Author's note: Another unhappy D/G one-shot from me. Feedback would be much appreciated.

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.


Twelfth



The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance -- it is the illusion of knowledge.


- Daniel J Boorstin


--



On the fifth day that Ginny realized Draco Malfoy was following her, she decided that she had had enough. As she sat under her tree, the one by the lake, she thought of what she would say to him—something rude and scathing and demeaning, for sure. But Draco opened his mouth before she could.

“Your brother’s furious at me,” he panted, as if he had just run around the castle a few times. “Furious because I made some passing comment about how nice I thought you looked. I thought I’d tell you before he did. He’s bound to misconstrue things horribly.”

Ginny put her book down and stared at the blond boy, wide-eyed.

“Don’t let it get to your head, Weasel,” he said warningly. “There are plenty of pretty girls in this world. You’ve got to distinguish yourself to get my attention.”

“When will you leave me alone?” Ginny bleated awkwardly, unable to think of anything else to say. She didn’t know whether or not to be flattered, after all. To her question, Draco shrugged.

“Maybe on the twelfth of never. If you’re fortunate.”

Yes—he was a little bit batty and quite frankly, she’d never seen a loony side of him. It was new. But Ginny supposed, upon pondering--that was part of his charm.


--


“Were those exact words?” she asked. A dark blond eyebrow rose.

“Haven’t said anything,” he said, looking up from his book. In the distance, Madam Pince gave them suspicious looks. In her knowledge, there was no reason for a Slytherin and a Gryffindor to be conversing. “Perhaps your ears are going wonky.”

“No, that day. When you told me how Ron was furious at you and you said I looked nice—were those exact words?”

Draco looked thoughtful, quill poised near his mouth.

“No,” he said after a moment. “I said you had a nice arse. For a Weasley, anyway.”

Ginny bit her lip to keep herself from laughing, but no power could stop her from blushing furiously red. This time, she was indefinitely flattered. Had it been any other boy, she might have liked to slap him. But no one else could understand—hearing such a thing from Draco Malfoy made you feel like you could get no higher praise. She felt that all these come-ons from him must mean something. Perhaps she was not as undesirable as she liked to think.

“So,” she said after a moment of quietude passed between them. She realized her voice was shaking. “How does one distinguish oneself from all other pretty girls?”

It was all he needed. With the smallest of smiles, he leaned over and kissed her.


--


“I love you,” she said in a moment of passion. She didn’t usually like being quick with her words—but was she being rash, after all?

“Do you mean it?” he asked automatically. To him, there was always the possibility for her to burst out laughing and tell him it was a joke.

“Yes,” she said, fully aware that she was exposing herself to heartbreak. She realized that she did not give a damn. It was a slightly frightful thought. “Do you?” She eyed him expectantly.

“Yes,” he said with a sigh. “I mean, I suppose so. If someone like me were to know what love was, I think it would feel something like this. I don’t see how it could be anything else.”

Ginny smiled. It wasn’t quite the epiphany she always longed for (but never came). It was the closest thing, and that was better than nothing at all.

“When will you leave me alone?” she asked teasingly, just for old time’s sake. He chuckled.

“Twelfth of never,” he replied easily. He pretended to be annoyed. “Haven’t I told you already?”


--


So it continued. Life did, anyway, and that meant life with Draco. It came to that point when she became restless. She felt that there should be more and she wondered sometimes if she were simply being greedy. But mostly she wanted more. More commitment? More promises? More flowers?

“When are you going to tell my mum?” she asked again and again. Draco tried his best not to grow irritated with her, but it was in his nature to grow irate with everything. She tried to be understanding, but secretly wished he would do the same—try to understand her.

“Twelfth of never,” he repeated his favorite date. “That’s when.”

“If I didn’t know better,” Ginny said. “I would think you were ashamed of our love.”

Draco looked at her. Lucidly, calmly.

“Do you know better, I wonder?” Ginny grew red.

