Merry Christmas one and all! It has been quite a long time since I posted up anything new so it is an honor that I'm doing this for the DG Forum's 2016 Secret Santa Exchange, because if there is one reason to be inspired to write, it is for the sake of other people. So thank you to them for making such an event and thank you to Anise, whom this story is written for and her interesting prompt "kitten, conflict, island." I admit, the moment I saw it I was stumped to all hell, but I think…hope…pray that I came up with something that would warm you this Christmas season. Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays, everyone!
P.S. Thank you to Maya-nii for acting as my beta for this. She made a lot of suggestions though I didn't use everything, so if you see anything wrong, it's my fault, not hers.
The Many Means of Uselessness
Check Mirror… Merlin, he looked like shit.
Ignore the bags under the eyes.
Try to press the wrinkles out of shirt.
All concentration broke at the sound, causing him to drop his attention to the wooden carrier he held at his side and leaving him open to a sudden and unwelcomed nervousness that he was more familiar with than he liked. What was he doing? This was a terrible idea… but it was an idea, and that was at least something.
The mewing continued, and he couldn't help but pay it attention, lifting the carrier slowly upwards towards his face to see the needy, little kitten inside. Still a ball of untamed, grey fur, it wobbled about the cage curiously, bright blue eyes catching his instantly as it mewed eagerly once more.
"Talkative little thing, aren't you?"
He watched in silence as the creature stumbled through the cage on stubby legs that gave wind to its playful manner, finding the Christmas card at the front door of the crate and immediately dabbing its paws at the paper before moving to try to chew at the envelope.
"Hey! No! Nooo…" Draco immediately chided only to be ignored by the small Russian Blue inside. Wanting to save the card, he quickly opened the front door of the carrier and moved to pull it out, the kitten jumping to playfully gnaw on his fingers, unknowingly puncturing skin.
"Ow!" he hissed, pulling his hand out before gingerly pushing his fingers through again. Another talkative meow emitted from the carrier before the animal bat at his hand, intent to play while standing over the envelope almost purposefully.
For a moment, admittedly, he couldn't help but give in to the little creature, letting his fingers dance about the kitten and watch as it pounced for a single long finger that poked it on the nose. He enjoyed the time for a few escaped seconds before a shuffling noise from the other side of the door reminded him of his purpose. Quickly, he pulled the card from under the kitten, which still seemed to think they were playing and jumped on the hand as a whole, nibbling on the back of it before being carefully shaken off.
Finally freeing his hand, Draco shut the door of the wooden box, much to the visible confusion and dismay of the creature inside, and knocked again. This time he made it more purposeful as he lowered the carrier next to his thigh once more and remembered his breath again, trying to recall just what he was going to say the second the door opened… if the door opened.
"Go away," a weak, feminine tone echoed from inside, the voice itself cracked and wearier than he could bring himself to imagine.
He started slowly, already expecting things to go along this course. "Ginny, I-"
"I said go away, Draco," the voice started again, the heaviness of it immediately extinguishing all the joy the soft mewing at his side brought.
Exhale slowly. That's right. This was expected.
He looked down to the Christmas card in his hand and the kitten at his side. The ignorant mewing continued as what little determination he had left mustered itself again, only to grow weak briefly to the familiar sight of the door before him.
How long had it been since he'd seen her? Three weeks now? A month? His arms ached for her, his eyes colorless. The rest of his home was cold. It was as if she took all the joy and locked it away in that room with her.
"Ginny, we can't keep going like this," he started to say, knowing she wouldn't respond, but also aware that she would at least hear him. "We can get through this, but not alone."
Silence; it was an answer he was also uncomfortably familiar with, but he knew pushing would get him nowhere. It would only make him angry, and on a day like today he didn't want to be angry. Tired he could handle, but nothing more.
Carefully he set down the crate, and purely for his own sake he opened the front again, fingers scratching lightly at the little talker inside in order to derive some comfort before he left it there with the Christmas card on top and sighed. If this was all he would be able to do today, even that would be enough. At least it would be some progress.
"Merry Christmas, Gin," he declared as genuinely as he could, letting her hear how much her isolation was affecting him for the hope that it would guilt her into at least coming out for even a moment or two. "I'll leave your gift out here for you."
For a heartbeat, he hesitated to leave, considering fooling her with fake, quieted footsteps, but having already tried that, he knew it wouldn't work and instead just took another breath before properly leaving. Even if she did open the door, he wasn't quite sure he wanted her to see him this way. Then again, with how she seemed to be carrying on like this, he doubted she looked any better. Regardless, he was too vain to not think about it.
It was only after he was almost completely out of the east wing that he finally received proof that she had heard him. The sound of a door opening echoed.
He turned his gaze behind him only to watch as down the hall the door to her room slowly opened wider, hesitantly revealing the happy, pale blue interior and the empty, wooden crib inside.
A messy head of red hair leaned out into the hallway. He should have felt embarrassed at the sight of the color and disarray of her appearance- instead he was overcome with a heavy feeling of relief and comfort, mixed in with an almost unquenchable longing that made his chest ache.
Tired, grey eyes never wavered as they watched her, listening as the kitten's mewing made its way down the hall only to transform into appreciative purring as an unusually thin arm made its way into the cage to pet at it softly. Then as if knowing she was being watched, hollow, brown eyes looked down the hall towards him, meeting his directly. Her eyes were just as silent as the rest of her and her gaze just as quieting.
