Notes on Falling Out of Love by fallingskyes
Past Featured StorySummary: It's hard to learn how to live without that one person you thought would be in your life forever. But Ginny Weasley had always been a quick study, and there are always certain grey-eyed boys to help speed up the learning process...
Categories: Works in Progress Characters: Draco Malfoy, Ginny Weasley, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley
Compliant with: All but epilogue
Era: Future AU
Genres: Humor, Romance
Warnings: None
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 19 Completed: No Word count: 36178 Read: 94267 Published: May 15, 2008 Updated: Dec 16, 2010
Story Notes:
Voted "Sweetest Fic" in the 2008 dgficexchange on LiveJournal.

Thank you to my absolutely fabulous beta, eternalhope08, for dealing with all my freak outs, break downs and general hysteria while writing this fic, in addition to, you know, actually editing it. This is only part of the reason that she is the Shakespeare to my Homer. Love*

Also, all my information on Beedle the Bard came from here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1000179911. Part of my prompt was to include some reference to the Tales of Beedle the Bard in a situation completely unrelated to children, and so I tried to include at least some sort of parallel in each Chapter, in addition to an overall allegory. See if you can catch them!

Enjoy!

1. Commencement at Dusk by fallingskyes

2. Cry. by fallingskyes

3. Read a Book that You Love. by fallingskyes

4. Make Mud Pies. Stick Pins in Voodoo Dolls. by fallingskyes

5. Uncover a Deep, Dark Secret. by fallingskyes

6. Eat Ice Cream. by fallingskyes

7. Take a Long Walk on a Cold Winter Night. by fallingskyes

8. Stay Up All Night Gossiping With Your Friends. by fallingskyes

9. Dance. Jump in Puddles. by fallingskyes

10. Count the Stars. by fallingskyes

11. Bake Cookies. by fallingskyes

12. Catch Snowflakes on your Tongue. by fallingskyes

13. Lie in the Grass. by fallingskyes

14. Catch Up with an Old Friend. by fallingskyes

15. Paint with Your Fingers. by fallingskyes

16. Fly For So Long You Can No Longer Feel Your Arse. by fallingskyes

17. Go Skinny-Dipping. Soak Up the Sun. by fallingskyes

18. And Finally... by fallingskyes

19. ...Find What Little Courage You Have... by fallingskyes

Commencement at Dusk by fallingskyes
There wasn’t much that Ginny remembered about the day that Harry broke up with her. The memories swirled in her mind like a kaleidoscope of colors- all blurred shapes and jagged fragments, only a chaotic patchwork of what really happened.

She remembered that the sky had been a clear hard cerulean, stretching endlessly overhead in a smooth, unbroken expanse. She remembered that she had stumbled as she stepped off the curb, and that a puddle of icy slush had spilled inside her shoe and seeped into her sock, cold, uncomfortable. She remembered that a tiny dog had barked at her as she climbed the stairs to her flat, a puffy white ball of fluff emitting high pitched squeaks, its mismatched ears sticking out at odd angles.

She also remembered that the weather had been flawless on that day. In the books that Ginny read late at night, curled up under the covers with the dim light flickering overhead, the weather was always dreary, wet, miserable on the day something that monumentally horrible happened. The skies were meant to open up and pour sadness upon the broken earth; the wind was meant to rattle the glass windows, bitterly piercing fragile skin and soul; the lightning was meant to scream and illuminate the utter hopelessness of the world. So of course on the day that Harry broke up with her, the sunlight glinted off of the pure white snow in crystalline winks, the bright sky was vibrant and unmarred and infinity, and the air smelled of the sweet promise of spring.

He had done it gently, regretfully, softly. Nicely. There was no other way to describe it. Or him. Harry Potter was a Nice Boy. It was the one thing he entirely, wholeheartedly. Take away the hero, take away the fame and the loyalty and the courage- strip everything one possibly could from his character- and underneath it all he would still be a Nice Boy.

Ginny remembered this. She remembered how his eyes had earnestly pleaded without words, how his shoulders had slumped with apology, how one strand of jet black hair- the exact same shade as an overturned bottle of spilled ink- had lay across his forehead, reluctant and relived at the same time.

What she didn’t remember was what he said. Or why he was breaking up with her. Every word that came out of his mouth was silent, incomprehensible, falling upon deaf ears- unable to be heard over the final, empty thud of grief inside her and the tiny crash as Ginny’s heart shattered into a thousand miniscule pieces of heartbreak. The shards rained down inside her, cutting against the pain and resentment, showering upon her organs. One of them landed on her liver.

She didn’t remember what she said back, or how she had even left him. For all she knew, she had shook his hand, tipped him two Sickles for the favor and whistled “God Save the Queen” as she walked away. Her next conscious moment was when she was standing in the hallway outside her flat, fumbling in her pockets for the key and unlocking the drab, gray door with trembling fingers.

Her expression was blank and her eyes were dry as she stalked into the kitchen, sinking gracefully into a chair. She stared at the far wall, immobile, keys still clutched tightly in her palm. Over her shoulder, a sparrow chirruped cheerfully as it hopped across the windowsill, reveling in the break from the cold winter weather. Sunlight streamed through the window, mockingly beautiful.

She remained at the kitchen table for the rest of the day, never once shedding a tear or even moving a muscle. Her fingers were curled around the metal keys, gripping onto them tightly until her hand grew numb, losing all feeling. Ginny didn’t notice.

She didn’t move until Hermione came home from work, bursting into kitchen and calling for her flat mate. Ginny turned her head to look at her, strained neck protesting from being held in one position for so long, and then at a single “Oh Ginny” from Hermione, she burst into tears, crying huge gut-wrenching sobs into her arms as the sunlight faded from the kitchen window and the sky melted to a brilliant red-gold.
________________________________________

Ginny ducked her head down, silently contemplating the chipped scarlet nail polish on her pinky toe. Beside her, Hermione was leafing through one of her unbearably large and ancient textbooks that took up half the loft, knowing that Ginny needed the quiet but keeping close by, should she require a shoulder to cry on. Ginny tugged at a loose thread from the quilt on Hermione’s bed, winding it tighter and tighter around her finger until it finally pulled free from the fabric in a satisfying snap.

“Is there such a thing as too much perfection?”

At first, Ginny wasn’t sure that Hermione had heard her, but the sound of shifting pages ceased and she knew the other girl was listening.

“It worked out so well between us, didn’t it? I mean, I was his best friend’s little sister, he was the boy I had loved since forever. Seriously, I pined after him for so long, ignored and invisible, and then finally he saw me and… It was like a fairytale.”

Hermione nodded solemnly, her soft gaze trained on Ginny’s face. Outside, wisps of cotton clouds drifted across a dark velvet sky, obscuring the silver moon.

“But the thing is,” Ginny went on, slowly, “fairytales aren’t real. Life isn’t meant to be that easy, that perfect- put on a cloak to evade Death, help your neighbor to lift a curse, cut out your heart-” she took a deep, shuddering breath- “to fall out of love. Fairytales always skip over the hard parts. But if we made it through unbroken and flawless, then we wouldn’t have lived, not really.” Her voice broke. “But I suppose none of that matters anymore. We were too perfect, and now we’re nothing.”

“Oh Ginny,” Hermione leaned over and wrapped a welcoming arm around Ginny’s thin shoulders, enfolding her into an embrace, “it’ll be okay, really. You’ll get over him. You just need time.”

Ginny thought of the aching feeling inside her chest, like someone was reaching up and tugging the scattered shards of glass-heart down into her gut. She thought of the pointy one sticking out of her liver. “How the hell does one get over a guy like that?”

The other witch was silent for a moment, contemplating. “Cry,” she started simply, “read a book that you love. Make mud pies. Stick pins in voodoo dolls.”

Ginny looked at Hermione, at her friend who somehow always knew the answers. “Uncover a deep, dark secret,” Hermione went on, “Eat ice cream. Take a long walk on a cold winter night. Stay up all night gossiping with your friends.”

There was a pause. Ginny closed her eyes, tilting her head back against the wall. “Dance,” she whispered, barely audible as she tucked a strand of vibrant hair behind her ear.

Hermione sighed, and leaned into Ginny. “Jump in puddles. Count the stars.”

“Bake cookies. Catch snowflakes on your tongue. Lie in the grass.”

“Catch up with an old friend. Paint with your fingers.”

Ginny could feel the edges of her mouth turning up. “Fly for so long you can no longer feel your arse.”

“Go skinny-dipping. Soak up the sun.”

The two girls smiled, falling into an easy silence. “We should write a book,” said Ginny, shifting slightly on the mattress, “A step by step plan to falling out of love. We’d make millions.” She laughed quietly, just a little.

Hermione wrinkled her brow, thinking. “Actually,” she said slowly, “I think we’re forgetting a step.”

Ginny looked up, surprised at the other girl’s serious tone. “Um, we are?” she asked, not aware that there was actually meant to be a best-selling book on the way.

“Yes,” said Hermione, almost sternly. She pulled back a little, looking Ginny in the eye. “I think that after that, after all of it and after the scars have faded a little and it doesn’t hurt so much to think of him anymore, you need to do one more thing.”

“And that would be…?”

“You need to fall in love again.”

Ginny didn’t say anything, instead pulling her hair out of its messy bun and feeling the long red locks tumble down her shoulders. She glanced up at the window, where small colorless flakes had began to drift past the glass panes, spiraling from the heavens down, down, down onto the cold, hard ground.
Cry. by fallingskyes
Author's Notes:
All potions ingredients came from the fabulous and ever-helpful Harry Potter Lexicon.
Cry.

Later that night, Ginny lay awake in her bed, feeling that ache in her chest. She had felt this cutting feeling inside years ago, when Sirius died, and then again when others had followed- Dumbledore and Colin and Lupin and Tonks and Fred. Fred. She wondered what he would do to Harry if he were here and found out that he had broken his little sister’s heart. Shove him down a toilet perhaps. Well, no, that was really more George’s style. Fred had always been more temperate, subtle. Or at least as subtle as you could be when you were a Fred and George.

Well, whatever Fred would’ve done, she would never know. He was gone, lost, never coming back, just like how Harry was now never coming back. She tried not to think about it, tried not to think about the way it felt to tuck her hand within Harry’s larger one, the way his chest would rise and fall against her when she leaned in for an embrace, the steady thud of his heart next to her own, the feeling of content and safety she felt by simply being near him.

And that was all it took. Before she knew it, Ginny had big fat tears rolling down her cheeks and her body was shaking as she tried to suppress the heaving sobs that were rising inside her throat. She hated herself for it, hated to be the kind of girl who would cry over a boy. But try as she might, she couldn’t hold back the barrage of sobs that were breaking against her chest, and before long her pillow was sopping wet from salty tears.

Ginny buried her head beneath the covers, attempting to quiet her crying, knowing that Hermione could hear from her room next door. Trying to control her breathing, she turned over, squeezed her eyes shut and began to recite potions ingredients to herself. Shrinking Potion: chopped daisy roots, skinned shrivelfig, sliced caterpillar, one rat spleen, a dash of leech juice. Draught of Living Death: asphodel in an infusion of wormwood, valerian roots, sopophorous bean… She did not want to think about Harry. It didn’t stop the tears completely, but at least it kept her sobbing from resurfacing.

With thoughts of Draughts and Potions and Solutions, her mind slowly calmed and faded to a blank nothingness. Her cheeks were still wet from the heavy flood of tears- the proof of her pain- but she squeezed her eyes shut tight, concentrating hard on mantras of fluxweed shavings and powdered bicorn horns.

And so, for one of the few times in her short life, Ginny Weasley cried herself to sleep.
Read a Book that You Love. by fallingskyes
Author's Notes:
Just a quick side note: Pablo Neruda is, I think, the only writer that I actually enjoyed reading in the two years that I took Spanish Lit. (Actually no that's a lie- Garcia Lorca was pretty sweet too. But that is beside the point.) So if you've never read anything by Pablo Neruda, go. Now. Read. Well actually, first read this chappie, leave a lovely little happy review telling me how much you adore me, and then go read.

...Yeah, something like that.

Enjoy!
Read a book that you love.

As Ginny wandered around the bookstore that day, late afternoon sunlight streamed through the glass-ceiling overhead, the cheery sunbeams catching flecks of gold in her caramel eyes and mocking every dark, depressing thought that popped into her head. It had been several days since Harry had ended it (who was she kidding- it was eleven days, six hours and about thirty-eight minutes, but who was counting?) and Ginny had finally gotten her life back to some semblance of normalcy. She realized, after she had come out of her reverie, that she had missed poor Teddy’s fourth birthday and now she owed him a plethora of gifts to make up for their belatedness. Knowing that he adored books, she was now wandering around the children’s section of some large Muggle bookstore in downtown London, looking for something that he might enjoy.

She really had no idea why, but Ginny had found herself more and more fascinated with Muggle Literature. It began back in her Hogwarts days, in Muggle Studies when they had read some of Bryon’s poems, and since then it had festered and evolved into an obsession. Homer, Brontë, Cummings, Neruda- even a little bit of Tolstoy- were now permanent tenants in Ginny’s room, piled on her nightstand, shoved under her bed and (occasionally) sitting on her bookshelf. And with so many amazing writers and books and stories out there, Ginny was making sure that she passed her obsession on to all her little nephews and nieces, the adopted, the blood related, and all of them in-between.

As she squinted at the selection of brightly colored picture books, a strange stench wafted across her path, causing Ginny to cough and wrinkle her nose. Waving her hand in front her face, she turned her head, wondering if someone had set off a dungbomb in the Muggle shopping mall. A little ways down the aisle was a large woman in an exuberantly floral-patterned jacket- it looked like a garden had thrown up on the fabric. Her pungent perfume stretched out its long, wiry tendrils and crept through the air, wrapping around Ginny’s skin and causing her to gag slightly. Only something dead and rotting could produce that stench, although in largely smaller quantities the smell might’ve been vaguely recognizable as some sort of flower- roses, perhaps. “Seriously, lady,” Ginny muttered, trying to breathe through her mouth, “less is more. There is a reason that’s a cliché.”

Desperate to get away from the lady-who-must-have-a-trail-of-unconscious-people-behind-her, Ginny sidled away from the children’s sections and into adult literature, searching for something to keep her occupied at night after work.

Her eyes fell on a copy of Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice. Unbidden, a snort escaped from her lips. Yea, right. “That book gives females unrealistic expectations about love,” she muttered, shooting the paperback dark looks. It stared back unflinchingly, Elizabeth Bennet glancing back over her shoulder, frozen in time, her blue eyes peering out from a different era- a different world.

“Never had you pegged for the cynical type, Weasley,” came a drawling voice from behind her.

A flash of icy blond- so pale it was almost white- flittered out of the corner of her eye and Ginny froze, icy vines of dread curling down her spine. Oh please, not him, she begged silently, desperately scouring her memory for anyone else she knew with that color hair. Oh Merlin, anyone but him. Please please please please please don’t let it be-

Draco Malfoy stepped into her line of vision, that insufferable ever-present smirk stretched thinly across his pale features. Ginny didn’t even make an effort to keep the look of disgust off her face. Malfoy had been paired as Ron’s partner on the Ministry’s Auror force by some sort of evil, vindictive superior, and since then he had been a constant and ever-irritable presence in all of the Weasleys’ lives. Ron, of all people, was actually the one who got along best with the obnoxious ferret. However, Ginny was still having some trouble looking past the Git in Draco Malfoy

“Now is not the time, Malfoy,” she replied curtly, turning away from him. “Not that it is ever the time.”

“Come on, Weasley, is that any way to treat your favorite brother’s partner?” His chrome eyes glinted.

“Go away.”

Malfoy raised a perfectly shaped eyebrow. “Well well, aren’t we testy today.”

Merlin, he irked her. “It’s not like you aren’t that everyday, Ferret.” She spun around abruptly and stalked away, missing startled look that flashed across his features. But the surprise was fleeting, and behind her back, Draco Malfoy’s expression hardened.

“What’s wrong, Weaselette, did Potter finally dump you or something?” he called out tauntingly.

Ginny’s shoulders stiffened and she whirled back around, sharp and biting retort on the tip of her tongue. But when she came face to face with him, her mind faltered and went blank. She just stood there- pile of picture books in her hand, mouth open and gaping like a flobberworm. And try as she might to hide it, she knew that he could see the hurt look in her eyes. Ginny flushed, ducking her head down and studying and the tops of her feet.

Malfoy was momentarily taken aback by her reaction, but in an uncharacteristic show of tact, he remained silent, biting back the scathing remarks that were rising in his throat as he looked at the forlorn witch in front of him, trying so hard not to let her wounds show. He raised a slim hand as if to pat her on the shoulder, but quickly pulled it back before she could notice. “I’m sorry,” he muttered stiffly, eyes downcast, “I didn’t know.”

Ginny was mildly speechless. Draco Malfoy actually acting somewhat decent? Her brain fizzed loudly with disbelief. Hey Voldemort, having fun skating down there in Hell?

She didn’t want to look up, didn’t want to see the scorn- or worse, pity- etched across his face, but her eyes refused to obey and dragged her gaze upwards. For the first time in her life, Ginny saw Draco Malfoy without a look of contempt on his face. There was no pity there either, only a vague awkwardness behind a curtain of forced indifference. He looked…human, almost. So she decided to act humanly in return.

“Thanks, Malfoy.”
Make Mud Pies. Stick Pins in Voodoo Dolls. by fallingskyes
Make mud pies. Stick pins in voodoo dolls.

“Aunt Ginny, Aunt Ginny!”

Ginny raised a exhausted hand and waved wearily at the flood of small children barring her way to the front door. Maybe coming here after a six hour practice with the Harpies wasn’t the best of ideas, but Ginny hadn’t seen her family for nearly a month, and she hated missing the weekly Sunday dinners at the Burrow.

A tired smile stretched across her face at the sight of her two nieces, adopted nephew and- were those Katie Wood’s twin boys? They were all slathered brown after playing outside all day. May had rolled in with an entourage of early spring showers, and the front lawn of the Burrow was a virtual wonderland of grass stains and mud puddles. She suppressed a laugh at the sight of Victoire Weasley encrusted with dirt and grinning cheekily as she shoved a wad of mud into Teddy’s face. That little girl looked like a tiny replica of Fleur with her long blonde hair and glowing skin like porcelain, but not a single speck of lady-like propriety resided in her little body. Ginny’s sister-in-law clung desperately to the hope that this tomboyishness was merely a stage- “she is ‘oung, zair is still time!” Ginny was of the opinion that Fleur should simply bow to the inevitable and begin investing in Quidditch jerseys.

She knelt down to greet the hoard of muddy children who skidded to a sloppy stop right at her feet, spraying water into the air and splattering mud onto Ginny’s robes. She sighed. Ah, well, that’s what cleaning charms were for, right?

“Look Aunt Ginny!” exclaimed one of the Wood twins, holding up a grubby, white worm a third of an inch away from the tip of Ginny’s nose.

She stared cross-eyed down at the poor little bug. “Wow, Ollie, that’s quite…impressive. Almost like the blind monster worm from ‘The Fountain of Fair Fortune,’” she managed to sputter out, smiling awkwardly as she bent her head back, trying to get away from the writhing worm. The little boy beamed back at her.

“Aunt Ginny! Here! Pay attention to me!” came a chorus of other impatient voices, all jockeying for her attention. Ginny bit back a grin.

After receiving five extremely squishy hugs and a set of ten new brown handprints on her robes, Ginny wandered inside the house, the sounds of their laughter mingling in the spring air behind her. She smiled, quietly, to herself. The Burrow was beginning to fill with children again.

________________________________________

Later that night, Ginny sat on the floor of her old room, leaning a drooping head against the side of the old bed. Tired of the awkwardness between her and Harry, and obvious stilted conversation of her family at dinner, she had volunteered to put the children to bed while the rest of the adults cleaned up downstairs. It wasn’t the first time she had seen Harry again- with him practically a Weasley, she had run into him at the Burrow only two days after their breakup- but that didn’t make it any less awkward. Her family was trying hard to be normal about it but it was obvious things were more tense when they were both around.

Teddy and the Wood twins that Molly was babysitting for the week were already fast asleep in Percy’s old room. (Katie and Oliver were off on some sort of romantic vacation at an exotic somewhere, though the Puddlemore United team was neck deep in heavy training for the playoffs. Who knew that Oliver Wood could be swayed away from playing Quidditch simply by the bat of an eyelash from his wife?) The two girls, however, were proving much more difficult to tuck into bed.

“Can’t we just play for ten minutes, Aunt Ginny? Pleeasseeee?” Victoire was barely three years old, but she was better at wheedling and whining than Ginny ever was in her entire life. Molly, Percy’s daughter, didn’t say anything but bobbed her head furiously in agreement, eyes wide and fist stuck firmly in her mouth.

Ginny was too tired to protest. “Fine. What would you like to do?”

“Paper dolls!” Victoire squealed, pulling out a large carton box from the corner of the room. Percy’s wife Audrey was a Muggle-born and had introduced the concept of paper dolls into the Weasley family, something that Ginny was sure she now regretted, as Victoire and Molly would no longer as much as glance in another toy’s direction.

As Victoire happily began dressing her chosen dolls in "their" favorite clothes (Ginny couldn’t help but note that they were all boys and that they were all wearing Quidditch uniforms), Molly tugged Ginny’s sleeve and pointed to some blank sheets of parchment. “Boy,” she said simply, removing a sticky fist briefly. Ginny understood and began tracing the shape of a little man into the parchment.

After cutting out the basic shape, Ginny pulled out her wand and began performing various little charms to color and animate the doll. “What color should I make his hair?” she asked as she added tiny little fingernails at the tips of his fingers.

“Green.” It was her favorite color.

“Molly,” Victoire interjected, looking annoyed at her cousin, “you can’t have a doll with green hair. He would look weird. Unless,” she added on, looking skeptical, “you wanted to make him Teddy.”

Molly shook her head vehemently, arm waving wildly in the air as her fist moved with her mouth. “No Teddy. Green.” Her bottom lip began to tremble. Victoire crossed her eyes at her little cousin, mouthing Teddy! menacingly. Molly began to wail and she shoved her fist further into her mouth.

“Victoire, stop scaring your cousin!” scolded Ginny, scooping up Molly and rocking her back and forth, a bit worried that she was about to choke on her own fingers. “Here honey, how about I make his eyes green?” The two-year-old sniffed, but nodded mutely.

“And make his hair black,” instructed Victoire bossily from her spot on the threadbare carpet, “we don’t have enough black haired dolls.”

Ginny shot Victoire a look but complied and performed the spells, Molly clinging to her sleeve the entire time. The two of them looked down at the green eyed doll with a mop of jet black hair on its head. Ginny’s brow furrowed.

