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.
Author's Note: Well, this is rather rough, and completely un-beta'd, but it has been lurking around my head for a while as a sort of daydream, and something inspired me to actually write it down. First time I've actually written one of these thought/stories down – usually they stick around my head for a while then float off somewhere. It feels surprisingly good, though, so I might try it more often! This is veering a little from OotP (i.e. there is no mention of Ginny hexing Draco, or any of her boyfriends – but there is talk about the Order). In other words, I picked out the bits from OotP that didn't fit in and kept what did.
Anyway, hope you enjoy, and drop me a line if you have something nice to say. Or even if you don't, actually – I'm not too fussy! Niceness will be loved and the givers of niceness hugged, with ice cream, while flames will be used to keep me warm in this cold Australian weather and their flamers will get ice cream to cheer them up.
This is rated for mentions of slash, and a small smattering of language. Really, it's just to be on the safe side. However, if mentions of male/male relationships squick you out, you can either skip down over the paragraphs where it's mentioned (but really, it's very mild. Not even any kissing) or just don't read if you feel uncomfortable. There may be a bit more explicit stuff in the next few chapters, haven't decided yet. Cheers!
It was an arrangement born of convenience from the very first.
He had always done what seemed to be the convenient thing, although there was usually a deeper undercurrent that few sensed. But she had. She had watched him from afar, because she couldn't get up close.
She had watched him after she had come out of the Chamber in her first year, knowing that it had been his father who had placed her there, however indirectly. Sitting at the Gryffindor table after Harry, always the hero, had won the house cup for her house yet again, she had gazed across at him, sitting so calmly with his housemates. Always he was so poised, so collected – it baffled her, and inexplicably drew her. She had watched him, wanting to hate him for his family and everything that he stood for – but she couldn't.
And so the pattern for the years following had been set. She noticed him as never before, saw beneath the surface as so few could, but still she stayed away. For a time she tried to hate him – oh how she tried – but it was no use. So she simply watched him.
She saw him at the start of his seventh year, straight after they had arrived back from the holidays. He had been pale, his face drawn and tense, and oddly uncertain. And she had discovered the horrors he had faced that holidays. She listened as the tale washed through the school and broke a little inside every time she heard it. As much as she had hated his father for what he had done to her, she had never wished him dead. And certainly had never wished for him to die in such a way – torturously, and by the very hand that he had so worshipped. That, she would never wish on anyone.
But the thing that made it even worse was the fact that he had died for no reason – Lucius hadn't made any great defiance or failed in any mission. He was killed as an example – an exhibition of Voldemort's powers, carried out on a toy that had outlived its usefulness.
She saw him shattered from the inside by what he had witnessed, knocked down by the loss of such a respected, if not loved, figure in his life. She watched as he sunk into the darkness of despair, as he warred within himself about the choice he had to make – when he came up, which side would he rise on? She knew, before anyone else, what he had chosen. And she listened, hidden behind a statue in the corridor, when he pulled Harry to one side and told him his decision.
There was suspicion, of course, as to whether he was genuine or not. After all, this was Draco Malfoy they were talking about, evil git extraordinaire. A paragon of virtue he was not, and certainly not someone she had ever expected to see practicing in the same classroom as she, preparing for the fight against Voldemort.
And still she watched him.
She saw as he was slowly accepted, although he remained a sarcastic, cynical git to the end. She noticed him changing, slowly, until it was rare to hear him call Hermione a mudblood, and even his insults to Ron had less malice. He never changed towards her, because he had never done more than tossed a few snide remarks her way before. Not because he liked her any more than anyone else, but because he'd never noticed her. No one ever did.
And she watched him.
She observed, as his hatred-fuelled rivalry with Harry turned into something else entirely – they still warred at Quidditch, but there were cheerful undertones instead of dark ones in the insults they hurled at each other. She watched as the two boys, so striking both in their own right and together, changed from enemies to friends, and then to lovers. They were beautiful together, and yet she ached. Not for the dark-haired hero, as she once might have, but for his tall, blonde counterpart. They loved each other fiercely as the storm brewed over the wizarding world, with all the desperation of those whose time was running out.