“I don’t understand what you mean, Malfoy,” she said coldly. “Are you questioning our relationship?”

“Oh—as if you’ve never questioned it before.”

“I haven’t,” she said forcefully. He shook his head.

“Yes you have. You are now. You want me to announce to the whole world, don’t you, because that would give you newfound security—security that I was never able to give you—isn’t that it?”

Ginny shook and her breathing quickened. This was how squabbles with Draco were. They always started fast.

“And so what if I do want a little reassurance?” she asked, blinking back hot tears. “Is that so selfish of me? Surely, you can’t be so secure yourself about us, surely you can’t—I mean, we’ve been seeing each other for months--“

“Ginny.” She shut her mouth and looked at him.

“I’m not like you.” Draco said this almost mournfully, his voice barely above a whisper.

Ginny felt so small then, standing in the silly robes that her mum had patched over countless number of times. While he stood perfectly manicured and cold as stone, save for his lifelike eyes. His peculiarity struck her hard.

And for the first time since she had gotten to know him, she saw a stranger in front of her.


--


The quite blunt truth of it was that Ginny Weasley was more than in love. It was not like the time she had had a crush on Harry. She was becoming obsessed. What had begun as a few kisses and mild flirtations had burgeoned into something vital for everyday life. And indeed, there was not a day that passed without her seeing him. There was not a second that passed without her thinking of him.

She’d known from the start that this was something she shouldn’t have been doing at all. But even in the very beginning, when her senses had not been clouded by mindless desire, there was no stopping the way she was drawn to him. Trying to explain why she was drawn to Draco was useless, almost as useless as trying to persuade herself to leave him.

From the perfect and subtle way (in her mind, anyway) he had courted her to the red, red roses that she was given quite often, everything about him was romantic. But he wasn’t desperate—never. An unnamed part of her mind that admired this trait very much.

Now, more than ever, she knew she was in risk. But with each day that passed, the red roses dwindled and its petals all fell and dried away to brittle black. With each day that passed, he had less of that excited glint in his eyes when he looked at her and more of the same dull slate he used on everyone else. She was not everyone else. She could not be. And so with each day, she hoped and willed herself to be oblivious. To be blind to what she had already seen. Sometimes there could be no such thing as an end, just as there was no such thing as the twelfth of never. That, it seemed, was the only reassurance she received.

And then she bought the rings. The rings that had taken some time to buy, since money in her family was no where near as plentiful as the holes in their clothes.

“What are these?” he asked with some degree of interest as he caught sight of the glinting things.

“Well—they’re rings,” Ginny said. Her entire body was tingling with hope--hope that he would not be disappointed.

“What kind of rings?”

“Just…rings,” she said, but quickly elaborated when he began to look bored again. “Read what they say,” she insisted eagerly. Draco squinted his eyes to read the small inscription on the ring’s gold surface.

“Mates,” he intoned. He looked at Ginny with some amusement. “I’m glad you think we’re friends, Ginny.” Ginny shook her head and shoved the other ring in his face.

“Read this one.”

Mirth slowly dissipated from Draco’s eyes as he read the other word.

“Soul,” he said. “Soul mates.”

“Yes,” Ginny breathed. “Aren’t they nifty? Of course, if you don’t like the mates one, you could take soul—it really doesn’t matter to me.” She prattled on as she grabbed a ring and slipped it over his fourth finger, feeling pleasure in the way it looked on his long finger. Draco watched silently. Ginny’s ramblings stopped completely as she saw that there was already another ring on his hand. This one was silver, a handsome emerald sitting in the middle of the gleaming band.

“Oh,” she said. She was slightly disheartened at how laughable her cheap ring looked compared to the silver one. How—how unfair, she thought.

“It’s a bit tacky, isn’t it?” Draco said finally. Ginny’s throat closed up as a tight lump grew. He didn’t know. He didn’t understand the meaning yet, did he? These were special rings, given with much thought and much love—surely their lack of beauty could be overlooked. If he loved her, he would understand. He would let her keep this moment.