“Shirt,” commanded Molly, removing a soggy green sweater-shaped parchment from her mouth and waving it in her face.

Ginny complied, but she couldn’t help but jab her needle a tidbit too violently into the little paper doll’s body as she sewed on the bottle green shirt.
Uncover a Deep, Dark Secret. by fallingskyes
Author's Notes:
This segment was added practically at the last minute right before I sent in my fic to the dgficexchange, but I think it definitely ended up being one of my favorite parts out of this whole thing.
Uncover a deep, dark secret.

Ginny sat bleary-eyed in Ron’s kitchen as he scampered from one side of his flat to the other, searching frantically for a clean shirt. It was another Sunday afternoon and they were planning to head over to the Burrow together, but Ron was having a little trouble getting ready. Ginny doubted that he would be able to find any shirt- let alone a clean one- in the sty that her dear brother insisted was an apartment. After so many years of being pampered by their mother, and then by the Hogwarts house elves, Ron was having a little trouble adjusting.

“Damn shirt, I saw it just- Ow!”

Ginny stifled a laugh as Ron stubbed his toe on the corner of a coffee table and toppled headfirst into the degradation that he called a couch. There came the sharp crack of someone Apparating into the hallway and then a series of quick raps on the door.

“Here you goof bag, I think I see something resembling a shirt from over there behind Pigwidgeon’s cage. I’ll get the door, and you try to get ready before Mum shows up and castrates us for being late,” Ginny called, getting to her feet and reaching for the doorknob.

She pulled the door open and felt the smile on her face wither and die. “Oh joy, raptures and the Cackling Stump, it’s the Ferret,” she said flatly, turning around and letting Draco Malfoy show himself in.

“Why yes, it is so pleasant to see you Weasley! Come in? Well, of course, you needn’t be too kind,” he exclaimed, shutting the door behind him.

Ginny rolled her eyes and ignored him.

“You know, I didn’t think that is was possible for a female to be castrated,” continued Malfoy, refusing to acknowledge the fact that Ginny was pretending not to hear him, “although I did always have my doubts about you and your gender. However-”

“Don’t be an arse, Malfoy,” Ron interrupted cheerily from the corner of the room as he attempted to Scourgify his battered shirt.

“When Voldemort saves stray puppies,” intoned Ginny under her breath. Draco merely smirked briefly in her direction before turning to Ron.

“Mckinley told me to come over here and remind you that we’re on duty at seven. Something about Jones backing out and so apparently we have to do the bloody stakeout tonight.”

Ron blew out an exasperated sigh. “Damn. Mum’ll eat me alive for ducking out of dinner again.” He scowled.

“You could at least stop by for some food,” Ginny pointed out. Ron’s expression brightened. The mention of food often had that effect on him.

“Not a bad idea. Hey Malfoy, you come along too, I know for a fact that you haven’t had anything that resembled a good meal since last Christmas. Mum always makes too much anyway.”

Draco began to protest but Ron waved him off and shuffled into his bedroom, muttering about socks. Ginny cleaned out a piece of imaginary dirt from under her fingernails as Draco wrinkled his nose (in a very noble, dignified fashion, of course) at the thought of several hours in the company of loud, barbaric and garishly red-headed people who would most likely make some sort of attempt on his life over dinner- try to drown him in his pea soup, perhaps. Oh, joy.

There was an uncomfortable pause, and Ginny searched for something to say. Then she realized that it was just Malfoy and there was no one she needed to impress with her brilliant intellect and fantastic wit. Still, she refused to look up.

Suddenly, there came a high pitched and spineless shriek from the direction of the doorway. Ginny looked up to see Draco Malfoy cringing away from the bright orange puffball that was purring and rubbing itself against his leg. “Was that you?” Ginny asked suspiciously.

“No, it was the other ten people in this room who were frightened half to death by this…thing,” Draco answered nonchalantly, distinctly unruffled now as if they both hadn’t just witnessed his particularly girlish behavior.

“That thing is just Crookshanks. I think Ron’s watching him for Hermione for some reason,” said Ginny, trying not to laugh at the look of disgust and inadequately veiled terror on his face. “You’re afraid of cats?”

Draco attempted a snort. “No, of course not.” He sidled away from the cat into the corner, but Crookshanks merely followed him, meowing loudly in protest. “I just don’t like them.” He pressed himself up against the refrigerator door, cringing as far away from the ginger cat as possible. “Especially this one.”

Ginny raised an eyebrow. “What’s wrong with Crookshanks?”

“Have you seen this thing? He’s practically an incarnation of the devil.” Draco made a break for the couch and dived onto it, as if its filthy and stained fabric could ward off the poor cat. Crookshanks merely crept over behind him like a very fat and furry orange shadow and climbed onto Malfoy's lap, still purring. His squashed pug face was screwed up in an expression of absolute kitty-content.

“Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure the devil’s incarnation likes you,” Ginny said, unable to hold back a giggle. “Although why, I have no idea.”

Malfoy sniffed. “I happen to be a very fascinating, amazing person Weasley,” he drawled, trying to shove Crookshanks off of his lap and failing miserably. “However, I don’t find it surprising that you are too dense to realize it. Weasleys aren’t expected to appreciate those of class.”

“Hmm, I see, so you’re an acquired preference,” she said, nodding pensively, “Like Brussels sprouts. Or goat cheese.”

Malfoy blinked at her. “Weasley, you did not just compare me to a goat.”

Ginny grinned.

“Okay, I found my shoes and two socks that are somewhat the same color, let’s go,” announced Ron as he flew back into the room, struggling to tie his shoes and walk at the same time.

Ginny jumped to her feet. “Finally.”

“Weasley?” Ron turned to see Draco regarding him with a pained expression on his face, Crookshanks sound asleep in his lap. “Weasley,” Malfoy repeated, “please get your little girlfriend’s spawn of evil off me right now.”

Ron’s brow furrowed. “Malfoy, why in hell is-“

“Whoops, gotta go!” said Ginny brightly, grabbing her brother’s arm and shoving him out the door. “Malfoy’s Apparated to the Burrow hundreds of times- he knows what to do. We’ll see you there!” she called happily from the doorway, taking out her wand.

“Weasley, what are you doing? Wait, where are- Weasley, stop!” Draco’s voice was getting progressively higher- only bats could hear him now.

Ron caught on and laughed. “You took out three Death Eaters blindfolded and wandless, Malfoy, you’ll be fine.” He winked at Ginny and Disapparated with a pop.

Ginny shot the petrified wizard on the couch one last satisfied smirk. “Have fun Malfoy,” she called, Disapparating amid a final, panicked “Weasley!”

A thousand different curses ran through Draco’s mind as he glowered at the spot where the two treacherous scum had disappeared. Then he glanced down fearfully at the slumbering kitty on his lap and felt himself break out in a thin sheet of sweat.

Now what?
Eat Ice Cream. by fallingskyes
Author's Notes:
I poked a little fun at J.K. Rowling's epilogue here. I just don't understand how she could've placed Draco with Astoria Greengrass when his soulmate is obviously standing over there - no, there - you know, that one with the red hair and brown eyes and name that starts with a "G" and ends with an "inny." I mean, seriously Jo. Get with the program.
Eat ice cream.

“It’s not that I want to get back together with him,” Ginny tried to explain as she sat with Luna outside Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, waving a spoonful of double chocolate chunk ice cream around wildly as she gestured with her hands. “Really, I think deep down I knew that we were never going to work.”

Luna raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Really?” she questioned breezily, swirling her spoon around in a half empty cup of pistachio ice cream with dried strawberries and whipped cream. Never let it be said that Luna followed the normal path, even when it came to ice cream.

“It was too perfect,” Ginny stated in a very matter-of-fact way. That statement had become a sort of mantra for her over the past few months. “We are not meant to be together.” Maybe if she said it enough times, it would become true.

High above them, the hot July sun beat down on the crowd of perspiring shoppers bustling around Diagon Alley, too distracted by the bright store windows to notice the sweltering heat. The red umbrella shading Ginny and Luna glowed in the sunlight.

“It didn’t seem like you were thinking that when we ran into him earlier,” commented Luna, piercing Ginny with her simultaneously unfocused and sharp glance. The two of them had been friends for a long enough time that Luna could see through the brave-faced, nonchalant façade Ginny was putting up against the world.

“Well, I mean, come on Luna,” said Ginny, chewing on the tip of her spoon, “we were together for nearly four years. Of course I’m not going to be completely over him in just what, three months?”

There was a pregnant pause. “Ginny,” said Luna, looking extremely serious, “are you even trying to get over him?”

Ginny arranged her features in an expression of shock. “What? Of course!” she answered, a little hurriedly. “What, am I going to sit around and pine after some bloke who’s made it clear he no longer wants me?” She scraped at the bottom of her bowl for the last bit of ice cream, refusing to look up.

“Maybe,” said Luna. Despite her bowed head, Ginny could still feel her skin prickle uncomfortably from Luna’s penetrating stare. She opened her mouth to say something but was interrupted by a series of hacking coughs.

“Luna? Are you alright?” Ginny asked worriedly, reaching across the table to lay a hand on her friend’s shoulder. Luna smiled and waved her off, taking a sip of her water.

“Don’t worry about me, its fine. I’ve just had this dreadful cough lately and it won’t go away. Daddy wants to put in the Quibbler- it might be caused by the infestation of Nargles we found last week. He already has a headline too- The Malady that No Healer could Cure.”

Ginny shook her head and laughed. She loved Luna’s beautiful, quirky, never-dampened personality.

The sun climbed higher as the two of them ordered seconds. It was nearly noon and they should’ve been eating an actual meal- with real food and all- but what was the point of being grown up if you couldn’t eat ice cream for lunch once in a while? Ginny shoved a large spoonful of fudge and calories into her mouth and grinned happily. Exactly.

“Keep eating like that and you two will end up looking like Slughorn before the age of thirty.” A wry voice came from behind them.

Luna shaded her eyes, glancing up at the figure towering over them. “Why, hello Draco,” she said, smiling amicably at him. “What are you doing here?”

Malfoy smirked and pulled up a chair, plopping himself next to Ginny. She glared at him, not quite sure why he had decided to stop by for a chat, but sure it was for some dirty underhanded motive.

“I was merely shopping and happened to spy two of my dear old classmates from across the street. I would never be so rude to walk by without saying hello.” In the shade of their red umbrella, his platinum blond hair looked almost pink.

“Really,” replied Ginny dryly, not believing it for a second.

Suddenly, a look of pure terror crossed Draco Malfoy’s face and he ducked down behind Ginny, so that he was barely visible from the street. “Bloody hell. Hide me,” he hissed from somewhere near her spleen.

“What? Did you spot Crookshanks or something?” asked Ginny, grinning mischievously.

Draco popped up from under the table briefly. “Not funny.”

“Draco? Darling? Where did you go?” A short, but unbelievably loud, witch came barreling down the street, running into about six different people but not stopping to apologize to a single one. Draco squeaked and dived under Ginny’s chair again.

The woman’s hair was vaguely the same color of Luna’s, but instead of being sleek and straight it was- there was no other way to describe it- puffy. She called out across the Alley again.

“Draco? Where are you? I just found the most fabulous set of robes at Madam Malkin’s and I can’t carry them by myself.” Her voice grew increasingly whiny, that high pitched nasal tinge accenting every word. “Draco Malfoy, where are you? Come help me now!” The sound of her demands faded as she moved further down the street.

Malfoy carefully raised his head and peeked around Ginny’s shoulder in the most undignified fashion. “Is she gone?”

Ginny had to suppress a laugh at the sight of Draco Malfoy, his hair tousled and out of place, face flushed, eyes wide with fear. He looked nothing like the contemptuous jerk she had previously known him to be. “Coward,” she teased. “How is it that every time I see you, you’re hiding from something cute and harmless?”

He straightened and dusted off his robes, glowering at the redhead sitting next to him. “Astoria Greengrass is anything but harmless. And definitely not cute,” he pouted. Ginny couldn’t help but notice that he looked quite adorable with his lower lip sticking out like that.

“Really. A short, blonde witch with some sort of afro is rising to fill the void of evil left behind by You-Know-Who, is she?”

“Yes. That woman is mad. Mad, I tell you. Her sister introduced us and ever since then that psychopath has been convinced we’re getting married. She stalked me to my apartment two nights ago. And when I came to meet someone at Gringotts she got the notion that we were on a ‘romantic outing’ and has been whining after me ever since.” He winced.

“So basically, you’re hiding from a little girl.”

Draco scoffed. “That is no little girl. And she’s bonkers, that one.” He looked down his nose at Ginny. “Even more so than you.”

Ginny squeaked indignantly, but chose not to retaliate. She was over immature little insults like that. Obviously. “Bonkers? Really?”

Draco leaned in conspiratorially, like he was going to whisper a secret in her ear. “She told me five minutes ago that she had decided on a name for our first child. Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy.” He pulled back, shuddering. “I think I threw up a little in my mouth when I heard that.”

“So you came over to 'catch up' with me and Luna in order to hide from your future wife?” Ginny made a face. “Classy.” She looked over to Luna for her input and was surprised to see that the other witch had disappeared.

“I am a Malfoy, Weasley,” retorted Malfoy, getting to his feet. “Everything I do is classy.”

“DRACO!” came a loud squeal from halfway down the street.

“Bloody- how in the world can she see me from a mile away? I should’ve just done this in the first place,” Malfoy said, pulling out his wand to Disapparate. He paused and turned to Ginny. “If the Aurors find out tomorrow that Astoria Greengrass has been mangled and killed in some sort of violent manner, it wasn’t me.” He grimaced and was gone with a resounding crack.

“You look considerably cheerier than you did when I left,” remarked Luna as she slid back into her seat, bottled water in hand. Behind her back, a short girl with hair roughly the size of a beach ball stalked down the street, looking for someone. Ginny couldn’t help but notice that her eyes were slightly crossed.

“I got to see Draco Malfoy practically wetting his pants because of that little female over there,” said Ginny, pointing to poor Astoria Greengrass. “That’s enough to cheer anyone up.”

Luna eyed Ginny suspiciously. "You know, with that smirk spread across your face like that, you practically look like him."

Ginny wrinkled her nose. "Not even going to dignify that with a response, Luna. Really." She looked down at the four large empty bowls sitting on their table. “You know what?” she said, getting to her feet. “I think we need more ice cream.”
Take a Long Walk on a Cold Winter Night. by fallingskyes
Author's Notes:
A huge (huge huge HUGE) part of this chapter was written by my beta (graceliness on this site, eternalhope08 on fanfiction.net) so many props and hugs and gooey, chocolate, cholesterol-infested things go to her.
Take a long walk on a cold winter night.

Ginny was pissed drunk. Totally, crazily, unbelievably pissed drunk. It didn’t happen very often, but she definitely was now and the bar at the Three Broomsticks was swimming before her eyes.

Ron and Hermione had refused to do the whole Bachelor/Bachelorette thing the night before their wedding (at Hermione’s insistence, Ginny was sure, because she couldn’t imagine her brother turning down the chance to see half naked women dance around. But then again, he was so bloody in love with Hermione Granger that he would be the one half naked and dancing if she asked. Then it occurred to Ginny that Hermione very well might have asked already, which led to some very disturbing images that Ginny wanted out of her head now. Ow. Damn, those tables were definitely not there a moment ago. Why was the world spinning? Merlin she was drunk) so instead they had decided on a small get-together at the Three Broomsticks the night prior to the ceremony.

It had started off well enough, but an hour into the revelry, Ginny had glanced over at the dance floor and saw something that promptly encouraged her to reach for the bottle of Ogden's Old Firewhiskey sitting at her elbow. And now here she was, too many shots later, still staring at the spectacle that had caused this whole affair.

She blinked once, twice, to clear her vision.

Yep. Still there. Swaying slowly in place with their arms locked around each other were Harry Potter and Cho Chang. The small and petty side of Ginny's brain took a moment to note that Cho was decked out in a lime green skirt so short that even Ron was throwing her skin disapproving glares (well, half-disapproving anyway). She'd seen bigger belts. The side of her brain that wanted Ginny to stand up and be a bigger person noted that despite the garishly-colored fabric- or lack thereof- Cho Chang still looked fabulous.

She wasn’t still hung up on him, really (it was too perfect, she repeated to herself, over and over) but the sight of her once boyfriend of four years dancing cheek to cheek with a stunningly gorgeous witch was enough to drive anyone over the edge.

She threw back the last shot, feeling the liquid burn her throat as it went down, and slammed the glass onto the table. The bottle had been half full (or was it half empty? Haha, bitter laughter all around for her wittiness) when she had pulled it towards her, and she was positive no one had dared challenge her ownership once it was in her possession. That meant that she had just drank an inordinate amount of alcohol, and damn, she was definitely feeling the aftermath.

Ginny stood up unsteadily and wobbled over to Hermione’s table, tearing her gaze off the still dancing Harry and Cho.

“Well, mates, as fascinating as this evening has been,” Ginny declared a little too loudly, "I’m off.” She forced herself to smile, hiding her feelings from the others. Then she hiccupped. “Bloody hiccups, go away, you stupid little…hiccups,” she growled under her breath, feeling an irrational surge of anger towards her muscle contractions.

“Are you okay, Ginny?” Hermione asked worriedly. Damn her and her uncanny perceptiveness.

Ginny blinked owlishly at her friend, unfocused eyes concentrating on Hermione’s right ear lobe. A faint part of her brain registered that even though her own evening had been terrible, it would be unforgivable to ruin Hermione’s night as well. This was, after all, her best friend’s wedding celebration, and Ginny would not be responsible for wrecking it.

“I’m fine,” Ginny lied through her teeth. “Just feeling a little under the weather. I’ll just pop on home and sleep it off.” She gave a shaky smile and leaned across the table for her wand, but somehow the floor tilted and she ended up toppling into George’s lap. He looked up, annoyed with having his conversation with Angelina interrupted.

“Ginny,” Hermione interjected, floating over and pulling her up, “you are way too drunk to Apparate home. Walk.”

“I’m not letting her walk home by herself,” said Ron, eyes scanning the emptying room. “Who knows what perverts are out there waiting to take advantage of some drunk and stumbling female?”

Ginny dimly thought that this would be a perfect time to interrupt with an inappropriate joke. She opened her mouth to say so, but instead, a sort of undistinguishable gurgle erupted. Hermione glanced over at Ginny, eyebrows furrowing. “Well, then find someone to bring her home,” she sputtered irritably at Ron.

He looked around, eyeing the door that George and Angelina had just left through. “Seamus doesn’t know where she lives,” he muttered, half to himself, “Harry, well, that’s obvious, and Dad wants me home in five minutes for some man-to-man talk.” Ron was slightly green with dread.

“Well, I can’t take her back, I need to pay Madame Rosmerta and get this lot home,” Hermione said, slightly frantic, nodding over at several of her Muggle relatives.

There was an audible sigh of exasperation from the corner. “I can bring her home, Granger.”

Draco walked over to the group from where he had been sitting “Er, I mean Hermione,” he amended with a sharp jab in his ribs from Ron, “I’ve been over to your flat loads of times, when Weasley made me accompany him to that dump.”

Ginny pointed a wavering finger at Malfoy’s Adam’s apple. “You’re one of the ushers.” She hiccupped again.

Draco cast a contemptuous eye over the witch who was swaying slightly in front of him. “I always knew your sister was smart, Weasley.”

“Watch it,” Ron intoned. Ginny narrowed her eyes, belatedly recognizing that platinum blonde hair.

“And you’re a Malfoy,” she sneered. “I don’t want you walking with me.”

A brief flash of something flickered in Malfoy’s eyes, but then the corners of his mouth tightened and it vanished. Ginny was pretty sure it was either the lights or her drunken imagination, so she let it go.

“Equally charmed,” he replied in that cold drawl she detested so strongly, “but I’m afraid you don’t have much choice, Weaselette. It’s either my company or getting Splinched. Despite your distinct lack of intellect, I’m pretty sure you’d pick the former.”

Ginny was about to retort that she would take her chances with loss of limbs, thank you very much, but by then he had grabbed her by the elbow and roughly half heaved, half pushed her out the door, and she was too busy protesting to do much else.
________________________________________

Two blocks later, she finally managed to pull away from him, fiercely wrenching her arm from his grasp.

“Let go of me, Ferret,” she hissed, and spun wobbly around to glare at him, face to face. Then her head gave a painful thump, the words caught in her throat, and there was a brief moment, a pause, when they just stood there- gazes locked, breath coming out in little clouds of mist. But then with a disdainful sniff, she broke away and flounced down the sidewalk, her back to him. It was hard to flounce when she was tripping over her own feet, but she did a pretty good job. Minus walking sideways into that brick wall.

The very nerve of him, trying to get in his good Samaritan points by acting like he’s taking care of her. She didn’t need anyone to take care of her. The last time someone tried to do that, she ended up getting dumped on her arse, so it was obvious that Ginny Weasley was not someone to be protected. Screw the cloak, she’d take down Death herself. That was when she stumbled into a parking meter. Damn.

Draco caught up with her and scowled. “The nerve of you,” he snapped, “Any other person would show a little gratitude, seeing as how I am doing you a favor by helping you home, but I guess manners aren’t something you’re accustomed to.”

A silence. She seethed inwardly, not even registering the barb he’d just shot at her, merely replaying the scene over and over and over in her head. She could see still Harry and Cho swaying gently back and forth, eyes closed, utterly absorbed in the moment, oblivious of their surroundings, and more importantly, of her presence. A sharp throb of something shot through her.

“Weasley?” Malfoy prompted, “Why the silence? Don’t take this as a compliment, but you’re usually all snarky and loud around me.”

She huffed in response, efficiently ruptured out of her memories, but still didn’t say anything back to him. Cue the second long, awkward pause.

“Are you alright?” Malfoy asked, his eyebrow rising, and she didn’t know what did it- the slight tinge of uncharacteristic concern in his voice or the large tinges of alcohol throughout her bloodstream- but she decided to answer him honestly.

“No, I am not bloody alright,” she snapped, hating how her voice broke, “You wouldn’t be either, not if you had to watch your stupid ex paw at another girl for the past five and a half hours.”

“Ah,” Malfoy murmured, “Scarhead.”

“Yes, Scarhead,” Ginny sneered, “Harry bloody Potter, the boy I’ve been in love with for forever. Didn’t even bother to say hello tonight, not even after everything we’ve been through, just blew past me to get to her.”

She took a breath before continuing, musing half to herself and half to the world. “Why the hell can’t I just get over him? We were never supposed to work out anyway. It was just too…perfect. Uncomplicated. Boring. So I shouldn’t be surprised, right? Because, honesty, who can stay interested in little Ginny when there are women like Cho Chang around?” She scoffed under her breath. Great- calling Ginny Weasley, pity party of one. She felt her eyes sting.

