Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling owns all things Harry Potter.
A/N: I recently attended a college reunion, which led me to wonder what a Hogwarts reunion would be like. That speculation led to this story. Draco and Ginny wormed their way in somehow, as they often seem to do, though they haven't behaved quite as I expected. I suspect that Hogwarts wouldn't have reunions, and that this story is therefore completely unlikely, so I apologize for that in advance. But, despite that, I couldn't resist the plot bunny, so here it is.
The More Things Stay the Same
Ginny Weasley Apparated into Hogsmeade Station to find the Hogwarts Express in its berth and the platform completely deserted. She must have been later than she thought.
Most of the Hogwarts alumni who were attending the reunion had taken the train for old times' sake, and apparently they had already arrived. Ginny would have liked to have taken the train as well. She associated the ride from Kings Cross with seeing friends for the first time after the long summer holidays–it would have been the perfect setting for catching up with them now, six years away from school. Unfortunately, as the youngest Healer in the spell damage wards at St. Mungo's, Ginny had had to work that day.
Ginny had hoped she would at least be able to take the carriages up to the school with the rest of her classmates. Her last patient, however, had been turned into a laurel tree by his wife. The countercurse to the Daphneus hex was complex and had taken longer than Ginny had expected. This was not the first time she had sacrificed her own plans for a patient, and she was sure it wouldn't be the last. With a sigh, she stepped out of the station, hoping that she wouldn't have to walk to the castle.
Ginny breathed a sigh of relief as she saw that one carriage still remained. As she stepped around the side of the carriage, she caught sight of the Thestral pulling it, and her breath caught. She had been able to see the eerie winged horses since she watched Harry Potter kill Voldemort at the end of her sixth year at Hogwarts, but she had never gotten used to the sight. She shivered a little as she pulled open the carriage door and climbed inside.
Ginny's face lit up in a smile as she saw that she was not alone in the carriage. Luna Lovegood was placidly reading a copy of the Quibbler. She looked up as Ginny entered. "Oh, hello," she said.
"Luna! It's so good to see you!" Ginny said, hugging the other girl. Luna looked a little startled by the greeting, but Ginny didn't notice. "How have you been? What have you been doing?"
Luna blinked, then calmly answered. "Oh, I have been helping Daddy research stories. We just returned from Argentina, where there had been a number of Mooncalf sightings."
"Did you see any?" Ginny asked, interested. She would have loved to see one of the bashful animals.
"No, but we were able to photograph a field where they danced. We'll see them next time, I expect."
Ginny hid a grin. Luna was just as she remembered. She had the same optimistic outlook towards unlikely things. Not to mention the same radish earrings.
Luna cocked her head and studied Ginny carefully. "How about you? What have you been doing?"
Ginny was about to answer when the carriage door opened again.
Draco Malfoy climbed in, nodded politely to Ginny and Luna, settled himself on the seat across from them, and turned his head to look out the window. He must have been the last to arrive, because the carriage immediately started moving toward the castle.
As Ginny told Luna about her training as a Healer and some of her more interesting patients, she covertly watched Draco. He looked much the same as he had at Hogwarts, though his features had hardened, and his hair had darkened a shade or two. He had never been good-looking in a conventional way–his skin was too pale and his nose and chin too pointy–but there was something about him that drew the eye. He carried himself as if he expected to be watched, and Ginny had never been able to resist.
At Hogwarts, Ginny had spent a lot of time watching Draco. He had always seemed too one-dimensional to be true, like the villain in a melodrama. She had watched, looking for some indication that he had friends who enjoyed his company, that he had interests beyond Quidditch and tormenting other students, that he was human. Every now and then, Ginny would think she had caught a glimpse of something that might be the real Draco, but he would soon insult her again, and she would be left to wonder if she had just imagined it. Seeing Draco again brought back all her curiosity, and more. Ginny wondered what he had been doing for the last seven years.
After the war, many Slytherins had been convicted of aiding the Dark Lord, even though no Hogwarts students had taken the Dark Mark. They had spied for their Death Eater fathers, and that had been enough. Everyone expected the same to happen to Draco, but Severus Snape (who had finally received his Order of Merlin, First Class for his role as a spy in the war) had spoken to the Minister of Magic on Draco's behalf. No one besides Snape, the Minister, and Draco knew his reasons, but Draco had never stood trial. After that, Draco had become something of a recluse. Rumor had it that he spent his time managing his family's business interests, but as he rarely ventured into society, nobody was sure. Why had he come to this reunion, of all things?
Ginny was jolted out of her musing when the carriage stopped abruptly. Draco stepped down first to hold the door open for the two women. Ginny was struck by his courtesy. In school, he had never passed up an opportunity to throw an insult or hex her way. Now he was holding the door for her without a word.
Then Ginny looked up at the castle and all thoughts of Draco flew from her mind.
A thrill of excitement passed through Ginny as she looked at her home of seven years. It looked just the same as it had when she left. She picked out the features she knew, and took in the light spilling from the windows of the Great Hall. She sighed with contentment. Just then, Luna grabbed her arm and pulled her towards the doors.
