He had been a dizzy-dreaming little boy, bored of pretending that he was one of the adults.
She had been an even littler girl, tired of tagging along with her dad whenever he took her to work.
They both loved stories, but didn’t dare admit it for fear of being told off for having grown too old for childish fairy tales. She was six, after all, and he seven. Maybe they were too old, but when they were alone under their covers, miles and miles away from each other, they would clutch their WizKid Wonder-Torch in their small hands and read fantastical tales where not everything was as it seemed and love conquered all evil.
It was a certain ritual at the Ministry that once a month they had a Bring Your Child to Work Day, and only a few employees actually did so. Arthur Weasley brought Ginny because none of the boys seemed interested and he wanted to give Molly a break from the children whenever possible. Lucius Malfoy brought Draco because he wanted to show those undeserving lower-class citizens what good breeding and proper discipline could do in a child’s life.
Neither child really supported being dragged to the Ministry early in the morning when they would rather be asleep, having been reading late into the night as usual, and both managed to sneak away at their earliest convenience. Ginny had one of her favorite story books tucked under her arm, having had every intention of getting her dad to read it to her, but he had actually been busy today.
As she wandered the corridors of the Ministry, maybe hoping to happen across the Magical Games and Sports division, she stumbled upon a little alcove where a fair handsome boy was sitting behind some plants. He was drawing in the soil with one finger, looking abysmally bored and in need of entertainment. Ginny, more than happy to provide him with a distraction even if she knew he was a Malfoy and therefore hated to her, skipped to his side and tapped his shoulder, holding out the book patiently. He flinched when interrupted and spun around, his face instantly scrunching up with dislike as he recognized her red hair and freckles. Not to mention her ugly pink dress.
“Can you read?” she asked him bluntly, ignoring his disdainful glare.
“Of course I can read, are you stupid as well as poor?” he retorted in a loud and commanding voice that he had most likely learned from his father. However, curiosity dominated over his hate. “Can’t you read, Weaslette?”
Feeling a bit of uncertainty now that she had actually approached the Malfoy boy, a spurt of anger ran through her, and she stomped her foot. “Yes, Malfoy, I can read! I’m six! This book is just hard!”
“Let me see it, you illiterate troll,” he spat, yanking the book from her hands and observing the cover with what appeared to be indifference. But Ginny could swear that she saw something that was akin to curiosity flicker in his eyes. “Tales of the Brothers Grimm? There are no wizarding authors by that name.”
“I know, stupid. They’re Mugg—hey!” she stomped her foot impatiently when Draco purposefully dropped the book to the floor as if it had transformed into something particularly disgusting. “How do you know you don’t like them if you haven’t read it?!”
“I don’t need to read it to know they’re filthy Muggles,” sneered the older boy. Light from a nearby fake window made his hair glow like snow in sunlight, and Ginny was momentarily stunned speechless. Draco took this as surrender, and started to push past her when she grabbed his fashionable black robes and yanked him back into the alcove.
“Come on, Draco!” she whined, using his first name to annoy him. “I can tell you’re bored too by the way you were messing with the plant! Puh-leese just read to me for a little while? Just one story!”
Out of his own childish impatience, Draco yanked the book from her hands yet again, scowling at her. “One story. Promise.” The girl’s face split open into a wide gap-toothed grin that was so sweet it made Draco’s teeth ache.
“Unbreakable Vow!” Ginny promised with an eager nod, holding out her pinky-finger. Draco stared at her hand as if it were some poisonous slug. “Haven’t you ever made an Unbreakable Vow before?”
“Don’t you d-die if you break it, though?” demanded Draco, his brows furrowing with the first hint of doubt since he had started talking to the Weaslette. She stooped so low as to laugh for a moment before sighing and shaking her head just like her mother always did when she was too tired to yell.
“Draco, it’s not really an Unbreakable Vow,” she said as if she were the older wiser one. “You just do—” she linked her little finger around his reluctant squirmy one, “—this! See? No harm done, and I promise that you only have to read me one story. Okay?”
Not happy with being startled so badly by a girl (and a Weasley, no less!), Draco scowled again and grumbled: “Fine, one story.” Ginny squealed happily, clapping her hands with her joy, and eagerly sat down on the floor to look up at Draco with unparalleled focus. He found her concentration unnerving, and started leafing through the rather thick book.
“Aren’t you going to sit down?” Ginny broke her excited focus to ask.
Draco blinked at her as if she had just sprouted gills, but lowered himself to sit beside her nonetheless. Almost instantly, she scooted close and leaned against his arm so she could see the illustrations in the book. “Alright, which story do you want?”
Ginny very importantly took the book from Draco’s hands and opened it to the Table of Contents, pondered each title for a long time, and finally decided on Godfather Death. Draco leaned over to see how long it was and groaned.
“It’s ten pages!”
