Disclaimer: Listen up, this is NOT MINE! I'm just using the characters for my own twisted pleasure. Dance, puppets, dance!
Author's Notes: Well, can you believe it? After months of pain, sweat and death threats the tenth chapter of IWNLYLM is actually out! Hallelluja!
I would like to appologize to all of those readers who've been anticipating this chapter for longer than humanly possible. You all are great and I hope you haven't given up on this piece ^_^
As usual, humongous kudos to dragonsangel68 for betaing this story, you're the greatest of 'em all! ^_^
Enjoy! I hope you like it! :D
Soft. Like butterfly wings. How could anyone ever resist the temptation? How can anyone stand her ground before these lips. Defy the unassailable desire to touch them with the tips of her fingers, while wondering how this velvety perfection could cause such pain with mere words. Was it even possible to ignore the zeal with which he captured her lips, commanding her to stay put beside him, experience and enjoy every intense motion? She felt numb, trapped within something she had no control of, sensing her self-restraint quickly dissipate into the cool air.
Ginny felt a tentative hand trail airily the line of her jaw, cold slender fingers brushing her skin oh so tenderly. The other hand demandingly traced her waistline, pulling her yielding form closer to him, imprisoning her completely between the wall of stone and his wall of chest. Her own hands were still trying to maintain the blanket's loose position over her flesh, but control was slowly slipping away, making their grip limp and somewhat futile.
Eyes instinctively closed, Ginny allowed her lips to explore everything within their reach - the taste, the texture, the rhythm. Something within her understood that now he was revealing himself to her, showing her the way to the deepest and darkest secrets of his tainted soul. But despite the closeness, despite the passion and the warmth, she had that nagging overbearing feeling that instead of looking into his soul, seeing him bare and defenseless, she was staring dumbly into a sheer veil of ice. Frigid, fine, impenetrable ice. She tried to see beyond it, tried to look into that small gap he left for her, but it was impossible. This was infuriating - he was taunting her with the precious knowledge she didn't know she wanted to have so badly, flaunting it before her, but just out of her reach.
She groaned meekly against his lips, sensing his shoulders tighten as a result of that sound. If she could, she would've smirked, but exactly at that moment an eager tip of his tongue prodded possessively at the seam of her lips, demanding an entrance.
The tranquil daze that engulfed her a mere moment ago, has been shattered into million pieces by that unexpected attempt of intrusion, causing Ginny's eyes to fly wide open, only to be greeted by a pair of cold silver orbs. Steely gray was watching her with the same exasperating indifference, even while their lips were tangled together, as usual showing no traces of human emotions. The coldness of his eyes, perfectly contradicting to the warmth of his chest, hit her hard, causing her to regain all of the lost sense in an instant.
Gathering her strength, Ginny pushed Draco away with a disgusted grunt, ignoring the primeval objection of her body when was struck by the cold air, and hurried to tighten the loose blanket around herself, wiping the traces of him from her lips wincingly. She glared at him with something nearing hatred shining boldly in her eyes, her nostrils flared as always in moments of unspeakable rage, her heart throbbing painfully and her breath labored. She wanted to scream, to shout, to curse the man before her into oblivion for such act, but all she could do was stand in front of him, vulnerable and exposed.
"Get out," she finally muttered through gritted teeth. "Get out! Get out! GET OUT!"
In a flash of white of his complexion and the black of his pajama bottoms, Draco stormed out of the chamber, fleeing from the woman and her wrath, almost fearfully.
Ginny watched the door slam behind him and the instant she was sure the door was indeed closed, she collapsed onto the floor, bracing herself as hot frustrated tears flew freely from her eyes. She sobbed loudly, wishing to drown in her tears, wishing to fall asleep and never wake up, wishing to leave, to run, to hide, wishing to stop feeling so utterly lost and powerless. Sounds of desperation escaped her lips and she clutched her chest as the pain became almost unbearable, pushing her to the brink of her sanity and nudging her closer to the edge.
