A Role To Play by jandjsalmon
Summary: A new game at Hogwarts is meant to develop more Inter-house relationships... but Draco just wants the extra credit.
Categories: Long and Completed Characters: Draco Malfoy, Ginny Weasley, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Narcissa Malfoy, Ron Weasley
Compliant with: OotP and below
Era: Hogwarts-era
Genres: Humor, Romance
Warnings: None
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 10 Completed: Yes Word count: 30312 Read: 57845 Published: Dec 31, 2005 Updated: Apr 29, 2007
Story Notes:
I had several beta's on this fic, as it took over a year to get it completed. Thank you to Colleen, Cassie, Jess, and Katie.

1. PROLOGUE - The Game Begins by jandjsalmon

2. CHAPTER ONE - Back to Normal by jandjsalmon

3. CHAPTER TWO - Out of Character by jandjsalmon

4. CHAPTER THREE - Correspondence by jandjsalmon

5. CHAPTER FOUR - The Beginning? by jandjsalmon

6. CHAPTER FIVE - His Side by jandjsalmon

7. CHAPTER SIX - A Family's Support by jandjsalmon

8. CHAPTER SEVEN - Arrival by jandjsalmon

9. CHAPTER EIGHT - Invitation by jandjsalmon

10. CHAPTER NINE – What He’d Always Wanted by jandjsalmon

PROLOGUE - The Game Begins by jandjsalmon
PROLOGUE - The Game Begins 

He decided he hated prefect meetings. They were always the same. Every year they got the same instructions, and every year he’d had to endure the pointed looks during the lecture about not abusing their positions. It wasn’t anything new; he’d been a prefect since 5th year, but last year had been different because she was made a prefect too and he knew this year was going to be the hardest because he was realizing that it might just be impossible to control his looks and actions around her.

He would have much rather been safe within the confines of his own compartment, surrounded by fellow Slytherins, than trapped in here across from the object of his private obsession. The one upside was that Potter wasn’t a prefect, so he wasn’t there, so he had that obsession to himself… sort of. 

This was his last year and he was glad of it. If he had had to endure another train ride in her presence he was sure the strain would kill him. If not the strain, then her older brother would, because he knew being in such close quarters with her again next year would have been too much for him and he would have had to just grab her and kiss her until the madness ebbed out of him. Yeah… he was glad it was his last year.

Obviously, he wasn’t controlling himself well. Unrequited love was just something a Malfoy never felt. A Malfoy always got what a Malfoy wanted. Clearly his heart didn’t want to agree with his mind, because in his head he knew she’d never be able to forget who she was long enough to love him in spite of who he was. And yet, he couldn’t stop loving her.

He should have stopped this unholy obsession before it had gotten this far. The first time he had ever seen her had been the summer before his second year. Potter was holding court with Weasel and the Mudblood at Flourish & Blotts. She’d been there too, her face all sooty from flooing in. He caught site of her flaming hair and he couldn’t look away. Shaking his head a bit, he was reminded that Potter was once again basking in his apparent love of the spotlight. He’d gotten close to them and made it perfectly clear that Potter’s feigned modesty didn’t fool anyone.

“Leave him alone, he didn’t want all that!”

And that was it. The first thing he ever heard the girl of his dreams say, and she defended that prat.

With his usual flair he’d insulted and embarrassed her. “Got yourself a little girlfriend Potter?” All the while wishing that it was he who she belonged to, rather than Scarhead.

Furious, Draco had left the shop swearing that he’d never think about her again. He should have kept that promise to himself but he just couldn’t. Now it was five years later and he still couldn’t stop thinking about her.

So, there they were, nearly done the first prefect meeting of his final year and it was her laughter that finally shook him embarrassingly out of his dream world. His cheeks turned a pale sort of pink colour but he looked relieved. He didn’t think anyone had noticed his momentary phase-out, but to make sure, he turned to the Head Girl (Granger of course) to pretend he had been paying attention to her last minute instructions all along.

He couldn’t get out of there faster. 

***

Things seemed better for Draco once they arrived at school. It was almost easy not to think about her when he was surrounded by other Slytherins. During the feast he purposely sat with Goyle in between him and the fairer Weasley’s end of the Gryffindor table. Of course Draco hadn’t told him why he wanted him to sit there. Goyle, who was now dating Pansy Parkinson (“Thank heaven for small favours,” thought Draco) was the perfect shield. Their relationship was beginning to pose a little bit of a problem for Draco’s immediate needs though. With Goyle across from him he was shielded because Goyle was big enough to block the small red head from view, but as soon as he was finished eating, he leaned over his new girlfriend and started kissing her neck, leaving Draco’s vision of the fiery Gryffindor vixen completely unimpaired.

He tried not to look at her but his resolve crumbled when he heard her laughing. She laughed all the time it seemed. He’d often wondered what it felt like to be laughing with her instead of being so far away from her when she did it. She didn’t often laugh when he was near her.

Ginny didn’t notice him looking over, so he just watched for a while. She was listening to something Longbottom was saying and then turning to repeat it to Granger. The Weasel heard and guffawed along with them. It must have been some idiot joke. She’d laugh at anything.

She had no idea how pretty she was when she laughed.

If it hadn’t been for Dumbledore getting up to start the annual announcements, Draco probably would have been caught staring. Though he didn’t like to admit it, those Gryffindors were much more astute than the idiots he gathered around him. The Slytherins would never notice his obsession with Ginny, even if she jumped on top the House Table and proceeded to give Draco a lap dance. “Stop it!” he thought to himself, “Don’t think about her doing that here!” He rebuked himself for that thought almost daily.

         “Welcome and good evening. I trust this year’s feast was an improvement upon last year’s closing one.” Dumbledore’s eyes fixed upon Potter and gave a little twinkle. “Now that Voldemort and his supporters have been vanquished there is much to celebrate at the coming of this new school year here at Hogwarts…”

Draco stopped paying attention at that… “Yes, yes, we’re all  glad St. Potter finished off the Dark Lord so we can get back to our mediocre education,” he thought, “can we get on with it?”

          “…the most important, of course, is Inter-house Cooperation and friendly relations between the houses. To that end, we have planned a year long activity that I hope will help develop friendships among all students, regardless of House. There is also an extra bonus for those of you who wish to play. In addition to learning how to make and keep friends of all backgrounds, you will receive extra credit in either History of Magic or Muggle Studies for participating. Perhaps Professor Morag would do the honours and explain the game.”

Completely failing to hide her enthusiasm, the young, excited Muggle Studies professor stood up and began to speak.

“You see … we’ve prepared a, for lack of a better word, we’ve prepared a Muggle-like game called a ‘Role Playing Game’ to encourage Inter-house relations this year. In the Muggle world these games have been played for years, but we’ve added a magical twist.

The way to play is easy: To begin you chose a character or ‘role’ to play in one of the three game pools. The first night you write a simple introduction to the whole group and from then on you write a group letter daily. The group letters are magically joined together and everyone gets a copy of everyone’s letters. Your group leader, who will be one of the three participating Heads of House, will write every two weeks to guide the story along. Every other day, allowing for replies of course, you write a single individual letter to another character while ‘in character’ that will be private between the two of you. The plot of the story is completely decided upon by you, the cast, and can change the more people you chose to individually write to. Think of this as a play - you get to pretend to be someone else and no one knows which part is yours.
 
The letters don’t have to be long, and it shouldn’t take up too much of your homework time. Sounds easy doesn’t it?

She looked around the Great Hall and saw some nodding heads and smiles, but many wary or confused looks as well.

“There is one major catch though … if you do sign up to play it will be as though you signed a magical contract … well, in fact you will have signed a magical contract. You agree to play to the end or until any of the main rules are broken. You are also agreeing to not openly divulge which character you are until the end-of-year ball following exams in June.”

With that bit of news the Hall erupted with chatter. A ball? Every girl started giggling and more than a few boys blushed and looked up at the ceiling, down at the floor, or off into space.
 
Ginny didn’t giggle she just smiled. “I love that about her,” thought Draco as he happened to catch the red-head looking over at his table. “What was that about?” he wondered, hoping she hadn’t read what he had just been thinking on his face.
 
“Yes, yes, there will be a ball … but, back to the game. In order to keep your ‘role’ a secret, mail delivery will be different than what you’re used to. Instead of owls these letters, or game-mail, will be delivered much like Christmas gifts are delivered when you stay at school over the holidays: By House elf, privately, first thing in the morning, in your dormitories. That way, the actual owl you use will not be a giveaway and letters will remain private. Now, are there any questions?”
 
Finnigan, the loud Irish Gryffindor asked, “What exactly are we getting marked on then? How well we write, or our ‘imaginary story’?”

“Excellent question Mr. Finnigan. These letters will not be read by the staff, unless of course there is a problem between students and the like. No. The extra credit will be earned by simply writing. The staff will get reports from the house elf reporting system on who is actively participating. So, if you don’t write you don’t get the grade. It’s not the intention of the game to peek in on your private thoughts, even if they are just a ‘character’s thoughts’, but it is to make new friends and go a little out of your comfort zone. Privacy is important, so the letters are to be addressed to the character from the character and can not be read by anyone else without explicit permission … it will be impossible to see the ink unless you are the addressee.

“So, the character description sheets will be available following my remarks. You won’t be able to sign up until 8 pm tonight. And I must remind you that once you sign your name to the character, the character’s name will have a little golden ‘chosen’ appear by it on all description sheets and you will have signed the magical contract to participate in the game as said character. Feel free to begin with a brief introduction to the group for tomorrow. Perhaps whom you think your character is in respect to the others in the group and the like. Then peruse the descriptions of your fellow cast mates and choose someone with whom you might be interested in corresponding privately. And … I think that is everything. I hope you’ll all be really excited about this. We planned it with a lot of fun in mind.”

With that, Professor Morag sat down. With a wave of her hand, description sheets for this new game appeared in front of every student. Draco could hear conversations pop up all over the hall, along with the requisite giggles and excited laughter. He looked at his fellow Slytherins and could tell that there were even several of them who looked interested, even if they wanted to mask their enthusiasm.
 
He hated History of Magic, or rather, his mind wandered too much while Binns lectured. He often fell asleep, though he’d hate to admit it if anyone asked. He decided that extra credit would be a good thing … and he grabbed the descriptions and got up to go down to his common room.
 
With luck like his, Draco found himself walking behind Granger and Ginny as they left the Great Hall.  He caught a bit of what they were saying, though he tried to look as though he wasn’t paying any attention to the girls at all.
 
“I know I have to play … I desperately need the extra credit.” Ginny said.
 
“Oh, Ginny. You do really well in classes and you know it. I always wonder how you can get such good grades while Ronald has to copy my notes every night.” Granger stifled a giggle.

”Um…” Ginny turned red, “I fall asleep every History of Magic class.”  On seeing Granger’s look she got a little defensive. “Look, I’m just not interested and Binns’ lectures are just so bloody boring! Besides, I don’t have a ‘Hermione’ in my year to snag notes from … I need the credit.”
 
Draco fell back after hearing that and let some Hufflepoof third years in front of him. He didn’t want to appear like he was interested in what they were saying and he was having a hard time removing the amused grin plastered to his face. He always pictured Ginny as ‘the perfect student’ when it came to school work. She ran around with Granger after all. Knowing she was more like him after all made him feel closer to her, even if he couldn’t talk to her without an insult or ever, ever touch her.
 
As he turned into the Slytherin common room, it looked like several fellow students were gathering together to choose parts in the same game groups. He decided to go straight to his dormitory to pick his ‘role’ for the game in private. That way he could have one of the school House Elves bring him some hot chocolate. He didn’t particularly care to choose a character with the intent purpose of getting another Slytherin, particularly this bunch of idiots, who couldn’t grasp that the game was supposed to be anonymous.
 
Once he was sitting on his bed with his hangings pulled and a large mug of chocolate, he started reading by the light of his wand. His eyes stopped as soon as he saw Bleddri.
 
CHARACTER NAME: Bleddri - male
CHARACTER DESCRIPTION: A knight. Known to have kidnapped a fair maiden -Vaina- for unknown reasons…
Is he noble or malevolent? It’s up to you.
 
As soon as he read it he knew that was the role he was meant to play. In his opinion it summed up his own personality perfectly. From the outside he looks as though he’s evil … he kidnapped a fair maiden for Merlin’s sake, but are outward appearances always the truth?
 
While waiting for 8 pm Draco perused the other names in this section and found the one person he knew he had to write his first individual letter to.
 
CHARACTER NAME: Vaina - female
CHARACTER DESCRIPTION: Fair maiden with a bewitched father and an evil
step-mother who wants to kill her. She is kidnapped by a handsome knight -Bleddri- from her father’s court.
Is she safer with him or would it be better for her to run away? It’s up to you.
 
At exactly 8 pm he signed his name next to Bleddri so no one else would snap it up before he could. As Professor Morag said, there was a tiny golden ‘chosen’ next to it now, and a few minutes later the same word appeared next to Vaina’s description.  “Great! At least one person to play with… and she’s Bleddri’s hen at that!” Draco thought encouragingly. He quickly wrote his introduction to the game for the group tomorrow.
 
“I guess I’m Bleddri. I’m a knight. I captured the ‘beautiful Vaina’ and placed her in an enchanted castle. Presumably I have a good reason, but even if I don’t, it’s probably only a matter of time before she stops resisting and falls madly in love with me.”
 
“Well,” he thought, “I guess it sort of sounds like me… we’ll see how it goes.” And he sealed the letter, placed it on the description sheet that would double for a postbox - the elves knew to take the letters off the parchment - and went down to the common room to grab a chocolate frog off of one of the first years. “It’s the first day. I have to abuse Prefect Power somehow,” he thought as he grinned to himself.
CHAPTER ONE - Back to Normal by jandjsalmon
CHAPTER ONE - Back to Normal

The next morning Draco woke up and found nearly two feet of parchment of what must have been the introductory letters to his group. They ranged from brief little tidbits, like his had been, to paragraph after paragraph of hilarious fodder. How could he help but smile? This was going to be a lot of fun. Though he'd never admit that to anyone else.

Putting on his trademark sneer so as not to confuse any of his housemates, he headed down to the common room, where an abnormal amount of noise greeted him through the dormitory door. It seemed that many other Slytherins were playing and were in the middle of trying to guess who the others’ characters were when he entered. To avoid such little annoyances, Draco left the room almost as soon as he entered it. He’d be early for breakfast but anything was better than lolling around in there with those twits.

The buzz over breakfast was much louder than usual. People all over the Great Hall were carrying around the designated roll of introductory letter parchment and the mood was very cheerful. Casually as Draco buttered his toast, he looked over at the Gryffindor table to watch Ginny. She was, of course, laughing with her friends and rereading the intro letters in front of her. Every member of every game group received all the intro letters and he could tell that players from all over the hall were trying to guess who was who. Ginny was no exception. Draco forced himself to look away, wondering silently which group she had ended up in.

After breakfast, as some of the students were beginning to get up, Dumbledore quickly rose and made one final announcement before classes officially began.

“So, our magical role playing game is now underway. You have all had your introductory letters from your fellow players and your brief history from your Head of Game. Now what happens is up to the cast, following classes of course. Have fun and have a good day!”

To say the day went slow would be an understatement. During Arithmancy, Draco silently composed his first letter to his fair maiden. Professor Vector could tell he had lost most of the class, so he let them out early. Draco had been on his way down to the dungeons, as he’d left his Transfiguration homework in his dorm, but as he came down the staircase, he saw a graceful red head bob out the main door and down the steps onto the grounds. He decided homework could wait and he followed, albeit at a distance. He ended up parking himself far enough down the path that he didn’t think she noticed him, but close enough to watch her as she leaned against the Hawthorn tree by the water’s edge.

Deciding now was as good a time as any, he grabbed a piece of parchment and began writing the letter he had written in his mind already. He knew that there were three simultaneous games going on, and that the odds of both of them playing in the same one were slim, but he still imagined it was Ginny he was writing to, when he wrote to his fair maiden.

My Dear Lady,

I know you are scared and do not know why you’ve been taken. It is my hope that this will become clear to you (and me as well) over the next few months. Just know that I would certainly never cause you harm intentionally and I hope that someday you’ll see that I kidnapped you only to keep you safe.

Bleddri

“There, first one down,” Draco thought to himself. As he looked up at Ginny he saw the ‘Golden Trio’ lumber past him and towards her. She covered her parchment in an obvious attempt to hide whatever she was doing. Draco could see Potter lean down and flash her a smile, while the bigger Weasley said something to her. Draco noticed she didn’t go red when Potter grinned at her. “It’s about bloody time,” he thought. “She’s finally gotten over that ridiculous crush on him. Hmm … come to think of it, she’s been dating a lot of other guys. Who’s she dating now I wonder?”

As if reading his mind, Ginny’s voice was suddenly loud and angry as she rebuked her older brother. “Oh, Ron! My love life is none of your business, but if you must know, I broke up with Sean at the beginning of the summer and I’m really not interested in dating anyone right now, you know, NEWTS. And even if I was interested … I would not go to you for romantic advice. Look how long it took you to tell Hermione how you felt. Now, just shove off!” And with that she pushed past her brother, hitting his shoulder as she stomped past him. She hardly noticed Draco as she rushed by, but when she did see him out of the corner of her eye, she turned beet red, looked away and rushed up to the castle even faster than before.

