Title: Dreaming About The Things That We Could Be
Author's Note: I couldn't pull off the humor part of your request, OP, but hopefully the romance aspect works for you!
Summary: Draco wasn't about to let the mystery of his Bonded mate go unsolved... or let her go once he found her, whoever she might have been.
In the days following Voldemort's death, Draco worked to help rebuild the Malfoy name. It was still tarnished, and it burned that Harry Potter had to help give his family some cachet. Some of the old Order members maintained that the Malfoy family members were traitors through and through, manipulating Harry in order to escape punishment again. "They're weaselly and self centered," Harry had been famously quoted in interviews, "but Draco had plenty of opportunity to turn me in and identify me. He didn't. And seeing how the Death Eaters kept them just as terrorized as the rest of us, I can believe it when they say they didn't know what else to do. Someone like that doesn't have a lot of options."
Disgusted, Draco avoided the social scene he used to crave. He could focus on the Malfoy family holdings, the business prospects, the investment of the galleons their family was allowed to keep. He found himself scrubbing his room the Muggle way, working until his hands bled and the house elves nearly killed themselves in agony from not being allowed to help. He felt wrong and empty inside, hollow, as if his entire life lacked meaning. There was no point in redoing his final year at Hogwarts, which was an option given to many seventh years, and he had no idea what else he should do with his time.
Narcissa didn't press him for more. "You've lost too much already," she said quietly, healing his hands herself. Lucius had seen them and disappeared into his study with firewhiskey and the order to leave him be. "Sometimes I wonder if we should have raised you with the illusions that we did, that we always knew the right thing to do."
"I'd do it all over again, you know. Even knowing I'd be a failure." He looked at her, lips pressed tightly together. "It's not like there's anyone else in our family to save."
Her expression softened, and she rested her hands on his shoulders. "Perhaps that's where you should focus, Draco. Find someone you can share your life with. Find someone worth rebuilding this family for."
"There's no one I want that way. I can't even stand seeing some of my old friends anymore. That life doesn't mean anything to me."
"Then maybe you need to find something new."
Good words, better intention. Draco didn't know where to begin. He spent the next two years doing whatever his father instructed regarding the family holdings. He was good at it, which surprised him, but he found no joy in the task. It was busy work. It was meaningless, hoarding galleons and property as if it helped to ease the ache in his soul. Lucius didn't seem to understand that feeling he had; he saw it as his mark upon the world, his sense of worth. There was nothing else but the family name and fortune. Without it, he was nothing but the broken man haunted by Azkaban. Draco didn't know what he wanted out of his life, but that wasn't it.
Upon reaching his 20th birthday, Draco gasped awake from a nightmare. No, not a nightmare, exactly. It was a frighteningly realistic and detailed, and he felt complete for the first time in years. There was no ache in his chest, no sense of loss until he woke up.
Lucius had no idea what he was talking about when he brought it up at the breakfast table, and told him to stop drinking before bed. Narcissa gave him an enigmatic smile, one that made him think she was overly pleased about something. She wouldn't discuss it in front of Lucius, that much was obvious, so Draco waited until she was in her drawing room with her embroidery in front of her favorite bay window overlooking the rose garden. This was her sanctuary, a place that Lucius would never enter. Somehow, none of the Death Eaters had ever entered the room or raided its contents; sometimes, Draco privately wondered if it was Unplottable.
"You might be angry with me," Narcissa began, not taking her eyes off of her needle and thread as it moved through the fabric. This was one of the few things she did with her own hands and didn't entrust to the house elves. "But when you were born, I cast a number of charms. There were the usual ones for safety, intelligence and health."
"All right," Draco said when she paused. "Those are standard for all good Pureblood families."
"But I also cast a Bonding spell." She looked up with a serene expression. "You had until your twentieth birthday to find yourself a suitable mate. If you weren't engaged or married by this day, the spell would activate. If you were, it would simply fade away because it was unnecessary."
