Not Quite Fate by Hearts Cadence
Past Featured StorySummary: *COMPLETE* Destiny knew better than to bring these two together. One man, determined to draw back an errant Malfoy, is not so wise, and Ginny soon finds herself caught up in events that are not quite Fate.
Categories: Long and Completed Characters: Draco Malfoy, Ginny Weasley, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Narcissa Malfoy, Other Characters, Pansy Parkinson, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape
Compliant with: None
Era: Hogwarts-era
Genres: Action, Drama, Romance
Warnings: None
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 37 Completed: Yes Word count: 222518 Read: 356971 Published: Jul 13, 2006 Updated: Aug 04, 2007
To Cross the Line by Hearts Cadence
Chapter 27 — To Cross the Line

Ginny sat alone in her booth at the Three Broomsticks with her back against the wall as she sipped at a butterbeer. Students swarmed the place, and Madam Rosmerta looked like she was having quite the time just keeping her head above water but was still managing somehow. Of course, the woman had years of experience dealing with school trips to Hogsmeade. Ginny just wouldn’t have wanted to be her the first time it happened.

She glanced at a clock above the bar and saw it was just a little past lunch. She had been here about two hours, never staying in the same place for long, always moving and always trying to find the most inconspicuous places to hole up in when she did stop. It had been almost a week since her last delivery to Draco, but Nott still seemed to stalk her. Sometimes she wondered if he really was part snake; she’d once heard snakes didn’t have to blink.

In any case, it was starting to push Ginny to her limits, and without anyone to vent to, she feared for her sanity. That’s why when she heard the surprise Hogsmeade visit announced (the professors had stopped publicly scheduling them in an effort to keep students safer from Death Eater plots and the like. Some wanted to terminate them all together, but McGonagall insisted on the importance of normalcy in times like these), she’d grabbed on to the opportunity to see Draco before the weekend.

She hadn’t counted on the prickly feeling of being watched to follow her all the way into the village, though, and Ginny would be damned if she led anyone to Draco after all this work keeping him hidden. She still desperately wanted to speak with him though, so she had been playing this duck and hide game all day.

For all she knew it might just be paranoia. After living under someone’s scrutiny for so long, Ginny suspected that the feeling of being watched was just ingrained in her now. She didn’t even think Nott came on these trips, so it was more than likely all in her head. But it never hurt anyone to err on the side of caution, so she’d played the game. Now, holed up in her corner, she felt a little more secure, the prickly feeling having faded some. She decided now was the time to take her chance, while the inn was still packed to capacity.

Setting down her drink, she flipped up her hood to hide her tell-tale Weasley-red hair and slipped into the masses, winding through them casually to avoid drawing attention. She made it outside into the bright sunshine and still freezing air without picking up the stalked feeling again, so glancing around quickly for eyes, she started off.

Even feeling more secure, she didn’t dare take a direct route to him. She wound around out of her way, weaving randomly in an out between houses and establishments until about a half hour later she ended up at Draco’s hut, coming from round the back. She leaned against it like she was taking a rest, all the time eyes searching every nook and cranny she could spot for signs of pursuers. She couldn’t detect anything amiss, though, so she turned and gave the door a soft tap.

For several seconds no response came, and Ginny felt a stab of fear, but then she heard a chair scrape across the wood floor and moments later, the door opened. The Draco standing in the doorway looked a mess. His hair went every which way, his body swaying slightly even with one hand clutched on the door, and he peered at her through overly bright eyes.

“Draco…? Are you okay? Did something happen?”

His eyebrows came together as if in concentration. “You’re early,” he concluded, louder than was probably smart.

Ginny blinked, then understanding dawned. “You’re drunk.” It occurred to her she’d been standing outside too long and pushed past him into the shack. She spun on him with her hands on her hips. “Where did you get alcohol from?”

He scowled and shut the door. Then he walked over to the bed and promptly collapsed onto his back. “Found it,” he mumbled.

“You found it? Here?”

“Mmmm. In the floor.”

Ginny massaged her temples. Just perfect. He was drunk and talking nonsense. “Draco, why are you drunk?”

He sat up suddenly, eyes even brighter than before and his mood suddenly angry. “Have you ever tried living all alone in a bloody shack?”

