Come on and save me
From the ranks
Of the freaks
They could never love anyone
—Aimee Mann, "Save Me"
2 August 1996
It was an unusually stormy night for early August. Ginny Weasley sat wrapped in an afghan, clutching a cup of tea in both hands. Her Arithmancy summer project lay untouched in her lap as she stared out the living room window of the Burrow. The longest hand on the grandfather clock, that of her father, had been wavering between "work" and "mortal peril" all evening. Molly Weasley knew what mission her husband was on but refused to tell her daughter. So Ginny decided to sit up with her mother, who was passing the time by knitting yet another jumper. Ginny could tell it wasn't going very well. She hoped it wasn't for her.
The hands corresponding to her oldest three brothers all pointed to "home," though none were at the Burrow. Bill and Charlie were still living abroad and Percy had recently moved in with his boyfriend Oliver Wood. Fred and George's hands pointed to "school"; they were in training, having postponed their dreams of joke shops until after the war.
Ron's hand pointed to "visiting." He was staying on at Chez Chien for another month, continuing dueling practice with Harry and Hermione under Sirius and Remus's tutelage. Ginny did not like to leave her mother alone, with her father working so hard. Molly Weasley was an excellent dueler in her own right, so she had continued to train Ginny upon her return to the Burrow two days ago.
But if Ginny were honest with herself (something she avoided like the plague) the real reason she had left Chez Chien earlier than the others was the growing closeness of Harry and Hermione. So the day after Harry's birthday, Ginny had made her excuses, packed her bags and prepared to depart for the Burrow hoping that no one but Seamus and Remus knew the real reason for her leaving.
"The man for you is out there," she remembered Remus saying. "Keep your heart open and he will find you. Or you will find him"
Some comfort. What was taking him so long?
At that moment, her father's arrow moved again from "work" to "mortal peril". Ginny jumped to her feet, her forgotten Arithmancy sliding to the floor. But by the time Mrs. Weasley looked up at the clock, the hand was moving to "traveling." Ginny closed her eyes and sunk back onto the couch in relief.
Seconds later, the back door burst open, rain blowing in from the storm outside. The familiar tall figure of Arthur Weasley came through the door, broomstick in hand. He was not alone. His hands were on the shoulders of a smaller person, wrapped up against the weather in an oversized Macintosh.
Mrs. Weasley walked up to her husband, who whispered a few words in her ear, words that made her eyes widen. She leaned over toward the boy in the jacket. "Come now dear, let's get you out of those wet clothes. You've had a long night and it's time for some rest." Hands reached up and pushed the hood of the Macintosh from the unknown head. Ginny gasped.
It was Draco Malfoy.
3 August 1996
A most terrible thing has happened. Your father, among others, was called to Malfoy Manor last night. There was an incident and in the chaos Narcissa Malfoy was killed. Draco Malfoy is staying here, until school starts.
I know that you haven't gotten on with Draco in the past but I am asking you to put that aside. He is not as lucky as we are, Ron. He has no family to support him anymore.
I trust you are not giving your hosts any trouble, dear. We will see you in a few weeks.
The next morning Draco didn't come down for breakfast, so Mrs. Weasley sent Ginny up with a tray. Mr. Weasley had told Ginny the previous night that Mrs. Malfoy had been killed by the Death Eaters, and then asked her to be nice to Draco while he was staying at The Burrow. Ginny, for her part, wasn't surprised that there had been Death Eaters at Malfoy Manor. She merely wondered why Draco wasn't with them.
Draco had been set up in Percy's old room. Ginny wondered idly how long Percy and Oliver would have together before the war started, then reminded herself to remain positive.
Being the only girl in her family, Ginny had a habit of helpfulness, particularly when it came to her mother. However, she was not pleased with this task nor yet at the prospect of spending a month mending her broken heart with Draco Malfoy lurking around the Burrow. Ginny knocked at the door. "It's Ginny. I've brought you some breakfast." No response. "Draco? I'm not amused. Open up." Still no sound. Ginny shifted the tray to one hand and tried the door. It was unlocked. "I'm coming in now." She slowly pushed the door open, hoping he wasn't naked or something. Ginny definitely thought she'd need a bit more food in her stomach before seeing that.