Draco looked at her, not sure what to say. "Now what?"
Narcissa grinned at him, giving him a flash of what she might have been like as a mischievous Slytherin girl in her youth. "Now you go find her."
With the same determination that he had applied to the Malfoy fortune, Draco delved into the mystery of his Bonded mate. The woman in his dreams lived a strange place, speaking a language he couldn't understand. Because the dreams occurred every night, he was able to pick out words here and there. Storefronts had writing with strange accents on them, and he sketched them out as soon as he woke up. She wore a long hooded cloak with a strange insignia on the front of it, and he sketched that as well. He walked along the cobblestone paths with her in his dreams, following her as if he was a ghost.
The hood was drawn over her head so that he couldn't see her face, but she seemed to have dark hair. It was evening, the shadows deep over her face and clothing. She stopped in front of a storefront that seemed to be an apothecary's shop, peering into the glass for a moment. Draco rushed forward, hand outstretched to touch her shoulder. Weeks of this, and he had never been able to touch her or see her face. He wanted her to turn, so he could see her face, perhaps learn her name. It was a need deep inside of him, as if not knowing her would cause his soul to shrivel up inside of his chest. He almost caught sight of the woman's face as she half turned, as if sensing his presence. Her lips curled into a smile of relief, and their eyes almost met through the reflection in the glass.
And then he woke up.
Draco growled in frustration and took his sketches and notebooks into the family library. It was fairly extensive, though not as large as the Hogwarts library or the magic section at the British Public Library would have been. It would have to do, however, because he wasn't about to advertise this Bond he had with his mystery woman. The way his family was seen, it was bound to make them all into laughingstocks. Aunt Bella had been the crazy one in the family, after all, and it was best to let the world think the rest of them at least were sane. Selfish, but sane.
Poring through different books for translation or identification spells, he did finally recognize some of the symbols on the insignia that had been on the woman's cloak. One of them, a robed figure with a caul on its face and a white cloak was a solomonar, wizards of Romania who were supposed to be tall, red haired, fiercely proud and rode on dragons with white cloaks billowing in the wind behind them. Draco looked for any record of the solomonari in the library, and found mention of them with difficulty. Most lived in the Transylvania region of Romania, some blending in with Muggles and some living apart in hidden Wizarding communities.
Was she a Solomonari? That would explain the different language and why he couldn't recognize her. Her cloak should be white if they kept to the stereotype, but the insignia might have meant something else.
It had taken him weeks to find even this small bit of information, and it was frustrating. If she was indeed a Solomonari, then he would have to find her. Doing a translation spell, the fragmented words he had seen in his dream were for an apothecary's shop. He frowned at his parchment; this was no way to converse with his Bonded. And if he went there without knowing Romanian, how would he talk with her?
He headed down to the Ministry of Magic with some of his notes. There were some agents there willing to speak with a Malfoy, and he didn't need anything further than a few pointers from the Cultural Liaison officers. They could perhaps tell him what the insignia actually was, and tell him where he could learn to speak Romanian fluently.
It was the official seal of the Healer's Academy in Romania. It wasn't that far from the dragon preserve, which was near the Făgăraş Mountains in the Transylvania region. The closest city to the preserve and Academy was Sibiu, which was fairly popular for Muggle tourism, and had many hospitals and universities. As far as a Healer's Academy went, it would be perfect for a young Healer in training. The local Wizarding community was in Daia, which was where his Bonded likely lived and where the apothecary shop was. Draco submitted a formal request to have a private tutor from the region to teach him the language and culture, so he could be acquainted with the folklore and practices.
He continued to have the dreams every night, but he never got closer to seeing his Bonded's face; she was always in the hooded cloak and walking along a cobblestone path. Sometimes she was headed to the apothecary or the building he assumed was the Academy, sometimes he saw her walking toward the dragon preserve. It made sense when he thought about it. By sheer proximity to the preserve, students of the Academy could practice on those wounds as well as the general wizarding populace. They could also have access to Muggle practices and research from their universities and medical schools, though the Ministry official who had told Draco about that practice seemed to be insulted by the idea of it. Honestly, Draco didn't care as long as he could find and meet his Bonded.