Ginny crossed her arms. “So your solution is getting so drunk you’ll probably do something stupid and give everything away? Is that your plan?”

He smirked. “Just the first part.”

She shook her head. “Oh, my sweet Merlin. I can’t believe this…”

“Oh, don’t start with your greater-than-thou shite. You’d do the same if someone shoved you in a bloody cell.”

“This was your idea! I told you it was mad!”

“My idea,” he agreed. “But you’re the reason.”

Ginny stared at him for a long time in shocked silence. Her face probably glowed red with anger, but she didn’t care. She had to grit her teeth when she said, “How dare you say that to me. You know how terrible I feel, and I never once asked you for anything.”

He gazed at her for such a long time Ginny took an unconscious step backwards, physically pushed back by the weight of it. Then he stood up and walked over with slow, measured steps. Something glinted in his eyes, and she didn’t realize she’d been retreating until her back hit the wall. He stopped so close she had to lift her head to see him.

“But you did,” he mumbled, brushing back a strand of her hair. “With those beautiful dark eyes and that damned na´ve smile, you begged me to help.”

Ginny’s temper helped her forgot her misgivings for a second. She snapped, “I never — ”

He pressed a finger over her lips. “When you looked at me like I wasn’t either a monster or a bag of Galleons, you were getting down on you knees and asking me to defend you. When you made me feel again, you demanded it.” He smiled ironically. “And the whole bloody time you were clueless about it.”

She couldn’t decide if he was speaking poetry to her, or if his words were only the ramblings of a drunkard. “You’re not making any sense.”

He didn’t seem to hear her. He outlined one side of her face with his fingertip, dragging it down her throat, over her collar bone, across her shoulder, eyes following the motion with intimidating intensity. “And I couldn’t say no,” he whispered. “Lord knows I tried, but I was just too weak, and you were too, too strong…”

Ginny could hear her heart thudding in her ears, her hands shaking. She took a deep breath and finally gathered enough of her wits back to snatch his hand, still stroking lightly at her arm. Holding it away, she forced eye-contact, making sure he heard her this time. “Draco, why don’t you just stop and think a minute about what you’re saying, and then — ”

“No,” he growled, and so fast she had no idea how he did it, he turned their grip around so that it was his fingers grasping her wrist. “I’m tired of bloody thinking.” Then he twisted her arm behind her so abruptly Ginny cried out, but more from surprise than pain. The move made her fall forward on his chest, Draco pressing her as tight as he could without hurting her.

All she could think to say was his name, “Draco,” and she hated herself for how shaky it came out. Why was she so afraid? Maybe he should have scared her, but she knew him, and she couldn’t bring herself to fear him. But something else, something she couldn’t name, terrified her.

“Ginny,” he breathed, closing his eyes. He was so close now she could smell the alcohol on him. Firewhiskey, she realized, knowing the smell well enough from the times her brothers managed to sneak some. No wonder he was so drunk.

She didn’t know what was happening, but she knew a line was about to be crossed, only this time there would be no going back to the way things were. Desperate, she tried again. “Draco, just think a minute. You’re drunk, you — ”

“I told you!” he snapped, forcing her tighter against him. “I’m sick of thinking! I’ve been in love with you too bloody long to wait another damned second for you to admit it too!”

Then he kissed her, and in that second before his lips crashed against hers, she thought dizzily, He said it. He crossed the line.

And it was consuming. Her entire world shrank down to just him, his mouth demanding submission, his tongue shoved into her mouth, the taste of firewhiskey, the hard lines of his body crushing her. In those moments of frustrated, savage passion Ginny forgot everything, forgot Harry and forgot that this was the wrong time, wrong place, wrong circumstance, wrong, wrong, wrong but so wickedly right. He let go of her arm to grab her waist, and her fingers wound into his hair, searching blindly for anything to hang onto.

Ginny’s lungs got so tight the pain made her whimper, and she had to yank away, gulping down huge swallows of air. She let her head fall back as her chest rapidly rose and fell, still pressed against Draco so that she could feel his own torso moving in tandem with hers. Seconds later Draco’s lips descended on her exposed throat, scorching a trail from her jaw to the hollow of her throat and eliciting a gasp. Oh, sweet bloody Merlin, she clutched at his back and arched into his touch, it shouldn’t feel this good.

