And right there
For a minute
I knew you so well
—Tori Amos, "In the Springtime of His Voodoo"
15 August 1996
Thanks for writing. I suppose I did leave suddenly but I just couldn't stay any longer. Harry will never see me as anything other than the little sister he'll never have and that just has to be enough. I couldn't even stand to be in the same room with Hermione any more. So I ran home to mum.
But it's totally different now. I'll fill you in on the train but something has happened—something that makes me think that you were right, that everything happens for a reason. Sorry to be a tease but I can't put it in an owl. Just don't worry about me.
Sorry things are strange with Dean. I think you should be able to work it out with him. I have a lot of faith in you.
The walks in the woods became snogging sessions. Ginny frantically hoped that her mother wouldn't notice how she looked at Draco or how he looked at her. They were careful not to sit together on the couch or touch during meals. Even making eye contact with Draco sent shivers up Ginny's spine. Never had she felt so purely sensual. She was addicted to his touch, his kiss, even his glance. Only during the drills with her mother did Ginny have any kind of focus. She spent the rest of her day in a fog, inebriated from the kissing.
Ron, Harry and Hermione arrived at The Burrow from Chez Chien a week before school started. There were some initial flare ups between the other boys and Draco but Mrs. Weasley had put a stop to it, and Harry and Ron found that their old adversary wasn't terribly interested in fighting back. So they moved from open animosity into a hostile but silent truce.
Mrs. Weasley, anxious that Draco's slow recovery from his initial depression continue unhindered, sent Ginny and Draco on errands in the morning so they could continue their walks. Ginny thought that if her mother knew what was really going on between them she would have put a stop to it; then again, Ginny was the only one aside from Mrs. Weasley that Draco ever spoke to. She hoped that her pugnacious brother and his best friend were too preoccupied with mastering hexes to notice how she behaved around Draco.
However, as they went to bed that first night Hermione asked Ginny, "What is going on between you and Draco?"
Ginny tried to talk her way out of it. She busied herself turning down her bed. "Nothing is going on. He's been down and I was the only one around for him to talk to."
"Don't give me that, Ginny," Hermione scolded. "I can see how you two are."
Ginny smiled a little—she couldn't help it, and what was the harm, really, in confiding to her only girlfriend? "All right, we've been doing a bit more than talking. How could you tell?"
"You behave totally differently when he's around," Hermione said. "You barely talk to me or Ron or Harry anymore."
Ginny spun around to face Hermione. "Why should I be talking to Harry? When has Harry ever said more than five words in a row to me?"
"Harry cares about you, Ginny," Hermione replied. "Do you think Draco really cares about you? Or is he just using you?"
It was all Ginny could do to keep from shouting. She ran her hands through her hair in frustration. "To Harry, I am just another Weasley. Draco is the only one who sees me as I am." She moved toward the other girl, scowling, her voice an angry whisper. "You don't know anything, Hermione! You don't know how things have been around here! You don't know what he says to me, what he tells me—"
"When you're alone?" Hermione interrupted. "Why not when you are with other people? Why does it have to be a secret? If he cares about you so much, why doesn't he show it openly? What reason does he have to hide?"
Ginny glared at Hermione. "Do you think you are the only one to have boys falling at your feet? First Viktor, then Ron and now—" she nearly said Harry but thought better of it. "Do you think that no one would want me?" she continued indignantly. "Because Draco does want me! Not Ron's little sister, the fan and general hanger-on, but me, Ginevra Weasley." She stood with her hands on her hips, daring Hermione to contradict her.
Hermione looked down at the floor and sighed. "I really hope I'm wrong," she said quietly. "But I don't think a leopard can change its spots this quickly."
Ginny had never known Hermione to back down before. She sat on her bed quietly for a moment, then replied sadly, "I need someone on my side on this one. I hoped it would be you. I can see now that it won't be. But Draco didn't change his spots, any more than I did." Ginny pulled her knees up under her chin and tried to calm down. "Look, it's late and it's been a long day. Let's just get some sleep."
Hermione nodded. As she reached for her wand to put out the light, she said, "Ginny, you know I'm always on your side no matter what, right?" She smiled anxiously at her friend.
"Sure," Ginny whispered. She didn't look at Hermione. "Good night."