Malfoy allowed her to rant without comment. She was mildly surprised- even in her current state of bitter drunkenness- at his lack of insults. Then he opened his mouth to talk, and she braced herself for the cutting onslaught, inevitable to her overt show of weakness.

“You must be cold,” he mumbled, avoiding her gaze. “You forgot your cloak back there.”

She glanced downward in surprise and saw that yes indeed, she was in nothing but her little black party dress. Bugger. And now that he mentioned it, it was freezing out here, the late November night drawing out her breath in small puffs of ice. She shivered. Double bugger.

Draco sighed and ran a hand through his pale hair. “Come here,” he said, exasperated, rolling his eyes. She quirked an eyebrow but stepped closer, albeit a tad warily.

He pulled off his own cloak and draped it around her bare shoulders, carefully fastening the silver catch under her chin. His fingers fumbled a bit and she could feel his breath- warm, smelling slightly of wine- on her face. Her eyes lingered on the strong line of his jawbone (it was curved delicately, almost femininely) before she realized that she was appreciating Draco Malfoy’s bloody jawbone and snapped her gaze upwards. She must really be drunk.

Ginny heard the soft click as the fastenings slipped into place and she raised her chin, head tilted slightly to the side, staring up into his dark eyes swimming with unfathomable depths.

“You’re being decent tonight, Malfoy,” she said, her voice low. “It’s frightening me a little bit.” He chuckled. Draco Malfoy, chuckling. This has been an odd night.

“Most people would say just say thank you,” he replied.

She shrugged at him. “But I’m not most people.”

A pause, as he contemplated this. “That is very true.”

They continued walking in comfortable quiet, both looking anywhere- the darkened sky, the expanse of stars, the cobblestones beneath their feet, the flickering lights all around them- but at each other, and in a miniscule corner of Ginny’s mind, she thought that she could get used to this side of Malfoy. He really wasn’t that bad, not when he didn’t want to be.

Wait, obviously that was the alcohol talking. This was Malfoy. He was always that bad.

“So when do the taunts come?” she asked, looking up at him after a few moments pass. “When do you start laughing at the pathetic little Ginny Weasley for pining away and getting hurt over someone who clearly doesn’t care in return?”

“Do you really have such a low opinion of me, Weasley?”

“After the way you’ve treated me for the past twenty one years? Definitely,” she said without hesitation. “But then after tonight?” Ginny dipped her chin, carefully considering the man in front of her. “But then after tonight, I’m starting to think that maybe I’ve had the wrong impression of you throughout all these years.”

She had never seen Draco Malfoy look so serious. He sighed again, looking as if he wanted to say something, but instead only gave her a small smile and stepped away slightly, pulling his face back into shadows. A cold winter breeze swirled across the street, turning up the collar of his shirt. Draco shivered, eyes flashing in the moonlight, and Ginny couldn’t help but think that they were an awfully pretty shade of grey.

“I must be really, really bloody drunk,” she said aloud.

He laughed at this- threw his head back and actually laughed. “You really really bloody are,” he said, mouth still twisted up at the corners, “but what brought you to this brilliant deduction?’

She wrinkled her nose. “The fact that we’re having a semi-decent conversation,” she said, "and the fact that I pretty much just told Malfoy everything I’ve been keeping inside for the past couple months. Honestly, I put up this façade with all the people who have known me since forever, but with you…” She trailed off.

“I think that you forget,” he said quietly, “I have known you since forever.”

Something inside her snapped at these words. She didn’t know what it was- him or this night or Harry with Cho or the alcohol (the smart money was on the alcohol) – but suddenly she found her cheeks wet and her eyes stinging, and so she spun around and buried her head into Malfoy’s chest. And all of this was just so bloody clichéd, but the only thing she could think about as she sobbed against him was that she was getting his stupid shirt wet.

He froze, not even taking in a breath, but somewhere underneath her squashed and running nose she could feel his heartbeat pounding. Hesitantly, Malfoy unraveled himself and placed an awkward arm around her heaving shoulders.

“Ginny,” he whispered, and his voice cracked. Snowflakes began to fall.

Eventually the tears subsided. She sniffed and pulled away hastily, hardly believing that she had just clung onto Draco Malfoy and cried. Her head was throbbing. Merlin, why wasn’t this night over yet?

He shoved a trembling hand (from the cold? Ginny wondered) into his pocket and placed the other one on the small of her back. “Come on, Weaselette,” he said gruffly, nudging her forward, “let’s get you home.”
Stay Up All Night Gossiping With Your Friends. by fallingskyes
Stay up all night gossiping with your friends.

“You look like absolute crap, Weasley.”

Ginny glanced up at the dark brunette, who was leaning over and squinting at Ginny’s face from an obscenely close distance. “Thank you, Vanessa. How kind of you,” she replied dryly, fastening the catches on her Quidditch boots.

The other witch shrugged, slamming her locker shut with an indifferent expression on her face. “I was just saying. What, rough New Year’s?”

Ginny shook her head. She threw a brief glance at her reflection in the mirror hanging from the backside of her locker door. “No, just had a couple friends over last night,” she answered absent-mindedly, prodding the puffy bags under her eyes with the heel of her hand. If only she could remember that facial-soothing charm her mother was always prattling on about…

Hermione and Luna had spent the night over at Ginny’s flat. The three of them hadn’t gotten much time together lately, what with Luna traveling so much for her job and Hermione being a newlywed, but last night the three of them had stayed up late talking, pigging out on chocolate frogs and Pumpkin pastries and who knows what else. Ginny had gotten exactly a half hour of sleep before having to drag herself out of bed and trip out the door for morning practice.

Vanessa shrugged, eyes wandering over towards the door, already bored. “Well, that’s nice.” She flipped her chocolate-brown curls over her shoulder and walked away without another word, the edges of her light blue practice robes fluttering with each step.

Ginny glanced at the picture hanging on the inside of her locker door, underneath the small mirror. Luna, Hermione and herself waved energetically back at her- Colin had taken the snapshot of the three of them at the edge of the lake at Hogwarts. It was during the beginning of Ginny’s fifth year and despite the impending doom of the world at the time, she looked happy- peaceful- with one arm slung over each of her friends. The three of them were still waving up at Ginny, even after all this time, wide smiles stretched across their faces. Behind them, the water shimmered softly in the autumn sunlight. Ginny smiled.

“Don’t mind Vanessa, Gin,” came another voice, startling Ginny from her thoughts, “she’s still jealous.”

Ginny raised her head to see another witch peeking out from behind her locker door. “Oh, no Allison, it’s alright. I wasn’t- wait.” She paused. “Why would Vanessa be jealous?”

“Well, you know,” said Allison, reaching back to pull her golden curls back with a bright green ribbon, “she saw you talking with Draco at your brother’s wedding reception about a month ago and it got her peacock feathers all ruffled.”

Ginny wrinkled her nose. “Draco? As in Malfoy? Is that woman off her rocker?”

Allison laughed. “Jury’s still out on that one. Though knowing the history between you and Draco Malfoy, I’d say that she is as sane as that bloke in the Prophet who tried to cut out his heart- Beedle the Bard fashion- after his girlfriend dumped him.”

Ginny blanched. “Oh bloody- seriously, Allison, I have had much too little sleep for something that morbid this early in the morning.”

The other witch shrugged, smiling at the expression on Ginny’s face. “Sorry love, just calling the shots like I see them.” She grabbed her lucky Beater’s bat out of her locker and picked up her Firebolt. “Come on, we’re gonna be late.”

“I’ll be there in a second,” Ginny called, looking up to see Allison rush out of the locker room.

She turned back to her locker, still contemplating the picture. Ginny thought back to the wedding reception last December. Frankly, the most she could remember from the night was sitting alone at her table, swathed in pale blue crape, staring forlornly across the dance floor to where Harry and Cho were talking and laughing together. Not that it bothered her, of course. No memories of Malfoy or a seething Vanessa lurking around jealous corners. Maybe Allison got her mixed up with someone else.

The wedding had come up over the long, meandering conversations the three of them had last night, though. It was nearly impossible to avoid, what with Hermione gushing about Ron every two seconds. It did make Ginny a little green- there was very little she desired to know about Ron’s, erm, sexual life (actually, she had been living happily under the delusion that all six of her brothers were asexual, despite the fact that the many evidences against her theory were running around the Burrow on chubby legs and clamoring for chocolate biscuits every five minutes) – but Hermione was so aglow with the newfound joy of being married that Ginny could do nothing but paste a smile across her face and blame her greenness on the cannoli.

Luna, too, had been dropping hints about some sort of love interest, though she became flustered and began sputtering incoherently anytime someone brought up Rolf Scamander, her new research partner on the undiscovered amphibious species of magical creatures in Romania. She was quite keen on discussing his academic theories and methods on research, but Ginny could barely pry a word out of her friend’s lips about her feelings for the supposed brilliant naturalist. It didn’t help that Hermione was all excited about Rolf’s technique for cross-referencing certain encyclopedias, so the only information Ginny was able to get Luna to admit was that she thought that Rolf was a “somewhat attractive bloke.” The intensity of the blush accompanying this statement, however, was enough to appease Ginny for the moment.

It was a little bittersweet, listening to the words pouring from Hermione's mouth about spending the rest of her life with Ron and watching the hot pinkness dance across Luna’s cheeks every time Ginny hissed Rolf. There was a sullen, petty whisper in the back of Ginny’s mind that continually reminded her how much she resented her friends’ happiness, if only because she knew that she once had what they did and now she wasn’t sure if she ever would again. It was a sobering thought, and even six hours, one long shower and several hundred pounds of ice cream hadn’t been enough to make it vanish completely.

She sighed. Well, there wasn’t anything she could do about that now. No room for morose thoughts about the Boy Who Lived when the captain had the team on this suicidal training program. Ginny picked up her broom and dragged herself out the door. Time to face another day.
Dance. Jump in Puddles. by fallingskyes
Author's Notes:
This is probably my favorite chapter out of this entire story. It’s hard to explain- most likely it's the result of far too many Disney movies as a child combined with the genetically ingrained hopeless romantic in me. And thunderstorms. I love thunderstorms.

Enjoy!
Dance. Jump in puddles.

A crack of lightning splintered across the dark sky, briefly illuminating the churning, deep-gray clouds and one Ginny Weasley hurrying across the Hogwarts grounds, sweater pulled tight around her thin frame against the howling wind. She had been up at the school visiting Neville, who had just begun his first year as an official Hogwarts professor. They had spent the afternoon laughing and catching up- Neville had gathered quite a bit of dirt on his fellow teachers, which Ginny was always willing to listen to- but now she was worried that she had left too late to reach home before the impending storm overtook her.

There came another flash of lightning overhead, this time followed by the ominous rumbling of approaching thunder. Ginny blinked, sure that she had seen wrong but- no, with another flash of lightning she was sure. Not ten feet ahead of her was a figure swathed in a black cloak, the pale blonde head bowed against the strong April wind. Malfoy? What in the world was he doing here?

The next second she heard her voice calling out, as if by its own volition. “Malfoy! Hey, wait up!”

The figure ahead hesitated a little and then turned around, motionless as he watched her run towards him. Ginny noticed as she drew nearer that his eyes were the exact same color as the billowing clouds overhead.

Finally she caught up with him, panting slightly. “Hey. What were you doing over at Hogwarts?”

He shrugged, eyes dark and cold. “What’s it to you?”

Ginny felt that thread of simmering anger pulse through her. “Oh, sorry for trying to maintain polite conversation, Malfoy,” she snapped.

A strong gust of wind blew against them, whipping her fiery hair across her face. Draco regarded the blazing eyes in front of him for a moment before answering, slowly. “They wanted me to talk to Slughorn about some shady character that he knew once upon a time. Supposedly another one of his former Slytherins has been causing some mayhem over in France or Italy or Merlin knows where.” His features were carefully arranged in an expression of indifference.

“Oh,” she replied, her sudden anger melting away as rapidly as it at risen.

Another bolt of lightning played across the tumultuous sky, an unnatural fissure of electricity thrashing through the heavy air. The pair looked up towards the clouds looming above them. The wind was really picking up now, twisting Ginny’s scarlet curls in circles around her head. She pulled them back, annoyed, and held her hair in place with her hand. “This no Apparating on school grounds is really starting to annoy me. You’d think they’d have gotten rid of it by now.”

Malfoy shrugged again, pale skin practically glowing in the dim light. “Who knows.” He paused, glancing at the threatening storm clouds billowing overhead. “We better get going, before it starts to-”

A sharp crack of thunder sounded as the skies opened and a flood of raindrops descended upon the earth.

“…pour.”

Malfoy looked extremely disgruntled in the downpour, wrinkling his nose as he pushed his sopping hair out of his face. He blinked furiously, trying to get the water out of his eyes. Ginny giggled.

“Aw come on, Malfoy, it’s just a little water. What’s wrong with getting wet once in a while?” She spread hands out- arms as wide as the smile on her face- and began spinning in the downpour, relishing the feeling of raindrops in her skin.

Malfoy snorted and crossed his arms, watching the ecstatic red head in front of him frolicking in the rain. “Are you drunk again?”

“What, the only time I’m allowed to act happy is when I’m drunk?”

“Well, you weren’t exactly happy that time you got drunk. But no reasonable person would be enjoying getting caught outside in the middle of a raging rainstorm.”

“Malfoy,” she called back, hoping he could hear her over the downpour and thunder. “Since when have I been reasonable?”

Draco nodded. “You make a good point, Weasley.” He was quiet for a moment, staring across the grounds as Ginny danced circles around him.

She laughed out loud for no reason at all. It had been ages since she’d done something this childish and immature and fun. When they were all still little and living at the Burrow, she and her brothers used to scamper outside as soon as the raindrops hit the ground and spend hours running around in the mud, splashing about in puddles and shoving grimy bits of grass and dirt in each others faces. It’s funny how she’d forgotten about that until now.

She glanced over at Malfoy as she skipped past him, accidentally splashing mud onto his immaculately pressed trousers. Oops. Maybe he wouldn’t notice until he got home.

His childhood had probably been comprised of sitting at a desk and learning Latin while his father plotted how to be slimiest git ever in the world. She doubted he had ever jumped in a huge puddle or played in the rain. For some reason, that thought filled her with an overwhelming sadness and she stopped spinning, eyes fixed on the man in front of her.

“What?” he asked when he noticed her looking at him. A scowl was creased on his face.

An idea suddenly popped into her head and Ginny hesitated, wondering if it would be wise to- Oh, what the hell.

“Come on, Malfoy, dance with me!” She ran back towards him and grabbed his hands, pulling him out of his disgruntled stance. “It’s exhilarating!”

“I do not dance, Weasley,” he sneered, trying to pull away.

“Oh, bollocks. Everyone dances!” She tugged at him again, stronger this time, forcing his feet to stumble across each other as they began to spin.

“Weasley, what are you- stop it- dammit Weasley, after all this, I am getting a restraining order. If you do not cease this ridiculous behavior right now, I will be forced to-”

But whatever bodily harm Draco had planned to perform on Ginny Weasley, the world will never know because at that exact moment, Draco tripped and spilled onto the muddy ground, pulling down a laughing Ginny next to him.

“Blarghhhh,” he muttered intelligently, spitting bits of dirt-encrusted grass out of his mouth. “Are you telling me that you’re actually enjoying this?”

“Yes,” answered Ginny, reaching over and rubbing a handful of mud into his face. “I am enjoying this very much.”

Well, of course the only appropriate response to this would be to pick Weasley up and drop her in the biggest mud puddle he could find, and Draco Malfoy was never one to ignore proper protocol.

________________________________________

Later, Draco Malfoy sat in Ginny's kitchen, wrapped in a warm, fuzzy blanket and sipping a mug of hot tea. He swiped as his running nose, grimacing slightly. “You know, I’m probably going to contract pneumonia and die now.”

Ginny walked out of the bathroom, attempting to dry her hair with a faded pink towel. “If you do, can I have your Nimbus?”

He snorted. “Your concern touches my heart, Weasley.”

After the two of them had thoroughly encased themselves in an inch thick coat of mud and slime, Ginny had insisted that Draco come back with her to her apartment and clean up. He had thought about refusing, but at the sight of the witch in front him- hair hanging straggly in front of her eyes, a swipe of mud spread across her left cheekbone, grinning at him like no other (there was even mud on her teeth) – the refusal had died in his throat and he slumped his shoulders in resignation.

They drifted across the sodden ground, an easy silence between them. As they trudged up the massive hill that lead from Hogwarts grounds into the village, Ginny had glanced over at Draco beside her and wondered what exactly was going on here. She'd opened her mouth to say something, but then closed it again, turning her head away.

“Damned hill,” she muttered to herself, her breath coming out in short huffs. The sweat on her brow mingled with the mud and rainwater on her face.

The pair didn’t say much as they strolled through the streets of Hogsmeade in the rain. The looks they had attracted were enough to make anyone uncomfortable, but neither one noticed, as they were both too intent on making a point to jump in every single puddle that they saw on the way.

“Why’d you even invite me back here, Weasley?” Draco asked bluntly, when Ginny had poured herself a steaming cup of tea and settled herself at the kitchen table, feet propped up comfortably on the chair next to Draco.

Ginny glanced at him, surprised. “I don’t know. It’s what friends do, I suppose.”

Draco didn’t look up at her, instead studying the soaked tea leaves at the bottom of his light blue mug. “And,” he said slowly, choosing his words carefully, “you would consider us friends?”

She looked taken aback a bit, but then she smiled at him and he felt as if the room had brightened, just a little. “Of course I do. In fact, I think you and I are becoming very good friends, Draco.”
Count the Stars. by fallingskyes
Author's Notes:
Sorry for the long interlude in updates- real life gets hectic for me in the summertime.

This chapter took a while to edit- in fact, I practically ended up rewriting the whole thing. Not completely satisfied with what came out, but I wanted to get this thing posted. So any comments or criticism is, as always, welcome!

Just a side note: all my information on the Draco constellation came from dear old Wikipedia.
Count the stars.

“Seventy-eight… seventy-nine… eighty…”

“You skipped one.”

“What?”

“That star, there. You forgot to count that one.”

“How the hell can you tell which star I’m pointing at, Malfoy?”

“I’ve told you, Ginny. I am a Malfoy- I know everything.”

“Really. Well, that would mean that you know what this means.”

“Manners, Weasley, manners.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“And your mother has raised such a nice, respectable, gracious young lady- I’m amazed.”

“I’ll tell Ron you sent him the compliment.”

“You know what? Here. I’ll show you where you messed up. So, you were there.”

“Yes.”

“And that was seventy-eight.”

“Yes.”

“And that was seventy-nine.”

“Your point, Draco, my hair is turning gray.”

“And then you skipped that one and said the next one was eighty.”

“I did not, you dolt, I- oh. Dammit.”

“Malfoys are never wrong Weasley. You should know that by now.”

“Oh, please. Go find the tallest cliff you can and jump off it.”

“Well, that wasn’t very nice.”

“I am not a very nice person, Malfoy. Surely even with your limited intelligence you were able to discern that.”

“You wound me.”

“That was the point.”

“…”

“What, Malfoy? Stop looking at me like that.”

“You’re always so angry.”

“What?”

“The way you speak- it’s like you always have this pent up aggression and anger inside.”

“I do not. What, just yesterday you were complaining because you said I was too bouncy and cheery all the time.”

“Well, you are.”

“How in the world can I be both cheery and angry all the time?”

“Maybe not so cheery. More like, hyperactive. Yes, that’s it. You are an angry, bouncy child with too much energy.”

“Hmm, a child with pent up aggression and a tiny attention span- you’re making me sound like a sociopath waiting to happen.”

“Not my intentions, but if I think about it, that might not be too far off the mark…”

“Hilarious, Malfoy.

“It’s true.”

“What’s with the sudden character analysis?”

“I don’t really know- it’s just that…you’re just always so bubbly.”

“Hyperactive, I know. And also, angry. We’ve been here before, Draco, I recognize that tree stump.”

“Does it cackle?”

“What?”

“You said that you- ok, never mind. We’ll only get sidetracked.”

“That does tend to happen in our conversations, yes. Myself, I tend to blame you and your inability to maintain interest in anything other than a scantily clad witch but-”

“You know, that is something you could remedy quite easily.”

“What, your annoying male tendencies?”

“No, the lack of scantily clad witches.”

“Bugger off, Malfoy, and stop hitting on me.”

“I should’ve known better than to waste a perfectly good pick-up line on you, Weasley.”

“Yes, you should have. And what were we talking about before this? It was like…oh yes, you were about to insult me.”

“No, not insult, just trying to understand you.”

“Telling me that I’m an angry, hyperactive sociopath isn’t insulting me?”

“No, seriously Ginny, let me try and get this out. It’s like…you’re always doing something. Or when you’re in a conversation, you always having something to say back.”

“That trait tends to be beneficial in a conversation, yes.”

“But you always just have something quick and witty to snap back at the person, you know? It’s like…you say something to make them laugh and distract them from looking at you too directly. Just like how you’re always busy and rushing around, so no one is able to pay close attention to you,”

“My, my, aren’t we the little psychiatrist.”

“See? Just like that! You always have some sort of sarcastic, biting comment- which is why I called you angry and-”

“Well, isn’t this a riot. Draco Malfoy telling me that I’m the one who is always being sarcastic and snarky. Why, hello Pot, aren’t you looking black today.”

“I told you, Ginny, I’m not trying to insult you. I’m just trying to, well, actually I have no idea what I’m trying to say. It just seems like you’re trying to hide something, that’s all.”

“If I was trying to hide something, you would be the first to know- I talk to you practically every day.”

“I know, but-”

“Will you just stop? I hate being subject to these pesky little psychoanalyses. My mother’s been piling them on me every time I come home for the past year, and I do not need you, of all people, to start on me too, alright?”

“Why this past year?”

“What?”

“You said that she's been bothering you about this for the past year- why?”

“Oh…well, she started when me and Harry broke up.”

“But that was forever ago. She’s still bugging you?”

“I don’t know- well, actually I do but- ugh, alright, so she has this insane little theory.”

“That you’re still in love with Harry?”

“No! Well, I mean, yes, that is her theory, but I don’t-”

“Yes, yes, I know, the two of you were too perfect, it never would have worked out, you’re over him now, blah blah blah.”

“I do not appreciate being patronized, Malfoy.”

“You know what I think? I think your mother’s right.”

“What? That’s preposter-”

“Yes, in fact, I’m certain. You still love Harry, and that’s the thing you’re always trying to cover up with your insane behavior.”

“Malfoy, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”

“I think I do.”

“You know what? You’re just an arrogant little-”

“And now you’re doing that thing where you insult me, in order to distract the attention away from yourself.”

“What? I am not!”

“Liar.”

