Ginny’s eyes snapped open and she found herself resting against the familiar oak tree. The peaceful scene in front of her, the still lake and birds chirping in the nearby forest, was just the same as when she had drifted off to sleep.
The sun, high in the sky before, was closer to the horizon than she remembered. A few hours must have already passed. Musical sounds from higher up on the hill drifted down to her ears and she jolted into action. The Ball! She wasn’t even dressed yet.
As fast as her short legs would carry her, she ran at top speed toward Gryffindor Tower, not stopping once until she was panting outside the Fat Lady’s portrait. The woman looked at her scathingly when she demanded entrance after screaming the password.
Once inside the common room she could already see people dressed and waiting on their respective dates. This only caused her pace to quicken as she flew up the stairs to the sixth year girls’ dormitory. Hermione, dressed and waiting impatiently, was sitting on her bed when Ginny entered.
“There you are!” she cried, and Ginny could practically feel a lecture coming. Obviously the older girl had been waiting on her for quite some time. It was only when Hermione took a moment to follow Ginny’s frantic movements that her tone changed from anxious to accusatory. “The Ball starts in half an hour and you’re not even dressed!”
“I know,” Ginny roared, throwing her trunk open and searching wildly for the dress robes her mum had sent earlier in the week. “I lost track of time. I don’t know what I was thinking. Hermione, you have to help me please.”
Hermione took pity on her and Ginny was ready in record time. The dark crimson material was gathered at her narrow waist and flowed out over her hips, the hem resting just above the ground. Hermione fixed her hair in a long braid and then wrapped it around the crown of her head, leaving a few wavy pieces to fall from the front of the design and frame her face.
Ginny hastily fastened the ruby amulet around her neck. She took a quick look in the lone floor-length mirror all of the sixth year girls shared and nodded, satisfied with her appearance. She quickly applied a few light beauty charms to her face, careful not to over-do it; she didn’t want to look like Lavender and Parvati. Just a light gloss on her lips and a faint colouring around her eyes was all she was comfortable with.
“You look beautiful,” Hermione assured her. “Now let’s go. The boys must be thinking the worst.” Ginny rolled her eyes as the other witch dragged her bodily down to the Common Room. Ron and Harry were probably as eager to get to the Ball as she was to eat a Blast-Ended Skrewt.
Harry and Ron were the only ones left in the Common Room when they arrived. Harry was speechless and Ron spluttered when he saw Hermione. They looked entirely too caught up in each other and Harry was staring at her with wide eyes, his mouth hanging open.
“You look dashing, Harry.” She grabbed his hand and barked at the other two Gryffindors. “Come on you two, we’re already late.”
“Whose fault is that?” Hermione scowled, following quickly behind them with Ron on her arm.
Ginny ran as fast as she could in her high heels. Her mum had sent them along with the robes. Fleur had insisted they all wear them to the wedding. Ginny had been smart though and had Hermione cast a Cushioning Charm on hers.
Only when they had made it to the entrance to the Great Hall did Ginny allow herself to relax. The dancing had already started and they were able to easily blend in with those crowded along the walls. When she was able to breathe properly again Ginny was suddenly overwhelmed with her present circumstance.
Harry was tagging along faithfully at her side. She knew that he didn’t like to dance but he would if she asked. She really needed to speak with him soon. In the back of her mind she knew that somewhere between the lake and Gryffindor Tower her decision had already been made.
The hardest part for her was in taking the action to rectify a situation she had created through her own inaction. Ever the gentleman, Harry offered to get them some punch and she agreed. It was so much like the Yule Ball she would have laughed if the situation hadn’t been so serious. She felt about as much affection towards Harry as she had felt towards Neville at the time.
“Weasley?” a shocked voice asked from behind her.
It was barely above a whisper but she heard it. Ginny’s breath hitched and she slowly turned around to face the boy who would become a dashing man.
Draco Malfoy was dressed impeccably. Expensive black velvet robes hung from his tall frame and slick blond hair framed his face. His eyes were wide as they took in her appearance and she warmed at the appreciative glint she recognised from her earlier experience in the yellow wood.
“Good evening, Draco. You look very handsome.”
She didn’t want to fight with him any more. If there was any chance of them having a future together they would have to put away childish rivalries and she decided to take the first step. She hoped he recognised the olive branch she was extending by calling him by his first name.
She noticed that Pansy Parkinson was nowhere around and hope flared up in her chest.
“Save me a dance, won’t you?”
His tone was suddenly very shy and Ginny had the feeling not many people had seen the side of Draco Malfoy she was witnessing now. The air around them seemed alive with magic. Ginny could feel it in her very soul; a change was in the wind.
“Of course,” she said, smiling affectionately, hoping to communicate things that she couldn’t put into words yet. “I just have to take care of something first.”
When she looked to the table of refreshments where Harry was talking with Seamus he followed her gaze. Understanding flashed in his eyes and she saw something she was sure she had never seen outside of the yellow wood. Draco Malfoy grinned.