Draco felt a funny feeling wash over him. It was relief, but also regret mingled with a little excitement too. “Stop it!” He told himself. “She’s a Muggle-lover remember? She’d never look at you twice! But why did she turn red when she saw me sitting here?” He picked up his own bag and quickly made his way up to the castle before the trio decided to rear its ugly heads and ask why he had been perched so close to the little Weasley. As he walked up to the castle, he noticed a bit of parchment crumpled at the base of the rubbish bin at the top of the steps. He didn’t know what possessed him to pick up rubbish, but he picked it up and smoothed out a pretty good likeness of himself. The boy was on a horse and the metal outfit was all wrong, but there was no denying it, the boy dressed as a knight was him, right down to the gray eyes. There was a little GMW in the corner and Draco knew that this was what Ginny had been doing before the trio bombarded her. If he didn’t know better, he’d say Ginny was as taken with him as he was with her … but that couldn’t be right. Why on earth would she draw him as a knight? Folding the parchment and placing it in his bag, he walked the rest of the way to the dungeons, thinking of how on earth she could know he was a knight in the game ….

Pansy Parkinson and Millicent Bulstrode were waiting for him as he closed the blank stone wall that served as the doorway into the common room. Thankfully, since she’d started dating Goyle, Pansy hadn’t really spoken to him much, but tonight she’d decided it was time to say her piece.

“Draco Malfoy. What in bloody hell is wrong with you lately? I noticed it last year but let it go, thinking that over the summer you’d get back to normal, but obviously you’re weirder than ever before!”

“Pansy, I have no idea what you’re shrieking about,” he returned with arrogant indifference.

“You’ve been quiet, haven’t insulted a Gryff this year, let alone anyone else, and now that I’m actually thinking about it, I don’t think you’ve had an actual date since the Yule Ball in 4th year, just random snogging partners. Did I ruin you for all other women?”

“Well, you certainly are ugly enough to turn anyone gay!” he sneered at her. His paltry attempts at being the 'old' Draco notwithstanding, he admitted the insult was pretty weak. “And my love life is none of your business anyway, so sod off!” He smiled slightly at the deja vu feeling he was having and then excused himself to go to the 7th year boys’ dorm. He didn't want to talk to anyone, so he pulled his bed hangings down and just lay there until supper.

At six, as he walked up to the Great Hall with Crabbe, he stopped two Hufflepoofs mid-argument, took points simply because they pissed him off with their noise, and managed a good mock-up and points off Longbottom, whom he’d caught snogging some blond Ravenclaw with what appeared to be radishes for earrings around the corner from the Hall in an empty classroom.

He strode into the Great Hall with his classic smirk back on his face.

“I’m back baby!” he said and sat down at the table, telling himself not to look over at the Gryffindor table, even though it was a useless warning … he knew he’d look.

 

CHAPTER TWO - Out of Character by jandjsalmon
Author's Notes:
A/N - I couldn't help but use one of ther classic D/G cliches in this chapter -- 10 points for who ever can catch the cliche -- I know it's hard with all this fluff floating around! ;) )
CHAPTER TWO - Out of Character

When Ginny woke up she was really excited despite the previous night being dreadful. Along with being extremely embarrassed after her altercation with Ron, Harry and Hermione out on the lawn, and catching Draco Malfoy staring at her during supper - she just knew he was on to her, Ginny had been worried that no one would choose her for an individual game mail letter this morning. Not that she couldn’t be the one to make the first move, but it certainly was nice to wake up and have a dark green bit of folded parchment sitting on her desk alongside the massive roll of letters from the whole group.

Her nervous smile turned into a genuine grin as she read. Her knight seemed really sweet; not at all what she expected, but then again, she was picturing Bleddri with white-blond hair and piercing grey eyes, sweet wasn’t exactly appropriate for her fantasy knight. Even though Bleddri was a figment of some male student’s imagination, from her experience with boys she had expected an idiot to be sure. In an interesting twist, her Bleddri seemed like an actual nice guy so she decided to change her game plan a bit.

Originally she’d planned on playing that she was livid that she’d been captured against her will. Now she decided flirty and understanding was the way to go. “Amazing! Dumbledore saying that the cast actually changes the plot is really true!” She giggled to herself as she dressed. “I’ll have to write back during Binns’ class, at least it’ll keep me awake!”

At breakfast all the talk was how to find out who was writing to whom. Ginny thought about all the people she knew.

Hermione wasn’t playing; She thought it was unethical to force the house elves to do more work than they normally did, though the pull of more credit for class was nearly tearing her in two.

Ron had begun the game in classic fashion. He’d used the twins’ new Suave quill and instead of coming off as debonair, he succeeded in spilling Never-clear Ink all over his letter. Luckily it had dried before he’d sent it or Ginny would have really pitied the pour soul who received it this morning.

Neville had admitted that he was the one to receive the individual letter first. He was greatly relieved too, because his nerves would have certainly gotten the better of him had he been forced to write first. Even dating Luna hadn’t made him any braver.

And Harry. Well, her letter didn’t sound anything like Harry. Her Bleddri was too smooth. She seriously doubted Harry had a ‘smooth’ bone in his body. No, Ginny knew it wasn’t him.

Ginny decided it was better to just play on and go with the fantasy she had created for herself. Hunting down the real Bleddri would only eliminate the blond knight she had invented in her head. She put her hand in her bag and grasped her letter. With a little smile she gave a vague glance around the Great Hall. All right, she admitted it, she knew she was mainly doing it so she wouldn’t look so obvious while staring at the Slytherin table. This time however, someone did notice her staring and was staring right back. Draco Malfoy’s face turned a pale shade of pink and he shifted his gaze to his plate almost before she could register what had occurred. She turned a glorious shade of ‘Weasley’ red and got up to walk to class wondering at what had just happened.

“Why was Malfoy looking over at me? Could he have been looking at someone else?” Professor Vector’s class was an inconvenient background to the thoughts that swam in her head. She thought about whom she’d been sitting by. “No, I was between Neville and Ron. Malfoy may be a git but he’s certainly not a poof! I hope he’s not a poof! Stop That!” Then, she thought of her letter. Could it have been Malfoy who really wrote it? It was hard to discern whether it was just wishful thinking or really possible. “While it’s true that he is the world’s biggest prat (excluding Ron of course) he did dress exceptionally well - never a hair out of place that one - and he did seem to have pristine manners. Even when insulting someone he did it with grace.”

My Dear Lady - pretty proper, and he wouldn’t have known she was a Weasley … but “No!” Ginny thought. “He’s just too evil to be so sweet, even if I want it to be him! Stop that!

The rest of Arithmancy was a blur, but at least in History she was able to put quill and parchment together and write Bleddri a letter full of sweetness and her own measure of sassyness.

Gallant Sir,

I am completely confident in your noble motives. I don’t blame you for the precarious situation I now find myself in. I do, however, have some complaints to lay at your feet. I’ve been stuck in this damp and draughty castle by myself for weeks. Where are you?

Indeed, as I’ve sat here alone I have wondered whether you are ever coming back at all … as I recall we have some serious snogging to do or something.

Anyway, till then,
Vaina

PS. Isn’t this game completely mad fun? Hope the flirting wasn’t too over the top … just playing of course! ;)

She folded the parchment and felt pretty good about herself. She decided that if her normal flirty self scared off Bleddri she was better off - she just wanted to really be herself with someone - even if she didn’t know who that someone was.

Class ended and Ginny walked with the other 6th years down the fourth floor corridor where they met up with the 7th years. She found Hermione and Ron and walked into the Great Hall discussing the ethics of the game with Hermione.

“It’s not that I don’t want to play,” the older girl was saying, “but I just couldn’t decide with the credit was worth fighting against my moral compass.”

Moral Compass? Merlin, Hermione you make it sound like the game is evil or something. Mione, it’s mad fun! I’m really excited about it, and the extra marks are certainly pluses when the end of the year comes! My enjoyment of it must mean I should have been sorted into Slytherin or something -- imagine… enjoying something so ‘evil’!”

Mad Fun? No one says that silly-Ginny!” Harry had arrived near the end of Ginny speech and sat down with a grin.

“I do! It’s my trademark. I think it’s brilliant! You know, all us ‘Silly girls’ have trademarks. Look at Luna and her … well, all of her.” Ginny countered, giggling.

“Great example Gin.” Harry rolled his eyes with a grin.

Harry was an interesting boy. She’d spent three years being completely ignored by him, then during her fourth year she’d actually become friends with him. She’d decided unrequited love just wasn’t ‘her’ and that having him for a friend was better than no being part of his life at all. So, she’d given up her obsession for the ‘boy who lived’ and moved on.

Last year she’d dated quite a few guys and had fun with most of them, but there had always been a certain blond at the back of her mind and she knew it wasn’t very fair to any of the boys she’d gone with. She wasn’t sure exactly how it happened, where it started, but at a prefect meeting last year she’d caught a glimpse of him that he just didn’t show to the general population of Hogwarts. It was weird. It was a relationship that would never go anywhere.

Subconsciously, as she thought about him, she glanced up at the Slytherin table. The platinum blond head she was searching for was nowhere to be seen. She looked back down again and grimaced at the way Harry had managed to touch his leg with hers. “Oh Ginny … what have you gotten yourself into?” She thought ruefully to herself. “Harry has never been more attentive towards you (what’s with that anyway?) and all you’re thinking about is someone who’d rather gorge out his eyes and cut out his own tongue than ever be rumoured to be romantically connected with a blood-traitor Weasley.”

Harry noticed her grimace and cut his discussion about Saturday’s Quiddich trials with Ron short to ask her what was wrong.

"Oh, uh … I guess I’m just worried you’ll find a better Chaser and I’ll be off the team this year, that’s all,“ she returned, covering up her frown with a slight smile.

“As if that’d be possible. You’ve got 6 older brothers that might hex me if I make you upset!”

Ginny just smiled and turned the subject, “So, did you get an individual game mail letter today, Harry?”

“No. Maybe no one will want to write to me and I can get out of it.”

“I hear that!” Ron added, “I’m hoping I don’t get a reply from mine tomorrow!”

“Why on earth would you even sign up if neither of you want to play?” Hermione questioned in her nagging way.

“Well, I sort of expected it to be different, less work and more fun,” Ron said sheepishly.

"Work? It’s the second day. How much work could there have been?”

Harry didn’t want to participate in their bickering, strangely they had gotten worse since declaring their affection for one another, so he turned to Ginny and asked, “Did you get one this morning Gin?”

“Yeah. It was really sweet. I’m really looking forward to mornings now!”

“Ha Ha Ha! Ginny Weasley looking forward to mornings? The game really is magic!”

“Oh you!” She pushed his shoulder with a grin.

“So, who are you playing Ginny, you can tell us … I’m your big brother. I won’t tell anyone.” Ron decided to join back into the game conversation.

Ginny knew Ron would bug and bug and bug until she told him so she put some food in her mouth and concentrated on chewing.

Hermione turned the table on Ron, “Well, if you’re so nosey about other people’s characters, why don’t you tell us all who you’re playing.”

“Alright. I’m … My character is ….” He couldn’t get his mouth to work. As if by magic, a little white piece of parchment appeared out of nowhere just a little above Ron’s head and floated gracefully down onto his plate.

Mr. Weasley,
The magical contract that you signed a few days ago restricts you from telling your classmates what role you are playing in our Inter-house game. Perhaps, if they are clever enough they will figure it out on their own, One never can tell you know!
Signed,
Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster.

“Well that’s rich! ‘Figure it out on their own’? How’re we all supposed to do that without asking?” Ron grumbled.

“Oh, I guess you could just be observant. Notice parchment colours, quirks, sayings, ‘ink stains’, oh anything.” Hermione said, trying to hide a smile at her last words.

Harry and Ginny didn’t bother hiding their amusement. They laughed right out loud. Ron was so fun to tease.

***

Saturday came fast enough. Ginny received several more letters from Bleddri and she couldn’t remember when she’d been in such a good mood. She woke up Saturday morning to another of his letters and she just knew it would be a good day.

Quiddich trials went all morning. Harry tried the Chasers first so she was officially placed on the team for the third year in a row pretty early in the course of the morning, but as one of the strongest (and oldest) players on the team she had to set the example and stick around through all the other trials. At least she had the glory of being the one Chaser to get a quaffle past Ron as keeper. That thought made her smile.

Following practice Ginny took an extra long shower. Because she took so long she was late for lunch. She rushed up the stairs and as she headed into the Great Hall she tripped, and nearly fell on her face. Just as she fell over a pair of strong arms caught her and pulled her towards him. It was Malfoy.

“Oh … uh, sorry, Malfoy.” She flushed.

“Are you okay Ginny?” he asked softly, looking down into her soft brown eyes. He turned a light pink sort of colour. Her whole weight was resting on his arms. She could smell his aftershave and she couldn’t say anything, she just looked up at him in wonder. He almost seemed like he was inhaling her very breath.

And then, as if he’d realized what he was doing, the tenderness was gone and his recognizably arrogant smirk graced his lips. He just withdrew his arms and dropped her on her butt.

“Really, Weaslette! Turning into Longbottom now, aren’t you?” He sneered at her, smoothed his robes and quickly drew his hands through his perfect hair and then strutted past her into the Great Hall as if nothing had happened. Ginny was just left to gape at him from her spot on the floor. She gingerly lifted herself up and walked in a daze after him into the Hall and sat down between Neville and Hermione.

After several minutes of Neville’s elbow on her plate, she just blew up at him. Yelling so the whole hall could hear, she said, “For Merlin’s sake, Longbottom. Can you be any less aggravating? Get your damn elbow off my plate!” And she pushed his entire arm off the table.

She had never called him by his surname before; only people in other houses did that. She could tell it was that that had hurt him more than her mean words; his eyes told her so. She had never spoken to anyone with that kind of scorn before and immediately she felt bad about it. She felt as if the earth was going to open up and swallow her whole. As she glanced along her table, she saw the shocked faces of her housemates and felt like a monster.

As she looked up, she saw Malfoy standing at his house table. He smirked at her and held her gaze, as if daring her to look away. She looked away and shook her head. Flushing royal red, she quietly leaned over to Neville, put her hand on his arm and apologized. He hugged her and she stood up and walked to the door. Just before leaving the hall she turned her head and gave Draco a loathsome look and then waltzed out and up the stairs to the common room.

Ginny was more disgusted with herself for letting Draco Malfoy say anything to make her act so out of character. He was the vile little prat she knew he was, regardless of the tenderness she saw when he called her by her given name.

What Ginny hadn’t seen was the flush of shame on his face after she’d exited the Great Hall. He didn’t care a whit for Longbottom, but he felt terrible for her, for what he had done to her.




CHAPTER THREE - Correspondence by jandjsalmon
CHAPTER THREE - Correspondence 

Draco mentally kicked himself over and over again that night. First, he’d gotten himself all tongue-tied and nervous when she was in his arms, then he proceeded to prove to her how much of a git he was by dropping her on her arse and acting like one too. To top it all off he’d smirked at her when he’d realized how his words had stung her. The idea that they had been so powerful had amused him but he’d never meant to react that way. What more of an idiot could he be?

He didn’t know what made him more upset, that Ginny would probably never look at him again let alone ever date him, or that she was a Weasley, a Muggle-lover, and though it shouldn’t matter what she thought of him, it was the only thing he was thinking about all night.

Well, not the only thing …. He at least had the game. That didn’t make him feel much better. “That’s right Draco, very healthy of you to cling to the false world you’ve created when your real life is downright depressing.”

***

Day after day the letters came. Even while working through a busy 7th year, Draco had really come to rely on them every morning. Studying for NEWTS, Quidditch practices, and trying not to look conspicuous while watching Ginny Weasley was hard work, but Vaina’s letters kept him from hitting his head against the dungeon walls every night.

At first, every letter began the same way. Some fluffy, flirty beginning between their characters helping the story move along (apparently Vaina and Bleddri finally met and snogged and had quite a bit to talk about) and then a postscript that was just for the authors.

She’d started it and he’d replied in his own sarcastic voice rather than Bleddri’s sugary sweet politeness. He figured if it didn’t scare her away at least he could be honest with someone in his life and be the ‘real’ Draco that he never let anyone else see.

His reply hadn’t scared her; In fact, her next postscript had been longer and just as sassy. Soon their postscripts all but took over their correspondence, being several pages long. Obviously having just a piece of parchment in front of them made it easier for both of them to just be themselves.

***

Vaina shared with him a lot of her frustrations and fears and asked him deeper questions than anyone had before. He was shocked one day when she asked him what he was most afraid of. He’d had to think about it, wondering if he actually wanted to tell her the truth. He didn’t want to sound like a whiner. But, he decided that since she was presumably honest with him he would be too.

He told her about the time he was accidentally locked inside his wardrobe at home. He was eight at the time and the wardrobe had locked from the outside. He had screamed his head off in the dark enclosed space for two hours until a house elf had found him. After that he’d hated confined spaces, not ideal when you live in a dungeon (a fact he hadn’t added to the letter) , but it was more than just claustrophobia … he was afraid of being alone. “Explain that when you’re nearly eighteen years old,” he wrote.