Peeves must have greeted the alumni who arrived on the train, because the entry hall was strewn with Gobstones and their fluid. Argus Filch was mopping up the mess and muttering angrily to himself, "Bloody poltergeist."
Ginny tried to carefully pick her way across the hall, but she stepped in a puddle and began to slip. She felt a hand on her arm, steadying her. She looked up to see Draco, gazing at her expressionlessly. "Careful, there, Weasley," he said.
"Thank you!" He must have caught the surprise in her voice: he smirked, then bowed mockingly at her.
"I would say 'any time,' but since I don't expect to be there next time, I won't." His tone was full of amusement. Ginny gaped as Draco slipped into the Great Hall.
At the door to the hall, Ginny paused to take in the familiar sight. She looked up to see the candles floating underneath the charmed ceiling. A purple sky was dotted with puffy clouds dyed orange by the setting sun. The gold plates and silverware gleamed in the candlelight on the four house tables. She felt a jolt of sadness, however, when she looked at the staff table and saw Professor McGonagall in the center chair instead of Professor Dumbledore.
The Great Hall seemed empty. The first ever Hogwarts reunion had been Hermione Granger-Weasley's idea. Originally, the reunion was to be for those students who had left Hogwarts seven years earlier, but Hermione soon extended it to include the year before and the year after theirs as well. But that meant only three sevenths of the usual number of students had been invited. And although the turnout seemed to be high, not all members of the three classes had returned. This was to be expected, Ginny supposed. The war had taken its toll. She shuddered at the thought of how many people had died or been imprisoned. In fact, there were only about a dozen people at the Slytherin table.
"Ginny!" she heard, and turned towards the Gryffindor table. Colin Creevey ran towards her and hugged her enthusiastically. "You made it! I was beginning to think you weren't going to come!"
"Of course I'm here, Colin! I just got delayed at work."
"Well, come on," he said, dragging her towards the Gryffindor table. "The feast began twenty minutes ago! There won't be any food left if you don't hurry."
Ginny snorted. "Has there ever been a time when the house-elves didn't prepare enough food?"
"Well, you never know," Colin said, piling food onto Ginny's plate. "Especially with your brother here!"
Ginny spent the entire feast catching up with the other Gryffindors. She saw Colin two or three times every year, so she had already known about his work as a free-lance photographer. Dean Thomas was eking out a living by painting wizarding portraits. Neville Longbottom ran a small nursery that supplied magical plants and potions ingredients to businesses in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Seamus Finnegan ran a pub in Ireland, and he and his wife, Lavender Brown, were expecting their first child in a few months. Ginny's former roommate Joan was on the Muggle-Worthy Excuse Committee at the Ministry. Ginny was so caught up in the conversation that she didn't notice what she was eating. Colin had to elbow her when Professor McGonagall rose to speak.
"Welcome back to Hogwarts," she said with a smile. "And welcome to those of you who have not been here before." Ginny looked around and noticed several faces she didn't recognize. Had some of the students married people who hadn't attended Hogwarts? She would corner Parvati Patil–she would certainly know all of the gossip. Ginny tuned back into what McGonagall was saying.
"I hope that you all enjoy this opportunity to see your classmates again, and to reminisce about your times here," Professor McGonagall was saying. "Ms. Granger-Weasley has planned an exciting weekend for you and I will ask her to tell you about it in a moment. But first..." She paused and Ginny could feel the atmosphere chill. "First, I would like to take a moment to remember those students who cannot be here this weekend," she said solemnly. Most of those present, including Ginny, bowed their heads. As she did so, she noticed Draco Malfoy staring determinedly forward, his head held high. She wondered again about what he had done in the war and why he had come to the reunion.
But then the moment had passed, and McGonagall had introduced Hermione.
Hermione spoke at great length about the schedule for the weekend. It was all written out on a piece of parchment and Ginny didn't really listen. She wasn't interested in a tour of the recently remodeled Charms wing or a nature walk through the Forbidden Forest; she just wanted to wander around the school and chat with the other alumni. As Hermione's speech went on and on, Ginny realized how lucky she had been to avoid helping plan the reunion.
Hermione waved her wand and the staff and house tables were transfigured into a number of small round tables at one end of the hall, and lots of squashy armchairs and sofas at the other end.
"There," Hermione said. "Now that you have eaten one meal with your houses, this new arrangement will allow you to talk to people from other houses as well. Feel free to stay here as long as you'd like. The house common rooms are also open, and your belongings have been taken to your old dormitories. Let me know if you have any questions and enjoy the weekend!"
Once people started moving around again, Ginny made her way over to Ron, Harry, and Hermione. She saw them regularly, so she didn't plan to spend too much time with them this weekend, but felt as if she should say hello.
"Hey, Gin!" Ron said, hugging her. "We missed you on the train. See any good curses today?"
Ginny hugged the other two before answering. "I missed taking the train, too. And, yes, that's why I was late. I had a patient under the Daphneus hex."
Hermione shuddered dramatically. Harry and Ron just looked blankly at Ginny.
"What's that?" Ron asked.
"Honestly!" Hermione said. "Didn't you two learn anything at all in school?"
"It has been seven years," Harry said.
