’s office with her eyes closed by now but the house elf wouldn’t let her go anywhere without him. Beck led her to practice then would wait patiently to take her back. He brought her meals, camped outside her room, and he locked her door at night. The only time Beck disappeared from her side was when she was with Xavi, and even then she had the feeling the little house elf was never far away. She was never alone and Ginny highly suspected it was on Draco’s orders.

As for Draco, she only saw him for a few hours a day, but he certainly made his presence felt and the effects lasted deep into the night. Their conversations were tense and sparse, just how Ginny wanted them. But just being around him made her concentration break and she slipped today, letting him see her anger. She knew he took advantage of her momentary lapse; he did the same thing every time he saw her weaken. He would try to touch her and say the things she wanted to hear, but in the end it would always be ‘Will you accept The Dark Lord.’ He had one goal and that was saving himself. He only cared about his life and would do anything even if it meant scaring her wrist forever with the Dark Mark.

Ginny shivered, trying not to think about what awaited her. Draco said the saber training was important, but Ginny couldn’t imagine why. She had no idea what kind of training the real Death Eaters went through, but she had a suspicion that Draco was preparing her for something else. He avoided her questions and under his cool demeanor, she would see flashes of unease and impatience. It was those moments that worried her the most. But Draco had saved her and she had to trust in that.

But trusting him was hard, especially since she had to constantly remind herself to stay distant. She couldn’t believe his lies, she wouldn’t let herself. Not again.

She had learned her lesson the hard way at Hogwarts. He worked hard to earn her confidence and love even though he knew he would leave. She fell for him hard and he only cared about his instant gratification and the effect on his progress with the Death Eaters.

The kiss in the garden only served as a reminder of what would happen if she let him in again. Not that it was even a possibility. But since then, she realized her avoidance strategy wasn’t working with Draco; she felt like he could see right through her. And she definitely didn’t want him to see how much the kiss had really affected her.

It was time to change plans and as she got closer to his office the quiet hallways seemed to unnerve her. Ginny closed her eyes and wished that she could unnerve him as easily as he did to her. It was unfair that he was so unemotional… all she wanted was a reaction from him. It didn’t matter if he yelled or if he kissed her again; she needed to feel something from him.

Beck knocked on the door with his tiny fist and Ginny tensed at the loud noise it made. The door cracked slightly as if someone had twisted the knob and let the door slide open, but when Beck pushed it back for Ginny to walk in she only saw Draco alone in his office. He was at his desk bent over rolls of parchment twirling a quill in his long fingers, as he usually was when she came to see him.

He didn’t look up as she approached his desk so Ginny stopped besides one of the black chairs resting in front of his desk. She found it hard to believe it had only been almost three weeks since she had woken up on Draco’s couch… alive and angry. Now she was just alive.

In a show of unexpected emotion, Draco ran a hand through his short blond hair and sighed lightly. Ginny felt her chest tighten, remembering how he used to do the same thing when he was doing his homework at Hogwarts… or when he couldn’t get her attention. Ginny frowned.

“What do you want?” he snapped and Ginny jumped. He still hadn’t looked up at her and she could tell he was frustrated with something and trying not to show it.

“Xavi sent me to tell you we are going for a walk in the woods,” Ginny explained shortly, reverting to her passive voice she reserved for only him.

“Again?” This time he looked up at her, his eyebrows raised slightly over his sharp eyes. Ginny nodded woodenly.

“The experiment we want to do…” she stopped short at his clearly disinterested look.

“Just go, I don’t care. As long as you are with someone, that is. I don’t know why he sends you to tell me you’re leaving,” Draco made a movement towards the door with his hand then looked back down at his paper. Even though she was clearly dismissed Ginny couldn’t help but laugh, completely forgetting that she was supposed to be aloof.

