“Ow!”

That was the word her brain had refused to stop shouting to her. Everything ached, everything! Madam Pomfrey had taken care of her arm and wrist and also the fracture in her shoulder blade from where the bludger had hit, but she had told Ginny that the rest of her woes would heal fine of their own devices. What a joke! Ginny couldn’t move. If she moved her eyelashes somehow it triggered a reaction in her forearm, which triggered something in her stomach and on and on…

The only thing that made her pain more bearable was watching everyone else who had played the day before contend with the same symptoms. Even the Slytherins, even Draco, seemed to be favoring a certain limb or winced ever so often when they moved their head.

“Draco.” This word, too, had been floating around in her brain much too often since yesterday’s events… in fact, his name had been in the back of her mind for most of year!

When she’d finally found enough time to think the night before she hadn’t known where to start. The only conclusions she had been able to make were extremely vague. She had really only managed to prove that Draco Malfoy was one HUGE mystery and thinking through any of his actions was extremely pointless.

So Ginny had decided to drop it. There was no reason for her to keep going over the same thoughts again and again, always getting the same incomplete answers. The only problem was she just couldn’t leave it alone. The only thing that interrupted her thoughts was the throbbing aches all over her body.

It didn’t make any sense. The last two months were just strange and things had happened that shouldn’t have. Even though Ginny knew somewhere in her heart that keeping Draco's secret could mean life or death for her friends, somehow Ginny had been able to rationalize the purpose even now after the situation had gotten more heated.

At that precise moment, Ginny was again nudged from her dream state, but this time it wasn’t from the pain in her shoulder or calf. A small gray owl had softly hooted while sitting on the table in front of her. Ginny had been so absorbed she hadn’t noticed that the mail owls had arrived in the Great Hall. Everyone around her had started to open his or her mail. The owl in front of her seemed to be the only one left in the hall and it had been patiently waiting from Ginny to notice her.

A smile slowly flowered across her face as she petted the sweet owl. “I’m sorry, didn’t mean to keep you waiting.”

As Ginny started to lift her head she realized she had never been sent anything with this owl before. She petted the beautiful gray feathers that adorned the owl. The gray reminded her of something, but she couldn’t quite place it. As she took the parchment from the owl’s leg she was soon able to make the connection between the feathers and a certain somebody’s eyes.

The expensive paper unrolled smoothly in her hands. When it had finished she was left with a slender red rose sitting in her lap. It had grown larger from the folds of the paper as it had unfurled. A quiet gasp escaped Ginny’s lips. Quickly she looked around, but no one seem
ed to have noticed her. It had puzzled Ginny that everyone seemed to have forgotten the events of yesterday so quickly. Hogwarts was usually a beehive of gossip, but this time, not even her brother had asked her what had happened on the Quidditch pitch.

Ginny glanced back at the parchment and read a message written in the most beautiful writing she had even seen.

Dear Ginevra,

I hope you are feeling better. You seemed to be very shaken yesterday, but your brother and friends have probably taken very good care of you. I suspect that Madam Pomfrey has left you in the same aching state as the rest of us. I hear it is her way of punishing us for being so tough on our bodies.

The owl’s name is Adora. I thought that you might like her. You may keep her if you wish. I suspect that she will like your quiet disposition as much as you will hers. I understand however if you don’t want to keep her, she may be hard to explain to your family. Have a good day, Ginny. Don’t run into any armor as you daydream in the halls.

Your Humbled Keeper,
Draco Malfoy

P.S. I wish for you to excuse me my rude behavior before the game. The rose is an enticement for your forgiveness.

How he was able to make her smile and frown in just one simple passage she would probably never understand. She looked up at the beautiful bird before her and was forced to smile again. He definitely had a knack in gift giving, though.

“Well Adora, would you like to be my owl?” The owl gave a small hoot in reply. Draco had been right. She did like the sweet, quiet owl very much. “Well then I have a message for you to deliver if I can find a pen. Ron do you have a pen I can use?” Ginny bent down and pulled out paper from her bag on the floor.