"Yeah!" Ron said. "And Harry and I don't need to remember that stuff." Harry played Seeker for Puddlemere United and had played for England during the last World Cup. Ron worked in the Ministry, in the Department for Magical Games and Sports. Neither of them ran across obscure curses on a daily basis, despite occasional threats from Harry's opponents.
"Well, maybe I should hex you with it. Then maybe you'd see why you need to remember it!" Hermione was indignant. Ron looked at her with disbelief.
"Oh please don't," Ginny laughed. "I'd rather not spend the weekend on the countercurse. I'd rather talk to people I haven't seen in ages."
"Yes, I suppose so," Hermione smiled. "We should all enjoy the reunion." Ron looked relieved.
"Speaking of that," Ginny said, "I see you three all the time, so I'm going to go mingle."
"Have fun!" Hermione said, spotting Eloise Midgen behind Ginny and dragging Ron by the arm in her direction.
Ginny spent a few enjoyable hours talking to people she knew from other houses. She talked to a former Potions partner who had been in Hufflepuff and several Ravenclaws she had studied Charms with. Parvati did, in fact, tell her all the gossip about who had married non-Hogwarts students, and introduced Ginny to her own husband, who had attended Beauxbatons. A group of former members of Dumbledore's Army swapped stories about undermining Professor Umbridge. Ernie Macmillan claimed that his mother had recently seen the erstwhile Professor selling faux dragonhide handbags in a market in Singapore. Every now and then, Ginny would spot Draco Malfoy. Invariably, someone would be talking to him animatedly, while his face remained completely expressionless. Finally, as midnight approached, Colin suggested to Ginny that they go to the Gryffindor common room.
Colin and Ginny set off arm in arm. They had to jump from one staircase to another when the one they were on began to shift. Colin giggled when Ginny forgot a trick stair and ended up knee-deep in it. He helped her out then pulled aside a tapestry with a flourish. It was Ginny's turn to laugh then, as the tapestry revealed a blank wall rather than the hidden passage he had expected. Ginny moved a few yards down the hallway and pulled aside the correct tapestry. The two were enjoying themselves so much that it took them a few moments to realize that the passageway lead them to an unfamiliar corridor.
"Hmm," Ginny said, "that's strange. I could have sworn this was the right way."
"Me too. We used to take this route all the time," Colin said, his face confused. "Do you think the corridors could have moved?"
"I always wondered if they did that," Ginny said contemplatively. "Oh, look! There's a portrait. Maybe we could ask directions!"
Ginny nearly jumped when she saw it. It was a wizarding portrait, but unlike any she had seen before. The subject didn't look like a real person–she (Ginny thought it was a she, anyway) had mismatched eyes that were at different heights and the sharpest looking nose Ginny had ever seen. The portrait didn't appear to have a mouth, but seemed to have three ears. Colin wasn't startled so much as awed.
"Oh wow!" he said. "I can't believe it! It's a Picasso!"
"A what?" Ginny asked, though she saw the signature at the bottom of the canvas and realized that Picasso must be the artist.
"Picasso was one of the greatest painters of the twentieth century in the Muggle world. I had heard he was a wizard, but never really believed it. His Muggle work is amazing. He supposedly painted a few wizarding portraits, but I never expected to see one. This is amazing." Colin was looking at the picture appraisingly. The subject seemed to be preening at the attention.
Ginny looked at the portrait dubiously. It didn't seem all that amazing to her. Just very... strange. "The big question," she said after a few minutes, "is whether she can tell us how to get to Gryffindor Tower."
Colin snapped out of his contemplation and looked at the portrait questioningly. The portrait nodded and pointed to her left. "Thanks!" Colin said. "I'll try to come back to visit tomorrow, if I can find the way." Ginny thought that if the subject had a mouth, she would be smiling.
Soon, they arrived in front of the Fat Lady.
"Miss Weasley! Mister Creevey! How lovely to see you both. Are you enjoying the reunion so far?"
"Very much," Ginny said, smiling. "Though we got lost on the way here. Did the corridors change?"
"Oh, yes," the Fat Lady said solemnly. "They do tend to do that. But not as often as the stairways, of course."
"Well," Colin said, "I guess we'll have to find a different route to breakfast."
"Yes, dear. I'm sure Sir Nicholas would be happy to escort you, if you would like."
"Nearly Headless Nick?" Colin asked with delight. "Is he here?"
The Fat Lady swung open, allowing Colin and Ginny to enter. Colin immediately approached the ghost, but Ginny stopped short.
The walk to the tower had convinced Ginny that not everything at Hogwarts was the same as it had been when she was a student. It was in essence the same, and part of her felt as if she had never left. But some of the little details were different. There was a new Headmistress. The hallways had changed. There was a bizarre-looking portrait that she had never seen before.
But this, the Gryffindor common room, was the same as ever. It was still a riot of red and gold. The furniture was the same, as were the people sprawled all over it. But what stopped her in her tracks was the smell. It smelled the same. A mixture of books and chocolate and sweat and whatever the house-elves used to clean the room. This is what the Gryffindor common room had smelled like when she had been a student, and she realized that this is what it would always smell like. Hogwarts might change, but some things were forever.
