Cedar, Columbine; Coriander and Hemlock


The Whomping Willow has been struck by lightening.

Ginny Weasley sits curled up on the window seat of her dormitory, nose pressed against the cold, rain-pelted windowpane as she watches the branches of the Willow splinter and crash to the ground, the lightning in the night sky illuminating the destruction of a Hogwarts landmark.

Charlotte, Edie, Elisabeth and Mary are sitting on Mary's bed, talking about Christmas and the train ride home and presents and things. They giggle and cover their mouths with their hands, and whisper soft-sounding words like "family" and "home" and "holidays" with reverence.

Sitting alone, Ginny does not join in the excited chatter. She has never enjoyed the winter holidays. She isn't going home this year, because there is nobody at the Burrow to welcome her. Everyone is at 12 Grimmauld Place, and there is such an abundance of people there that there will be no room for Ginny, who, despite being only six months shy of seventeen, is still considered too young to be included in the Order.

Eventually the other girls retire to bed, and Elisabeth, whose bed is closest the window, taps Ginny on the shoulder hesitantly.

She is seventeen already, and will be joining the Order as soon as school lets out. Elisabeth is tall and blonde and promiscuous, with full lips and breasts and curvy hips. She comes from Cumbria, which is a good deal prettier than London. There will be plenty of room for her at 12 Grimmauld Place this summer, because she is dating Seamus Finnigan, and he has made arrangements for her.

It stings that Ginny's own family—her parents and each of her six brothers—all belong to the Order, and yet they will not find a place for her. They won't even try, all of them bound under Molly's strict orders, or, worse, her frame of mind: that Ginny is too little to help, too fragile to be put at risk.

"Are you going to sleep, Ginny?" asks Elisabeth tentatively, her pretty blue eyes soothing. She glances out the rain-smeared window at the smoking heap that was once the Whomping Willow and grimaces.

"Nasty storm, isn't it?" she asks. "I wouldn't want to be out in weather like this. I don't do well with anything so brutal." Her tone is joking; Elisabeth is proficient in Defense Against the Dark Arts and can hex you in six different ways before you can so much as draw breath to utter retaliation.

Ginny simply shrugs Elisabeth's warm hand off her bony shoulder and huddles closer to the window. Cold air is coming through the cracks, and she shivers. Her hair, which she cut shoulder-length this year, in defiance of her mother, has dried tangled and knotty from the bath, but she could care less.

"All right then," says Elisabeth, and she pauses before getting into bed. "Well, you'll probably be asleep when we all leave tomorrow morning—so goodbye Ginny. Have a nice holiday."

"You too," says Ginny idly, and she goes back to watching the thunderstorm, which seems to have taken on the Quidditch stands with a vengeance.

Overnight the temperature drops and when Ginny awakes to an empty dormitory, there is snow piled on the windowsill and the grounds are blanketed in white. Debris torn off the Quidditch stands pokes out of snow banks, and the Whomping Willow's remains are mostly covered over.

When Ginny descends to breakfast she sees the Great Hall's four House tables have vanished; only the High Table where the professors sit remains. Only six professors, however, have stayed behind, and, Ginny sees as she walks across a startlingly empty Great Hall, one student.

It is strange enough to be one tiny person in the middle of an extraordinarily large, and extraordinarily empty, Great Hall, her footsteps echoing throughout the room, but it is stranger still to see who the one remaining student at Hogwarts, besides she, happens to be.

Of course, Ginny reflects, as she makes her way slowly to the breakfast-laden table, it should come as no surprise. Draco Malfoy returned to Hogwarts this year, and is not welcome anywhere else in the wizarding world, especially now that his family home has been destroyed. He came seeking sanctuary, or so was the story, but he is finishing his education as well, studying privately with the instructors.

Ginny has often arrived first at a class—it is remarkable how quickly she manages to navigate the corridors of Hogwarts on her own, having shed the group of girls she once traveled with—and found Malfoy finishing up an essay or siphoning the contents of his cauldron into a vial. He never acknowledges her, but Ginny has never expected him to.

