Note: "fiducia" means trust.
This chapter is dedicated to everyone who's been nagging me for an update- you know who you are! :D
Chapter 13: "Fiducia"
You and me
Meant to be
But for the last time
You're everything that I want and ask for
You're all that I'd dreamed
Who wouldn't be the one you love
Who wouldn't stand inside your love?
--"Stand Inside Your Love", by The Smashing Pumpkins
Draco insists on walking me back to Gryffindor Tower. Not that I put up much of a fight; I was just trying to be polite, anyway.
We're both flushed and disheveled when we exit the broom closet a good twenty minutes after Hermione's warning. And by the way, the smartest witch of our time did her reputation justice; she never came back.
Draco holds the door to our stuffy broom closet for me, and then straightens his tie and runs a hand through his long, silvery blond hair carelessly. Giving me a critical glance, he pauses to brush some of my unruly hair away from my face and to straighten my tie as well.
I watch as his long, thin fingers work on the knot of my tie, my eyes flicking up to his beautiful, still flushed face.
Draco raises his eyes to mine briefly, and though he doesn't smile, his expression unreadable, I can see warmth in his light gray eyes.
I beam, feeling something glow within my chest; I can also feel my once neat ponytail hanging precariously on my head, and know I must look a mess.
Draco inspects me with amused, sparkling gray eyes for a moment, and then smirks. "You look like you've just had the best snog of your life," he informs me, and I blush, but manage to roll my eyes.
I don't think I've fooled him, though; he smirks knowingly and draws me to him by the waist, and immediately my hands snake up to the sides of his face. I stand on the tips of my toes and cover his soft lips with mine, and I can feel him smile through our kiss.
Really, he wasn't kidding; none of my previous snogs can hope to compare to what it feels like to kiss Draco.
"Mmm…Ginny…" he murmurs, between kisses, "I have to get you…back…"
"Mmm, yeah…" I agree breathlessly.
I trace his lips with the tip of my tongue before slipping through again, and a shiver goes down my core when his tongue meets mine.
My fingers wind through the silk of his hair as our tongues twine around each other, his hands holding me firmly by the waist. I lose myself in his kiss, and don't even notice when he leads me back into our little broom closet, kicking the door shut behind him.
Fifteen minutes later we're walking up the Tower's stairs hand in hand. I can't describe to you what it feels like to hold Draco's hand like that. I guess I feel glowing and light, like a balloon bouncing around, and his hand is the only thing that's keeping me from floating away. Again, there's that surreal feeling, like nothing matters, like nothing is real except for him.
We encounter no one along the way, and I feel a tingle of nerves at the thought of someone seeing us like this. Visual confirmation of a romantic liaison with Draco Malfoy is a rare and sought after treat. The rumors mills - which haven't stopped churning since my 'date that wasn't a date' with Paul - would just eat this one right up.
You'll understand that I'm not exactly eager to feature prominently in this week's gossip - again - but I'm disinclined to let go of Draco's hand, which feels warm and soft in mine, and fits just right.
"Do you think your brother is going to have a nervous breakdown if he sees us?" Draco muses, as if guessing the course of my thoughts. His lips curve into a smug grin as he tugs lightly on my hand, and I find myself smiling back at him inanely.
"Well…he might," I answer, sobering a bit, but Draco's grin only widens; he's obviously delighted with the possibility.
We're at the portrait of the Fat Lady now, and she's eying the platinum blond next to me with what could only be described as hunger - almost as if Draco were a tasty dish she just couldn't wait to get her plump and ringed little fingers on.
I can relate.
"Ooooh, hello there, dear," she breathes, patting her hair nervously.
Draco inclines his head beautiful gravely, though his slate colored eyes are amused. "Good evening, Madam," he murmurs in his deep, velvety smooth voice, and at moments like these its obvious that he's been raised from fine Malfoy stock.
"Oh! A gentleman!" the Fat Lady gasped delightedly, fanning herself.
"Err - excuse us!" I cut in rudely, grabbing Draco by the arm and dragging him over to the wall. He allows himself to be manhandled as I press him against the wall, making sure we're out of the portrait's line of sight.
This is exactly what the Fat Lady used to do when Michael Corner walked me back to my dorm - only now it's a hundred times worse; she looked like she was getting ready to climb out of her portrait and... I shudder.
"What's the matter?" Draco slips past me and inverts our positions until I'm the one who is cornered. He braces his arms against the wall on either side of my head, effectively trapping me with his body, but it's his eyes that hold me in place. "Can't handle the competition?" he inquires, arching an ash blond eyebrow.