Despite the late night, Ginny woke early on Saturday morning. After a few games of Exploding Snap, she had retreated to the eerily familiar dormitory. Even though it was the same as ever, she had trouble sleeping. At first, the noise from the common room kept her awake. Later, it was Joan's snoring. When she had been a student, neither of these had bothered her, but she had been living alone for five years now, and wasn't used to noise anymore. Her body was trained to wake at dawn for her job, so even after a fitful night's sleep, she rose, showered quietly, and slipped out of the tower.
Ginny took a leisurely walk through the castle on a route she hoped would take her to the entrance hall. Along the way, she passed Moaning Myrtle's bathroom and shivered involuntarily. There were some things about Hogwarts she would like to forget. With one backward glance, she hurried away, to the entrance hall, then out of the castle.
Ginny had always loved walking on the Hogwarts grounds, on the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest or beside the lake. This morning the air felt cool on her skin and the sky retained some of the pink glow of sunrise. She walked toward the lake to see if the color would be reflected in the water.
She was not the only one up early. Another figure stood by the shore. As she got closer, she saw the light play off blond hair and realized it was Draco Malfoy. She considered turning away, then changed her mind. If her presence bothered him, he could leave.
Ginny came to stand about five feet from Draco. He looked up at her and she murmured, "Good morning." He nodded, then they each went back to contemplating the lake. They stood silently for several minutes, each absorbed in their own thoughts, watching the morning.
After a while, without looking at Ginny, Draco asked quietly, "Why are you awake so early, Weasley? I would have thought the Gryffindors would stay up until all hours of the night."
Ginny was surprised by the civil question, but then remembered Draco's courtesy of the previous evening, and decided to return the favor. "It's habit," she said. "What about you?"
They were quiet for several more minutes. Ginny began to think they had exhausted their capacity for conversation. But then Draco spoke again.
"Are you enjoying the reunion?"
She smiled. "Yes, very much. It is fun to see so many people I haven't talked to for years. And to see what has changed here and what is still the same."
"Well, for example, the corridors have changed. Colin and I actually got lost on the way to the common room last night. But when we got there... It... I know this sounds strange, but it smelled the same."
Draco was quiet for a moment. Ginny was embarrassed to have said something so silly, but then Draco answered. "It isn't strange. I noticed the same thing about Slytherin."
Ginny smiled in relief. "I've really enjoyed seeing everyone, and they all seem to be much the same as they were at school," she continued without really thinking first. "But I feel different somehow... I used to love the noise and chaos in Gryffindor. But now... It's fun for a while, but I need to get away from it too. To clear my head."
Draco turned to look at Ginny, and she uncomfortable with his intensity. "Everyone I have talked to so far," he said so quietly she almost couldn't hear, "has treated me as if I am a god or something similar."
Ginny looked at him curiously. "When we were in school, I thought that was what you wanted."
He gazed at her even more intently, then said, "It's fun for a while, but..."
Remembering the glimpses she had of Draco the night before, Ginny thought she understood what he was saying. "But they all want something from you?"
"Exactly," he said with a wry little smile.
"Then why did you come?" she blurted out without thinking.
For a moment, Draco looked startled by her boldness, then he gave a burst of harsh laughter. He looked at Ginny with a slightly twisted expression that might pass for some sort of a smile. "Granger," he said shortly.
"Yes," he said. Then he imitated Hermione's voice almost perfectly. "'But of course you must come! You'll be missed! You were Head Boy!' I agreed to come just so she would leave me alone."
By now Ginny was laughing. "That was probably for the best. There are few people harder to deal with than Hermione when she is determined."
"That's exactly what I found out, though it took me two months to learn the lesson. So here I am."
"Well, at least it's just for the weekend. Then you can go back into isolation if you want."
"Yes," he said, shooting her an odd look. "I suppose I can."
"Good luck with avoiding the grasping opportunists, then."
"Thank you." He gave her a small smile, and she couldn't help thinking he should do it more often. She smiled back.
"Thanks for helping me clear my head," Ginny said. "I think I'll head in for breakfast. Are you coming?"
"No, I think I'll stay here for a while." He smirked. "Where there are no grasping opportunists."
"All right. I'll see you later, then." Draco nodded and Ginny headed back to the castle.
By the time Ginny made it into the Great Hall, there were several people eating breakfast already, but she didn't know any of them. Not wanting to eat alone, she approached a table with two women who looked somewhat familiar.
"Do you mind if I join you?" she asked. The two women looked slightly startled at first, but gestured for her to sit. Ginny filled her plate, then looked up at her tablemates. "I'm sorry. You both look familiar to me, but I don't think I ever talked to you at Hogwarts. I'm Ginny Weasley and I was in Gryffindor."
It turned out that the women had been in Ginny's year at Hogwarts, but had been in Slytherin. The conversation was awkward at first, but once the other two opened up, Ginny quite enjoyed their company. The three of them had a common interest in charm work, and spent nearly an hour talking about the advantages and disadvantages of various domestic spells. Finally, when the last stragglers were leaving the hall, the three parted ways with promises to contact each other in the future.
Ginny left the hall wondering about house rivalries. Here were two people she probably could have been friends with at school, but she had never even spoken to them because they were in Slytherin. Was this the best system for fostering school unity? Not to mention the strangely civil conversation she had had with Draco Malfoy.