“Sorry, Gin, my stuff’s upstairs.”

“Never mind, I found one.”

Ginny sat back up and started her message in her imperfect writing.

Dear (Mal) Draco,

Thank you for the owl and the rose. Adora is very charming and it’ll be my pleasure to keep her. You’re right about the aches, I can barely move without pain shooting through my muscles, but it’s probably the same for you. I’d like to accept your apology, but I need to talk to you first. I need to understand first. Would you meet me at seven tonight at the balcony?

Ginevra

P.S. Please don’t send another owl, just come.

‘Well,’ thought Ginny. ‘That last part was should be direct enough to get his attention!’ Ginny wondered if he would come or not. She really needed to ask him some questions before she could accept his actions. If she didn’t, things would get more confusing as time went by.

She needed as many answers as she could get before she went off her rocker. The only person who seemed to have the answers was Draco, but as she wasn’t going to walk up to him and just start up a conversation. A nighttime rendezvous was the only option.

Checking that Draco had left the great hall already and attaching the note to the gray owl’s leg she whispered,
“Don’t take this right away, Adora, give it to him in about an hour, alright?” The owl hooted again and nudged Ginny’s hand. Ginny picked up a piece of bacon from the table and fed Adora, then the owl lifted herself from the table and soared out of the open window near the ceiling.

Ginny watched her gorgeous gift leave with such beauty. Ginny had always wanted an owl of her own and now she had gotten one from the most unlikely of people. Maybe she’d have some of her answers by the time she went to bed and maybe she wouldn’t. You could never depend on Draco Malfoy.

************

The night fell on the castle like a comfortable blanket. Ginny had always had a strange attraction to the dark. It had never scared her as a child. The shadows had never harbored monsters, but dreams of the sweetest kind. At night the darkness had been a blank canvas for dreams, stories and hopes for her future. At night she was not innocent; at night she let herself remember the past. Ever since Tom Riddle had shown the world to her, in his own way, she had no longer felt na´ve. However, during the day, when everyone expected her to be little ‘baby’ Ginny, she would continue to act like a child. She felt more like herself at nighttime. She could let herself be Ginny Weasley; the person who would one day gather the courage to tell her family the truth.

She wasn’t evil, demented or tainted. The only difference was that the Ginny at night was much more independent, outspoken and had her own ideas for her future. Her mother wasn’t ready to see her as a woman yet and Ron wasn’t ready to stop protecting her yet and that was all right, but the time would come sooner or later.

After eating, Ginny had proceeded towards the balcony up in the towers. Her footsteps echoed in the quiet hallways. For the first time, the darkness of Hogwarts spooked her. She was worried that Malfoy wouldn’t arrive and that she wouldn’t get the answers she needed. Another part of her didn’t want him to show. She had no idea how he would receive her. She was hoping for sweet and understanding Draco, but she was pretty sure she was going to get cool and annoying Draco and if she were really unlucky she’d end up with cruel and harsh Draco. The guy had way too many moods. He was worst than some of the girls she knew.

The thought put a smile back on her lips. A mental picture of Draco standing in the middle of preening group of employed fashion experts amused her greatly. What made it sillier was that Draco most likely had done just that on more than one occasion.

Turning the corner, Ginny faced the doors that lead to the balcony where it had all begun. She glanced back through the glass and saw a vague silhouette of a man who had always been strong, yet moody. For the life of her, Ginny wanted to understand him; she wanted to know more. She always had. Her small hand started to turn the handle of the door once again.

“You came,” she let the door close again behind her.

“Of course, I did. I was taught never to refuse a lady’s request,” he turned toward her, a small smile gracing his face. Ginny saw the humor that twinkled in his eyes making her smile along with him. The Draco that met her was willing to talk and willing to be there.

“If I’m what you consider a lady, there isn’t much hope for anyone else,” Ginny came to stand beside him at the railing. “I don’t know where to begin. I ask you here and then I don’t know what I want to say. You must hate me.”