"Ginny," says Headmistress McGonagall as fondly as her stern expression allows, patting the seat beside her. "Come and have some breakfast. You must be starved—I didn't see you at dinner last night."

Ginny finds herself sitting opposite Draco Malfoy, as she serves herself porridge with cinnamon and toast. She notices that he has crumbs down the front of his robes, but otherwise his plate of scrambled eggs and bacon is virtually untouched. He stares at his hands and twists his napkin in his lap.

"Eat up, Mr. Malfoy," instructs McGonagall in much firmer a tone than she used to address Ginny, and Ginny realizes how much of a pariah Malfoy has become. He is ostracized from his house, largely ignored by his professors and mistreated by everyone.

In fact, Ginny has never known somebody so alone before. Even Harry, during the Chamber of Secrets fiasco, had more friends and more people on his side.

Of course, thinks Ginny, Malfoy is actually a Death Eater. Harry was never the Heir of Slytherin; Tom Riddle was, and, really, in essence, Ginny was as well.

As Ginny leans over her plate to eat a spoonful of porridge, her foot shifts, and knocks into Draco Malfoy's opposite hers.

His reaction is swift and panicked. He looks up from his lap with caged eyes. They meet Ginny's startled brown ones with a ferocity she has only seen in one other person's—Harry's—and, when he notes that she meant no harm, they widen, curious.

She holds his gaze for a second longer than she means to, searching for something in those blue eyes of his—she isn't sure what. Only later will she realize that she is looking for the difference between his eyes and Harry's, which are so alike—both vibrant, though Malfoy's are grey and Harry's are green, both fierce, both almond-shaped but large. Ginny is looking for that scrap of humanity, which, somehow, clings on desperately in Harry's eyes, but is absent in Malfoy's.

Breakfast finishes, and everyone rises at once. The teachers all climb the marble staircase towards where their quarters are located, but Malfoy continues on and descends to the dungeons. So, he is still staying in the Slytherin common room, Ginny observes, and she wonders how the other Slytherins have reacted to that.

She chooses to linger by the door to the Great Hall; kneeling, Ginny pretends to retie her boots until the last professor's back has vanished on the staircase, and then, driven by a force she doesn't understand but feels compelled to follow, she hurries down the staircase to the dungeons.

She isn't dressed in her Hogwarts robes, only a sweater and skirt, and despite her woolen stockings she is still chilly. The dungeon classrooms are all locked and bolted, but she can hear Malfoy's footsteps ahead, echoing against the cold stone.

Ginny keeps her eyes on her feet, avoiding puddles, which are all over, as the stone floors are uneven and dip into valleys prone to collecting leaks. She rounds a corner, and because she is watching the ground, does not expect to be suddenly stopped by two surprisingly large hands gripping her shoulders.

"Why are you following me?" asks Malfoy, and it is a demand. His wand is not out, but she is certain he has it on him, and Ginny has left hers in the dormitory. She feels suddenly very stupid and weak for having followed him, and without her wand at that. She looks up into his frightening eyes and then back down at her feet. She is standing in a puddle, and she shivers abruptly.

His hands are still clamped on her shoulders, and he feels her tremble. Perhaps there is pity in him, for Malfoy steps back and says, "Follow me," curtly, before striding down the rest of the corridor and then turning and entering a narrower hall in which the ceiling stoops.

He mutters a few spells at an old-fashioned wooden door—he does have his wand on him, Ginny remarks—and it swings open to reveal a sumptuously outfitted room, with a roaring fire in a hearth that swallows nearly an entire wall and sends a blast of heat so strong Ginny's eyes begin to water.

"Reducio," Malfoy murmurs, pointing his wand at the flames, and Ginny is startled. She hadn't realized that the reduction spell could be used on something as abstract as the force of flames—the fire stays as high as ever, but the intense heat waves ease, and Ginny steps more fully into Malfoy's room, looking around with wide eyes.