Colin, once again, snapped her out of her reverie. "Ginny! Ginny! Did you hear?"
"There's going to be a pick up Quidditch game on the pitch in ten minutes!"
"Well, then, what are we waiting for?" Ginny grabbed Colin's arm and she nearly dragged him out onto the grounds. He had to trot to keep up with her long strides.
"Ginny..." Colin gasped, once they had reached the pitch. "What... about... brooms?"
"Brooms!" Ginny exclaimed. "Thanks for reminding me. Accio Nimbus!" After a few moments, a very small broom came hurling at Ginny. She caught it in her left hand, aimed her wand at it, and said, "Engorgio!" She was quite fond of her Nimbus 2003. It had never been a top-of-the-line broom, as it was overshadowed by the Firebolt. And it had been out of date already when she bought it. But it was quite serviceable for Quidditch with her brothers at the Burrow, and undoubtedly faster than any broom the school might own. She was glad she had thought to pack it.
"You brought your broom?" Colin asked in awe.
"Of course! I knew there would be Quidditch at some point."
"But it wasn't on the schedule!"
"Of course not. Hermione made the schedule. Do you really think she would include Quidditch?"
"Well, no, but..."
"Come on, Colin. You'll be fine on a school broom. I bet most of the others will be using them too, so you won't be the only one."
By now, several people had appeared on the pitch, and as Ginny said, most of them didn't have brooms. Luckily, Madam Hooch arrived at that moment to open the broom shed. While the others looked for decent brooms, Ginny noticed that Draco Malfoy had had the foresight to bring his own broom as well. Ginny grinned at him. He merely raised an eyebrow and continued stretching.
Fifteen people had showed up to play. A Hufflepuff who had never played on her house team volunteered to sit out and watch, which just left the rest to choose teams. Terry Boot, formerly of Ravenclaw, shouted out, "I think we should have Potter and Malfoy as captains! To give this a bit more interest, you know." Ginny couldn't help thinking that this was setting Draco up for a fall, considering that Harry had played for England, but everyone else seemed to think it was a good idea, including Draco.
The two captains tossed a coin to see who would pick first. Draco won.
"I want Weasley," he said, nodding towards Ginny.
Ron had been trying to trim the wayward twigs on his school broom and didn't see Draco's nod. He looked up in horror. "What! You want me? No! I refuse!"
Draco rolled his eyes. "I meant your sister, Weasley."
"Oh," Ron said, somewhat deflated. He didn't seem to know whether to be insulted or relieved. But his expression cleared when Harry chose him.
Meanwhile, Ginny had been whispering in Draco's ear. "Take Colin. He and I played Chaser together our last year, and we have some tricks Harry has never seen."
"I want Creevey," Draco said with the hint of a smirk.
Most of the assembled players gasped at this. Draco Malfoy choosing to associate with a Muggle-born wizard? But soon Harry chose his next player and the murmurs died down. Soon, the teams had been chosen and they were ready to play.
Draco pulled his team aside. "I doubt I can catch the Snitch before Potter, so I am counting on the rest of you to make it a non-issue. I'll do what I can to distract Potter, and the Beaters should do what you can to keep him off the Snitch. Your second priority is to keep their Chasers from scoring. Keeper, defend those hoops as well as you know how. Chasers, you are our key to victory. We need to score early and often to get a 150-point lead so Potter won't matter. Do it." Ginny and Colin grinned at each other. They were ready.
The Hufflepuff who had agreed to sit out blew the whistle and tossed up the Quaffle. Ginny caught it and raced Ron to the hoops. His school broom was no match for her Nimbus; she easily outpaced Ron and scored the first goal of the game. Soon thereafter, Ginny and Colin converged on the Chaser from the other team who had possession of the Quaffle and stole it away before he knew what had happened. Ginny scored again, easily. She knew Ron's Keeping in and out from playing with him at home, so she knew exactly how to get around him. She also knew that if she scored a few times early in the game, he would get nervous and lose focus. She relaxed a bit.
An hour and a half later, the score was 170 to 30. Ginny had scored eleven of her team's goals, and Colin had scored the other six. The third Chaser, Zacharias Smith, realized early on that he was not in the same league as Ginny and Colin, and decided to spend his time trying to get in Harry's way instead. He was doing a brilliant job at it, too, Ginny noticed. Harry was clearly quite annoyed. Professional Quidditch teams never dedicated a player to distracting the Seeker. It was unheard of. Ginny made a mental note to congratulate Zacharias once they landed. But first, she had to score some more goals.
An opposing Chaser, clearly tired out, made a feeble attempt at a goal, which Lisa Turpin blocked easily. Ginny quickly recovered the Quaffle and made a dash for the other end of the field. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Draco dive, with Harry in pursuit. They had seen the Snitch! Ginny flattened herself along her broom and shot straight for Ron, who was guarding the center hoop. It was a game of chicken, and Ron moved first. Ginny scored, and turned around just in time to see Harry catch the Snitch.
Doing the arithmetic in her head, Ginny realized that the two teams had tied. She sunk to the ground laughing out loud. "Good game!" Colin yelled, hugging her. They went to join the rest of the team, who had just landed.
