By Ekai Ungson
DISCLAIMER: Harry Potter the series all copyright J.K. Rowling. Excerpts in bold lifted from Jeanette Winterson's "Art & Lies".
For Alli, who persistently believes in me, and Les, who strengthened me, in times where I would have doubted myself.
Better to go forward than to retreat. Better to fight the hurt than to flee from it. She did not know this until the quick second of her fall and as she fell she prayed for wings. She prayed not out of self-pity or regret, but out of recognition. She need not die. She could fight. Too late? No. Not for her. For her it was not too late.
"I love you," he whispered, his head bowed and his fists clenched.
The stars had remained to witness her flight and followed in her wake, attaching themselves to the tips and edges of her hair, her fingers. Their presence chilled her, the way the rest of her body was chilly, marked black by the night in general and stained red with the passage of crimson midnight.
Tired from running, tired from creating distance between him and herself, tired of trying very hard to not cry, she leaned against a wall, exhausted, the weight of her beating heart on her shoulders and the tears of the moon lady on her back.
"I love you," she whispered into the coming dawn, hearing the notes of the syllables fade into the thick air, rolling the words on her tongue just to see how they felt, and wondering what he felt when he had said the words.
She did not love him, last week, last month. She did not love him when she woke up the other day. But now she found herself questioning her own feelings. Had she really been accurate in that assessment? It was because the tears threatened to pour from her eyes. It was because the lump in her throat was getting harder and harder to swallow. It was because his eyes were alive in her mind, and they were cold, and they were soulless.
She did not love him. But she wanted to cry. There had to be something wrong with the bigger picture.
She opened the portrait hole and went to her room. What would happen later, when the sun was out and the skies were clear, was now Destiny's decision.
Sleep, however, would not claim her as easily.
The sun's bright gold dress found her staring with empty eyes in a seat by the bedroom window. She had been watching the stars burn but in the middle of it all they simply one by one disappeared from the blanket of the sky, and were replaced with pale yellow and purple hues mixed with the vermilion dawn, and she had barely noticed their passing.
The stardust was gone, replaced now with bright day. She did not know why she felt so much dread over the coming of morning. He had as much told her last night—rather, this midnight—that he wouldn't care what happened in the morning. Now here morning was. So should she not care then, as well?
She made her way through bustling corridors of laughing, noisy students, straining for peace but always reaching a hand's breadth short of it. No, she would not have peace now. Not after last night, and not after this day, not ever.
Her only solace remained in the fact that the world would never stop turning, and the night would always fade into the day, and for a few hours, she would have light, and not be relegated to the blackness that was his.
I love you. Those words were not worn out two thousand six hundred years ago. Are they worn out now? Perhaps, but not by repetition, but by strain. There are other ways of saying what I mean… Other words fit for the weight. Other words that pin me to an honesty I might not like. So much can be hidden in 'I love you'. I can hide in that sentimental cloud.
The sun was now sinking into the horizon, gathering its skirts for another day. She turned away from the brilliant view and walked away from the window. She knew it was time.
She walked several halls and turned numerous corners and came to a dead end in the middle of the hallway. Or at least that was what people were supposed to think. She traced a brick with her finger and a partition yawned open. A hidden crack in the wall. One she had used many times to hide away from the rest of the world, knowing that only she knew where the place was. She had been wrong, and had not been sorry for it 'til now.
She took two steps inside and announced, "I knew you'd be here."
For a moment he acted as if he didn't hear her, because he didn't move, wasn't even startled. She considered actually going over and touching him, when he looked up and all she could see of his face was the silver gray of his eyes.
No words were spoken for a long time. She didn't know what to say, or where to begin, and he had said everything he had wanted to say the night before. She knew it was her turn now, she knew he would let her talk for as long as she wanted, and he would answer her with nothing. She wasn't quite sure if that was what she wanted.
He sat there only watching her for the longest time. Finally, she cleared her throat, and spoke.
"I've come not to apologize," she said. "I somehow get the impression that you wouldn't be able to take it, and that apologizing to you is worthless anyway. I don't know why I'm here. I was hoping you could make me understand."
His eyes took on a confused sort of look, and she savored the moment, knowing that she was the first girl he had shown that side of him to. His confusion, and his pain, and his passion, and that love she didn't even deserve.
"I think I was wrong on a lot of things about you," she continued. "Everyone had you in this convenient little box as the nasty boy, the most hateful, cold-blooded, offensive creature in the world. And I went along with that notion, I believed it all. It was kind of hard not to believe it. Everything you do, everything you did, it just all reflects on you.
"I thought you were incapable of feeling. And knowing that, knowing that about you, I used you."
The expression in his eyes never changed. And she went on.
"Used you because I thought there wouldn't be anything in it for me or for you to cherish. I was in it for what it gave me, for what it made me feel—as if I was powerful enough to be with someone like you—and you, I didn't know what it did to you, except maybe the pleasure of having a Gryffindor turncoat on your side. I don't know. I don't know a lot of things. I never expected, expected last night, or ever—"
"What," he whispered. "That I would say those words to you?"
"Yes," she agreed. "That you would say those words, and actually mean them."