“Hate is a strong word.”

Ginny looked up to him and then out at the beautiful scene that was before them. She had always supposed that hate was the only emotion that Draco ever felt with any regularity, but she was beginning to think she was wrong. The look in his eyes proved this, he looked at her with friendship and almost with…love.

“Yes it is,” she continued. “I want to thank you for catching me yesterday. I don’t think I’ll ever be able thank you enough. You saved my life. Then giving me Adora was very thoughtful; she’s so beautiful and I don’t think anyone has ever given me a rose before. It made me happy all day. I’d like to apologize also. I was rude before the game, very rude.”

“You felt threatened; I’m the one who should be apologizing for the incident. I provoked you knowing full well what I was doing. I brought your reaction on myself.

"I hope that you’ll forgive me, rosebud,” the affectionate name was unexpected, especially when delivered with such an off-hand manner. It prompted another smile to grace Ginny’s face.

“Rosebud? No one’s ever called me that,” Ginny couldn’t stop smiling and she noticed when she looked up that Draco was not offended, he almost seemed happy she wasn’t upset.

“That’s why I sent the rose. You’ve always reminded me of that flower, especially yesterday. I think it’s the color of your hair and your petite frame, but your character reflects it too. You have the soft petals and the spiky thorns,” a smile that matched Ginny’s flashed across Draco’s lips. Tonight his attitude invited her in and his body language increasingly relaxed with every sentence they uttered.

Ginny couldn’t get over it. Draco Malfoy, THE DRACO MALFOY, had developed an affectionate term for her and somehow they where calmly sharing time together that didn’t include them screaming at each other. Ginny liked it.

“Well, I like it. It’s definitely better than Weasel.”

“Good. You said you had questions,” Draco was ready to get down to business.

“Yeah, I don’t know if you’ll have the answers though, but I guess…well I guess if I’m going to get them anywhere it’s going to be from you.”

“If you ask, I will answer. If I can.” He looked down at his hands where they rested against the stone of the banister. The smile was gone, but he didn’t seem to be angry. It was regret that had caused his mood to change.

“Alright,” she didn’t know what would be appropriate to ask first. She decided to start not with the query that puzzled the most, but the question that would explain why this had all started in the first place. “Why did you take the dark mark?”

Draco smiled sadly and Ginny was worried she had started badly. “You don’t start easy do you? Go right to the hard questions. I’m glad for the challenge. I became a death eater for a multitude of reasons, one of which was that it was simply expected of me. Another reason that comes to mind is that it was what I have been raised to do. But I guess those aren’t really the reasons that you want to hear, are they? You knew those things already didn’t you, rosebud? Well, I really did it so that I’d have a chance of surviving. If I hadn’t chosen a side I would be a target for both. So I chose.”

“Then why that side?”

“The only person I’m afraid of, Gin, is my father. It was easier going with him than against him.

“In some vague way I understand, I guess. I wish I didn’t, though. I wish I’d never guessed; I wish I never lifted up your sleeve.”

“Why?” Draco’s voice had gotten even softer because he wanted to understand just as much as she did. It was only fair she answer his questions too.

“I don’t know. Maybe I just think that I wouldn’t be hiding now, that I wouldn’t be lying to the people I love.
I don’t even understand how I knew.”

“I think I have an idea,” Draco started, but paused, though, wondering if telling her was the right decision.

Finally, after a painful silence, he continued, “In your first year, Gin, you were connected to The Dark Lord more than anyone realized. I have a suspicion, that you do realize, to some extent, the connection between yourself and the Dark Lord. My mark connects me to him. You sensed his presence around me. It’s a presence you know almost as intimately as I do. You sensed it and subconsciously put it together. It was enough for you to want to check my arm.”

Ginny understood. Though she didn’t feel it anymore, there had been a time when that presence was almost all she had known. She felt the flood of emotions rise to the surface and her quick temper flare. Draco silently waited for an answer. “I hate him. I confided in him my entire world and he used it to his own advantage. Voldemort is disgusting and he has no heart. His presence is connected in my mind to a time in my life when I was used. He took my childhood away. How can you stand to be connected to that filth?”