And she watched as the storm broke, sweeping their love away with it.
She saw him, the day after. He looked destroyed – and she broke a little more inside. For although Harry lived through the final battle, everything changed afterwards. Strange things happen to people when they look death in the eye, and everyone came out of the battle a little different. Harry went back to being the cheerful boy he had been in his earlier years, before the weight of the world had descended upon his shoulders. And Draco finally renounced everything the Dark stood for, turning away into a different life. There was no way they could stay together, and they had known it as soon as they had seen each other through the smoke clearing off the battlefield. She knew it as well.
So, she watched him.
He turned to his sport for solace, and went into representative Quidditch. Some said he was never as good as Harry, but she disagreed – both were good, but after the battle Harry had lost a little of his need to win, while Draco's remained unchanged. So, in the end, it was Draco who was called forward into the British team while Harry was happy to stay as Seeker for a smaller team while raising his children with his wife, Hermione. Both she and Draco were at their wedding, and she saw that he was genuinely happy for Harry. And she watched as he went off with one of the bridesmaids afterwards.
And he never noticed her.
But then, why would he? No one else did, really. One of the consequences of being the youngest, and a girl, in a family full of assertive, dominant boys was that she tended to fade into the shadows. She didn't really have many close friends, preferring to blend in with a crowd and be able to slip off on her own if she liked. She finished her last year at Hogwarts after the cloud of Voldemort had been lifted, and graduated with good enough results to train as a Healer. She'd never had a boyfriend, because no one had ever asked. And she'd never gone looking for one, because she was in love with the man she had been watching for so long.
It hadn't been like the movies, her falling in love with him. There had been no fireworks, no big bang, and no pivotal turning point. It had been a gradual thing, a slide that she didn't even notice until she hit the bottom with a thud. Somewhere between realising that he had an irrepressible hunger for chocolate and watching him flick his sweaty hair back after a Quidditch game, she had stepped into space. Through watching him get blasted back onto cushions during a DA meeting, through seeing him come to friendly blows with her brother over a sport-related argument, she had begun her fall. And it was when she saw him and Harry together for the first time, realised the depth of their feelings for each other, and felt her heart crack in two, that she realised what had happened.
There was no way to reverse it – she had tried, again and again, to purge her love of him from her heart, because it was impossible. Nothing would ever come of it – because she was nothing, and he was everything.
He was beautiful, in a very masculine sense. White-blonde hair, slicing cheekbones, grey eyes that changed as though they were in tune with the sky, and a charisma equal to none other she had ever encountered – all combined into one man. Is it any wonder she had fallen so hard, so fast? And is it any wonder that he would never notice her?
But in this she was wrong, for he did notice her – in a way she would never have expected. As a friend.
It was somewhat of a shock the first time he spoke to her, for he had not done so for years. Even though they were fighting for the same desperate cause, he had never had a reason to notice her – particularly after he had given up on insulting Weasley's for the hell of it. She had blended into the shadows, watching him, while he stepped out into the light and didn't have a clue.
It was really more of a coincidence than anything else that led to them both being locked in a storage closet while cleaning out the Order's headquarters. She had been in there to start with, trying desperately to reach a box on the top shelf full of god-knows-what. She didn't particularly want to go and get a chair, as that would mean trekking down to the dining room, and had left her wand downstairs so it wouldn't get in the way. A lot of wizards tended to use magic for every little thing, but after the draining of her magic during the last battle, she had tended to stay away from using it unnecessarily. Stupid, she supposed, but having been brought up in the Weasley family she was used to doing things the hard way and so didn't mind.
She was straining, up on her toes, stretching every muscle as far as possible and she was almost there, just a little farther and she would-
The door opened behind her suddenly, and she jerked around in surprise, having thought she was alone in this section – the others were cleaning downstairs, while she had been doing the attic. Standing there, framed in the light streaming in from the windows in the hall outside, was the unknowing object of her fascination for so many years.