Ginny lay in bed staring out her bedroom window. She was sure she knew what she was doing, and that Hermione was wrong. But she gazed at the moon for hours before she fell asleep.
26 August 1996
Hello Ron Weasley,
Thank you for your letter. It was unexpected but welcome. Things here are subdued but starting to get back to normal. Mother was a friend of Narcissa Malfoy's since school, so she's been very upset. Apparently there won't be a funeral or a memorial of any kind, since no one has heard from Lucius Malfoy. Or Draco, for that matter. I heard he's in a safe house someplace. Do you know anything about that? I hope he's okay.
I am taking your advice and going out for Quidditch this year. The fresh air will be good for me and I'll do anything to get away from the endless debates in the Ravenclaw common room. War will come or it won't and I can't see there's much we can do about it until it comes.
Speaking of war, I'm looking forward to another chess match.
The next night, at dinner, the conversation had turned to the relative merits of suspending professional Quidditch for the duration of the war when Draco, who had remained silent at meals since Ron, Harry and Hermione's return, suddenly spoke.
"I was wrong." His eyes were fixed on the table.
Ron stopped talking in mid-sentence and all eyes turned to Draco. After a short silence, Mrs. Weasley gently asked, "Wrong about what, dear?"
Gray eyes met brown and Ginny nodded slightly, encouraging him to continue just as she had done that day at the river and every day since then. He lifted his head and looked at her, then at Harry.
Draco's voice was barely above a whisper. "I was wrong when I said you picked the wrong side, that day on the train after the Tournament. I find that I've been mislead."
Harry couldn't think of a response to that but it didn't matter, as Draco continued talking.
His voice was getting gradually louder with each sentence . "It was all a lie. Everything he said to me was a lie. Everything he did was a lie. Everything he is, is a lie. My entire life is a lie." Even though he was shouting now, his voice was without emotion, his face expressionless and he had not moved. "It. Was. All. A. Lie."
Suddenly, he sprang from his chair and walked from the dining room out onto the porch. Ginny started to go after him but Harry was quicker.
Draco stood looking out at the stars. Hearing steps behind him, he glanced down to see who was there then looked back up at the night sky. "Well Potter, come to welcome me to the orphanage?"
Harry leaned against the wall, his hands in his pockets. But Draco's apology seemed to come from another boy entirely. "You're not an orphan. You still have a father."
Draco shook his head. "No, I don't," he whispered.
"No, you don't," Harry agreed. "But you knew your mother, which is more than I can say."
"True." Draco turned and pointed at Harry angrily. "But do you have the moment yours was killed burned into your memory?"
"Yes, actually. I should have been too young to remember but I do now, thanks to those bloody Dementors." Harry sighed.
Draco looked confused for a moment then said, "Is that why you were so afraid of them?" Harry nodded. "Humph. If we had known that, we wouldn't have pulled that trick on you." He looked at Harry and smiled slightly. "Actually yes, we would have. But that's Slytherin for you; it's all about winning."
Draco's shoulders sagged a bit as he sighed. Harry said nothing but kept his eyes on the other boy. He wished he could think of something to say. He had never seen Draco Malfoy at a loss for words.
After a moment, Draco said, "So, what happens now? We all follow you on a Children's Crusade? A merry little war?"
Harry walked further out onto the porch next to where Draco stood and put his hands on the railing. "I don't know what happens," he admitted, sadly. "Back to Hogwarts I suppose, in the short term anyway."
"How can you not know, hero-boy?" Draco drawled, annoyed.
Harry tried not to smile at the return of Malfoy's familiar sarcasm. "I don't think anyone knows. I don't think even Dumbledore knows."
Draco chuckled. "That old fraud? He wouldn't know a Death Eater from a chocolate frog." He looked over at Harry, who was scowling. "Oh, that's right. Another lie." Draco rolled his eyes and sighed in frustration. "Great, now I don't even know what's true anymore."
"Maybe you should figure out the truth for yourself, instead of just going by what your father told you," Harry said bluntly.
Draco smiled cynically. "Ah, but that would require work and introspection on my part. I've had enough introspection this summer. It doesn't suit me." Draco shook his head. "How did you get so sage anyway, Potter?"
"Saving the world once a year gives you some perspective," Harry replied sarcastically. He turned to Draco and raised one eyebrow. To his surprise, Draco snickered.