Ginny didn't know how long she was crying, but after what seemed like an eternity, she felt a now familiar bony hand on top of her head. Glancing up, she saw Ora's kind face smiling down at her, and couldn't stop another overwhelming wave of tears pouring from her eyes. Drawing her knees closer, she yielded into the small gaunt arms that enveloped her in a weak attempt of a hug. The house elf was surprisingly strong and cooed Ginny softly into fully leaning onto her, forgetting about her demeanor or composure for a while.
Soft hushing sounds and a tender rub on her back finally lulled Ginny into tranquility. She was sitting on the floor, being hugged by the dedicated house elf and rocked, back and forth, by her, small sobs escaping her lips now and then. Everything darkened around her and the small bedchamber she had grown accustomed to during the past couple of weeks, now seemed foreign and strange once again. She tried to completely detach herself from her body, but couldn't. She was still aware of her eyes' being fixated on the opposite wall, and her lips still throbbing and tingling vindictively.
Questions and accusations echoed in her head, ramming her conscience with guilt and bombarding her with foul suspicions. Why did Draco do this? Why did he kiss her? Why did he protect her from Harry? Why did he helped her and let her stay here in the first place? Was it his plan all along - to lull her into a false sense of security, just so he could use her and hurt her even more?
Her stomach reeled with disgust at the thought.
But why? Why would he want to hurt her? And why go through all this trouble, of defending her from Harry? Why, why, why? Ginny wanted to scream out loud, making the windows shudder and break, but she didn't, afraid that she might scare the caring elf. So the questions, the confusion and the accusations remained circling in her mind, jeering and prodding every exposed raw nerve. What was she to do now?
Leave! her mind screamed incredulous. Don't dare to search for justified reasons or excuses! Just leave! Do not play games with him! You do not want Draco Malfoy as your opponent, not now. He does not play by the rules… Ginny shook her head, trying to chase the spitefully accusing voice away. She was in no shape for dealing with outside reality, let alone evil inner voices of her conscience.
Nevertheless, she would leave. Immediately. She would avoid talking to Draco, if it was possible and she would get a grip on herself. She cannot spend her life hiding from Harry. She will not! She would pull herself together and deal with everything with the same fire the Weasley family is known for!
Right after she stops crying, that is…
When her sobbing finally ceased, Ora returned into her frenzied mode and quickly ushered Ginny to her feet. She left the chambers for a moment, only to return accompanied by another four house elves, who carried a large tub, filled with warm clear water, which surprisingly did not spill out despite the elves' rather wobbling walk. Placing the bathtub carefully down, the four elves bowed their way out of the room, smiling submissively. Locking the doors after the elves had left, Ora helped Ginny into the tub and began rinsing her.
Ginny allowed Ora to wash her thoroughly, not saying a word. They never have actually spoken to each other and that is probably why she was quite surprised when a high-pitched voice cut through the silence.
"Nothing like a good bath to clear a confused mind, that what Ora always says."
Ginny blinked couple of times at Ora, taken aback for a moment by the unfamiliar voice, and cleared her throat nervously. "Umm…" she wanted to reply, but didn't know what could she say. "Yes… yes, I agree…"
"Master Draco has been having a lot of baths lately…"
Ginny blinked again, this time stunned by the words themselves and not the fact that they were talking. What was that? Was Ora trying to make a point or was she just tired of the silence? Was Draco… confused? Somehow that picture wasn't at all… natural. Draco Malfoy? Confused?
House elves were sworn to secrecy by their Masters. Forbidden to speak of family issues to anyone who was not considered a member. Was Ora bold enough to break the oath and risk severe punishment? And if she was, what was her reason?
"Oh," was all Ginny managed to mutter indifferently in an effort to try to bait Ora into saying more.
Ora paused for a moment and glanced at her sideways. She pursed her lips as if slightly irritated that Ginny could not understand such a blunt hint, before resuming the circular scrubbing motions, not saying a word.
Ginny frowned, disappointed that Ora refused to continue and slumped back. Her mind suggested her to question the servant, but she did not want to seem overeager or perhaps even paranoid. No, she shook her head and closed her eyes shut. She was beginning to hear coverts and conspiracies in words of the house elves and that couldn't have been a good sign.