“Look, I can’t help it if you’re just a snooty bastard who-”

“And there you go again.”

“What? Draco, you are- alright, never mind. Just- just, drop it, ok?”

“Drop what?”

“This! Your deconstruction of my psyche and my behavior and my nonexistent residual feelings for Harry, it’s…it’s annoying, ok? So just, stop it.”

“Alright.”

“…”

“I didn’t mean to get you upset, it’s just something I noticed.”

“Malfoy, since when have you noticed anything.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“I don’t know, you’re Draco Malfoy! The prat who never socializes with anyone below his social circle and just smirks at the entire world, never saying anything, and-”

“First off, Weasley, I am definitely socializing ‘below my social circle’ right now, seeing as how I’m outside, lying in the damned grass next to you, because you somehow got the insipid idea to spend the night trying to count the bloody stars- which, by the way, is not possible- instead of doing something civilized like going to eat in an actual restaurant where people actually sit in a chair instead of sprawling across the grass and probably getting lice and-”

“Alright, alright, I’m sorry, you’re not that person anymore. Shut up already.”

“Thank you. And just so you know, when I’m doing all that silent ‘smirking’ at other people, I do tend to observe a couple things. Especially things about people and why they act the way they do.”

“And now we’re getting close to that topic that we’re not talking about, so let’s change the subject now.”

“Fine.”

“…”

“You know, I’ve never seen a shooting star.”

“What?”

“I’ve never seen a shooting star. What are you now, deaf?”

“Stop talking please. I heard you- I just didn’t believe it. You never saw one, not even in Astronomy?”

“I might have seen one if I ever paid attention in Astronomy.”

“You never paid attention? But you got an O on your O.W.L.!”

“I’m named after a constellation, Weasley, and my family is obsessed with two things- the purity of our bloodline and the stars. I probably could’ve passed that exam when I was six.”

“Oh, right…so which one’s yours?”

“Which star?”

“No, constellation. What one’s the Draco constellation?”

“Shouldn’t you know this too? I distinctly remember Sinistra teaching this to us, because I remember her saying 'Draco' constantly and thinking I was getting in trouble every time."

“My attention tended to wander during Astronomy classes too.”

“Really? Why?”

“If I told you, you’d laugh at me.”

“No, I really want to know.”

“No laughing?”

“Promise.”

“Alright, well…I was always trying to count the stars.”

“…Seriously, Weasley?”

“What? It’s possible, I swear. But I’d always end up losing count around two hundred and have to start over.”

“It can’t be done, Weasley. You can’t even see all the stars in the sky at one time- it changes with the seasons. And-”

“I know, I know. But just because it’s impossible doesn’t mean I can’t keep trying.”

“Well, actually, it does.”

“Not true. It used to be said that it was impossible for a Weasley and a Malfoy to be friends, and now look.”

“But we just kind of…happened.”

“Right. And one of these days, I will just happen to count all the stars in the sky.”

“You are out of your mind.”

“Right you are. You still haven’t showed me Draco.”

“Right. So it’s right….there. No, there. Under the Little Dipper, that curve of stars that kind of looks like a squiggly N.”

“What a professional description.”

“Well, I’ve never had to describe it before. Most people know already.”

“So that’s what you’re named for? A bunch of stars in the shape of a squiggly N?”

“Well, technically I’m named for the hundred-headed dragon that guarded the gods' golden apples and that was cast into the stars- hence the constellation.”

“Isn’t there another myth of the Draco constellation? From the Arabians?”

“…I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Liar. I remember Sinistra babbling about it- something about a mother elephant or a llama or a- a camel! That’s what you are! The Arabic nomads thought the Draco constellation was a ring of camels surrounding a baby one, protecting it from vultures or something.”

“Hyenas.”

“Right, hyenas. So your great namesake, Draco Malfoy, is a family of camels and some ravenous hyenas. Congratulations.”

“Oh, be quiet. I am a magnificent camel.”

“Can’t argue with you there, Draco.”

“You know, I cannot believe that I voluntarily chose to spend my evening in the company of idiots.”

“Not a company, Draco, just one. And this idiot is the idiot who baked you those cookies you’ve been shoving in your mouth all night.”

“Your point?”

“It was a deal, Malfoy. You get cookies- I get help counting the stars. Now shut up and start counting.”

“…”

“Draco?”

“…One….two…three…”
Bake Cookies. by fallingskyes
Author's Notes:
Wow, it has certainly been a while since I’ve updated this fic. Sorry about that – real life has been overwhelming these past couple months, with the workload from my classes and some family stuff and a couple really obnoxious personal situations and being mauled by a Bengal tiger while traveling on a safari across the world. (Um, yeah – kidding on that last one.) Any time I did have to dedicate to the wonder that is fanfiction I ended up spending on my fic piece for the Fall 2008 DGFicExchange. (If anyone’s interested, I did start posting the fic on both this website and my page over on FanFiction.net. It’s a lot different from this fic – a bit darker, a bit angstier – but it won “Best Prose” for the round, so I suppose it’s not completely worthless. And yes, that was some shameless pimping. I have no morals.)

Anyways, point is – I’m back! Hopefully, at least. This fic is completely written, so it shouldn’t be this hard to post up the remaining chapters – I guess I’m just having trouble finding the time to edit lately. I promise to update a lot more often if you promise to – oh, I don’t know – review, perhaps? ;)

Well, in any case, enjoy!
Bake cookies.


“Wait – no, please don’t – oh, bloody hell.”

A stream of fervent curse words spilled out of the kitchen door amid the raucous cacophony of clanging pots and shattering glassware, rousing Draco from his sleepy stupor. Shaking his head, he turned his eyes towards the direction of the kitchen, where Ginny was grumpily repairing broken dishes and levitating pots back to their place on the high shelf. She was muttering darkly to herself – Draco could just make out a couple well-placed swears slid in between the spoken incantations.

“You alright, Gin?” he called feebly. His throat was still raw from a coughing fit the previous night, and he still hadn’t quite regained his voice.

Ginny slid the last plate back onto the shelf and walked out of the kitchen, into the living room where her patient was currently resting on the futon of his house in London. She suppressed a smile at the picture of Draco Malfoy buried underneath a massive pile of blankets and pillows. The shape was vaguely similar to that of a very fat snowman, and she couldn’t even see his whole face at the other end of the couch – just the tip of a very stuffed up, slightly red nose. His stockinged feet peeked out comically from underneath the blankets, one big toe wriggling faintly in the air.

“I’m fine,” she answered, wiping her hands on a towel. “The soup’s simmering away – it’ll be done in a couple minutes – I just had some, er, issues whily cleaning up.”

“I heard,” Draco said stuffily, any further remarks cut off abruptly by a procession of sneezes. “Thanks,” he said as Ginny walked over and handed him the dwindling box of tissues.

Ginny reached over and pressed a cool hand against his flushed cheek. She shook her head. “I think you’re still feverish,” she said quietly, more to herself than to him. “It’s ridiculous, how wizards know a spell to turn a rat into a purple, spinning teacup, yet we still don’t have a cure for the common cold.”

Draco sneezed. “It’s fine. Stop worrying, Weasley,” he said, blowing his nose quite loudly. “You're acting like your mother. And you know that you don't really have to do this."

Ginny stood back up and headed back into the kitchen, throwing a glare over her shoulder at the sniffling boy sprawled across the green futon. “Yes, I do, Draco,” she responded testily. “You’re sick, you’re in no condition to do anything other than lay there and be sick, and I want to do this.” She scowled as she ladled a healthy amount of steaming broth into a brightly-colored orange bowl. “Now shut up and eat your soup.”

Draco began to retort, but was interrupted again by a massive sneeze and a couple pints of snot shooting out of his nose. Ginny raised an eyebrow. “Well, that was lovely,” she said lightly, handing him the bowl of soup and a spoon. “Careful, it’s hot.”

Draco glowered at her, refusing to take the offered bowl of broth. “Weasley, I’m serious, I don’t need you to –”

“Oh, bollocks, Draco Malfoy,” Ginny cut him off. “You were so sick you were walking into the walls when I stopped by earlier. You have no one else to take care of you. And you need to be taken care of,” she added on, seeing Draco open his mouth in protest. “So swallow your stupid, worthless pride for about two minutes and eat the bloody soup!”

Draco floundered speechlessly for a couple seconds, torn between arguing with Ginny – a Malfoy’s pride is never worthless – and accepting the bowl of broth that was emanating such tantalizing aromas into the air. Ginny, standing over him with the offered bowl in hand, clucked at him affectionately, encouraging him to eat up, though the matronly picture was ruined by the additional “Stop acting like an idiot, you gigantic prat.” He considered refusing, just to see how angry he could make her, but then decided not to push his luck. He held out his hand out for the bowl, ignoring her smug smile, and grudgingly began to spoon the soup into his mouth.

It was quiet as Draco ate, the only sound in the room being the smooth fluttering of pages as Ginny flipped idly through a magazine. Outside, the sound of shouts and laughter drifted through the open window as the trick-or-treaters frequented from house to house, begging for candy and chattering with their friends. The unusually warm autumn night air wafted into the room. A mahogany clock ticked softy in the background.

Draco finished his soup with a loud, satisfied slurp and slumped back against the pillows. “Weasley, you suck,” he drawled. Ginny narrowed her eyes at him, but Draco shook his head vehemently. “No, I will not be grateful; you are holding me against my will.”

“For your own good,” Ginny replied haughtily. Draco snorted, but said nothing in response.
There came a knock on the front door and a chorus of “Trick-or-Treat!”s from the other side. Draco rolled his eyes. He never did understand the novelty of this autumn holiday that involved dressing up like idiots and giving out candy to annoyingly small children. Who, in their right mind, would give away candy? For free? Weasley, of course, loved it, which only went to prove that her sanity was questionable all along.

“I’ll get that!” Ginny yelped cheerfully, grabbing the near-empty bowl of sweets and yanking open the door. She grinned wildly at the assembled masses of ghosts and princesses, distributing the rest of the brightly-wrapped chocolates into their outstretched hands.

“Thanks, lady!” called some of the older ones, waving to her before they scurried away towards the next house. She waved back, squinting her eyes as she tried to make out their costumes. There was the usual attire of Quidditch players and banshees and there was one that was… no. She peered at one of the darker-haired children who had drawn a lightning bolt on his forehead with some black ink. Oh, well that was just bloody fantastic – now he was a Halloween costume too.

Her insides twisted around, just a little.

“Thank you,” came a shy little voice, startling Ginny from her thoughts. She smiled down at the forlorn little girl remaining on the doorstep, wearing a medieval knight’s costume. Her tin helmet was too large and it had slid forward until all Ginny could see of the girl’s face was her button nose, which was dusted over in freckles.

“Oh, no problem, honey,” replied Ginny, giving her a pat on the head. “And who are you supposed to be?”

“Sir Luckless,” she answered, voice barely above a whisper.

Ginny smiled, trying not to laugh. “But isn’t Sir Luckless supposed to be a boy?” she asked kindly.

“Oh, no,” said the little girl, her too-large helmet flopping about comically as she shook her head. “My mum told me that Sir Luckless re-reper – um, stands for all the ordinary people who have a dream and want it to come true.”

Ginny’s brow furrowed. “Ordinary people?”

The little girl nodded, her helmet clanking as it was tossed about. “Yep. Like the people who aren’t the prettiest or the smartest or the strongest or anything like that. My mum said that even ordinary people have extra-ordinary dreams and that if we never give up, like Sir Luckless, then one day those dreams will come true.”

Unbidden, Ginny’s mind flashed back to when she was twelve, sitting in class as Binns droned on about the eleventy-fifth Goblin war and doodling “Mrs. Ginny Potter” along the margins of her notes. For so much of her life, her one extra-ordinary dream was just to be with Harry. She never gave up on it and yet – well, that was how that fairy tale ended. Now all of her dreams were as ordinary as Ginny Weasley herself.

The little girl was still standing on the doorstep, her grey eyes wide as she regarded Ginny’s pained expression. Ginny squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, shutting the memories away again, and when she opened them again she managed a small smile at the wise knight standing before her.

“So you wanted to be Sir Luckless for Halloween, because he’s so brave and because he never gives up?”

The girl nodded.

“Well then, my good sir, I bid thee farewell. And a very Happy Halloween, Sir Luckless to you.” Ginny held out her hand.

The little girl’s expression was solemn as they two of them shook hands. Then she threw back one last dimpled smile at Ginny and sprinted down the front steps, towards her mother who was waiting for her by the sidewalk.

“Mum!” Ginny heard the girl shout excitedly as she turned away from the door. “That was Ginny Weasley from the Harpies!”

Ginny grinned and shook her head, looking down at the empty bowl as she closed the door. “Well, it looks like they cleaned us out,” she commented to Draco, placing the bowl back onto the kitchen counter.

“Little greedy brats,” he grumbled, practically inhaling his second helping of soup. “Don’t give out anything else.” He sneezed again.

“Draco!” Ginny admonished, “It’s Halloween! It’s impossible not hand out treats on Halloween, even for a miserable old miser like you.” She strode into the kitchen and yanked open the pantry door, eyes sweeping across the overflowing shelves, looking for sweets. “How in the world can you be so filthy rich and not have any more candy?”

“Ate it all.”

Ginny rolled her eyes. Of course – Malfoy was such an arsehole sometimes. An arsehole with a sweet tooth. Sighing, she lifted the flour and sugar off of the shelf, stretching on her tippy-toes to grab a carton of chocolate chips.

“Fine,” she snapped, reaching for the eggs, “I’ll make cookies.”
Catch Snowflakes on your Tongue. by fallingskyes
Catch snowflakes on your tongue.

Ginny sprawled out on her stomach in front of the fireplace, open book lying forgotten next to her as she stared into the flames, transfixed by their smoldering light. After a lifetime of using the Floo, seeing a fireplace used for actual warmth and relaxation seemed as foreign as drinking water from the toilet. But she was surprised to find that she almost preferred this kind of fire – no roaring green blaze or billowing smoke that made your eyes sting; instead, just the soft glow from the flickering flames, red twisting over orange in an endless dance.

“Ginny, honey, are you sure you don’t want more marshmallows in your hot chocolate?”

Tearing her eyes from the fireplace, Ginny gave the woman hovering over her a small smile. “No, Mrs. Granger, I’m fine – thank you though.”

Hermione’s mother looked down on her redheaded daughter-in-law with a stern eye. “And how many times have I asked you to call me Eloise?”

The guttering light from the fire caught the fading streaks of white in the older woman’s chestnut hair, which was still thick and bushy even as it was greying. Ginny eyed the mass of frantic curls piled into a bun, the hairpins straining to keep their captives in check. Hermione had to have gotten the wild curling beast sitting atop her head from somewhere, she thought wryly to herself. And as they say, like mother like daughter.

She giggled sheepishly. “Apparently not enough, Mrs. Granger," she said. “It just seems strange to call you Eloise after so many years of calling you Mrs. Granger while we were in school.”

Mrs. Granger chuckled under her breath. "Quite understandable, dear." She turned around at the sound of bickering voices coming from the kitchen. “I suppose I should go break those two up before Ronald ends up with his head through the window again. Honestly, they argue more now than they did before they were married.”

She trotted off towards the direction of the kitchen and Ginny turned back to the fire, unable to suppress a smirk at the sound of Ron’s frustrated voice (“Hermione! Stop nagging!”) It was so nice to know that Ron had someone else to annoy him, now that he wasn’t living with the family anymore. Someone had to keep his blood pressure high.

The fire in front of her hissed violently, popping as the sputtering flames curled around the logs. Ginny slid closer to the fireplace, soaking in its golden warmth.

“Hey Gin,” grumbled Ron, plodding into the room. He glanced back into the kitchen where Hermione and her mother were chattering away happily as they prepared dinner. “I’ve been banished from being anywhere near the food.”

Ginny made room for her older brother beside the fireplace. “What’d you do this time?”

Ron rolled his eyes. “Who knows? Hermione insisted that I was peeling the potatoes wrong, just because I dropped some of them on the floor. And when I tried to do it by magic, she started shrieking that it ruined the taste of the stew of something like that. What an old hag.”

“I can hear you from the kitchen, Ron!”

“WHAT AN OLD HAG, BUT I LOVE HER VERY VERY MUCH!” Ron bellowed hurriedly, the tips of his ears turning red. Ginny hastily turned her laughter into a cough.

“Well, I’m just glad you came in here, Ron,” she said, recovering quickly and throwing a smile at her big brother. “I haven’t seen you very much lately.” Ginny blinked and noticed Ron eyeing her hot chocolate. “You want some?” she asked, sighing.

“Thanks!” Ron grabbed the mug and took a large gulp. He wiped his mouth on the back of his sleeve. “Yeah, you’re right. We haven’t seen each other lately. In fact,” he said, twisting his features into a frown, “it seems that you’ve been seeing a lot more of my partner than you have me.”

“Oh that.” Ginny waved an impatient hand. “Don’t worry about that, Ron – we’re just friends.”

“Friends? Why do you need more friends? What about Hermione and Luna and me?” Ron pouted.

“Don’t do that, you look like you’re five.” Ginny grabbed her mug back and took a glance inside it. Empty, of course. “You and Hermione are all busy moving into the new house and Luna’s off in, I don’t know, Scandinavia or something, looking for Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, and the rest of the family has their own business to attend to. It’s nice to have someone to spend time with, once in a while.”

“Once in a while? Do you want to know the number of times I’ve asked him how his night was and he’s flashed that smug look that he knows annoys the hell out of me and said ‘Oh mind blowing, I spent it with your sister’?”

“Well, I am a very mind blowing person, Ronald, you can’t deny that.”

Ron glared at her. She rolled her eyes and patted him on the shoulder.

“Just friends, ickle Ronnikins. If we ever start shagging, then you have my permission to be the first one to attempt to strangle him, all right?”

Ron eyed his baby sister carefully. “Can I have that in writing?”

Ginny snorted and leaned back, grabbing the bag of candy was resting on the nearby coffee table. “Here, eat some chocolate, that’ll shut you up.”

Ron looked like he wanted to continue arguing but kept quiet as she opened the package. “So,” said Ginny, tactfully changing the subject, “I barely talk to you anymore. What’s up with you lately?” She passed some of the chocolates to him. “Oh, that’s cute! Look, Ron, the candy’s shaped like snowflakes.”

“Who cares? It’s chocolate and that’s all matters,” he said, taking the bag from her. “And not much, really. Mckinley has me and Malfoy on this huge case so we’ve been following suspects all week. Oh, remind me to ask Harry for his Invisibility Cloak – I need it for tomorrow night.”

“Having a Deathly Hallow must be pretty useful when you’re catching criminals and all that, right?” Ginny said, smiling and desperately trying to ignore the mention of Harry’s name.

Ron shrugged. “It has its uses.” He grinned suddenly, grabbing a handful of candy and straightening up. “Here, catch.”

Ginny opened her mouth and Ron threw the piece of chocolate at her, trying to shoot it in her mouth.

“Ow, Ron, that was my nose! No wonder you can never play Chaser.”

“Stop being such a baby. And if I remember correctly, the last time we played Quidditch and I was Chaser, I owned you.”

“No, that was only because you had Charlie and Bill on your team while I got stuck with – ow! Hey! Stop throwing chocolate at me!”

“Oh, no, is the little baby going to cry now?” Ron taunted cheerfully. “Here, have a little more chocolate, to help you – hey!”

Ginny cackled, gleefully chucking snowflake-shaped chocolates at her brother. “Who’s the baby now?” she crowed.

“You’ll never take me alive!” Ron shouted under a barrage of chocolate. He tackled Ginny, sitting on top of her and dumping the rest of the bag directly onto her squirming head.

“Ack – Ron!”

The sound of a throat being cleared made the two of them pause. Brother and sister looked up mid-wrestle to see Hermione standing in the doorway, framed by the light streaming in from the dining room behind her. She had a stack of napkins in one hand, a heap of utensils in the other, and an expression torn between amusement and exasperation on her face.

“Honestly, will either of you ever act your age?” she asked dryly.

Ron sprang to his feet. “She started it!” He jabbed an accusing finger in her direction.

“What?” Ginny scowled. “You are such a liar, Ronald Weasley!”

Ron refrained from responding. That is, if you don’t consider him sticking out his tongue at his sister a response.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Ron, stop bothering your sister and help me set the table.”

“Yes, Mrs. Weasley,” chirped Ron, obediently heading for the dining room. He planted a sloppy kiss on his wife’s cheek before he whisked away the napkins from her hand. Hermione rolled her eyes at Ginny, unable to keep the smile off her face, before turning and following Ron out of the room.

Completely whipped, went this little voice inside Ginny’s head. She smirked and tossed another snowflake-shaped candy into the air, leaning back slightly to catch it in her mouth.
Lie in the Grass. by fallingskyes
Author's Notes:
This is completely irrelevant to this chapter; however, I have recently somehow become hopelessly and irrevocably obsessed with Snow Patrol. I'd heard a couple of their songs before, but I never realized how utterly fantastic they are. No, really – if you ever find some free time, go listen to some of their songs. I suggest Set the Fire to the Third Bar, The Planets Bend Between Us, Crack the Shutters, Riot Please and Disaster Button. But really, that is just the beginning.

Ahem, anyway... on to the story!
Lie in the grass.


“Hey, Weasley!”

Ginny looked up to see Draco Malfoy striding briskly across the Quidditch field as she exited the locker rooms after practice. It was a beautifully clear and breezy day in March – the first nice one of the year – and the long grass by her feet swayed gently in the wind as she stood patiently, waiting for Draco to catch up with her.

“Hey you,” she said warmly, smiling when he finally reached her side. “What are you doing here?” Draco ignored her question for a moment, instead grabbing her broom and bulky sports bag, effortlessly slinging them both across one shoulder. Ginny opened her mouth to protest – she was not some weak, pampered princess who needed help with everything – but he raised an eyebrow and she snapped her mouth shut, pouting slightly. It was easier to let him carry her stuff than to listen to another one of his “How a Pureblood Gentleman, Especially A Malfoy, Should Behave, Not That You Would Really Know Since You Were Raised Around Insipid Pigs” speeches, especially since Ginny found herself agreeing with him about the “insipid pigs” part when she considered her brothers.

“Thanks,” she said. Draco shrugged, brushing off her gratitude as always.

“So,” Ginny started again, “why are you here?”

“No real reason,” he said casually, avoiding her gaze. "Can't I just drop by to visit an old friend and chat for a bit?"

“No,” said Ginny flatly. “Especially when you start using words like 'chat,' which I didn't realize was within your vocabulary. And you know that I know you too well to be fooled when you’re not telling the truth, Draco Malfoy.”