“Don’t you?” Ginny asked incredulously, her eyes sparkling. She wondered how much time Draco spent with his eccentric uncle. Only her fondness for Xavi could have made her act so out of character around Draco presently. It had been blatantly clear to her from the moment she started spending time with him what Xavi was trying to do. He constantly brought up Draco in every conversation and made a point to mention him whenever he could. Everything Xavi said was peppered with ‘Draco said this,’ and ‘Draco likes that,’ and ‘you know, Draco always…’

Xavi was trying his best to push Ginny in front of Draco by making her find him to report their every activity. And though she privately felt that Xavi was wasting his efforts, Ginny humored him.

The crazy old man with his sweatband and house slippers was by far the only person in Malfoy Manor that she could currently be slightly unguarded around. The only other people she spent time with were Draco and Beck. Draco was completely out of the question and Beck was too observant for his own good. And Beck didn’t talk much except when he worked himself into a panic, usually when they were in danger of being late for Ginny’s practice with Draco. But Xavi shared her love of medicine and research and laughter and most days Ginny found it hard to believe the old man was related to the stony-faced Malfoys.

Draco, however, was currently demonstrating the stony-face and Ginny tried hard to suppress her smile making her cheeks dimple curiously. Her smile faded completely however when she caught the wary look in his eye. Immediately it clicked for her and she wondered why she hadn’t seen it before.

Draco could deal better with her cold attitude than anything else she threw at him; he was used to people hiding their emotions. But she had a chance to be something completely foreign to him: civil… maybe even nice. He didn’t deserve it, by far. But presently, she could think of no better way to catch him off guard than with a smile and a laugh. Perfect!

“Never mind,” Ginny shrugged, her smile disappearing. But she still felt a small bit of elation as she watched him watch her.

“I have work to do,” he said coldly, but his eyes did not leave her. He sat back in his chair, rolling his shoulders oddly. Ginny didn’t leave.

“What’s wrong with you?” she asked, hoping he would take it the wrong way. Draco glared at her. She waited a few more seconds then gave him an arching glance and turned away. She was beyond waiting for him anymore, she decided. He could do what he wanted; she was going to concentrate on staying alive and happy.

She was not even two steps away when he spoke and she hid her smile as she turned around to face him.

“If you insist, my back won’t stop itching because of the damn stitches,” Draco growled, then returned to reading the paper in front of him. She knew he wasn’t really concentrating on the paper, he was waiting to see if she would leave now. She stood still a moment longer and caught him rolling his shoulders uncomfortably again trying to relieve the itch.

He looked up as she picked up his ornate letter opener from its case and held it out to him, blade first.

“Sharpen it,” she commanded, her eyes looking strangely in his. His only response was a slight raise in his eyebrows as he daringly grabbed the blade then silence as he ran his thumb down the blunt edge, effectively sharpening it. But he did not hand it back to her. Instead he set it next to him on the desk; if she wanted to stab him she could come a bit nearer.

Ginny had no idea if he had actually magically sharpened the opener but knew instinctively that Draco was worried about what she was going to do with it. When he swiveled in his chair, following her until she stood in front of him, Ginny almost smiled. He was completely conscious of her, but he wouldn’t ever admit it to himself.

She could see he was surprised when she made no move to pick up the letter opener. It sat, sharp and cold, on the desk where he left it. Ginny stood before him, looking at him and trying hard to keep the feelings bubbling within her fully masked. Be bold and brave, she told herself; make him struggle for control.

They were close and silent, regarding each other cautiously. Draco waited, his heart hammering uncontrollably at her nearness. Ginny leaned forward slowly and caught one of his hands that rested on the arm of the chair in both of hers. Draco barely resisted the urge to pull her into his lap, instead letting her calmly pull him upwards. He stood unhurriedly, his eyes locked with hers.

Ginny held her breath as she watched him rise. She had always loved how tall he was and just watching his lean body tower over her reminded her of the days when he used to corner her in the Hogwarts hallways. Immediately she pushed the thought out of her head. The man that stood before her was not the boy she fell in love with, and more importantly, she would not let this get out of control. This was a test to see how far she could push him.