He abandoned her neck for her lips again, but when he did a sudden whiff of the alcohol on his breath reached her nostrils with the same effect as a bucket of ice water, and reality bulldozed through the haze of sensation.

“Draco, stop.” His mouth muffled her words, so she flattened both her hands against his chest and shoved him back a step. “I said stop.”

They were both panting, and the look Draco gave her was so full of unabashed desire her resolve almost disintegrated right then. She forced herself to look away, wrapping her arms around her middle. “We can’t.”

“Why not?”

“You’re drunk!”

“Yeah?” He took a step closer, and Ginny backed up to the wall again. But she had nowhere to go when he stepped closer still. In a low voice he said, “I meant what I said earlier. And I know you feel the same. Don’t forget who kissed who first.”

Ginny flushed. “That…I didn’t think. It…it was…”

“A mistake?” Draco’s eyes darkened so fast Ginny actually felt a tiny stab of fright, especially when she saw his hands curl into fists. She knew it was the alcohol giving him such terrible mood swings, but that didn’t make the situation any less volatile. “Is that what you were going to say, Ginny?”

“I…”

He suddenly whirled away from her, hands fisting in his hair. “Why are you always acting like I’m such a bloody mistake?!”

Bolstered by the distance between them now, Ginny felt her own temper returning. “I act like that? You were the one who just blamed me for the mess you’re in now!”

He spun around. “Well I sure as hell wouldn’t be here otherwise, would I?”

Ginny stared at him a long time, trying to reign in her emotions enough to form a coherent thought. “You know something, Draco?” she finally said in a calm, cold voice. “I’ve never actually thought of you as a mistake…until right this moment.”

Then before he could think to stop her, she darted past him to the door and slammed out, never sparing a thought for caution or who might be watching. The streets of Hogsmeade blurred past her as she ran, and she didn’t slow even when she reached the castle and pushed through the heavy wooden doors into the Entrance Hall.

Just as her foot hit the first step of the great marble stairway, she heard someone call, “Hey, Weaslette!” Ginny almost lost her balance, and the sudden stop after such a long run made her stomach cramp as little black spots danced in front of her eyes. She clutched at the railing as her muddled brain tried to figure out who wanted her. When she saw Pansy Parkinson standing by the dungeons, she thought she should have known just from that stupid nickname “Weaselette.”

“What do you want?” she snarled.

Pansy sauntered over and stood on the next step up from Ginny so that she could look down her nose at the other girl. “I think you know what I want, little Gryff.”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “I’m not in the mood for this.” She started to climb the next step, but Pansy shot out her arm and grasped the rail, blocking Ginny’s ascent.

“Too bad for you, I don’t really care.”

“Parkinson, I’m warning you; get out of my way.”

Pansy gave an ugly sneer. “Oooh, I’m so scared of the midget Weasley!” She tossed her hair, smirking. “Look, I know you and yours stole Draco.”

More to herself than Pansy, Ginny muttered, “You have got to be kidding me….”

Pansy ignored that and leaned in close, pug-nose almost touching Ginny’s. “I know your precious Order found out somehow.” She crossed her arms. “Now you’ve got him, and I want him back.”

Ginny smiled sweetly. “Do you find yourself saying that to other girls often, Pans?”

Pansy’s eyes narrowed, and in the next instant she reeled back and slapped Ginny across the face. Ginny’s head snapped to the side, her cheek stinging where Pansy had hit. Slowly, she turned back to face the other girl. “Do that again, and I promise you’ll be spending the next few nights in the Hospital Wing.”

“Tell me where he is,” Pansy countered, “or a lot worse will happen to you.”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “I’m shaking.”

Pansy suddenly yanked up her sleeve, shoving the Dark Mark at the other girl’s face. “See this?” she hissed. “Got a nice good look? I have the entire power of the Dark Lord at my disposal. One wrong step, and you’ll wish I’d just given you a quick, clean Avada. So if I were you, little Weaselette, I would start cooperating.”