I do my best to appear aloof, trying to keep myself from blushing - too much - do you have any idea how exciting it is to be pinned up against the wall by Draco Malfoy?
"Yes, that's it," I reply dryly. "How can I ever hope to compete with such a nice and shiny…picture frame…"
Draco's full lips curve into a sexy smirk, and the way his eyes are boring into mine is enough to make my cheeks burn.
"Yes, it's a very attractive picture frame…" he whispers huskily, lowering his hands to my waist.
His eyes meet mine, smoldering me with their intensity, and I swear my heart stops as I wait for his lips to descend on mine. They don't, and I tilt my head to the side inquisitively.
For a moment Draco says nothing, his fingers reaching up to curl in a strand of my hair.
"Trust me, Ginny," he says quietly, his expression sobering, "you have nothing to worry about. There is no competition. For me…there's no one else."
I stare up at him and blink.
It takes me a second to realize he means Aiken Dunn, Athena Krauss, and possibly every girl in Hogwarts save Shawn, Hermione and Luna.
At the thought of Aiken Dunn a prickly feeling settles in my stomach, despite Draco's words and the sincerity I heard - I felt - in them.
"She'll be waiting for you, won't she?" I ask quietly.
"Hmm," Draco assents, his silver eyes narrowing; he obviously knows whom I'm referring to. "Probably."
I press my lips together tightly and say nothing, dropping my eyes to the knot in his green and silver tie.
One of his hands cups my chin, and he raises my face until it's level with his, his eyes scanning mine.
"I've never asked for anyone's trust, Ginny," he says softly, balancing my chin on the tip of two of his slender fingers. "But I'm asking you."
I say nothing, looking into the piercing, silvery depths that are his eyes. An intense tingle, almost like the thrill of electricity, races through me.
"I want you to trust me," Draco says quietly. "I want you to believe that no matter what happens, I'll never lie to you. "
I look at his tie again, letting the words sink in.
"Look at me, Ginny," Draco commands quietly, and my eyes instantly dart up to his. "Do you believe me?"
"I believe you always speak the truth," I say in a small voice. "I've never heard you lying to anyone -"
"That's not what I'm asking you," Draco says patiently, his stunning eyes burning into mine.
For a moment I feel like looking away, like hiding somewhere. No one should be allowed to have eyes like that, eyes that cut through all the bullshit, through all the subterfuge. But I raise my chin, meeting the full intensity of the mercury depths that behold me.
I know Draco isn't a liar, but do I trust him? There is a difference, and I hadn't realized it until just now, when the heaviness of his request sank in.
And I do. I do believe in him.
"I trust you," I say firmly, meeting his eyes, "I believe you."
Draco's jaw relaxes, and his hands drop to my waist again. "Good," he murmurs, leaning in to rest his forehead against mine. "I trust you, too," he whispers softly.
The significance of his words really hit me this time, and I blink repeatedly. I doubt those are words Draco - or any Slytherin, for that matter - says lightly.
I reach up to touch the side of his face with my hand, and his pale lashes fan over his smooth cheeks as he closes his eyes, leaning into my touch.
I don't think I've ever known someone as intense as Draco Malfoy. It's all or nothing with him, I guess.
Following a sudden impulse I wrap my arms around his neck and hold him tightly to me, wanting to confirm that he's real, and he's mine - because he's giving himself to me.
His arms circle my waist, and he rests his chin on my shoulder as he holds me.
He's so beautiful, Draco is.
For a moment we just hold each other, until a strangled noise from behind his back makes us both turn.
I can't say I'm surprised to find Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas standing there in the corridor, staring at Draco and me with both fascination and horror - almost as if they had caught us wearing matching jumpsuits and doing some intricate choreographed dance in the middle of the hall.
They're both standing there, still as statues, Dean dark and handsome, Seamus blond and ruddy - and, well... handsome, I guess - both wearing matching expressions of disbelief.
"What are you two staring at?" I snap, and they both avert their eyes guiltily.
"Um, we..." Dean begins.
"- Ahh - ermm...uh," Seamus mumbles.
Draco arches a delicate eyebrow, clearly unimpressed, perhaps more so than usual.
"Good night, Gin," he says lightly, glaring at Seamus and exchanging nods with a still dazed Dean before turning to look at me again. "See you tomorrow," he murmurs, as he brings one of my hands up to his face, and it felt like it was just the two of us again.
I'm shocked at his gentleness in front of the two boys, and intensely pleased, more than I would have imagined, by the fact that he's not ashamed of…this.
Draco's pewter colored eyes meet mine just before he kisses my fingers, and I feel myself blush with pleasure as he releases my hand and turns away.