They were standing so close to each other, Draco could almost feel the heat from her body touch his… he suddenly felt winded. But when she placed her hands tentatively on his chest, he lost all conscious thought. Her hands traced heated paths along his chest under his robe where she pushed the expensive material off his broad shoulders. It fell to the floor in a quiet rush of fabric; Draco ignored it. Ginny was touching him. Voluntarily. He had to work hard to keep his hands at his sides. He knew he couldn’t touch her, not yet anyways, but his fingers itched to trace the curve of face and feel her silky hair glide between his hands.

Ginny saw his face freeze when she shoved his robe off his shoulders. What did he think she was doing? His blank expression revealed nothing of what he was thinking, but that was normal. Draco couldn’t show emotion if he tried.

She inched forward slightly, fingering the material of his shirt before pulling it slowly out of the waistband of his pants. Her head was bent slightly, her hair slightly covering her face. Her fingers brushed the smooth skin of his stomach accidentally and her stomach leapt along with his.

As she continued to pull the shirt, she stepped closer to his body, turning her head slightly so that her cheek was inches away from his chest. She could smell him and almost feel his chest under her cheek, but what bothered her most were his hands. He wasn’t touching her, or even trying to for that matter. But his hands… they were hanging at his sides, but for a disorienting moment she saw his fingers slightly stretch towards her.

He wanted to touch her, she realized. Her throat closed up and all at once she realized her hands were completely encircling his waste; her fingers were gripping his shirt as she continued to slide the hem from his pants. What was she doing?

Her eyes flicked to his face, only to find him watching her with peaked grey eyes. It was a challenge and she fought the panic rising in her. She found the first button on his shirt without breaking contact and unbuttoned the fabric expertly. She finished as fast as she could, losing her nerve the closer she got to his smooth neck, but once the last button popped away she shoved the shirt off his shoulders without touching his skin.

His undershirt stuck to his curiously damp skin. Her fingers itched to touch him and that’s just what she did. His body was lithe and hard under her hands as she found the edge of the shirt, pushing it up his body. She immediately realized she had forgotten how pale he really was. His skin seemed to glow and tinge with the hot blood pumping underneath it.

Up, up, up went the flimsy undershirt revealing his long torso. But when she reached his armpits, Draco stood unmoving forcing Ginny to look up at him.

He had been waiting to see what she was thinking. She hadn’t looked at him since his shirt started to come off and he figured it was because she was deciding between motives. But when her hand slid over his stomach he had to curl his hands into fist to keep from touching her.

Their eyes met and each was surprised by the clear indifference each pretended to hold. But Ginny pressed on, pulling the shirt up and over his head when he lifted his arms for her.

The Dark Mark that slithered down his arm no longer held fascination for her. But she couldn’t ignore the lurch in her stomach each time she saw it. The Devil’s Servant… that was who he chose over her. She glanced down, her eyes falling unwillingly to his flat stomach for lack of a better place to look.

He stood impassively watching her, his eyes glued to her cheeks and waiting for the moment when she would look back up at him.

It was a moment filled with everything but words. They were only inches from each other… just fingertips away. They both knew they were hiding from each other but neither was willing to admit there was still something between them. It was something so tangible it filled the room with shallow breaths and heady silences. It was the most wonderful and frightening moment since she walked back into his life.

Ginny could only continue when she told herself that she was doing this for a medical reason. Putting her hand on his shoulder, she pushed until he twisted sideways then fully around so that his back was to her.

Intense disappointment and abandonment flooded through him as he felt the cold metal of the letter opener press against his spine. He turned his head slightly caught her eye. This time he didn’t hide the apathy he felt.

He didn’t know what he had expected, but he knew it wasn’t this. He gave into the self loathing that lashed through him at allowing himself to hope for something… anything from her.

She saw the awful scar from Eppard’s charmed saber blade right away, but that wasn’t what caught her attention. Almost parallel to the stitches was another gruesome scar. It was still tinged pink and raised and it had healed jagged and unevenly, but she recognized it right away. It was the cut she had stitched for him the night he had almost died at Hogwarts. Her eyes filled unintentionally with tears, and she was glad that Draco couldn’t see her.

He felt her trace the healed scar across his back and knew what she was thinking. He was thinking about the same night, but most likely not the same part. He didn’t dare a glance at her face and instead stayed still.

