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Chapter 9 : Chapter 8
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Another two weeks passed before Ron and Hermione left to fetch Harry from his aunt and uncle’s house, and only just returned in one piece. She listened to them arguing in Ron’s room all the way down in hers, but paid it no mind as she held her Galleon to her chest, hoping it would begin to burn. After the third day of Harry being there, it finally seemed to hit her that Draco could be dead. It began to rain in torrents that day, and everyone had gathered together in Ginny’s room in a brief moment between her mother’s insistence to keep them all apart.
“Harry, once more, please,” she pleaded gently, hugging her knees to herself. Her palms were beginning to sweat at the very thought. “Just tell me how it happened one more time.”
Harry gave her a look of sympathy. Poor little Ginny. Poor, soft Ginny has to hear how Dumbledore died one last time, just to be certain that he was really gone. However, he complied to her request, having to prepare himself quite a bit for the tale.
“At first Malfoy was up there alone, talking about how killing Professor Dumbledore had been his mission since the very beginning,” he said with the tone of a teacher who had given one particular lecture far too many times. “Dumbledore told him that his heart must not have been in it, and Malfoy went all funny. He started yelling that they—the Death Eaters—were going to kill him if he didn’t go through with it. Dumbledore, obviously, offered him protection, and-…and for a moment…I think Malfoy was beginning to lower his wand.”
Ginny’s heart soared.
“Then the Death Eaters all burst in and were telling Malfoy to get it over with, and taunting Dumbledore, but Malfoy just stood there, staring into space. It was like he was trying to disappear or something. And then Snape showed up and…” He trailed off, and Hermione put a hand on his shoulder.
“Do you think he would have done it?” Ginny asked. “Draco, I mean. Do you think he would have actually done it?” Her hand grew even warmer, and began to shake slightly. It was almost beginning to—
Her coin was still in her hand.
“No, I really don’t think he would have done it, in the end,” Harry decided after a moment’s thought. Ginny began to sweat. “I mean, he was lowering his wand, and I think he was hearing some of what Dumbledore had said to him, you know? If the others hadn’t come in, I think everything could have turned out differently. But it doesn’t matter now, anyway.” Harry’s face and voice suddenly went dark with unsurpassed hatred. “Malfoy went with them. He chose his side.”
The heat in her hand pulsed almost in sync with her pumping blood and caused her adrenaline to start galloping. “No he didn’t,” she spat out before she had time to think. Immediately Harry and Ron turned to her with confused looks. Hermione sent her another one of those “don’t be stupid” looks, but she ignored it. “No one really chooses their sides, do they?” Harry opened his mouth to speak, but her coin pulsed with heat and she pressed on. “Everyone is influenced by the way they’re raised, aren’t they? Harry, what if the first thing Hagrid had told you about your parents was that they had been horrible people whose deaths had been sad, but necessary?”
“And what if Hagrid had insisted that You-Know-Who was brilliant, and a hero to the wizarding world?” Ginny continued persistently. “What if all you had ever known was that Dumbledore was an old fool, and that the only way to please your father was to do everything the way he did, and that your mother had wanted to make you happy and let you do whatever you wanted, but what you wanted was to make your father happy?”
“You make it sound as if Malfoy’s been forced into something; it’s not as if he’s shown any signs of wanting to be somewhere else,” Ron grumbled, childish grudges obviously having gotten in the way of him thinking rationally. Ginny could have hit him, but couldn’t without them all seeing her Galleon.
“No one of us was forced onto a side; that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!” she snapped while still trying to keep her voice down. She was supposed to be trying on her gown for the wedding, but was simply sitting around in the plain white shift instead. Thunder clapped above them, and the rain intensified tenfold. “We’re all either born onto our side, or, in the case of the Muggleborns, our side is presented to us from the moment we enter this world. We only follow blindly because we trust the people who have given our side to us, at least until we get old enough to decide what’s right or wrong for ourselves. It took Sirius sixteen years to realize that the life he lived was wrong, and that he should leave, didn’t it? Hell, I could up and decide to join the Death Eaters tomorrow! So maybe…maybe Malfoy just hasn’t reached that point to choose yet, but he’s on his way! Just as you said, Harry, he was lowering his wand, but then a man was killed before his eyes, by the one person in the school that didn’t despise him on principle was taking him away!”