Tired, frustrated and more confused than she had ever been, Ginny fell silent, chasing all thoughts from her mind and yielding completely to Ora's committed care. But thoughts crept back and she found herself planning what she should do next. After the bath, she would head out to Daily Prophet's editorial, to talk to Brooks and have him assign someone else to the Malfoy Inc story; but mostly she would catch up on paperwork. And after the work… she would return to the Burrow. Of course she would send Draco an owl, thanking him for accommodating her and helping her out, but it will hopefully be the only contact between them.
Ginny remained silent, allowing her thoughts to wander about, not quite caring as long as she didn't have to focus. She was brought back to reality by a soft squeaky coughing sound, which caused her to blink away the dull haze and glance at the small magical creature.
Ora stopped washing her and helped her out, toweling her as carefully as always and helping her dress. Ginny sat down on the bed, watching Ora wordlessly as she orchestrated the removal of the tub, and smiling to the bowing house elves. When everything was cleaned and taken care of, Ora turned to Ginny, her face expressionless, as of a good servant. Ginny involuntarily cringed at the thought.
The elf bowed down obediently and was about to leave when Ginny called her over.
"Ora… umm, I'm leaving Malfoy Manor and moving back to my parents' house today. I just wanted to thank you for always being there whenever I needed support and attention and… umm, well, healing…"
"It was my pleasure, Miss Ginny," squeaked Ora, instinctively bowing slightly. Her eyes gleamed with something sympathetic.
"Thank you for always appearing whenever I was… crying," Ginny smiled and was about to dismiss her when a though broke through. "I couldn't have been crying that loud, could I? How did you always know when…?"
Ora held Ginny's inquiring stare for a long silent moment, before breaking the most inconspicuous smile onto her odd face. "The atmosphere of the Manor shifts subtly whenever the Mistress of the Manor cries. Or fears. And years of practice taught Ora to notice that shift…"
Ginny willed her features to remain bleak, while her insides suddenly flared up. Years of practice? Her mind shrieked. What has been going on here for years?
"Mistress Narcissa was too much of a free spirit for Master Lucius' taste, you see," the devious house elf explained casually. "He was a bit rash with his fists, if you will, and she was a bit rash with her tongue. So I learned to recognize the signs of those undue quarrels. Master preferred to spend that time in the opposite wing of the mansion, while I helped Mistress…" now it seemed Ora was mumbling, though it was highly uncharacteristic of her.
Eyes widening slightly at the horror images brought into Ginny's mind, she heaved a small shuddering breath.
Nausea pulsating from her stomach, to her limbs and chest. Ginny suddenly felt very sick. This was impossible to comprehend, though it probably shouldn't have been so surprising. Lucius Malfoy was a cruel man and a vicious Death Eater, with austere and obsolete beliefs, who saw everyone beneath him and his purity. Then why was she so flabbergasted?
It has nothing to do with Malfoy senior… a small voice chimed in.
And it was correct. Was Draco aware of what was going on between his parents? How could he not be, he was never daft. But he was too small to do anything. And now… And now he's helping me because he couldn't help his mother…
Ginny sighed and rubbed her face, feeling all of her accusations seeping away and being replaced with the most engulfing feeling of exhaustion. She glanced at Ora through her fingers and smiled tiredly at her, dismissing the elf with a tilt of her head. Hearing the door click softly into its place, Ginny allowed a loud groan to escape her lips as she fell limply onto her bed.
Ignoring its creaky protests, Ginny buried her face into the pillow and lay still for a moment. Inhaling deeply, she suddenly sensed a knot settling at the pit of her stomach as a familiar scent hit her nostrils. It was a clean, cold, delicate smell of something that she couldn't quite remember at the moment, but still it was so enticing, so intoxicating, so possessing. Slender coils crept into her elegantly, trailing spherical motions down her chest, and when they finally reached her heart, they wrapped themselves around it like fine ringlets, constricting officiously.