She said what scared her most was losing control over herself. She didn’t go into details, but just said that one time several years ago she had come very close to losing control and it very nearly killed her, and several other people as well. Since then she’d been very afraid to trust anyone or anything. “Not a very good trait to have when you’re in my Hogwart’s house.” And that was all she’d ever said about that, though it got Draco’s mind working. Slytherins as a rule never trusted anyone, so Draco didn’t quite understand why it was a bad thing to be cautious about trust, but he chalked it up to her not being one, and never gave into his mounting curiosity about what house she actually did belong in.

***

They really had become friends. He never really said too much about his family, but eventually he trusted her enough to tell her about this virtually nonexistent relationship with his father, and that though he loved his mother dearly, until last year he’d decided that he couldn’t respect her for staying with such a prat of a husband. He’d never told that to anyone and after writing it he’d wondered if this was what it was like having a ‘real’ friend. One who spoke to you because they wanted to, they liked you, and not because they were latching on to your name, money, or power.

She had complaints about her family too. She admitted to having a pretty happy childhood and home life, however, having several (she never said how many) older siblings that were all over protective proved tiring, even to her good nature.

She’d made him laugh out loud the day she told him about making her brother break out in green spots all over his body after he refused to stop badgering her about her nonexistent boyfriends. He was always bugging her about it, and it was ‘obvious’ he had a friend he wanted her to date, but she told Draco that she just wasn’t interested in ‘him’ anymore. She loved making her brother suffer. It was ‘mad fun!’

As his best friend, (that’s what he’d started calling her in his head) he’d even braved telling her about his crush on Ginny. Without using names or going into details, he’d told her about this girl who he’d met in his second year who he thought about in almost every waking moment. He admitted that he didn’t know a lot about her but that was all he really wanted to do. He wanted to know what made her happy. He wanted to make her happy. But he knew that she would never return his feelings so it was pretty much hopeless and it made him feel wretched. Vaina was 100% supportive. She gave good advice and pep talks. She’d even suggested that she could talk to the girl and gauge her reaction, but then admitted that it probably wasn’t the best of her ideas. They would have to admit that they had stopped doing the ‘story’ bit of the game and had simply continued with the group letters in character. Their private letters were now entirely for them and in character in nothing but name. They couldn’t exactly tell each other who they really were, (she’d said her brother had tried already and ended up receiving a humorous warning from Dumbledore) and it proved her point, she’d love to help him but there really wasn’t any way to do so.

He thanked her, but decided that unrequited love, no matter how unpleasant, was better than the love of his life knowing about his feelings and stomping on his heart. She said she didn’t agree, but let it go.

In return for his trust in her she shared bits of her own love life with him. Though she stood by her assertion that she wasn’t on the lookout for a boyfriend, she did say that was probably due to the fact that the guy she was enamored with, the one she sought to find with her eyes whenever she was out of class, wouldn’t have given her the time of day. She was in the same boat as he was. Unrequited love sucked!

Draco, not having much experience in the whole ‘girls’ feelings thing didn’t’ know what to say. Snogging them (something he was pretty good at) was certainly different from knowing how their heads worked. So, he pretty much played down the importance of dating anyway. When would they have time to write to each other then?

***

Since Christmas was coming up, she bemoaned her family’s sweater issues and wondered in a letter what would happen during the holiday in regards to the game. She said she didn’t have house elves and wasn’t sure how it would work. He wasn’t sure either, but admitted that he would miss talking to her if they had to stop for two whole weeks. He told her what he’d been thinking for a while, that she’d become the best friend he’d never had before. She realized that it was true, this guy on the other end of the parchment had become her best friend too. 

CHAPTER FOUR - The Beginning? by jandjsalmon
CHAPTER FOUR - The Beginning?

The evening before Christmas break began all the students at Hogwarts rounded themselves into the Great Hall for the big Christmas feast. Ginny had settled herself between Colin Creevy and Alexia Blaine, both in her year, but neither a particularly close friend.

Since the game began in September Ginny had seemed to retract into herself, thinking of amusing stories to tell Bleddri or to think of other questions meant to stump him. She knew he was being guarded about certain aspects of himself and she wanted to make it clear to him that she was completely trustworthy. That it wouldn’t matter to her in the least if he were a … well, even if he is a Slytherin, even if he is Zabini, Goyle, or Malfoy, she’d still be his friend. “Well, Goyle isn’t bright enough to be Bleddri, Zabini isn’t playing, and Malfoy … well, if he’s Bleddri as soon as he finds out it’s me he’s been sharing all those private thoughts with he’d probably perform an Unforgivable on himself and never write again!” She reasoned. She mused to herself that she ought to write that in her next letter. The thought made her laugh. The two of them rarely spoke about other students by name, but the thought amused her anyway.

Nearing the conclusion of dinner, Dumbledore stood up to make his end of term announcements.

“Good evening to you all. There are just a few brief announcements before you head off to your families and loved ones tomorrow.

Professor Sinistra has asked me to remind all 5th and 7th year Astronomy students to turn in their term assignments to her no later than tomorrow at noon. Also, she said that she has already pushed the due date back from last Wednesday so she expects every paper on time. She will not accept late parchments unless bribed with sweets and butterbeer!”


A quiet giggle washed over the hall.

Now, on the topic of our game, some of you have been reminded to get your letter output up on more than one occasion. Tomorrow a sign up sheet will accompany your group letters allowing those of you who wish to back out of the magical contract to do so. Those of you who choose to sign off will receive half credit for participating thus far. It will release you from the contract, and all of that unwanted main, or lack thereof.

From those of you who are keenly participating and I’m very happy to say there is quite a large number of you, there have been some questions regarding game mail over the holiday break.”


At this Ginny’s attention was solely on Dumbledore’s words. While keenly listening she scanned the room just to see if anyone else was listening as closely. There were several, mostly girls … but then her eyes turned to Malfoy. His silvery blond head was glued to the headmaster as if he were inhaling every word. Only once did he look away from Dumbledore, and that was to look directly at her. Ginny quickly looked away but the beginning of a very funny feeling was building in the back of her mind.

“While here at school the game mail has been delivered at night by the house elves…”

Hermione coughed what sounded like “slave labour!” Dumbledore continued with an amused twinkle in his eye.

“House elves that of course volunteered for the job.”

Hermione blushed at his quiet smile.

“When you’re at home this will be difficult as most of you do not have house elves of your own. So, Professor Flitwick and I have found a solution to this. Along with the release sign-up forms being sent to you tomorrow morning will be an enchanted parchment for those of you who would like to receive game mail over the break to sign up. Then, you write your letters and place them on top of the parchment at night and, as if by magic, they will be charmed to the proper recipient every morning. As we teachers know your character’s identities (and no Mr. Weasley, we’re not telling!) you can just sign up under their name and we’ll be sure to get the properly addressed letters to you.

Lastly, Congratulations are in order for Madam Pince, our staff librarian, and our Caretaker, Mr. Filtch, who will be getting married while away in Bermuda on break. Many Happy Returns!

Happy Christmas to you all! Have a good break and we’ll see you here no later than the 2nd of January. Now, enjoy your puddings and sweets and later your common room parties that none of the teachers are supposed to know about!"


Even in the bustle of everyone getting up to go, Ginny was able to observe Malfoy a bit as she stood. Over the last two months he hadn’t been nearly as nasty as he usually was, in fact, almost from that day when he’d caught her after Quiddich trials she could see something in his soft gray eyes that she wasn’t sure belonged there when he looked at her. Now, when they caught each other looking he was usually the one to break the gaze first, even sometimes turning a soft shade of pink. Ginny wondered what had gotten in to him and made a mental note to ask Bleddri how boy’s minds worked.

Hermione caught up to Ginny as she was just about out of the Great Hall. “Hey, Gin! How have you been lately? I haven’t seen much of you.”

“Good ‘Mione. I’m really good, actually. I’ve been caught up with classes, Quiddich and you know … but I’ve missed seeing you guys too!” She smiled at her friend.

“So, it was Ron that Dumbledore was talking about … with the game, not writing as often as he should. Not surprising really, but …” and Hermione looked as though the question was fighting her lips, “we were just wondering if you were going to keep playing. I’m only asking because I figure it’s one of the reasons you’ve not really been ‘around’ for the last few months and … well, I miss you, and I know Harry … and Ron, well, we all miss having you with us.”

Putting her arm around her friend Ginny said, “Oh ‘Mione, you’re so sweet. Yes, I am still going to play, I really need the credit for History, you know how useless I am in Binns’ class, and you know, I’ve made a really good friend, a best friend, and it’ been a whole lot of mad fun!!”

There was a large crash behind them that made them turn around and face Malfoy, who’d been walking out behind them. He must have stopped in his tracks and cause a pile-up because there were several people behind him sprawled on the floor. He had such a stunned look on his face, almost as if he’d been slapped or something, and he was looking right at Ginny.

Ginny, a little stunned herself, allowed herself to be pulled out the doors by an unconcerned Hermione.

“Wow! What was that about?” Hermione asked no one in particular. “I’d say he looked as if he’d seen a ghost … but that’s not that unusual around here is it? Just wait until you see the decorations. It took forever, but I think the party tonight will be brilliant! You are going to stay and hang out aren’t you?”

The talk continued on that vein until they got up to the common room. Head girl Hermione had out done herself. The common room looked fabulous. Ginny knew she didn’t want to be alone with her thoughts and she agreed to stay and have fun with the rest of the Gryffindors. Still, there was something at the back of her brain that was trying to work itself out. Sitting herself down between Harry and Ron and laughing heartily at Ron’s cracks about the Ravenclaw’s last Quiddich practice (where captain Michael Corner’s broom stopped but he didn’t) made her almost forget about whom she’d rather be spending tonight with … almost.

It was only when Harry put his hand on hers that she mentally figured out what had been bugging her all night. That weird feeling at the back of her head all of a sudden jumped out at her. Malfoy. Draco Malfoy was Bleddri. He must have just figured out who she was when he acted so shocked in the Great Hall. Ginny felt ill, and excused herself leaving Harry open mouthed in the common room alone, even with the party raging on around him.

***

The next morning Ginny woke up and, expectantly, went straight for her game mail. She got the group letter and the two sign-up sheets Dumbledore had mentioned but when she looked for the individual letter from Bleddri (obviously it was really from Draco, but she wasn’t thinking about that yet) she couldn’t find it.

She suddenly felt hollow. It was the first time since the game began that Bleddri (Draco) hadn’t written. Panic hit her … was she the one that was supposed to have written? No, she had written yesterday asking what he’d wanted to do after Hogwarts. She’s asked his opinion on her choice of life vocation too. She’d always assumed she’d be a Healer -- it’s what everyone expected of her, but personally she was leaning towards a more academic career. The irony wasn’t lost on her that she was failing History of Magic and still she wanted an academic job someday.

She’d hoped that he would have written back telling her, sarcasm dripping from his quill, that she should either get her broomstick out of her arse and pay attention in Binns’ class or give up and become a circus performer or something. Perhaps even offer her a job as one of his house elf’s assistants. But no letter came.

Ginny racked her brain to remember if she’d said anything in her letter that would have upset him, but she couldn’t think of anything. Her only conclusion was that along with the look of shock, it really was horror on Draco Malfoy’s face when he’d realized the night before that it was her, a Weasley blood traitor that he’d been writing to and he had decided to put a stop to it.

That thought hurt her even more than she thought it would. She’d figured out it had been Malfoy and she still wanted to write her friend. Perhaps she had been wrong all along about the goodness of Draco’s heart.

She flipped though the letters and sign-up parchments and saw that there were already a few names resigning from the game. Bleddri’s wasn’t one of them, but his name wasn’t on the holiday delivery list either. “Hmmm…” thought Ginny, “Maybe the Slytherins really know how to throw an end of term party and he hasn’t woken up yet.”

Ginny tried to push the dread out of her head, telling herself it was too early to expect the worst. She put her name down for holiday delivery, in case Draco ever wrote again, and then she put on a happy face, so her fellow Gryffindors wouldn’t suspect anything. She had never felt so alone, even though she was surrounded by dozens of people.

***

Breakfast wasn’t a solemn affair at the Gryffindor table, except for Ginny and Harry. He looked like he’d eaten glass all night, but Ginny hardly noticed. She sat down between Neville and Luna (who was visiting from the Ravenclaw table) and gave them a brief smile. She was so glad that Neville have completely forgiven her for her out of character outburst at the beginning of term. He really was a sweet boy, and Ginny reflected on how much he’d grown by dating someone as wild and fun loving as Luna. Before he’d always seemed afraid to let the world really see him, but now, well… he just seemed to glow.

Though she was miserable on the outside, she tried to look happy for the sake of appearances, but she was not very successful at it. Hermione have her several covert looks that showed she was concerned. The only person who looked more miserable was Malfoy. Ginny had made a point to look across the hall at his table. He was sitting, hand on his chin, staring down into his scrambled eggs, while pushing them around with his fork. He only looked up once. His cool gray eyes held hers for a few seconds and then looked back down again in defeated sadness. She could see her own pain emanating out of Draco’s miserable gray eyes.

“I wonder what makes him sadder, that he realized he shared all those deep dark secrets with a Weasley or… well, there isn’t anything else that’s worse for a Malfoy is there?” She wondered bitterly. He’d been the one who hadn’t written. He must have had some moral objection to being friends with a Muggle-loving blood traitor. Imagine; she’d been dreaming about dating the git even before the game began. What had she been thinking? He would never have felt anything but scorn for someone like her.

She remembered back on the day he’d caught her after Quiddich. She remembered that he’d called her by her given name. That was weird, but it had been a memory she’d clung to over the last few months. The tenderness she’d seen in his eyes before he went git again. Thinking about it made her face feel hot, and she always had to remind her self that a few short seconds later he’d dropped and insulted her.

Ginny made a mental note to write to Bleddri and ask him why boys were so weird… and then remembered that even if things hadn’t changed between them, he hadn’t signed up for holiday delivery so she couldn’t write him tomorrow, and that he was the last person to give advice about Draco. Why would he provide insight about himself?

“Funny,” she mused to herself, “if you would have told me in September that I’d become friends with Malfoy I’d of never believed you … and now he’s my best friend and he’s broken my heart.”

She tried to look over at him before she left the Great Hall, but he wasn’t at his table. He’d left and she’d missed the opportunity to talk to him before they left.

***

After breakfast Ginny finished packing and sat down on her bed with the two sign-up parchments in hand. She expected Bleddri’s name to have appeared after seeing Draco so miserable, but it didn’t appear on either sheet. “Well, at least he hasn’t signed up to be rid of me yet. I wonder what’s taking so long.” She sighed and put the two sheets into her bag before settling down to re-read some of the dozens of letters he’d written to her over the last four months. She and the trio weren’t scheduled to Floo to the Burrow until half eleven so she had lots of time to read and connect Bleddri and Draco Malfoy. It was difficult for her to believe that she hadn’t put two and two together before now.

Their Floo to the Burrow was uneventful. Her mother gave them all a hug as they came through the grate, levitated their bags to the proper rooms, and then set Ginny to helping prepare Christmas while the other three went and did what they always did.

Without even grumbling, Ginny set to work and while she was busy decorating and baking during the day she was able to put the misery she felt aside. It was that first hour of the morning, after waking, but before going down to breakfast that she had troubles with. Every night she’d check the parchments to see if Bleddri had appeared on either, and then every morning she did it again. After a good cry, she’d get herself dressed and head back down to face the day with a happy face glued to a sad, depressed girl.

Harry, it seemed, was the only one who noticed something was wrong. At least he was the only one to mention it. He waylaid her one morning before breakfast.

“Gin? Can I talk to you for a mo’?

“Sure Harry. What do you need?” she asked as he pulled her into the bathroom. Then looking around, and giving her best seductive giggle she said, “Uh, Harry? This isn’t the best place to proposition me.”

At that, Harry started. “Proposition… what? Uh, no.” he stuttered and turned red.

“Relax Harry, I was only kidding. What can I do for you?” she asked with a small smile.

“Ginny, what’s wrong?” He looked intently at her with those bright green things he liked to call eyes. “Since our last day at Hogwarts you’ve just been so sad. I hope it’s not… well… I hope it’s not because I tried to hold your hand in the common room.”

Ginny went to protest but Harry interrupted her, “Don’t tell me it’s nothing. I know something’s wrong. You’ve been quiet for months, but you at least looked happy. Really happy in fact. That’s why we haven’t pushed you into hanging out more often… it’s why I haven’t told you how I’ve felt about you until now. But these past few days… well, you look like you’ve died inside.”

Seeing how much he really did care for her, Ginny couldn’t hold it all in anymore. She began to sob and Harry gathered her awkwardly into his arms for a hug.

“Oh Harry. I’m so sorry. I’m not upset at you, though I am really sorry about how I reacted in the common room. I’m just so… it’s just the game. Everything has turned upside down. I know it sounds silly, but I’ve become best friends with the boy I’ve been writing, and he… he just stopped. He figured out who I was and now he’s never going to write again.”