Ginny crossed her arms and leaned against the railing, unimpressed by Pansy’s Mark and her threats. She knew about the former long before now, and the latter were as empty as the Entrance Hall around them. Ginny didn’t know Voldemort personally, but somehow she doubted that he was in the habit of lending his “entire power” to spoiled teenage girls.

Pushing away from the rail again, Ginny said, “Right, well, I think I’ll take my chances,” and shoved past Pansy. She only gained a few steps before she felt the other girl grab her wrist, yanking her back around.

“You don’t leave until I say you can leave, Gryffindor slut,” Pansy snarled.

Ginny’s patience had reached its limit, and she decided to cut where it would hurt most. She gave a venomous smile and wrenched her hand free. Slut, am I? Fine.

“You’ve really got a thing for Draco, don’t you, dear? How long’s it been since he’s reciprocated? Puberty?” Ginny descended a step so she was just above her and whispered, “Shame. You don’t know what you’re missing. That scrawny boy you stole baby kisses from wasn’t anything compared to the man he is now. And I can tell you from experience that there’s nothing scrawny about him anymore…if you know what I mean.”

Pansy’s face reddened, her lips rimmed in white. “Liar,” she seethed.

“If that helps you sleep at night.” Ginny shrugged. “But if by some freak chance you do ever get another go at him, ask him to do that thing with his tongue. Mention me. He’ll know what you’re talking about.” She winked and turned to walk up the stairs, leaving Pansy trembling with rage below her.

She didn’t know the word Pansy shrieked then, but in the next instant she heard the girl cry out indignantly, and a half a second later a body slammed into Ginny’s back. She fell heavily to the stairs, her hands breaking the fall enough to save her head, but her knee wasn’t as fortunate. It cracked against the marble, shooting hot arrows of pain through her left leg. She hardly noticed it, though, because at the same time a wicked black beam crackling with crimson sparks exploded on the steps above her, right where she’d been standing.

Ginny stared wide-eyed at the spot. The polished marble was scorched black and smoking, shards of the hard material floating lazily through the air. She was finding it near impossible to breathe. At first she assumed it was from fear or shock, but then she realized that whoever had thrown her to the ground was still on top of her and weighed no small amount. As if on cue, her savior rolled away, and Ginny greedily refilled her lungs.

“What the hell were you thinking Parkinson?!” an angry voice demanded, not quite shouting but a far shot from asking politely. “You would’ve killed her!”

Ginny realized that it was the person who had saved her, a boy whose voice sounded incredibly familiar but which her numbed brain, still struggling with aftershock, couldn’t place right away.

“That was the point!” Pansy sounded outraged at his interference. “What’s it to you if the Weasley whore dies?”

And then Ginny’s brain finally caught up and identified the voice of her rescuer, but the answer was so unlikely that she didn’t believe it even then. Impossible. There’s no way… But when she pushed herself to her knees, biting the inside of her cheek when a sudden flare of pain reminded her of her less than graceful fall, she looked up and sure enough, there stood her “savior”…none other than Theodore Nott.

His attention was focused on Pansy, which was just as well as she could feel herself gaping like an idiot. His eyes shone fiercer than Ginny had ever seen them; he had always been a little frightening, but now he looked downright terrifying. Pansy, however, seemed oblivious to that.

“My skin, that’s what it is to me!” he returned sharply. “That was black magic, you idiot girl! They could have traced you as easy as if you were waving a bloody neon sign in their faces!”

Pansy flushed but refused to back down. “So? What’s that got to do with you? You should have let me have the bitch and left the consequences to me.”

Nott narrowed his eyes. “Are you really that dense? After you used that kind of magic, they would have investigated, found your Mark, and you can damn well bet they would start checking into the rest of the House too. Most of us have a rather hard-to-explain tattoo, and I’d really prefer to stay out of Azkaban, if it’s all the same to you.”

“But you didn’t hear what she said to me. She — ”

“I know what she said, Parkinson,” he cut her off. “And it’s no excuse. You let your emotions get to you like some Gryff. It’s pathetic.”

Her eyes narrowed. “You can’t talk to me like that.”

“I believe I just did. Get out of here. Down to the common room, whatever, just get out of my sight.”

