By Helena McKennon

Pairing: Draco/Ginny

Author's Notes: Another stylistic challenge for myself.  Draco/Ginny from an odd point of view.

Summary: He thinks it strange, the way Malfoy looks at her.


Despite evidence to the contrary, I am not as dumb as I look.

            And so when I didn't understand what I was seeing, I decided to pay a bit more attention.

            She was a scrawny little thing when I first started watching her.  Big brown eyes, dozens of freckles, straight red hair, too thin for her own good and wearing tattered robes obviously bought second-hand.  She was quite obviously a Weasley.

            But somehow Malfoy saw something else.  He must have.  His eyes followed her in the Great Hall at mealtimes; he took care to run into her between classes and say something cutting; he would study near her in the library.  And I decided that I must have missed something, and began watching her.

            She was a typical Weasley – but she wasn't, at the same time.  I watched, and so I knew. 

            She appeared so naive and trusting and innocent, but sometimes that mask would slip and falter and I could see past it.  And something in her eyes would flicker and become guarded, and her doe-like brown eyes would hold that mixture of hurt and fear that I could recognize as something remembered that she was trying to forget.  The strangest things would cause her eyes to go shuttered and empty: a book fallen with blank pages open, red ink, and any mention of the Heir of Slytherin.  Oh, I knew it was because of her experience her first year– my second– but the fact that no one else seemed to see how closed up she could become surprised me.  Gryffindor is supposedly a friendly House. 

            Maybe they saw and just didn't understand.  Maybe they saw and didn't want to remember.  Maybe they saw and didn't want to hurt her by bringing it up.

            Malfoy saw, and called her out on it.  When Zabini walked past her in the hall, tall and dark and menacingly handsome in his Slytherin prefect robes, Malfoy saw the terror flash through her eyes before she could hide it, and mocked her about her fear until her eyes swam in tears and she fled.  Zabini had laughed after it; Malfoy hadn't.  He had watched her run, that same sneer on his face, and turned around as if nothing had happened.

            I know, because I was there.  And I was watching, from my place at Malfoy's side.

            That was the day I noticed that despite all the freckles, Weasley's skin was pale and creamy beneath them.  And despite the vibrant color of her hair, her tresses were long and silky.

            I should have guarded myself then, but I didn't.  She was only a Weasley, after all.  As far beneath the Goyles as one could get without actually being a Mudblood.

            So I kept watching.  Had to see what Malfoy found so important, after all.  And by the time graduation rolled around, I had concluded that perhaps, in her own Weasley-ish way, the girl wasn't that ugly.  Average, maybe.  But not hideous.  Passable.  I settled on that.  She was passable.  For a Weasley.

            I stayed with Malfoy after graduation.  I had never really expected to do otherwise.  Both of us had lost the fathers that had forced us together in our childhood, but the pattern that they had instilled in the two of us would still be carried out.  Crabbe hadn't lost his father– his father had somehow slipped the noose off his throat and remained safe– so it was no real surprise when Crabbe drifted away from us.  Didn't come as much of a surprise to me when he followed his father into the family business– the one that Malfoy and thus I had managed to avoid.

            I still wonder, sometimes.  If Malfoy hadn't had the courage to turn his back on the Dark Lord, would I have been able to?  And what does it say about me, that I would have simply followed Malfoy wherever he went, Dark Lord or Dumbledore, without much thought about the matter?

            But the answers I get are rarely flattering, so I rarely think about it.  At least no one can fault me for my loyalty.  A Malfoy saved a Goyle four, five generations back.  That's a debt the Goyles will always honor.  My father accompanied Malfoy's father; so I accompany him.  It's lasted four generations already, and will last longer.

            Goyles don't take debts lightly.  If there's one thing I learned from my father, that was it.

            I didn't see much of Weasley that year.  Saw her brothers– too many of them, in my opinion.  But not her.  She was still in school, after all, and we shouldn't have expected to run into her out in our training.

            And we were training; hardly time for food and sleep, we trained so much.  Saw her three times.  Once she came to visit Potter and her brother and Granger; that was over Christmas break.  She brought them presents, and even though Aurors don't get very nice living quarters, they managed to make the room tolerably warm with a blazing fire and some Ogden's and a wrapping paper war.  She didn't bring either me or Malfoy anything; I think she was a bit surprised to see us there.  I was still a bit surprised to be there, I think– of all the things I had thought I would be, an Auror hadn't even been on the list.  But it had been on Malfoy's after our sixth year, and so it had been put on mine. 