“Ginny, why are you defending Malfoy like this?” Harry asked, clearly wondering where this outburst of passion had come from, especially when talking about Malfoy.
“Because someone has to!” she shouted to be heard over another roll of thunder. “Imagine what it would have been like if no one had defended you when the whole bloody Ministry thought you were going bonkers! I’m trying to keep some faith that there could be good, even in a Malfoy!”
Ron looked, almost helplessly, to Hermione, begging the bushy-haired witch to argue against what she knew to be fact about the young Malfoy heir. Finally, pink in the face and with an apologetic look to Ginny, she conceded. “But how could you even imagine a Malfoy being good, after what Lucius did to you?” she asked in almost a whisper.
This was her chance, she realized as her face drained of all color, as it usually did whenever the incident with the diary was brought up, and spun around so her back was to the others. She opened her hand and stared down at the message as it burned into her palm.
USUAL SPOT. NOW.
And she had wasted all that time trying to reason with them!
“Ginny…Ginny, I’m sorry,” Hermione gently but quickly said, touching her shoulder and peering down at the message on the coin.
“Not everyone is a carbon-copy of their fathers, Hermione!” she shouted, throwing the coin quickly down onto her bed when the boys’ attentions were diverted. Then she, play-acting very well, if she said so herself, pretended to come to some internal conclusion and let out a small hopeless sigh. “Just-…oh, never mind. I know it’s silly, to believe that Malfoy could ever change.”
“It’s not silly, Gin—”
“Forget it, Ron,” she insisted dully. “I think I just want to be along for a while.” The others nodded awkwardly as Ginny moved to the window and gazed thoughtfully out. Ron stopped beside her and put a hand on her shoulder. It was heavy and warm, and made her think of lazy summer days spent playing Quidditch in the same orchard where she had first touched her lips to Draco Malfoy’s skin.
“Will you be alright?”
She laughed softly. “I’ll be fine. It’s just sort of a blow, to realize that seeing the good in everyone isn’t the right way to go about things.” Harry and Ron each gave her a sad smile—poor soft Ginny, so sweet and innocent—before leaving the room.
Almost the very instant the door closed she was pressed against the wall at the window, prying the old squeaky thing open as quietly as she could, climbing out onto the lattice on the side of the house in bare feet and her shift. While against the wall, the roof of the Burrow served as an awning to keep much of the rain away, but the farther down she got, the more drenched she became. She peered through the kitchen window to check if the coast was clear, and just barely managed to duck away as Tonks turned from her place at the table to gaze out at the dreary weather. She clambered down, splashed into the muck on the ground, and broke into a run without a moment’s hesitation.
She fell twice in the slippery mud, and could have sworn that she heard her own name being called on the howling wind, but kept going until she was well into the orchard even when it felt like she had sprained her ankle. Then, under the farthest, oldest tree, she saw the ghost of the boy she loved in all black, curled so tightly into a ball that he seemed to be spring-loaded, and she cried out so loudly with relief that he heard her, and leaped to his feet.
“Where the hell have you been?!” He yelled so loudly his voice broke. “I sent you the message a bloody hour ago!” She completely ignored him, and flung herself into his arms. Despite his apparent anger, his arms wrapped twice as tightly around her as she had around him.
“You’re alive,” she stated dumbly, but was in too great of a shock to say anything even relatively profound. He nodded into her neck, shivering.
“Snape persuaded the Dark Lord to spare my family, seeing as the deed-…since what he wanted was fulfilled,” he hoarsely whispered.
“But there was still punishment,” she concluded on her own. Again, he nodded, and she pulled away only to get a better look into his eyes. He rather resembled a drowned cat, with his thin pointed face and soaked stringy hair. The circled that had dwelled under his eyes for the majority of the year before had grown even darker in the past weeks. But his eyes were the same, she realized suddenly, as the very day she had met him. He was still just a child, trying to convince himself that all this was just a bad dream and he would wake up soon. She started to cry for no particular reason; maybe it was for Draco, for Bill, for Dumbledore, it all came flooding back to her at once so that she couldn’t distinguish one ache from the other.