Ginny watched fascinated as Pansy’s mouth opened and closed like some disoriented fish, then with a hmph!, she spun away and stomped down to the dungeons. When she was gone, Nott looked down at Ginny for the first time. He didn’t offer her a hand up, and he didn’t say a word.

Avoiding his eyes, Ginny pushed herself to her feet. Was she supposed to thank him now? He did save her life, but this was Nott.

He spoke before she could make up her mind. “Well. That was downright bloody stupid of you. Almost as idiotic as what Parkinson did.”

Ginny blinked. “Pardon?”

“You provoked her on purpose.”

“How would you know? You weren’t even here!”

“I saw everything, Weasley. How else do you think I stopped her in time?”

Ginny glared. “You were spying.”

“Call it what you want, it saved your life. That spell would have killed you, and not cleanly either.”

Ginny glanced back at the charred step, wisps of charcoal smoke still curling into the air above it, and she couldn’t say she doubted that in the least. She took a deep breath. This was going to be painful, but she had to do it. “Thank you. I — ”

“Save it,” he snapped. “I wasn’t lying when I said I did it for my own skin. I would have let your arse fry otherwise. You deserved it after being that thick.”

Ginny bristled. “Look, I’ve had the week from hell, no thanks to you, and today just topped it off, so excuse me for losing my temper!”

He grabbed a fistful of her robes and yanked her close, his nose mere centimeters from hers. “Listen close, Weasley darling,” he hissed. “Parkinson may be a half-wit, but she’s a half-wit with power, and that makes her twice as dangerous. So I don’t care if you just found out your whole bloody family burned alive in your own house along with your favorite bloody teddy, you don’t provoke her!” He gave Ginny a hard shake. “Understood?”

Ginny could feel her hands shaking and clenched them into fists. “I thought you didn’t care about me. You just did it to save yourself, remember?”

“Yes, and if you go and get yourself killed the next time I’m not around, I’ll be just as screwed, won’t I?” He shoved her away in disgust. “In the future, do control that temper.” He made to leave, then paused and turned back. “Oh, and I would be careful from now on. You just made yourself one hell of an enemy.”

- - - - -

Draco stared at the contents of the table. Two slices of bread, an apple, a handful of carrots, some dried beef. All the food he had left. It would have been all right since today was the day Ginny was supposed to come with more…but that was before he’d made such a botch of things earlier in the week.

He couldn’t believe he’d said those things, done those things. To be honest with himself, he couldn’t remember everything: short periods of time showed up as little more than fuzzy, disjointed pictures, but he recalled enough to know he would be lucky not to starve to death.

He lifted up his hand and turned the bracelet around that she had given him for Christmas. She would probably want this back now, and of course he would return it if she asked, but he wanted sorely to keep it. It gave him comfort when the solitude became too much. It had a sort of…presence to it.

Though not quite enough to save him from that drunken disaster of an encounter. He sighed as he looked at the place in the floor where the remaining bottle of firewhiskey stayed hidden. It had just gotten to be too much. He was going crazy not talking to anyone for days at a time, nothing productive to distract him but to doodle in that stupid journal, and once he could have sworn he heard someone prowling around outside. He decided later it was just his imagination, though, and that was when it got to be too much, and he unstopped that first bottle.

It was supposed to be safe, he told himself for the hundredth time. He wasn’t supposed to have seen her again for days, but for whatever reason, she came early this week. And it had ruined everything.

His stomach growled loudly to remind him he never ate breakfast that morning. Resigned, he picked up a slice of bread, spread on the few traces of butter he had left, and bit down. He would just have to hope that Ginny’s conscious would win over her personal wishes and force her to come with more food. Water, too. Even that was running low, and he certainly wouldn’t turn down a good tall glass of pumpkin juice either. So, that prayer in mind, Draco sat down to wait.

It was a long day. He watched the beam of curtain-filtered sunlight creep across the floor in sync with the sun’s trek through the sky, his heart and hopes sinking every time it gained another inch and no knock came at his door. The beam was all the way across the floor and climbing up the wall before one ever came, and when it did, Draco was so surprised by the sound he just stared for a second. Then he jumped out of the chair so fast it fell over as he ran to the door to open it.