She winced in pain and shifted herself onto her elbows, glaring at the pillow beneath her. So it wasn't in Ferret Boy's intentions to… yeah. She frowned at herself for a moment, realizing she wasn't quite sure what her accusations were regarding Draco's intentions. But it didn't matter now, since they were not true. She hoped.
But why did the git have to kiss me? She growled audibly, grabbing the pillow and sending it flying against the opposite wall. Git.
She buried her face in the other pillow, but discovered that it was tainted by his smell also. Shrieking disbelievingly, Ginny threw the second pillow away as well and lay flat on her stomach.
Unsullied rays of the morning sun streamed into the library through the high windows, glimmering among the wooden bookshelves, bathing all in golden mist, and revealing the numerous specs of dust as those whirled in the air. Ancient tomes of magic, literature, poetry and knowledge dwelled among these shelves peacefully, forever at exposal and use of the Malfoy family. Lately, the library had been shrouded heavily in a stiff silence, since recently the current Master of the Mansion lessened his visits and took comfort in front of the blazing fire in the living room. But now, a soft thudding sound echoed through the chamber, gradually increasing.
Draco Malfoy was banging his head on a bookcase.
"So you heard her scream and went up to see if she was alright?" clarified Sir Lynus, watching his grandson with highly amused expression.
"She had yet another nightmare and you tried to calm her down…"
"She calmed down and you were about to leave, but…" Lynus stifled a bemused chuckle. "She dragged you into the bed beside her…"
Thud. Thud. Thud.
"She didn't drag-"
"And this morning," Lynus interrupted Draco, enjoying himself probably more than he should have. "She was fairly surprised to find you in her bedchamber, let alone in her bed…"
"Yes…" Draco clenched his jaws in self-reproach, holding himself back from setting the portrait on fire.
Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.
"Then what?" inquired Lynus, smothering a devious smile. He really shouldn't take pleasure in his grandson's turmoil. Oh well…
Draco remained silent, gritting his teeth and tightening his fists. What was he thinking coming to his grandfather with this? Of course the old man would jeer him and enjoy his suffering! Hell, Draco would've enjoyed it as well, hadn't it had been him.
"What happened next, Draco?" Lynus insisted, his voice bordering a demand.
Draco flexed his shoulders and clenched his jaws again, leaning his head onto wooden surface of bookcase's side. Trying to word what happened next, he found it quite impossible. Heaving a deep breath, air wheezed out of his lungs as the blood rushed to his ears. "She…" Thud. "She said…" Thud. "That she was going back to the Burrow-"
The silence suddenly thickened in the library as no reply came from Lynus, but the distinct glaring at the back of Draco's neck was more than obvious to the younger wizard. "And?"
What else do you want, you tattered canvas? Draco cussed and snarled under his breath, curling his fingers into a fist and slamming it into the bookshelf. It jolted in objection, sending the books tumbling onto the floor and falling into a heap of pages.
Draco heaved another calming breath. "And…"
"You OAF!" Lynus' voice thundered about, shattering the cumbering silence and sending the portrait into uncontrollable swings. "You kissed her?"
"She kissed me back!" Draco growled in return, spinning away from the bookstand and glaring furiously at the painting. "She--"
"I do not care if she stripped in front of you and pranced around in a pink nightgown!" Lynus shouted, outraged by his grandson's behavior. "You had no right to kiss her! I did not raise you to take advantage of hurt women! What kind of a man are you?"
"Shut your bloody yap, you threadbare cloth! It was never in my intention to take advantage of her and you know it!" Draco continued unfazed, wishing he had his wand with him so he could threaten the portrait of his Grandfather more efficiently. "I-- I just…"
"You just let your reproductive organs do all the thinking," barked Lynus, still in a deep frown with disapproval written all over his features.
"No! I… I…" he took a deep breath in order to recollect his thoughts, sensing every loose strand of his mind unwinding out of control. He inhaled sharply, preparing to shout out another stream of excuses. "She--" his voice got caught somewhere in his chest as confusion and frustration overwhelmed him. Raking his fingers through his hair, he slumped into an armchair near the window, placing his feet on the windowsill and gazing outside. "--Kissed me back…" he whispered more to himself, his fingers brushing the lower lip uncertainly.
