The days melded into weeks as Draco continued his convalescence under her watchful care. He was slowly regaining his strength, and had taken to eating his meals at the small table set before the single window in his room. Ginny even occasionally allowed him to take short walks in the garden on days when the weather permitted. They traded sharp barbs whenever they were in each other’s presence, with Draco once making the mistake of calling her a shrew and she had retaliated in kind by casting her famous Bat-Bogey hex on him.
Secretly, Ginny looked forward to their sparring matches each day; it gave her a sense of normalcy, and more often than not, made her long for the company of her family again. If Malfoy was good for one thing, it was helping her keep her wits sharp for future battles with Fred and George, once she could return home. Her attitude towards Draco had softened a great deal since his arrival, but she’d be damned if she’d let him know that. He might try to get one up on her, and she’d be having none of that. If there was one thing she’d learned in her short lifetime, it was once you’d lost the upper hand, you were doomed.
The sound of Apparation startled her out of her thoughts early one cold and grey morning as she was absentmindedly washing the breakfast dishes while watching Draco play with Sammy the cat in the garden. She’d just been thinking that he cleaned up nicely after he’d finally acquiesced and allowed her to give him a haircut the previous evening. She was no hairstylist, but anything was better than the long, stringy mess he’d been sporting.
“Gin,” Harry said softly as entered the kitchen from the small hallway that led to the front room.
“Harry,” she replied, abandoning her dishes and wiping her hands on the dishtowel that hung on the nearby rack. She was disappointed to find only her ex-boyfriend standing there. “Where’s Ron?”
“He stayed behind to take care of some other business, but he’ll be along tomorrow morning,” he explained as he took a seat at her table. “Have any tea or coffee?”
“Oh.” She couldn't help the bitter stab of disappointment she felt at not being able to see her brother. He’d been her only true link to her family since she’d been holed up in the little cottage, and she looked forward to seeing him whenever she could.
“He sends his love and promises he’ll bring you chocolates tomorrow to make up for not coming this morning.”
Ginny set a steaming cup of tea in front Harry along with a plate of biscuits and fruit pies. “How are things?”
“Same as they ever were, unfortunately.”
“Found anymore Horcruxes?”
“No, but Hermione believes she’s identified the areas where they’ve been most likely hidden.”
“Yes, yes, always good to know where to look.”
They fell into an awkward silence as Harry drank his tea and gazed at her thoughtfully. Ginny hated moments like this, the disconnection she felt from everything that was going on. Then the waiting for the always awkward attempt to gather her in his arms or the chaste kisses very nearly drove her insane. It used to not be this way between them, but Harry had to go and be a dunderhead and ruin things with his feeble attempts at gallantry. Now she dreaded what words he would say following these silences.
“How things here, Gin?” he asked just before she bolted from the table, unable to take the quiet any longer. “Be honest, has Malfoy been a right pain in the arse?”
“Things are all right,” she replied honestly. “He’s quiet and stays in his room mostly.”
“He hasn’t been bothering you, now has he?” Harry gave her what she could only assume was meant to be a significant look, but in reality only made him look constipated.
“No, he’s hardly any trouble at all really.”
He looked surprised by her words, and a fair bit disappointed in her opinion. “That’s good, I suppose.”
“He leaves you alone?”
“For most part, yes. He’s only a true pain in the arse when he’s hungry; always wanting more than his stomach can handle at the moment.”
“You trust him enough to leave him alone outside?” he asked. “He could be out there plotting against you, or god forbid, fashioning a weapon to kill you with.”
“Yes, he’s still recovering and too weak to go far. Besides, he hasn’t any place else to go,” she answered, feeling as if she was on the witness stand before the Wizengamot. “His aunt was trying to kill him and the Order wants to throw him in Azkaban.”
“I suppose you’re right,” he said sourly.
That was another thing she could add to the list of things she disliked about Harry: he was complete rubbish at hiding his emotions.
“Besides, I think he likes it here,” she said, knowing that she was pushing Harry’s buttons and secretly enjoying it. “He doesn’t have to fear for his life, he has someplace warm to sleep at night, and three hot meals a day.”
“That may be all well and good, but it’s about to come to an end. I’m taking him in for questioning tomorrow morning, and then I will be personally escorting him to Azkaban where a nice, cold cell is awaiting him.”
“You can’t wait to do that can you, toss him in a cell in Azkaban and throw away the key?”
Harry laughed dryly. “No less than he deserves, and weren’t you the one who wanted to see him dead a few weeks ago? So what’s changed, Ginny?”
