Ginny Weasley sighed as the end titles rolled up the TV screen and the theme music started to play. She had originally gone to bed three hours ago, but the bed seemed cold, and achingly large without its other occupant there. She had tossed and turned, unable to sleep, her entire being focussed on the lack of warmth by her side, a heart beneath her hand, a hand tangled in her hair.
Eventually, frustrated at her complete inability to sleep, she had risen and padded back through to the lounge, turning on as many lights as possible in an attempt to warm the empty apartment and chase back the shadows. It was largely unsuccessful.
She had decided to watch a film to pass the time - one of her favourites, some silly Muggle romance that never failed to bring a smile to her face - but even now the smile was fading as she was brought fully back to reality and the empty apartment. There were not very many Muggle appliances in the apartment, but the large, widescreen TV, complete with a top of the range VCR and a DVD player and surround sound speakers more than made up for the absence of other things Muggle.
She was ensconced on the sofa in her large, but incredibly comfortable pyjamas, and thick woollen socks on her feet to keep them toasty warm. She had pulled the large double duvet off of the bed, which was now wrapped around her body like a cocoon, and a chocolate stained mug along with several chocolate frog wrappers littered the previously clean floor.
At some point, her cat, Bertie - a stereotypical black witch's cat if ever there was one - had found her little nest and had settled himself down at the opposite end of the sofa, seeming not to mind the discomfort caused by the fact that he was actually sitting on her feet. Having padded the duvet for a good few minutes, he had turned almost a full circle, as if chasing his tail without the frantic enthusiasm that dogs exhibit, and then he had settled himself down and had almost immediately fallen asleep.
Ginny propped herself up onto one elbow so that she could tickle the small creature's ears. He shifted, rolling onto his back, proffering a rather large, furry black belly, which she duly rubbed and was rewarded with contented purring.
She glanced up at the clock on the wall - it was almost 2am, and she supposed she really should try and sleep again, but she couldn't face the large, empty bed. She debated watching another film, another silly Muggle romance, but the thought of having to move from the warm nest she had created for herself quickly put paid to that idea, especially when she realised that she had left her wand in her work robes and so couldn't change the video magically either.
She left the cat to his sleep and snuggled down deeper into the covers, the silence of the room deafening to her ears. She blinked back the tears that threatened to escape and trail a path down her cheeks, the tension and worry of the past few days finally catching up with her.
She had thrown herself into her work when he had left, as she always did. It gave her a distraction, a focus for her thoughts, something to occupy her mind. And she worked so hard and so long, only giving up when she couldn't keep her eyes open any longer, so that sleep came quickly, deep and untroubled.
But not this night. She had worked hard all day, and she was tired, very tired, but sleep would not come to her - all she could see was his face, his hands, his body, and then suddenly the perfect image was marred. In her mind's eye, she imagined all the horrors he would bare witness to, all the atrocities he would see, and the fights he would face - fights for his very life - and she couldn't help but think the worst. Had he been taken and tortured for information? The practiced use of the Cruciatus was often employed as a method of extraction of information by those he sought to bring to justice; and once they had obtained all of the information they wanted, they would continue the excruciating torture simply to amuse themselves, sending wave after wave after wave of agonising pain through the victim's body. The very thought made her feel physically sick and she couldn't help but shudder.
She could imagine his body, bruised, battered, crumpled; his face contorted with pain, a scream wrenched from his lips. She drew her bottom lip between her teeth and closed her eyes, willing the tears back. He's fine. It's not true. He's fine. It's not true, running over and over and over like a mantra in her head.
She had had no word from him since he had left five days ago - an unexpected journey to who knows where to root out yet more of Voldemort's faithful followers; still trying in vain to resurrect their defeated Lord, or to promote a new wizard to rise to dark power, or simply to wreak havoc, leaving darkness, terror and the foul stench of death in their wake. The lack of contact was not unusual - any communications at all could give them away, and then: Game Over.