"I expect so." He paused, then said, "It would appear that getting rid of good old you-know-who is your job but save little Lucius for me, will you?" Draco was smirking, but his eyes were cold as steel.
"Malfoy, this isn't about vengeance," Harry scolded calmly.
Draco raised his eyebrows. "You don't really believe that, do you?" he asked.
Harry stared at Draco for a moment. "No, I don't," he admitted, resigned to his loss of innocence. "I should but I don't. Not anymore."
Draco grinned triumphantly. "See, Potter? We are more similar than you like to admit to yourself. You're no paragon of virtue, and I'm not such a bad fellow, really—"
"Once you get to know him," Ginny finished. She barely gave a glance at Harry before settling her eyes on Draco.
The boys turned to look at her, standing in the doorway. Harry thought she seemed much different than she had at his birthday, less than a month ago. There was something about the way she held herself that was less girlish, more adult, more knowing. He looked back at Draco and then he realized what was going on. Harry hoped Ginny knew what she was doing because if this evening was any indication, Draco had no idea what he was doing from one moment to the next.
"Hey," Draco said, his voice barely above a whisper. He smiled slightly, staring into Ginny's eyes.
"Not making any trouble out here, I hope," joked Ginny, though her voice was a little shaky with emotion.
"No trouble at all," said Harry lightly. He turned to Draco and held out his hand. "I believe we've come to an understanding," he said, matter-of-fact.
Draco looked at Harry, surprised. "I believe we have." As he dropped Harry's hand, Draco turned back to look at Ginny as though he were a drowning man and she his line to shore.
"Well," Harry said brusquely, suddenly feeling superfluous, "I leave you in the capable hands of Miss Ginevra Weasley." He winced at the possible interpretations of his comment but let it lie. "Good night."
"Good night" they said to Harry in unison, their eyes not leaving each other as Harry walked back into the house. After a few minutes, Draco reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of Marlboros and a match.
Ginny looked at them, surprised, and asked, "When did you start smoking?" She walked onto the porch and stood next to Draco.
"They were in that trunk. I went through it last night." Draco grimaced, then lit up.
"Is that why you've been on edge all day?" Draco nodded. "Why didn't you tell me about it this morning?" Ginny asked, wondering whether he had started keeping secrets.
"I wasn't sure how I felt about it." Draco exhaled thoughtfully. "Anyway, there isn't much in there of any interest. A few things from my room. My broom. Some old school books. Quills. Clothes." He shrugged, affecting unconcern but not entirely succeeding. "I hadn't unpacked much since I got back from school. There was too much going on."
Ginny held her breath. Draco had never spoken about this part of the story. "What was going on?" she asked.
Draco took a long drag, looking out at the trees beyond the porch. When he spoke it was in a falsely cheerful, detached, almost brittle voice. "Let's just say Daddy wanted his Bright Boy to join the Firm and Mummy didn't agree. They fought about it every night but the Bright Boy always did everything his Daddy told him to—every single thing, and couldn't understand why his Mummy and Daddy were fighting. One night, Daddy had his business associates to the house for dinner and one thing led to another, as often happens. Suddenly the Bright Boy realizes that he hasn't been so bright and he doesn't want to join the Firm after all—especially once he met the CEO. So Mummy says to the CEO, 'My Bright Boy will not be signing up at this time, thanks all the same but do have some more spice cake.' Now, the CEO doesn't like that, not one little bit. So he tells Daddy that unfortunately Mummy will have to be let go. Then some corporate raiders from a rival firm drop by, and they take the Bright Boy and they try to take Mummy but Daddy is far too clever for that. He always does what the CEO tells him to do, no matter what. And here we are." He turned to look at Ginny, his face expressionless.
"Draco, I—" Ginny began.
"No," Draco said firmly, "let's not talk about it. Not ever again." Draco put out his cigarette, and looked up at the stars. Ginny reached out and touched his shoulder then slid down his arm, taking his hand in her own. She gave it a squeeze and felt him squeezing it back, first tentatively but then more firmly, as though he were holding on to her for dear life. She strengthened her grip in response. They stood there in silence, holding on to each other and looking at the stars.
After a bit, Draco looked back at Ginny and said, "But one useful thing I did get were the combinations to the vaults, to mine and my mother's."
"You have your own vault?" Ginny was surprised.