There is an enormous four poster adorned in Slytherin colors, and an ornately carved desk piled with papers; a cauldron sits in a corner, and there are shelves of books as well.

"These were Snape's quarters," says Malfoy roughly, and he summons an armchair from nowhere, indicating that Ginny should take a seat, as he himself settles onto a matching sofa already situated in front of the fire. "But of course he's dead now." His voice is cold and empty.

Ginny nods her assent and sits gingerly on the chair; she has seen Charlie materialize benches and footstools, only to have them prove holographic in nature—only the most advanced wizards can truly accomplish this sort of magic. But Malfoy's chair is truly substantial, and comfortable as well; she relaxes as much as she dares and stares into the fire.

"So, why did you follow me?" asks Malfoy again, his tone a tad less brutal, but just as insistent. He has the air of an aristocrat bred into him so thoroughly that he maintains perfect posture on the sofa, and his robes fold over his knees just so.

"I don't know," admits Ginny, and it is the truth. "I just did. It was stupid me of me, I know. I just…I just did." She looks lamely at her hands twined in her lap and picks at one of her cuticles, avoiding Malfoy's probing gaze.

She is shaken into looking up when Malfoy grabs her shoulders again, and pins her against the back of the armchair. He stands over her, locking her in place with strong arms, and puts his face mere inches from hers.

"Never follow me again," he commands, and when she merely stares at him in terror he shakes her roughly against the back of the cushioned chair and repeats, "Never follow me again! Do you understand?"

Ginny has never felt so threatened before, and, somehow, a bubble of rueful laughter manages to escape her.

Malfoy withdraws immediately, as though she has stung him.

"Why are you laughing?" he asks, and his tone is quiet, with only a slight hint of confusion, mostly questioning and soft. Silkily dangerous, as his father's was.

"Because," says Ginny, and she tucks a lock of hair behind her ears as she continues. "Because my family wouldn't let me come home over the holidays because I'm not old enough to join the Order—too young to be put in danger, too weak—but I'm in ten times more danger right now, and here I am, 'safe' at school."

Malfoy visibly recoils, and his lip curls in disgust.

"Get out," he orders, and he points at the door.

Surprised, Ginny remains frozen in the chair.

"Get out!" Malfoy roars, losing his façade of complacency; he has not mastered indifference as his father had. He extends his wand at the door and it opens with a bang. Ginny's ears ring; the chair vanishes and she falls immediately to the stone floor; the fire shoots higher and Malfoy's cheeks are bright spots of furious pink.

She scrambles to her feet and runs to the door, looking over her shoulder as she darts away. Malfoy stands by the fireplace, his shoulders rising and falling as he inhales and exhales heavily, his knuckles white as he grips his wand, watching her go with furious eyes.

And then she is in the stony corridor, running through the puddles and back up past the shut-up classroom dungeons and then, mercifully, up the stairs to the entrance hall with its reassuring tapestries and warmth; in a few minutes she is traveling the well-worn path to Gryffindor Tower and throwing herself through the portrait hole, gasping for air. She has run the whole way, and her knees crumple onto the reassuringly soft rug in front of the fireplace, which is comfortingly normal-sized and decorated in red and gold, with the familiar lion rampant hanging over the mantle.

There is another snowstorm by noon; the wind wails and the common room feels lonely and far too large. Ginny curls up on one of the sofas, wrapped in blankets she brings down from the dormitory, and the house elves creep around her with care, stepping lightly so as not to wake her.

She stirs nevertheless at midnight, her stomach growling; she has missed both lunch and dinner and she feels a familiar ache in her belly demanding food. She heads for the kitchens, padding softly through the Hogwarts corridors without worry; Filch is sure to be asleep, with no students in the school to prowl around after, and Ginny doesn't fear him anymore, anyway.