“Ginny. It’s okay. I am sure it wasn’t you. It was probably just the holiday. Why would he stop if he found out the prettiest girl in school was his pen pal?”

“No. I know it wasn’t just the holidays. He wrote every other day except that last one. He missed that day after the feast. I figured out who he was that night and it didn’t make me want to stop writing him. I can see the wonderful inside he has despite his rather nasty outside. What kind of person am I that he wouldn’t be able to do the same thing with me? Am I that horrible?”

“Ginny, it’s just a game. Remember?”

“Oh Harry, you just don’t get it! We aren’t playing anymore. We haven’t written on topic for eight weeks at least. He’s my friend. He’s my best friend. He knows me better than anyone. I already was attracted to his outside, I’ve been crazy about him for nearly two years, but now that I really know him…” she looked at Harry apologetically, “I… I think I love him. It just hurts so much to think that I did or said something, or even just who I am would make him not think about me at all, even as a friend. What’s worse, I think it’s more likely that he may have felt things for me too, but once he found out who I was his revulsion for what I am made him forget those feelings.”

She cried again, and Harry let her hide her face in his shoulder while she sobbed. He just patted his best friend’s little sister back and told her than the new term would be better and that he’d be here if she needed him. She was the only person he cared more for than Ron and Hermione and it hurt him to see her so miserable.
“Thanks Harry. You’ve been really nice. I’m sorry I’ve been just a wanker. I really am sorry… for everything.” Ginny wiped her eyes, “you won’t tell anyone what a fuss I’ve made will you?”

“No way Gin! What else are ‘sorta big brothers’ for?” A sad little smile graced his lips.

“You haven’t been watching my brothers very closely have you?” Ginny grinned and finally felt good for the first time since break began. It was pretty nice having someone show they care about you.

***

Ginny had an easier time carrying on with her charade after her talk with Harry. The last few days before Christmas her whole family was home and with that many brothers and their wives and girlfriends around it was pretty easy to keep her mind on things other than Malfoy.

On Christmas Eve she glanced over at her parchments. No Bleddri. At least that was something. No resignation yet. Ginny deliberated just sending his Christmas gift to his house via owl since he hadn’t signed up for holiday delivery, but she just wasn’t brave enough, even with Lucius Malfoy tucked safely away in Azkaban for life.

She fingered the cloak pin she’d bought Draco. A silver snake coiled around a sword. It had been a pain to find something so specific, but down a street in Diagon Alley that she would prefer her mother never find out she’d ventured, she was able to find the perfect gift for essentially, the perfect Slytherin. She didn’t know if she’d ever get up enough courage to give it to him, or whether he’d ever wear it, but it was something she had been able to put her heart into (obviously the part that wasn’t broken).

She tried to imagine his face as she fell asleep, never noticing the golden Bleddri emboss itself on to one of the sign-ups.

***

In the morning, the light came glaring though Ginny’s windows. She’d forgotten to close her blinds last night. As her eyes fluttered open she reminded herself that it was Christmas Day.

Unlike Hogwarts, presents at home appeared under the Christmas Tree in the lounge rather than at the foot of the bed. Ginny rubbed her tired eyes and got up. She could tell it was still early, but she shoved her feet into her slippers and went to grab her dressing gown of the back of her chair and head downstairs. She could already hear stirring below stairs and knew it was just a matter of time before Ron or the twins came bounding into her room to wake her for presents.

Out of habit more than anything, she looked to her desktop where she kept the game signup sheets and all the game mail she’d received over the break. Instead of just the general letter from the group that she’d expected, she saw something that made her stop.

A dark green letter and a small silver box were sitting on the charmed holiday parchment. The letter was addressed in his clear, crisp handwriting.

TO Vaina, FROM Bleddri

She ripped open the seal and her heart gave a little start.

Dear Ginny,

You read that right. I know it’s you. I can’t tell you how much I wish I was a braver man than I am … but then again, if I was then I would have probably been sorted into Gryffindor and I would have been able to tell you how I felt about you years ago.

It’s so hard to write about this, but I have to stop the game. I have to resign. I’ve broken the magical contract, I know who you are. I know it’s not a good reason, but it’ll work.

Now that I feel I know you, the ‘real’ you that I’ve wanted to get to know for so long, I know what a kind, wonderful, sweet heart you have… and I can’t keep writing to you knowing what emptiness I have in my own. Knowing what I am, and how betrayed you would feel if you knew… I just can’t.

This was much more than a game to me, and I am just not strong enough to keep playing, to keep baring my soul with the off chance that you’d find out who I am and despise me for it. You’d think I was trying to take advantage of you… and that’s just not fair. Not true, and not fair.

I know it’s not much, but I’ve sent you a Christmas gift. If you ever want to wear it please remember that to me, you were the only one who ever set my heart on fire.

And Ginny… I am so sorry. I never wanted to make you cry.

Love,


Ginny gasped through tears and reached for the silver box. As she opened it she gasped again. There, on the satin pillow in the tiny box, was a perfectly wrought silver ‘G’ with half a dozen diamonds and six more little green stones that Ginny knew were her birthstone running down the middle of it. She reached down to touch it and a magical flame enveloped it. It was cool to the touch and as long as the metal made contact with her pale skin the heatless flame remained, surrounding the ‘G’ like a torch. It made the letter shine so bright.

She knew what this was. She’d written a two feet long essay on its properties for Charms class last term. It was the ‘eternal flame’ charm. Pretty advanced magic and meant to be a sign of remembrance and affection between two people who loved each other.

“If I ever want to wear it? Draco Malfoy you are a complete and utter prat! Of Course I am going to wear it!” and she put the charmed silver around her neck. The golden flame tickled and made the flecks of yellow in her brown eyes flicker and gleam. “If he thinks I am giving him up without a fight… without doing anything, then he doesn’t know me at all! Hmmm… think of it. A Malfoy, with such self-esteem issues, no one would believe it!”

And with that, she grabbed her dressing gown and joined her family to open presents. She knew there would be questions, and she knew exactly how she was going to answer them… truthfully. “This is only the beginning Mr. Malfoy.” She smiled as she closed her door behind her.
CHAPTER FIVE - His Side by jandjsalmon
Author's Notes:
A/N -- just a note -- I used GoogleEarth for the locations in London. Amazing program if you haven’t used it. It actually showed me ALL the fancy jewelry shops on New Bond Street in London -- Satellite images and all! AMAZING! ;)
CHAPTER FIVE - His Side

Draco was tired. He’d been pacing around his bedroom all night. He’d written over thirty drafts of the letter and when he’d finally sent it to her with the necklace he couldn’t sleep because all he could think about was whether or not Ginny would ever wear it or not.

Up until just before he left Hogwarts, Draco had really been looking forward for the holiday. He’d hoped it would be the best Christmas ever. He’d even gone to Dumbledore and asked if there wasn’t some way to continue the game over the break.

It amazed him! Just hearing her say those two words as they’d walked out of the Great Hall, those ridiculously redundant words that he’d read so often. “Mad Fun!” As soon as she’d said them he had stopped. He’d been speechless. As he stood gaping at her his mind frantically went to every scrap of information Vaina ever sent and connected it to Ginny Weasley. It all fit. Over protective older siblings, not having any house elves, her brother having a friend that ‘liked’ her but in whom she wasn’t interested in ‘anymore’. He had been a blind fool. How could he have been so blind? What was he going to do now? He felt as if he’d been punched in the gut.

Sitting in his common room later that night, he’d tried to keep his mind tuned to the on-going party - no one threw a party like the Slytherins - but all he was thinking about was strategy. What was the best way to resign without exposing himself? The answer was staring him in the face. He’d resign from the game as soon as he got the parchment the next morning.

His resolve proved less than ironclad as he sat before the parchment the next morning. He couldn’t do it. He knew she deserved an explanation, but he just couldn’t write one right now. When it was actually Ginny he was writing to instead of a Ginny-faced figment of his imagination he didn’t know what to say.

He slowly walked into the common room, but he really didn’t see much. Everyone and everything in the common room passed as a blur, until he saw Pansy and her snarky smirk. Then he was back in fine form. Before even leaving for breakfast he told off three first year girls for giggling too loudly in the common room. Once he was in the Great Hall Draco surveyed the room and was seconds away from docking points from a too happy Longbottom and his girlfriend when he saw ‘her’ enter the hall. He bit back his nasty words and strutted back to the Slytherin table before she could reach her own.

His surly mood turned more to misery as he reminded himself of what he was going to have to do, and he only looked up at the Gryffindor table once. He saw her staring at him. Her sad, beautiful, brown eyes hurt him so much he had to look away. He knew she’d been crying because she hadn’t received her letter from Bleddri. It was awful being the one to make her cry. He loved making her blush, or spit fire at him, but making her sad, making her cry made him feel terrible. He just looked back to his plate and felt like he was dying inside. He couldn’t take it for very long, and since he wasn’t eating anyway, he quickly stood up and walked out of the hall.

As the 7th year Slytherins were the last to floo out of Snape’s fireplace he had enough time to work himself from miserable to utterly depressed. Crabbe even wished him a Happy Christmas but Draco merely nodded and grumpily said, “Malfoy Manor - Front Entrance Hall,” before disappearing into green flames.

***

His mother was there waiting for him. She’d received so many light-hearted letters from him this term that she was really looking forward to all the fun they were going to have this Christmas.

It was their second without Lucius, and this one, she hoped, would be even better than the last one.

It wasn’t as if Lucius had been a big monster who beat them or anything. He was rarely physical at all, let alone physically abusive. But, he did have a sharp tongue and very very high expectations. Draco could never do anything to please him. Not Quiddich, not grades, nothing! Narcissa knew that she overindulged her son because of it. Overindulgence only caused him to grow up a vain and spoiled child. Every year before Christmas had been full of gifts… but not much joy and love.

Last year, without Lucius, mother and son actually stayed up all night and just talked. They got to know one another. Really ‘know’ each other. It had been Narcissa’s best Christmas, probably Draco’s too. She’d hoped so anyway.

As soon as she saw his face erupt from the flames she knew something was wrong. She’d seen that face enough over the last seventeen years. Every time Lucius told off Draco for not living up to what he ‘should have been’ as a ‘Malfoy’. It was a look akin to despair… pure and utter defeat.

He leaned down and kissed her cheek and went to his room without saying anything but a very quiet “Happy Christmas Mum. I’ll be down for dinner,”

She didn’t ask him what was wrong, knowing that he’d need to figure some things out on his own. If he thought she could help him then he would ask her.

About two days before Christmas he’d done just that. He’d gone to her chamber and looked at her with his little boy eyes and said, “Mum, I just didn’t know what to do.” She’d hugged him and sat him down on her sitting-room sofa, conjured up some hot chocolate (he loved hot chocolate) and asked him to tell her everything.

Draco explained about the game and how he’d really grown to care about the girl he’d written to. He admitted to his mother that she’d become his best friend, even without knowing who she was. He trusted her with thoughts and feelings that he’d hardly admitted to himself. He’d trusted her so completely that he’d even told her about the love of his life… the girl he’d loved since he was twelve. He could hardly believe the irony of it all… here he was, the Prince of Slytherin, where you were taught not the trust anyone EVER and he’d succumbed to a silly game.

Narcissa could almost see where this was going, and though she didn’t want to interrupt she couldn’t help but say, “The red-head in the picture?”

Draco looked at her in shock. “Yes, she’s a red-head… and I do have a picture of her. How did you know? No one knows. I snagged one of Creevey’s when I gave him a detention at the beginning of 5th year. He’s a camera-happy buffoon.”

“That Christmas I went into your room to drop off something. You were in the shower and half finished packing for school. I saw it then, at the top of your trunk. I just thought she was probably a girlfriend we hadn’t met… maybe even of a different Hogwart’s house, so I didn’t mention it until now because… because of your father. I didn’t want to get you into any undue trouble.”

“Mum, she’s a Gryffindor so you did the right thing. And… Father knew who she was. If he’d seen the picture I would have been in a lot more than trouble. She’s definitely not someone he’d be very keen on me being seen with. She’s a Weasley but she’s not and never has been my girlfriend.” Draco kept talking and he finally got to that last night at school. He explained that by hearing those words coming out of Ginny Weasley’s mouth he knew. He knew that the girl he’d been dreaming of for the past five years, the girl he’d risked a lot to have a picture of in a home with Lucius Malfoy walking about in, was indeed the person he’d been sharing all his deepest fears and feelings. He said he’d never been more scared in his life, even after all the dark things he’d seen in his house… where scary things were a part of daily life.

After hearing the whole story Narcissa surprised him. She laughed. He looked at her, appalled, “Mother, am I so ridiculous that you can laugh at my miserable love life?”

She straitened at this… “Draco honey, no. I was laughing because I just found out my son’s in love… and with his best friend at that! Your father kept bemoaning that you’d do just that someday… though at the time I think Vincent was your best friend. I’m sure Lucius would be very relieved.” She put her arms around him in an embrace, his face still unreadable. “Sweetheart, there are things we can do. Do not despair. And think… at least now she is someone you love the inside of as well as the outside. You might never have gotten to know the girl if this hadn’t happened.”

Draco managed a smile. “I’m not so sure Father would rather I love Ginny. She is a Weasley after all, all that red hair you know… I’m sure he would have preferred Crabbe.” She stifled a laugh and he continued, “Well, I’m not sure there is anything to do, if she knew that ‘handsome knight’ she’d been writing to was a Malfoy she’d probably poke her eyes our with her hand-me-down quill.” As he said it, he remembered the portrait of the platinum haired knight he’d rescued from the rubbish bin and saved at the bottom of his trunk. Almost instantaneously the thought was shoved back into the deeper parts of his mind. He just couldn’t fathom why someone as wonderful as Ginny Weasley, who was probably going to end up with the Savior of the Wizarding world, would have drawn him that way.

“Well, I can hardly believe my extremely handsome and talented son doesn’t have more charms to recommend him. Now, what did you get this young lady for Christmas?”

“Uhh… I hadn’t really thought about a gift yet. I was going to just look with you during the break, and then I’d planned on resigning from the game so I didn’t do any shopping.”

“Well, you do owe her an explanation if you’re quitting, and I think a nice gift to send along with it would be very appropriate. You love this girl Draco, for Merlin’s sake, you need to get her something to show it before leaving her forever!”

“Alright… alright Mum. Do you think we could go into London tomorrow then? I have a few presents to buy… my second favourite girl in the world needs another one for being such a good listener.”

Her laughter rang around the room and they settled in to discuss what gift would make Ginny’s eyes water and heart flutter. Draco had such a fun time laughing with his mother that the dull pain he’d been feeling since school was nearly forgotten… until he got into bed and was forced to relive the pain all over again that night.

***

Muggle London hardly knew what hit it. They started out early and Draco’s mother dragged him to every possible shop through Mayfair and down into Knightsbridge. She’d even managed to buy several things herself. That didn’t surprise Draco in the least, but what did surprise him was how very secretive she was being about several of them. Usually she showed off every thing she bought to get his opinion.

Finally, down New Bond Street, amid the most famous Muggle jewelry stores in the world, Draco found it. In a shop he’d never heard of called Cartier he found a silver letter ‘G’ with diamonds and pale green stones running down the middle of it. Draco knew Ginny’s birthday was August 11th, and that made this almost the perfect gift for Ginny.

He’d learned about the ‘Eternal Fflame’ Charm much the same way Ginny did. Revising during his 6th year. The classroom instruction had been purely theoretical, Professor Flitwick didn’t see the need for the students to go around charming things as acts of remembrance. To Draco, just knowing how to do something wasn’t the same as actually doing it, so he’d managed to charm one of his tiepins to erupt in flame if he ever touched it. At the time, Draco really couldn’t see the practical application for such a charm, but he was really glad he remembered it now.

The trouble with the charm was that in order for the heat-less flame to work only when Ginny touched the metal, he’d need a piece of ‘her’. He mulled the problem over for a while, and then had a great idea. He quickly called one of the many house elves that lived at the manor, gave her directions and sent her to the Burrow. In relatively quick time, the little elf returned with what looked like the contents of half a rubbish bin.

“Minnie? What’s with all the trash?”

“Mast, sir, it’s the red hairded girls’… Tissues. She cried-ed into them Minnie thinks. Minnie knows the master needs something of the red hairded girls’… and tears is something sir.”

Draco looked slightly ill. “Yes, thank you Minnie. These will be fine. You can go now.”

“Yes sir.” And she popped out of sight.

Draco felt horrible. She’d been crying, and a lot. He’d seen her miserable in the Great Hall, but he hadn’t thought she’d been crying all week. She was with her family and friends. He thought she’d soon get back to normal. He was after all, just a pen pal. Seeing the huge mound of cried-into tissue and knowing he was the reason she was crying… he just felt awful! He only hoped she’d feel every bit of how much he cared for her when she felt the flame that only she could produce.

After the charm was set, he took to writing the letter. It was hard to write. He knew it was going to be a long night, so he asked his mother if she would mind waiting until the afternoon to open presents the following day. She patted him on the back and scratched it while reassuring him that Christmas Luncheon was planned for 1 pm and presents could wait until afterwards. He could rest and have a bit of a lie-in.