Ginny couldn’t help the anger and hurt that flowed through her when she saw the scar. Most of the pain, however, came from remembering how worried she had been about Draco and angry she had been at the mystery people who were responsible. But with one blink of her eyes it was gone. She stepped closer to him and sliced through the first stitch. The wound was long and Xavi had put in numerous stitches to help with the scaring. It was several minutes and several removed stitches later before she spoke.

“Why didn’t you rip these out, too?” she asked in a small but accusing voice. Draco almost sighed in agitation.

“You don’t understand what I was up against that year,” he defended, but deep down something stirred. Ginny scoffed lightly.

“You have excuses for everything,” she said, almost sadly. “But the choice was yours from the beginning.”

It had been his decision to leave her. But she had never understood and he never wanted her too. So he laughed… and she yanked out a stitch.

“Shit!” he exclaimed, rolling his shoulders trying to get rid of the feeling of the heavy string pulling tightly through his skin.

Their silence continued, and Draco was grateful because he couldn’t concentrate on anything except Ginny’s hands against his back.

“The Dark Lord doesn’t care now that you have stitches?” she asked, her tone almost friendly.

He could feel her breath on his back and it made his stomach flutter. “He doesn’t know. He won’t know, and if he found out it wouldn’t matter.”

“What changed?” she questioned.

“Many things,” Draco said evasively. Lies. Her chatting stopped and he was surprised at how much he wanted her to continue. “You’ve never ask the questions I expect you to,” Draco told her as more of an observation than a statement, then almost swore at his stupidity. He had just opened the door to a conversation he never ever wanted to enter.

“Questions about why you left, you mean?” Ginny said simply, but her heart was hammering as hard as Draco’s.

“Yes,” he admitted and for the first time he felt like he wasn’t trying to lead the conversation. It was also the first time since Ginny appeared that they were talking about something without using suggestive tones or just shouting. He was eager to keep it that way.

“I never needed to ask those questions because I know the answers, Draco. I know why you left and I don’t want to have to hear you say it, so I just don’t ask,” she told him, carefully slicing through the last knot and pulling the thread out of his skin. She called him Draco on purpose and wondered briefly if he noticed.

He did. He felt her hands leave his back and heard her set the letter opener on the desk. Draco turned to look at her and found her blue eyes watching him curiously.

Ginny congratulated herself silently; Draco looked completely bewildered.

“Xavi’s waiting,” she said softly, excusing herself with a small smile. “Your back will still itch a bit, but it won’t be as bad now that the stitches are out.”

Draco nodded, stunned and unnerved by her complete change of attitude towards him. But as he watched her close the door to his office only one honest and excited thought came to mind: if his father wanted him to get married, he would find a way to marry Ginny Weasley.

-

The Burrow was quiet in the dying afternoon light. Doors were closed and locked, shades were drawn and no smoke coiled from the chimneys. The house appeared empty and with the rickety condition, abandoned. But inside the Weasley family, Hermione, Harry, and Lukas sat around the kitchen table staring at Severus Snape as he calmly drank his tea.

He had finally returned and brought with him news that most of the family had a hard time believing.

“So, you’re saying that Draco Malfoy… the Devil’s Servant, The Dark Lord’s most prized Death Eater… saved Ginny from being killed and that she is now living at Malfoy Manor doing medical research with his uncle?” Ron stated with his usual eloquence.

“I did say that she was going to be branded, did I not?” Snape sneered, soaking in the shocked expressions and the collective intake of breath.

“With the DARK MARK!” Mrs. Weasley’s eyes were wide and filled with tears. The rest of the family went off on exclamations of doubt and worry, but Harry understood.

“He had to have a reason to save her,” he said grimly.

Snape heard him over the family’s lamentations and nodded, “Unfortunately you’re right again, Potter. But that’s not why I showed up a whole week early with news.” But not all the Weasley’s were satisfied enough to hear what else Snape had to say.

“How can you say that Ginny is safe!” Fred growled in outrage.

“We need to go get her! We should have been at Malfoy fucking Manor three weeks ago!” George agreed.