“Ginny,” he breathed when he saw her, all pale freckles and flaming hair in the dusk’s weak light. How could he have screwed up so badly? Drunk or no, what could he have been thinking to risk her?

“Hi,” she returned stiffly, then thrust a bulging sack at him. “Here.”

He took it, and she turned to leave. “Wait, Ginny!” He ran after her and grabbed her wrist. She looked back, eyes narrowed dangerously, but he didn’t back down. “Please…just, just let me explain, yeah? Just come in a minute.”

“There’s nothing to explain.” Her voice sounded flat. He recognized it as the tone he himself used to hide his feelings, and thought, Oh, Ginny, what’ve I done to you? “You made your real feelings perfectly clear a few days ago.”

He shook his head violently. “Those weren’t my true feelings. Well…I mean, not everything, only…” he trailed off in frustration, dropping her wrist to run his hands through his hair. “Just please let me talk to you. Come in. Ginny, I’m begging you, and Malfoy’s don’t beg.”

She considered him a silent moment, then without so much as a change of expression, she brushed past him back into the little shack. He exhaled softly, closing his eyes as she went by him. He followed her and closed the door behind them, finding Ginny sitting ram-rod straight in the chair he hadn’t overturned in his haste.

He gazed at her a minute, then walked over to the chair lying on the floor, righting it and taking a seat. He propped his elbows on the table and gave a hollow laugh. It sounded more like a sob. “You know, I had everything I was going to say to you all planned out,” he confessed. “I rehearsed it a thousand times. Now all I can remember is, ‘I’m sorry.’”

“It’s a start,” Ginny replied neutrally.

At least her words, if not her attitude, gave him some hope. “I shouldn’t have been so weak. I shouldn’t have gotten drunk.”

“It’s not being drunk I care about, though I’m not particularly fond of that side of you. It’s what you said to me. Do you even remember?”

He let his eyes fall shut. “I didn’t mean it, Ginny. I just….”

“Then why did you say it? It’s not like you were in any condition to strategize some clever tactic, so I’m assuming that means it was the truth coming out.”

“Ginny, no, I just — ”

“You just. Ever notice that ‘you just’ a lot lately?”

“I said something else, too, if you remember,” he reminded her quietly. “Before I kissed you.”

For the first time he saw a flicker of life in her dark eyes, but she looked away quickly. “I remember. But honestly Draco, I’m so confused I don’t know which to believe. It can only be one or the other.”

“I never meant to blame you,” he insisted, feeling desperation crawl over him. “I don’t blame you, never have. Everything I’ve done has been my decision, and — ”

“Exactly!” she cried, jumping up from the chair to pace. “It was your decision! I never even knew about it until after, so I certainly didn’t do any begging with my eyes or whatever you said.”

Draco slouched down, overwhelmed. How could he explain what he’d meant? “I didn’t…I didn’t mean it that way. You misunderstood.”

“So explain it to me. Why did you say those things if you didn’t mean it? Because quite frankly, I’ve tried and tried, and I can’t see any other explanation for it.”

“I just wanted to hurt you!” he suddenly let out, slapping his hands against the table top. He took a heavy breath. “I wanted to hurt you like you were hurting me, and I knew that would do it.”

She never blinked. “You wanted to hurt me.”

“It was selfish,” he mumbled, slowly relaxing back into the chair, refusing to look at her. He feared what he might see on her face. “But I wanted to get back at you somehow.”

She stopped pacing and stood with her arms crossed, staring down at him. It felt weird, not looking down on her for once. “Get back at me? What did I ever do to hurt you?”

Draco felt an itch of irritation and got to his feet. “What did you do? You played with me, Ginny! You kissed me and then you ran, and the next day you wouldn’t say a damn word about it!” He paused to take a calming breath, then more quietly: “You know how I feel about you now. Knowing that, do you have any idea what I’ve been through since that day in the treehouse? The mental torture I’ve put myself through every second, wondering what it meant?”

For the first time, he saw a hint of doubt reflected in her dark eyes. “I….”

“You didn’t think,” he finished tiredly, knowing what she would say. “Well, guess what? Neither did I.”