Draco was in bed, laying on his back and staring up at the ceiling. His face had no expression, and he looked like a small child under Ron's old Chudley Cannons bedspread. Ginny felt a lump rise in her throat. Draco had always been pretty rotten but that didn't mean he deserved to lose his mother. No one deserved that. She suddenly felt a little guilty for her angry thoughts.
Ginny set the tray on the bed and pulled up a chair. "I have toast, and eggs, and sausages, and tea and pumpkin juice. And if I were you, I'd eat something. If I go back downstairs with a full tray, my mother will be up here next." She turned to the tray, picking up the utensils, and began cutting up one of the sausages.
Draco turned to look at Ginny, scowling. "I can feed myself." He sat up in bed and took a sip of pumpkin juice. "Are you going to sit there and watch me eat?"
"Well, I was going to bring the tray back down. No house elves around here."
Draco apparently decided he'd rather Ginny watch him eat than bring the tray down himself, as he began to dunk his toast soldiers into one of the soft-boiled eggs. "Rather nursery, isn't it?"
"I think Mum means it to be comforting." Ginny fell silent and watched as Draco slowly, as though forcing himself, worked his way through one of the eggs and a few pieces of toast.
"Do you think that will be enough to satisfy her? I don't think ..." Draco turned his head away from Ginny.
Ginny stood and took the tray off the bed and began to walk to the door, when Draco called, "Hey?"
"Tell your mum, thanks."
"Sure." Ginny paused. "I'm really sorry."
Draco had sunk back down under the covers, his head turned to the wall. Ginny sighed and quietly shut the door behind her.
4 August 1996
Just writing to make sure you are okay. You left so abruptly and you seemed upset. I hope there is nothing that you don't think you can tell me.
I'm sure having Draco around is making things even more difficult. Don't let him get under your skin. I think he enjoys making other people unhappy. Still, I suppose he's pretty unhappy himself right now (though I can't picture him having feelings about anything) and deserves our sympathy.
Write soon. It seems strange to be the only girl in a house full of men.
Draco didn't come downstairs the rest of that day, or the next. Ginny brought him a tray at each meal and sat next to him as he ate, though he rarely managed much more than tea and some bread. They never spoke but Ginny hoped that her presence could somehow make Draco feel a bit better. Once, when Ginny and Mrs. Weasley were in the yard practicing disarming, Ginny thought she saw Draco in the window, watching. But when she looked again, no one was there.
Finally on Wednesday morning, Draco appeared at the breakfast table wearing some old clothes of Ron's that Mrs. Weasley had left for him in Percy's room. He said nothing and looked no one in the eye, staring down at his sausages. But he was eating. After breakfast, Draco went into the living room and grabbed one of the many Quidditch books from the crowded shelf.
After she and Ginny had cleaned up the breakfast things, Mrs. Weasley went into the living room. "Draco, it's such a nice morning. Why don't you and Ginny go outside for a ramble? I think it would do you good to get out of the house."
"We have some brooms, if you'd rather," Ginny said. "Though I am not the best flyer."
Draco shrugged. He set his book down and rose from the couch. Walking toward Mrs. Weasley, he said, "Do you have a stream or something? My moth—um, I used to fish, sometimes, in the river at our place." He looked down at his shoes.
Mrs. Weasley considered this. "We have a river. And there are some fishing things somewhere in Fred and George's room."
"Would you like to fly there, or walk?" Ginny asked.
Draco and Ginny stood in the middle of the stream, having magically waterproofed their trousers. Their broomsticks and the picnic lunch Mrs. Weasley had packed for them sat in the tall grass on the shore. Ginny was surprised that Draco knew how to do anything as pedestrian as fishing.
Draco rolled his eyes. "Malfoy Manor is in the countryside. What do you think we do out there? I've been hunting and fishing since I was five. Angling is the sport of kings. Really, Weasley, catch up."
Once cast, the hooks would sense what fish were available in the water and create the appropriate flies. However, there was no magical shortcut for casting the line. Draco looked on appalled as Ginny tried to cast her line out into the water.
"Didn't those numerous brothers of yours teach you anything useful, Weasley? Like this." Draco flicked his wrist and the hook arced over their heads, landing softly in the water. Ginny tried to copy Draco but she only succeeded in getting the hook stuck in her ponytail, where it began to grow a rather large blue ribbon.