Draco nodded. "Trust fund. I always had my mother's combination, in case anything happened to her. So I suppose I can open it now. Unless Lucius has already cleaned us out. Wouldn't put it past him." He smiled at Ginny and touched her nose with his finger. "Which means you get a present when we go to Diagon Alley."
Ginny shook her head. "Draco, I don't want a present."
"Well, you're getting one whether you like it or not," Draco replied. "Though I'd rather that you like it." He smiled again, this time more broadly.
Ginny remembered that Draco was used to getting his way. Ginny had learned that it was best to save fighting for when you felt very strongly, so she gave in. "Okay but nothing expensive or I won't accept it. Come on, let's go back inside."
27th August 1996
I am glad to hear that you're doing better. I understand why you may not want to ask your mother so I'll give you what advice I can.
Draco is a very lucky young man to have you to confide in. I'm relieved that he's talking to someone. But I want you to take care of yourself, as well. I know that you want to be there for Draco but you cannot help him if you lose yourself in the process.
You're developing very strong feelings for him now; don't let them push you into an emotional intimacy that he may not be able to sustain. Draco always struck me as a young man very removed from his inner life. He's been through a great deal and I wouldn't be surprised if his behavior is sometimes erratic. Having a relationship with someone who's struggling with their emotions is a very delicate thing, as I know only too well. There will be some rough patches. If you think he's worth it, you'll just have to hang on.
I'm only an owl away. Good luck.
The trip to Dragon Alley was a few days later. Mr. Weasley left early in the morning with Draco to Gringott's, where Draco had long meetings with the Goblins and with his family's lawyers to establish himself as the legal heir to his mother and as an emancipated minor, with Mr. Weasley named as his sponsor. Draco was surprised that he didn't face more resistance from Lucius's lawyers; then again, there were eight people at the Ministry that had watched him murder his wife. Draco tried to offer some recompense for putting him up over the summer (not to mention essentially saving his life) but Mr. Weasley would hear none of it.
After lunch, Draco and Ginny managed to sneak away from the others and he led her to a small jeweler's shop. The proprietor seemed to know Draco and after expressing his sympathies, went into the back of the shop to get Draco's "special order." He came back with a small box in his hand, which Draco handed to Ginny.
Inside was a silver chain with a small, shiny black pendant shaped like the fish they had caught that summer. Ginny looked up at Draco, surprised. She let him take the box from her hands and fasten the chain around her neck. Then, he took out his wand and whispered, "vivare pescum." The fish began to jump and flip at the end of the chain, much as Ginny's first fish had flopped about in her hands.
"Now, you'll know when I am thinking about you." Draco smiled shyly. "I just wanted to give you something, to thank you for everything." He paused and looked out the window of the shop for a moment, scowling. "It's all blood money anyway."
Ginny reached up and gently turned Draco to face her, smiling tenderly. "It's beautiful, Draco. But you don't have to cleanse yourself for me. You don't have to make up for anything. You just have to be." She pulled him toward her, kissing him gently on the lips. "Come on, let's go get some ice cream."
They made their way to Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor, where Ginny treated Draco. Cones in hand, they snuck around a corner to a small alley, licking the rapidly melting ice cream off each others hands before Draco slowly pushed Ginny against the wall with his kisses, the cones falling to the ground unmissed.
That night at dinner, Ron was unusually subdued. He scowled at his food, barely speaking to anyone. Ginny couldn't imagine what was wrong with him. She looked at Hermione but her friend just shrugged. Ginny knew that Hermione wouldn't have told him about her and Draco. And while Harry probably figured out how things stood that night on the porch, she didn't think Harry would tell him, either—Harry rarely told Ron what he didn't want to know. She decided not to think about it and concentrate on her packing. If he was annoyed, she'd find out about it soon enough.
Once the Hogwarts Express departed from platform 9 3/4 however, Ginny's problems began. First, Draco saw some of his Slytherin friends, and told Ginny it would probably be better if he sat with Blaise, Pansy and the others rather than Ron, Hermione and Harry. Ginny wanted to say that he would be sitting with her as well but she remembered what Remus had written and didn't want to push him. So she went to the compartment where her brother sat.
However, if she had hoped for a warm welcome she was in for a surprise. Ron was sitting with his arms crossed, glaring at her as she shut the door of the compartment behind her. "What do you think you've been playing at?" he snapped.