Draco snuck a glance at her, starting slightly when he found her unblinking brown eyes boring into him. “Fine,” he grumbled. “If you must know, Ron mentioned something at work today about an especially horrid date you had last night, so I just thought that I’d stop by and check up on you.”

Ginny snorted. “And you expect me to believe that?”

Draco looked up, surprised. “You think I’m lying?”

She eyed him carefully, looking suspiciously for some sign of sarcasm. He noticed her studying him and stepped back from her. “What is your problem, woman?”

Ginny shook her head, wondering. “You know, I’m starting to think you’re telling the truth. And if that’s the truth, then you’ve became way too much of a decent person since we’ve started spending time together.”

Draco made a face. “Don’t say that out loud. It’ll ruin my reputation.”

She laughed and sat down at the edge of the field. He ambled over and took the spot next to her, plucking out a long piece of grass and weaving it between his long fingers. It was quiet for a moment, and Ginny closed her eyes, feeling the sun against her skin and the grass wave around her.

“So you want to talk about it?” His soft voice broke the silence.

“About what?”

“You know. The date.”

Ginny sighed and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Not especially.”

Draco raised an eyebrow but said nothing. He, of all people, knew about wanting to keep your problems to yourself. And he also knew that if he kept quiet for long enough, she would start talking on her own.

“I guess, well – it’s embarrassing, almost,” Ginny started, her voice almost inaudible. “We were out at dinner, and I was there, looking at this perfectly fine, normal guy sitting across from me – I mean, he was more than fine. He was attractive, interesting, vaguely funny. There was absolutely nothing wrong with him and any other girl would’ve been ecstatic to meet a guy like him, but then I realized that I wasn’t one of them.” She stopped talking for a moment, rolling onto her back and resting her head in the grass, looking up at that blue, blue sky.

Draco leaned over closer to her. “What do you mean you weren’t one of them?”

Ginny shrugged, her eyes closed. “I don’t know. It was like – I didn’t care. I didn’t care that he has two sisters or that he’s allergic to shrimp or that his cousin is the husband of one of The Weird Sisters. I didn’t care that there might have been spinach in my teeth and that if he saw, he might find me embarrassing. I didn’t care what he thought about me or how the date went – and then, after I realized that, I started thinking and I realized that I didn’t even care that I might never meet someone that I could love again. I didn’t care that I might never get married or have children or anything like that.” She paused, taking in a deep breath.

“And then,” Ginny continued in a small voice, “I realized that I didn’t care because all that caring left me when Harry did. And then I felt pathetic because it’s been practically two years and I still can’t put myself out there. And then I realized that I’m probably still not over him and when I realized that, I started crying – like really crying, the loud sobbing kind, you know, with hiccups and snot and all sorts of gross things. And did I mention that all of this happened when my date was ordering another glass of wine from the waiter? Yeah, he changed his mind after I started bawling and just asked for the entire bottle.”

Draco tugged out a handful of grass and flung them into the air, watching the pieces fall. “Poor guy,” he commented lightly.

Ginny laughed a little. “Well, I do feel a little sorry for the bloke. After all, his date randomly burst into tears in the middle of dinner. But he bolted as soon as he could after that.” She opened her eyes, following the cotton-spun clouds as they drifted lazily across the sky.

“So you’re really not over him, even after all this time.”

She sighed. “I guess not. It’s getting ridiculous, isn’t it?”

Draco stared off into the distance, his grey eyes mirroring the blue expanse overhead. “I don’t know,” he said softly. “I think that the two of you were really in love and that it takes a lot to get over that. A lot of time too, sometimes more time than you think is necessary. It’s not easy falling out of love. I mean,” he paused, shrugging, “I wouldn’t know personally but, you know.” He trailed off awkwardly and leaned back into the grass, closing his eyes.

Ginny glanced at the man next to her, surprised. Draco Malfoy, expert on love. Who would’ve guessed?

She took a longer look at him, laying comfortably on the ground, eyes closed and arms tucked beneath his head. Tiny pieces of grass clung to his pale blond hair. She watched the way Draco’s eyelids fluttered slightly as he basked in the sun’s rays, taking in its warmth – and all of a sudden, Ginny got the strangest sensation, like she was freefalling through nothing but air.

She cleared her throat. “You’re probably right,” she said, plucking a dandelion out of the ground. “But that takes so much effort, forcing yourself to get over someone else. Don’t you wish that sometimes you could just, I don’t know, dive into a fountain and have all your troubles washed away?”

Draco laughed. “Okay, Amanta, whatever you say.” He rolled over onto his stomach. “You know, there’s a reason that the Fountain only exists in fairytales. And, in the end, it wasn’t even the one that did any of the work.”

Ginny blew on the dandelion, watching its feather-light seeds float away on the wind. “But wouldn’t that be splendid? Something magical that solves all your problems, instantly?” She tugged another dandelion out of the grass, a yellow one this time.

The ground felt cool and pliable beneath Draco’s back and he chose not to reply. Instead, out of the corner of his eye, he studied the girl lying next to him – a dandelion the color of sunshine tucked behind her ear, red hair wild and tangled, the sunlight glowing in her caramel eyes.

A breeze brushed across the field, scattering the aroma of fresh air and spring.

“Well,” said Ginny, breaking the silence and not noticing Draco’s gaze, “If I’m Amanta, then that should make you Sir Luckless, dragged along for the ride.”

Draco chuckled, agilely getting to his feet. “Well then, my fair lady Amanta, what say thee to a plentiful meal? I vow to fulfill my chivalrous duty and cover the expense.” He reached down, offering a hand to help her up.

Ginny grinned, grasping his hand in hers. “Very well, Sir Luckless Knight,” she said lightly as he pulled her to her feet. “Lead the way to thy peril. Thou hast not witnessed the full amount I may consume.”
Catch Up with an Old Friend. by fallingskyes
Author's Notes:
I cannot even begin to express how sorry I am that I have not been updating. And it is ridiculous that I haven’t been because as I’ve said before, this fic is done. Written. FINISHED. And it has been ever since I wrote it for the 2008 Spring DGFicExchange, so really I’m just a huge slacker who owes anyone who might still be following this story an apology. There’s five chapters left, including this one. My goal is to have this entire fic up and posted before my classes start on September 2nd. That’s pretty reasonable, don’t you think?

This chapter’s a bit on the short side, but don’t fret – it’s just the swirling calm before the storm.
Catch Up with an Old Friend.


March 15th, 2004


Dear Luna,

I realized as I was scribbling down the date at the top of this letter that today is the Ides of March. Or at least it was – it’s past midnight now so I suppose I should’ve written March 16th at the top instead. But isn’t it funny how the day of doom and peril passed by without any noticeable, well, doom and peril? All the Roman senators I know are still alive and kicking – perhaps you know of someone who was assassinated today. Oh dear, wouldn’t it be horrible if you actually did? I would feel awful. I should go back and blot out this entire first paragraph, but I’m really too lazy, so I’ll just cross my fingers and hope that none of your acquaintances have died recently.

Well, I seem to have digressed greatly from my original topic, and I’m barely into the second paragraph. I was just penning a quick letter to ask how you are, seeing as we haven’t spoken in a long while. Luna, hon, I know you’re off traveling the world with Rolf and experiencing all of this excitement and adventure, but can’t you manage to find some time for your precious old friend Ginny? Because really, all of this whining is due to the simple fact that I miss you so much. I feel as if I am adrift without your constant wisdom and, well, oddness. But a good kind of oddness.

All is normal back home. The girls and I are training hard for the playoffs – Joan has entered her self-proclaimed “Tyrant Mode” and we are all one suicide drill away from calling the loony ward at St. Mungo’s. Honestly, even she knows she’s off her rocker and she keeps going at it – I have no idea why. But no, in all seriousness, I’m up and on the field every morning before daybreak, and I’m sore all over, and I can barely walk when I get off my broom after practice – but I couldn’t be happier. There’s just something about playoff season, when you’re exhausted and splattered with mud and your captain is screaming at you and you can barely even see straight – it’s just all so, I don’t know, invigorating. This does make me consider the stableness of my mental state, however, if I’m the most content when I’m sweaty and aching and sleep-deprived and zooming about on a broomstick. (THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID!! …Sorry, it was just too easy. Moving on now.)

Rumor has it that Ron and Hermione might be expecting, and all I have to say is that it’s about time. I’m kind of worried about Hermione though – a couple weeks back, she was fiddling around with some potions for the Ministry and she somehow came up with a powerful new potion that treats some sort of incurable malady. I don’t really know the specifics – it’s all scientific jargon and you know how I tend to tune her out when she starts talking academics – but now those idiots at the Ministry has got her working nearly nonstop day and night, refining the ingredients and process of concoction and all of this nonsense, and Hermione, well, you know how she gets. She’s stressed out her mind. I don’t think any of that pressure or anxiety is good for the baby, if there even is a baby.

And for some reason she’s nervous about telling Ron that she might be expecting, and no matter how much I bug her about it she’s still putting off telling him. I keep saying that it’s fine, that he’ll be excited, that it’s something that the two of them should go through together and she’ll be sorry if she doesn’t do it, but she keeps on blabbering about how she wants to be absolutely sure before she says anything. I, personally, would love to drop the news, if only to see how many different shades of color Ron’s face can turn in ten seconds. It would be a scientific experiment, if you will.

Well, I don’t think that there’s much else going on back home. Nothing’s really changed… oh, I almost forgot to tell you – Harry’s engaged. To Cho Chang.

Now I can totally see you rolling your eyes. Alright, fine, maybe I didn’t exactly forget to tell you – was kind of putting it off, in fact – but I know that you would want to know about it. Who knows; maybe he’s written you himself and told you already. I suppose you’re thinking that I’m all weepy and flipping out about this, but I’m not. I mean, yes, it did surprise me a little but it’s nothing I couldn’t handle. After all, it has been two years, right? I’m fine. Perfectly fine.

Well, I’m mostly fine. It’s just that, well – remember all those times back at Hogwarts when you and I would meet in the library to study and then end up talking all night about absolutely everything in the world but schoolwork? And remember how we’d dream about the future and how our lives were going to turn out, and you’d talk about traveling the world and becoming this famous naturalist and I’d talk about playing for one of the national Quidditch teams and raising a family with Harry? Well, it’s like, ever since the age of eleven, Harry had been this permanent thing – this fixture – that I had set in my future. Like, no matter what else changed – whether I was imagining that I was living in Ottery St. Catchpole or in London or in, I don’t know, China or something; and whether I had five children or eleven or twins or none at all; and whether I was a professional Quidditch player or a chimera tamer (which, by the way, I had my heart set on from ages five to eight) – Harry was always this one constant thing that I had assumed would always be in my life. And I’ve pictured him there for so long that now, I’m having some trouble removing him. He’s like that mysterious stain that Hermione and I found in the corner of the bathroom of our flat, remember? The one that no amount of Scourgifying or cleaning potion could get rid of? And Luna, him getting engaged to Cho – it’s like snuffing out that last, tiny flickering bit of hope that I had. I mean, I know its over – I’ve known it for a while – but it’s like I still can’t believe that he’s not a part of my future anymore, you know?

I tried to tell Draco all of this and can you guess his reaction? He dragged me to a bar and brought me enough Firewhiskey to fill the English Channel. It was such a typical guy response – if you can’t deal with a problem, then at least you have an excuse to drink excessive amounts of alcohol until you pass out. Though in all honesty, Draco has been a sweetheart lately. It’s bizarre, really – I’m not sure what to do with this new, not-obnoxious and somewhat considerate Draco Malfoy. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s nice but, it’s also somewhat unsettling. There are times when I half expect him to pull out that old twisted sneer and taunt me like he did back in school. Not that he can’t still get on my nerves – Merlin, I want to strangle that man sometimes, he is just so infuriatingly arrogant and a bit of a prat – but he lacks all of the malice and cruelty that he had back then.

Oh, and I watched Teddy last week for the first time in a while. Andromeda had to run some long overdue errand, so I got him for the entire day. I can’t believe how old he’s getting – in a couple years we’ll be shipping him off to Hogwarts, can you believe that? And he’s not just growing old on the outside –it's happening on the inside too. When I tucked him in, I offered to read him Babbitty Rabbitty, which was his favorite bedtime story, and do you know what he did? He scoffed at me! He told me – all haughtily too – that only babies have bedtime stories read to them and that I should stop treating him like one. I apologized to him – I mean, he is still pretty little, but being the youngest and the only girl in my family, well, I can relate to how it feels to be babied. Even so, I can’t believe that I’ll never be able to read bedtime stories to Teddy anymore. There are still all the Weasley nieces and nephews to tuck into bed though – I suppose I’ll just have to console myself with them. But still, Teddy being too old for bedtime stories…time really does fly, doesn’t it?

This is getting to be quite the long letter – I better stop here. Ava strained her wing a couple days ago and I don’t want her to get injured again. If she seems tired or hurt when she delivers this, send back a reply with one of your Crumple-Horned Snorkacks (they do have wings, don’t they?) and keep her with you a couple days before you let her return. And do write back soon, Luna – I have absolutely no idea what is going on with you. It’s been much too long since I’ve received details about your creatures and about the amazing places you’re visiting and especially about your current status with Rolf. And no, that was not meant to be a subtle hint.


Love always,

Ginny
Paint with Your Fingers. by fallingskyes
Author's Notes:
The last few paragraphs between Draco and Ginny in this chapter – the part with the window – aren’t completely of my own design. The scenario actually comes from this promotional music video for an old Taiwanese drama titled “It Started with a Kiss”. (Here’s the link on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lbsBte4uCo.) I don’t know if it makes a lot of sense, partially because you need to know what’s going on in the show and partially because it’s in Chinese – but basically the girl is cute but socially inept and very clueless, and she’s totally in love with the guy but he thinks that she is the most annoying thing on the planet and enjoys messing with her because he knows she likes him, but inexplicably, illogically, he finds himself starting to feel attracted to her…It’s a pretty typical angst-filled, teenage drama, except in Chinese. The music video is completely endearing though, and the idea I stole comes right at the end, in the last thirty seconds or so.

Oh, and in case any of you lovely duckies care – and I’m hoping you do, because otherwise I’m just a vain little duckling flashing her own feathers – there’s a small fragment in here that won the Snarkiest Conversation award at the Spring 2008 DG Fic Exchange.
Paint with Your fingers.


Draco knocked on the door to Ginny’s flat, feeling peculiarly nervous for no particular reason. He wasn’t exactly sure why – it had kind of become a habit between the two of them to get together at the end of the week, pig out on calorie-saturated pastries, drink wine and relax before the weekend started up – and it wasn’t like there was anything different between this week and all of the others. He shifted the bottle of wine that he always contributed from his left hand to his right, and then back again, mulling over the odd, fluttering sensation in the pit of his stomach.

From the other side of the door, there came a loud clanging noise and several crashes, all followed by a high-pitched “Bugger!” Ginny finally appeared with a harried look on her face, leaning against the wooden doorframe and rubbing a patch of reddening skin on her arm.

“You okay there, Gin?”

“Yeah, sorry, sorry,” she panted, impatiently blowing her bangs out of her face. “I was watching Teddy for the afternoon again and Andromeda just picked him up but he insisted on coloring when he was here and he had wanted to play with some paint but the only paint that I had in the apartment was the permanent, acrylic kind but he looked all sad and puppy-eyed so I agreed which was a terrible idea because it turns out that when a five-year-old with magical powers gets upset, things tend to explode – like the paint bottles, for instance – which is how I ended up with permanent paint splattered all over pretty much every single one of my possessions in the apartment, including my favorite pair of jeans.” She stopped to take in a breath, looking down forlornly at her grey, stone-washed denim, now smeared with ecstatic splotches of orange paint. They looked like rusted old armor, as if a knight in full gear had decided to dive head-first into a wishing well.

Draco nodded silently, taking in the sight of her destroyed apartment. Nearly everything was dripping various shades of paint and nothing was the color it should have been, including –

“Weasley, why is your hair blue?”

“What? Oh, that,” Ginny muttered wearily, running a hand through her cerulean tresses, “Teddy changed it somehow and I had lost my wand around the time he transfigured the couch into a giant frog so I can’t fix it and – Merlin, my head hurts.”

Draco attempted to repressa smirk, failing miserably. “Oh little Weaselette, the level of your incompetence continues to amaze me.”

Ginny flared up immediately. “Now look here, Malfoy –”

“Kidding, Ginny, kidding,” Draco interrupted. He grabbed her arm and began to steer her towards the bedroom. “Here, Weasley, you go take a nice long hot shower and chill out a bit, alright? I’ll, I don’t know, try to clean up and make dinner or something like that – you know, the trivial things that you usually do.”

Ginny squinted at him, raising an eyebrow as she tripped towards the door. ‘I always get suspicious whenever you start acting somewhat decent. What’s your underhanded motive, Malfoy? I know you have one.”

“Woman, are you so daft as to turn down one of the few people who are offering to help you out?”

She paused for a moment, letting his words sink in before sticking out her tongue at him. “How is it that you always insult me and manage to make it seem like you’re doing me a favor at the same time?” Ginny asked as she headed in the direction of the bathroom and the promise of the steaming water that could – hopefully – wash away all traces of paint and blue hair.

“It’s a gift, love,” Draco called to her retreating back. “A gift.”

________________________________________

Later, the two of them sat in the window seat, their backs to the darkened room as they stared out at the sprawling lights of Hogsmeade beneath them. A luminescent moon hung suspended above the night, its silver-white rays skimming along the rims of their wineglasses, spilling across their skin.

Ginny sighed, staring longingly at the distant lights of the castle on the horizon. “Do you ever miss it?”

“Miss what?” Draco asked lazily, swallowing a sip of wine.

“Hogwarts. The classes, the students. Being young and carefree and not having to worry about anything.”

Draco lowered his eyes, watching the wine slosh against the sides of his goblet as he swirled it slowly, around and around. It glittered in the dim light, like garnets. “Those years weren’t exactly the most carefree – at least for me.”

She looked up, surprised. “Well, alright, maybe carefree wasn’t exactly the correct choice of word to describe life back then, what with the deranged psychopath out for world domination and all. I guess I mean, like – I miss that feeling of knowing you were looked after, the comfort that comes with the certainty of protection. It was like we were able to be more independent, more reckless at school because we knew that if we screwed it up, the professors would be there to take care of everything.”

“Sometimes the professors taking care of everything did the exact opposite of protecting you,” Draco answered quietly, and Ginny knew that he was thinking of his sixth year.

She faltered for a moment, wanting to say something reassuring but not knowing what that was. He didn’t talk about his Hogwarts days very often. “You don’t still dwell on that now, do you? It’s been so long.”

Draco shrugged, struggling to keep his voice light. “It’s hard to forget what I’d done, and the consequences that came from my own ignorant actions.” He squeezed his eyes shut, not wanting Ginny to see the sudden tears that sprung up, unbidden.

Silence fell around them. Ginny wished she knew what she could do to take away his hurt. Moonlight glinted off a single tear, balanced perfectly on the edge of his pale eyelashes. She reached upwards to wipe it away, her fingers wavering in front of his face before she quickly pulled her hand back, enfolding it within her other one. Draco wouldn’t want her to know that he was crying.

Instead, she laid her hand on his arm. His skin felt so cold beneath her fingertips. “Draco, that was not your fault. That whole war – and the part you played in it – was one wizard’s fault, and he’s gone now.”

Draco shook his head vehemently. “No, I don’t believe that because how –” He cut himself off, taking in the expression on Ginny’s face. There was something in her eyes that shot tingles up his spine.

“Well,” he sighed, changing directions, “there’s really no point arguing over the past. It’s done and over with, right? The least I can do now is work hard and try to repay my debt with the other lives that I protect.” He stared hard at the wine in his glass, the red almost black in the moonlight.

Ginny had never heard him say something so seriously. She looked at him with his head ducked down – his eyes lost in shadow, one strand of silk-spun hair falling into his face – and felt that falling sensation again. “That’s a very noble thing,” she said softly, “coming from a Malfoy.” He remained silent, still staring moodily down at his wine.

“Anyway,” Ginny said brightly, wishing she that she had never brought up the topic, “it’s no matter now. Psychopath’s dead, world is still free, and now all we have to worry about is making rent and finding a date for Saturday night.”

Draco smirked, and just like that, he was back to normal. “Maybe you have to worry about that, Weasley. I’m pretty well endowed in those areas already.” He cocked an eyebrow. “Come to think of it, I’m pretty well endowed in all my areas, if you catch my drift.”

She rolled her eyes. “Do you suppose it is even possible for you to remove your head from your arse anymore? Or has to grown too large from your ginormous ego?”

“The perfect shape of my delectably round arse has nothing to do with my head, Weasley,” Draco drawled, unruffled.

“Bloody prat.”

“Moronic bint.”

Ginny grinned. “You know, you and I have a very strange relationship.”

“Normalcy is overrated.”

The two of them fell into an easy silence, staring out at the still village and its winking lights, lost in their own thoughts. Suddenly, Ginny – wanting to make that haunted shadow vanish from Draco’s eyes – leaned over and breathed onto the window, fogging up the glass.

Draco looked up, confused. “What the hell are you doing, Weasley?”

“Nothing,” she replied, drawing a smiley face with her pointer finger. He scowled at her.

“That is the most inane thing I have ever seen.”

“And you,” she declared, poking him none-too-gently between his eyes, “are the most bitter thing I have ever seen. Come on, live a little.” She added to her drawing ears and some spiky hair, making it stick up in all directions.

“Really,” Draco replied dryly. “And by ‘live’ you mean, what, paint pictures on glass windows with my fingers? Were you dropped on the head as a small child? It would explain a fair amount.”

“I’ve always suspected Ron did something like that, you know, but every time I confront him about it, he turns pink and shuffles away.” Ginny smiled contentedly at her picture, oblivious to the incredulous look Draco was giving her.

“I can’t believe I choose to spend time with you, Weasley,” he muttered. Nevertheless, he leaned over and exhaled on the windowpane, spreading the white fog over the glass.

“There,” Draco said as he finished his sketch, feeling quite proud of it. Ginny glanced over at the upside-down stick figure. Its head was lopsided.

“What is that supposed to be?”

“You, after Ron dropped you on your head as a baby. Here, I’ll draw him running away and crying.” Another horribly disfigured stick figure appeared on the window.

“Well, fine then,” Ginny retorted, exhaling onto the cold glass quickly and sketching a rotund cat in the mist. “Look it’s a – oh, what did you call him again? – a devil’s incarnation.”

Draco pouted. “Not funny.” He reached over and ran his palm over her drawing, erasing the kitty.

“Hey! You can’t do that! My masterpiece!” Ginny screeched as Draco laughed triumphantly. “Oh, you think this is funny, Malfoy? How do you like it?” She swiped as his fading stick figures, distorted their image.