Draco waited as patiently as he could before an appropriate tutor could be found. Florin Baştea was an older gentleman whose children had died and grandchildren were grown. Feeling out of sorts and unnecessary, he leapt at the chance to tutor Draco at the Manor. "Everyone is very close in Transylvania," he told Draco as they began. "You will be an outsider, but at least you show us all respect." His eyes had twinkled merrily, thinking his efforts romantic. "I think she will appreciate this. So. Let us begin."
Ginny had decided to become a Healer after the Great Battle of Hogwarts. She had been furious with the way her efforts to help were curtailed, and couldn't help but feel as though she could have helped prevent some of the losses if she had been allowed to do more than simply hide and try to coordinate resources. Her parents, especially after her brother's death, refused to see her as anything other than a child. She chose Romania's Healing Academy because it was far from England and the losses she had endured. It also helped that Charlie was nearby, and she hadn't seen him in ages. Her parents seemed to brighten up when she told them about that, and perhaps they thought she chose it just for that reason. At least that way, family would be nearby and she wouldn't feel so alone.
She loved the work in the Academy and the friends she made there. Transylvania was fascinating, with many old tales alive in the mountains and fields. Some of the magic inherent in the place meant that some of her classmates were the very things she had been taught to fear in her Hogwarts Dark Arts classes. Staff at the Healer's Academy never sugar coated the truth, but they also didn't accept mindless fear of the creatures. The strigoi and moroi needed human blood to survive and didn't always wait for willing victims, but those who chose to enroll at the Academy were strictly monitored and safety rules were enforced. The pricolici and vârcolac were in heavily reinforced rooms for the three days the full mood turned them into their animal forms, then their classmates would practice healing their wounds. Bau-bau could not haunt Muggle children or steal them away to frightening lands, and had to keep their natural Dark Arts in check as they learned the healing arts. Any căpcăun intelligent enough to enroll in the Academy were assumed to be intelligent enough not to kill Muggles and use their bones to make bread or kidnap innocents.
It was rather refreshing to work alongside those she had grown up thinking were monsters. She had learned Romanian fairly quickly in this atmosphere, and traded stories with her classmates (human or otherwise) about growing up and traditions they had. They occasionally met the local fairies or ghosts, but most weren't interested in the Academy students. Ginny loved bringing these stories back to Charlie on the preserve, or writing letters to her parents. I feel more grown up here, she wrote to her mother. I'm learning so much as a Healer and as a person. She had thought carefully about what to write next, so that her mother didn't think she was angry with her family or thought badly of the Order. I appreciate all that I've been given so far, and I know I'll be able to make my own way once I graduate.
Charlie read over the letter and raised an eyebrow at her. "You know, reading this, I get the feeling you're not going back to England."
"You didn't," she pointed out.
"I have my dragons," he said with a shrug, handing her letter back to her. "We can't keep them in England like we can here."
"And you don't fit what Mum and Dad want for you."
He grinned at her and ruffled her hair fondly. "Obviously. But I'm here, doing what I love. I'm needed, I have a purpose here. This is where I'm meant to be. I'm sure you'll figure that out for yourself sooner rather than later."
"It would be hard not to, with the magic in this place," Ginny joked.
He merely smiled at her and invited her to see the balaur. These dragons were native to Romania and had several heads, depending on the subspecies of dragons. Charlie nodded at his friend Radu and headed into the resting area of his favorite balaur. "Despina," he called out, announcing his arrival. "I've brought my sister Ginny."
The dragon bellowed her hello, then rested her massive central head on the ground again. Ginny approached and stroked her scales in the manner Charlie had taught her, then sat down beside the dragon. She remembered the warnings to always be on her guard; just because Despina had intelligence on the same level as a human child didn't mean she was safe. She was still a creature, reliant on instinct more than her logical mind. Still, it was soothing to listen to her massive heart beating and the steady breathing of her five heads as Charlie cleaned out her area and scrubbed her scales until they were gleaming.