He knew he’d have to sleep so he’d be at least semi-pleasant for his mother at lunch. At nearly half five in the morning he finally fell into a dreamless sleep.

***

Narcissa was worried for him. She knew he loved this girl. She hurt for him, knowing fully well why disclosing his name to her was a huge risk and would probably end in disaster. She hated to see him in such pain and hoped things would work out to make him happy. He’d had so little of ‘real’ happiness in his life.

Because she knew Draco wasn’t coming down for breakfast, Narcissa was content to have tea in the breakfast room at about half eleven. There was at least an hour and a half until the house elves would have luncheon ready, so she made herself comfortable and settled down with the Christmas edition of Witch Weekly.

Quite suddenly, a familiar red head appeared in the fireplace. Narcissa could see her scanning the room for anyone to address. Curiously, she watched the girl before making herself known. She looked at the beautiful young lady and knew immediately who she was. The face had changed, had grown up, but she was the same girl she’d seen two years earlier in Draco’s trunk.

Then, the girl saw the older woman and turned, what only could be assumed was a bright red colour as she stood there in the green flames and began to stutter, “Oh… excuse me Mrs. Malfoy… I… uh…. I’m Ginny…”

Narcissa smiled as she stood to greet the girl, “Of course you are my dear. I’m so glad to finally meet you after hearing so much about you. I see my dear Draco was not exaggerating when he told me what a beautiful young woman you are Miss Weasley.”

Ginny flushed even deeper than before upon hearing her name. Narcissa noticed the beautiful bit of fire wrapped around the girl’s neck and her own heart glowed.

“Won’t you come in and join me for tea Miss Weasley? I do feel dreadful that Draco is not awake to join us. He had a very rough night last night… as I’m sure you can imagine.” Narcissa smiled broader as she walked to the hearth and offered her hand to help the young woman out.

Instead of a hand, Ginny Weasley placed a small box and letter into her hand and said, “No. No thank you ma’am. I didn’t tell my mother I was Flooing… I just wanted to make sure that Malfoy…. That Draco got this today, and our owl is still out delivering Christmas Cards. Thank you anyway though… and Happy Christmas Mrs. Malfoy.” She smile sheepishly and then popped out of sight.

Narcissa held the gift and wondered whether to wake him or let him open it with his other gifts after lunch. “Oh who am I kidding?” She asked herself with a laugh as she headed up towards Draco’s room. “He would probably hex me, or at least one of the house elves into oblivion if he knew she’d sent over a gift and I made him wait.”

She knocked on his heavy chamber door and a very groggy Draco opened it, wearing nothing but a pair of green and black pajama pants. He looked embarrassed when he’d realized what he’d done, and he grabbed his dressing gown off his chair before asking her if she was alright.

“Oh yes dear. I just thought that ‘this’ particular gift couldn’t wait until after luncheon… after all, the red-head who delivered it Floo’d over without permission so it must be important.” She lifted the box to him.

He gaped at her but didn’t take the box. It was like the bottom dropped out of his stomach. He knew what was in the box… the necklace. He just couldn’t bring himself to take it from his mother.

Narcissa, once she realized why he wasn’t moving, put her hand on his shoulder and said, “Draco, it’s not what you’re thinking. She had ‘it’ on. It was lovely with her firey hair. The charm worked perfectly!”

“She’d… she’d worn it? Even when she knew who it was from? Wait a minute…. How did she know whom it was from? Oh Merlin! I think I am going to be sick again.” Subconsciously, his hands brushed nervously through his blond locks.

“Son, just open it. Maybe she’ll explain it all in the letter.” With that, Narcissa put the gift along with the bit of creamy parchment on his desk, next to Ginny’s waving image, and walked out of the room, smiling as she closed the door, only stopping to say, “Draco dear, I’ll push back luncheon until half two so you’ll have time to… groom yourself. Happy Christmas dear!” She closed the door before he could thank her.

Draco stood, staring at the box for what seemed like hours. All sorts of thoughts sped through his head. She’d worn the necklace? She’d delivered this ‘here’… herself, to ‘my’ house? She knows it’s me? That didn’t repulse her? Hmmmm… why doesn’t that repulse her? Wow. How did she know it was me?

He knew the only way to get the answers was to read the letter, but he was afraid. He warily eyed the letter. He recognized the curvy feminine handwriting from all his correspondence with Vaina, but this letter clearly said, Dear Draco, Love Ginny. He hardly knew he was opening the letter.

Draco Malfoy you are a prat! Yes, ‘you’ read that right! I know all about you ‘Bleddri’. I’ve known since that last night at Hogwarts, when you bowled down half the Hufflepuffs while staring at me. Actually, I feel kind of barmy for not realizing it sooner. Something had been bothering me after seeing your face in the Great Hall, and then it hit me…
My best friend is Draco Malfoy!

I figured you knew about me too… that’s why you didn’t write, but I admit, I thought it was because you were disgusted that you’d been writing to a Weasley.

But, after reading your letter, it begs the question. If you know me the way you say you do, you’d know that your last name wouldn’t stop me from writing you. You are NOT your father any more than I am my parents, friends, or family. I’ve met the ‘real’ Draco, over the last 4 months and I know you’re heart… it isn’t empty. I know what you are… you’re not the complete moron you pretend to be. And I don’t despise you, I care about you.

This was more than a game to me too.

I have a few questions for you though. I’m interested in this girl you’ve loved from second year on… I seem to recall meeting a good looking blond git at Flourish and Blott’s my first year… and I’ve thought about him quite a bit over the last two years. I haven’t been able to get him… you… out of my head at all.

What exactly would you tell me about how you feel if you had been put in Gryffindor? It is my understanding that of the four houses, ours are the most alike. I know you’re more like me than you’d like to admit… or maybe it’s me that’s more like you.

That being said, since you’re resigning from the game, so am I. Despite the fact that I really need the extra credit for History of Magic. You’ll probably need to tutor me in History… since it’s your fault I’m not getting full credit for the game and my only other plausible option is Hermione… and her tutoring makes me want to slit my wrists… seriously!

I’ll be writing my letters: Dear Draco/ Love Ginny from now on, and they’ll probably be delivered at the breakfast table with the rest of the post… in front of the other Slytherins. Maybe I’d even be so cheeky to write on red and gold stationary! ;)

Should you ever want to write to me, you could use an owl and post me like a normal person. I don’t give a damn what the other Gryffindors think… so you shouldn’t either. Be prepared.

And lastly, the necklace. ‘Should I ever wish to wear it?’ You barmy git! Of course I am going to wear it! It’s beautiful. I love it! You spent WAY too much money on it, but thank you for thinking of me. It was lovely. Just out of curiosity… do I want to know what you swiped of mine to get this amazing charm to work?

I bought you gift the day after we got out of school… in a shop you’d be delighted that I stepped foot in but that I refuse to name… my mother would kill me if she knew! I wasn’t brave enough to just send it to your house… and since you didn’t sign up for holiday delivery I had to wait until you stopped being a prat… well, sorta stopped.

Anyway, I hope you like it. The sword has tiny writing… a tiny ‘G’ that I think is supposed to stand for Gryffindor (it’s obviously Godrick Gryffindor’s sword) but it could just as easily stand for Ginny -- if that grosses you out less. I’ll have none of this, ‘if you want to wear it’ rubbish because you’d better wear it! I put a lot of thought into it… it’s meant to be ‘us’ you know! (In case the obvious escaped you…)

I’ll talk to you soon,
Love Ginny

PS - Please apologize to your mother and any other guests you might have had when I barged in uninvited this morning. (I am anticipating her shocked face - My hair is pretty bright for you people) I hope she doesn’t think I am a mad escapee from St. Mungo’s or anything.

Happy Christmas Draco! Love, Ginny



He was blown away! He couldn’t believe what he’d just read. He looked at the box and then opened it hungrily. Inside sat a cloak pin, the kind that clasped the top of a cloak together. It was a silver sword with a snake coiled around its hilt and blade. It looked like an antique… one you’d buy in a dusty old shop in Diagon Alley… probably down Knockturn Alley. How did she find something so perfect? He loved it!

Aside from all the happy feelings he had inside, he was mentally kicking himself. How could he have questioned her integrity? Of course, after all their letters he should have known that names wouldn’t’ matter to her… but the seed of doubt had been planted. He decided that the fact that she was a Muggle-loving Weasley was what made her so special. It was like she was a missing part of his life and he just realized he needed her to breathe.

He couldn’t stop smiling as he got out of the shower and dressed for lunch. His mother would have a field day asking questions… she wasn’t the nosey type, but she’d never let him get through lunch without knowing everything… not when even he couldn’t hide the broad smile on his face.

The pin looked perfect on his black robes trimmed with silver. He told himself that he’d have to write her after lunch… Did he dare send an owl to her house? He’d probably have an army of redheaded males, led by Scarhead himself break down the Manor’s doors if he did. Hmmm. He knew he’d chance it. Ginny was the only redhead in whose opinion he really cared about anyway. “This turned out to be an amazing Christmas after all!” He thought happily, and he went down to luncheon.
CHAPTER SIX - A Family's Support by jandjsalmon
CHAPTER SIX - A Family's Support

Ginny was so embarrassed. She had never met Mrs. Malfoy before; she’d only seen her snooty face at the Quiddich World Cup the summer before her third year. Ginny had been so concerned about her own family’s reactions that she hadn’t even thought that perhaps the idea of a red-headed Weasley blood-traitor being in love with her son might be a little off putting to Narcissa Malfoy. Ginny knew her brothers and Harry would be livid fools, but it finally hit her that Draco might be in for WAY more grief that she was, even with his father in prison.

Then… Mrs. Malfoy had been so kind and genuine. Ginny could tell that she loved her son a great deal. Interesting how some ideas you could get about others really were misconceptions. Mrs. Malfoy even seemed to know quite a bit about her. Ginny wondered how much he’d told his mother about her. Did boys really talk to their mothers about girls? She was almost sure her brothers didn’t. Maybe it was an only child thing. Maybe it was a psychopathic father thing?

As she’d pulled her head out of the Floo she quickly looked to the mirror that hung on the hall wall. Relief washed over her when she realized that there wasn’t too much soot on her face. She would have asked the earth to swallow her up if she’d met Draco’s mother looking like a damn charity case.

Ginny fingered the necklace around her throat and smiled faintly. That little piece of charmed silver had caused quite a stir when she’d gone down to open presents that morning.

***

It had probably been her big grin that had disarmed them first. She’d been so unhappy all break, and then she sat down on her little corner of the couch with a big silly smile on her face. That caught them off guard. Then, she pulled up her hair into a twist and slid a chopstick through it and everyone’s eyes moved down to the necklace.

Ginny’s mother was the first one to react. She’d gathered Ginny in a tight embrace and had whispered, “It’s so good to see you smile again. He must be an amazing young man.” Ginny had flushed at her mother’s mention of Draco, even though she didn’t know who she was mentioning.

Fred and George walked over next… they’d always had a soft spot for their little sister… she was too much like them. Fred had given her a sideways hug while George poked the silver ‘G’ and then gave a low whistle.

“Pricey, that is…”

“Yeah, pretty pricey… Muggle bought I’d wager…” added Fred.

“Must have a rich boyfriend, eh little one?”

“With good taste too…” Fred cocked a smile, “In jewelry and in girls. It looks really nice on you sis.”

“Yeah, brilliant Gin!”

She grinned at her twin brothers and then turned to the rest of the family with a content look. “Can we open gifts now?”

As if coming out of a daze, they’d all kind of nodded and then the noise picked up while Mr. Weasley handed out a present to each person (a Weasley Family Tradition). Opening presents had always been a noisy affair at their house, but this year it was louder than usual. All seven of the ‘actual’ Weasley children were there, along with their parents, Bill’s wife Fleur, Charlie’s girlfriend Katie, Percy’s wife Penny, Harry, and Hermione (who just had been made an unofficial Weasley by a promise ring from Ron the night before). It became just a loud, fun day. Ginny had tried to imagine what Draco probably saw while opening gifts… being an only child it must have at least been quieter. She wondered if it had been lonely growing up along and made a mental note to ask him someday.

She must have had a funny look on her face because during Charlie’s turn to open, Harry had leaned over to her and said, “Hey Gin… what’s up? You look kinda ‘spaced out’.”

Ginny smiled. “Yeah Harry, I’m brilliant thanks.”

She began fiddling with her necklace without thinking about it and Harry couldn’t help but ask, “So, your pen pal… he finally wrote, right? That’s why you’re so happy. You know, he’d better have a damn good excuse for making you miserable all break … some gorgeous and expensive necklace won’t make up for that!”

Realizing his voice was rising, he quieted down and Ginny was able to interrupt him. “Oh Harry, yes… he had a very good reason. He was scared. He’d found out, just like I thought he had, that it was me whom who’d been writing to and he was feeling like he wasn’t good enough to write to me anymore. That I’d be upset if I found out he knew and that I’d think he was taking advantage of me. But he was wrong. I’m going to tell him that this afternoon. He has to know how I feel about him.”

“Not good enough? You make him sound like an ‘upside down Malfoy’ or something.”

She didn’t say anything, but she didn’t look away either.

“You’ve got to be kidding me! It’s Malfoy?” Harry said the last line rather loudly and the whole room heard it and stopped what they were doing and saying. “He’s… he’s… he’s Malfoy!” He couldn’t hide the disgust in his voice.

Ginny flushed but not in an embarrassed kind of way. “Harry Potter! You know yourself what it’s like to be loved or hated because of your name.” Looking around at her brothers, she added, “Every Weasley in this room has been called a blood traitor or worse.”

“Yeah… by Malfoy.” Harry muttered, but Ginny went on.

“How is hating a Malfoy simply because he’s a Malfoy any different from them hating us because of our red hair and our last name?” She exhaled slowly. “I was planning on telling all of you…” she looked around at her still shocked family, “about my best friend Draco during breakfast, but here it’ll have to be!

We’ve been writing each other all term without knowing whom the other actually was. We’ve become friends. We’ve shared things we don’t tell anyone else. HE IS NOT the monster you all like to portray him as. He may act like an idiot… okay, he does act like an idiot, but you don’t understand him or why he shows such an asinine side to the world. He’s lived in a way none of us can imagine. He’s lived without the unconditional love from his idiot father, who though he had never been proud of him or praise him or shown love in anyway we’d recognize, didn’t fail to instill his own bigotry and cruelty into his son. Draco’s been without the skills to make friends or to trust the one’s he has made not to want him only for his money, his power, or his name.

Imagine, Harry, if they only reason we’d have anything to do with you is because we wanted something from you… if we were more concerned with what you could give us than who you actually are. You are the ‘Boy-who-lived’ after all. Imagine you had a father who berated everything you did. You were never good enough, always week, never as good as the Muggle-born witch in your year, or even the damn ‘Savior of the Wizarding world’. Would you still be the wonderful person we know and love and who we’ve embraced into our family if you’d grown up like that? Or, would you have shut off your emotions long ago… compartmentalized them so no one could reach them and hurt you. Would you act in a way that protected you from ever getting hurt?”

Harry moved to answer, his face still red, but Ginny silenced him with a raised hand, “No. You know what? I don’t give a damn what you ‘think’ you’d do. You’re not Draco. You can’t understand him anymore than he’ll ever be able to understand you.”

With one look at the flabbergasted faces of her family she added finally, “I’m not asking you to love him… or even to like him, but he’s my friend. He makes me happy, and I expect you all to respect me and my choice.”

Then, she sat down and opened her gift from Hermione… it was her turn to open and it was a lovely book.

The rest of them, other than Harry and Ron had looked at each other and nodded. They loved Ginny and trusted that she’d be able to handle herself… even with the son of a Death Eater.

Harry, on the other hand, had been inwardly thinking of all the hexes and curses he knew… imagining Malfoy as the target of all of them. Ron was just feeling physically ill, and his face showed it.

***

Having Ginny in such an improved mood had really made it better for everyone. Mrs. Weasley had wordlessly hugged her daughter several times, but even after brunch her father hadn’t said anything. He just looked at his only daughter, devising when the best time to approach her with his thoughts would be. Finally, he’d said, “Ginny, may I speak to you in the den please, honey?”

Ginny had looked weary at this request… and had glanced over at Harry, who was not hiding his thoughts well. In his head he was cheering, “That’s right! Tell her she’s not to speak to that git again! Then, maybe things will get back to how they should be around here!” She’d followed her father with a grimace directed at Harry.

Once they’d sat down, Mr. Weasley seemed as though he didn’t’ know how to start. “Ginny, you know I value your judgment.” Ginny thought she heard a ‘but’ coming on. “And, well… I just wanted you to know how proud I am for what you said in there. It’s always hard to stand up to people you love and respect. I know Harry and the boys are all people you care about, but now the Malfoy boy is too. You did him a great service by standing up for him in there.”

Ginny had been surprised but had just grabbed her father in a massive hug. “Oh, Thank you daddy! I was so worried you’d say I couldn’t see him anymore,”

“No, no, sweetheart.” He winked at her. “I know you too well. There’s too much of your mother in you. To forbid you would only make you want to do it more. And, as much as I dislike his father… you were right. People shouldn’t be judged by their parents… and if I had to live with Lucius Malfoy as my father I’d probably behave like an idiot most of the time too! Has this boy’s outward ‘attitude’ and behaviour changed at all since his father was finally kissed by a Dementor and shut away in Azkaban?”