            We were the only Slytherins from our year, but there were two Ravenclaws and three Hufflepuffs, and added to that the Gryffindor Golden Trio and their Sidekick– Longbottom– and there were eleven of us from our year in training.  Largest class in decades, we were told, and they crammed all eleven of us into the same dorm that had usually held five or six.  Granger got the best end of the deal; she and a Hufflepuff and a Ravenclaw got a room to themselves, as the only girls.  The other eight of us slept four to a room; Malfoy and I shared with Potter and Weasley's brother.  We must have broke any number of records that first year: number of fights in a week, number of hexes preformed in a day, number of days in a month where we managed not to say more than three words to the members of the opposite House.

            Weasley came to visit that first Christmas.  She brought presents for the Gryffindor Trio and Sidekick, of course, but she brought a huge tin of sweets for the others.  She was surprised to see Malfoy and I there, but she offered us the tin anyways, with just the slightest hesitation.

            They were good sweets.  And Malfoy and I retreated into our dorm and listened to the laughter from the common room, and she entered timidly several hours later and wished us a Happy Christmas, but she had to get back home.  And I said nothing, but Malfoy stood up, crossed over to her, and I could see her wondering if she should retreat.  Instead, he took her hand, murmured a quiet thanks for the tin, and kissed the back of her hand like the adults in our parents' generation sometimes did.  And she stared at him and tried to say something, gave up, and fled.  Malfoy turned, flopped back onto his bed, and told me to shut up before I had even decided to speak.

            So I didn't say anything.  I had figured it out by then, anyways.  He was in love with her and he didn't want to admit it was more than a passing fascination.  But he had watched her our entire last year of Hogwarts, and he sometimes glanced at the picture of her that her brother had taped to the wall beside his bed.

            The second time she came was for the engagement party.  Granger and her brother; but then, everyone had expected that since their sixth year, so it wasn't much of a shock.  And she came and was bright and laughing and excited, hugging everyone she ran into.  I saw her nearly give Malfoy a hug before she realized who he was; I saw him bend down and force her to embrace him anyways before she could mutter an apology and escape.

            I stayed away from the common room that night.  Malfoy didn't.  Occasionally I could hear his low drawl float into the dorm; once, I heard him say something and then heard her delighted laugh afterwards.

            Things changed, after that party.  She was back in school and we were back in training, but things were different.  The House lines were beginning to blur a bit.  It didn't really matter that we were Slytherin and our partners were Hufflepuff.  Sometimes it didn't even matter if they were Gryffindor, which was rather strange when I thought about it.

            There was one difference, though.  All the other Houses called each other by their first names.  It was Harry and Ron, not Potter and Weasley.  Even to the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs, it was Harry and Ron.  But me and Malfoy, we were the exception.  We were never Draco and Gregory and they were never Harry and Ron when we spoke to them.  Malfoy, Goyle, Potter and Weasley.  A strange team, if there ever was one.

            I hadn't noticed that until the wedding.  It was just after graduation, and she was there in a light blue dress that seemed to skim the ground and float about her, twisting in an unfelt breeze.  She had come up to us and greeted us, even though we stood at the very edges, uncomfortable being surrounded by so many Gryffindors and red-haired Weasleys.  I had been nervous and confused; she had called us Malfoy and Goyle and told us that she was glad we had come.  And Malfoy had kissed her hand, looking adult and controlled, and she had laughed called him Mr. Malfoy.  And he had corrected her, telling her that his name was Draco, and would she like to perhaps relieve him of his boredom by dancing with him?

            So they danced, and I had to find a glass of the horrible punch that I could grin into, because he was charming her and she was perfectly willing to be charmed.  But it was a bit odd to watch them together, because she was no longer passable, she was actually quite pretty.  Beautiful, really, if you liked the slender lithe type.  Which I was pretty sure Malfoy did.

            That was the last I saw of her for a while.  A few years, in fact.  The image I carried with me the rest of the way through training was of her in that blue dress, laughing and dancing with Malfoy.  He started owling her, and to his obvious delight– and her brother's horror– she started owling him back.  I think they met a few times, in the odd time both had off, but I wasn't there and so I didn't see.  But I knew that Malfoy had finally realized that he was in love with her, not just some passing interest or fascination, and he was grimly moving forward to do what he could to capture what he loved.