"It's peaceful around here," Ginny said finally, as she was getting ready to leave the preserve. That was part of the allure of the Academy, really. "What if I never left Romania? What if I found a permanent placement out here after I graduate?"
Charlie grinned. "Then we'd get a chance to visit more often."
That didn't sound like a bad prospect at all.
Draco arrived at the Apparition point in Daia with Florin. "You'll stay with my grandchildren, of course," he had said when he declared Draco ready for a visit to Romania. "Oskar and Lia have owled you many times as we studied. They will be delighted to finally meet you."
"I'm looking forward to it," he replied. He thought of Florin as a friend by now, even if he was old enough to be Draco's grandfather. Lucius hadn't liked the man, but Narcissa had been charmed and delighted by his gracious manners. It was a rather traitorous thought, but Draco liked Florin much better than Lucius. He wanted so desperately for Lucius to be proud of him, but the pained edge of that had faded years ago. He couldn't be the son that Lucius wanted him to be, but at least he could do this right. At least he could be the best version of himself that he could be.
Oskar was a tall and thin young man with dark hair and an easy smile. He worked in the nearby farms, selling his goods to Muggle and Wizarding folk alike. "Everyone needs to eat," he declared cheerfully. "I have no interest in traditional Solomonari works."
His older sister Lia, on the other hand, had not only the interest but the skill of the Solomonari and had graduated from the Healer's Academy years before, earning her white cloak. "If your bride is a Healer at our Academy," she had declared in her owl a year ago, "then you have chosen wisely. Ours are the best and brightest in all the world, with the best and fullest education possible. I've visited your St. Mungo's a few years ago, and some of the Healers there had no idea about different illnesses and remedies. They still think of Dark Creatures as mindless monsters, the backwards fools."
Lia had encouraged him to walk around town and practice his Romanian with someone other than her grandfather. The thought appealed to him, and he had even bought a bouquet of flowers to grace the table from the florist. He had an accent, which the old woman definitely noticed, but he had been able to converse and even make a little small talk.
Taking a walk along the cobblestone paths in the town afterward, Draco froze in place when he saw the apothecary shop from his dream. She had been there, and he was standing right in front of the place she had been. What would she be like? He had spent nearly two years looking for her and learning the language and culture so that they would have something to talk about. It had given him a sense of purpose and belonging that he hadn't felt in the two years prior to that, but what if she didn't appreciate it? He didn't even know what he would say to her when he finally did meet her, or how to explain his effort.
He caught a flash of the Healer's Academy cape, hood up over the petite figure's head. Merlin, she was here. He had arrived right on schedule and now he was terrified. What if she didn't like him?
His feet didn't seem to notice that his mind wanted him to stop. They brought him into the apothecary shop, where the woman went through the shelves for various supplies that she needed for her studies. Her voice sounded familiar when she haggled over the price of various items, and Draco froze in place again when she turned around.
He was Bonded to Ginny Weasley.
She blinked and removed the hood, revealing her rich auburn hair. Shadows had made it appear dark in his dreams, but in person he could see the red color and gold highlights. "You—"
"Bună ziua," Draco said in greeting, nodding his head at her. He was aware of the flowers in his hand and the tangled histories between their families. "Speram să te întâlnesc," Draco continued when she remained silent. I was hoping to meet you.
Ginny's eyes narrowed, and he was sure that she attributed nasty connotations to this. "This isn't funny," she hissed, then pushed past him to leave the shop.
The apothecary behind the counter laughed at his dismayed expression, not unkindly. "Next time," she said in heavily accented English, "try offering the flowers first."
Feeling like a fool, Draco handed them over to her and left the shop for Lia's home.
