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2012 Writer's Duel: Changing Impressions by HPFF United
Chapter 2 : Toes In The Sand by JANNER
 
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He closed the car door quietly. The ambient sound here was the ocean breaking gently on the shore and the soft whisper of a cool breeze; he didn’t want to disturb that. It was a bright, sunny, spring day, just as it had been a year and two months before. He walked from the car to the small dunes that ran the length of the beach, thirty or forty yards back from the water. This was his third visit to this place and it was so unlike the previous two.

Sitting on top of a dune he surveyed the deserted beach from end-to-end. Like fourteen months ago there were no other people in sight. The only other living creatures in evidence were the seabirds that swooped silently in the clear blue sky. He wondered if they were the same birds that had been there before. His gaze dropped to the sand between his knees. Scooping a handful he let it run through his fingers. He had done that before. This day could be that day. Nothing had changed.

Not true of course, everything had changed. She had changed everything. From the person he was to his choice of toothpaste. She had changed everything.

He stood and kicked the shoes from his sockless feet, not caring where they landed. His jacket followed. White shirt with an open button-down collar, no tie, the cuffs turned back to mid-forearm, and black slacks remained, just like… then. A slow walk to the last high-tide mark, turn right, take ten slow paces. Remembering the feel of her hand sliding into his, their fingers intertwining. Stop. He looked around, getting his bearings.

Yes. This was the spot… right here. He heard her voice again. I love you. I always will, she had said. He saw again her upturned face. Eyes that were soft and lips slightly parted, inviting him to kiss them. The soft feel of her mouth on his. Nothing fierce or hard. This wasn’t about passion or lust, this was about love. A kiss like no other. Fourteen months before.

He remembered how it had all started. The precise moment she had changed his life. A chance meeting in a deserted corridor in Hogwarts castle. The arrogant bully that had been his previous public persona had seen it as an opportunity too good to miss. After all, he had a reputation to uphold. He had backed her up against the wall, his physical strength too much for her. His words were harsh, threatening, telling her, in intimate and crude detail, what he intended to do to her. He thought he had been fair when he gave her the choice of undressing herself or having him do it for her. Her response had thrown him completely for a loop.

“I’m not scared of you so why don’t you stop flapping your gums and do it. If you have the guts that is. If this is what it takes for you to feel superior to me, then just do it. You won’t see me cry, you won’t hear me beg you to stop. So do it!” It was then that he had looked into her eyes, and what he saw there shocked him to the core.

Defiance. Contempt. What she had said wasn’t just bravado or the bluster of someone in a hopeless position. She had meant every word. She really wasn’t scared of him. He drew back a little and looked at her face. It was then that her face had led him into looking beyond her name, her family and friends. He saw only the perfectly proportioned nose and mouth, cheekbones that might have been sculpted by Michelangelo himself, with a light dusting of freckles over them. A strong but not prominent chin. The whole framed by hair the colour of very old, very often burnished copper, carrying a fragrance that was beyond his description. All this balanced on a slender neck that, at first glance, did not look sufficient to carry the weight of her head. Only a closer inspection would reveal the musculature developed over many years of defying the forces of gravity while flying seemingly impossible tight turns on her broomstick.

As it would do so often in the future, his gaze had returned to her eyes. Brown. Browner than the darkest chocolate, yet soft and gentle, even as he held her pinioned to the wall. Even now no hatred emanated from those eyes. They were anything but lifeless; there was something that he could not discern at first. Then he realised. Pity? Oh no, no, please don’t let it be pity. The thought disgusted him. He had released her and walked quickly away, only glancing back as he turned a corner. She was still looking at him. Straight into his eyes. Head held high. Unflinching. Defiance in its most beautiful form.

He had not slept well that night or for the next week. As soon as he closed his eyes her face was there. All through the week he had seen her around the school, in the corridors and passages, and while eating. It might have been his imagination but it seemed that every time he looked at her, she was already looking at him. He had to see her… to talk to her. One day in a crowded corridor where progress was slow they had, for a few seconds, been shoulder to shoulder. “Room of Requirement. 8 o’clock. Please.” He had whispered. She had given no response, nor any indication that she had even heard him.

His heart had leapt into his mouth when, to his surprise, at 8.05 that evening the door to the Room of Requirement had opened to admit her. Even dressed just in jeans and a red T-shirt, he couldn’t take his eyes off her. She apologised for being late. I didn’t think you would come, he told her. I didn’t either, but here I am. What do you want? Had been her reply.

At first the conversation was stilted, disjointed, awkward and uneasy. He apologised for his treatment of her the previous week and for the time since she first came to Hogwarts. They talked until midnight, the chat becoming easier and more relaxed as one by one the questions were asked and answered, accusations made and acknowledged, refuted or excused, slowly dismantling the barriers between them. When it was time to leave she had paused with her hand on the door, turned and smiled at him. Not a shy, timid smile, but the full confident smile of a beautiful girl. The smile killed him and in the same instant he had been born anew. Same time tomorrow? She had asked. Fourteen months ago.

He walked slowly on, relishing the feel of the damp sand beneath his feet. The third meeting had been the one. He had taken the biggest risk of his life. He had kissed her. For him it had been a make or break moment. His whole body had thrilled when she had responded. He could feel and taste the kiss even now, fourteen months later. That Saturday they had gone, independently, into Hogsmeade. From a quiet side street she had apparated them to this beach. Fourteen months before.

