Duty and Sacrifice
'Last night's dinner was good,' he tells me. 'We need to do it again some time.'
We both know which dinner he is referring to.
'What are we having tonight?' He comes up and nuzzles the back of my neck. His arms are strong and smell of that new cologne he bought, the one he knows I always liked. Except that I don't like it.
I push him away slowly, almost playfully. 'What would you like to have, Draco?' My voice is the perfect mixture of docility, politeness, and seduction.
His mouth twists into a smirk, tickling the back of my neck. 'You,' he said.
Languidly, I turn in his arms to look up at him through my eyelashes. I lower my voice to a throaty whisper. 'I think that might be arranged.'
His eyes widen with surprise and lust. He pulls me tight. His lips are heavy and rough upon my own, his hands quick and eager with the buttons on my blouse. The fabric feels thin against my breasts--bare, just the way he likes them.
And through it all, I play along. Acting, always acting, for what else do you do, when you're the wife of a Death Eater?
Chores await me today. Last night's indulgence has left the work piled up. I eye the dishes in the kitchen sink. Mum would have a fit if she saw this. And Harry... it feels wrong to think of Harry while I'm cleaning up remnants of sex with Malfoy.
'Scourgify.' I flick my wand. Suspiciously little changes. I pick up an ice cream bowl; it still has pieces of strawberry on it. I scowl and fill the sink with water.
Harry is coming tonight. At last.
The floor is in no better condition that the sink, but, thankfully, a little bit of wand work and a mop manages to clean that up well enough.
After three weeks without contact. Not even an owl. We both know that Hedwig is smart enough to come during the day, when he's gone.
Upstairs, the bedroom is a mess. There are only three new sets of sheets in the closet--not even enough to last the week. I make a mental note to owl for more.
It only takes me thirty minutes to remake the bed this time. An improvement from forty-seven.
Earlier this morning, his note materialised in front of me just after Draco left--Hermione's newest invention, I believe. Tonight. Two o'clock, it said.
I have just finished with today's work and set dinner on the stove when the front door slams and he strides in, throwing aside his jacket to greet me in the kitchen. He is smiling, I note. I wonder how many members of the Order they caught today.
'Did you miss me?' he asks, coming to a stop before me.
'Yes,' I reply dutifully.
He smiles distractedly and walks over to the stove from where the smell of Madam Dellice's Instantly Magical Vegetable Soup emanates. 'Smells good,' he remarks off-handedly.
'Listen, ah, Virginia, the Dark Lord has called me to a private audience with him tonight.'
'Has our Lord finally given you the recognition you deserve?' I ask.
His eyes grow hungry. 'Who knows?'
Dinner becomes a long affair; we are both eager for his absence, albeit for rather different reasons.
The meeting would mean uninterrupted time with Harry, at least.
I have been waiting in the darkened guest bedroom for an hour when Harry appears with a little pop and barely noticeable breeze. In the faint light from the window he looks almost sinister, his frown almost as permanently etched as his scar.
He has changed, I now realize. In the four weeks since I last saw him, he has grown--not taller or bulkier but, rather, thinner, and sharp, all angles and knife blades. The look in his eyes tells me that I, too, have changed.
In a flash, he is before me, folding me into an embrace. I lean into him. His lips feels warm upon my own, though even they are sharp and bony now.
Abruptly he breaks away, panting slightly. He closes his eyes and inhales. 'What have you learned?' he asks. 'Anything new?'
That's Harry. Business first. There is no time for relationships during the war.
I shake my head. 'They've got Neville, and Blaise's been discovered.'
His mouth tightens. 'What about you? Does anyone suspect anything?'
'No,' I reply. Then, as an afterthought, 'Malfoy's gone to one of You-Know-Who's private meetings.'
Harry looks up, startled. For a moment his face is clear. Then his eyes cloud, and the frown returns. 'I worry about you, Ginny.'
I tense. 'Don't. I volunteered for this; I can handle it.'
We stand in silence in the darkness for a few minutes. The breeze from the open window ruffles my gown. In another life, I might have found this romantic. But this is war.