“Nothing,” she answered, looking away quickly so he couldn’t see the guilt in her eyes. The truth was things had changed since Malfoy had been under her care. Her anger had mellowed into pity for his situation. Draco was truly a wizard with no country. The Death Eaters would kill him on sight, and what the Order wanted to do to him was no better. His life was over.
Harry gave her a rare unreadable look before standing abruptly and putting a sack on the table. “I’ll be here to collect him at seven. Be sure he’s ready.”
He was gone before she could answer, Disapparating with a distinctive pop. Ginny was opening the sack to see what was in it when Draco came in through the garden door, stopping to remove his dirty shoes in the mudroom.
“Did you have a lovely reunion with Potter?” Draco groused as he took a seat at the table, the same one Harry had just recently occupied.
“Of course not,” she answered without thinking, distracted by the contents of the sack. It was men’s clothing, and from the look of it, the items were previously owned by one of the twins.
“What no chocolate and roses?”
She tried to give him a stern look, but found she couldn’t muster one. “No.”
“I guess what they say is true: romance is dead!”
“Awwah, the five second shag wasn’t satisfying enough was it? You look like the type that likes a real go at things.”
“I said shut up!”
“Struck a nerve there, did I?”
She glowered at him, sorely tempted to reach for her wand, but her better judgment tempered her ire. He was only doing it to get a rise out of her, and she wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction.
“Oi, was it that bad?” he asked mockingly.
“If you must know, Harry brought some clothing for you to wear tomorrow when he hauls you before the Order for questioning,” she informed him, tossing the sack at him, and immediately felt guilty for just springing it on him without any warning.
“Oh,” was all he said as he leaned back in his chair, staring at the clothing that had spilled out of the sack.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have been so blunt.”
“It’s okay. I knew this day would come.” He pushed back from the table and stood up. “If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll retire to my room.”
“Why don’t you try on the clothes to see if anything needs to be taken in,” she suggested quickly before he could leave the room, her heart racing at the thought of being so tantalizingly close to him.
Draco gave her an unreadable look before taking the sack of clothing and leaving the room. He returned a few minutes later practically swimming in a deep red plaid collared shirt and hitching up a pair of khaki trousers.
Ginny stifled a snicker. “Oh dear.”
He merely sneered at her.
“Oh, don’t be like that,” she admonished him. “It’s not that bad!”
“So you say.” The trousers hung precariously low on his hips as his attention was being spent on the too long sleeves of the shirt.
“Let me what I can do,” she offered, pulling out her wand.
He signed heavily and stood with his arms out. “Well, you can’t make it any worse.”
After fifteen minutes of tailoring charms, Draco stood before her in clothing that did not suit his personality at all. It wasn’t the best job she’d ever done; however, under the circumstances it was the best she could manage. He was still painfully thin, but at least he was no longer in danger of losing his trousers every time he moved. Ginny stared thoughtfully at the deep red plaid cotton shirt he had on, wondering if she should attempt to change the color to something that would compliment his pale features a little better.
“You should work for Madam Malkin,” he said, breaking the silence that ensued once she’d begun her work.
“I said you should go to work for Madam Malkin. Your tailoring charms are better than the whole lot of witches she has working for her. Where did you learn to do them?”
“I learnt them from my mother,” she said, feeling a bit embarrassed over why she was so good with the charms. It never bothered her before, but then she never had to explain it to someone like Malfoy. Everyone simply understood without having to say. “When all you had were hand-me-downs and secondhand robes, you learned to make do.” Her life goals did not include being a seamstress witch for Madam Malkin no matter what he thought. “Besides I’m rubbish at color changing charms.”
“I’m sorry,” he said uncomfortably, his cheeks tinged pinked. “I didn’t realize…”
“It’s all right. That is just how life is. I plan on someone else fitting my robes for me in the future.”
Her charge fell silent again as she continued to fuss with a few small details. She figured he clammed up because he didn’t know what else to say without sticking his foot in his mouth. As she put the finishing touches on the cuffs of the trousers, she couldn’t help but notice his futile glances at the stove where her chicken and ham pie was baking and a pot of small new potatoes boiled on the stovetop.
“Why don’t you put your other clothes on, and I’ll make sure these are clean and pressed for in the morning,” she directed.
Draco wandered off to do as he told, draping the shirt and trousers over the back of a chair at the table when he was finished. He stood there for several minutes watching her, looking like he desperately wanted to say something. He started up the stairs when she pulled her pie out of the oven, only to stop halfway up.
“Weasley?” he asked.
“Yeah, Malfoy?” she answered, making her way to the bottom step.
“For the tailoring charms? No problem. You’re welcome.”
“No,” he said slowly, not turning around, “for everything.”
“Oh,” she whispered.
