Harry Potter was on the most important mission of his life. Soft twilight burst through the corridor's gaping windows, darkness littered the floors, and his footsteps echoed shrilly, bursting through the night silence.
Harry Potter had only one thing on his mind: cider. Apple cider, to be precise, with a cinnamon stick, a sugar cube, and a teaspoon of citrine honey. One day, Harry mused, the Prophet would surely headline his cider addiction.
After stumbling through what felt like every spiraling staircase and lengthy hallway in the castle, he faced the fruit bowl portrait, eagerly tickling the giggly pear. The bronze frame swung open to admit him, and Harry entered swiftly, sure he could practically smell his cider from here.
And as he raced across the glossy tiles, invisibility cloak nearly flying behind him, Harry froze. Because there, sitting casually on a brass barstool, ankles crossed, was Ginny Weasley, clad in a white cotton nightgown, stirring her own mug of cider (it was Ginny, after all, who had taught him about the drink) while chuckling amiably at her companion's words.
Oddly enough, that companion was Draco Malfoy, blonde hair sticking up at bizarre angles, luxurious silver satin pajamas gleaming almost painfully in the kitchen's glaring lights. His legs hung over a seat opposite Ginny, and he too was sipping at a goblet of cider.
Sweet Merlin, Harry thought, Malfoy is drinking cider. My cider. Is nothing sacred anymore?
Better yet, what was Ginny doing here with him?
"So then," Malfoy was saying, snorting as Ginny laughed into her cider, "Pansy runs into my kitchen, sees Dobby, grabs the poor elf by the ears, and screams 'ARE YOU AN ELEPHANT?'"
Ginny hooted with laughter, Malfoy grinned wickedly, and Harry wondered whether this was some twisted, deranged vision from Voldemort. A whole new method of Harry-killing.
Their amusement petered out into silence, as Ginny sloshed the amber drink over the edges of her mug, staring thoughtfully at it, Malfoy savoring his own cider. Harry was getting thirstier by the minute, but this was much too intriguing--he was rooted to the spot by pure curiosity.
"Are you ever going to tell Harry about it?"
Ginny's question poured tension into the room. Harry's eyebrows hit his hairline, and Malfoy frowned, though not crossly. Tell Harry about what? Harry prodded mentally.
"Why should I?" Malfoy threw the question back, and though he spat it out, it was surprisingly spiteless, almost weary.
"It might lower tensions, Draco," Ginny began (Since when are they on a first-name basis? Harry wondered, resisting a Ron urge to tackle Malfoy) "And it might be necessary. If there's a fight, Draco, they'll need to know…this isn't about making friends, this is about what could happen. If you get stunned by accident during the could-bes, we're all generally screwed. You know that."
"If I'm dumb enough to get hit by one of their stunners, it's my own fault," Malfoy retorted.
"Don't be thick," Ginny rolled her eyes, "If you don't want to tell them, have Snape or Dumbledore or someone do it. It's vital, Draco."
"Oh, I can picture that conversation," Draco sniggered slightly, "Mr. Potter," he began, imitating Snape, "You know Mr. Malfoy? Yeah, the one you've been rivals with since you stepped into this school, with the death eater father? Yeah, him. He's gone spy. Don't forget that potions essay!"
Holy shite. Harry's jaw dropped. Malfoy was a spy? What on earth was going on?
Ginny stuck her tongue out at him childishly, reprimanding, "That's not funny at all, and you know it."
"You're right, I know. If the fight comes, Potter will need to know. 'One with the power to vanquish' after all," Draco sighed, and Harry frowned. How did Malfoy know the prophecy? Ginny couldn't have told him--the binding oath she took on it would have made it plain if she'd revealed it.
"So you'll do it, then?" Ginny asked happily, a smile darting across her rose lips.
"Sure, but for strategy's sake, not for unity or peace or whatever," Draco muttered.
"I'm not asking you to sing Kum Ba Ya with them, Draco," Ginny said, in a vague agreement. She seemed to be content with his final promise.
"You know, if the final showdown swings around, you'll be right there, in the midst of chaos, and if I die…" Malfoy drifted out, and then gave a bitter laugh, "Merlin, that sounded melodramatic."
"If you die…" Ginny urged.
"Make sure my name goes on the grand tomb, or marker, or whatever it is they use to remember those of us who go down. If we win, that is," Draco groaned, "If not, then I suppose it'll be the last thing on all of our minds, the grave."
"An odd request," Ginny observed, "Why the need?"
"I want it known that I was here, Gin," Malfoy seemed to be explaining it aloud to himself, as well as Ginny, "People like Potter will be drowning in the glory-I know, I know, he doesn't want it, that's not the point," he added, seeing her mouth open, "And there are people like me and Blaise. I don't care about being remembered, Gin, but I want it to be there to spite the death eaters, so those who remain can see what happened…"
He broke off, in quiet contemplation.
Harry's mind was reeling. He'd always thought Malfoy would do anything for glory, for power, but never had he thought he'd see the day when Draco Malfoy sacrificed that for the Light. Harry wondered what had prompted such a drastic change.