            He was a Malfoy, after all.  They're used to getting their own way.  I wasn't really surprised when, once he realized he loved her, he set out to have her as his.  Nothing else would do.  Not for a Malfoy.

            Then his mother died.  Not a surprise, really, as she'd been wasting away since his father's stay in Azkaban had turned into a simple Kiss.  We'd known it was coming, but when she finally faded completely away into a tired husk of a body, it was unexpected.  We'd been Aurors for just over six years; I was thirty, which meant Malfoy was only twenty-nine.  He'd been paired with Potter– cosmic retribution, he'd called it, and I'd agreed– and I'd been paired with a former Ravenclaw five years older than us. 

            He'd had to leave Auroring, but surprisingly, I didn't.  I'd found that I liked it; more, I was good at it.  I think it was as surprise to Malfoy as well, the success I'd had, but he and I had sat down after the funeral and he had frankly forbidden me from quitting to follow him.  I'd been beside him long enough, he'd said, and I was too loyal for my own good. 

            He told me that I was perhaps the best friend that he had, that I listened and helped and understood.  And he asked, perhaps, if he could call me by my name, and if I would call him by his.

            He looked old, sitting behind his father's grand desk, hair grown out long like his father's had been, face weary and grey eyes tired.  So I had agreed, with a rather Gryffindor-like delight that he considered me his friend, and Malfoy became Draco and I stayed with the Aurors.

            And for the first time in thirty years, the two of us met together in our odd hours off to talk and compare and exchange information, not because his ancestor had saved my ancestor and our fathers both expected it, but because we were friends.  And as he took over the last vestiges of the Malfoy businesses, the ones his mother had pretended to run, he soon came to me and gave me information and help and tips.  A Malfoy aiding a Goyle, instead of the other way around.  We both laughed, that first time.

            He settled into his life well enough, I suppose.  She was a part of it.  He spoke about her often.  I was the first one to find out that she'd agreed to marry him.  And he asked me to their engagement party, taken me aside, and warned me that he thought something was going to go badly, and if he had to deal with it personally, would I watch out for her for him?

            He trusted me with her.  I somehow felt honored.

            It was a much different party than the last engagement party I had seen her at.  That had been Granger's, and it had taken place in the Auror dorm's common room, filled with people in tattered robes and jeans, tired and sore from training but bubbling over with goodwill and happiness, content to share in Ogden's and butterbeer and treats from Honeyduke's.  This party, I knew, was for the benefit of society and not for the benefit of friends.  The witches and wizards that arrived did so in fashion, in new expensive gowns and formal attire, who wanted to be able to turn their noses up at the platters of food and the Malfoy estate but couldn't because everything was perfect and expensive and beyond their means.

            So I was there, uncomfortable in formal robes, and Malfoy– Draco– was there, with her on his arm.  They were quite a picture together.  He had his gold-white pale hair pulled back and wore black and silver dress robes.  He looked lazily content, but his silver-grey eyes sleepy and somehow dangerous, and I knew from years of familiarity that he was on his guard.  She stood at his side, red hair flaming dramatically down her back, brown eyes dancing with delight, in a simple white dress and diamonds that I knew he had given her for her birthday.  I saw the way that she looked at him, the casual trust and happiness, and knew that she loved him as much as he loved her.  Her love was perhaps purer, less possessive, less obsessive, but then she was simply marrying into the Malfoy family.  She hadn't been born one.

            And Draco's predicted disaster occurred, and to my surprise it wasn't Potter or any of her family protesting her marriage to a Slytherin.  Rather, it was a pair of Slytherin who protested, and Potter the one who kept them from escaping when Parkinson and Zabini found herself faced with the rage of a Malfoy who's own has been threatened.  And when Potter and Draco and three of her brothers– the twins and Ron, I think– vanished into the depths of the Manor with the two protesting Slytherins, I realized that I was the one who was supposed to be watching over her.

            I found her ordering the musicians to continue playing as though nothing had happened, and admired her resolve.  But her eyes had that strange shuttered look of someone who was fighting back fear, so I came up to her just as she pushed one of her brothers– the eldest, I thought– and his wife together and launched them onto the dance floor.

            She looked up at me and smiled tremulously, and I could tell that she didn't want to be here, not surrounded by sniffing guests who looked down on her and her family, but I knew she would stick it out.  She was a Weasley, and Weasleys are known for their pride as much as Goyles are for their loyalty.