Ginny headed straight to her study group with the materials she bought at the apothecary shop. Despina, Sándor, Miklós and Elsa were waiting for her. "Alo," Elsa said cheerily, waving when she saw Ginny's bright hair. It was easy to fall into place at the table and put her bag down. She pushed Draco out of her mind and went over the potion and poultice formulae that they had learned that week. It was easy to think of ingredients and how they went together; there might be variations on the formulae, but the end result of their work generally was the same.
She managed to avoid thinking about Draco until her visit with Charlie and the dragons. The man's name meant dragon, after all. "After all this time, I don't know what he wants," she cried, taking the long handled brush to help Charlie scrub at a ridgeback's neck. "If he's still got some kind of vendetta against Harry, I'm the last person he should be approaching. Harry never once got back in touch with me after the war ended."
Charlie sighed and levitated another bucket of soapy water so he could rinse off the area he was scrubbing. "Look, did you even bother to ask him?"
Ginny snorted. "That boy's entire life was centered around Harry."
"So you didn't ask," Charlie said, putting the bucket down once it was empty. He picked up his own brush. "While Harry's been in Auror training and working with the Ministry, the Malfoys kept to themselves. There was some speculation as to what they were planning, but it's been what? Four or five years? Nothing. No contact with the Ministry, no social scene, nothing."
"So?" Ginny scrubbed at a sticky patch of dirt and brambles wedged beneath a few scales. "It took the Death Eaters how many years to regroup?"
Charlie sighed, shaking his head. "You know, I don't think it's like that. He said he wanted to meet you. That doesn't sound like he's got an ulterior motive. At least see what he wants." Charlie threw a brush at her. "And if he is stupid enough to think you'd hurt a friend, just hex him."
She laughed, as he likely wanted her to. "Fine, then. You've taught me a lot of interesting ones. But if this turns out to be a terrible idea, I reserve the right to say 'I told you so.' Got it?"
Charlie laughed. "Fair enough."
They worked side by side in companionable silence for the rest of the evening.
Hermann thought Draco had been unbearably dumb in his approach to Ginny, and Lia had been unable to stop laughing. Draco scowled at them and finished his dinner. Florin laughed and patted his shoulder. "So your Bonded is not a local girl after all?"
"Apparently not," Draco sighed. "Our families never got along before."
"Well, your family is not here, and her family is not here. Perhaps you can talk to her as equals."
He wanted to sigh again. As if it could be that easy. But he kept it mind the following day, when he requested a meeting with her at the Healer's Academy. She would be more likely to accept, given it was her territory, so to speak, putting her at an advantage. He wasn't sure what to say, but knew it would have to be the truth, as ridiculous as it might sound to her. It was a pleasant surprise when she accepted the request, and he walked into the Academy with his head held high and his stomach twisted into knots.
As he walked into the conference room to meet Ginny, he drank in the sight of her up close. She was petite, with bright auburn hair that had gold highlights. There was a smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose, and her brown eyes looked at him with curiosity and disdain. She was in the Academy uniform, and he could see that she was fit and well muscled, as if she did physical work as well as learning how to be a Healer. "What do you want, Malfoy?" she asked. At least she didn't sound angry or suspicious of him.
He had waited nearly two years to hear her voice and find out who she was. While he was a little perturbed it was Ginny Weasley, the hollow feeling he'd had for so long was gone.
"It was almost two years ago that I found out I was Bonded," Draco began quietly, giving her a gentle smile. "I thought she was a Romanian native, since I never saw her face. I only saw her cloak and the apothecary shop. So I learned Romanian, some of the folklore and customs. Florin says my accent isn't terrible."
"My tutor. He's from Daia, actually. I'm staying with him and his grandchildren. Lia's a full Healer now, and sometimes teaches classes for second years."
Ginny frowned a bit, thinking. "Lia Nestor?" Draco nodded. "She's a brilliant teacher."
"She thinks I was stupid yesterday," he offered helpfully.
Grinning in spite of herself, Ginny laughingly said "See? Brilliant."