As Ginny walks softly down the corridor towards the painting concealing the kitchens, she notes that someone else is approaching—not stoop-shouldered Filch or even brisk McGonagall, who has taken to nervously pacing the castle at all hours of the night, but a tall, slim figure with his head bowed. He is recognizable by his white-blonde hair, which hangs around his face like a curtain and shines luminously under the huge window at the end of the hall from which he approaches, through which Ginny can see an enormous orb-shaped moon glowing over the snowy lawn and hedges.

They meet halfway, right at the painting of the bowl of fruit, which looks dismal and dusty in the moonlight; Ginny stares into Draco Malfoy's lonely face with a questioning gaze.

His eyes, which were vacant and listless over breakfast, and then terribly cold and glittering with rage in his newly appropriated rooms, are now bright in the strangely lit corridor and full of anguish.

They have stood in front of the hidden kitchens entrance for a whole minute, Ginny holding her breath the entire time, when Malfoy says, "Ladies first," and indicates that she should enter before him.

Without thinking, in a strange sort of slow-motion, Ginny lifts a hand and gently cups Malfoy's white cheek, which shines under the moon like a pale sliver of perfection; her arm casts a shadow over the rest of his face, hiding his eyes and expression.

Just as carefully, Malfoy lifts his own hand and grips her wrist so tightly that Ginny gives a gasp; he lowers her arm slowly and puts it back at her side. Then, ducking his head so that his long white hair falls in front of his face, he reaches out to tickle the pear in the painting and slips into the kitchens without a word.

Ginny stands in the corridor for a lonely moment, her mind reeling and her fingers tingling from the electric shock of touching Draco Malfoy; she lifts two fingers from the opposite arm to touch her wrist, and feels tenderness—it will bruise, she is certain, and she almost welcomes it.

It is a relief, Ginny thinks, feeling the release wash over her like a cool wave, to be touched; she has not been so much as brushed against or held in months.

Her empty stomach forgotten, she turns and returns to the common room, retracing her steps quietly.

From the entrance to the kitchens, a pair of gleaming grey eyes watches her retreating back with an unreadable expression burning in them.

Only Colin sends her a gift on Christmas morning; it is a book on flower magic, and there is an index in the back with the meaning of every flower—acacia, "secret love"; aconite, "your attentions are unwelcome"; aloe, "grief"; azalea, "fragile passion". Ginny flips through the book and feels a wave of nausea at the presence of love potions; the index, with its pages and pages of small type, listing every flower known to both man and wizard, their meanings summarized in cryptic, bittersweet phrases, is much more intriguing.

There is nothing from her family—no Weasley sweater or mince pies or even a note. They have forgotten her, and though Ginny realizes that the war takes priority, she feels hurt and neglected nonetheless. Ginny knows an apology will come in a few days' time, but her throat and stomach burn, and her eyes fill rapidly with angry tears.

She storms down to the Great Hall, her vision blurry and a pounding in her ears and temples; the sky above is cloudy and gray and fits her mood to a tee. Slamming into her seat on the bench and reaching for whatever's closest, Ginny swipes frantically at her eyes and manages to dry them. She shakes cornflakes violently into a bowl, then reaches for the pitcher of milk with quivering hands.


The pitcher explodes into creamy white shards of porcelain, and Ginny is suddenly drenched in milk, her red hair plastered to the sides of her face and her clothing dripping.

It has been years since Ginny performed accidental magic, and it isn't supposed to happen once you receive formal training; she sees every head at the table swivel in her direction, and her cheeks burn as she whips out her wand and repairs the pitcher as discreetly as she can, despite the fact that her cheeks are prickling with shame and her teeth are digging into her bottom lip as she clenches it to keep from unleashing the tears she'd only just managed to suppress.

She suddenly looks around the room for Malfoy, but he is nowhere to be seen; desperately, she turns to McGonagall and asks, "Where is he?"

The shrewd and stern witch turns her discerning eyes on Ginny with an all-too perceptive gaze; she knows immediately who Ginny is asking after.

"He left last night," she says.