"Well played, everyone," Draco said quietly.
"But we didn't win," protested one of the Beaters, a Slytherin.
"You're right," Draco said with a slight smirk. "But we didn't lose either. Which is more than I can say for any other game I have played against Potter."
The team smiled at each other, then went to shake hands with the others before they all made their way back to the castle.
As they walked, Draco pulled Ginny behind. "You can really fly," he said. "Why don't you play professionally?"
"I'm a Healer," she said simply.
"That doesn't answer my question."
"Yes, it does. I like flying, but I love my job. There's a new challenge every day, and I feel like I make a difference."
Draco nodded and seemed to be pondering her answer. After a minute, Ginny asked, "What about you? Why don't you play?"
"Duty, for the most part. I have to maintain the family businesses."
"What about the other part?" Ginny worried that she was prying, but he had started this conversation, after all.
"What other part?" He seemed to be evading her question.
"You said that for the most part, duty keeps you from playing. What else?"
He didn't answer. She looked at him closely, then said, "It's Harry, isn't it? You think you can't beat him."
Draco stopped walking and stared at her with disbelief. Ginny realized she had hit the nail on the head.
"You shouldn't measure yourself against someone else, Draco." As she said this, she realized it was the first time she had ever addressed him by his given name. "Instead, measure yourself against what you could be."
With this, she smiled brightly at him, then turned and ran to catch up to Colin, wondering where her insight had come from. More importantly, she wondered why Draco was letting her close enough to him for her to have it.
The Quidditch players found an agitated Hermione in the entrance hall.
"Where have you been? You missed the survey of new acquisitions in the library! There is a fascinating new Magical Encyclopedia of Toads and Toadstools!"
"We were playing Quidditch, Hermione," Ron said with a huge smile. "It was bloody brilliant. Harry beat Malfoy to the Snitch, as usual."
"Quidditch? But that wasn't on the schedule."
Ron looked at Hermione incredulously for a moment, then his stomach growled loudly enough for everyone to hear. "What about lunch?" he asked. "Is that on the schedule?"
Everyone, even Hermione, laughed at that. They all headed into the Great Hall.
Ginny spent the entire meal analyzing the game with Colin, Lisa, and Zacharias, with occasional comments from Harry and Ron. Lisa, Ginny learned, played in an informal women's Quidditch league on Tuesday nights. Ginny smilingly agreed to come along sometime soon.
After lunch, Ginny attended a demonstration in which Hagrid showed off some of his more prized magical creatures. Hermione had not let Ginny, Ron, or Harry out of her sight since the Quidditch game. Ginny would have gone anyway; she didn't want to hurt Hagrid's feelings by missing it. By the time it was over, however, Ginny began to wish she hadn't come. Hagrid had expanded his collection of creatures only he found endearing. He finished the demonstration with a lime green, vulture-like bird that he refused to name. Ginny suspected it was a cross between an Augurey and a Fwooper. The sky was clouding over, so Ginny slipped away as quickly as she politely could–she didn't want to be around if the thing began to sing.
Ginny spent a quiet afternoon after that. She wandered through the school, visiting all of her old classrooms and the library. She was surprised that the Potions dungeon was actually clean and brightly lit now that Professor Snape had become the permanent Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor. She exchanged tales of healing with Madam Pomfrey over tea in the Hospital Wing. Finally, Ginny took a nap in order to be fit for the evening's activities.
Hermione had planned an evening reminiscent of the Yule Ball. There was to be a feast followed by dancing. Hermione had even managed to engage the Weird Sisters for the event. Ginny was looking forward to it; she was getting a little tired of the small talk that had characterized the reunion so far. She hoped that the evening's activities would allow her to talk about different things, and she loved to dance.
The feast was better than anything Ginny could ever remember having eaten. She sat at a table with veterans of Dumbledore's Army. They had moved on from small talk to other things–memories of Hogwarts, wizarding politics, and, of course, Quidditch. Ginny found herself watching Draco again and again throughout the meal. He was seated at the next table, between Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis, who seemed to be competing for his attention. She couldn't decide if she should be amused by his predicament or feel sorry for him. As the two women's tactics became more and more elaborate, she leaned towards pity.
Ginny was distracted by the arrival of the pudding. A silence fell over the hall as everyone contemplated the creations in front of them. They were the most elaborate desserts Ginny had ever seen. Small chocolate cakes had been baked in the shape of the Hogwarts coat of arms. They were topped with ice cream in all of the house colors. As she looked more closely at hers, Ginny saw that the house mascots–lion, badger, eagle, and serpent–had been charmed to move. She thought it too pretty to eat, and saw that others seemed to have the same worry. This was soon put to rest, however, when Ron, a few tables away, exclaimed, "This is better than Mum's homemade fudge!" Leave it to Ron to tuck in first. Ginny laughed, then took a bite. It was delicious, and after a few minutes she realized that each quadrant of the cake had a different filling–cherry, lemon, mixed berries, and mint. It wasn't long before every plate at her table was completely clean.