            And things began to make sense, so I bowed over her hand like my father once bowed over my mother's, and asked if I might have a dance with her.  She was surprised, I think, but she nodded in acceptance and moved forward into my arms, and I thanked my mother for forcing me through the hated etiquette lessons that drilled the dance movements into my head.  We must have made a sight out on the dance floor, the two of us, but she merely stuck her chin up and endured, and I pulled her closer when a wizard I didn't recognize attempted to steer his partner into us.

            She was very small; that was all I truly remember.  She can't be more than five foot five as it is, and I'm known for my size.  I remember feeling awkward and clumsy compared to her, but then she looked up with the brightness back in her eyes and whispered she was glad I was dancing with her, because no one would dare attempt anything with me as her guardian.  And then, strangely enough, I felt sturdy, as though her confidence in me had seeped over into me.  I was a stalwart, a rock to shield her from the storm.  And when the dance was over, I escorted her back up to the front of the room, where she offered me a glass of champagne and promptly abandoned me to run to Draco and embrace him when he emerged from the study.

            She flung herself at him, and he caught her and simply held her, and I stood and watched the two together.  Male and female, black and white, ice and fire, Slytherin and Gryffindor.  They were such opposites, but they fit together so well, her arms tight around his neck and his hands about her waist.  And I smiled and raised my champagne flute when Draco's eyes met mine, and he gave me a curt, satisfied nod, and I turned away.

            She found me much later that night, when most of the social guests had left and the gathering was beginning to actually prove comfortable.  And she smiled at me and thanked me again, and as she was leaving, asked if perhaps she might be able to call me Gregory, as Draco did.  And greatly daring, I agreed, if she would let me call her Virginia as her friends did.

            She had laughed, and told me that her friends called her Ginny and only Draco had ever dared call her Virginia.  But then she had leaned forward, kissed my cheek, and told me that for services rendered to her and hers, I had earned the right to call her whatever I want.

            So I call her Virginia, and Draco scowls and she laughs and teases him.  And for a few minutes at their wedding I thought I was in love with her, and that gave me a bad moment or two until I figured out that I loved her as I might love my little sister.  Which was a relief, all things considered.  I don't mind following Draco's lead, but I think I'll draw the line at loving his wife.  Besides, a week or so later I found myself Anna, and a year or so later I managed to get her to agree to marry me– not that I fully understand why, when there are so many others out there more worthy of her, but I don't bring the point up too often since I'm still half-afraid I'll lose her.  Anna smiles at me and tells me I don't have to worry about it, but I'm not sure what she sees in me.

            And Draco's son and my son are all but inseparable, but it the closeness of friendship, not the closeness of forced companionship.  And his second son looks at my daughter in ways I'm not sure that I like, but I can't find it in me to hate the boy, not when his middle name is Gregory.  Besides, I've seen how protective Draco is of his family, and have no desire to incur his wrath by suggesting that my namesake needs to stop charming my Mara Virginia.  I can't help but hope someday the two will come together; it didn't work and would have never worked for different a different Gregory and Virginia, but I can see the symbolism there and am not overly perturbed.

            His oldest is at Hogwarts already, a Slytherin.  Virginia sighs and endures his taunts about it by retorting that it must be the first time Slytherin's had a red-head.  She has high hopes for her James Gregory.  My son is in Hogwarts this year also; they were born only two months apart, less than the difference between Draco and I.  He's a Gryffindor– a Gryffindor, of all things!  Anna simply laughs; she was a Hufflepuff– another thing I can't believe.

            All the children were here at Christmas, though, and it felt odd to be standing beside Draco and watching the gift-opening.  Our fathers had stood thus, years ago, and both of us look uncannily like our fathers, which made the memories rather unpleasant for both of us.  But we simply glanced at each other, and Draco smiled that faint smug smile that meant he was a little too pleased with himself, and he abandoned the traditional position of head-of-household to join the chaos and kiss his wife.

            I stood there a second long, and let my smile grow, and then I too left the past behind me to go and join my family.

            I am smarter than I look, after all. 


Author's Notes:

            Well, it was very long, and rather strange.  Thus the title, in more ways than one.  Thank you for sticking it out so long!  I would appreciate a review, even if it is nothing more than an "I loved it"/"I hated it".  Thanks very much!