"They'll want to know why," Ginny said quietly, wrinkling her nose, "They won't be convinced without a reason…"
"I'll tell them, then," Draco's nostrils flared, "If they ask, I'll tell them that good old Voldemort came for a nice chat, had his tea, and finished the day off by Avada Kedavara-ing my mother. Won't that be just lovely."
Harry blinked, surprised by this kind of declaration, but smirked slightly, because at the back of his thoughts was the knowledge that no matter what, Malfoy was still quite the cynic. He believed Malfoy, oddly enough--he hadn't, until the boy had spoken of Narcissa Malfoy's death. He could see, then, how set Malfoy was on destroying Voldemort. It gave him some strength, really, to know that he had support even in the ringleader of Slytherin.
"I'm glad you're going to tell them, though. I've been worrying about that, to be honest," Ginny confessed, thumbing the handle of her mug idly.
Draco gave her a curt nod, then rose, "I'm sleepy as hell, Gin. Try to make it to bed before the sunrise, hm?"
Ginny smirked, and waved as he hopped through the portrait.
"Oh, Harry, I know you came here for cider," she called out, grinning slyly, "Sit with me, and you can have some of mine."
Tugging the cloak off, Harry gaped at her, "How did you know I was here?" he asked, marveling.
"I know you," Ginny said simply, "And I saw the edge of your shoes when you moved," she admitted.
"That'll teach me to eavesdrop," Harry murmured, dropping into Malfoy's empty seat and hastily taking a gulp of frothy cider from her mug.
"It will," Ginny replied heavily, "I'm glad you heard it like this, though," she added, "This way you know it's not some rehearsed, twisted conspiracy."
"Yes, yes I do, Gin," Harry mulled over all the information he'd been (unknowingly) presented with. "How did you come to know about Malfoy?"
"The Forest," Ginny said quietly, "He tipped Dumbledore off about the Forest, and I knew."
Harry went quiet for a moment, remembering the frantic search that had been only a week ago, though it felt as if it had been ages. Ginny had been bait for the rest of them, kidnapped into the Forbidden Forest where, after frantic searching and a 'hint from an Order member' (Harry had assumed it to be Snape, but now realized that was impossible, as Snape had been there with the rest of them, utterly clueless.) she was rescued before any true harm could have been done, and had helped--once conscious--to knock out a good dozen of death eaters. A magnificent battle had taken place, but Voldemort had not been present, and the stronger death eaters fled the scene. Harry remembered now, a moment in the battle in which he could have sworn a hooded figure stunned one of the death eaters--again, he had thought it to be Snape, and dismissed it, but now he understood.
Draco Malfoy had fought for them. For their cause, for his cause. It was mind-blowing, really.
"You two are actually pretty similar, you know," Ginny said casually, her floppy ponytail swishing as she tilted her head, looking at Harry, as if she could see the similarities there. Harry fidgeted slightly under her scrutiny.
"How?" he inquired, curious.
"Well, the basics are obvious," Ginny shrugged, "Quidditch seekers and captains, Hogwarts' most famed bachelors, (here Harry blushed as she smirked deviously) rich wizarding families, and you're both extremely powerful, Harry."
"Well, yes, but there are others who fit that description, Ginny," Harry said.
"Yes, yes there are," she acknowledged, "But both of you are from a childhood of strangeness. Neither of you have found true family in your household, Harry. The Dursleys," she shuddered, and Harry was fiercely reminded of Mrs. Weasley, "Have never respected you. The Malfoys, Malfoy Senior especially, have treated Draco with a cool indifference, breeding into him the sense that he was brought for a purpose: to serve the dark lord, Harry."
"And I was brought for the purpose of defeating him," Harry pointed out, pondering the concept.
"Precisely," Ginny smiled softly, and Harry admired the dimples that erupted around it, "Now, though, both of you are key players in the war, Harry. You, you have your destiny. Draco, he's turned against something frighteningly cruel, and the consequences he'll face if found out…"
Yes, Harry realized, we are alike, aren't we?
"And, Harry, never have either of you known real love. Whether between families or lovers. You've had Cho, Malfoy's been The Boyfriend, but completely impassive."
Never known love? Harry wondered if that should offend him. Hermione had always said he was rubbish with girls, and he was well aware of the truth in that. Although, he mused, Ginny didn't know what he had recently, with the help of Hermione, realized: he adored her. Hermione, ever observant, had noticed the way Harry's gaze lingered on the youngest Weasley, how idiotically jealous he was when she dated other boys, and though he claimed this was out of 'friendly care', it had dawned on him that she was right. He wanted to be able to sit at breakfast, wrap his arm around Ginny's waist, laugh and talk in soft tones, laced with honey, to her.
"I'd like to cure that situation for you."
Ginny's lips met his across the table, and Harry could taste the cinnamon stick, the sugar cube, the tepid apple cider. And that, safe to say, was the last coherent thought he had for a while.
A/N: So…thoughts? Review. Review. Review. Review. I know there's really not much development towards the random HG moment at the end..