At last, he draws away. He reaches for his wand to Disapparate.
I hold out a hand to touch him--just briefly on the arm but he seems so surprised, as if he doesn't know human touch anymore. 'Stay,' I beg him.
He hesitates a moment, looking back at me. I know that he, like me, is remembering our life before the war, when we could still walk out safely under the light of the moon, and feel the evening air kiss our skin as we fell, laughing, into the grass. And the nights spent gazing up at the stars.
But tonight, those memories seem shadowed by war.
Then the moment is broken, and with a pop, he's gone.
At dawn, the door slams and Malfoy enters, dragging his feet up the stairs to where I lie still on the bed, staring at the ceiling. He leans against the doorframe and eyes me from across the room, then comes to stand before me.
I sit up and look at him, schooling my face into an expression of concern.
'The Dark Lord is coming here tonight,' he tells me. For the first time since I married him--a needlessly lavish ceremony with all of his friends in attendance and none of mine--he looks afraid.
'He wants to see you,' he says. Then he collapses onto the bed. I stand silently and leave him to his rest.
The day is spent preparing for the Dark Lord's arrival. I curse Malfoy's current lack of house-elves as I slosh water on the floor with my wand, sometimes resorting to Muggle menial labour. When he emerges at four o'clock in the afternoon, yawning and stretching from recent sleep, I smile demurely and inform him that all is prepared.
He nods and picks up a long cardboard box beside the front door, opening it to pull out a black cocktail dress. It is short and obviously very tight, with a V-neckline and a low back. The thought of wearing such a dress before the Dark Lord and one of his most trusted servants--my husband--does not appeal to me.
I smile again and tell him that it is lovely, and of course I'll wear it. Already my mouth is sore from smiling.
He nods and leaves me to change.
The dress hugs my body almost intimately, tight enough to show off my body, but not uncomfortable. Someday, I tell myself, when the war is won, I will wear such a dress for Harry--but not black, never black; I detest the colour.
You-Know-Who arrives just after sunset in a whirl of black cloak and green fire. The food was finished cooking an hour ago, kept warm by a well-cast Heating Charm: one of the few domestic spells that I can actually use.
I am terrified. It is not everyday that you wait on the Dark Lord.
'My Lord,' Malfoy says as he bends to kiss the Dark Lord's hem. 'You flatter us with your presence.'
He ignores Malfoy utterly.
'Would you like something, master?'
Still he does not answer, but only continues to appraise us.
Finally, he speaks. 'Your wife says nothing.'
I blink. 'Forgive me, my Lord,' I murmur. 'You honour me.'
He seems pleased, or at least slightly less murderous.
'My time is short,' he says to Malfoy. 'You know the requirements.'
Malfoy nods, swallowing painfully. He turns to me, his words hesitant. 'Our master requests your company.'
The words are barely out of his mouth when You-Know-Who's cold, clammy hands descend upon the back of my neck. Then his arms drag me around, and his inhuman lips are on my own. I cry out in revulsion and prepare to sink my knee into his groin. He merely laughs and clutches me so tightly that I cannot breathe.
The Dark Lord throws me, face down, onto the dining table. I watch in despair as all my hours of preparation scatter and crash to the ground. From the corner of my eye, I glimpse Malfoy. The look of horror seems carved into his face. He turns away.
The groping hand ceases. 'No. You are to watch.' Malfoy freezes and turns reluctantly.
He turns attention back to me.
Pain. Humility. Servitude.
He is on top of me now. He makes no noise as he enters from behind.
I bite my tongue. Hard. Blood wells and flows out from the corner of my mouth, mingling with tears. Malfoy continues to stare, frozen in disgust and terror.
He is grunting now. His face in the mirror across the room is twisted with inhuman concentration and malice. Below him, my face is wild, my hair mussed. The little black dress lies, torn, to one side.
He finishes and pulls back, leaving me slumped in a heap on the table. He is straightening his clothes.
I am nothing more than a whore.
Your wife is good, he is saying, to Malfoy.
I lose consciousness.