He looked surprised when she said his name, though why she didn't know – even though they hadn't really known each other, everyone knew his name.
"Yeah – Ginny, isn't it?" His voice, as always, was deep and rough, reverberating at a pitch that sung up and down her spine.
"Yes." Her voice shook a little, betraying some emotion – she hoped he took it as surprise.
She barely registered what he was saying, but garnered enough to understand that he was looking for a broom to finish off the room he was currently clearing out. Gesturing around the room, she stated the rather obvious fact that there were no brooms in this bare little room. Hoping she didn't look as shaky as she felt, she watched him turn to leave and spun around to grab the box so she could get out of here and recover. But still, she couldn't reach it.
Suddenly, she felt a strong body pressed against her back as arms reached up from a much taller frame to grab the offending box with ease. Swallowing nervously, she turned in the cradle of his arms to face him. Drawing the crate from behind her back, he drawled a somewhat sarcastic remark about shortness in a tall world, but she couldn't really hear him through the rushing in her ears. Taking the box from him, dazed from the rush his nearness brought, she watched him move towards the door as before, only to stop in his tracks. Puzzled, she peered around him to see that the door had shut – it must have swung closed while Draco was helping her. He took another step, and grabbed the doorhandle – it rattled when he shook it, but wouldn't turn. Turning towards her, he raised an eyebrow deprecatingly and muttered something about stupid ancient doors that locked at the slightest provocation. She smiled nervously and nodded, wondering what was going to happen now.
As it turned out, nothing much. After ascertaining that there was no other way out of the small room, as he too had left his wand behind, they sat down on the floor and waited for someone to come and find them. After all, the house was full of people – they just had to wait for someone to realise they were missing and come looking. However, the people in question seemed to be taking their sweet time about it and so the two locked in the room began to talk. There was nothing else to do.
They spoke about what they had been doing since Hogwarts, and how the last battle had affected them. Both of them were surprisingly candid, as talking to someone they knew about – in her case, knew rather a lot about – but didn't really know seemed to have a loosening effect on their tongues.
And now, they watched each other.
They explored each other's childhoods, their first days at Hogwarts, their favourite foods and their worst memories. Draco spoke about the manor and what it was like being raised by an army of house-elves, while Ginny brought out boisterous memories of growing up the youngest, surrounded by love. Most embarrassing moments were aired, and a small game of 'Truth or Truth' began. By the time Harry came, opening the door to blind them with sunlight, a rather unusual thing had occurred. Sprawled on the floor, exploring every topic known to man, Draco and Ginny had become friends. Tentative ones, to be sure, but it was a beginning.
It was a rather strange feeling for her, but a nice one. As they left the house, plans were made to meet for lunch later that week and she turned to go to her small flat, and he to his rather lavish apartment. A new friendship had begun.
Of course, the story of their lives together didn't end at that. How could it, when she was still so hopelessly in love with him?
They continued forging a friendship, meeting for meals, going to movies, giving relationship advice (not that Ginny had any such relationships). They continued to talk, about every topic under the sun, and eventually they were sure that they knew everything about each other that there was to know.
But he never discovered that she was in love with him. That was a secret she kept tightly guarded, never letting down her defences. Never did she give him any clue as to her feelings. Because she was a sensible woman, and there was no hope for her with Draco.
He was still a Quidditch player, and a very good one at that. He was still the most beautiful man she had ever laid eyes upon. He still slept with the most gorgeous people in Britain, if not the world. And still she watched him. Nothing had really changed, except that she was now privy to his most private thoughts and feelings. She knew when he started laying off alcohol because he was tired of the party scene; just as she knew when he dived into even more relationships to get the solace he used to get from drink.