“It’s five, stupid. There are pictures on every other page. You promised! You made the Unbreakable—”
“I know, I know, shut your mouth!” grumbled Draco. He opened the book to page 77 and began to read the rather creepy story about a doctor who had Death for a godfather, and helped him become a physician. Apparently Death had to stand at the feet of his victims to take their lives, so the doctor would spin the dying folk around in order for them to live another day. The doctor became too confident in his abilities to outsmart Death that he didn’t believe it when Death threatened to take him if he pulled his trick one more time. As the Princess lay dying, and Death appeared, he turned her around in desperation to win her heart, and as easily as he would have taken the girl, Death scooped up the doctor and carried him away.
As he finished reading the story, Draco and Ginny sat in silence for a long time. Draco had never read a story like this before; his parents didn’t even like that he read Beedle the Bard. This Brothers Grimm stuff, it was…gruesome and scary and unusual, and written by Muggles who claimed to know nothing of the wizarding world, and yet talked of Death like a close friend who happened to also be a lunatic.
“Well, that was lovely,” said Ginny, and she actually meant it. “Thank you, Draco.” Within moments, she slid the book from between his fingers and had skipped off to find her father again. Draco stared after her, wondering how such a naïve little girl wasn’t frightened by stories about Death and talking donkeys’ heads after it had been mounted on a wall. Didn’t dying frighten her at all? If given the chance, would she try to live forever, like Draco would?
And so began Draco Malfoy’s fascination with death, and Ginny Weasley.
The next month, on the same day, Draco intentionally wandered into the alcove where he had read to the Weasley girl and sat down, trying to look bored. Soon enough, he could hear the tell-tale clicking of her homemade shoes as she walked to the same spot. It hadn’t been planned, but Draco had somehow known she would come back here.
The day after his first encounter with Ginny Weasley had led him to his parents’ library, where he searched for any books about death or gruesome wars or vile illnesses, trying to use his little brain and find some sort of link in all of them. Some people were murdered in their beds at night, others were tortured, others suffered from a hacking cough, and some just went to sleep and never woke up. His still-growing mind strained itself, trying to find a common factor besides the fact that they all died. And then there were the rare stories of people being struck by lightning, dying, and then after an indeterminate amount of time came back to life. Those people fascinated Draco the most; what did they see on the other side? Was there a long tunnel with a bright light? Was there a ghostly ferry-keeper that demanded payment before carrying the soul to the next world? Or was it all just a matter of Death being unable to reach their feet?
Before he could make any conclusions, Draco’s mother had come looking for him, discovered his reading material, and made her husband put stronger locks on the library door.
So Draco had waited, most impatiently, for Ginny Weasley to come, and when she dawdled near the alcove but didn’t come near, having probably seen him, he stood up impatiently. “Well? Either come or go because I don’t like it when people stand around doing nothing.”
Uncertainly, Ginny inched closer, and finally sat down at Draco’s feet. “I don’t suppose you want to read to me again,” she muttered glumly, putting the Brothers Grimm book on the floor and sliding it idly toward him.
Making a great show of sighing impatiently and looking as if he’d rather be anywhere but here, Draco finally sat down. “Well, if it’ll keep you from annoying me again, I suppose I’ll make the sacrifice to read to your undeserving ears. This time I get to pick a story.” Ginny shrugged, obviously not too fussed by it as long as she was being read to, and so Draco opened the book. There was one called The Valiant Tailor. It was about a young man who had killed seven flies in one blow, and so to make people think he was this vicious warrior he stitched “Seven Down in One Blow” on his belt. Then he used his quick thinking and cunning to bamboozle everyone into thinking he was an amazing guy who could do anything, and ended up marrying the Princess and getting a kingdom all to himself even when they found out he was a faker.
“That was a stupid story,” sniffed Ginny. “He lied his way to the top, and when he was found out he just scared everyone into staying away from him. He didn’t even do anything good.”
“Yes he did! He got rid of the giants, the unicorn, and the boar! They were being troublesome and he disposed of them!”
“He tricked the giants into killing each other! That’s not exactly heroic!”
“Hey, as long as he gets the job done, who cares how he did it?”
“I do. It was such a dirty trick, so like a Sly-” Ginny stopped short, her face suddenly glowing red as she realized what she was saying. Draco’s eyebrows furrowed.
“Like a Slytherin?” he demanded. Ginny didn’t say anything at all, simply crossing her arms and looking away. Draco did not give the book back before stomping off, not sure why he was so furious. It was a very Slytherin thing of the tailor to do, but the way Ginny had said it made him feel hot and flustered inside. Like an insult. There was nothing wrong with Slytherin House. Not every good-guy had to be in Gryffindor, after all.
Not every good-guy had to be Harry Potter, whose name had been scribbled in the margins of the Grimm book by a young, inexperienced hand.