Malfoy is beside me when I wake, sponging water onto me. The cool liquid burns. I am surprised to see tears in his eyes. His face looks softer than I've ever seen it.
'He's gone,' Malfoy tells me. He wraps me in a large, clean towel. 'I'm sorry, Ginny.'
I look at him.
'The Dark Lord... has his own ways of testing his followers,' Malfoy says slowly. 'I should have warned you.'
The towel feels unreasonably coarse on my skin. It chafes at me.
'He won't be back again.'
Malfoy is wrong.
The second time, I am prepared. It is Malfoy who faints, and I who sit at his side to nurse him long after Voldemort is gone, drawing as much comfort from him as I provide.
The third time, I remember to moan. Voldemort laughs at this. He is pleased.
After the fourth time, Draco seems devoid of life.
Harry does not stand for this. I'm coming to get you at once, he writes. I can picture him tearing at his hair as he says this to me.
What's the point? I write back. Everyday, the Dark Lord gains a little more. All our efforts will come down to nothing some day. I force Draco to put an Anti-Apparation ward on our little house in the murky centre of Voldemort's camp.
Harry writes, Why did you do it?
I cannot answer. I do not know.
For then on, I ignore all Harry's letters. I incinerate them without even glancing at the words. The blue wand flame leaves no ashes; they are obliterated forever.
I should know it won't last forever.
One day, as I am sitting with Draco, the message appears for me. Harry has grown bolder lately, sending sometimes five notes each day. I ignore them all.
Draco snatches the paper up, glancing at me. Espionage is never safe; Harry knows that. I wonder if he didn't do it on purpose, so that I would be forced to abandon my efforts.
I watch as the blood drains slowly from Draco's face. Strangely enough, I don't care.
He seems to sag. 'This is it, then?' he whispers. 'You're a spy.'
He shakes his head. 'Is this why you married me?'
I nod again.
'I married you to save you. The Dark Lord would have killed you, all of you.' He laughs quietly and looks down at the paper; it is crumpled in his hand. 'But Harry... Harry, it's always Harry.'
Draco laughs again and stands up, knocking his chair over. For a moment, I think he will attack me, but he merely lifts a finger to my hair. There is regret in his eyes, anger, and hatred, and... sadness?
'I thought you loved me.'
I open my mouth to lie, to tell him that, yes, I do, to weave some elaborate tale of love earned through companionship. But the words don't come. Instead, I sit, open-mouthed and frozen, not daring to break the sudden silence.
I wait for the words that he will surely say.
He backs out of the room.
Voldemort comes again tonight. I am accustomed to it by now.
'The Dark Lord requests your company tonight,' Draco says, his eyes glittering. 'I am not inclined to give it.'
I flinch in shock. Voldemort doesn't move.
'I renounce you,' Draco says to him.
The red eyes light up, flaming.
'You don't control me.'
Somehow, without our notice, Voldemort has managed to pull out his wand. Draco already has his in hand.
'Leave my wife alone.'
It all happens so quickly. One moment, Draco is staring up at his former master in defiance. The next, he is writhing in pain on the green tiled kitchen floor. Just as quickly, Voldemort lowers his hand, and Draco lies sprawled, panting and pushing himself up.
'Never again,' he says.
'Crucio!' is the response.
This time it lasts longer, and when it is over, Draco's perfectly tailored white shirt is soaked in sweat.
'Never,' he whispers again.
Voldemort lifts his wand a third time, ever so slowly. I do not think. I do not allow myself to. I step in front of Draco, who is still pulling himself up.
The whooshing sound reaches my ears first, strangely--or maybe that is just in my mind? Green light bursts from the wand tip.
Too late, I hear Draco whisper, 'No!' I half want to turn around to him.
The light is closer now. It moves so slowly that I almost think that I can pull Draco up and disappear before it reaches me.
'Leave him.' Harry's voice echoes in my ear. I see his face, with its eternal frown, in my mind's eye.
'No,' I tell him. What else is a wife's duty, a wife's sacrifice, but for her husband? To give him his last fighting chance.
It fills my vision.