A sharp and annoyed exhale carried from the ancient canvas as Sir Lynus rolled his eyes with disbelief. "Yes, yes, good, good… boy, do you understand what you have done? You didn't just kiss her. You. Kissed. Her. "
Draco, still gazing out of the window, paused at those words. His eyes, slowly and redundantly slipped to his Grandfather, taking in the concerned and critical veneer of the old wizard. Then, the subtle shudder of his long eyelashes, vaguely resembling a blink, the only visible sign of his realization. "She thinks I did that because I want to use her," he said calmly, as a mere, somewhat irrelevant declaration.
"Tea, Master Draco?" a tiny overly polite voice cut through the silence.
Draco jerked his head to the side, irritated that he had been disturbed, but restrained his lashing when he saw his Head house elf watching him with a well-mannered, yet somewhat wily, smile. "No… no, Ora, I am alright," he dismissed her with a wave, almost instantly turning back to her with inquiring eyes. "What are you doing in the library? Where is Cilli?"
"Oh, I just came here because Miss Ginny asked me to give you this before she left," said Ora with a hint of fake nonchalance, offering Draco a small piece of parchment.
Draco's features veiled in concern as he jumped out of his armchair and snatched the parchment from Ora. Eyes skimming the note, he felt the muscles in his shoulders tighten, while shrewd coils of irritation graced his already thoroughly confused and futile mind at the sight of Ginny's delicate yet vigorous handwriting.
I would like to express my gratitude for your --
Here the word 'kind' was scratched out.
-- suitable offer in the appropriate time. I apologize for any inconveniences that were caused by my temporary residence in the Malfoy Manor, and hope that our paths will not cross again anytime soon.
PS - Clothing that were purchased with your finance, remain in the wardrobe.
Growling in utter disbelief, Draco crumbled the parchment viciously, sneering at no one in particular. "That brat!" he snapped, hurling the paper ball out of the window. "I cannot believe that girl!"
"Woman, Draco… Miss Weasley qualifies as a woman," Lynus intoned patiently, closing his eyes for a moment.
"She qualifies as a childish insolent girl!" Draco barked in respond, storming out of the library.
Ora and Sir Lynus glanced at each other, exchanging meaningful looks. Ora walked over and straightened the portrait, stepping back and smiling surreptitiously at the man in the painting, who returned the smirk with the same cunningness.
Ginny paused on the front porch of the Burrow, taking a deep breath and listening to the voices inside of the house. Two weeks had passed since the last time she'd visited or even spoken to her Mother. She wasn't sure how she was going to look her in the eye. Guilt returned in a forceful wave, crushing her conscience ruthlessly under its inescapable burden. Ginny closed her eyes and heaved another breath, hoping it would flood out everything that was making her doubt her choice to return home. She didn't even know what she was feeling guilty for.
But she was confused, so confused that she had to stop couple of times while she strode through the streets of Diagon Alley, and take a moment to gather her thoughts, because she seemed to lose her way every couple of blocks. At one point, she found herself staring at the window show of Flourish and Blotts, not knowing how exactly she got there from across the alley. She shook her head and clenched her fists, feeling her composure gradually return by the arbitrary gesture, and quickly excused it as her emotional exhaustion and downright confusion.
She left the Malfoy Manor that morning, as soon as she could rip herself from the white sheets, which were cruelly drenched in that clean cold smell, Draco carried with pride. She phrased and rephrased the note at least five times before asking Ora to deliver it after she'd departed. Somehow she knew the wording of her last note would infuriate Draco, or at least spite him, but it did not bother her. On the contrary, she was amused by the possibility, and found herself wondering what would be his reaction. Of course it was only a momentary, fleeting thought, to which she paid no attention.
She hurried to the Daily Prophet's editorial as soon as she arrived in Diagon Alley. For a brief, yet highly disturbing moment, she forgot her way there. Before going through her usual early morning routine of greetings, coffee and that morning's edition of the newspaper, she strode straight into Tomas Brooks' office, taking the dangerous liberty of not knocking, and closed the door politely behind her.