Draco emitted a noise not unlike one he would make if someone were to drown his firstborn child. “Ginny Weasley, you have crossed a line.” He sounded genuinely offended. “I was proud of that.”

“Why? It looked like something Teddy could have drawn. Oh, wait, that was probably a compliment compared to what it actually was, because…” Ginny trailed off and there was a pause as they both tried to figure out what she had just said.

Draco sighed contemptuously. “Weaselette, I know it comes with the territory, but that made no sense.”

“It sounded better in my head.”

He scoffed. “Obviously.” Then he grinned. “I just thought of something else to draw,” he said before breathing onto the glass again.

“What?”

“Don’t you see it?” he asked, pointing.

“Draco,” said Ginny, leaning in and squinting, “you didn’t even touch the window, how could –”

Her words were cut off as he pounced and smooshed her face against the cold glass, creating quite a nice imprint of Ginny’s indignant expression on the window. Draco cackled.

“Oh, real mature, Malfoy,” sputtered Ginny, stretching her jaw and trying to get the skin on her face to stop throbbing. “I think my face is permanently deformed right now.”

“Mmm, looks better that way.”

“You are asking for it, you little arse.”

“Uh oh, Weasley’s angry. Everybody run or she might sit on you and squash you!”

“Draco Malfoy, are you still twelve years old? What are you doing – wait, ow – oh, that’s it, just you wait until I smash your pointy face against the glass, show you how delightful it feels –”

________________________________________

The next day, Hermione showed up at Ginny’s apartment to meet her for a lunch outing. Ginny, expectedly, was running late, and her sister-in-law was left waiting patiently in the living room as the redhead scrambled about, getting ready. Hermione was tapping her foot idly on the hardwood floor, surveying the flat she used to live in, when she noticed something odd.

“Ginny?” she called, pushing her curling hair back out of her face.

“What?” Ginny’s voice sounded from the bedroom.

“Why is your window all smudged?”
Fly For So Long You Can No Longer Feel Your Arse. by fallingskyes
Author's Notes:
It was the perfect weather for writing today: all dappled sunlight and warm breezes in the afternoon, then a cool, misting rain shower at sunset, probably one of the last summer rainstorms for a while. It put me in the perfect mood for working on this chapter – oh, and believe me, this chapter needed a major amount of editing. I hope you enjoy it!
Fly for so long you can no longer feel your arse.


“And that was a superb pass by Weasley at midcourt! Quaffle’s in the possession of Weasley now – she’s speeding down the field with Weasley and Weasley hot in pursuit – oh! And a narrow miss by the Bludger, batted with spectacular accuracy by Weasley down at the citrus end of the field –”

“Hey, Jordan! How about you try some first names there?”

Lee Jordan paused his commentary, contemplating the suggestion amid the maple leaves in his perch near the top of an oak tree. “That would make a lot more sense, wouldn’t it?”

“Sure would,” Harry called as he swooped downwards at full speed just for the hell of it, his toes skimming across the grass.

“It’s easier just to call them ‘Weasley’ though. Thee’s so many of them, I’m not sure I ever learned all their names.” Lee grinned cockily.

It was another Sunday and the Burrow was bursting with its usual gaggle of redheaded Weasleys, along with a plethora of family friends. At first, the guests had tried to help Molly Weasley prepare for dinner – stirring this sauce, dicing those vegetables, setting up the picnic tables and so forth. However, after a mock duel between Harry and Ron escalated to the point where the chicken coop was set aflame, all the Weasley children and their friends were promptly kicked out of the house, shooed away with the promise that they could return when dinner was ready. So like salmon migrating upstream, returning to the place of their birth, the old schoolmates found themselves wandering up the well-trodden path to the sheltered clearing just past the orchard, where teams were quickly formed, brooms mounted, and a heated game of Quidditch put into play.

Foul!”

“You are such a prick, Malfoy, I didn’t lay a hand on you!”

“You’re damned right, Johnson – you didn’t lay a hand on me. It’s your bloody elbows that are the problem.”

“I was not cobbing!”

“Liar.”

“I am not, you arrogant –”

“Um, Angelina? Aren’t you supposed to be the referee?”

Angelina Johnson stopped in the middle of her tirade, hovering in midair and blinking confusedly. “Oh, I suppose you’re right.” She turned towards Draco, scowling. “Stop baiting me, you annoying idiot.”

He smirked. “Old habits die hard.”

Angelina blew a frustrated sigh out of her nose. “All right,” she called to the assembled mass of players, “let’s get back to it. George, give me the Quaffle and I’ll put it back into play.”

“No,” George said, a mischievous spark in his eye.

“Right, so everyone fly up and – wait, what?” Angelina turned her broomstick towards him. “What do you mean no?”

“I mean you’re gonna have to make me give it to you,” he teased, extending a long arm and holding the Quaffle high above her head. “Come on, Johnson, let’s see what you got.”

Angelina huffed exasperatedly, but Ginny could see the corners of her mouth turn inwards as she suppressed a smile. “George,” Angelina tried to snap, “stop it.” She leaned in close and stretched, trying in vain to grab the red ball. Her fingertips brushed against George’s wrist.

“Well, well,” he said, eyebrows waggling playfully, “a little vertically challenged, aren’t we?” He leaned back as Angelina leaned forward, laughing. “Shorty.”

Ginny flew over to next to Draco as they watched the flirting couple struggle over the rubber ball. “Why doesn’t she just inch her broom higher, so that she can reach the Quaffle?” she murmured quietly.

“Well, either she’s so much thicker than I give her credit for,” replied Draco, “or she’s enjoying herself too much to think of something that logical.”

Angelina had just managed to retrieve the Quaffle and was preparing to start up the game again when Bill strode into the orchard. “Dinner's ready!” he hollered, cupping his hands around his mouth so that the small crowd flying above him could hear his voice. “Mum said that they started eating a half hour ago so we better get back before it’s all gone. Which really means we need to get to the rest of the food before Dad does.”

The fear that they might miss out on food sent most of the Quidditch players spiraling towards the ground and down the path, their brooms slung jauntily over their shoulders.

“Oy, Draco! Ginny! You guys coming?” bellowed Ron, shading his eyes against the setting sun’s glare, looking up at the pair still circling each other high in the sky. They were little more than dark silhouettes now, shadows against a background of shimmering amber and glowing coral.

“In a minute!” Ginny called back, urging her broom higher and delighting in the warm sunshine that bathed her skin. “Tell them to save some food for us!”

Ron shook his head resignedly and began trudging back towards the Burrow alone. “Those two are going to end up old, married, and parents of far too many pink haired babies to count,” he mumbled to himself, not unhappily, before disappearing into the rusting leaves of the forest.

Behind him, Draco flew up to meet Ginny, his hair mussed from the wind, and held up the Snitch. “First one to get this wins. Loser has to do everything the winner says for an entire day.” He raised an eyebrow in challenge.

Ginny raised one in return. “Someone needs to wipe that smirk off your miserable face.” She grinned. “You’re on.”

________________________________________

Four hours later, the last of the sun’s rays had faded from the sky, the stretched shadows had long been overtaken by night, and the two of them were still at it – this time with the Quaffle. Draco dove, plummeting towards the ground to block a particularly nasty shot from Ginny, and nearly tumbled headfirst into the grass.

“Too much for you to handle, Malfoy?” Ginny’s voice rang out in the darkness.

Draco sniffed depreciatingly, still looking disgustingly immaculate despite almost falling off his broom. “Asks the professional Quidditch player taking advantage of the rest of us normal people,” he muttered darkly.

“Draco Malfoy, you are anything but normal.” Ginny swept down behind Draco, snatching the red ball from his grasp. “However, was that you admitting that I’m better than you at something? Wait – was that you admitting that I’m better than you at Quidditch?”

“No,” Draco replied curtly, but not without a slight hesitation in his voice. “It was most certainly not.”

Ginny tossed the Quaffle high in the air, watching the way the shadows spun around its surface. “Are you sure?” she asked smugly, looping around him in lazy circles, “or do the non-professional Quidditch players here need a break?”

Draco gritted his teeth together. “Not in your life, Weasley.”

Silence reigned across the clearing again as the pair got back to playing, each trying to get the Quaffle past the other. Draco was intent, focused – especially after his slight slip of the tongue – but Ginny couldn’t help but feel unsettled. She didn’t know why but she needed to talk. It was too quiet.

“So, how’s Pansy?”

Draco pulled up short, panting slightly. “Who?” he asked, looking annoyed at the interruption.

“You know, Pansy Parkinson. Dark hair, huge mouth, supposedly your betrothed since forever.”

“She’s fine, I guess,” answered Draco slowly, changing his direction so that he was floating next to Ginny. “I haven’t spoken with her in forever. Which, by the way, might be a sign that she’s not my betrothed.”

Ginny sounded surprised. “Since when?”

“Since the time I didn’t get down on one knee to ask her for her hand and her heart, eternally bound to me in matrimony. Don’t you think I think I would’ve mentioned it to you sometime in the two years we’ve been friends if I were engaged? Or even close?”

“I don’t know, there are a lot of things that you don’t talk about.”

There was a pause. “Like what,” Draco said dryly.

Ginny shrugged. “Oh, this and that.”

“Your specificity astounds me.”

She picked up the Quaffle, throwing it agitatedly from one hand to the other. “I don’t know what I’m trying to say. Forget it, let’s just get back to the game.”

Draco eyed her oddly. “Whatever makes your pot hop, Weasley.”

Ginny made to start flying again but then stopped herself, the Quaffle perched precariously on the slight crook in her broomstick. “Well, then what about Heather?”

Draco sighed, turning back towards her. “And by ‘get back to the game’ you, of course, meant ‘continue this painful discussion’. Which Heather?”

“The one from the Auror force, that you were seeing from a while back. Whatever happened to her?”

“We went out for drinks a couple times last year.”

“And then?”

“Well, nothing, I suppose.” Draco shrugged. “I just didn’t want it to go anywhere.”

“Why?”

He thought for a minute before answering. “Well, she’s good at what she does – which is why she caught my eye – but, other than that, she was unremarkable. Completely unremarkable.” He peered at Ginny, searching her face in the starlight. “Why the sudden interest in my love life?”

“What, I can’t ask you about your love life?”

“Not in the middle of a Quidditch game, no. What is wrong with you?”

Ginny rubbed her neck uncomfortably. “I don’t know, I suppose I was just thinking and it’s like – I mean, you’re not getting any younger –”

“Thank you,” said Draco wryly.

“No problem,” she answered, not missing a beat. “And you still haven’t settled down and, I don’t know, I’m beginning to worry about you.”

There was a pause. “Worry,” he said.

Ginny nodded. “Yes, I mean, I know you have your whole sex god persona that the media cooked up or whatever, but honestly, Draco? It’s getting old. And I am sure that there is someone out there for you.”

“Out…there.”

“Yes, and you’ve got to stop screwing around and go find them. You’re getting old.”

He didn’t say anything for a moment. “I’m getting old?”

“Obviously. Stop repeating everything I say.”

“Gin, I’m twenty-five. Most all our friends my age are still single and you’re only a year younger than me. So if I’m old, then you must be somewhere on the crest of that hill and I don’t see your – oh, how did you put it – betrothed.”

She was surprised to hear the acidity in his voice. “No need to get defensive, Draco, I was just saying –”

“You know, I think it’s really ripe that you, of all people, are worried about my love life. I would’ve thought it should have been the other way around.”

Ginny bristled. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Draco huffed nonchalantly, but she could see his hand shaking slightly in the dim light. “How many dates have you been on since we’ve started talking? Four, maybe five at best?”

“And what’s wrong with that?”

“Five dates in two years, Gin? Seriously –”

“Am I supposed to whore myself out like you do?”

Draco took a breath to say something but stopped himself, the words catching in his throat. Shaking his head, he swallowed the words and changed directions. “Where is this coming from, Gin?” he asked softly.

“What, the whoring yourself out thing? Honestly, Draco, even you can’t deny –”

“No, not that,” he said, dismissing her with an impatient wave of his hand, “I mean the random questions about the women I’ve dated, asking me when I’m getting married – all while we’re playing Quidditch, no less.”

“So?” Ginny asked defensively, crossing her arms.

“I think we know that between the two of us, my love life is not the one that in dire need of scrutinizing.”

“There is nothing wrong with my love life!”

“Oh, come one, Gin – you’ve barely gone out with anyone since I’ve gotten to know you and none of them have been a second date. When are you going to actually start dating again?”

“I am actually dating!”

“No, you’re not,” Draco said quietly, shaking his head. “If you were then you wouldn’t be here, using your five dates as some sort of deflective shield and protesting that you’re over Harry all the time.”

Don’t. Don’t take that condescending, judgmental, I-know-more-than-you tone –”

“I wasn’t! And stop trying to change the subject.”

“You so were! Listen, Draco, I have things under control, all right? I don’t need you or your bloody opinions telling me that I need to date more, or – or that I need to get over Harry –”

“So you’re telling me that you don’t need to get over that specked git?”

“I don’t need to get over him because I already am over him! And don’t call Harry a git!” Ginny clenched her broom stick tight in one hand, feeling the wood dig into her palm.

Draco paused, and she knew – she knew, even if she couldn’t make out his features in the dim light – that he had that nauseating, smug look on his face. “Is there some specific reason I can't call him a git, Ginny? Why are you defending him?”

“Why shouldn’t I defend him?”

“Because he’s a gigantic arsehole!” Draco suddenly burst out, his voice ragged with emotion. “The prick dumps you with no warning, breaking every single promise he’s ever made to you. He doesn’t try to patch things up, doesn’t try to be friends or make anything less awkward between the two of you despite the fact that he’s practically your parents’ eleventh – er, eighth? – whatever, son –”

“Seventh,” Ginny tried to cut in “And that’s not –”

“You say the two of you were friends long before you started dating, but he doesn’t even seem to care about you,” Draco went on, not even hearing her. “He gets engaged to Cho despite the fact that you are clearly not over him – everyone can see that –”

“Now, wait a minute, I am over him and you –”

“He failed so badly in everything that had to do with you and yet you’re still defending him! From me, of all people. He treated you like crap, Gin! He’s still treating you like crap and all you can do is stand there and tell me not to call him a git –”

“Shut up!” Ginny finally shouted as the frustration and anger and fear – fear that came with the realization that everything Draco was saying was true – came bubbling to the surface all at once. She opened her mouth to say something, to rebuke and deny all that he had said, but nothing came out.

Draco hovered in front of her, his pale skin nearly glowing in the starlight. He had fallen silent when she shrieked at him, but his gaze was steady, disconcerting in its surety. He knew that she knew, somewhere inside, that what he said was true.

“You have no right,” she said coldly, “to say that to me. How can you even say that I still have some sort of feelings for Harry? You think you have me all figured out but we’ve barely known each other for two years –”

“And it’s been two years since he broke up with you, Ginny.”

“That doesn’t mean anything! That’s not even half the time me and Harry spent together.”

“So what? He’s moved on – Gin, he and Cho are getting married next month and you’re still here pining over him?”

“I am not pining over him,” she answered, feeling the heat rise in her face, “Merlin, of all people Draco, you should know that – after everything I’ve said about how I knew it couldn’t work out between the two of us anyway, because it was all too perfect. How can you call yourself my friend after all that we’ve been through, after everything I’ve ever said to you about Harry, and still think that I’m not over him –”

“Because you’re not! You’re just too bloody scared to admit it.”

“What? No – have you been listening to anything –”

“You are scared. You’re always talking about Harry this and Harry that and how you two were too perfect and how you’re moving on because it was never meant to be, but you aren’t. You aren’t moving on. You’re too much of a coward to let go of what you had, of whatever previous misconstrued perceptions you had of your future together. You’re scared to let that part of your life – your entire life since first year – go, and that’s why you can’t get over him.”

The two of them sat, suspended in midair, glaring at each other. Ginny took a deep, shuddering breath.

“Are you really so arrogant that you're assuming that you can just tell me how I’m feeling? How would you even know? Don’t be an idiot, Malfoy. And if you really think that, then you barely even knew me at all.” She drew back away from him, ignoring the slight twinge of doubt inside her that wondered if perhaps Draco in fact knew her feelings better than she did.


She heard him scoff. “Really – me, an idiot? Do I look like Potter?” he snapped, that presumptuous scorn in his voice.

“Now, what the hell is that supposed to mean?” Ginny asked exasperatedly, suddenly exhausted from their argument. She was tired of defending herself and her feelings for Harry, tired of fearing that everything Draco was saying was actually true. And when he turned away, not answering her, Ginny gave up. “Whatever,” she said, turning to fly away from him, “I don’t care anymore. I should’ve known better than to think that you could –”

Draco lunged forward suddenly and grabbed her wrist, his fingernails digging into her skin. “Potter is more of an idiot than I ever gave him credit for,” he said fiercely, “because he didn’t want you. He never realized how incredibly lucky he was to have you love him – how you still love him, even after he’s hurt you so many times.”

Ginny shook her head, “I don’t–” she began, but then she looked up at Draco, saw the way his eyes were smoldering in the dim starlight, and her words hitched in her throat.

“You asked how I can say that you’re not over Harry?” Draco’s voice was low, shaking. “I can say that, Ginny, because I can see that you’re so hung up over that boy – someone who was never close to being worthy of you – that you’re blinded to everything else. Everyone else. If you were over him, then maybe you would be able to see someone that’s been right in front of your eyes, waiting for you for two years.”

Ginny felt her breath catch and she opened her mouth to say something, anything, but before she could, he was gone – jumping off his broom and stalking away, swallowed up by the night’s shadows. She stared at the spot where he had disappeared, struggling to comprehend just exactly what it was that Draco was trying to tell her.
Go Skinny-Dipping. Soak Up the Sun. by fallingskyes
Go skinny-dipping. Soak up the sun.


Ginny splashed her feet in the small brook that ran through the woods by the Burrow, lost in deep thought. The early summer sun beat down upon her, seeping into her damp hair, drying the water on her skin. Overhead, tree branches waved in the wind, shifting back and forth to reveal a cloudless sky between their cheerful green leaves.

She still didn’t know what to make of what had happened between her and Draco last night. He never showed up for dinner; later, Ron said that he had stalked through the garden and Disapparated at the gate, leaving without a word to anyone. Too tired and confused to go home, Ginny had spent the night at the Burrow and then called in sick the next morning, skipping her first Harpies’ practice in ages. It was a golden and sun-drenched day, perfect for skinny-dipping, and before long Ginny had found her feet wandering through the trees to the brook where she had first learned to swim.

The water babbled pleasantly as it rushed passed, momentarily pausing to pool around her ankles before continuing downstream. Ginny let her feet bob in its current. The day was warm, the scenery peaceful – but Ginny was anything but relaxed. The words that Draco had said last night hung heavily around her in the forest air like oil on water, refusing to mix or meld or disappear.

She tipped her head back, relishing the brush of patterned sunlight across her bare skin. The seed of doubt Draco had planted with his words had erupted into a tree overnight, casting a shadow over her every thought.

Maybe he was right about the way that Harry treated her, Ginny mused darkly, flicking droplets of water into the air with her toes. Things had been unspeakably awkward between the two of them since the breakup, and up to this point he had brushed off all attempts she made to reconcile or establish some sort of friendship like what they had had before her fifth year. But deep down, Ginny wondered whether Harry ignored her because he was simply that much of a jerk, or if maybe, just maybe, he ignored her because he could somehow sense that she in fact wasn’t completely over him, and therefore would not be able to be just his friend.

Of course, Ginny thought gloomily as she threw a hand over her eyes, shielding them from the sun’s rays, that meant Harry was enough of a pompous arse to assume that she couldn’t get over such a fine male specimen as himself. Well, he had always been somewhat ego-centric, but then again, she was best friends with Draco, sister to Ron and Percy – arrogant blokes seemed inevitable in her life. Unless Harry actually wasn’t indulging in his bigheadedness and it was simply just that obvious to him and everyone else that she was somewhat still hung up on him. Draco’s voice seemed to echo across the sunlit air – you are clearly not over him, everyone can see that

With a groan of frustration, Ginny flipped herself over onto a warm boulder, feeling the roughness of the rock rub against her shoulder blades. “Why does all of this have to be so difficult?” she muttered to herself. It had been two years, and fine - all right, she could say it, at least to herself. She still wasn’t able to completely let go of Harry. How pathetic was that? He had undoubtedly been able to move on – he was getting married soon, for Merlin’s sake – and here she was, sunbathing on a rock and feeling like crap because she still wished that she was the one he was getting married to.

Well, no, not exactly. Ginny shook her head, trying to unscramble her thoughts. The actual person of Harry Potter – well, Ginny was almost positive she could say that she didn’t need him anymore. He was sweet, yes, and reckless and stubborn and selfless and brave – but in the end, he was just another boy. Someone she hadn’t talked to in two years, someone who Ginny doubted even knew her anymore. She had changed so much since they had been together – a fact, she thought grudgingly, mostly due to her effervescent friendship with Draco – and she was sure he had too. Despite their long and shared history, it seemed that they were nearly worlds apart now.

No, Harry Potter himself was not the problem. There was still some truth in the words Ginny had uttered over and over like some sort of enchantment – and she knew, despite whatever she may have wanted in the past, that Harry wasn’t right for her. What they had together, it was predictable, ordinary. Boring, even. Again, Draco’s words from last night rang out amid the bubbling water and birdsong – unremarkable. Completely unremarkable.

It was just everything else that had come attached to the name Harry Potter. It was everything that he had meant to her – the promises and the security and the future she had set her heart on when she was ten years old. How could she just let go of the life she had dreamt of for all those years?

Ginny dipped her hand in the stream, watching the water as it slipped through her fingers. “But then again,” she murmured ruefully, “how pathetic is it that I had planned my entire future around one boy?” And one who no longer planned his around her, no less.

But just because her life didn’t turn out the way she dreamed – well, Ginny was starting to wonder whether it was the one that ended up suiting her perfectly. She had the best job in the world, playing Quidditch professionally with a team that was both incredibly talented and unsurpassably passionate about the sport. And she still loved her family more than anything else in the world. True, they were a little frayed, different from how they were when she was young – and they all still missed Fred, but they had gotten through it together. Hermione and Luna were always there for her, with the love and support and laughter she needed but never had to ask for. And she never would have thought that she could have found as much joy as she did in the children – her nieces and her nephews and, of course, Teddy. In fact, it was the parts of her life that she never could have predicted that Ginny had found she cherished on the most. Draco Malfoy – with his smirk and sarcastic remarks, his insufferable arrogance and raised eyebrows – had offered her an unexpected, surprisingly easy friendship and she realized just how much she had come to depend on his presence in her life and the endless, bantering talks they had each day. It had gotten to the point where Ginny was starting to feel as if nothing that in her life was real until she shared it with Draco.