Thirteen of those months had been the happiest he had ever known. Even though they were months full of secrecy, of subterfuge, their meetings clandestine. Living the lie in between. Ten months in they had ‘married’. Not in the legal sense, because although she was two months past her seventeenth birthday, the times were too uncertain, and their love as yet still concealed. One weekend they had found a quiet country church and in front of an accommodating, casually dressed, ‘off duty’ vicar had vowed to love one another till death. To the fading of the last star’s light, he had promised her.

Early that chilly evening they had consummated their love. Here, on this beach, just over… there. His hands still held the memory of her body. Every curve and contour was his to savour just by remembering. Every spot that made her shiver when he touched or kissed them. Even after all this time, his body remembered the touch of her hands, tentative at first and then sure and confident.

The Battle of Hogwarts had destroyed his happiness. They had become separated and when Voldemort was dead and the combat was over, she was nowhere to be found. She was not among the dead or injured and was listed as missing. Also missing was Hermione Granger, she was the only other person that knew of their love and she had been faithful to her promise of secrecy. She had been found hours later, dazed and disorientated, wandering the streets of Hogsmeade with apparently, no idea how she came to be there. Because of the confusion after the battle, it had been easy to get others to believe her lie.

He sat low down on the slope of the same dune as before, gazing out over the ocean. He shifted his eyes to the sand next to him. To the now empty place where she had sat four months before. WHERE ARE YOU? His mind screamed out. But the silence of the subliminal ether he was trying to penetrate was absolute. Where could she be? If she had died, where was her body? If she had been injured, why was she not among the casualties at St Mungo’s? A moment of despair swept over him and he contemplated life without her and the possibility that he would never, as long as he lived, see her again. Behind his closed, moist eyes her face appeared. She was smiling, what was for him, her trademark killer smile. White teeth behind slightly parted lips. The most perfect lips that any man, since Homo Sapiens had first walked the earth, had ever kissed. Was this, he wondered, the fates paying him back for his earlier mis-treatment of her? To make him live without the woman he loved, that he would always love, but keeping alive in his heart the belief that every day would be the day that she would return. Surely even the fates weren’t that cruel.

He pushed his left foot forward and watched his toes disappear into the sand. On that day it had been her toes he had watched. “I love the feel of my toes in the sand.” She had said. He could hear it now. Clear as a bell. He could hear it now because… he looked up over his left shoulder, straight into her eyes. “Hello Draco.” His mouth was instantly dry. He shot to his feet.

“Ginny… what… wh…” Lost for words he put his arms around her and held her close to him. Her arms remained limp at her side. “Ginny, what happened, where have you been?”

“Let’s sit down Draco. I’ll explain as much as I can.” They sat down and he put his arm around her shoulder. He felt her stiffen beside him. “Please don’t do that Draco. You won’t want to in a minute. You see, I’ve been coming here for the last five days. I knew you would come eventually. I can’t think of a better place to say goodbye.” He reluctantly withdrew his arm.

“Goodbye? What on earth are you talking about, goodbye? Ginny what..?”

“Please Draco, this is going to be hard enough, please just listen. I was badly injured in the fighting at Hogwarts. Hermione found me and apparated me away to the Burrow. It was deserted there of course, everybody was at Hogwarts. She managed to contact Kingsley Shacklebolt who, when he saw my injuries, moved me to a private hospital. I made them promise never to tell anybody. I have been there for the last month all paid for by the Ministry. I have come to tell you that because of my injuries, I can’t be with you anymore. I don’t think I’ll be with anyone ever again.”

“That’s ridiculous Ginny, why should an injury come between us? Especially now that you have recovered.”

“I haven’t recovered, Draco, I can never recover fully. It’s likely that I will prove unable to have children."

“I don’t care about that. I love you enough to live without kids. That’s not a problem. So let’s have no more of this goodbye nonsense, okay.”

“That’s not all, Draco. Please don’t ask me what it is, but you deserve someone you can love without reservation, someone who can give you a family.”

“Don’t ask? Don’t ask? Damn right I’m going to ask; and I’ll keep asking until you tell me. First I’m going to ask, do you still love me?” Their eyes met. She didn’t really need to speak, the answer was pouring from her eyes.

“I will always love you, Draco. Always.”

“Then I don’t understand. Tell me why, Ginny, please?” tears began to flow down her cheeks. She sobbed as she spoke.

“Because… every day… every day for the rest of my life, the first thing I will have to do in the morning is to cast a glamourizing spell on myself. That’s all I want to say.” Somehow he understood. He took her face in his hands and with his thumbs gently wiped her tears away. He kissed her softly on both cheeks. She knew what he was going to do. A desperate, pleading, whisper.

“Please, my love… don’t. Just remember me like this, Draco… please… don’t.”

He muttered words of his own, “Finite Incantatem.” The glamour spell faded. Despite the pain in his heart, he tried to keep his expression neutral as he looked at her. He took in the angry red scar that ran from just under her left nostril to a point below her left ear, passing close to the corner of her mouth, twisting it up into an unnatural parody of a smile. “Who did this to you, Ginny?”

“Not that it matters a damn now, but it was Goyle.”

“Then it’s a good thing for him that he’s already dead, Ginny. Now please don’t tell me you are going to let this come between us, because I tell you that I will never… never accept that.”

“You don’t want to wake up every day looking at this face. I won’t ask you to do that. You can’t possibly love this face…” she lay down and pulled her blouse from the waistband of her jeans, “or this body.” His eyes followed another ugly scar from below her right breast, diagonally to the point where it disappeared under the blue jeans, midway between her navel and left hipbone. He captured her eyes with his, his voice soft, almost a whisper,

“But I can… I do… I will. Every day for the rest of my life.” He put into the kiss everything his soul could give. Loves transformation of Draco Malfoy was complete. “To the fading of the last star’s light. Remember?”


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