He stepped closer a fraction of a step and gently lifted one of her hands in his, briefly pressing his lips across the backs of her fingers. Just as quickly, he dropped her hand and melted into the crowd.
* * *
As she approached the refreshment table her stomach was in knots. Ginny knew with every ounce of her being that she was about to do the right thing, but it didn’t make it any easier to do. Most of this was her fault for having led Harry on for so long. She just kept telling herself that it would be better for everyone in the end.
When Harry noticed her he gave her a bright smile and placed his arm possessively around her waist. She stiffened. Some part of herself that she had lost long ago came forth and her resolve strengthened. She was a Gryffindor and a Weasley. She could do this. She turned to Seamus, who was busy ogling her, and gave him a friendly smile.
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to steal this one away, Finnegan.”
Without waiting for either of their responses she took Harry’s hand and pulled him out of the Great Hall. There was a deserted alcove just outside the Great Hall. Harry smiled eagerly when she turned to him and her heart broke just a little but her resolve was strong. He probably thought she brought him out there for a quick snog.
She stepped out of his reach and mentally gathered her thoughts into some sort of coherent form. This boy had been all she dreamed about since the minute she could read and now she was going to break his heart.
“Harry,” she began slowly, needing him to understand, “you’re such a great person but I just don’t think we’re right for each other.” It’s best to get it over quickly, she told herself.
She could see it in his eyes as the minute the meaning of her words sunk in. His shoulders seemed to slump and he started back at her in shock.
“You’re breaking up with me, Gin?” He paused. “But - I love you.”
Ginny closed her eyes and willed herself not to cry. She couldn’t afford to show him any weakness at the moment or he wouldn’t take her seriously.
“I love you too, Harry, but I have to be honest: I love you as a friend and nothing more.”
She could see the sadness and realisation transforming into anger. She reached out to touch his arm lightly but he flinched back as if he had been burned.
“Why are you doing this now?”
She had no reasonable explanation really. She couldn’t tell him about the amulet and the yellow wood; maybe in the future but not now. His anger would blind him to understanding the real significance of what had happened to her. So she remained silent, pleading with her eyes for him to accept this.
“Fine,” he said, resigned. “I need some time.”
Then he turned on his heel and walked away from the Great Hall, away from her. Only when he was out of sight did Ginny let the tears she had been holding back fall freely. Harry had been her first love, not just some boy she was passing time with. She didn’t want him to think she was totally unfeeling.
When she felt like she had recovered enough to face the rest of the students she returned to the Great Hall. Hermione and Ron were the first ones to approach her.
“Where’s Harry?” Ron immediately demanded.
She had known she would have to deal with them sooner or later, she was just hoping it could have been later. They were going to be mad at her whether she told them or they found out from Harry.
“He needed some time alone.” She was very proud of herself for keeping the quiver out of her voice. Hermione looked at her shrewdly as if she already knew what had transpired. Ron looked perplexed so she decided to address her brother instead of face Hermione’s knowing gaze. “We’re not together anymore. I broke it off with him.”
While they stood there dumbstruck she hurried into the pressing crowd before they could interrogate her further. Her first impulse was to find Malfoy but she held back for a moment. She couldn’t exactly accost him in front of his Slytherin friends.
Then again, her newfound freedom was giving her a surge of courage that she hadn’t known before. She was making her own choices now; she was controlling her own life. The subservience she had forced herself into was no longer an option.
Armed with courage and her newfound sense of self, she approached the group of glaring seventh year Slytherins until she was standing directly in front of Draco Malfoy. The shoes she was wearing gave her an extra few inches and she was happy to notice they were eye level with each other.
“Malfoy,” she barked, for the sake of the other Slytherins, “you owe me a dance.”
She could see the amusement dancing in his eyes; pools of shimmering moon dust that never strayed from hers.
“What makes you think I would touch you, Weasley?”
They were communicating on a whole other level now. She could read his body language, his mind, his soul. He wasn’t going down in front of the rest of friends without a fight. A little thrill of excitement ran through her at the challenging look in his eyes.
She smiled coyly at him, batting her eyelashes. “You’ll do more than touch me, Draco Malfoy.” She paused to let her words permeate the shocked group behind him. “You’re going to dance with me for the rest of this night. Then you’re going to kiss me goodnight after walking me to back my Tower.”
He shrugged his shoulders as if to tell the rest of the group, how can I refuse? Then he grabbed her by the hand and led her onto the dance floor. As he placed his arms around her waist she could feel the last vestiges of Tom Riddle’s hold on her slipping away. There were still many hurdles for them to overcome.
She didn’t care that the rest of the school still thought she was going out with Harry. Or maybe they assumed she was dancing with Draco Malfoy to make Harry jealous. It didn’t really matter, all that mattered was that she had made a choice that night. Not the easy or most popular choice, but the right choice.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth.
Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same.
And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. - Robert Frost
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. - 1 Corinthians 13:11, the Bible (KJV)
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