Title: Sanctuary (8 of ?)

Author: Amethyst

Author E-mail: AmethystJackson at hotmail dot com

Category: Drama

Sub-Category: Romance

Keywords: Draco Ginny Voldemort Dumbledore sanctuary

Spoilers: PS/SS, CoS, PoA, GoF, OotP

Rating: PG-13

Summary: Sometimes, sanctuary can be found where one least expects it – the only thing keeping it out of reach is pride.

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

A/N: I'm a bad, bad author. This fic ought to be complete by now. . Many, many apologies for the ridiculous wait, and to those of you who have been hanging in there and e-mailing me wondering when I'm going to get off my lazy bum and update, I love you. I really do.

I think, however, that since there are many of you desperate for some vicarious snogging, you'll find it in your hearts to forgive me this time.

Part VIII

Draco found Ginny in the kitchen the morning after their quarrel, scrubbing dishes.

"Why don't you use magic for that?" he questioned, stepping tentatively into the room.

"Because I can't," she said. "I'm underage."

"I meant a general 'you.' Can't someone else do it? It's a simple wave of the wand to do dishes. Why do they have you doing them by hand?"

Ginny sighed. "My dad's had this belief lately that it's important to learn to do things the Muggle way…so I'm doing the dishes the Muggle way. Besides, there's nothing to do here during the summer. Might as well pass the time this way."

She turned her attention back to the cauldron full of soapy water, scrubbing at a bowl with a sponge. Much as doing the dishes the Muggle way didn't appeal to him, this seemed the best place to start being the new Draco.

"Can I help?" he asked, rolling up his sleeves. Ginny straightened, frowning at him.

"You want to do dishes?"

Draco shrugged. "Like you said, there's nothing to do here. Might as well."

"There's another sponge in that cabinet over there," she said, indicating it with a nod of her head.

Five minutes later, they had progressed from scrubbing to rinsing in slightly tense silence.

"Um…Ginny, I'm…sorry. About yesterday."

Ginny shrugged. "You were right. I was expecting too much from you." The way she said the last suggested that it was an insult rather than an apology.

Draco sighed as he dried what had to be the hundredth plate she handed him. "Give me a break, won't you? That was the first time I've apologized in my life – well, the first time I've done it voluntarily."

"How touching," she said coldly, not once looking up from the dishes she was running under the faucet.

"I am trying," Draco said.

"Well, good luck with that."

Draco frowned. Somehow, Ginny was turning into him.

"I don't know what it is you want me to say, Weasley," Draco snapped, "but evidently you haven't realized yet that I'm trying to change for you, and for absolutely no other reason." He paused, and the realization that he'd just said something unforgivably emotional began to sink in. He could only imagine the number of ways she could use that against him. He cleared his throat. "What I mean to say is…you might at least give me a chance."

Ginny stared at him, speechless. It seemed as though she was on the verge of responding when they were interrupted by the sound of the front door opening, followed by two voices – Harry and Hermione.

Harry and Hermione, as it turned out, did not do as everyone else had. After recovering from the shock of his presence, asking what the hell he was doing there, and receiving his shortened version of the story, Harry merely took Draco into another room and had a few brief words of his own, while Hermione looked on with a knowing smirk.

"Listen, Malfoy – I'm not going to worry about whether or not I can trust you. I don't care what side you're on or why you're here. The end is fast approaching – Voldemort isn't going to be around much longer, and whether you're being honest or not, I will not have the lives of any of my friends put in unnecessary danger. So listen well, Draco – if anything you do hurts someone I love, you will pay in kind – an eye for an eye. Do you understand me?"

"Aye-aye, cap'n," Draco retorted, though privately, he was more than a little afraid of his long-time rival at that moment.

"Don't mock me, Malfoy," Harry said warningly.

"Sorry," Draco said, repressing a smirk, "It's a bit of a reflex."

Harry rolled his eyes and left, setting about helping Hermione move her things in. Draco looked for Ginny after that, but she'd finished up in the kitchen and was now nowhere to be found. He went upstairs to look for her, but quickly realized that he had no idea where her room was. Unwilling to stay in the path of Harry and Hermione with their boxes or to take the risk of knocking on anyone's door but Ginny's, he decided to go back to his own room until lunchtime.

Draco wasn't sure exactly what he was hoping to accomplish with Ginny, but he knew that he wanted to hear that she had forgiven him. It was something he'd never experienced before, wanting forgiveness. Indeed, Ginny had him feeling a lot of things he'd never felt before, and while he didn't really mind feeling something for a change, he hated that he had no idea what to do about all of it.

He wanted friendship. He could admit that to himself, at least. He wanted Ginny's friendship. And he didn't want to be alone in a world where nobody was like him or understood him. Ginny only partially understood him, and he barely understood her, but that was better than nothing at all. If he could just figure out how to deal with a person like Ginny, things would be great…

A part of him yearned to rush out and find Ginny as quickly as possible and force her to comprehend that he was sorry, that he could be the sort of person she expected him to be.

Her words echoed quietly in his head: you've been dying for approval all your life, and you just finally grew up and realized you were looking for it in the wrong place.

Yes, she'd been right. Lucius Malfoy had definitely been the wrong person to look to for approval. And now…now he was looking for it in her. He couldn't help wondering if she, too, was another wrong person.

But was it really worth the trouble? Was it worth the effort and the sacrifice and the damage to his pride that would be necessary to win her approval? Was she really the one whom he wanted approval from? A Weasley?

If not Ginny's, whose approval could you possibly want? Who else in this world is worth the effort?