"He left?" asks Ginny, and her voice cracks spectacularly; Professor Flitwick turns and stares at her in concern, and Ginny ducks her head in embarrassment.

"He left?" she repeats, reining in the wildness in her voice, and McGonagall nods.

"He'll be back," McGonagall says, unable to keep from telling her—the blend of concern and confusion across Ginny's face is distressing; it is not in McGonagall's nature to soothe, but the pain in Ginny's eyes is acute and cuts the headmistress like a knife. "He always leaves at this time of month; he'll be back by New Year at the latest."

A week, thinks Ginny, and she is shocked by the clenching in her stomach that she feels; a pang of regret, of wanting.

So this is what it feels like to yearn, Ginny reflects, as she rises from her seat at the breakfast table and begins the slow walk back to Gryffindor tower, dripping a trail of milk behind her. This is what it feels like.

In two days Ginny has convinced herself that she is imagining things, that she was mad to even begin to think of Malfoy as anything but an enemy to be distrusted. Her feelings for Draco Malfoy have shrunken to a guilty knot at the pit of her stomach; she cannot call them feelings anyway, she rationalizes, when all she's ever had from him are angry words and a violet bruise on her wrist and all she sees in him is mystery.

No, she feels nothing for Draco Malfoy, and she feels nothing for anyone else, either; the snow and the cold seems to have frozen over what was left of Ginny's heart. She sits in silence in the common room, allowing herself to be transfixed by the fire or the melting of the icicles on her window. She is not interested in the professors, who speak passionately about the war or their books; Ginny is not allowed to participate in the war, and the only book she has read in weeks is the one Colin sent her.

She spends hours pouring over the index and planning elaborate bouquets, each with a carefully worded message. Columbine for folly and acacia, aconite and azalea; she mentally adds a sprig of oleander—"caution"—and then quince, for temptation. Lastly, almost daringly, she thinks, she inserts hemlock—"you will be my death."

Slamming the book shut, Ginny drifts off into sleep and dreams of full moons and bouquets that smolder and then freeze; she wakes at two in the morning with Malfoy's icy grey eyes burned into her mind and shakes her head to clear it; she cannot be caught with Draco Malfoy's face in her thoughts, and she cannot begin to admit to herself that she wants him there, and in other places besides, places more tangible and concrete. She remembers the softness of his cheek beneath her palm and shudders visibly, trying to control herself, trying to forget—

Ginny fishes desperately for her wand amongst the tangled blankets which have become a permanent fixture on the sofa and closes her eyes tightly as she lifts its wooden point to her temple; she knows the incantation for the memory charm by heart and she opens her mouth, ready to whisper it—"Obliviate!"—already relishing the swift sound that will follow and then the perfect and vacant peace of mind.

At the exact same moment that she feels a tear roll down her cheek, there is a wrenching grip on her wrist; she hisses in pain as Malfoy's thumb digs into the bruise he gave her three days prior but does not release her desperate grip on the wand.

"Let go," snarls Malfoy, and she shakes her head, tears flowing freely now, her face scrunched up in pain and something else—regret? Fear?

"Let go," Malfoy repeats, and he presses harder so that she lets out a whimper of pain and refusal; he jerks at her arm but she keeps the wand pointed at her temple.

Just say it, Ginny thinks, just say it and you'll forget him and everything, just say it and this will all go away…

"Let go!" Malfoy roars, and he pulls at her arm with such force that Ginny jumps in her seat; she lets out a wail and drops the wand. Snatching her wrist out of Malfoy's grasp, she buries her face in her hands and begins to shake with sobs.

Malfoy comes around from behind the couch and picks up the wand carefully; he pockets it before sinking onto the sofa next to Ginny as she cries; his face, when Ginny looks up, is distorted by the flames as he rests his chin in his hands. His expression is unreadable, but as her sobs slow to whimpers and hiccups, he turns his impassive face to hers and waits.

"I wasn't really going to do it," she finally whispers, and he cocks his head to one side and looks intently into her eyes, as though searching for the truth.