He looked at her. "How do you know I mean them?"
She was no longer afraid of his eyes, or that glare, or the coldness that went through her. "Because you're incapable of lying."
He laughed, a hollow laugh, and she stared at him. "I lie all the time, Weasley."
"Not about things like that," she said. "I don't know you. Two months of all this and I still don't know you. I do know, however," she paused. "That those eyes, your eyes, cannot lie about those things, and cannot lie… to me."
She sat down against the wall, facing him but still a few steps away, and looked out at the small circle that showed them the world outside. The sun had not finished setting, and the skies were now in brilliant hues of red, orange and blue.
"Do you know," she began, "about love?"
He looked at her and did not answer, remembering all too clearly that they were words he himself had told her not so long ago.
"The difference between you and I is that I grew up in a world with so much love," she said. "I was loved, very much, by everyone around me. My family, my friends, they all loved me, and protected me, from everything. Absolutely everything.
"The difference between you and I is that where you craved love, I resisted it. It strangled me, placed me in a padded cage with no means of escape. I was so loved, it was stifling.
"This is the reason why it was you I sought and wanted. Because you were immensely empty. And because I knew that if I tried hard enough, I could fill you up, and you could empty me out. It was all I wanted, to NOT be loved. And I know you, you loathe the whole lot of us. And that was what I wanted from you."
He stared at her, expressionless.
She gave him a sad smile. "That's what I wanted from you. Not absolutely nothing, but absolute nothingness. You had given me that. Made me completely numb." She looked out the window again, where the sun was now gone, replaced by dim twilight. She would have to go soon.
"If things had gone according to plan, I wouldn't be here now," she confessed. "You DID succeed in making me numb, except that it backfired, except that it didn't work somewhere." She looked at him. "It didn't work where you were concerned."
He said nothing, but his eyes, though guarded, revealed that he wanted to know what she meant.
"Do you know, Draco," she whispered, "that I dream about you?"
His eyes widened ever so slightly.
"At night, when I'm all alone, I think about you. I think about you until I fall asleep, and in my dreams, you're still there. I see you.
"In my dreams, you smile at me. And you tell me you've never been happy, except when you were with me, and I felt so wonderful, so needed. And you tell me, you tell me you love me. Over and over. Night after night. And then I wake up in the morning and I thought to myself, it's not true. He only comes to you because you're something he can use. Just like the way you use him. And when I come to you at night, when you hold me, you never said the words. You never said anything. And I knew it was a dream. JUST a dream.
"Last night, I thought I was just dreaming," she whispered. "It couldn't possibly be real. Draco Malfoy. Told me he loved me. And he meant it. It couldn't be true. But this morning, this whole day, I saw your eyes on me, and I knew it wasn't a dream, and I couldn't deny it anymore."
He watched her, those eyes unblinking, just staring at her and right through her and all of her. She was not scared of that look anymore. He had done it too many times to her that the disconcerting quality faded after a while. She was, however, afraid of his silence. Draco Malfoy didn't pass a minute without making some remark. It was because he liked the sound of his voice. He'd told her once, and she had laughed. A lot. She remembered that—it had been at this very room.
And then it dawned on her. It all dawned on her so suddenly that her head whirled.
She knew him. She really knew him. Not everything about him, but the little things he hid and let other people miss. She knew quite a lot about him. She knew him outside and in. She knew his eyes could somehow become an indeterminate shade of very, very light blue in certain situations. She knew what he smelled like. Like vetiver and satin and danger. She knew how to make him weep, how to make him reach for her. She knew what made him smile and how that smile was different from his smirk. She knew what made him angry. She knew. She knew almost everything.
She brought herself back to reality and found him still staring at her as if she held the meaning of life. She didn't. She began to speak again, to deliver the last words of this speech home.
"I love you," she said.
He started violently and looked at her, the astonishment clear in his features.
She stared back. "There is so much you can hide behind those words. And so much you can tell. You told me last night and I didn't understand. I came here thinking maybe you could help me unravel it, but telling you all that I just did produced more questions for me than answers."
She stood up and walked over to him. She looked down at him, sitting on the chair, his eyes not moving from where she had sat, and touched the side of his face, coaxed him to look at her, really look at her.
"So I tell you them now, and you've only to look at me to know that I mean them," she said. "And know, also, that there is so much I didn't say, probably as much as I did say. I love you. I can hide behind those words."
They stayed like that for a long, long time. Finally, he stood up and stepped away from her.
She heard the partition creak open, and knew that he had gone.
That was enough for her.
When I promised to you my love, I promised to myself that I would love even your love for another. I knew that I might lose you to love.
I did not guess that I could lose you to indifference.
I stand still at the choir rail but it is not your voice I hear.
I have waited at the water's edge but still you have not come.
I have kept your place beside me and the place is still empty.
Was there nothing still in all that we were?
A/N: Ginny's incoherence intentional. It'll become clear why. I've decided that I want a multichapter for this, and it'll be in production for the next few months. Both "Stardust" and this piece are prologues or, shall I say, teasers for the big culmination in the multichap. Thanks a lot to Alli for talking to me around 1130 last night about Draco/Gin. *hugs* I wub you a lot. ^-^