Young broken love and jealously was not becoming of a young Malfoy boy, especially one who had recently become fascinated with death and couldn’t sleep without waking up every few hours and turning around so his head and feet switched positions. He stayed in his father’s office every month on until he insisted he was far too old to go on these visits, ignoring any sign of a Weasley’s presence, but he did feel a bit guilty for not giving back the Grimm book.
He did not seek out or speak to Ginny Weasley until they were both in Hogwarts, and she was acting Loony as her Lovegood friend. She didn’t even seem to remember her book, which Draco still read frequently in the privacy of his bed canopy and his blankets.
When the news began to spread at the end of the year that the youngest Weasley was in the hospital wing after being captured and brought down to the Chamber of Secrets, Draco couldn’t help but feel a nag of curiosity. How close had Ginny Weasley been to death that she had to be in the infirmary for the rest of the school year? Had Death been outsmarted, or unneeded? Had the Weaslette seen the pale ancient face of Death, touched his icy palm, and fought tooth and nail for her freedom? Or had it simply been very dark for a very long time before she woke up? Maybe nothing had happened at all, but Draco knew in his heart of hearts that he had to find out for himself.
He snuck into the infirmary in the middle of the night, clutching Ginny’s book in his arms, a man on a mission. Except he was far from a man; he was a twelve year old boy, jumping every time something moved in the shadows because he was convinced it was Death coming for him or Ginny. He shivered at the thought, and hurried down the infirmary to the only occupied bed on the last night of term. Even in the darkness, her red hair shone like some orange beacon. She was curled up like a cat, her hands folded over her heart as if to protect it from the evils that had taken her hostage only days ago.
Draco mercilessly began to prod her. “Wake up, Ginny,” he demanded, briefly considering hitting her with the book before she groaned and started rubbing her eyes.
“I’m awake, stop poking me,” she whined, sitting up and stretching with her eyes shut. “What do you want, Draco? I was sleeping.”
“Yes, I noticed; you snore like a troll,” sneered Draco with a superior smirk. Ginny would have none of his antics tonight, though, and rolled over. He stared at her back and her shiny red hair that practically glowed in the moonlight streaming in, and for several minutes made no further sound. She must have thought he had left her, because after five minutes of silence she turned back over and gasped when he was still there.
Instead of saying anything, Draco pulled the thick book out from where he had been sitting on it and opened it in his lap. Without consulting her he turned to his favorite story, The Youth Who Could Not Shudder, and started reading aloud. Ginny stared at him reproachfully at first, obviously remembering his accidental thievery that he was practically flaunting before her now, but since she hadn’t even had the chance to have this particular story read to her before he took it, she fell back against her pillows. When the story got to the point where halves of men started falling through the chimney, she sat up straight as a board, her face white. But when Draco finished the tale with the youth’s wife pouring ice-cold water onto him while he slept, thusly teaching him how to shudder, she was smiling faintly.
“You came up here in the middle of the night to read me a story?” she asked, sounding faintly dreamy. Draco snapped the book shut and rolled his eyes.
“Of course not. I’m a Slytherin, after all. I have no good intentions,” he responded, his voice suddenly growing as hard and cold as his snowy hair.
Ginny had the good grace to blush, and looked down at her hands in her lap. “Yeah, about that. I’m-…I’m sorry. I was little, and stupid, and biased.” Her eyes flitted up to him briefly, and she blushed again. “I suppose I’m still little and stupid to you, though. Only a stupid little girl would let the soul of a dead man kidnap her into a dungeon.”
Draco’s eyes widened. The way she said it made it sound just like one of her Grimm tales. Before thinking about how she might not want to talk about her experience, his mouth was moving. “Is it true you almost died?” Shyly, probably thinking that he was asking out of concern, she nodded. His next question also fell unheeded from his lips. “What was it like? Was there a ferry-man? Or a tunnel?”
Shaking her head slowly from side to side, Ginny lowered her gaze even further. “I don’t remember.”
“Nothing? Not even what it felt like to wake up? Did your whole life flash before your eyes?”
“I said I don’t remember, Draco,” reiterated Ginny, raising her voice slightly.