"I mean it," she says. "I wasn't really going to do it. I just—I just—"

Malfoy bites his lip and says finally, roughly, "You just! You're always 'just' doing something, aren't you! You 'just did' when you followed me, you 'just' touched me that night in the corridor with the moon and the stillness, you 'just' almost Obliviated yourself—you can't go on like that, Ginny! You can't! It's stupid and silly and immature and childish—you can't 'just' do whatever you please without thinking of the fucking consequences!"

It is the most he has ever said to her, and one of the cruelest things Ginny has ever been told and she flinches and stiffens and clenches her fists so that her nails dig into her palms.

He sees her cutting through her skin, her knuckles white with the tension, and slowly reaches out and uncurls her fingers, smoothing his own over the half-moons dug into her palms.

Their eyes meet as he lifts her hands and brings his lips down to kiss her palms and then her fingers; her brown eyes flicker with first bewilderment and then intense relief, and his eyes melt from anger to a sort of fevered reverence. He moves ever so slightly closer on the sofa and runs his hands up her arms to her shoulders; gently, he pushes her backwards on the sofa so that she lies with her back against the crimson cushions; he bends over, the longer strands of his hair falling in his eyes, and, slowly, savoring the moment, he kisses her full on the lips.

Ginny gives a little sigh into his mouth and when he pulls back he lets out a shaky breath; his fingers find the hem of her sweater and tug gently, and she sits up and lifts her arms to let him pull it over her head. His eyes take in her freckled skin and plain white bra, which he unhooks gently and lets drop to the floor, and he runs his hand across the flat plane of her stomach before traveling across the curves of her breasts and then running a long finger along the indent of her collarbone.

She shivers and he kisses her again, this time his mouth and hands meeting on her neck and cheeks; delirious with anticipation, Ginny reaches out with grasping hands and tugs at his shirt, too. Then he is bare-chested before her, as pale as she without the freckles decorating his smooth skin, and she presses her flat hands against him and closes her eyes in delight.

"Ginny," he whispers, and it is practically a caress; he is cupping her breasts and moans with pleasure as she sits up to kiss his neck before their mouths meet again.

But it is as his fingers work their way down to the side of her skirt and gently undo the fastenings that she balks and pulls away, her pupils dilated and eyes hazy with desire; there is panic there, too, however, and Draco stares at her without comprehension, frozen as he watches her abruptly move away from him.

"I can't do this," she murmurs, and then her voice rises. "I can't do this! You're Draco Malfoy! I'm not supposed to trust you, not supposed to so much as look your way—I can't do this, I can't touch you and hold you and have you…" Her voice gives a frightening shudder, and she presses on valiantly—"I can't love you like this, it isn't right, it was never right; you should go and I shouldn't have stayed!"

"Ginny," Draco begins, "Ginny—I don't understand it either, but it is the way it is and any fool could tell you that we don't meet time and time again by accident—any fool could tell you that—"

"But you're a Death Eater!" Ginny wails. "It's true, anyone can see it!" she continues, when he flinches and pulls away from her as though she has burned him. "You've got the mark," she adds, in a sob that trails away as she runs shaking fingers over the black tattoo that curls around his forearm sinisterly. "You are a Death Eater, you are."

"Don't call me that!" Draco shouts, and his cheeks are flushed with anger. "Don't you dare call me that, Ginevra Weasley—you don't have the right—you can't accuse me—"

"But you have the Dark Mark on your arm!" she screams. "It's proof! Everybody knows it's proof!"

"No it's not!" Draco cries, and he grabs her by the shoulders and shakes her mercilessly; she puts up an arm to cover herself as he rakes her shoulders with his fingernails in desperation. "Haven't you ever done anything you didn't want to do?" he pleads with her. "Haven't you ever been forced to be someone you're not?"

"Yes," whispers Ginny, and suddenly her eyes overflow with tears. "Yes! Please—let go—" She is trembling; his hands are cutting off the circulation in her arms as he holds her tightly to him; suddenly he is kissing her again and she whimpers into his mouth.