Ginny rubbed at her arms, eyes on the floor, on the walls, on the ceiling — anywhere but on him. She shuffled her feet around then walked back to the table and sat balanced on the edge of her seat. She traced the knots and whirls in the wood of the table. “You should have said something.”

“When it was so obvious you didn’t want me to?”

Ginny’s fist suddenly crashed down on the table, tears standing in her eyes. “Damn it, I don’t know what I want Draco! I don’t know what I should do, or what I should think, and I just feel so bloody guilty!”

Draco hesitated, then making up his mind, neared her and took her hand, pulling her to her feet. She rose without resistance, and Draco pulled her against his chest, terrified all the while that she would lash out again, but she let him do that too. She kept her arms folded up between them, her head lying just above his heart as the tears started falling.

“What do you have to be guilty over?” he murmured. He wanted so badly to brush a kiss on the top of her head, but he didn’t dare. That would be going too far too soon.

She didn’t say anything for awhile, just shook lightly in his arms, and he could feel the hot dampness of her tears going through his shirt. Finally, she whispered, “You’re his enemy.”

For a minute he didn’t understand, but then it all fell into place and his arms tensed. He forced them to relax, not wanting Ginny to catch on, but he felt a wave of annoyance nonetheless. Potter. It always came back to bloody Potter.

He thought a long time about what to say before he finally decided to ask the question whose answer he feared most. “Do you still love him?”

She turned her head so that her other cheek rested on his chest, glossy eyes fixed on the curtained window. “I don’t know.”

He swallowed, working up the courage for his next question. “What about me?”

He felt her tense, all her muscles bunching up beneath his hands. Then, very softly, “I…don’t know.” She twisted away then, pulling out of his arms and putting her back to him. She hugged herself. “I’m sorry, Draco. I’m sorry I kissed you, and I’m sorry I can’t give you any answers, and I’m just…sorry for everything.”

He walked up to her and rubbed his hands down her arms, but she stepped out from beneath his hands.

“Draco, please…no.”

He swallowed his disappointment and said, “Don’t apologize. I’m the one who’s supposed to be begging forgiveness, remember?” He tried to muster up a wry grin, weak as it was.

She laughed a choked, sad laugh. “Yeah, how did that get turned around?”

“Look,” he began, suddenly serious, “we both acted without thinking. It’s in the past. As for what to do about it now…” he trailed off a second, rubbing a hand at the back of his head. “I don’t know what to tell you if you don’t know how you feel. That’s something you’re going to have to decide on your own.”

“I’ve been trying. I’ve been obsessing over it night and day it seems like, but I just can’t…I can’t sort it all out.”

Draco gave a grim smile. “I’m not really the right person to give advice on emotions. But I’ll say this. I don’t know how Potter feels, but I know that if you were ever mine…I would never let you go.”

She tensed, lowering her eyes. “He only left me here to protect me.”

Draco stepped closer. “And that’s the difference between me and him. I know better than to treat you like porcelain, Ginny. I know to let you live.”

She stared at his chest, crossing her arms like a barrier between them. “He only does it because he’s afraid for me.”

“You don’t think I’m scared? Every time you walk out that door and go back to Pierce and Nott and all the rest, I’m terrified for you. But I trust you too. We both know you’re anything but weak, and if Potter can’t see that too, he’s a damned fool. And he doesn’t deserve you.”

Her eyes met his then. “You do?”

He laughed dryly at that. “Hell no. But at least I wouldn’t try to hide you away in some corner where nothing could touch you. I would never compromise your freedom; I know better than anyone how important that is. Freedom’s why I’m not cowering at the Dark Lord’s feet right now, and it’s why I’m here. Not because of you. Blaming you was a stupid lie, and I’m…I’m sorry for that.”

He reached out and tucked a piece of her hair behind her ear then. “And Ginny,” he said quietly, “more than all of that, I’m ridiculously in love with you. If you think Potter can match that, fine. But I sure as hell don’t see how anyone can.”

- - - - -

A/N — I know, I know. That was fluff at its utmost, but what can I say? I like it : ) Hopefully no one has a tummy ache from the sugar overload haha.

Thanks so much for reading, and especially for reviewing! It makes me smile : )
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