“You’re-…you’re lying. You just—”
“—don’t want to talk about it?” finished Ginny, raising her head to stare at Draco with red-rimmed eyes as tears dripped from her chin. “I almost died, Draco. For real. This isn’t another fairy tale where I can wake up by being good or virtuous. If that thing had killed me, nothing would have brought me back. I would have never seen my family again. I would have never seen you again, Draco. I don’t want to talk about it ever, ever again.”
“You thought about never seeing me again?” asked Draco slyly after a moment. Ginny laughed weakly and shook her head.
“Not the point, Draco.”
“Right.” First he smirked, then it broke into a smile, and then he laughed quietly and shook his head as well. Ginny thought his face almost looked lopsided when he smiled normally, since he spent much of his time with the little smirk on one side of his face. It was lopsided and beautiful.
The next morning, both students boarded the train and departed, going their separate ways with their respective families. Ginny’s mother fussed over her and cried, happy to see her little girl again, while Draco’s father shook his hand and said he hoped he was well. The Malfoys Apparated home, while the Weasleys took a Portkey made out of one of the Wellington boots that always sat around the front door. Draco continued to read the Muggles’ book by moonlight, and Ginny had strange dreams about being frozen in a block of ice.
Midway through the summer, when the air was thick and warm the way Ginny liked it best, she wandered out into the orchard alone for the first time since Tom Riddle had possessed her. Ever since getting home she hadn’t allowed herself to go anywhere alone, and her family took this small adventure as a great step forward.
She couldn’t help but shiver as her eyes fell upon a white form huddled beneath one of the trees at the back of the orchard, as far from home as she could get. For a moment she thought it to be a ghost, and then, absurdly, a drift of enchanted snow, but as she got closer she could see that it was in fact a thirteen year old boy with a book in his lap.
“D-Draco?!” she cried, not wanting to believe her eyes. Surely enough, the boy looked up, saw who she was, and leaped to his feet with surprise.
“What are you doing here?!” they demanded simultaneously. Then there was an awkward pause, and they both laughed. It was not friendly laughter, but not cold either.
“This is my family’s orchard, D-…Malfoy,” Ginny finally explained. “So I should be asking you what you’re doing here.”
Draco straightened up, looking honestly surprised that the Weasleys could afford to keep an orchard, no matter how small it was. “My parents have just purchased a summer cabin on the other side of this wood. Though I suppose they would readily sell it if they found out we were neighbors to the likes of you.”
“Then please, feel free to run off to your mother and tell her all about it.”
A challenging flash darted through his gray eyes, but he made no move toward his temporary home. Ginny raised her eyebrows, silently inquiring as to why he wasn’t telling his parents about the vermin next door. He shrugged his shoulders, silently tell her that he didn’t particularly want to tell them. The way he kept looking at and away from her said that he was lonely being the only child in his family.
Slowly, gently, as if trying not to jostle a sleeping infant, Ginny pulled the book from his hands. It was her Brothers Grimm book, surely enough. They sat down together under the same tree Draco had been resting under, and for the first time sine they’d met Ginny read to him. It was one of those silly Muggle stories that were told and retold with different names and events, but the same main idea. It was called Ashenputtel, about the daughter of a rich man whose wicked stepmother made her pick lentils from the ashes in the fireplace just to earn her supper. She wished upon her dead mother’s grave to be able to go to the ball the King was throwing, and down upon her fell magnificent robes of silver and gold. For three days this went on until Ashenputtel left one of her slippers behind and the Prince, determined to find this mysterious woman he had fallen in love with, scoured the country for her. Ashenputtel’s equally-wicked stepsisters cut off parts of their feet just to fit into the shoe, but it didn’t fool the Prince, and he found his bride in the little kitchen-wench. At the Prince’s wedding the stepsisters’ eyes were pecked out by birds, and they lived blindly for the rest of their days.
“That was stupid,” murmured Draco, beginning to doze off from both the heat and the steady rising and falling of Ginny’s voice as she read. Since his eyes were quite firmly closed, Ginny stared down at him for a long time.
“Sometimes the stupid stories are the nicest ones.” When she got no reply, she gently prodded her unlikely companion awake. “Come on, wake up; we’re both going to end up looking like tomatoes if we don’t get out of the sun soon.” Draco suddenly seemed to realize what the time was and jumped up, shaking the sleep from his head and making his hair fall about his eyes. He eyed Ginny warily, knowing that she would want to keep her book and bring it home, seeing as it had belonged to her first. It would just be a wrench giving it back, that was all.