Draco’s brow furrowed, and he took her face in his hands. “Don’t,” he said quietly, sounding as if he was having trouble breathing as well. “You’re going to make me…”
He blinked, tears fell from his eyes, and then he kissed her.
For one breathtaking minute, there was no Ginny Weasley or Draco Malfoy or war or even rain, and she was warm from her head to her toes. His lips were soft but cold and his face was wet beneath her fingers and they were both frozen to the very bone. After what wasn’t nearly enough time they broke apart and watched one another’s faces breathlessly. The only sounds were of the pounding rain returning to their senses, distant rumbles of thunder, and their hearts pounding in their ears.
Draco, surprised, pushed her away from him almost violently, and she spun around to face Tonks. Her eyes were moving slowly from girl to boy from under an umbrella. “Your mother says it’s time for dinner. Shall…shall I tell her to set another place?” Once again her large keen eyes were on her young cousin. Ginny turned to him and clutched his hands.
“Please Draco,” she begged him. “Come back with me.”
“You know the Boy Wonder would skin me alive if I came within twenty meters of him, let alone you,” he told her with the smallest hint of a smile on his lips that she so longed to kiss again. She looked back to Tonks and shook her head tearfully, and the older witch seemed to sadden.
“Well then, say your goodbyes quickly, because your mother’s already noticed you’re not in your room and she’s worried about you catching cold out here.” Ginny nodded quickly, but as she turned to Draco, Tonks seemed to realize that she might be doing something wrong, and spoke to Draco. “I’m not going to turn you in this time, cousin, because I’m certain that Ginny wouldn’t be so…attached…to you if you really did all the things people say you have done, but if I find you out here again I won’t be so lenient, alright?”
Just as Ginny was saying “We’ll be more careful,” Draco said “I’m not coming back,” and Ginny whipped around to look at him as thunder clapped around them deafeningly.
“What do you mean?” she demanded, beginning to shiver from both cold and the look on Draco’s face. He shot Tonks a shrewd look and moved closer to Ginny, keeping his voice low.
“I can’t come back here, Ginny. I’ve been away too long even now.” He began to move away, but she held him fast, silently begging for answers. There was a long moment of silence as he seemed to contemplate his answers, gently closing his hands around her lower arms gently. Then there seemed to be only truth left for him to tell.
“I-…” He faltered and tightened his hands around her arms before leaning his forehead against hers, as if leeching strength from her and breathing heavily. “There is a very important guest in my home, one that it would be unwise to upset,” he whispered, and Ginny’s blood ran cold. He slid out of her numbing arms, and when her skin grew cold without him, the weight of what he had said truly hit her. You-Know-Who was in the Malfoys’ home, at that very moment, just waiting for one of them to screw up so he could add another notch to his blood-spotted bedpost.
Tonks began to tug her under the umbrella and toward home, thinking they had said goodbye, while Draco simply watched them go. She couldn’t bear the sight of it. As he was about to turn and vanish into the trees, Ginny broke away from Tonks and ran for him, shouting his name, and he turned so perfectly that his arms must have been just waiting for her to come.
“Don’t be stupid,” she told him thickly. He nodded. “Did you ever read the book I gave you? Tuck Everlasting?”
Instead of saying yes or no, he took her face in his hands and looked her directly in the eye, something that she realized he hadn’t done in quite some time. “Ginny Weasley, I will love you until the day I die,” he told her solemnly.
She pretended that Tonks wasn’t watching them, and kissed Draco goodbye. The only think that seemed able to tear them apart was the sound of Ginny’s mother calling her name. Their eyes never left the other until the thickness of the rain blocked their vision.
Once inside the burrow, she refused to look at anyone as she walked past, dripping onto the floor as steadily as if she had just dived into the pond. She was grateful for the streaming moisture, and for the cold that kept her in bed for days; she suddenly found herself unable to stop crying.
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