“Boys!” Mr. Weasley scolded, but he also turned to stare at Snape with narrowed eyes.

“You don’t understand, do you?” Snape said silkily, clearly enjoying that he knew something they didn’t about one of their own family members. “She is under Draco’s protection, which means Ginny is safer than any one of you. Malfoy saved her for a reason and I gather that if you pressed him hard enough, Potter here could tell you why.”

All eyes swiveled towards Harry, who tried to look innocent.

“But you can do that when I leave,” Snape went on. “I came to tell you I have come by some interesting news.” He waited, soaking in the anticipation of the family. Finally, he spoke, “Emlyn is alive.”

-

Ginny was breathless from laughing so hard with Xavi as she pulled a door open to the dark greenhouse. She felt around for the old light switch in the fading sunlight before Xavi pulled out his wand and lit the grimy lamps. Xavi helped her set down the plants they collected on one of the long workbenches and then used his sweatband to wipe his hands so that he had huge streaks of dirt over his brow and balding head.

“Xavi, you’ve got dirt everywhere!” Ginny laughed again, and was heading to get him a garden towel when Beck plowed into her leg and clutched it tightly. “Beck! What’s wrong?”

“OH, MISSUS!” the little house elf cried pitifully. “Beck is so glads you are returning from the trees!” His large eyes squeezed out a few tears.

“What happened?” Ginny asked again, trying to calm her rush of anxiety. Xavi looked slightly worried, but he went back to separating the plants. She knew better; he was listening carefully.

“Master Draco… he is so… he will p-p-punish Beck if Beck doesn’t bring back Missus Gin-nay soon! Please, Missus! Master Draco … he is so angry!” Beck’s long fingers wrapped tighter around Ginny’s leg.

“He’s not angry, Beck, you’re just worrying. Malfoy’s just being impatient,” Ginny explained, trying to comfort the stressed house elf.

Beck shook his head violently, “Missus, please come with Beck.”

“Malfoy can wait; I have to clean up…

“Noooooo,” Beck wailed incredibly loudly. Ginny frowned, concerned. Xavi turned around to watch.

“Go with him, Ginny. I’ll see you tonight for dinner,” Xavi told her and Ginny nodded. Immediately, Beck stopped his crying and yanked the leg of her jeans so hard she almost fell over.

“Now,” Beck commanded, reverting to his silent demeanor.

The whole walk towards Draco’s office, Beck gripped her pants so hard she had a difficult time keeping up with his fast pace. Suddenly, as if Beck’s panicked attitude had rubbed off on her, she was more nervous seeing Draco this time than she did a few hours before. She wondered how long it was before he put his shirt back on, if he put it on at all. She wondered if she had succeeded in knocking away his unmovable attitude.

Beck pushed the door open without even knocking and the first thing Ginny noticed was that the room was much darker than the rest of the house even with the long dark green drapes open to the summer dusk. The soft light hit everything oddly and for a moment the room seemed almost romantic.

“Draco?” she said into the silence. Her heart hammered unexpectedly and she tried to figure out if she was nervous or somehow excited that he wanted to see her so badly. He looked up from where he was sitting behind his desk and said nothing. His eyes never left her face as he slowly he uncurled his hand. And there, sparkling serenely in the dimming light was a ring.



So I would totally classify this as a wopping cliffie, and for that I am sorry! I hope you guys aren’t too mad! Did you get the 'ring' thing at the top? hahaha I laughed so hard when she said that. Anywho, this particular cliffie motivates me though because I am completely excited to write the next chapter… therefore it should be up soonish. Good News? But I apologize on my knees for the long wait. Please, please, please forgive me?

Oh! I must admit that the World Cup distracted me quite a bit, did any of you guys watch it? It was magical! It was amazing! It was four weeks of footballers! I love to talk about it so if anyone cares to hear me prattle on about it, holla!

So back to reality, sort of, I would like to thank everyone who reviewed and everyone who I didn’t get to talk to and everyone who is out there but doesn’t say anything! You guys are totally awesome! I am off to find some popsicles. As always, read, review, have a wonderful week! –xxx DC


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