"Ouch!" Draco moved to help her but she flinched away from him. "No, I can get it out myself," she insisted, embarrassed by her clumsiness.
"Weasley, it's behind you. Let me do it." Draco handed his pole to Ginny and freed the hook from her hair. He straightened the line, cast it for her and took his own pole back.
"Thanks," said Ginny. Draco nodded and they stood fishing. Ginny wondered if she should say something but thought better of it. Oddly the silence didn't feel awkward, though she would hardly have called Draco a friend.
A long while like this in the sun, a light breeze stirring their hair and making the heat bearable. Ginny had quite forgotten about the fish when she suddenly felt a tug on her line. "Draco, what do I do?"
"Just reel it in. No, slower than that." Draco let go of his pole and it hung in the air where he left it as he moved behind Ginny. He put his arms around her, his hands over her hands. "Like this." Ginny could feel the fish tugging at the other end of the line and she could see Draco's arms flexing on either side of her as he fought the fish, slowly reeling it in.
His chin was resting on her shoulder, his cheek brushing against hers. All at once, the fish emerged from the water, shiny and black, and the abrupt lack of tension in the line sent Ginny backwards into Draco. But Ginny was small, and Draco stronger and more solid than he appeared. They stayed upright as the fish swung toward them at the end of the line, into Ginny's outstretched hand.
"Yay!" Ginny turned to Draco. "My first fish!"
"Well, if it's your first fish then it's your dinner. But you'll have to clean it."
Ginny grimaced. She didn't like the sound of that. "Well, thanks for the help. I would have fallen in, probably."
"I wouldn't let you fall." Draco looked at Ginny for a long moment, then walked over to where he had left his fishing pole.
Ginny blinked; her head felt thick and jumbled and she couldn't quite think clearly.
"Are you going to take that fish off the hook or just let it flop around in the air?" Draco sighed irritably before once again letting go of his fishing pole. He took the fish from her, taking it off the hook and putting it in the small net they had put into the water. He recast the line, then handed her the pole and took his back.
Throughout, Ginny stood motionless staring at Draco. She felt as though she had never seen him before, never noticed the way the sun made his hair glow, the way his nose twitched as he concentrated, the way …
"You won't catch any more fish looking at me, Weasley." Draco didn't look at her but the corners of his mouth turned up ever so slightly. Ginny quickly turned her head back to the water and the pair fell silent again.
Sometime later, having caught four more fish, Draco and Ginny left the stream for the grass and their picnic lunch of sandwiches and pumpkin juice. Ginny reached into the basket to find that Mrs. Weasley had also packed them each a piece of shortbread, wrapped in waxed paper. She handed one to Draco.
Draco unwrapped the shortbread, then his hand fell to his lap. He looked out at the stream. "My mother loved shortbread. She had it every day. Father found it too sweet; he never touched it. But she loved it."
Ginny sat very still, silently willing Draco to continue. The words came haltingly, unwillingly. It was as if he didn't want to talk but couldn't help himself; as though he thought he would explode from not speaking.
"She taught me how to fish and how to hunt ducks and pheasants. She was patient enough to wait for the animals to come to her. Father preferred deer; he was more of a stalker.
"She wouldn't let him send me to Durmstrang. Thought it was too far away. It was the only time I remember her winning a fight with him. I guess she didn't win the other night, did she?"
Draco turned to look at Ginny, and the spell was broken, as though he had forgotten she was even there, or perhaps who she was. She could see a door closing someplace behind his eyes. "Well, I think it's got too hot for fishing. We should head back."
"Okay." Ginny picked up the picnic things while Draco went back to the stream to grab the net full of fish and the poles.
"Ginny? Do you think—" Draco paused, looking down at his feet.
"Do you think your mother would train me, as well? I don't want to rely on someone else rescuing me next time."
"I don't see why not."
When they returned to the house, Mrs. Weasley made the kind of fuss over their fish that only a mother would and insisted on taking a picture of the two of them outdoors with their catch and gear. Draco and Ginny put their arms around each other's shoulders in order to fit into the frame better, as they held up their strings of fish.