"You're like a poison," she cries, in a tiny voice, as she pulls away and turns her cheek so that he cannot reclaim her lips with his. "You're beautiful and evil and frightening and you seduce people—you seduce me—with your haunting looks and gorgeous, gorgeous, empty eyes, but underneath you're killing me—you're killing me…"

"You're killing yourself!" Draco insists. "You're torturing yourself over something beautiful, something that could be extraordinary if you'll just let it! Just accept it, Ginny! You started it, you started it—don't be afraid to finish it! Accept it, accept it; don't push me away! I pushed you away and I realized I couldn't, I couldn't—you have to see the same!" He grabs her and shakes her again for good measure and she flinches and pulls herself away from him violently; from the corner of her eye she watches him watch her, a mixture of confusion and desperation scrawled across his pretty features.

Suddenly, she leaps at him, and wrestles with her wand in his pocket until she manages to extricate it; before he can even react she has it pointed to her temple as it was before he interrupted.

"I had the right idea!" she gasps, through tears and sobs. "I had the right idea, and like everything else, you ruined it! You poisoned it!"

"What are you talking about?" Draco hisses. "Don't you dare, Ginevra Weasley—don't you fucking, fucking dare!"

And perhaps it's because he doesn't really believe she'll do it; perhaps it's because he thinks she is calling his bluff, but he doesn't reach for the wand this time and he doesn't seize her arm to make her stop, and so he is unprepared for her quivering lips to whisper "Obliviate" as a look of vacant bliss sweeps across her face, accompanied by the sound of rushing wind.

He can see the tendrils of smoke from the fireplace in the air and he imagines they are the last strands of her memory as they wind away…away from her and away from him, and suddenly, the boy who was too proud to ever let tears fall, begins to cry with complete abandon, his body racked with sobs.

She melts into the cushions of the sofa, already fast asleep, and he dresses her with trembling fingers and arranges her just so, and then he leaves, knowing that when she wakes she will remember nothing; when she wakes he will be just another Death Eater, just another face and name to recognize but ignore in the corridors; he knows she will never seek him out again.

"Isn't it a lovely bouquet?" asks Molly, and she smiles as Ginny nods and reaches out to touch the tops of the flowers, arranged in a vase at the center of the table in the kitchen of 12 Grimmauld Place.

"What kind of flower is this?" she asks, and Molly purses her lips in thought.

"That's azalea, I think, and that's aconite, and those are oleanders of course. And this is quince, and some acacia here, and these of course are columbine—lovely, hmmm?"

"What's this?" asks Ginny, poking at the scattered white flowers that look like Queen Anne's lace but definitely aren't.

"Oh. Odd choice, but then, he's odd himself, isn't he? That's hemlock."


"Yes. It's poisonous, so don't do anything silly with it—you know how susceptible wizards are to poisonous plants, so stop fondling it like that!"

"Who put this together?" asks Ginny curiously, sinking into a chair and thinking idly how nice it is to finally be here, in the middle of glorious summer—to be accepted and allowed. She could laugh at how silly she was, last winter, so sure she'd be banned from admittance to the Order forever.

"Oh, Draco Malfoy did," says Molly easily.

"Draco Malfoy?" asks Ginny. "What on earth—?"

"He's turned spy," Molly explains. "He did back in January, while he was at Hogwarts for sanctuary…of course, he'd been there since September. He was going to drop out of the war altogether, you know, but something made him change his mind over the holidays…"

"Oh," says Ginny, and she reaches out to touch the flowers again. "Interesting." She shrugs her shoulders and leans back in her chair. "So, what's for dinner? Can I help?"

Neither Molly nor Ginny can see, but from the entrance to the kitchen, a pair of gleaming blue eyes watches Ginny's turned back with an unreadable expression burning in them.

So this is what it feels like to yearn, Draco reflects, and he feels his stomach wrench and throat constrict. This is what it feels like.