“If they only knew your power,” was Draco’s only response. Ginny took a moment to wallow in her bad memories.

“If who knew?” asked Ginny, who sounded sharper than she had expected.

Draco sighed. “Your family, Dumbledore, and Potter.”

“What power, Draco? I have no power. I’m just a regular witch.” The idea that she had any special abilities was absurd, especially if it was her family that would have to accept them. To them she was still a girl and even if she could help them they would never let her if it meant she would be in danger.

“Don’t underestimate yourself, Ginny. You are not an ordinary witch.” Another smile crossed his face as he continued. “You are intelligent and compassionate. You are beautiful, so beautiful that you can make the Weasley hair a blessing. You possess bravery and are trustworthy, but most of all, Rosebud, you are forgiving,” An emotion entered Draco’s eyes that Ginny had seen on many others’ before, but never in Draco. “You have given the most unlikely person a second chance. For that, you deserve the world, and, Gin, if I could give it to you, I would.”

A large lump had developed in Ginny’s throat and she now had difficulty swallowing it. Ginny didn’t know what to say for once. Draco had surprised her. By showing his feelings he had triggered Ginny into realizing her own.

Draco’s eyes had shown his love for her and his words a beautiful tenderness. Ginny was astounded by the same feelings rising to the surface of her own heart. Had all these years of fighting hidden something bigger? Something much more dangerous? Ginny could never believe that.

“You didn’t answer my question!” When Ginny regained her voice, icy tones escaped. When she continued, her confidence was gone. “Uh… what power do I… do I have that could help them,” Ginny stammered out. Even to her ears the words sounded forced.

Draco seemed not to take offence from her harsh words, but his eyes always betrayed him - he looked hurt. “Ginny, you can tell a death eater by just meeting them. If you could prove your ability to the Ministry, they would be able to destroy Lord Voldemort’s followers. You could help them destroy Lord Voldemort,” his voice cracked as he proceeded, though his voice stayed soft. “It would put your life at great risk. There would be death eaters everywhere that would want you dead. The Dark Lord himself would want you dead.”

Draco’s voice seemed upset and worried. As his words were released, Ginny realized that he would be one of those death eaters that would hunt her if she were to tell others of her ability. The idea seemed to bother him as much as it did her.

“That’s silly,” her voice was weak. “It could never happen. I could never be that accurate.” Yet in her mind she knew that her concentration had always been superb.

Draco seemed to want to accept her words even though he knew that they were not true. “You’re right, anyway you’d never be able to prove it to the Ministry.”

“Exactly, they don’t believe anyone.” Following her words was a loud silence. They both had reacted in the same way. Deny, Deny, Deny!

Both had seen the truth in Draco’s words, but for some strange reason neither had been willing to leave the calmness that surrounded them into the reality that faced them. They had realized a deadly thing. They enjoyed each other’s company and they had fallen in love without knowing. But they could never be together without bringing themselves pain.

Draco was the first to speak, but started with some difficulty. “Do you have any more questions, Weasel?”

“Why would I have any questions for you, Ferret? Sod Off!”


It was the only way. The words were callous, but pain filled both sets of eyes as they stared at each other. It had to end. In two days their relationship had become something that could kill them. Neither wanted to end it, but they couldn’t continue down this path. Could they? No! No matter how much it hurt they had to become rivals again.

“Fine, goodnight.” Draco turned and left his ‘rosebud’ standing on the balcony. Tears started to stream down her face and she started to question what had happened. She thought she understood now. Draco had fallen in love with her in the years they had spent together at Hogwarts. She had fallen in love with him too. They had admired each other’s abilities.

Ginny continued to cry for ages. She mourned something she hadn’t known that she wanted desperately until she couldn’t have it. Her hand fondled the necklace; his first gift, as her mind recollected the memories he had given her in such a short time.
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