“I think so, but I’m biased. I’ve liked him for nearly two years, but I think even Hermione, who’d be the most unbiased of the trio would say he’s been less insulting… less of a prat this year.”

“Well, honey. That makes me feel better for you then. It would be hard to reconcile a wonderful boy in private with an incorrigible prat in public. Give Ron and Harry some time… I think this may be harder on them than you’d think, especially since it’s pretty obvious that Harry’s finally realized what a treasure he could have had, and now he’s lost you to Malfoy.”

Ginny got a worried look on her face. “Oh, Dad. What should I do? Harry’s my friend, I don’t want to lose him… but I just don’t want to date him anymore.”

“Just be patient and know that your mother and I are here for you… and your brothers too… even Ron. We love you, and if the Malfoy boy…”

“Draco.” Ginny interrupted with a smile.

“… if Draco treats you well, I’m sure we’ll learn to love him too… someday… maybe….” He grinned at her.

Ginny felt so good after talking with her father and she’d known there were things that needed to be said to Draco, so she’d written him and had decided to Floo over to give him his Christmas gift.

Stepping into the Floo, she’d been scared. It had suddenly occurred to her that he’d never really had a ‘normal’ conversation, out loud, with him in person. And then she’d realized that she’d never met his mother and in a few seconds, there she was. Seeing only Narcissa Malfoy looking back at her made Ginny more flustered than she’d been before.

But Narcissa had been nothing but sweet. She didn’t seemed shocked in the slightest at seeing Ginny. Then, Narcissa had invited her in for tea. Her, a ‘blood traitor’… a ‘Weasley’. Ginny was floored. She was so glad she’d Floo’d over, but she knew her family would need a little more time to get used to the idea so she’d declined, handed over Draco’s gift, and with a “Happy Christmas” came home.

Still fingering the beautiful necklace, Ginny knew this was the beginning of something… and it made her nervous and excited. She’d really meant what she’d said in the letter. She didn’t care what the other Gryffindors or Slytherins thought. What was house pride when you were talking about ‘real life’… the rest of your life? Ginny was hopeful.

***

Right in the middle of the Weasley Christmas Supper a dark brown eagle owl came knocking at the kitchen window with a green letter stuck to it’s foot. Ginny looked around the table, grinned, and jumped up to open the window wide. The owl stuck it’s leg out for her and after she took the letter the owl hooted a gentle hoot and flew to the table to drink some of her pumpkin juice and preen itself. IT was obviously waiting for her to read and reply.

While her whole family watched, she opened it with large eyes.

Dear Ginny,

I can’t tell you how it felt to read your letter and see ‘my’ name there. I’ve been physically ill not knowing what was going to happen and now that I know, it feels like… well… like I can fly, without the aid of a broom.

Thank you SO much for the cloak pin. It’s brilliant. I love it. It looks great with my robes too. (You can’t expect me to stop being so completely overconfident in one day can you?) I’m really glad you liked the necklace. My mum said you looked beautiful in it. I knew you would. (She also said you’re not to worry that she thinks you are a mental patient. She thinks you’re lovely -- and not at all escapee’ material.)

I’d love to talk to you tomorrow, but Mum and I are going skiing for a few days. She planned it as a surprise for Christmas. (and actually, I don’ ski, I snowboard, but whatever…) Anyway, I was hoping when I get back from Klosters that I could actually ‘talk’ to you… if you don’t mind talking to me instead of just writing. I’m home on the night of the 30th and I was hoping I could visit on the 31st.

I’d like to hear your voice again… I almost can’t remember how it sounds… that is, of course, hoping that my head doesn’t get hexed off in the Floo by your brothers. Let me know about the 31st.

Love, Draco


Quickly finding a piece of parchment and snagging a quill from behind Percy’s ear, she quickly wrote back.


Dearest Draco,

Floo after lunch on the 31st -- around half twelve. (For future reference… I am NOT a morning person)

Don’t worry about my brothers. They’re all afraid of my Bat Bogey Hex. You know the one. You’ve seen it.

Have fun snowboarding in Switzerland. Wait… a Malfoy on a snowboard? Isn’t that too Muggle for you people? ;)

Love, Ginny.


She tied the note to the owl and it was off, presumably to Wiltshire, to Malfoy Manor. Now all she had to do was wait. The week wouldn’t go fast enough.
CHAPTER SEVEN - Arrival by jandjsalmon
CHAPTER SEVEN - Arrival

The Weasley’s did all the traditional Christmas break things. There were plenty of snowball wars, hot chocolate after playing Quidditch in the snow, and Ron even built himself a huge snow fort without magic… all the better to impress Hermione (and to snog her in).

Ginny could hardly contain herself all week. Her mother had to forbid her from going to bed at 7 pm every night in order to make the time go faster. Anything she could do to take her mind off her visitor was done.

On the evening of the 30th her family sat around the kitchen table and discussed their plans for New Years Eve. Bill and Fleur had the annual Delacour New Years Eve ball in France to attend. They were taking Fred and George with them because two of Fleur’s younger sisters had taken quite a shine to the two pranksters and had begged her to bring them. Both were looking forward to their New Years Eve kisses.

Percy and his wife were already on their vacation in Malta and must have had plans there. Charlie wanted to spend the night at home with his girlfriend. He was taking her to St. Mungo’s that afternoon to visit one of her friends who’d had a baby and since a nasty dragon-incident several years earlier hospitals had made him nauseous so he knew he’d be too ill to go out.

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were staying at home. They had begun the tradition of snuggling all night when the children were small and couldn’t stop now that the children were bigger. That left just the four youngest, and since none of them wanted to watch the aforementioned they had decided that any plan was better than no plan. Hermione planned on spending the day curled up with the book Harry had bought her for Christmas, ‘Arithmancy and You: Calculate your Spells to Perfection’, and Harry and Ron had planned an all-out Quidditch practice… pushing themselves for the match against Slytherin that was coming up three weeks into next term. Later that night, all four of them had been invited to Hermione’s Aunt and Uncle’s house for daiquiris (“Whatever those are, thought Ginny.”)

Once the plans had been announced, Harry looked up at Ginny and asked her, “You’re going to play with us tomorrow right? We need a Chaser…”

“Well, I can play for a while… but after lunch there’d be too many Seekers. Remember, Draco is coming to visit me tomorrow.” Then, seeing the sick look come over Ron again she added, “You’ll be nice to him, right? Or, if nothing else, you won’t hex him to death or anything, right?”

“Is he planning on behaving himself?” Hermione asked, grim faced. “You know, it’s not like he’s never provoked us or anything.”

“Yeah. Will he keep his bloody mouth shut?” Ron was silenced by a particularly nasty look by Hermione.

“He’ll be a guest here. My guest. And I’m hoping to see him a lot more often, even at school. So, if we could all just get along… or at least avoid each other, we’ll be fine.” With that, Ginny went up to bed, not caring a whit for the sour expressions on their faces, or the fact that it was only 8 pm.

Ginny could tell it was early when she woke up. The light was barely breaking over the horizon, but Ginny couldn’t get back to sleep. She was too nervous. To pass the time before she really needed to get up she tried to remember the last time Draco had spoken to her. They obviously weren’t in any classes together and he’d been taking it easy on the insults as of late, and not just insults towards her either.

Of course, now Ginny knew why, but at the time all the Gryffindors, in fact, probably all the Houses including his own, had been wondering what was wrong with Malfoy. Even at the final Prefect’s meeting before the break, when they had had to report how many points they’d deducted over the term even Ron had surpassed Draco’s 70 point total. Weird, since Ron was notorious for not taking his Prefect duties seriously. Ginny had heard the trio debating Malfoy’s reasons heatedly, two or three days before the break, and wondered herself. But then again, that was before she got caught up in her misery after Bleddri hadn’t written.

So, thinking on that early New Years Eve morning, Ginny curled deeper into her warm blankets and tried to remember Draco’s voice. The inflection, with his snobby Wiltshire accent, the exact pitch? She couldn’t remember. She’d only heard him speak pleasantly a handful of times, and more recently, all she’d heard was his one-word answers he gave ‘Head Girl’ Hermione during Prefect meetings. She resolved herself to be patient and wait for that afternoon.

That thought sent her into another wave of nerves. She was going to see him, have him in the same room, within touching distance. What was she going to wear? Well, she didn’t really have to worry about that now, there were hours before Draco would get there. Knowing she’d get no more sleep this morning, Ginny got up to dress herself for the morning. Her plans were to spend the morning outside with Harry and Ron so she just chose her green Christmas Jumper and a pair of black wool trousers. She topped it off with her new charcoal wool cloak with an embedded Self-Heating and Waterproof Charm. It was a gift from Bill and Fleur. Ginny loved it. She charmed her hair into a loose French Braid crowned with a pale ivory crocheted snow hat. Draco’s necklace tickled under her jumper, but she refused to take it off, even for Quidditch.

Instead of going down for breakfast, she went straight outside and grabbed her Nimbus out of the shed. Fred had bought it for her in August for her birthday and she rode it as often as she could. Harry was already up in the air circling the garden and the Weasley’s impromptu pitch. He looked deep in thought and Ginny didn’t want to disturb him so she began to walk out of the paddock towards the house. Suddenly, Harry dropped down right in front of her.

“Gin, where are you going? Aren’t you going to play with me… us?” he stammered.

“Us? Where’s Ron?” she asked.

“You know Ron! He’d never give up breakfast. I’ve been here for a half hour. It’s been kinda lonely. You’ll stay won’t you?”

“Harry, I just didn’t want to start a row. I don’t want to get into that today. I want to have a good day, Harry.”

“No, Gin. Let’s not argue. I don’t want to fight. Now matter what I think of your afternoon guest, I care for you. I don’t want to lose your friendship, it means a lot to me, so I promise I’ll behave today, even if the git doesn’t!”

Ginny hugged him but giggled into his chest. “Don’t worry, if Ron doesn’t behave I’ll hex him into next week!” But as she pulled away she could see the hurt still in his eyes. “Thanks Harry. That really means a lot to me to hear you say that. I value your friendship too.” She climbed on her broom and rose into the air to do a few rounds before Harry could join her.

“Yeah, friendship.” Harry muttered to himself as she circled, “That’s exactly what I want.” He lifted himself up into the sky to follow the girl he finally realized he could never have.

***

It was nearly ten before Ron came out. Hermione had kept him indoors, probably reminding him not to be a jerk about Malfoy to Ginny, so their play practice didn’t go long. Without a Snitch to practice with, Harry played Chaser with Ginny and they ran drills and tried to score on Ron. Then, at nearly half past eleven, Ginny started doing barrel rolls to get a workout. It was just past half past twelve when she let herself down and waved to her brother and friend.

As she was walking up from the pitch with her broom over her shoulder she finally looked at her watch and stopped. “It can’t be!” she thought desperately. The nerves were back and she started running towards the house. She burst through the kitchen door, sweaty and red, just as a perfectly coiffed platinum head popped though green flames and smiled up at her.

“Hi!” She spat out, still puffing from her run.

“Uh, hello, Ginny. It was half past twelve right?” His voice was beautiful and he was wearing her pin. Ginny’s heart soared.

“Oh, yeah… it was. Please come in. It was me, I just lost track of time. I was out playing Quidditch. Well, not really playing, but practicing…” She would have blushed if she hadn’t already turned red from the running. “Sorry, I had planned on being here waiting and NOT looking like an idiot, definitely looking better than I do now. But I always forget. I always lose track of time, especially when I’m nervous and it’s something really important.” She was babbling and realized it as soon as she looked up and saw his amused… well… his amused ‘almost’ smirk.

“Hey, it’s not funny!” She couldn’t help giggling herself as she swatted his broad black shoulder. Tingles went up her arm as she touched him. She decided she liked touching him a lot.

“I didn’t say anything.” He smiled, this time, a genuine one. “So, what are we going to do this afternoon?” He looked around, “I don’t see any brothers sent to kill me, so... I’m up for anything!” He rubbed his hands together with a grin.

As of on cue, Ron and Harry burst through the door laughing, at least until they saw Malfoy. Ron was so stunned that he tripped over Ginny’s broom (the one she hadn’t had time to put away) and went sprawling onto the floor.

Draco spoke first, “Weasley, Potter.” He nodded, his face grim and his posture tightened.

“Malfoy.” Harry nodded back, but couldn’t hide the distain from his voice. He made an effort to pick up Ron and then eyed Malfoy again, his gaze resting upon the cloak pin attached to Draco left breast. Harry turned to look sideways at Ginny appraisingly before grabbing Ron and pushing him into the other room.

Ginny watched them and then turned to Malfoy, who visibly relaxed when the other boys left. She grinned.

“Well, that wasn’t too horrible. Better than I expected really,” and then, amazed at her own boldness, she put her arm in his and led him to the door, “let’s go outside. There might be a little too much tension here in the house for a while. I have to put my broom away anyway.”

Allowing himself to be steered outside, Draco walked with her to the broom shed and then around the garden under the snow covered trees to the newly frozen pond. Smiling as he looked at the snow beginning to fall, he mused to himself that he should have brought his hat, to which Ginny started giggling and shrieked, “Not that horrible fur thing you wear?”

“You don’t like my hat?” Draco asked in mock hurt, but hardly masking his smile.

“It’s dreadful!” Ginny couldn’t stop laughing.

“You should talk, Weasley! Does this skimpy stitched thing keep your pretty head warm?” He fingered the ivory wool hat that she was still wearing before moving to touch one of the red tendrils that had fallen out of her braid. His teasing smile turned into something gentler and Ginny’s face flushed. She looked away, smiling.

“Uh, how was Switzerland?” she had to break the awkward silence somehow.

“Horrible. I would have much rather been here with you… Skiing has never been my sport.”

“I see you wore the pin.” She finally mentioned the pin. “It looks brilliant! Did you really like it? It’s not too Gryffindor is it?”

“I love it, Ginny, truly. I didn’t expect anything at all, especially after I made you cry. I’m used to making you angry, but I’ve never intentionally made you cry.” He touched her face, his thumb tracing down the side of her cheek.

Ginny caught his hand before it fell. “You did make me cry, Draco. But your letter and you just being here today… makes me very happy. Tears can be forgotten.”

“The necklace? Did you… are you wearing it?” he asked, unsure, but not dropping her hand.

Instead of answering him, she unbuttoned the top button of her cloak and with one hand, the hand he wasn’t holding, she pulled it out from beneath her jumper. “I’ll always wear it. I can’t seem to do without it’s tickling my neck. I’ve not taken it off yet, not even during my bubble bath last night.” Then, she looked away, the red of her hair pouring over her face in a blush. She just realized she’d been idiotic enough to mention being naked in front of Draco. She absentmindedly took her hand away from his and attempted to brush back a stray hair behind her ear. She didn’t see his face turn pink.

“Ginny, I…” but he didn’t finish. They were interrupted by Mrs. Weasley yelling at them from the porch.

“Ginny? Ginny, dear? Why don’t you and your friend come out of the cold? Your father and I would like to meet him before teatime.”

“Coming Mum!” Ginny smiled shyly at Draco.

“Here we go…” he breathed out, and then subconsciously began smoothing out imaginary wrinkles from his cloak and running his hands through his hair.

“Just be yourself. The ‘real’ you, not the ‘you’ you’ve been at school for the last six”

“Seven” He coughed.

“Years…” she finished with a smile.

“Potter going to be there?”

“Probably. Will you be alright?”

“Yeah, I’ll behave… just for you, luv.” He poked her cold nose before grabbing her hand and leading them back to the house.
CHAPTER EIGHT - Invitation by jandjsalmon
Author's Notes:
This chapter was beta'd by my normal betas AND a fabulous guest beta pheonixrae -- Thanks SO SO much for being there last minute!! ;)
CHAPTER EIGHT – Invitation

Just being there with her was better than breathing. Draco had been so nervous before Flooing over that afternoon that he'd changed his clothes six times before settling back on the first thing he'd chosen.

She was the first thing he saw as he walked through the green flames. She'd looked so beautiful, all flustered and embarrassed. And then, she'd touched him. Wow! He wanted her to do that again, a lot.

But then Potter and the Weasel nearly ruined it. Draco had controlled himself, he thought, quite well, and was startlingly polite to the buggers.

He was so glad when they finally left because that left him alone with the girl he'd been thinking about since he was 12, albeit they were both wearing more clothes than he usually daydreamed about (or night dreamed for that matter), but he wasn't going to complain.

He loved teasing her, and then he couldn't help it. He had to touch her hair; he'd wanted to for so long. He wanted to tell her everything he felt, everything he'd thought about for years, but the silence just loomed before them. Then, she'd spoken first, about his idiotic Christmas holiday. He figured it might be a turn off to tell her he was miserable on the trip because all he'd been able to think about was her. He'd sat in the lodge nearly every night alone, facing the fire, and fingering the cloak pin she'd given him. He'd even nearly killed himself on the mountain twice when he saw a flash of red hair on a skiing Muggle and thought it was her. Those kinds of things weren't the thing to say at a time like this, but he'd decided that it was now or never so he touched her face. She didn't back away or cringe. She held his hand to her face with her own hand.