“Potter’ll throw me in Azkaban as soon as he’s done with me, so I won’t be seeing you again. I know it couldn’t have been easy for you, so that makes me appreciate you not letting me die even more. You didn’t have to do that. So thank you.”
She stared at his back, warring with her emotions. It was true. She had been tempted early on to just let the infection kill him. It would have been so easy too, and no one would have been none-the-wiser about it either since he was in such bad shape when he was brought to her. But she couldn’t, because she wasn’t that kind of witch. Instead, her anger and displeasure had somehow evolved into pity over the course of his stay.
“Draco,” she called out awkwardly as he reached the landing. “Why don’t you join me for dinner? I have a chicken and ham pie. It’s way more than I can eat, and I’m not keen on leftovers.”
He turned around and looked more hopeful than she’d seen him look the entire time he’d been at the cottage.
“Are you sure?”
“I wouldn’t have asked if I wasn’t,” she answered, retreating into the kitchen to set the table for two.
It could have been Voldemort himself with his feet under her table, and Ginny wouldn’t have cared as long as the dinner conversation was polite. It had been so long since she’d shared a meal with someone that she was beginning to wonder if her cooking was suspect. Ron and Harry had joined her occasionally, but those visits were becoming fewer and farther between.
Malfoy, however, seemed to have little trouble with her cooking, and she had to remind him to slow down and not eat so much, lest his stomach revolt on him. He protested, but heeded her warnings even though it was obvious he would have loved to have polished off the entire pie. She wondered if all boys had bottomless pits for stomachs.
After the dinner dishes were done, they retired to the small, but comfortable front sitting room for coffee and chocolate tarts. The conversation started to flow after a few awkward starts and continued well into the night, falling into the easy and safe rhythm of music, literature, and Quidditch.
Ginny was surprised at just how much they had in common, despite their vastly different backgrounds. They shared the same tastes in bands and reading, and they both rooted for the same Quidditch teams when their favorite wasn’t playing. She relished the look of surprise on his face when she informed him that her favorite team was not the Cannons, but was in fact the Falcons, and she just kept quiet about it to avoid trouble with her brothers while secretly enjoying the slaughter of the hapless Cannons every time the two teams played.
“You truly are wicked,” he informed her after her giddy confession. “I really admire that in a witch.”
“Thank you,” she giggled, surprised at how easily he made her laugh. “I do so try.”
He leaned back on the sofa, stretching a bit before giving her his best half-smile, and it made her stomach flutter. She shifted a little to move closer to him, and smiled back at him. Her pulse quickened as the moment lingered on, and the desire to kiss again him grew stronger with each passing second.
“Draco,” she said in barely a whisper. “I…”
“Shhhh,” he whispered back, slowly closing the distance between them.
She stared back into the mercurial depths of his dark grey eyes, mesmerized by what she saw. If she looked deep enough, she thought she could see into his soul. It caught her by surprise; having such an intimate connection with someone else. Harry was very on the surface, what you saw was what you got, and that was very boring. This was way better, in her humble opinion.
The clock on the mantle chiming the midnight hour caused them both to jump, breaking the spell that had come over them. Ginny turned away, her cheeks burning, embarrassed that she’d very nearly had gotten caught up in something that could only have dire consequences.
“I should probably head up,” he said tightly, standing and making a show of looking out the window into the dark.
“Early morning and all that.”
“Yeah, I’ll just put these dishes in the sink, and I think I’ll hit the sack myself,” she said, quickly extricating herself from the sofa and gathering up the dishes. “Goodnight.”
“Yeah, goodnight.” He darted up the steps without glancing back.
She stood at the sink, washing the dessert dishes and fighting the urge to cry while cursing the day Draco Malfoy had come into her life and then had to go and be so fucking perfect. He supposed to be nasty and mean and cruel and evil and everything he really wasn’t, not deep down anyway. It was all a front airs he put on to keep people away, a means to protect himself.
Draco was actually someone she could see herself spending more time with and actually enjoying it. Ginny was almost afraid to think it, but he was almost boyfriend material.
“Ginny,” he whispered huskily from behind her. A sharp thrill ran through her at his use of her proper name.
“Draco,” she gasped as he closed the space between them quickly.
He pressed a tender kiss to her cheek, hesitating a few seconds before pulling away. “Thank you for everything.”
Before she could respond he had disappeared into the darkness of the stairs once more. Ginny didn’t know how long she’d sat at the kitchen table with tears streaming down her cheeks as she struggled to come to terms with her feelings. It wasn’t until Juno jumped up on the table, purring and rubbing against her, breaking her reverie, that she finally shuffled off to bed.
More to come…
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