Once the tables had been moved out of the way, the dancing began. Ginny danced with Neville first, in honor of the Yule Ball. She was pleasantly surprised when he only stepped on her feet twice. She then danced with Colin, Ron, Michael Corner, Harry, Dean Thomas, Zacharias Smith, and after that, she lost track. She danced to every song, with a different partner each time, and enjoyed every minute of it. She had always found dancing to be exhilarating, and she hadn't had a chance to do it lately. Now she was gorging herself.
After quite a while, Ginny started to think that she should sit out for a song in order to have something to drink. At the end of the song, she started making her way towards the punch bowl, but then felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around and her breath caught, as she found herself looking into the unfathomable grey eyes of Draco Malfoy. She was startled. She felt as if she couldn't tear herself from his gaze.
"May I have this dance?" Draco asked.
Ginny nodded mutely, taking his hand as he led her back to the dance floor. She wondered at her reaction. Why did his simple, polite invitation affect her so much?
Ginny shook off her confusion and focused on enjoying the dance. Draco obviously knew what he was doing, for he moved with exceptional grace. Ginny felt completely comfortable in his arms, almost as if she was dancing on air.
All too soon, the song had ended, and Ginny smiled up at Draco, intending to thank him for the dance and go to get some punch. But he just pulled her closer and continued dancing, looking at her as if challenging her to leave. She decided that the punch could wait.
"You dance beautifully," she said, at a loss for words.
"Thank you. I've always enjoyed it, but can't do it very often."
"Too many witches think an invitation to dance is equivalent to a marriage proposal," Draco responded dryly.
Ginny laughed. "Well, I don't. Otherwise, after tonight, I would be forced to commit polygamy, not to mention incest!"
"Yes, I have been watching you and figured you'd be a safe bet."
Ginny raised her eyebrows. He had been watching her? She tried to change the subject.
"How did you get rid of your fan club?"
Draco smirked. "All I had to do was mention off hand that I was thirsty. They practically ran each other over on their way to the punch bowl."
"You know," Ginny said with amusement, "I really am thirsty. Do you think you could convince one of them to get a drink for me?"
"I wouldn't want to risk it," he responded, smirking. "They would probably poi..."
Draco's speech was cut off suddenly. Someone shrieked nearby, and he and Ginny were doused with bright pink punch. They looked around to see what had happened. Ginny couldn't help laughing. Hermione was still shrieking a few feet away, drenched in the sticky liquid, the punch bowl perched on her head like a hat. Peeves was hovering above the dance floor, cackling uproariously. A number of other couples who had been dancing near Ron and Hermione had, like she and Draco, been caught in the considerable spray, and were now in various states of disarray.
Ginny turned back to Draco and laughed even harder. The punch had gotten into his hair, turning it pink. He raised a questioning eyebrow at her and she calmed herself down enough to explain.
"You look good in pink!" she choked out.
Draco smiled softly and reached out to wipe away some punch that had been trickling down Ginny's cheek. Ginny was startled out of her laughter by the gentleness of his touch.
"So do you," he said, so quietly that Ginny barely heard it over the music and Hermione's indignant ranting. Her heart was beating at an astounding rate but she didn't want to do or say anything that might make the moment end.
Soon, Draco seemed to realize what he had said and done and quickly took a step back. "We should probably both go clean up," he said stiffly. He nodded briefly at Ginny, then disappeared into the crowd. Ginny stood still for a few minutes, eyes closed, wondering what had just happened.
After washing the punch out of her hair and robes, Ginny spent some time in the common room talking with the other Gryffindors from her year. But she wasn't able to concentrate on the conversation and soon excused herself.
Ginny was confused about what had happened with Draco. She had always been secretly fascinated with him, but she had never expected to actually see beyond the persona he presented to the world. Why had he spoken so candidly with her today? Why had he chosen her for Quidditch? Why had he asked her to dance? And, most importantly, why did it give her such a thrill? She hadn't felt this way since...
Ginny decided it would be safer not to contemplate such thoughts any further. She went to bed.
Ginny was plagued with dreams that night, but when she woke early on Sunday morning, she could only remember snatches of them. She dressed quickly, then left to walk on the grounds, moving slower than her usual pace. Did she dare go back to the lake again? She wasn't sure whether Draco would be there again. More to the point, she wasn't sure whether she wanted to see him. Despite her nervousness, her feet carried her to the lake anyway. She was surprised to feel relief when caught sight of him in the same place they had met the day before.
"Good morning, Ginny," he said as she came to stand next to him on the lakeshore.
A wave of pleasure passed through Ginny when he used her name and she had to struggle to control herself. They stood silently for several minutes, watching the morning.
"You must be happy that you can get away from the grasping opportunists and back to your regular life." Ginny said after a while.
Draco hesitated a little before responding. "Yes and no."
Ginny looked at him curiously. "You mean the grasping opportunists are growing on you again?"
"Merlin, no!" Draco said with such a look of disgust on his face that Ginny nearly burst into laughter. "I just... I've..." Ginny's amusement quickly turned back to curiosity. She had never before seen Draco at a loss for words. "I'm not sure that I want to go back to my regular life anymore."
His tone was serious, determined even. Ginny shivered slightly in anticipation. "Why not?" she asked.
"I've realized there is something missing from it."