And if she hadn’t broken up with Harry, Ginny wondered, would she ever have become friends with Draco? Would she have come to treasure these other people in her life as much as she did now?

Suddenly, a loud crashing noise came from the brush on the other side of the stream, as if someone were pushing aside branches in the forest as they headed towards the sound of the brook. Ginny squeaked from surprise and scrambled over to her pile of discarded clothes, hurrying to cover herself.

He appeared at the water’s edge right as she pulled her t-shirt over her head, the dappled sunlight glowing on his pale skin. Ginny spied the bits of leaves and twig in his hair, the dark mud clinging to the bottom of his trousers. She looked at his sweaty, flushed face and tried not to smile. Clearly, someone had gotten lost.

“Bloody hell, Weasley,” Draco grumbled, trudging across the rocks to her side. “Only you would voluntarily choose to go gallivanting off in some forest overgrown with weeds and mud pits. How are you supposed to get to this stupid steam without nearly dying three or four times?”

Ginny raised an eyebrow. “There’s a path that leads from our garden, through the woods to here.” She pointed behind her.

Draco gaped at the path for a minute before closing his mouth and glowering. “Damn,” he muttered darkly.

Overhead, the birds chirped. Sunlight skipped lightly down the stream's rippling surface. And an uncomfortable silence fell across the two of them; wrapping around the pair like an unwanted cat twists itself between someone’s legs.

Ginny cleared her throat nervously. She was glad that Draco had come to her – she hated having to initiate any kind of awkward confrontation – but his arms were folded stubbornly across his chest. He shifted his weight back, avoiding her questioning looks. Then he turned away from her, walked over to where Ginny was sitting before his arrival and settled himself down on the riverbank.

She hesitated briefly before joining him, slipping her bare feet into the water. Neither of them said anything. The leaves rustled.

“Look,” Ginny said finally, figuring that if he approached her than it was only fair that she break the silence, “I don’t really know what to say, how to explain why I flipped out last night. In fact, I –” Her words were cut off abruptly as Draco reached over and pressed his hand over her mouth.

“It’s fine.” His gaze was steady, his eyes the color of the smooth rocks sprawled across the edge of the riverbed. “I don’t do the whole ‘I’m sorry,’ cry and apologize thing, alright?”

Ginny nodded mutely. She took his wrist, gently removing his hand from her mouth. “But I’m still sorry for completely – I mean, you’ve been here for me more times than I can count in the past two years and it wasn’t fair for me to dump all that confusion –”

Ginny,” Draco interrupted again, “I said it was fine.”

“No.” Ginny shook her head. “I just need to say – well, you just need to know that – uh –” She trailed off helplessly.

Draco raised an eyebrow, amused, and Ginny felt herself flush. “All right,” she started again, “what I’m trying to tell you is that you – you were right. About everything. Well, almost everything, I think I’ve actually gone out with six guys since we started actually being friends and – wait, no, I’m getting sidetracked.”

She paused, trying to collect her thoughts. “Basically, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, about what you said. And it’s true. I was scared. Maybe I still am scared. And Harry Potter is an arse, not that you had to scream it in my face or anything.”

Draco grimaced. “Yes, I could have been a little more tactful about that point. And I’m sorry too, for unloading all of that on you at once. But we were both tired, you know? We both said some things we didn’t mean.” He kept his gaze averted.

“Things we didn’t mean?” Ginny asked softly, “or – or things that we’ve been keeping inside for too long?”

Draco looked at her quickly, startled, before flicking his eyes downward to where she was still holding his wrist. He faltered for a moment, pulling back from her a bit, before slowly drawing his arm out of her grasp.

He got to his feet and stretched, his back turned to her, still not meeting her eyes. Ginny looked up at him. Unbidden, a string of memories from last night flickered across her mind – the sound of his laugh, unrestrained and triumphant as his fingers closed around the Snitch; the agitated movement of his hands as he argued with her, trying to make her see something that had been so plain to him all along; his eyes when he had looked at her, sorrowful, limpid, burning; the white arch of his neck in the starlight as he turned away from her.

She rose to her feet, walking around him so that she was standing in front of him. “Draco?”

He twitched. “What?” A particularly exuberant wave of water leapt over the riverbanks, splashing the two of them standing on the rocks.

Draco rubbed the back of his neck, the tips of his ears turning just the slightest shade of pink. “Look Gin, don’t – well, I mean, I didn’t –” He let out a puff of frustrated air. “Let’s just go back to the Burrow, alright? I skipped dinner last night, and you know I’ll internally combust if I don’t have some of your mum's cooking at least once a week.” He grinned at her hopefully.

Ginny opened her mouth to tell him that no, who did he think she was, of course she wasn’t letting him off that easy, but then she shut it again. Suddenly, Ginny wasn’t so sure she wanted to know his answer if she asked him just exactly he was trying to tell her last night. She didn’t know what she would say back to him, or even worse – she didn’t know what it would mean for them.

So instead, Ginny smiled at Draco, taking his hand without a word and leading the way through the woods, back home.
End Notes:
Just a heads up – I started editing the last chapter to this fic a couple days ago and it was, to put it quite bluntly, absolute crap. I cannot believe I used to think it was a fitting end to this story that I’ve worked on for so long. So I’m throwing it out, except for about three paragraphs, and starting from (almost) scratch. Unfortunately, this means that I will in fact not be making my self-imposed September 2nd deadline. What this does mean, though, is that this story will actually have an ending that suits it, you know? And also, the people who have read this before on LiveJournal can expect something completely new and different and – well, I’m still hashing out the details, but I think it’ll be a pretty satisfying final chapter.

Thank you to all of you who have stuck with me for this long. And just think – this is the last time you’ll have to wait for an update…
And Finally... by fallingskyes
Author's Notes:
I tremble. I weep. I throw myself across the ground at your collective feet and grovel – nay, beg – for your forgiveness. This chapter is so, so, SO overdue. And I owe you all a huge apology. (I will owe you all a bigger apology at the end of this chapter, but I’ll get to that in the chapter end notes.)

I could go on and on about why this is so late and how trying of a year this has been – and believe me, it’s been a monster of a year – but I have a feeling that you all would rather have me shut up and just get on with the story! And so I shall.

Quick warning: there is one teensy, eensy, four-letter word in here that is not fir for children’s ears. I tried doing without it, but it just seemed so much more British and Ginny with it there. And so you will just have to put up with my foul language.

Enjoy!
Ginny didn’t remember how she had managed to fall in love again. She didn’t remember when his face became the first one she sought when she walked into a crowded room or when his voice became the only one that could smooth away the aggravation of a bad day. She didn’t remember what had happened the first time his hand just barely brushed against hers and her heart began to pound like a stampede, and she didn’t remember where she was when she realized that she was no longer able to listen to his sweet laughter without joining in herself. She didn’t remember how it came to be that one look, one smile, one raised eyebrow from him was all it took to make her feel as if she were freefalling, plummeting into a swirling, endless sky.

She didn’t remember how she had managed to fall out of love either. Somewhere between the long letters to Luna and the late-night talks at Hermione’s and the practices from daybreak until dusk with the Harpies and the Sunday dinners with her chaotic family and everything else with Draco – all of their insults and arguments, their banter and laughter and ridiculous conversations – Ginny had fallen out of love with Harry Potter. Out of love with both him and, more recently, with everything he had once meant to her. Ginny couldn’t pinpoint the exact time it happened – she couldn’t even say if there was one precise moment when all of her feelings for Harry had been resolved. She certainly hadn't noticed when it occurred. It just happened that one day Ginny Weasley could say that she did not love Harry anymore, and she could say it without lying. She could not remember for the life of her how any of this came to pass.

What Ginny did remember, however, was this. She remembered waking up one morning, earlier than usual, but then glancing at the faint sunshine sliding through her window blinds and deciding to get up anyway. She remembered cursing to herself when she stubbed her toe on the corner of her nightstand like she had done every other morning before that one, and she remembered thinking that she should move said nightstand but then deciding to put it off until she was less tired – fully aware of the fact that as soon as she did wake up a bit, she would forget all about it until her toe was throbbing the next morning. She remembered tripping down the hallway towards the bathroom, twisting on the hot water at the sink, looking up, catching her own eye in the mirror as steam began to rise from the water pouring out of the rusted faucet and realizing, right then, right at that precise moment – Ginny realized that she was completely, hopelessly and irrevocably in love with Draco Malfoy.

Fuck.
________________________________________


“Alright, Ginny, I understand, just try to calm –”

“No, no you don’t understand, Hermione, this is awful –”

“I hardly see it as awful –”

“But it is! Hermione, this is Draco Malfoy –”

“I gathered as much when you popped out of my fireplace at six in the morning, shrieking ‘Help me, Hermione, I’m in love with an arrogant, obnoxious, smirking arse of a man’ –”

“Hold on now! I definitely used his name at least, give me some credit, and I think I said ‘prat’ instead of ‘arse’–”

“Nevertheless –”

“And how exactly does one’s arse smirk, anyway?”

The conversation in the kitchen ground to a halt as the two women paused, contemplating this last statement. It was only with a sleepy meow from Crookshanks – who had been watching the entire exchange with heavy-lidded eyes from his perch atop the kitchen table – that Hermione shook herself out of her reverie and stood up with a sigh, walking over to the cabinet where she kept Crookshank’s catfood.

“Look, Ginny,” she said wearily, shifting through the contents of the cabinet shelf, trying to find Crookshank’s breakfast, “I’m not saying that this isn’t a big deal – because I know it is a big deal, a huge deal – but you have got to calm down.”

“I can’t,” Ginny wailed, banging her head against the counter. “This is Draco. Draco. It’s so, I don’t know, weird almost. Confusing. Sudden. A disaster. That’s what this is – a disaster.”

“Because of the whole Weasleys-and-Malfoys-must-always-hate-each-other-and-try-to-inflict-as-much-immediate-pain-as-possible-upon-meeting thing? Or –”

“Because he’s my best friend,” Ginny whispered. She buried her face in her hands.

Hermione felt her heart melt. “Oh, Gin,” she murmured, abandoning Crookshank’s half-filled bowl and moving over to Ginny, wrapping her arms around her friend. “It’s going to be alright.”

“No, it’s not,” Ginny said stubbornly from somewhere against Hermione’s shoulder. “It’s never going to be alright again. How am I supposed to go on pretending that I don’t, don’t – well, you know, that him?”

“Well, I don’t think you should hide it from him –”

“But I have to! Why would I even – or, how could I ever possibly begin to – Hermione, he’s Draco!” Ginny felt tears of frustration leak from the corner of her eyes. “He’s been there for me every single day for these past two years. I’ve known him my entire life – hated him for most of it – and yet somehow he’s just there for me in the times when I needed someone to talk to most. Not that you haven’t been there for me, Hermione, I mean, just look at right now but – but, Draco gets me. He understands me, sometimes more than I think I understand myself, and when I’m with him, life just kind of lights up, you know? And maybe it’s clichéd but whenever he’s around, everything suddenly seems so much more exciting, significant somehow, and even if we’re doing nothing more than sitting outside and talking, it’s like – it’s like there’s nowhere else I would rather be.”

Hermione nodded, reaching over to grab a handkerchief off the table.

“Thanks,” said Ginny as she swiped angrily at the tears dribbling down her cheeks, “And now everything is different. I feel like I’ve lost him already, lost my friend, lost that one person that I can be wholly and completely myself around because of all of this, because of these damn feelings. I know myself, I know what I’m like – I’m going to be awkward and shy, I’m going to say inappropriate things, I’ll probably put my elbow in the sodding butter dish, and the entire time this is happening I’m going to be bright scarlet and he will definitely know there’s something wrong – because not even Draco Malfoy is that dense, and if he is, then, I mean, the universe would have me to fall in love with the most gigantic idiot alive –”

Ginny stopped her ranting abruptly. “Bloody hell,” she croaked, “I’m in love with Draco Malfoy.”

Hermione suppressed a giggle. “Yes, Gin, I do believe that’s the sixth time we’ve confirmed that in the past five minutes.” She brushed a stray hair out of Ginny’s eyes. “And I don’t mean to sound insensitive, dear, but isn’t all this a good thing? You finally being in love with someone other than Harry? And with someone who knows you so well – why are you so upset about it?”

Ginny bit her lip. “It changes everything.”

She stood up and walked over to the kitchen table, absent-mindedly running her fingers across Crookstank’s back. “Nothing is going to be the same again. Because now it’s not just Draco, my friend – it’s Draco, my friend that I –” she swallowed hard, “that I think I’m in love with and, well, that’s something completely different.” She sighed, her eyes following the way Crookshank’s tail drifted lazily from side to side. “I wish things were the way they were before.”

“Before?” Hermione was unable to keep the indignant squeak from her voice. “Before? Ginny, you were miserable before! You were still half in love with Harry, who was acting like a right prick about the whole situation, and you were moping your way through life until Draco came along and reminded you what it was like to, I don’t know, live again and why in Merlin’s name would you ever want to go back to before?”

Ginny shrugged her shoulders uncomfortably. “Things were so much easier before.”

“But Ginny,” Hermione walked over to the sulking redhead, taking her face in her hands and forcing her to meet her eyes, “just because things are more difficult now doesn’t mean that they’re not right.”

“I don’t know really know how to – I mean, it’s just – I don’t know.” Ginny turned away from Hermione. “Ironically, usually when I’m this confused about something I’d talk to Draco about it. He would undoubtedly make some sort of rude, sarcastic comment about the situation and I would get all angry and yell at him and then we would probably get into a terrible argument over something that had absolutely no correlation to the original reason I was upset – but somehow, afterwards, I would find that I knew exactly what to do. Talking with Draco – or bickering with him, or teasing, or whatever – I don’t know why, but the world just always makes so much more sense with him around.”

Hermione chuckled. “The two of you and the way you work– I will never understand. But, Gin,” she paused thoughtfully, “I don’t see why you can’t do the same thing in this situation.”

“What?”

“I mean, go talk to Draco about this. Tell him how you –”

Tell him? I can’t tell him!”

“Why not?”

““Because – because I can’t. How am I supposed to – and how would he begin to – Hermione, I – I can’t.”

Hermione shook her head, eyes softening at Ginny’s distress. “He needs to know this, Ginny,” she said quietly. “At the very least, you owe this to him, and to the friendship the two of you share.”

“And what if telling him destroys that friendship?”

“From what you were saying before, Ginny, it already sounds like you believe that your friendship would fall apart if you tried to keep this from him. And besides, what kind of friendship is it in the first place if you don’t believe you can trust it with this kind of information?”

“It’s not that I don’t trust us or him or – I mean, I know I probably should but – Hermione, I don’t think I can tell him.”

“How come?”

Ginny lowered her gaze. “I’m scared.”

“Ginny,” Hermione said, smiling gently, “take it from someone who waited seven years to tell someone: sooner or later, the agony of being around him and not being able to say anything – it’s torture, Gin. And it whittles that fear down to nothing. I would have saved myself a lot of heartache, I think, if I had just marched up to Ron in the very beginning and admitted that I loved him.”

Ginny shook her head, not saying anything.

“Besides,” Hermione continued, “why should you deny yourself this chance at happiness just because you’re scared?”

The sounds of a world beginning to stir drifted through the open kitchen window – birds chirping softly, a door slamming shut, heels clicking across cobblestones. Ginny was quiet for a long time. She traced a finger across the patterns ingrained on the wooden tabletop as Crookshanks sidled over to where she sat and crawled into her lap, yowling his displeasure at her obvious misery.

“It’s just,” she began, scratching the concerned kitty behind his ears, “all this time, I was so busy trying to force myself to fall out of love with Harry, I didn’t even realize that I had somehow fallen in love with someone else.”

Hermione laughed softly. “The healing is usually in the journey, Gin – not the destination.”

“Meaning that in the end, it wasn’t the fountain that cured Amanta’s heartache, but the path that led her there?”

“Exactly.”

Ginny shook her head, grinning ruefully. “Why is it that all of the important things to know for life are taught to us before the age of three? Simple motor functions and learning how to use the loo was more than enough – how am I supposed to remember some profound lesson tucked away in the moral of the story?” She bit her lip nervously and looked up to meet Hermione’s gaze. “So I should tell him?”

Hermione nodded mutely.

Ginny’s stomach gave a sickening lurch. She buried her fingers deep into Crookshank’s long fur. “But,” she said shakily, “what if he doesn’t love me back?”

Hermione reached across the table and placed a warm hand on Ginny’s shoulder. “But what if he does?”
________________________________________


That particular day, the morning had dawned grey, misty and drizzling. Rain was pitter-pattering upon the roof of Ginny’s flat as she materialized suddenly in her kitchen with a quiet pop. She sighed. The rain seemed to sense some of Ginny’s confused desperation, and sympathetically drummed a little harder on her window panes.

Ginny glanced out at the downpour. After a moment’s hesitation, she threw up the window sash and climbed out onto her balcony into the late summer shower.

Outside, the world was muted and hazy – soft, almost – as Ginny looked out over the village through the curtain of falling rain. In this grey morning light, everything seemed to be fairly glowing with the thin vapor from a million broken raindrops. Water ran in rivulets across the streets, flowing into puddles that held a clear, colorless reflection of the shifting storm clouds overhead.

She stretched out her hand, letting the water collect in her cupped palm. Raindrops were everywhere – spiraling from the sky, trickling down the glass panes behind her, dripping off the edge of the roof, clinging to her eyelashes. Ginny glanced down at the tiny pool that she held and was struck by the way the water mirrored the churning sky above. That limpid reflection suddenly reminded her of the look in Draco’s eyes as he walked her drunken self home one cold winter’s night, many months before – the night she had first begun to realize that there was so much more to Draco Malfoy than pristinely-knotted ties, scornful mocking, and some misplaced fear of cats.

The drizzle had ceased somewhat, lessening until it was nothing more than a heavy mist grazing her skin. She gazed out over the glistening rooftops but instead saw his cocked eyebrow, his quiet smile. Ginny closed her eyes.

What am I going to do?
End Notes:
So…as you can probably tell, this isn’t the final chapter. I’ve been working like mad on it, and it’s somewhere around three times as long as all of my other chapters and I didn’t want to have such a long, heavy, complicated end all crammed into one post – so I’m splitting it up into two, maybe three chapters. And so you all once again will have to bear with me. Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry.

I will say that I’m not exactly happy with this either. It seriously messes with the original symmetry I had in this fic – the OCD portion of my brain is cringing most unpleasantly – but it didn’t seem fair to make you all wait for almost an entire year and then force you to read a million words at once. And so I chose the lesser of two evils.
...Find What Little Courage You Have... by fallingskyes
Author's Notes:
Right. So I've been working on this, I promise, really I have. But the words just weren't coming, and when I'm blocked like that, I can't force it, I kind of just have to let it sit and mull and – well, and then before I've noticed it's become six months since my last update.

But then today was hectically busy and I was scampering all over the city running errands…and then it started to snow. I don't know if I can begin to describe how much I love snow; everything I'd say would be a cliché but snow is just so wonderful. And it makes me think. And today, walking home in the snow, following the dozen of footprints littered over the sidewalk, watching the way the flakes managed to catch what light there was even when the moon was hidden behind a fleet of clouds – well, I thought of Notes on Falling Out of Love.

So here it is: the next chapter, long overdue. You have my sincerest of apologies. Enjoy!
She gave in.

She decided she should stop being immature about the whole situation – decided to step up, overcome the fear, be a grownup about it. She was a Weasley, and Weasleys don’t back down. In fact, she was Ginny Weasley, someone who had held conversations with Voldemort her first year at Hogwarts, who had broken into the Ministry of Magic, who had battled Death Eaters before her sixteenth birthday, who had fought and worked and clawed her way onto one the league’s top Quidditch teams – who had managed to survive growing up with all six of her brothers, for Merlin’s sake. She could do this. She had to do this. And she would not be scared by the likes of telling Draco Malfoy that she loved him because she was strong. She was fearless. She was awesome.

Unfortunately, all the awesome in the world couldn’t keep her hands from shaking as she stood inside the lift at the Ministry of Magic, watching the gold metal doors slide open before her.

“Level two, Department of Magical Law Enforcement, including the Improper Use of Magic Office, Auror Headquarters –”

Ginny skipped out into the corridor, leaving behind the lift and its creepy, disembodied voice. She blinked, her eyebrows furrowing as she stared down the long hallway lined with doors. How was she supposed to find him?

She looked carefully to her right and then her left. No one. The floor seemed to be completely deserted. Where is everybody?

Deciding there was no other way, Ginny began to walk slowly down the corridor, peeking into the offices that had their doors ajar, hoping to see the flash of white-blond hair that always seemed to precede Draco’s arrival. Unfortunately, she quickly ran into a door that was shut tight. Taking a quick glance around, checking to make sure she was alone, Ginny rose to the tips of her toes and craned her neck towards the small glass window sitting over the door frame, straining to make out who was residing inside the office. When she discovered that she was in fact still too short, Ginny unconsciously began to hop up and down, just a little, looking not unlike as if she were mimicking a child on a pogo stick.

“Excuse me, miss?”

Ginny froze, feeling her face heat up, and she slowly turned around to face the severe-faced woman standing behind her. “Y – Yes?”

The woman crossed her arms. “Are you looking for someone?”

“I wasn’t – well, I mean, I was but – um, Draco Malfoy?”

“His office appears on our directory by the lift,” the woman said slowly, jabbing her finger in the direction of the long list of names and numbers tacked to the wall that Ginny had somehow managed to miss. Her heel drummed impatiently against the floor. “Although, I believe he is a meeting at the moment.”

“May I ask where?”

Lifting up her spectacles, the woman peered at Ginny, silently considering her with dark and piercing eyes. Ginny was reminded most strongly of McGonagall.

“Down at the hall, behind the double doors,” said the woman, after what seemed like an eternity.

“Thank you!” Ginny said as calmly as she could, before heading down the hallway at a near-sprint.

She could hear the blood pounding in her ears. Ginny wasn’t exactly sure why she was running down the hallway. As a matter of fact, she wasn’t even sure why she felt compelled to tell Draco right now, right at this precise moment. Ambushing him at the office probably wasn’t the wisest or the most tactful way to go about doing this, Ginny realized in the dwindling rational portion of her brain. And yet – she couldn’t stop. She couldn’t even slow down.

Somehow, Ginny knew that if she didn’t do this now, she wouldn’t be able to do it at all, ever.

Upon reaching the end of the hallway, Ginny pulled herself to a halt, breathing heavily. She stared at the polished bronze doorknob for a moment, trying to work up her nerve. Her arm twitched but remained steadfastly at her side. Merlin, I am a wimp, she thought derisively – but still her arm did not move.