She knew that his work was important, important didn't even come close to just how valuable his work was - a highly trained Auror, with common sense to boot, and with a firm grounding in Dark Arts, courtesy of his father, that only helped to increase both his magical ability and his skill as an Auror. Draco Malfoy was one of the best. And so committed was he to driving out the darkness, bringing the perpetrators of such heinous crimes to justice. Brought up the son of a Death Eater, trained to be the next generation of Dark wizards, he knew better than most what went on, and it made him even more ruthless in his work, gave him such a passion, and such a dedication for capturing what he had almost become.
Not only was his work important in the fight against the dark, it was important to him - it was a part of him, one of the intricacies that made up Draco Malfoy. His upbringing gave him a link to the darkness and to these people, and she knew he felt somehow obligated to find them and stop them; not stopping until every last one of them had been sent to Azkaban. She understood that, and she wouldn't have him any other way.
But that did not mean that she missed him any less, only that she would never try and stop him; he had her support, and he had her love.
This was what she hated the most. The waiting game - waiting for him to come home, hoping against hope that he would come home to her; waiting for news of his death, the news that would break her heart into millions of tiny pieces, and yet she found herself wanting news, any news, so that at least she would know something, anything.
Suddenly a noise shattered the silence - it was soft, but given the stillness of the room it was clearly heard. She strained to listen - hoping with all her heart that it was him, even as she berated herself for getting her hopes up.
And then she heard his voice - sonorous and melodic, whispering counter charms to bring down the wards that protected the apartment, then the unmistakeable sound of a door being quietly opened.
She was up like a shot, leaving the warmth of the sofa and disturbing a grumpy cat in the process, but she didn't notice. He had barely made it inside when a blue blur with fiery red hair threw itself at him and clung for dear life for fear that, should she lessen her hold on him, he would disappear and leave her alone once more.
The fierce hug was swiftly returned - despite his aching body and weary muscles. It was the thought of her that got him through it all. He buried his face in her neck, eyes closed, breathing deeply, inhaling the scent of her, floral and delicate, pulling her even tighter towards him.
Eventually he loosened his hold on her, pulled back slightly, and muttered a few careful words to put the wards back in place. She seemed oblivious to it all - her face still buried in his chest.
He smelled of rain, and of mud, and an altogether unpleasant stench seemed to hang faintly around him, as if threaded into his clothes. One of the drawbacks of the job, he would quip lightly. And sadly, there's no showers. But underneath that she could smell... him; the combination of musk and spices and forests that was uniquely his.
He leaned his head down and placed a small kiss on the crown of her head, and then put a finger under her chin to coax her head up to look at him. He could see the tears shining in her azure-blue eyes, the worry, the tiredness, the relief at his safe return and most of all the love that she felt for him, that one single emotion that seemed to encompass everything. That emotion conveyed so pure and true in her eyes, and in everything she did, and that completely overwhelmed him to think was all for him.
She stretched up and he bent down and their lips met in a brief, tender kiss. Then, as quickly as it had ended, his lips were on hers again, her mouth opening under his, moist, warm and inviting. Her arms twined around his neck, pulling his head closer still and holding it there, pressing her body into his as she kissed him. His hands threaded through her hair as he plundered her mouth with his tongue, only to retreat and allow her to do the same. All the tension and worry of the past few days expressing themselves in the passionate embrace that communicated the depth of their love far better than words ever could.
Pulses racing, they broke apart, breathing heavily. Draco moved one hand to softly touch her cheek, and she turned her head and kissed the palm. She was the single most beautiful thing he had seen in his life, her creamy pale skin, dotted with freckles and colour rising in her cheeks; her sparkling blue eyes, her full, red lips, swollen from his kisses, and her tousled mane of fiery red hair, the curls framing her pretty face and tumbling over her shoulders.
She in turn was scanning his face. He looked very old in that moment, far, far older than his 23 years, weighed down with the troubles of the world, and she knew there would be nightmares ahead. There always was. Although, never on the first night back as he was so bone-achingly tired that he was usually able to sleep untroubled; it was after that that the nightmares came, plaguing him in his sleep.
His pale skin looked even paler than usual, and was streaked with dirt and, she suspected, a little blood. There was a small cut above his right eyebrow, and another gash across his left cheek - neither deep cuts, nor serious, but there nonetheless. His blue-grey eyes were troubled and spoke of his exhaustion, lacking their usual mischievous glint, but his love shone through clearly as he looked at her, warming her heart. She reached up a hand and pushed a stray lock of lank, greasy silver-blonde hair out of his eyes.