She was his friend, but never his lover. Because, at least in her eyes, she was not only sensible, but plain. There was no other word for it. She looked in the mirror as little as possible, because she knew what she would see. A short, rather homely looking woman who was a far cry from the ravishing beauties – male and female – that Draco regularly escorted into his bed. Curling red hair, restrained in a ponytail because it had a tendency to frizz, reached down to her waist, and was a constant source of annoyance to her. On the rare occasion when she could get it to lie flat through various charms, she felt her looks improved considerably, but always it sprung back into unruliness. Eventually, she just left it alone because it wasn't worth the bother. Brown eyes (the colour of mud, she thought) were fringed with ginger lashes, and below them was a pert nose smattered with a myriad of freckles (another hated feature). A rather average mouth, coupled with a decidedly non-pointed chin (she thought it was more than slightly weak) mangled with all her other features to produce a face that she considered to be very ordinary. Add that onto a body that was softness and curves rather than elegance and sophistication, and you had Ginny Weasley. A rather poor specimen, she thought. Certainly not someone who could ever attract Draco's attention – he went for sleek, cool beauties that could be a match for him. That was something she would never be.
So she contented herself with being a friend. With hearing the stories, rather than being there to feel them. With looking at pictures rather than being in them. And, for a time, she was content. Until the day he proposed to her.
Well, it was more of a business arrangement than a proposal of marriage. There was no candlelit dinner, no flowers, and no proclamations of love. It would be convenient, he explained as she sat there in a sort of dazed stupor. He needed a steady wife at home to hold off the press, who had taken to hounding him with a terrifying determination. If he was married, he would have a cover for whatever he got up to – he could live a normal life again, without the intrusiveness of the press. And she needed someone to support her, both financially and emotionally. For it was true that she wasn't making much money as a junior healer, and was putting in longer and longer hours in attempts to make ends meet so she could stay in the city she loved. She needed someone, he argued, to make sure that she ate and slept while providing backup financial support should she need it to be able to live where she wanted. Besides, they were friends who spent so much time in each other's company already that it would make no difference, really.
Her heart broke just a little more with every word that he spoke. How could she explain that being married would make all the difference in the world? It was one thing to be friends and know that she could never have him – it was another matter entirely to be joined with him before both God and the law, to live with him constantly, to know that under normal circumstances she would be able to have her husband – and still not be able to touch him. It would be torture. And yet – his arguments made sense. And surely, it would be better to be married to him and being able to see him all the time than to have to move away and see him hardly at all? Surely.
So she agreed, and they sat down to figure out some terms. Because, of course, it was a marriage born purely of convenience and therefore it would not progress as a 'normal' one would. Firstly, he said, there should be an agreement not to sleep with each other. Of course, he commented with a little laugh, this shouldn't be especially hard (she shattered just a little more) but he thought it was best to have it set out anyway. She agreed – what other choice did she have? So then, there would be no children. Assets would be evenly divided – she fought this one, because she would be bringing so little to the union and he so much, but he wouldn't budge and, eventually, she agreed. No one apart from themselves would know of their arrangement, for it was necessary for the press to believe it was genuine – and besides, she was certain her family wouldn't approve. So to the outside world, they were to be the happy couple that were so very much in love. She was the one who suggested the last stipulation, as he was about to get up from the table. If, at any time, one of them fell in love with someone else, or wanted to leave the marriage for any reason, they must be allowed to. No arguments. Of course, she was not expecting to fall in love with anyone seeing as the one who currently had her heart was standing right in from of her, but she didn't want him to be trapped in an unhappy marriage if he found someone else. That, she couldn't stand.
He agreed, and leaned forward to kiss her on the forehead to seal the arrangement. His nearness did strange things to her breath, and she was almost gasping by the time his soft lips left her skin. Aching all over, she scrambled towards the door, calling over her shoulder that she was late for work. He caught her just before she left, proposing lunch the next day to go over wedding plans. Agreeing hastily, anything to get out of there before she burst out sobbing in front of him, she jerked her arm from his grip and dashed out the door before apparating, leaving behind a rather puzzled Draco Malfoy.
Pretend to be a happily in love couple, about to get married. Piece of cake. Yeah, right.
Wow, this was only going to be a one-shot, but I've decided to split it into a couple of chapters because it ended up being a lot longer than I thought. Who would have guessed it? (grins) Do drop us a line :)