"What?" Ginny asked, her pulse racing.
Draco didn't answer. Instead he turned to her and said, "Have dinner with me tonight."
It wasn't a question, but Ginny looked at him and saw the question in his eyes. She let out the breath she hadn't realized she had been holding. "I would enjoy that."
Ginny saw Draco relax. They smiled at each other, then turned back to the lake. They stood in silence again, but Ginny felt that it was more comfortable than before. After a time, Draco spoke again.
"I used to watch you in school, you know."
Ginny was stunned. "No, I didn't know. Which is surprising, because I used to watch you too."
"I know. You weren't the only one," Draco said smugly.
"Oh, and look where that's gotten you," Ginny teased. "I'm not the one who has to dodge grasping opportunists."
"Very true." He paused, then added, "I was better than you at not being caught watching. I couldn't afford to be caught–you were the enemy, after all."
"Well, I never noticed you much at first," he said. "Except when I could use you to get at your brother or Potter. But then you hexed me in my fifth year and you became an enemy worth paying attention to. I started watching you to find weaknesses I could use against you."
"What did you find?" Ginny was intrigued. She had been completely unaware of his reaction at the time.
"That you were nothing like I expected," Draco said. Ginny laughed.
"You had gotten over your crush on Potter and hated it when people thought you hadn't," Draco continued. "Your brother treated you as if you were still eleven and it drove you nuts but you learned how to use it to your advantage. You were as much of a trouble maker as your twin brothers had been, but could sweet-talk your way out of anything so no one realized it. You were quite a contradiction."
"You have to learn how to adapt if you have six older brothers," Ginny said simply.
Draco continued in a more serious tone. "I also found that you were not impressed with my money, or even intimidated by it, like your brother was. You were friends with some of the most unexpected people. Most of the school avoided them, but you seemed to find them interesting. You had no tolerance for anyone who mistreated other people." He paused. "And yet you watched me."
Draco gazed intently at Ginny, clearly looking for a reason.
Ginny blushed. "I thought there had to be more to you than the spoiled, bullying prat you acted like. I was looking for evidence."
There was an unusual tension in Draco's voice. "What did you find?"
"I sometimes got glimpses of... something–a small kindness or genuine enjoyment of something. But then you would always ruin it. By the time you left school, I had concluded that you really were a prat," Ginny said, frowning. "But now..."
"Now?" Draco asked stiffly.
Ginny looked up at him, and let a slow smile spread across her face. "Now, I am beginning to think I had been right all along. There is more to you–much more."
Draco smiled then. It was a wide, genuine smile, and it lit up his face. Ginny's breath caught in her throat. She was mesmerized by that smile.
"Good," Draco whispered, stepping closer and placing a brief kiss on her forehead. A tingling sensation shot down Ginny's spine, leaving goose bumps in its wake. The two stood, simply looking at each other for a long moment. Ginny sighed with contentment and smiled softly.
Draco stepped back then, reaching into his pocket. He handed Ginny a small brass key engraved with an elaborate 'M'. "This is a Portkey to Malfoy Manor. I set it for seven o'clock. Will that do?" Ginny nodded, slipping the key into her own pocket.
Ginny found herself eagerly anticipating dinner that evening. Yes, she had started to see the real Draco Malfoy. But there was still evidence of his humanity to be collected. And, considering that she could feel this much after only a few conversations, a dance, and one chaste kiss, Ginny thought she might want to collect evidence well into the future.
"But now," Ginny said lightly, trying to regain control, "I'm hungry. Breakfast?" She took the arm Draco offered and they walked together back to the castle.
They parted when they reached the Great Hall; Draco had planned to eat with Professor Snape, while Ginny joined a group of Gryffindors. She found the conversation slightly awkward. She had already talked to most of the people she was sitting with at length, and they were running out of things to say. Almost everyone seemed to have their minds half on their plans for the rest of the day, once they had returned to their regular lives.
Hermione scurried from table to table, handing out evaluation forms. "We want to do this again and need to know what you enjoyed and what you didn't!" she told anyone who would listen. Ginny filled hers out, just to keep Hermione happy. Ron and Harry, she noticed, had folded theirs into paper airplanes which they charmed to fly about the hall. Harry managed to make the Fat Friar jump when he steered his plane through the ghost's belly. Ron had to hide behind his wife when his plane lodged itself in Filch's ear.
A half hour later, Ginny waited with the rest of the alumni on the front lawn for the carriages to take them to Hogsmeade, where they could Apparate or Floo home. Ginny felt as if she had hugged nearly everyone there, some of them twice. She waved to the two Slytherin women she had eaten breakfast with the day before, and traded Floo addresses with Lisa Turpin. She invited Madam Pomfrey to visit her at St. Mungo's sometime soon.
Just as the carriages arrived, Ginny caught sight of Draco, who was once again wedged between Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis. She smiled at him and mouthed, "See you later." Draco smiled back, then rolled his eyes as the two women attempted to pull him into different carriages.
Ginny was still smiling as she climbed into a carriage after Colin. "What are you so happy about?" he asked once they were settled.
"Oh, nothing in particular," Ginny responded, fingering the key in her pocket. "I just had a good reunion."