And in his cold, crippled, underdeveloped heart he knew, even though he would not admit it even to himself, that he was nothing more than afraid of being rejected by her, because after everything he'd been through, Ginny had turned out to be the most important person in his life…the only important person in his life…and the only person that had ever truly meant something to him.

Draco sighed, coming to a decision. He had to find her, wherever she was, and talk to her. He didn't know what he wanted to say, but he felt that somehow, talking to her would provide an answer to his questions…whatever those were.

Full of determination and confidence, he headed into the hallway (and was incredibly relieved to find it empty). He wished desperately that he'd bothered to ask Ginny where her bedroom was. Slightly anxious, he began to explore the second floor, peeking into the rooms that were left open – none of them seemed to be Ginny's. Some were clearly unused, some rather masculine, and he spotted one decidedly feminine one – but the sheer amount of books surrounding the bed and tables suggested that it was probably Hermione's. How she could strew so many books across a room in so much time was something he'd always marvel at, he was sure.

Draco was about to begin knocking on one of the closed doors when her heard two voices inside – one male, and one female. He couldn't help listening.

"I'm not sure that I feel right about him being here, Hermione."

Harry. He'd know that voice anywhere.

"Well, neither do I, but Dumbledore seems to think he's changed, and Ginny trusts him –"

"Ginny also trusted Tom Riddle –"

"When she was eleven, Harry. Give her some credit; she's learned her lesson since then."

Draco smiled. He'd been right about his plan – gaining Hermione's trust would be the key to winning Harry's.

He heard Harry sigh. "It's not that I don't want to trust him, but he's an undeniable risk. If he at any point turns against us, he could hurt somebody –"

"I don't think he would be that stupid, Harry. Alone, surrounded by well-trained wizards who have most definitely studied more defense than he has? No…if he's a spy, his only purpose is to supply information until the final battle."

There was a pause. "And what if that information turns out to be the thing that gets one of us killed?"

Another pause. "Harry…he won't be allowed in any of the meetings. There will be guards making sure nobody's listening in, and with the checks we do before every meeting, we would certainly spot him before he could learn anything." Draco heard another sigh. "It's going to be all right, Harry. Stop worrying so much about our safety and worry a little more about winning the war. You know most of us are just going to go and do stupid things to protect you anyway." He could hear the smile on her face.

"You'd better not. You know I couldn't live with myself if anything happened to you during the last battle."

Draco raised an eyebrow. So Harry and Hermione were more than they presented to the world…

"Harry, that goes both ways. You can't protect me from this – I've already got too much invested in it. If I live, and you don't…there's nothing left for me to live for."

Much more indeed. If Draco could convince Hermione to trust him, Harry would most definitely follow…

"And you think my life's worth anything without you in it?"

Draco heard the creak of a mattress as one of the two – or perhaps both – shifted.

"I think there's only one good solution. We'll both have to live."

A good deal of creaking followed this statement, and Draco thought it best to move away from the door before he heard anything that could potentially nauseate him.

He set off to find Ginny with renewed vigor. After exploring most of the second floor, he crept down to the first and found her alone (luckily) in the drawing room.

Ginny looked up as he walked in, a telltale creak of a floorboard giving away his presence, and she set down the book she was reading.

Draco opened his mouth to speak, but Ginny cut him off.

"Before you say anything, I want to finish our conversation from this morning," she said in a very practiced way that made him think she'd been rehearsing this speech instead of reading. "I'm genuinely sorry, Draco, for demanding so much of you. I just…I look at you and sometimes I see the person you could be instead of the person you are, and – don't look at me like that – I keep forgetting that who you are is your choice, not mine."

She took a breath and looked away from him before continuing, "I care about you, Draco, no matter who you are, and I don't want you to feel as though you have to change yourself for me. I'd just like to know that you're capable of caring about me as well."

"I do care about you." Oh, why had he come right out and said that? Emotional outbursts…he was turning into such a Gryffindor.

Ginny very nearly did a double take. "You what?"

"I do care about you," Draco huffed. "Isn't that what you wanted to hear?"

He could almost see the girl's temper flaring as she stood, coming to stand dangerously close to him. "I don't want you to say it just because I want to hear it! I want you to say it because you mean it, damnit!"

Draco scowled. "I do mean it. I wouldn't have said it if I didn't. I didn't even intend to say it just then, but it slipped out, because somehow, when I'm with you, my mouth completely ignores my brain."

Ginny swallowed, and the delicate movements of her throat were somehow fascinating. She wasn't a ravishing beauty, but there was something captivating about the way her fiery hair fell in curls against her pale – almost porcelain – skin.

"You – you honestly care about me?"

"Of course I do. I – oh, I do hate talking about my feelings. But….you're the first real friend I've had in my entire life. I dare say you're one of the only people I've ever really cared about."

"Oh," she said, looking oddly disappointed. "It's – it's all platonic, then."

Draco eyed her carefully. So she didn't want it to remain platonic, then. Well, he didn't fancy leaving the first great thing he'd found in life to chance, but if she had that sad look on her face every time she saw him, their friendship was doomed. It looked as though he had no choice now.

Perhaps it would be worth it, Draco mused as he closed the distance between them and pressed his lips to her full, soft, pink ones. Worth it, indeed.

As he pulled away, he barely had a second to memorize the happily stunned look on Ginny's face before the last voice he wanted to hear at that moment (or any moment) interrupted it.

"What the hell do you think you're doing, Malfoy?"

Weasley.

To be continued