“Perhaps I should just go home,” she murmured, but then – Ginny’s mind flashed back to a couple weeks ago when she had overslept an afternoon nap and showed up late to the Weasley Sunday dinner. This memory felt particularly impatient for some reason, and the sensations returned to Ginny erratically, each one tripping over the others: the smell of lavender greeting her as she appeared at the front gate, the twinge of annoyance she felt upon reaching an empty kitchen and realizing that her brothers had eaten all of the food, the lulling hum of after-dinner conversation floating through the rear door from the garden. Ginny remembered drifting back out into the fading sunshine, nearly falling over Teddy as he dashed past, her attention focused beneath the alder tree at the edge of the woods where most of the adults were gathered.

It was a large group sitting on the grass that warm summer evening, mostly redheaded men acting like the mischievous bunch of boys they were at heart, but one blond among them seemed to sense her approach and looked up, grinning as she skirted through the scampering children, making her way towards him. He caught her eye and Ginny remembered how her heart had leapt, how the smile had spread across her face as if by instinct – and suddenly she knew she couldn’t leave, couldn’t run away without at least trying to tell him how she felt because how could she ever survive the rest of her life if he smiled like that every time he saw her and she couldn’t say anything at all, if she just had to keep this chaos, this riot of feeling inside forever?

No, that would cause her infinitely more agony than whatever torture she was going through right now. As for the loss of dignity, the ever-present possibility of rejection, the knowledge that this would forever change whatever it was that the two of them shared – well, Ginny had already come to terms with the fact that nothing would ever be the same again.

Right. You can do this. Steady, Gin.

She pulled open the doors. Thirty pairs of eyes swiveled towards her.

“Hem memph uh,” Ginny sputtered intelligently.

Silence ensued.

Harry – who had clearly been leading the meeting, as he was standing at the front of the room, arms raised in mid-gesture, looking for all the world like an awkwardly angled bird about to take flight – cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Is there something we can help you –”

“Ginny?” Ron interrupted, half rising out of his seat. “Is something wrong? Are you alright?”

“Yes,” Ginny squeaked. She swallowed and tried again. “Yes,” she repeated at a hopefully more-normal pitch, “I’m fine, I was just wondering, er, if I could speak with Mr. Malfoy for a moment?”

Something that sounded suspiciously like a laugh-turned-hastily-into-a-cough sounded off to her right and Ginny turned to find one Draco Malfoy languishing against the back wall, an amused smirk gracing his features. Harry – who had finally realized that his arms were still in mid-flap – dropped his hands to his sides and gave Draco a curt nod. “Don’t be too long,” he mumbled before lowering his gaze to his notes and shuffling through them loudly.

Ginny watched as Draco slowly found his way to his feet and quite literally sauntered across the large room, clearly doing all he could to prolong the interruption and irritate Harry – someone who also happened to be his superior, Ginny noted wryly. Upon finally reaching where she was fidgeting nervously by the door, Draco took her hand, pulled her into the hallway and let the door fall shut behind them with a decisive click.

“Well?” he asked curiously, all the smug arrogance gone now that it was just the two of them.

Ginny looked up at those limpid grey eyes and felt her stomach drop to somewhere around her knees. Bugger. She really should have thought ahead, prepared something in advance. The only time she was ever good at thinking on her feet was in Quidditch, and even that came with exceptions. Quick, Ginny, just say something. Anything. It’s only Draco. You’ve done this a million times before.

“Hem memph uh,” Ginny stammered for the second time in less than five minutes.

Draco burst into laughter. “What’s the matter with you today, Gin? Do you realize that this the first time I’ve seen you speechless since, well, ever?”

Her heart was pounding in her ears. Her face was sweating. Her palms were sweating. Her back was sweating. Merlin, she was going to melt into one quivering, cowardly puddle of sweat. She glanced downwards, where Draco still clasped her clammy hand in his. When did I become so spineless?

“Ginny?” Now Draco was starting to look worried. Her peered into her wide eyes, brow furrowed. “Are you alright? What’s wrong? Why did you need to speak with me?”

Oh, right, Ginny thought faintly, staring into Draco’s eyes, I became spineless when he began to look at me like that.

Swallowing hard, she willed herself to say something that made at least a little sense. “Oh no, I’m fine, don’t worry about me, I just came down here to say – er, to tell you – I mean, I just wanted to see how you were doing, except I couldn’t find you because the hallway was quite long, you see, and there was a directory but of course I missed it somehow and then I got caught hopping up and down like an idiot by this woman who I swear could be McGonagall’s twin – she had the make-you-cower-like-a-puppy-who-just-wet-the-carpet glare down, at least – but she told me where to find you and so I did and you were in that meeting and well, you know what happened next, you were there so, uh – so, how are you?”

Draco quirked an eyebrow.

“Right,” said Ginny, flushing. She looked around wildly. “Is there a butter dish around here, by any chance? Because I think sticking my elbow in it would be less humiliating than this.”

He chuckled. “Not that anyone would ever refer to you as sane, Weasley, but you’re acting especially off-the-rocker today, even for you.” He tugged her closer. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“I’m fine.” Ginny could feel the panic rising within her and she fought against it, trying to appear composed. “For the most part, at least.” The two of them were so close; he must be able to hear her heart hammering against her ribcage.

Silence engulfed them. He was still holding her hand, waiting for her to say something – after all, she was the one who came to find him at work and pulled him out of a meeting. Ginny could hear the words inside her head. She could feel them lodged at the edge of her throat, thick and heavy, throbbing. Just say it, Ginny. Say I love you. I love you. Draco Malfoy, I love you. I love you. I – I can’t say it.

Ginny let out a shaky breath and felt the last of her dignity escape with it. The silence stretched on.

“Well,” Draco said at long last, letting go of her hand. “Thank you, Weasley, for the scintillating conversation. It truly was worth my time. Really, I think you’ve really done your intelligence justice today.” He paused, waiting for her biting response, but Ginny merely colored and remained silent. Merlin, what was wrong with her?

He sighed. “Look, Ginny, not that I don’t love standing here in a dark corner watching you fidget – and not that I don’t love having some excuse to get out of Scarhead’s pointless lectures – but I really should get back in there. It is my job and all.” He looked at her intently. “I am dying just a little bit from curiosity of what exactly is making you act loonier than you usually do, but I’m sure you’ll tell me when you figure it out.”

He turned to leave.

“Wait!” Ginny shrieked, finally finding her voice. “I – uh, Draco, I just wanted to tell you, um –” She could still feel the words, waiting, hitched in her throat.

“Yes?” Draco prompted softly when she didn’t continue.

Ginny chewed the inside of her cheek nervously. “I just wanted to tell you that – that, uh –” Come on, Ginny, “– that I like your hair,” she finished lamely. Her heart sank.

She couldn’t do it.

“You like my hair,” Draco slowly repeated. She nodded mutely. “But I was under the impression that you hated it. Remember last week? When you told me that it was too long and swishy, and then you called me a girl?”

“Yes, well, I changed my mind.”

“And you came down to the Ministry to inform me of this fact,” he said skeptically.

“Yes,” Ginny said, feeling her throat constrict. She wished she weren’t such a coward.

Draco narrowed his eyes. “It’s so obvious you’re lying that it is pathetic I even have to take the time to point out it out.” He stepped closer to her, placing a finger under her chin, forcing her to meet his gaze. “No matter. I know you, Ginny Weasley, and whatever it is that’s bothering you, you’ll tell me when you’re ready.” He paused, half-hoping she would interject with just exactly what it was that she so desperately needed to tell him, but Ginny remained silent. “I’m going to go now.”

“That’s fine,” Ginny said quietly. “I’ll see you later.”

“Alright.” Draco was still hesitating, lingering by the door, wondering if Ginny would suddenly blurt out whatever it was that she had allegedly come here to tell him. Perhaps this was just all a ploy to distract him, and inside the meeting room they were actually setting up a party to surprise him for his birthday. Except his birthday was a month ago, and there was no way Potter would allow the interruption of his precious meetings for something as trivial as a party. He frowned. In fact, with Scarhead involved, it was more likely that they were setting up an ambush for his arrest. Or his murder.

“Well, I’m going back in,” he said finally. “I’ll see you tonight?”

“Tonight?”

“It’s Friday. You know, the end of the week, when we usually get together, grab dinner, most likely get a little drunk – any of this ringing a bell?”

“Oh yeah,” Ginny said distractedly, “right. Um, I’ll expect you at my flat at what, seven?”

Draco nodded. “Same time as always, Weasley.” He reached for the doorknob. “Well, bye.”

“Bye,” Ginny whispered, watching him pull back the heavy oak doors. Draco slipped through the opening – his form outlined for the briefest of moments by the bright light inside – and then the doors fell shut and Ginny was left standing alone in the long, dimly-lit corridor.

“Stupid,” she growled quietly as she banged her had against the wall, “stupid stupid stupid stupid.”

Merlin, she was an idiot. She was a gutless idiot. How hard is it to tell someone you love them? People did it all the time. She did it all the time – I love you, Mum; I love you, Teddy; I love you, random man who sold me a cauldron cake that one time I was really hungry. Why the hell did telling Draco have to be so complicated? Ginny frantically replayed their brief encounter, where he had been pleasant and patient and witty and nice – which almost never happened – and she had been as coherent as a flobberworm.

She groaned and began to make her dejected way back towards the lift at the other end of the hallway. “I like your hair,” she muttered, “I told him that I liked his hair. I hate his hair. It does make him look like a girl. Merlin, why am I such an idiot?” She trudged onwards.

“Oy, Ginny!”

Hope swelled inside her and she spun around, thinking for the briefest of moments that it was Draco and that he had come to tell her that he was in love with her, thus saving Ginny the utter agony of having to try again later and failing. Except it wasn’t Draco jogging down the hallway towards her, it was –

“Harry?”

Ginny wasn’t really sure what was happening anymore. Harry Potter was standing in front of her, panting slightly from his scramble to reach her before she left, and she didn’t think the two of them had spoken directly to one another since that day two years ago when he had ended it all.

Harry straightened, awkwardly rubbing his hand against the back of his head. “Er, hi.”

“Hello,” Ginny answered, feeling apprehensive.

Silence.

If someone had told Ginny even a week ago that she and Harry would be standing face-to-face in a deserted hallway, attempting any sort of conversation, Ginny probably wouldn’t have believed them. At the very least, she would have expected herself to feel awkward and unhappy and perhaps just the smallest twinge of excitement. But she didn’t feel any of that right now. At the moment, all she could think about was how unbelievably large of a moron Harry Potter was, because he had two years to talk to her – two years to breach that uncomfortable gap and hold the first real conversation since their break up – and of course he would choose to do this on the day that she realized she had feelings for Draco Malfoy, the day she could possibly lose her best friend, the day she put herself out there and attempted to tell Draco she loved him, the day she failed to do so, the day she felt like complete and utter shit. Real nice timing, Harry – thanks ever so much.

He was still twitching nervously in front of her, searching for something to say, and Ginny wouldn’t have been as angry as she was if it weren’t for the fact that not ten minutes ago, she was doing the exact same thing in front of Draco. Harry looked like an imbecile, and the fact that Ginny realized she must have seemed just as stupid – if not more – made her angrier than she knew she reasonably should have been.

“So I was just –” Harry began at the exact same time that Ginny blurted out “So why are you even –” They both pulled back, flushing. Ginny crossed her arms.

“I just making sure,” Harry began again, “that you were alright.”

She held back a snort of disbelief. “I didn’t know you cared if I was alright.”

“Er, I did. I mean, I do,” Harry stammered. “You just kind of seemed troubled when you popped into my meeting back there –”

“That really didn’t concern you.”

“Oh.” Harry again ran his hand through his hair. “Um, well as long as everything is fine, then –”

“I mean, even if everything wasn’t fine, it’s not like you would really be able to do anything about it.”

Harry nodded, not knowing what else to do, and turned away to leave.

Ginny knew she was being rude. She knew that it had taken a lot for Harry to make the effort to approach her and ask her if she was fine – courage to save the world from Voldemort, he had, but courage when dealing with awkward social situations was a completely different story. She even knew that he probably would have talked to her sooner than right now, had it not been painfully obvious to him that she wasn’t over their relationship. It’s just that – why did he have to pick now to try and be friends again? She was disappointed in herself for not being able to tell Draco, she was stressed about what this would mean for their friendship, and now she felt guilty about being a complete bitch to someone who obviously making an effort to patch whatever it was between the two of them that needed patching. But the last thing she needed right now was Harry Potter being awkward and strange and chasing after her to ask her how things were in her life. She didn’t know what she was going to do about Draco. She was angry at herself. And now she had ruined things even more with Harry – if that had even been possible – and it was all just too much and why was she such a weakling to not be able to deal with any of this and –

Ginny burst into tears.

Harry froze and turned towards to the sobbing redhead in front of him. “Er –” he said helpfully.

“I’m sorry, Harry,” Ginny wailed. “I didn’t mean to be so rude towards you – I wasn’t really thinking about – well, I don’t know what –” She wasn’t able to continue, whatever words she was trying to get out were swallowed up by her huge gulping sobs.

Harry, for his part, tried his best to get Ginny to calm down. He placed a tentative hand on her shoulder – which just made Ginny cry harder due to her humiliation at having an utter meltdown in front of Harry – and so when that didn’t seem to help he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and patted her awkwardly on the head.

“It’s going to be alright, Ginny,” he said quietly, letting her cry against his chest, “I promise that everything is going to be alright.”

After what felt like ages to Ginny, she finally was able to gather some control and pull back from Harry a little. She wrapped her arms around herself, taking huge, gulping breaths, too ashamed to look him in the eye. Did that really just happen?

He was standing there, arms limply at his side, watching her. Ginny knew she needed to say something. She owed some sort of explanation to her ex-boyfriend of why she had just clung to his shirt and cried like a baby. And the truth seemed as reasonable in her post-hysterical state as any, so Ginny took a deep breath and –

“I think I’m in love with Draco Malfoy.”

Harry choked a little. Ginny watched amusedly for a couple seconds as his face quickly turned various shades of red. He finally regained control and managed to sputter out “You think?”

She sighed dejected. “No, I know I do. Really wish I didn’t. It makes life so much more complicated than I would prefer.”

Harry had mostly regained his composure, though Ginny noted that the tips of his ears were still scarlet. She saw his eyes narrow as he struggled over what to say next. Obviously something of that schoolboy rivalry still existed between the two of them, and she could tell Harry was having some trouble coming to terms with the fact that his ex-girlfriend had just proclaimed that she was in love with his old enemy.

“Er – would you, I mean, can I ask how this happened?” he finally stammered out awkwardly. He would always be a good guy, Ginny knew, and the high road was always the one Harry Potter would choose in the end.

“It’s kind of a long story,” she said tentatively, “and I don’t want to – I mean, I’m sure you have a lot to do and no offense but this is already such an awkward situation and then the fact that this is with you just makes it so much more –”

“But Ginny,” Harry interrupted, “it’s not like you, well, I – alright, look. I know things haven’t exactly been friendly between us,” he said in a rush. “In fact, things have been pretty much unbearably awkward. I know a lot of it has been my fault and the way that I kind of just tried to pretend you weren’t there but the way that you would look at me and I felt like I was just –” He cut himself off, again running a hand through his hair. “Well, that’s not important. Point is, I know it’s not like we’re close anymore, or that we’ve even spoken to each other in two years but – I still know you, Ginny. We grew up together, fought a war together, and I know you. No matter how much you may have changed since we broke up.”

“And the thing is,” he continued, “when you walked into that meeting room together, looking the way you did – I knew something was wrong. Something important. And it’s not like either of us have really acted in a way that we could be proud of – well, I haven’t, at least – but if there’s something I can do to help – I mean, I owe that to you.”

There was something glowing determinedly in his gaze. Ginny could feel it radiating off him in rolling waves.

“It was both of us who weren’t acting in a way we could be proud of,” she said quietly, “I know I tried sometimes but – I mean, I could have made it easier on us. On you. Or at least I would have, if I could.” She looked up, finally meeting his gaze. “You’re not an easy boy to fall out of love with, Harry Potter.”

He shifted uncomfortably and Ginny felt sudden panic. “Not that I’m not over you,” she said quickly, “I mean, it took a while and I don’t think I even noticed when it happened and I definitely don’t know how it happened but, I mean,” she grimaced, “now I’m in love with Draco Malfoy so –”

“Again I ask – how?”

Ginny couldn’t help but laugh at the look on his face. “Honestly, I couldn’t say. Or, I could, but it would take forever. If you really want to know, however –” she trailed off. Harry bobbed his head up and down emphatically.

“Right, well, I guess it all began two years ago, when we broke up…”

She told Harry everything – the first run-in at the bookstore, her drunken encounter with him that cold winter night, his visit to her flat after they frolicked together in a thunderstorm, their countless rambling conversations and their inexplicable friendship, the argument during Quidditch from a couple weeks ago, her desperate conversation with Hermione that morning, the unbearable encounter in the hallway just earlier. By the time she finished speaking, the two of them were sitting on the ground, leaning back against opposite walls. Harry gave a low whistle.

“Damn, Ginny,” he said slowly, giving her a lopsided grin. “You know, I hate to sound like a girl – and I hate to say anything complimentary towards Malfoy – but, well, he sounds pretty amazing. For you, I mean, not in general. Seriously, the man couldn’t turn in paperwork on time if his life depended on it. The next time I have to –”

“Dude, focus,” Ginny groaned, nudging Harry with her toe. “Desperate situation, about to lose my best friend, anything you have to say that would help? Really, any suggestion will do at this point.”

Harry looked at her. “Not to sound like a broken record, Ginny, but I think Hermione’s right.”

“I knew you would say that.”

“Well, is she ever wrong?”

Ginny thought about it for a moment. “There was the thing with the spoons that one time –”

“Alright, Gin, now you need to focus.”

She sighed, looking down at her hands, wishing she were braver. “I told you Harry, I tried.”

“Well, try again.”

“It’s not that easy!”

“I didn’t say it was.”

Ginny could hear the lights buzzing overhead as the two of them stared each other down – her, angry; him, steady. She was startled to see this fire in Harry’s eyes, a determination she had never seen before, even when they were together. She wondered at it, at why he was being so stubborn about her overcoming her fears and telling Draco that she loved him, and so she backed down first, shaking her head apologetically.

“I’m sorry, Harry, I don’t mean to yell at you, I just – why is this so difficult for me? To tell Draco I love him? With you – well, alright, I know this sounds crazy, and I know we’re not even close to being together anymore but – with you, everything was simple. Everything was easy and I can’t help but think that we were supposed to end up together. It all just worked out so perfectly, like it was meant to be, you know, like we were meant to have that happy ending. That was what it was like with you. But now, with Draco –”

“Gin,” Harry interrupted softly, “I know it was easy with us. It always had been. But you can’t base your entire life off some fairy tale notion you came up with when you were thirteen, and this is what the real world is, what life is. It’s hard, and it’s terrifying – but if you find the courage, Ginny, and you go after the very thing that’s scaring you to death – then it can be beautiful, incredible. Countless times better than whatever generic happily-ever-after we would have had.”

She looked at him, wide-eyed, and wondered when in the world Harry Potter became wise.

Footsteps could be heard, somewhere down the hallway. Harry and Ginny both looked up as the double doors at the end of the hall swung open and people began to file out. They glanced at each other, and then clambered to their feet.

“Look, Ginny,” said Harry as the low murmur of conversation grew louder, “I can only imagine how you must be feeling right now. Telling him, there’s a million reasons not to do it. Believe me, I can give you quite a few. But if you believe Malfoy’s worth it – and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think he is – then, well, what choice do you have, really?”

Ginny felt her stomach wobble. Even Harry was behind this, behind whatever “this” was that could happen between her and Malfoy.

“You’re one of the fiercest, most courageous people I know, Ginny,” said Harry. “I mean that. Just – you said he was going over to your flat tonight, for dinner? Just make him his favorite dinner, maybe some cookies – he stole all the ones your mum sent me last Christmas, I’m assuming he loves them – pour him a cup of wine, and, well, then just say it. I know you can do it. And everything seems a little less daunting after chocolate and alcohol.”

Ginny gave him a small smile. “Thanks, Harry,” she said, placing a hand on his arm, “for listening to me, and saying what you did. It means a lot.”

A bit of red moved into the corner of her sight and she looked over to see Ron heading towards the two of them. In a rare show of tact, however, he only raised an eyebrow, then kept his distance. Ginny turned back to the man in front of her.

“I better go, you have your job to get back to. Thank you, again, for everything.” She moved to leave.

“Ginny, wait –”

She looked back.

Harry was standing in the middle of the hallway, a sheepish grin on his face. “So, this is incredibly last minute – actually, Cho told me weeks ago to invite you but I was too, I mean, I didn’t want to –” He took a deep breath, rubbing his neck. “Our engagement party’s tonight, at Hogwarts in the Great Hall. I know you have plans – declaring your true and undying love for Malfoy, and all that – but if you manage to find the time and stop by, I would really appreciate it.”

Ginny’s smile grew wider. “Of course, Harry,” she said, “I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”

________________________________________

The rain was still lashing against her window that night, droplets hidden by the dark, but Ginny could hear the water running over the cobblestones outside. She wiped her hands on the kitchen towel, absentmindedly peering out at the streetlights pooled out beneath her window.

Everything was ready for Draco – wine chilled, chocolate-chip cookies baking in the oven, dinner covered and waiting for them on her tiny breakfast table. It was ordered-by-Floo, of course – Ginny loved cooking and she wasn’t bad at it, but no way was she making all that fancy crap Draco loved. It was just one part of his upbringing she couldn’t change, no matter how many bread-battered fish and pumpkin pastries she convinced him to eat. Unfortunately, at this point, it was just another thing she ended up finding endearing.

Merlin, she was turning into an addle-padded idiot.

He wasn’t even here yet and already Ginny felt like her chest would burst, her heart was pounding so much. She stared out at the dark, Hermione’s and Harry’s words running through her mind. She breathed in deeply and the memory of his eyes from earlier that day came back, sending shivers down her spine.

She could do this.

The clock chimed seven and she sat down on the couch, her back ramrod straight, looking anxiously at the door. Draco was rarely late. She poured herself a glass of wine and waited.

The clock chimed seven-thirty and Ginny had pulled out the cookies, watching the steam curl upwards from the cooling rack. Then eight o’clock rang, and she had eaten half the cookies. At nine, nearly all of the fancy food had been chucked in the trash, and Ginny stood in the middle of her kitchen, hands on her hips, fuming.

Draco never showed up.
End Notes:
And that's where I have to end this. Sorry, everyone, but this is pushing 6,000 words and it's the longest chapter of this story by more than double the words, I have to stop it here. I cannot express how much all this asymmetry is breaking my poor little OCD heart. But there is more - next chapter will be up as soon as possible!
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