This, in turn, was why he was utterly dumbstruck when, just as gently, Ginny placed the book back into his hands. “Here, you keep it for a bit longer; I’ve never seen one of my books looking so well cared-for.” Not to mention it gave her an excuse to seek him out, away from the prying eyes of her family.
Just as she was turning to go home, practically feeling her freckles darkening, she heard Draco call out to her, “You know we can’t keep seeing each other like this, don’t you?”
Ginny turned calmly around and shrugged her shoulders. “Not every day, at least. See you in a month, Malfoy.”
She couldn’t help but smile when she heard Draco’s rather petulant cry of, “A whole month?!” as she walked back home. It felt nice to know someone wanted to see her more often than that.
They were only able to meet one more time in the orchard before it would be time to go to Hogwarts. After feigning ignorance of this fact, going about their usual business, and Ginny had finished the story of the Goose Girl, neither of them moved. Ginny had been thinking practically nonstop about Malfoy, and how it was such torture to be so near and unable to seek him out. They would obviously have to keep up their hateful façade once they got to Hogwarts, but what of these stolen moments together? Ginny wanted to hear the rest of the book, but she didn’t want to take away something that obviously made Malfoy happy. But was he happy with having to sneak around all because of a book that would displease his parents?
“How much trouble would you be in if your parents caught you with this?” she asked after a while, holding up the book. The wind started to pick up, tangling a long tendril of red hair in with Draco’s shorter white-blonde hair. They tried to pull away from one another, but they were stuck. Malfoy looked horribly embarrassed, but Ginny laughed quietly as they both reached out to rectify the situation and bumped hands.
“Not much, I suppose,” admitted Draco with a shrug as he dropped his hands and let Ginny untangle them. “I could easily convince them I thought the Brothers Grimm was a book of wizard fairy-tales, seeing as a lot of Muggles are going through torturous things. Then my father would give me a long lecture about learning to distinguish Muggle books from Wizard ones and my mother would insist I was too old for such silly stories anyway. And then they would burn the book to make their point clear. Don’t worry!” he insisted, seeing Ginny’s horrified look at the prospect of her book being burnt. “I can hide things perfectly well. I am a Slytherin, after all.”
“And I’m a Gryffindor, so I would have hidden it in plain sight and waited to get into trouble, is that it?” asked Ginny, though there was no malice in her words. She had long since untangled their hair, but couldn’t help toying with a bit of Malfoy’s blonde tresses; it was soft as silk in contrast to her coarse thick mane.
She can tell that Malfoy is trying to smirk, but it’s turning into a smile against his will. “Precisely.” He gets up, slides the book from her hands, and is gone as quickly as a wisp of smoke, leaving Ginny sitting alone in the grass.
There was no denying that Hogwarts felt strange after being able to see one another so easily and privately over the summer. At Hogwarts, they had to go back to their old selves. The “real” selves that everyone thought they were, when really the grim reality was that they only felt real when they were together. It was no surprise when Ginny found Draco studying in the back of the library where no one ever ventured; the surprise was in what he was reading. All around him were graphic books about bloody wars and gory massacres, illustrations of the human skeleton and paintings from the Spanish Inquisition, even crude pictures of monks setting themselves on fire or piercing themselves in the heart in protests. Ginny shivered as she looked down upon a painting in a book of a young woman with the depiction of Death standing above her, beckoning her to the next world with his skeletal fingers. And of course, in the middle of all of this, was the Brothers Grimm book.
“What on earth are you reading?” she asked, sliding into the chair beside him. Caught by surprise, Draco began slamming the books shut, only to reveal their dark titles. The book with Death and the young woman was called In Death’s Possession. She put her hand across his wrist to keep him from closing more of the books. “Are you really that desperate to know what’s waiting on the other side?”
Setting his jaw in a way that reminded her of Fred and George, Draco nodded curtly. “A Malfoy is always prepared.”
“Just like you were prepared for my entrance?”
“Well you were sneaky!”
Ginny couldn’t help but laugh at his irritation, and even he begrudgingly smiled. When he wasn’t looking, Ginny leaned over the Grimm book to see what he was reading. “Iron Hans? That sounds creepy.”