She smiled up at him. "Missed you."
He kissed her forehead, then the freckles on the tip of her nose, and then brushed his lips over hers once more. "Missed you too."
This was the soft, vulnerable, human side of Draco Malfoy, the traits that most people never saw, capable of such depth of emotion. She was honoured to be allowed beneath his cool exterior and close to his heart.
Bertie, clearly not impressed at the rude awakening, and now being completely ignored, had made his way over to the door and was rubbing around Draco's legs in his own unique way of saying 'Glad you're back'.
Adrenaline now ebbing from his system, weariness was taking over, and Draco realised that, if he didn't sit down, gravity would surely force him down. He bent to tickle the cat behind the ear, and then twined his hand with Ginny's and guided her to the bedroom, not that she needed much persuasion.
He stopped short when he entered the room, a look of confusion of his face at the obvious lack of a duvet, but Ginny moved further into the room and pulled him with her. She placed her hands on his shoulders, and gently pushed him down to sit in the edge of the bed.
"I'll be right back."
She seemed reluctant to leave his company, pausing at the doorway to look back at him, to make sure he was still there, and favoured him with a heart-melting smile. A few moments later, she returned, duvet in her arms, and dumped it down on the bed, pushing corners out over the mattress to try and spread it out.
She then came to stand in front of him again. First she unfastened his thick, heavy robe and drew it off his shoulders, letting it fall onto the bed, and then helped him to his feet so that he could be rid of it completely. Next she drew off his jumper and t-shirt,discarding them in a rumpled heap on the floor, before kneeling in front of him to tug off his boots and socks, and then unfasten his trousers and pull them off to land with his shirt.
She put her hands on either sideof his thighs on the mattress and pushed herself to her feet and disappeared into the bathroom - reaching into her work robes on the way to claim her wand - only to return seconds later with a bowl of warm water and a flannel. She knelt in front of again and placed the bowl of water by her side, setting her wand down next to it.
"Gin." A hand on her arm stopped her and she looked up at him.
"You don't have to...." He was cut off by her finger against his lips.
"Shush. I don't have to, but I am."
He kissed the fingers she held against his lips and his lips curled up into a small smile.
Satisfied that he would now allow her to clean him up, she wrapped the flannel around her finger and dipped the tip into the warm water, and then began to tenderly wash his face. She started with his wounds, wanting to cleanse them before she used a healing charm to heal them. He winced as she touched them, but said nothing and let her work.
Wounds cleaned, she put the flannel back into the water, wrung it out and then began to clean the dirt off of the rest of his face, rubbing tenderly at the mud and blood and grime, uncovering his smooth, pale skin once more. Smoothing over his high, defined cheekbones, down and along his curved jaw line that was lightly dusted with blonde stubble.
That done, she laid the flannel down and picked up her wand. She touched the tip to the cut above his eyebrow. "Sano," she whispered softly. The tip of her wand glowed pure, brilliant white as the skin knitted together and all but the smallest trace of the cut disappeared. She repeated the action for the cut on his cheek, watching as the wound was healed, leaving only the faintest trace that his face had ever been marred.
She softly kissed his eyebrow and his cheek, her lips curving upwards in a small, affectionate smile. She could see his eyes drooping closed as he tried desperately not to succumb to sleep. She rose to her feet again, setting her wand down on the bedside table, and pushed him back onto the bed pulling the duvet up over him. She picked up the bowl and flannel and returned them to the bathroom.
Coming back into the bedroom, she lifted the duvet and climbed into bed beside Draco. She snuggled up to him, her head pillowed on his shoulder, one hand resting on his chest over his heart, and felt one hand gently stroke the top of her head before his fingers tangled in her hair, and the other arm wrap around her waist to hold her close. She felt so safe, so loved in his warm embrace.
"Love you, Gin," the voice was slightly slurred and thick with sleep.
He felt, rather than saw her smile against his chest.
She moved her hand from his chest, touched her first two fingers to her lips and then to his. And with a whispered, "I love you too," she replaced her hand on his chest once more.
Her eyelids fluttered closed and she surrendered to sleep.