Coming back inside, they were surprised to find Mr. Weasley in the living room waiting for them. A trunk sat near the couch.
"Draco, they've quit Malfoy Manor. We packed up what we found left in your room. I didn't think you would want to go back there."
"I have my wand. That's all I need." Draco looked down at his trunk, his eyes cold. "I don't want anything that he gave me."
Kilcolman Castle, Co. Cork
10 August 1996
Well, I've done it now. I thought that I would have a fun-filled month with my best friend but thanks to a certain DOG we both know, I'm finding it impossible to ignore my feelings for Dean. I'll need your help when we get back to school. I either need to get him or forget him, and I don't see how I can do either one.
I sent Ginny an owl but I haven't heard back from her yet. Hmm, stuck in a house with your ex, his best friend and the godparents? Well, at least you can talk to Remus. I'd be flirting with Sirius but that's just me.
Write soon. You can always vent to me.
After that day, life settled into a comfortable rhythm. Draco and Ginny would head out after breakfast for a long walk and each day Draco talked a little bit more about his mother, though never about the events of that night. After lunch they practiced with Mrs. Weasley. Draco knew a lot of hexes and was a very good dueler, something which didn't seem to surprise Mrs. Weasley. Ginny thought he may have been better even than Harry, in skill if not in natural ability. However, Mrs. Weasley had been through one war already and there were plenty of things she could teach the boy. In the early evening while Mrs. Weasley fixed a late dinner, Draco and Ginny did chores around the house. Draco had been initially resistant; he had grown up with house elves after all, and thought housework and yard work were beneath him. Then Mrs. Weasley firmly explained that everyone at the Burrow had chores, in a tone of voice even Draco Malfoy dared not argue with.
Some days later Ginny and Draco were de-gnoming the yard yet again when Ginny slipped on a patch of mud and fell into the water that had pooled in a low spot. Draco turned to look and then he started to laugh. Ginny was wary but this wasn't the sneering chuckle of old. Ginny grinned.
"Think that's funny, Malfoy?" Ginny grabbed some of the mud and threw it at Draco.
"Hey!" Draco yelled as the mud patty hit him in the ear. "How did you learn to aim like that?"
"I have six older brothers. I'd be dead by now if I couldn't fight back. Help me up?" She held one hand up to Draco who (foolishly) took it, only to end up pulled down into the mud next to Ginny.
"Why, you ..." Draco growled. He rolled Ginny over, further into the muddy patch and the mud fight began in earnest. Draco was stronger but Ginny was faster and soon they were both covered with mud from head to toe. At last, Draco managed to pin Ginny down in the mud. His hands were holding her arms down, his knees at her sides, his lower legs pinned against her thighs. She stopped laughing for a moment, trying to catch her breath and push him off of her, when she looked up at him.
Draco had stopped laughing and was looking down at her, with that same expression he'd had at the pond that day. He looked like he was about to say something, then he leaned down toward Ginny and kissed her.
Now, Ginny had been kissed before. She had "practiced" a few times with Colin Creevey and Neville Longbottom had kissed her goodnight after the Yule Ball. She had even French kissed Seamus Finnigan once at a party but he kissed everyone and had since come out so she didn't think that really counted.
But she had never been kissed like this. She wasn't even sure it qualified as a kiss, since more than her lips were involved. It felt like her whole body was diving into something wet and warm and soft. His hands released her arms to cradle her face. She opened her mouth further and felt his tongue slowly licking at the inside of her mouth. She slid her hands up his back until they reached his head, entwining her fingers in his hair and pulling him closer to her.
Finally he pulled away from her, coming up for air, and looked out at the trees before looking back down at Ginny. From where she sat, he looked like a golden boy, silhouetted against the sky, his hair glowing in the light. At last he spoke and she couldn't believe she had ever been attracted to anyone else.
"We should go inside, before your mother finds us like this." Draco stood and pulled Ginny up to her feet.
Inside, Mrs. Weasley scolded them for making such a mess and sent them to their bedrooms to get cleaned up before dinner. Once they were upstairs though, she smiled to herself. She didn't know what Ginny was doing but her daughter had pulled Draco out of his initial shock and gotten him talking. Perhaps, despite everything, he would be all right.