And then she'd made some inane comment about herself in a bathtub, probably never realizing that he had thought of that image a million times that day alone, and it made him blush. Normally he reserved such naughty thoughts for home when he was alone, or at least shut up in his bed at Hogwarts behind the curtains and a good Silencing Charm. They certainly weren't appropriate thoughts for the Weasley's back yard. He was about to just go ahead and tell her what he'd wanted to from the beginning and then they were interrupted by her mother.

What timing!

Tea with Potter and the rest of the Weasleys meant he had to turn on the old Malfoy charm, something usually reserved for people his father thought would further his power and influence in Magical society. For Draco it meant wowing the family of the most important person in his life. Not that much different really.

They walked up to the house holding hands. Through the window Draco could see Scarhead watching them. Fighting the urge to shoot him a triumphal smirk, Draco instead looked back at Ginny and whispered into her ear, "Do I look alright, luv?"

She laughed out loud and whispered back, "And to think, I thought you have low self-esteem issues, Mr. Big Head! You look flawless, as usual. Smell good too!" She winked.

"Well... Flawless eh? I do so aim for perfection!"

They both walked through the door with large grins.

***

Molly Weasley had been worried. She'd known the Malfoy boy was coming over and her anxiety level had risen over the course of the afternoon, but when she saw her confident, self-assured daughter so happy, she knew they'd done the right thing by being supportive of her decision.

As the two entered the kitchen, Molly approached them and said, as she reached Draco into a familiar hug, "Well, hello! You must be Draco. Welcome to the Burrow. It's nice to finally meet you, my dear."

She could tell he was surprised at such a warm welcome, but he covered it well when he smiled sheepishly at Ginny and said, "Thank you, Ma'am. It's nice to be here."

Yes, Molly could see why her daughter liked this boy. He was about as opposite to Harry as you could get. Fair, tall, and well built. Rather than the adorable look Harry had about him, Draco was handsome, in a noble and aristocratic sort of way. Molly only prayed that he wouldn't end up hurting Ginny. Nobility in looks did not always equal them in personality.

***

To say that Draco was shocked when Ginny's mother hugged him would be an understatement. It threw Harry for a loop too. He had been sure the hot-tempered Weasley parent would rather have him with Ginny and would make that clear to Ferret Boy. Not wanting to cause an argument, he'd promised Ginny after all, Harry kept silent during most of tea. He couldn't help but see how Ginny hadn't given him a second glance. She only had eyes for Malfoy. She looked so happy, like a light was turned on inside of her. His heart hurt that he wasn't the one who had turned it on. He'd been too late to see what was in front of him all along. He sat reflecting on this glumly, while Draco fielded the questions Mr. And Mrs. Weasley shot at him.

"Do you enjoy school, Draco?" Mr. Weasley asked politely before popping another biscuit into his mouth.

"Yes, sir. I prefer Potion and Charms, but I recently became a tutor for History of Magic and I'm looking forward to that quite a bit this next term."

"Oh, really? Our Ginny here hates History, don't you, dear?" Mrs. Weasley smiled at her daughter.

"Yes, Mum. Professor Binns makes me sleepy." She grinned into her cup, suddenly very glad she couldn't keep her eyes open in his class.

"Well, I know Ginny does really well in her other classes. I wager she could almost give Potter here a run for his money in Defense... but then again, I might be biased. I was at the receiving end of her famous Bat Bogey Hex a few years ago." Draco added earnestly, but with a smile.

"Well, you did deserve it. You were being an utter prat that day, Draco," Ginny cut in.

"Yeah, yeah. That 'day'." he scoffed lightheartedly. "Hazard of being me I guess..."

The rest of the afternoon passed in this pleasant way. Both Mr. And Mrs. Weasley were careful not to mention Draco's family and he was careful not to insult any of the Weasleys, Muggle-lovers, or any of their mutual acquaintance. It had been a good day.

"Draco dear, what are your plans for this evening? We're having a light supper, but you're certainly welcome to stay," Mrs. Weasley invited him as she took his tea dishes to the sink.

"Uh, well... Well, thank you, Ma'am, but I can't tonight actually. My mum and I have annual plans for New Years Eve. We've held a banquet and ball at the Malfoy Manor as many years as anyone can remember, and this year is special. We're celebrating two years without my father. Mum's put a lot of effort into preparing. I was actually wondering if Ginny... well, if you," he turned to Ginny, "if you wanted to come tonight?" He smiled hopefully.

Ginny looked at her parents. They looked taken aback, but probably more because he'd mentioned Lucius than the invitation. After a moment, Molly smiled and nodded to her daughter.

Ginny grabbed his hand and dragged him into the lounge for some privacy before answering him.

"I'd love to Draco... if you're sure that your mother won't mind." Ginny beamed and gave him a big hug.

He held her tight, his brain momentarily shut off as she hugged him, but then he realized that she had asked him a question. He pulled away only far enough to hold her chin and whisper, "Oh, she won't mind at all. In fact, I know she bought you a gift before Christmas just in case I turned Gryffindor and asked you to the ball. She just doesn't want me to know about it... so, let's not tell her I know anything, okay?" He winked at her.

"She didn't have to do anything..."

"No one tells my mum when to shop and when not to," he interrupted her. "Besides, she's never had a daughter and I get the impression she bought you girly stuff." His cheeks turned a slight pink as he realized he just referred to Ginny as someone his mother could consider a 'daughter'.

Ginny noticed too, and just smiled at her feet. "So, when should I come over?"

"Well, the banquet starts at half past seven, but we're announced at about seven. Would you have enough time to get ready for half past six? It's only three and half hours from now... Is that enough time?" He ran his hands through his hair nervously, "I know I should have written from Switzerland, or just asked you before I left, but I wasn't sure."

Ginny had never seen him ramble and it made her smile broadly. "Draco, three and a half hours is plenty of time, but I'll need to start soon. Should I just Floo to your house at half past six then?" She put her hand on his arm.

Ignoring the tingles making their way up his arm, Draco answered, "No. I'll come to get you, alright?" He took her hand in his. "You're sure you're okay with being seen in public with the enemy?"

"Draco, I don't see an enemy. I only see you." She reached up and kissed him softly on the cheek. "Now, get out of here... this girl's got to work a lot of magic in the next three hours... wouldn't want to look less than flawless, it might embarrass ickle-Master Malfoy at his own party!"

He looked down at her in stunned silence, not really sure she'd kissed his cheek. Then, his voice two pitches deeper than usual, said, "you could never ever embarrass me. You're beautiful. I'll pick you up in a few hours, okay?" He kissed her hand before exiting the lounge and bidding the rest of her family good-bye and Flooing home.

Ginny was sitting in the lounge, almost in giddy shock, when fifteen minutes later a sweet-looking old house elf popped into the room to join her, carrying a very large box.

"Miss Weezy? I'ms Minnie. Mistress sent these for you. She said to make sure the red-haired girl, Miss Weezy, reads the card first." She handed the box to Ginny and then curtseyed before popping away.

Mrs. Weasley had heard the commotion and walked into the lounge. "What is that dear?"

"Mrs. Malfoy sent it to me." Still flabbergasted, Ginny opened the card as her mother sat down beside her.

My Dear Miss Weasley,

I hope you don't think me presumptuous, but as we were shopping for your beautiful necklace I let myself buy you several Christmas gifts as well. I didn't let Draco know, I didn't want him to think I was being silly. But I knew everything would work out and that he'd eventually ask you to our New Years Ball. I even predicted the he would give you very little time to prepare. So, I took it upon myself to at least help make getting ready easier on you.

The gown is Muggle-made of course, as we were shopping in Muggle London, but I wasn't sure of the size. I know your mother can adjust it and make it to fit you perfectly. I admit, it will go perfectly with Draco's dress robes, and the dark green with be beautiful with your red hair and the green jewels around your neck.

The crystal shoes can be fitted too, and I've already taken the liberty of charming them for comfort, otherwise you'd want to chop off your feet before the end of the ball.

Now, the earrings and circlets for your hair are not new. I wore them at my first Malfoy Ball when I was 16, and since I have no daughter of my own, I'd like you to wear them at yours.

You are, of course, staying the night? The ball will be quite late and several people are staying. I'll send one of the house elves to get your bag from home during the ball.

I can't wait to properly meet you. The fireplace didn't give us a great amount of time to get to know one another. I know we'll be fast friends.

Sincerely,
Narcissa Malfoy

PS. You know I know he must love you so very much. He risked the wrath of his father by having your picture here at home all those years ago...


Ginny just looked at her mother, too stunned to say anything. There was just too much to digest. Ginny was particularly stuck on the last bit about her picture. He'd really had her picture at home 'years ago'? Wow!

Molly grabbed the box and angled it towards Ginny. She lifted the lid and found four boxes inside. The smallest one opened to find two diamond studs and three pieces of silver meant to be fitted into her hair when it was in an up-do. "Wow, Mum, they are really beautiful, aren't they?" Ginny sighed.

"Narcissa always looked beautiful, especially before she married Lucius." Molly affirmed and then she fingered the next box.

The second box contained the crystal shoes. Ginny eyed them with distrust. How could shoes so hard be comfortable, even with charms put on them? She tried them on and miraculously they fit without having to be altered. They felt delicious on her feet, like floating.

The third box, the biggest one of the four, held the dress. Ginny pulled it out and lovingly rubbed her hands down the embroidered silk. It may have been Slytherin colors, but Mrs. Malfoy was right. The green went perfectly with her red hair. It looked like the bodice would be a little too small, Ginny was more developed than that, but the length was just right. Mrs. Weasley held up the dress and smiled. "I can make it fit perfectly dear. Now, what's in that last box, you don't have much time? You need to go get ready soon."

Ginny opened the last box and turned bright red. Along with a pair of dark green gloves there were dark green silk stocking and garter with a green strapless bra and matching knickers. There was another note pinned inside.

Dear Ginny,

I realized after I wrote the card that I hadn't organized any green underclothes. The green would be less likely to show from under the dress. I hope it's not too much green for you, I know you are a Gryffindor, dear.

Much love, Narcissa


"Well, she did think of everything." Molly mused with a smile. "Now, up to the shower, Ginny. Wash your hair twice so I can magic it up easier."

Ginny did as she was told. In between getting showered and dressed she even managed to pack an overnight bag. "You're sure you don't mind me staying overnight at Malfoy Manor?" Ginny asked her mother hesitantly.

"Ginny dear, this is almost a common thing when invited to a ball. And besides, without Lucius there, I feel you're completely safe. Narcissa seems excited and I'm sure she'd like to get to know you better, just as we would like to have Draco come over a few times before you go back to Hogwarts.

Ginny hugged her mother. A little shocked that her parents had accepted Draco so readily... but not unhappy about it at all. "Thank you SO much, Mum!"

***

By 6pm Ginny looked perfect. Her mother went down to get supper on the table for the few that would be at home, and Ginny stood gazing into her full-length mirror.

The dress was strapless. It hugged her figure and the embroidery trailed all the way to the floor. Ginny decided against the gloves, and instead wore one of her mothers silver bracelets. Ginny's fiery necklace showed off her fiery hair. It was twisted around the silver circlets with curls drizzling loosely all over her head. She'd decided to be presumptuous and put a tiny silver clip in the shape of a lion near the back of her tangled curls. She couldn't let everything she wore tonight be Slytherin themed. The crystal shoes and Narcissa's diamond earrings topped the outfit off... well, Ginny tried not to blush when she thought of the lacy green under things, because they certainly didn't 'top' anything off under there. She knew she looked beautiful!

It was a while before she recognized that Harry was standing at the door and watching her.

"Oh, hello, Harry." Ginny was uncomfortable. That was clear.

"Hi, Gin." He didn't move.

"Do I... Do I look okay?"

"Yeah, Ginny. You look okay. I'm sure you'll be the belle of the ball." And with that, Harry walked in the room, his look unreadable until he eyed the tiny lion yawning in her hair and he smiled. "Of course, you'd have to make a statement. I wonder if anyone else will 'get' the Gryffindor lion?" He reached for her and she backed away slightly.

"Harry, don't."

"Gin, I'm sorry I was so blind. That it took me so long to see you..." He came closer and reached his hand up, as if to touch her face, but Ginny backed away.

"Harry, please. You're my friend. I'm sorry you feel more, but..." she kept backing away, "I love Draco and he loves me, and nothing you say will change that, Harry." She stepped out of the bedroom and walked down the stairs without a look back.

"Potter? What have you done now?" Harry asked himself. "Stupid git! Ugh!" he flopped down on her bed.

***

Ginny was trying to cover that she'd been flustered, but it was hard when she was so frustrated with Harry. She'd wanted to stay his friend, but his attitude was making that really difficult. Some people would think she was crazy for turning down advances from 'The-Boy-Who-Lived-Again', but despite his general good nature and handsome good looks, she just couldn't. Not when Draco was there in her head. Being so sweet and vulnerable. Even with his pale, pointed face. She loved that they had become best friends first, without their names getting in the way. She loved his extreme insecurity when it came to her and his over confidence when it came to everything. It made him endearing. Heck, she even loved his stupid fur hat!

She smiled at that thought, and then fingered her necklace. Tonight was going to be wonderful!
CHAPTER NINE – What He’d Always Wanted by jandjsalmon
CHAPTER NINE – What he’d always wanted

Just before heading to the kitchen, Ginny decided to make a slight detour into the lounge. She headed straight to the mantelpiece. Rows of pictures of her family sat, smiling and waving to her as she approached them. Looking them over, Ginny spotted a recent photo of herself. It had been taken just before she left for Hogwarts that year. She had been grinning cheekily at the camera, and her red hair had been long and loose in the summer breeze. Smiling to herself, she took it down off the mantle and wiped the dust off the top of the dark wooden frame. Narcissa had said that Draco had a picture of her for years. The idea partially mortified her and partially thrilled her, but even she knew that meant it was probably a candid photo taken by Colin and not nearly as nice as this one was. Thinking that he may want another of her, she made sure the glass was clean and spoke softly to the picture as she went back up the stairs, telling her picture-self to behave while with Draco.

Thankfully, Harry had retreated into his own room, so she was free to pop the picture into her overnight bag. Her stomach started fluttering with butterflies as she thought about a whole night at Malfoy Manor. She breathed deeply for a few minutes and then righted herself to meet the rest of her family downstairs.

Ginny walked into the kitchen at quarter past six and was immediately inundated with comments on how lovely she looked from her family. Charlie and Katie were still helping with dinner, but since Hermione and Ron had finished setting the table, they decided to visit with her while she waited for Draco.

Hermione couldn’t help going on and on about how gorgeous the green looked with Ginny’s red hair, how the silver necklace made her glow - and how the Gryffindor lion in her hair would be the biggest laugh at the Malfoys.

Ron didn’t say much; he just smiled quietly at her, but he could see she was happy so there was no point in arguing. Ginny knew that her dating Draco Malfoy was pretty hard for him to take. She loved him so much for trying to be supportive, even if it was in his own very ‘quiet’ way.

Inwardly, Hermione thought about how happy Ginny had looked since Christmas. As much as she hated to admit it, she knew it was because of Draco. She would never tell Harry or Ron this, but she had been more than impressed with Draco’s behaviour earlier that day. He’d been polite and attentive and had hardly taken his eyes off Ginny all day, certainly not long enough to barrage the people he so obviously didn’t care for with insults.

Hermione just hoped it wasn’t a temporary change in him. She’d known how Harry had felt about Ginny for quite a while, but she didn’t blame the girl for moving on. Ginny couldn’t wait around forever for Harry to get his head out of the clouds. She herself had almost given up on Ron too… but then everything had clicked into place during sixth year and now she was happier than she had ever been. She wanted that happiness for Ginny, and there was something in Draco’s face that afternoon that kept her thinking about it. One could call it humbled amazement that Ginny would even look at him, let alone like him; maybe it was just pure adoration. Whatever it was, Hermione had the strong feeling that all Draco wanted to do was make Ginny happy.

Ginny certainly looked happy… her happiness was almost tangible, and knowing that made it easier for Hermione to be excited for her friend. It wasn’t as though Ginny had been very good at hiding her feelings about Draco anyway. Hermione hadn’t let it slip to the boys, but even during the summer, she remembered Ginny growing suddenly attentive when they would speak about him. She also remembered quite clearly that day at the beginning of the year when they’d caught her drawing out on the grounds. Hermione was clever enough to notice then, but she felt that Ginny would have to be the one that broke the news to them. From then on, though, Hermione had kept her eyes on Draco Malfoy, looking for signs of a changed boy. She’d been pleasantly surprised, but she’d held her secret in, waiting for something like this to occur. Now, Hermione couldn’t help but be thrilled for her friend.

The three Gryffindors visited until Draco stepped through the green flames in the Weasleys' hearth and caught sight of Ginny. He stopped, open mouthed, with only one leg in the Weasleys' kitchen.