"Good morning, Mrs. Potter," drawled Tomas casually, not even lifting his gaze from the paperwork on his desk. "I would gladly enjoy the latest office gossip over a cup of black coffee with you, but unfortunately I have work to do. Something that, if I'm not crudely mistaken, you have to…"
"That is what I came here to talk to you about, Mr. Brooks. And it is Miss Weasley again," Ginny replied calmly, taking a seat in front of the desk.
Tomas arched a fairly shaped eyebrow and glanced at the red-haired witch. "Miss… Weasley, don't tell me you've changed your mind and that you don't want your job anymore, because I would be highly displeased…"
"No, no, no!" Ginny hurried to assure her boss that it was no where near what she came here to talk about. "I am very grateful for this, Mr. Brooks. I actually came here to talk to you about my assignment…"
Tomas froze for an instant, pursing his lips and returning his gaze to the paperwork. "What about it?" he intoned uninterestedly.
"Well… I was wondering if it perhaps was possible to give the assignment to somebody else…"
Ginny blinked at the impetuosity and bleakness of Tomas' reply, a bit taken aback. "Umm… well, it is just such an important article for the paper and I was under the impression this should be taken care of by someone with a little more experience than me," Ginny tried to reason.
"No, Miss Weasley," Tomas responded, keeping his eyes locked uncaringly on the papers on his desk.
Ginny stifled a frown, knowing it wouldn't do her any good. She was on a probation period, she knew that, so it wasn't really of her rights to ask for reassignments. But there was something very strange about the way Tomas refused her so sharply and rigidly. "Well, you see, Mr. Brooks… actually, Mr. Malfoy and I, we have some--" she paused, keeping the images and familiar scents from overflooding her. "-history, from Hogwarts, Sir… and not of the good kind. I would really not want to compromise my journalistic integrity, since…"
"The issue is not up for discussion, Miss Weasley. You are to do the piece on Malfoy Incorporated. Case closed," Tomas drawled out, scribbling something down. "Now, if you don't mind, be sure to close the door behind yourself as you leave."
Ginny frowned, huffing exaggeratedly and marched out of the office. Not closing the door behind herself.
It's not like she was that disappointed by not being taken off the assignment. To be completely truthful, she was quite relieved, though wasn't sure why. What disturbed her was the abrupt way Tomas declined her request, without even having their usual argument where both shouted at each with increasing volume. And at the end he didn't even give up gracefully, admitting she was right and he was wrong and offering to double her salary.
Ginny paused as the thought flashed through her mind, glancing sideways at nothing in particular. Okay, so he didn't actually offer to double the wage. Nor did he ever admitted being wrong… But of course, he always is…
Now, Ginny was standing in front of the front door to her childhood home, a place that was traced with so many joyous memories, and was completely petrified by the bustling noises coming from within. Tomorrow was the scheduled family gathering, as she remembered on her way here, so the building was probably over-packed with siblings, sisters-in-laws, and dozens of nieces and nephews. Ginny stifled a pitiful whimper and calculated in her head all the hugs, kisses and stories she would have to distribute tonight and the next day.
"FRED! GEORGE! Get that thing away from your brother this instant!" Molly's voices thundered through the building, quaking the already shady structure. "You two are not too old for me to bring my wand to your bottoms!"
Ginny couldn't help but smile at the familiar sound of her Mother berating the twins, feeling all the warm memories of her childhood flooding her mind, taking it off Harry - Or Draco… - if only for awhile. She took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and gathered all the mental stability she could muster for the moment. She opened the door.
Author's Notes: So how was it? I hope you weren't disappointed! And don't worry, it is not the end either :D
Author's Pointless Ramble: I was wondering… if I do this interactive thingie, would you like it? Okay, listen up… every week I'll give a question or a quote or something like it and you would have to answer it. Who ever answers correctly firsts, can give me any sentence that he wants and I'll weave it into my next chapter.
What do you think? Should I try it?