“I—I suppose,” Ginny muttered, her face turning downwards.

“Besides,” Draco continued ignorantly in what he thought was a reasonable tone. “The gold clashes terribly. It’s not even real gold—I’m afraid the veneer will start to chip soon and I’ll be left with ugly metal and green fingers.”

“Can’t have that,” Ginny said sullenly. He didn’t notice.

“Right. Glad you understand, darling.” He smiled at her kindly, but to Ginny, it seemed suddenly like his coldest expression. That expression of utter ignorance chilled her heart and she could not even shiver for it. She had lost him, she thought for a fleeting second. He no longer understood her.

“Draco?” Ginny called him on impulse. His gaze turned towards her, warm and sated for the moment.

“Do you still love me?” she asked boldly. “And answer truthfully.”

Draco did not speak immediately, as Ginny would have liked. But perhaps this was better—all denials and lies set aside for the reality of things. However, as the seconds ticked, the heavy beating of adrenaline in her ears faded and all she was left with was the feeble sound of her anxious heart.

“Before you an-answer,” she said, choking on the last word. “You’d do well to know that I’m wearing my heart on a sleeve right now. You could tear it or take it.”

“I thought you wanted the truth,” Draco mumbled finally. He looked peeved. He never did enjoy these serious conversations.

“I do.”

“Then stop trying to get me to pity you. And I did love you,” he said clearly. The past tense stuck out terribly. Ginny pressed her hand down onto the nearest table she could find, hoping her knees would not buckle.

“And?” she asked viciously.

“For Merlin’s sake—“

“Just answer the question!” Ginny barked, suddenly very angry. All she could think about was how she was not deserving of this.

“Will you even look at yourself?” Draco yelled back, matching her tone. “When did you become so clingy, Ginny?”

“Clingy? I’m—clingy? How can I cling, when there’s nothing to hold onto?”

“I didn’t want to be frank, Ginny.”

“Well, it doesn’t look like any of us will be getting what we want, so forget your manners, will you?”

An unfamiliar buzz of silence hung precariously in the air as Draco fixed his stare on her. It was at first a curious look, which turned into one of resolute determination.

“Fine. I’ve grown tired of you.”

“You can’t grow tired of people!”

He looked blank for a short spell, until he realized that she was not joking. He laughed.

“I told you, you have to be different,” he said ruefully. He sat on his chair like a king on a throne as he reprimanded her. “But for what it’s worth—I hoped so hard that you wouldn’t be another stiff drone. I’m sorry that my expectations weren’t met.”

The words stung.

“You’re selfish,” she blurted heatedly. At that moment, all she wanted to do was sting him back. Wound him in some way so that he’d get a taste of what she felt. “You’re a bastard.”

“I know,” he said easily and he did not even have the decency to sound ashamed.

“All this time, I counted on you and I! I gave so much for you and I! It’s a slap in the face, Draco—don’t shake your head—it really is, to hear you say that you’ve tired of me now. You’ve had your way with me, so I can go now, is that it?”

“Stop trying to defend yourself.” Helplessly, a sigh emitted from his throat.

“It seems that there’s nothing to defend,” Ginny said. “You’re too heedless to listen to me any longer. Aren’t you?”

He said nothing. It was the worst answer he could give.

“How—how could you, Draco? Why could you? What gave you the right to do this? You told me you loved me. You told me I had your love—I remember it—“

“Lord, Ginny!” Draco cursed and looked up towards the bland ceiling. “Did you fancy love to be unconditional? I should have known you’d be this na´ve, when it ended. They only work because they’re ephemeral. It’s the damned beauty of it.”

“Not love,” Ginny hiccupped, eyeing him with the feeling of betrayal nestled deep in her chest. “Love is forever.”

“Oh, Ginny,” Draco said hoarsely. His shoulders sagged and despite herself, she let herself be gathered into his arms as he held her tight.