“Wow!” was all he said. He grimaced slightly as he remembered suddenly that his other leg was still at Malfoy Manor. He stepped all the way through the Floo and just stood there, gaping at her with a crooked smile and a flush of pink on his cheeks.

Ginny flushed and touched her head in embarrassment.

“Ginny, you look - you look brilliant. You’re beautiful,” Draco sputtered. He hated when he sputtered, but there was nothing to be done.

“Thank you, Draco,” she said quietly, looking around in dismay, now quite aware that they had an audience.

Taking the hint, the two other couples excused themselves in order to let Draco and Ginny have a moment alone before Mr. and Mrs. Weasley would see them off.

As the door closed behind them, Ginny slowly raised her wand and quietly cast a charm over the back of his robes. He looked at her questioningly and she blushed. “You had soot on your shoulder from the Floo.”

“Oh, thank you.” Draco looked down and had a knowing smirk on his face. “Is there soot anywhere else?”

Ginny shook her head and grinned. “Ask me again when we Floo back.”

“Actually, we’re not. Flooing back, I mean. I can Apparate-“

“I can’t. I’m not 17 yet.”

“You can Side-Along Apparate with me.” He looked at her nervously.

“I thought that was really dangerous, Draco.” Ginny tried to hide a smile at his reticence.

Draco could tell she was having him on, so he smirked a bit before replying. “Not if you’re Apparating with someone with as much natural talent as I have.” His smirk turned to a soft smile when he reminded her about his upbringing. “My father taught me to Apparate when I was thirteen. It seems that it’s a useful tool for future Death Eaters.” Though his teasing had turned somewhat solemn, Draco winked. “I am pretty good at it, I promise.”

Ginny grinned up at him, not worried in the slightest. “Alright, we Apparate. Ready then?” She grabbed his hand.

Conveniently, her parents chose that moment to join them in the kitchen. “Everything sorted, kids?” Molly rang out as she walked toward them, encasing her daughter in a warm hug.

Ginny nodded before reminding her mother about the house-elf that would be coming later to pick up her overnight bag. She asked her to tell the elf to be careful, as there was something breakable right up top, and Draco caught her eye curiously. He was speaking to her father, but he made a mental note to ask her about that later.

Ginny was just about to step outside with Draco when a loud, crackly voice came from the kitchen entry. “You wear that lion with pride, Gin!” Ron had finally said something.

Draco looked down at her once again with amused curiosity, but Ginny didn’t explain. She just giggled and said, “Thanks, Ron. I will. See you tomorrow, big brother.”

Moments later, they were out the door and a soft pop indicated that they were gone.

***

The two appeared in the rose garden enchanted to bloom all year long. The smell was intoxicating, and Ginny couldn’t help but gape as she turned around and took it all in. It was so beautiful that Ginny could hardly stand.

Draco held her close, partially so she’d stay upright, but also because he’d wanted to do it since she’d hugged him earlier that day.

“Wow, Draco! Where are we?” she asked breathily. Her eyes were wide with amazement.

“This,” he gestured around them, “is my mother’s favourite rose garden. That is my house over there.” He pointed into the dark void behind them. Ginny could vaguely see a golden light coming from inside the vast darkness.

“We’re at the back of the house. It’s darker. The front is where most of the guests will be arriving. We have time yet. I wanted to bring you here to the rose garden to talk to you before the ball.” Draco smiled at her with a shyness that just didn’t seem like it belonged on him. He grabbed her hand leading her to a bench by a fountain.

Ginny followed and though her cheeks grew warm, she kept her hand safely tucked with his.

“Ginny, I- I wanted to say something to you since, well, since I found out it was you who’d I’d been writing to. No. Even before that, but I was just too busy being a prat to-”

“Draco? Draco, dear, are you back here?” Narcissa’s voice echoed through the garden. “There you are, dear, and you’ve brought Ginny as well. Wonderful. Hello again, Miss Weasley. I’m so happy to finally have you here with us.” Narcissa walked slowly towards Ginny with an outstretched hand. Once Ginny clasped it, Narcissa drew her in for an informal hug and softly kissed each of her cheeks.

Ginny wasn’t sure how to respond. Draco was no help at all. He was still silently cursing his mother for her interruption. With a smile, Narcissa went on, “You look lovely this evening, Ginny. May I call you Ginny?”

“Yes, of course you can, Mrs. Malfoy. Thank you so much for everything,” Ginny replied smoothly. “The dress and all of it. It’s just too much.” She softly touched her new earrings. “You went to so much trouble.”

“Think nothing of it, my dear. I’m glad you liked them. I’ll have you know, you look much prettier than I did at my first Malfoy ball. I was terrified.”

“I know the feeling.” Ginny smiled as Narcissa gathered her arm in hers and led her through the garden towards the dark house.

Ginny had never seen Malfoy Manor, but every description she’d ever heard certainly didn’t do it justice. Her head turned at every portrait and tapestry. The colours were rich and the wood was antique. She had thought it would have been a cold place, but Ginny felt the warmth and knew that this was a safe place and that she was welcome here. She allowed herself to be taken through the big doors toward the sitting room just outside the buzzing ballroom.

“It’s almost our turn to be announced, Ginny.” Draco came behind her and put his arm at her waist.

“How exactly does this work, Draco? We just… we just walk in together?”

He leaned into her ear as his mother said something to the nearest house-elf. “The guests came and were announced some time between 6pm and now. After us, Mum and Severus… Professor Snape will be announced. After twenty minutes of mingling and ogling everyone else’s clothes, a bell will ring, and you and I will follow Mum and Professor Snape into the banquet hall. After dinner, we’ll come back into the ballroom and we’ll dance. Easy.”

“Alright. I think I can do this. Will anyone I know be in there, or are all of these people going to think you’re slumming?” she asked quietly with an arched eyebrow. She really hadn’t worried until just that moment how this would make him look among the people he associated with.

Draco gave her a hard look, his gray eyes boring into hers, and then said quite seriously, “Half of the Ministry will be in there, most of the Hogwarts’ teachers, some ‘friends’ of my parents, and even a few students from school. Most of them are of age, of course, and almost all are from Slytherin, but there are a few from other houses as well. There will even be some Muggleborns. It’s not a Death Eater reunion or anything,” he added with a sly smile. He pulled her close to him and spoke softly in her ear. “Besides, I’m not worried about what any of them think. I know I’m not slumming.” He pulled back to look at her face again and said, “In fact, you should be more concerned with them wondering what you’re doing here with an ‘evil Malfoy’ rather than ‘The Boy Who Lived.’ Most people think you two are destined to be together.”

“Luckily, I think Divination is a load of codswollop.” Ginny smoothed down her dress with a grin. “I’m here with the boy I chose. Destiny had nothing to do with it,” she whispered with a soft smile as he led her through the large oak doors.

An echoing, disembodied voice announced their arrival in the ballroom. “Master Draco Malfoy and Miss Ginevra Weasley.”

Quite a few people, in fact almost everyone, stopped speaking and watched the pair descend the stairs slowly.

“At least Ginevra sounds better with Malfoy,” Ginny muttered under her breath.

Draco smirked down at her and whispered, “Oh? Planning the wedding already, are we, love?”

Ginny tried to control her blush but was unsuccessful. “That’s not what I meant. I- I meant that Ginevra sounded better paired with-” She looked horrified at what she was about to say. “I mean, it sounded better being announced with Malfoy. ‘Ginny’ sounds like a little girl’s name- I- I would never have presumed-”

Draco cut her off by raising her hand to his lips and then pulling her into a soft embrace. Leaning into her ear, he murmured, “It wouldn’t be presuming anything that I hadn’t already thought about dozens of times today.”

Ginny’s blush was now in full form. Honestly, she probably would have fallen through the floor if he hadn’t been there holding her up. She smiled shyly then turned to the mass of people watching them.

The next few moments were a blur. She was introduced to what felt like the whole wizarding community in Britain, and everyone knew exactly whom she was so they all asked after her family and after Harry the celebrity. As Draco had said, there were people Ginny knew from school, and she was happy to say quick hellos to them as they mingled. Even Professor McGonagall and her sister Fiona managed to find Ginny, shake hands with her and tell her how lovely she looked.

The mingling wasn’t turning out too badly. In fact, Draco had barely left her side for most of it. When he was occasionally held up by someone, Ginny managed to take a brief moment to look around. She wasn’t surprised at some of the looks she got from the Slytherins that she could see, but she nearly fell over flat when Pansy Parkinson, in a bright pink frilly thing, dragged her oafish, sour-faced boyfriend Goyle over to shake Ginny’s hand. Draco had seen Pansy move toward Ginny, so he quickly ended the conversation he was having with Morgan Milton of the Falmouth Falcons in order to stand behind his two ‘friends’.

“Why, Weasley, you look stunning tonight.” Pansy’s false smile seemed neither friendly nor welcoming; Instead, it was dripping with something much more vile. “In every way, ’Mistress of the Evening’. I can’t say I’m not surprised to see you here, and wearing a necklace like that no less, but I’m glad we’ve finally pinpointed what’s been wrong with Draco lately. ‘Tis a shame he’s not a poofter.”

Ginny tried to ignore the venom and replied with sweetness that seemed a little less than genuine, given the circumstances. “Thank you, Parkinson. You look very nice too. I’ve often thought that pink was a complimentary colour for you… ever since the Yule Ball during the TriWizard Tournament.” Her hand absentmindedly went to her throat and the warmth of the flame reminded her of who gave it to her and how much he obviously cared for her. She knew Pansy’s bitterness was born out of spite and jealousy, so she was able to easily let it slide right off her back.

“Pansy. Greg.” Draco’s deep voice caused all three to turn toward him. “Have you been here long?” He walked through the couple to reach Ginny’s side, putting his arm around her waist, making it clear what his intentions towards her were. “I hope you’ve been playing nice with my dear Ginny, Pansy. She doesn’t know about your ‘claws’.” He looked at her pointedly.

“Why, Draco, we were just telling Weasley here how relieved we were that you ended up in love with a Gryff rather than a poof. It’s a better explanation for your lack of serious girlfriends since fourth year… since you weren’t exactly chasing down any boys either. Taking the occasional girl out for a snogging session hardly counts. We were all getting a bit worried.”

“Well, Pansy, it’s so thoughtful, and frankly, out of character for you to be concerned for me. I’d wager you were far more worried that it was my one date with you that would cause me to question my masculinity. I’ve certainly never fancied boys before, and thankfully our one date wasn’t horrible enough to send me searching for manly comfort. No, it was after seeing Weasley here brave Longbottom’s horrendous dancing with grace and a smile that made me realize that if I couldn’t have her, I would rather not have a girlfriend. See… nothing to do with our horrendous date, Pansy. Never fear.” And with a smirk, he led an open-mouthed Ginny to the banquet hall entrance, away from the glowering girl and her moody boyfriend.

Once they had sat down to dinner, Ginny leaned to Draco and whispered, “What you said to Parkinson about the Yule Ball, was that true?"

“Every word.” He winked at her. “Though I admit, I was already besotted with you before ever agreeing to escort that bint.” He squeezed her hand before turning his attention to his mother, who was welcoming the guests seated at the long table.

“Thank you all for coming tonight. It has been a holiday tradition for generations here at the Manor. I am so glad that this year we have more than just the season to celebrate. We also have the downfall of the Dark Lord to be grateful for as well. Too long has darkness pervaded this house, and I am happy to invite the light in. So, let us raise our glasses and toast, to peace and a happier future.”

“To peace…” echoed throughout the hall.


The banquet began and was wonderful. The meal was elaborate and very tasty, but Ginny’s mind was decidedly elsewhere. Luckily, as a Weasley, she’d never had a problem eating, even when her thoughts were occupied with the young man to her left.

Ginny was sitting between Draco and Narcissa, but he was happily fielding questions from the Minster for Magical Games and Sports who sat on his left… something about tryouts for professional Quidditch teams in the spring, so Ginny spent most of the meal speaking to Narcissa. The woman was so kind and gracious that Ginny at once felt right at ease.

Mrs. Malfoy could see the overwhelming pressure on Ginny’s shoulders. It was almost as though Draco could feel it as well, because every so often he would turn to her and squeeze her hand under the table or give her a sly smile, something that secretly amused Narcissa.

Every time he touched Ginny, her skin tingled with sensations she’d never felt before every time he touched her. It felt like water pouring over her, telling her that it would be okay. Each time he did it, a little weight of worry and nerves seem to wash away. His mother smiled.

Once dinner was concluded, Ginny, Draco, his mother, and Professor Snape led the way back to the ballroom. Draco mentioned quietly to Ginny that both couples would be expected to begin the dance

“I hope I don’t make an utter fool of you, Draco. I’m not used to being the center of attention.” Ginny looked up at him with worried eyes.

“You’ve always been at the center of mine.” He flushed the tiniest bit of pink but went on, “Don’t worry, Ginny. Tonight will be perfect.”

She smiled as he swirled her onto the dance floor. “Why will tonight be perfect, Draco?”

He brought her in close and whispered softly in her ear, “Because I’m dancing with the girl I’ve loved since I was twelve. My father is gone and the Dark Lord is dead, so there is nothing in the way of my being with her forever. You see? Everything is exactly as it should be.”

Ginny didn’t know what to say to that, so she just let him hold her close as she put her head on his chest. He smelled like spicy soap and aftershave. She knew she could smell that forever and never be tired of it. Inclining her head, she watched him with her head still on his shoulder. He had a look of such serenity on his face as they turned about the room; his gray eyes had a spark to them and his smile was genuine. Overwhelmed, she murmured more to herself than to him, “I think I love you, Draco Malfoy.”

Draco stopped dancing and looked down at her. “I’ve loved only you for as long as I can remember, Ginny.” He raised his hand to her cheek, and then, not caring that they were surrounded by hundreds of observers, he leaned down and kissed her gently like he’d wanted to do forever. She sighed into his mouth. They stood there, oblivious to the crowd parting around them, until he finally pulled away from her. She clung to him as if she would lose her footing otherwise.

Still holding her hand, he guided her off the dance floor and out onto the balcony overlooking the rose garden they had been standing in earlier that evening.

“I’ve wanted to do that for a very long time, Ginny.” He held her close. She turned her head up to him and he kissed her once again. “Every day for five years, Gin,” he whispered, touching the edges of her mouth with the tip of his tongue. She opened her lips for him and they stood there, snogging on the balcony, not caring that they were missing the rest of the ball. Gently, her hands roamed to the back of his neck, where she played with his fine blond hair. At the same time, he’d pulled her curls from the top of her head and was softly stroking the tendrils that fell around her face, while he kissed her passionately, afraid that letting go would make this magical vision of happiness disappear.

Eventually, the kisses slowed. Languidly, he began kissing the side of her lips and then her jaw all the way to her neck, inhaling her sweet scent. He leaned his head against hers and took a deep breath. “Wow. Ginny, I, I’m-” Draco tried to speak, but she had begun to nibble his ear and kiss his neck. “When- When did you know you loved me, Gin?”

She said breathily between kisses, “I’ve watched you since… I became a… prefect….” Looking up at him, she continued, “You pulled my chair out once during a meeting, and I caught you watching me a few times. I began to think about you, wondering if you were at all like what I’d thought. I looked for you during meals and watched for you between classes… and then I realized that my very best friend Bleddri, who I adored on the inside because he was sweet and funny and sardonic and wonderful, was the blond git that I was incredibly attracted to on the outside because of his dashing good looks, sexy voice and ah… that smirk. Then I knew and I was afraid. But I’m not afraid anymore.”

They’d stopped kissing by now, and he reached up and touched her face again. “There is nothing to be afraid of, love.”

She smiled softly and put her hand on his. “I meant what I said in there, Draco. I do love you.”

Draco nuzzled her neck and held her close. Something deep within him filled him with warmth.

“Ginny, have I told you how glad I am that you’re rubbish at History of Magic?”

“What?” She laughed out loud; making the eternal flame at her throat tickled his chin. She absentmindedly played with the pin on his chest while he looked up through his long lashes at her.

“If Binns didn’t put you to sleep - Granger, too - then Vaina would never have fallen in love with Bleddri and he would never have gotten what he’d always wanted.”

“And what’s that, Bleddri?” she asked gently, leaning towards him, her lips almost touching his.

“Just you, Ginny. It's always been just you.” The soft words died on his lips as he closed the distance and kissed her again, while the cheers inside counted down the New Year.

The End.


End Notes:
The last chapter. Thank you all for reading... and in some cases (*cough FW & seegrim cough*) nagging me until I finished it.

You know, the story only took three weeks to write, but it took over a year to type. I like to blame the baby... but in reality it was hard for me to let this story out into the big world, because I loved the fluffy goodness and didn't want to invite fluff-haters or criticism. However, after I got more comfortable in my own skin, I knew that my writing had gotten much better since the beginning, so I was worried it might appear choppy. That being said, I hope they changes in my writing style that I show in this last chapter aren't too abrupt.

I hope you enjoyed it, and a big HUGE thank you to my wonderful betas. Colleen (sue_bridehead), Katie (Mourning Broken Angel), and Jess (rarity/forgetablelove) all tag-teamed this final chapter and I really really appreciate you all! *huggles to you*
This story archived at http://www.dracoandginny.com/viewstory.php?sid=4067