"What are you on about?" Ginny asked, dreading the confrontation she knew was inevitable.
"I saw you. I saw Malfoy pushing you up against a wall in Diagon Alley." Ron made a face, as though the memory itself were disgusting. "I bet half of Hogwarts saw you. What were you thinking? What have you been doing all summer? Do you think that Draco Malfoy has changed, just because his mother—"
"You leave him alone," Ginny said, quietly but firmly. She could feel the fish pendant (unseen under her clothing) flopping against her skin. Draco was thinking about her even now, though she wasn't there with him. There was no use reasoning with Ron when he was like this. She turned and walked out of the cabin. She needed some air.
When she got to the end of the carriage she saw Seamus Finnigan leaning out one of the windows smoking a cigarette. He turned to her and held a finger to his lips, motioning her to be quiet. When he saw how upset she was, he guided her to the outside platform.
"Hey, what's wrong?" he asked gently.
She shrugged. "Oh, it's the usual Ron thing. I like a boy, he doesn't like it. You know how that goes."
"Bet we all know who that boy is. It's all over the train. Draco is what you were hinting to me about in that owl post, isn't he?" He grinned at Ginny.
Ginny put her head in her hands, blushing. "How embarrassing!" She chuckled a little in spite of herself. It was a good piece of gossip.
Seamus laughed. "If you don't want everyone to know about your love life, don't snog in the middle of Dragon Alley. Have you learned nothing from my bad example?"
Ginny chuckled. "Well, it's out in the open now. No more sneaking around, at least. I suppose I should feel better for it—" Ginny broke off at the sound of loud voices and laughter coming toward them.
"Yes, she's a little spitfire. Which of you wouldn't have done what I did? But it was just a summer fling. She's a Weasley and I have standards to maintain, as a gentleman." Draco entered the breezeway laughing with the other boys at his joke but he stopped short when he saw Ginny had heard every word.
Ginny looked at Draco in disbelief. Could this be boy she had known this summer? Brave Gryffindor, she thought. I must not lose myself. She walked up to Draco, gave him her coldest glare and slapped him across the face. He stood shocked and speechless as she turned and walked into the next carriage.
Seamus snorted disgustedly in the corner. "Gentleman my arse." Draco, who had now gone pale except for the redness from Ginny's slap, flinched at the remark. Seamus threw his cigarette at Draco's feet and followed Ginny back into the train.
Ginny had broken into a run as soon as the door to the breezeway shut behind her but Seamus caught up with her easily and pulled her into an empty compartment. "Oh gods, she was right. She was right and I hate her! I hate her so much!" Ginny cried onto Seamus's shoulder.
"That's no good," Seamus said, trying to console her. "Who do you hate?"
Ginny pulled her head up to look at Seamus. "Hermione!" she wailed. "She's always right and she gets every boy she wants and it's not fair!" Her head dropped back onto Seamus' chest as more tears came.
"Now, that isn't true," Seamus scolded mildly. "You know that isn't true. There have been boys that she liked, that didn't like her."
"She wants Harry and she didn't want me to have Draco," Ginny blubbered angrily. "Now she has her way and I'm alone again."
Seamus stroked her hair and let her cry it out.
When she had run our of tears, she sat up with her back against the side of the seat and faced Seamus. She reached up to rip the necklace from her neck but she couldn't bring herself do it. The necklace was the only memento she had, her sole relic of the Draco she had known. "No, you're right. It isn't her. It's me. Ginny Weasley, setting the land speed record from wanton slut to sex-free zone in under twenty seconds." She sighed bitterly.
"Ginny!" Seamus was damned if he was going to let Ginny take the blame for this. He took her hands into his and said, softly, "Sometimes these summer things don't work out. People behave differently when they are out of their own environment. Hell, people are behaving differently because there's a war coming. You were kind to him at a time when he needed it but you don't always get paid back kindness for kindness. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Draco Malfoy has always been the worst kind of little shit and he doesn't deserve you."
"I want to believe that, Seamus. But I think that's just what friends say to other friends who've been dumped." Ginny squeezed Seamus's hand in thanks. She then turned to look out the window, trying to forget the events of the summer. The flopping of the fish pendant against her skin made that nearly impossible.