“I’m sorry I stole you from your pretty fairy land or wherever it is you lived,” he whispered in her ear. Her tears stopped for a second, soothed by his familiar scent, and the simple closeness of him. She still loved him, no matter whether or not it was requited. “But I figure someone had to do it.” He let go of her.

“And love is not forever,” he said. “The first time I kissed you, I knew there would be an end. Only I thought that you knew as well.”

No. She wanted to shout at him—claw at him—rip out his pretty eyes and scratch his smooth skin, show him a little bit of the imperfections she was feeling. No, she wanted to tell him that no, she had not known any of that. But she could not because it turned out that he did have a right to break it off. If he didn’t care for her, he was obligated to tell her to go away. It was the simple truth of it, but that truth did not bring simple emotions. She had been tricked into believing in something that she hadn’t been taught. It was her damned fault.

“Be understanding,” he said at last. It was more of a command than an entreaty. “It’s much more easier for you that way. You’ll eventually move on.”

“How—“ she tried once more, feeling as if all the countless bubbling words were trying to rise at the same time. As a result, nothing came out, save more tears. She hated those tears more than all. She wanted to take back all that had been revealed to him, now that he drew back and mocked her with his sympathy. She would rather have him grieve.

“Why? You were so different, Draco,” she said after a while. “I believed that we were soul mates, that we understood one another. I believed that when you fell in love with me, and I with you, it was because we were fated. I thought that we could have been on opposite sides of the universe and I would feel you, love you, know you. I can’t be wrong about all of that.”

“You were,” Draco said. She fell away from his embrace, and realized that he was right. She had been wrong. When he said it, it sounded so easy. As if she had been asked a question in Potions class--a simple black and white answer. She was incorrect, and she had been before, but she was not used to realizing that she had misinterpreted everything for so long.

“You’re going to leave, aren’t you?” Draco said quietly. “I don’t think we should see one another any longer after all. And I’m sure you could return these,” he said, pointing to the forgotten rings. “Or you’ll find some other bloke.”

He was just as imperceptive as her, then. There could be no other blokes for her. She had counted on him, with all of her emotions. There was nothing else left to give, nothing left to distribute to anyone else. She’d left nothing for the way back. Would he fall to his knees if he knew how noble she had been?

“Good-bye.” However, that was the word that came out of her lips. A simple farewell, not fit for two people such as themselves. There was no intimacy in that word.

“Good-bye, Ginny,” he returned, just as rigidly. “It was nice for a while.”

She nodded bravely. She would appear to have already accepted her fate. And in a way, perhaps she saw that there was no other way. Cruelly and contemptuously, these revelations dawned on her all at once, leaving her bare.

As she turned around to leave his room once and for all, a thought flitted through her mind.

“I guess this is the twelfth then,” she said with her silly shaky voice. “It must be?”

She caught on and held on to the small tremor that sounded in his voice—it was almost like a small gasp, but Draco never gasped. A tiny catch in his breath, then. That sounded more fitting.

“Yes,” he said very, very quietly—as if there was something sleeping that was not to be woken—her rage, perhaps. “I suppose you are right.”

And on that good note, she walked out.


--


Ginny mourned well. She avoided Draco in the hallways. When he taunted the trio and she was in their presence, he gave her indiscriminating stares that actually felt like cold splashes of reality. He was not to be thought of as her Draco, never again. She thought she would never move on. She thought for sure that her fingers wouldn't know how to uncurl themselves and let go of him.

The end had been something she had not expected in a million years, but one day she came to accept the fact that it was foolhardy to believe in forever. All good things eventually met an end--it was so with life, wasn't it?

And with careful reasoning and a fair amount of time--somehow, through all the confusion and feelings of betrayal and pain that was often accompanied by first heartbreak, she did begin to breathe without his scent lingering in the air.

She was seen, two months later, sitting under the same tree where it had initially begun.

And life went on, even after never came to pass. Draco had been wrong. She lived on even as twelfth faded onto thirteenth, and beyond.
The End.
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