Draco smiled. "Ever hear of Bonding? I haven't even known of it before two years ago, but apparently my Mum did the spell when I was a baby." She shook her head. "It's strange… Like I was empty over the past two years. And even though you're barely speaking to me, I feel whole for the first time." He shrugged and looked at her with an earnest expression. "Could we perhaps meet for dinner? Talk a bit and get to know each other?"
"With the Bonding, don't you have to marry me?" she asked archly.
"I don't see why we couldn't talk first, see if it's what you want to do."
"What happened to the Draco I knew at school?"
Scowling, Draco shook his head. "You didn't know me at school. There were things that happened then... It's different now. We're different now. Everyone started over, and we should be able to do that as well."
"Do you really think it's that easy?"
"No, I reckon it isn't. But that shouldn't stop us from trying, don't you think?"
Ginny seemed to consider that carefully, then nodded. "All right, then. Dinner. But I reserve the right to hex you silly if you're lying to me."
Draco smiled at her, then gallantly kissed the back of her hand when she allowed him to take it. "I'll pick you up tonight at eight?"
"Sure. My study group usually finishes at seven."
"So it's a date," Draco said, feeling ridiculously pleased with himself. He felt almost like he was floating out of the Academy doors.
Ginny and Draco's dates tended to be in restaurants in Sibiu, since there were so few in Daia. Hermann had recommended Piata Mica, the Small Square. It was generally more of a local haunt than a tourist trap, and had plenty of restaurants, cafes and clubs. Draco and Ginny wound up discussing how they had spent their time following the Battle of Hogwarts. She had funny stories about her classmates and the dragons on the preserve, and he had mostly boring stories about paperwork and stock markets. Still, she seemed to enjoy the time together more than he had hoped she would.
"Let's go dancing," he said one night. It was their sixth date, and Draco had been careful not to push his luck too far with her. The last thing he wanted was for Ginny to decide he was a creep and hex him into next year. "It's still early."
Ginny nodded, lips curling into a sensual smile that shot straight to his groin. "Sounds like a fantastic idea."
It was a short walk to a club, their hands linked together the entire way. While there, they danced with their bodies pressed tightly together. Draco was pleasantly surprised when she let his hands roam over her back and then lower down. She also leaned in close, arms tight around him. Ginny was a great dancer, light on her feet and playfully teasing. It was less of a tease when kissed him, her tongue sliding into his mouth. It sizzled his nerve endings and made him want to find a back room as soon as possible. He deepened the kiss further, taking his breath away. After they had to come up for air, she looked over at him with a smile. "You're not a Veela, are you?"
"I can't be Veela, are you out of your mind?" Draco asked, shaking his head. "You've been hearing too many stories about your classmates. Not everyone's a magical creature." He paused. "Maybe the Bond affects you, too?"
She blinked in surprise. "Oh. I hadn't thought of that. You know, you're not the selfish prat I thought you were. It's nice."
Draco slid his hands down to her rear and held her close. "I think," he began slowly, leaning in and nearly kissing her, "that there might be a future for us after all."
"Maybe," she allowed. "But I still have to finish the Academy."
"I can Apparate here to visit you," Draco replied, smiling. "When you finish, you can come back to England. We'll get more time together."
"So we can see if we really suit. In all ways," she said suggestively.
"Sounds like a wonderful plan," he said, leaning in for a kiss.
Briefly describe what you'd like to receive in your fic: Draco Bonded to his mate, but she is nowhere to be found. In his dreams he can see someone with dark hair, speaking in foreign language, but who is she?
The tone/mood of the fic: Humour/Romance
An element/line of dialogue/object you would specifically like in your fic: "I can’t be Veela, are you out of your mind?"; Healer Ginny finishing internship in Romania
Preferred rating of the the fic you want: R
More canon, or more AU? AU please, post Hogwarts
Deal Breakers (anything you don't want?): cheating, Harry bashing, general OOCness