“Because all of the other stories in this book were so sweet and nice?” countered Draco with a characteristic sneer that made Ginny not like him for just a second. She supposed being able to dislike him was a good thing, because if she only liked him she would never be able to fake hating him in public. “Don’t worry your ugly freckled head over it; it ends well enough. Beautiful princess and all that.”
Ginny stared at him expectantly, and when he raised his hands in mock surrender, she poked his shoulder, leaning in close to whisper in his ear. “Well? Aren’t you going to read it to me?”
Malfoy went oddly strange, stiffening every muscle and flinching away from her warm breath on his neck. “I just read it five minutes ago, Weaslette! Maybe I don’t feel like reading!” he snapped. Ginny leaned away and stared at him out of surprise as he stormed off, holding the Grimm book and a few others carefully against his front.
Ginny didn’t see Draco for quite a while after the incident in the library, because a few weeks later Buckbeak the Hippogriff allegedly took a chunk out of his arm. She was reluctantly concerned when she heard the news, but then grew more increasingly annoying by Malfoy’s consistent whining to his Slytherin mates. When he kept using his “condition” to annoy Harry and her brother, she stopped looking him in the eye altogether. But she did manage to irritate him when he walked by and she whispered “But the warrior was only a tailor, not worth the title of King.”
They didn’t speak again until well past Christmas.
She wouldn’t have spoken to him again at all if she could have her way, but something just kept drawing her to him. Like a moth to flame, or a lost and hungry child to a house made of bread. Which was why, shortly after Christmas Break ended, Ginny began to tentatively try to regain her very odd friendship with Draco.
She found him, strangely, ducking into Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, most likely to get away from Parkinson, who had been following him around like a lost puppy for as long as Ginny could remember. And so, after considering it and rejecting the very thought twice, she followed him in. She had to make up for being so mean to him in the only way she knew how.
She could feel her body shaking, not particularly wanting to follow Tom’s advice, but knowing it was the only way. Draco spun around from where he’d been staring at the sink with the snake in it, his eyes hardening into a glare.
“What the hell do you want, Weasley?” he spat, deliberately using her surname to hurt her. She stifled her pain and moved closer to him, clenching her shaking hands into fists at her sides.
“I insulted you.”
Malfoy crossed his arms, waiting for more to come, but nothing did. “And?”
“I have to make it up to you, don’t I? I have to repent for angering you.”
The pale boy’s brows furrowed at Ginny’s odd behavior. There was no emotion in her voice, no spark in her eye; even her hair seemed dimmer somehow. “What are you talking about?”
“It’s okay, Draco, I know what I have to do,” whispered Ginny as she moved yet closer to the boy; he took a timid step away from the teary-eyed girl. Within moments he was backed into a corner, and Ginny was tugging at her robe.
“Ginny, what the hell—?!”
“It’s okay!” Ginny sobbed, pulling her clothes from her body. “I’ll let you do it, Draco! I have to learn!”
Draco pressed himself against the wall, frozen with sudden terror as he tore his eyes away from the naked, skinny, immature girl before him. “What the hell is wrong with you, Weasley?!” he squeaked, his voice cracking.
“I want to make things right,” she whimpered, reaching out for him with her left arm. He saw an enormous ugly scar on her forearm, as if someone had gouged into her skin with their fingernails until blood had poured. “I’ll let you, Draco. I’ll let you! It’s okay!”
“Ginny, you’re twelve! I’m not-…I’m not about to-…!”
“Please Draco,” Ginny whispered again, tears dripping down her chin and onto her flat undeveloped chest. “I just want to make things right.”
Her words and gasps of sadness echoed over the tiles, melding in with the sounds Moaning Myrtle had been making the whole time without them noticing, for a very long time. Finally, after what felt like two lifetimes, Ginny dropped her hand. She had never felt so sad and empty in her life. All she could do was wait for Draco to take her offer of friendship, but he slunk around her and vanished out the door, leaving his only parting words to cut into her like ice.
“You’re fucking crazy, Ginny.”
That night, Ginny asked Fred and George what the right thing was to do when you made a friend angry. They could see that she had been upset by something, and gave her honest answers. Usually they would at least try to mess with her a bit first, but when they looked at her face they knew it would be wrong. Ginny listened, and tried not to cry as everything she thought she knew was once again proved wrong. They spoke of honest apologies, grand gestures, and even just an embrace.
They didn’t mention any of the things Tom had told her.