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.
“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’–”
“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.”
“I mean, go talk to Draco about this. Tell him how you –”
“Tell him? I can’t tell him!”
““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.”
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?”
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?
Author 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.
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