He didn't know whether it was for her sake or his own that he remained where he was. However, the glimmer of appreciation that appeared in her eyes before she pulled the crate and card into her room and shut the door was enough to let him know he made the right decision. Thus, it was only with a small sense of victory and a nonsensical amount of hope that he managed to leave entirely and continue to his usual place.
He would ignore another mirror, not wanting to bother with looking before he made his way to the tree- their private tree she had them set up together in their joy. It was the only thing that brought him some bit of peace this season, the enchanted flames of the candles flickering with joy in a darkened room. There was something about it all that was soothing, encouraging despite the fact that the Christmas cheer only served to wound, the presents under tree acting as a poisoned dagger.
He should have had all the decorations incinerated, yet even that was too much energy for him to muster. Maybe that was why she stayed in there, unwilling to deal with all of it and incapable of passing by the room every morning to head to breakfast and try to muster up the required happiness for the season. If that was the case, he understood. However, he still inexplicably hesitated to have it all destroyed. Instead, all he desired was to meditate in the season, absorb from it, go through some sort of rhythm even if all that remained of it was shift position, stop, blink.
Hours always passed like seconds, days like minutes, forgetting when to sleep and when to eat, the elves the only things keeping him alive. He grabbed the hot chocolate just brought in, the liquid cold against his lips. It should have been alarming how often this was happening. Shift position. Stop. Blink.
Soon enough, evening fell. Another day passed entirely by while on his own, and this one possibly the hardest as he realized the presents remained unopened, and the dread of having to actually try to open them overcame him. The tree was enchanted to stay green, the candles to never blow out. Maybe they could leave it that way. If he did that though, she might never appear.
Shift position. Stop. Blink.
He fell asleep somehow. He always suspected the elves when he did. They would never do it of their own volition- even if they were tempted- but under her orders, who knew? The idea comforted him more than it should, her caring for him even in her isolation and mourning. It gave him more hope than it should have.
He should have kept that cat for himself. Now not only did he need her; he envied her.
There was a pressure on his lap, the jingle of a single bell accompanying it as the pressure shifted softly but remained. Fingers began to move through his hair, combing it back like he had done earlier, only to stop as they trailed down his face. The sensations woke him, yet he didn't move, too scared it would all vanish if he did as he felt the pads of her thumbs run along his cheeks and eyes carefully.
"You haven't been sleeping," she commented, her voice barely above a whisper. She must have noticed.
"You haven't been to bed," was all the reply he gave as he slowly opened his eyes to see his gift sitting on his lap, curled in a ball, with a ribbon of holly and a bell wrapped around its neck.
She again answered him with silence as she stood before him, hands moving along his shirt to smooth it out and fix the collar. She was fiddling. Even though he couldn't see her face, he could tell she was uncomfortable, but he said nothing, letting her move everything along at her pace. Her unhurried pace was better than none at all.
"You should hate me also." He heard her speak as he felt the sofa cushion beside him depress and all movement ceased. The words forced his gaze to lift, tired eyes taking her in. He was right. They both looked like shit.
"I don't." He answered with a blunt sort of honesty that caused her to sigh. She closed her eyes and let her body sag softly, seeming to allow his words wash over her. He couldn't tell if she was pleased or not.
They let the silence consume them for a moment, both stares taking in the sight of the tree they made. It was easier to look at now, easier to see the presents below and accept the loss of the happiness they promised.
"We can try again," he heard himself say.
"I'm not sure I want to this time," she answered with surprising honesty. The weariness in her voice replicated all that he felt, and at it he was overwhelmed with such an irrational joy that he couldn't help but hate himself slightly.
The desire to touch her took control, his arm gently moving around her back and carefully finding her side to rub along her. A sigh escaped them both at the contact, deep and soothing while she leaned into his chest.
"We don't have to," he murmured softly into her hair, breathing her in carefully. He felt her relax completely against him, shaking only slightly before she stilled and pressed her face into him entirely. She hated letting him see her cry, but she didn't realize how good it made him feel to know he was there for her. As she fought to keep her calm, he only ran his fingers through her hair, tenderly combing out the long, unkempt tresses as he rubbed her back and relished in the feel of her warmth.
The emotions stopped for just a moment, their eyes trailing down to the kitten with them, and he watched as a freckled hand moved to scratch at the back of its head. The sound of purring filled the room, a choked laugh following from her and bringing more relief with it.
"I want to name her 'Ara'," she spoke as if asking permission, though both of them knew she would never actually need it.
"She is a boy," he informed her.
"Doesn't matter," was all the reply she gave. He couldn't help the chuckle that followed. The movement of his chest made her snuggle into him further, the kitten following her example in his lap as the petting continued.
"Ara, it is then," he relented, glad to feel some amusement as she raised her head, brown eyes finally meeting his own as they took him in, entrancing him as always. It was amazing how they could be so empty and so full of emotion at the same time.
He wanted to kiss her but stopped himself, not knowing if she would appreciate it. She answered for him, leaning up to place lightly chapped lips against his cheek and hold them there long enough to let him lean into her.
"Merry Christmas, Draco," she bade him softly before laying her head against his shoulder, letting her curves press against him.