Dean, Seamus and I turn to watch the Slytherin walk away with his characteristic confidence - as if he hadn't been caught snuggling in the hallway by two boys in his year.
Once he's gone, Dean and Seamus exchange looks of shock, their eyes round as saucers, and I sigh.
"You guys are idiots, " I inform them, slipping in through the portrait without sparing them another glance.
"I'M GOING TO KILL HIM!" Shawn rages, pausing her manic pacing to stomp her foot down petulantly. "I'll kill him! How dare he?! That twit!"
She's talking about Seamus, of course, and she's overreacting.
So Seamus had run off to inform Ron that he'd witnessed the distressing sight of "Ginny and Malfoy - hugging in the hallway!"
Well, really... I guess it is sort of shocking.
Ron has remained suspiciously silent. It's true, it's only been twenty minutes, but I expected to hear his scream of rage from my dorm, or at least to have received an Angry Note. Strangely, he has yet to react; I fear the worst.
Still, I can't say I'm upset about him finding out; it was bound to happen and I'm actually relieved I didn't have to tell him myself. So much for Gryffindor courage.
But Shawn - who was in the common room when Seamus did his bit of babbling - is acting like it's the end of the world.
I dunno, but it really feels like Shawn has been trying to find an excuse to dump Seamus lately. If that's the case, she'll find it a hard task, seeing as he dotes on her.
I never would have expected this reversal of roles, but there has been a complete flip in the Shawn/Seamus dynamic. It's gotten to the point where if I want to find Shawn, I've only to follow the track of Seamus' drool. Who would have thought...
"Shawn..." I begin, "it's really no big deal. Ron had to find out sooner or later-"
"No!" she snaps, swirling around to face me. "Seamus had no right to tell him! It's none of his business, and anyway, you're my best friend! He should have thought how this would affect me!"
"Don't defend him!" she hisses, her black eyes blazing with real anger. She glares at me and then turns away again, and even the way her blond hair swishes at her back seems angry.
I raise my eyebrows, but say nothing. I know better than to attempt to have a conversation with Shawn when she gets like this.
But still...it's clear that something is seriously going on with my friend, and I feel myself burn with guilt for neglecting my best friend duties. I've been seeing the signs all week, but I've too busy pining over Draco - and now, snogging him - to actually pay attention.
Time to find out what's going on - and something tells me whatever it is has little, if nothing, to do with Seamus.
The gray light of morning makes the clouds in the enchanted ceiling glow a pale gray. I scan the Great Hall for a head of platinum blond hair, but don't find one. I quirk my lips and take my seat by Ron's side at the Gryffindor table, grateful for the way he seems to be completely ignoring me; he seems to be completely engrossed by his bowl of oatmeal.
Unfortunately he is the only one who's pretending to pay me no mind; everyone else at the table, including Hermione and Harry, seems to be shooting me inquisitive looks. And then there are the whispers.
Leave it to a boy to reveal my dastardly secret of loving Draco Malfoy in the common room. Judging by the whispers that seem to surround me wherever I go, Shawn and Ron weren't the only ones who heard Seamus' report on Draco and mine's cozy hallway encounter.
"What are you looking at?" Shawn demands of Parvati Patil, who hasn't taken her eyes off of me since I sat at the table.
The girl's dark eyebrows shoot up with obvious surprise, but then she huffs and turns to Ron - who continues to glare into his bowl of oatmeal.
I sigh, attacking my own oatmeal with my spoon.
I wonder where Draco is.
As if on cue, a majestic black-feathered owl swoops down gracefully, black wings spread dramatically. It perches lightly on my shoulder, the tip of its wings ruffling Ron's carefully messy hair in the process.
My brother pats his head awkwardly, giving the regal bird a death glare, and it glares right back.
It feels like everyone at the Gryffindor table has turned to observe as I unroll the small piece of parchment attached to the owl's leg, and I hope they miss the fine trembling in my fingers.
I realize, not for the first time, that the shame of having my smutty stories circulated and openly discussed around the castle has prepared me to remain calm under public scrutiny. Zacharias Smith inadvertently did me a favor, even if I did have to suffer through three "sexual counseling" sessions with my Head of House - McGonaggal! Gah!
This is nothing in comparison, I tell myself, and I manage to keep the exhilaration I feel out of my face as my eyes scan the almost fastidiously neat print that lines the parchment.
My Quidditch practice ends at six.
I feel like I'm being briefed.
In a sense, I guess am.
It seems Draco is formal to a fault in his written correspondence. I mean, it's not like I expected for him to dot his i's with hearts and to end it with "sealed with a kiss, your Draco", but still...
In any case, it's a definite improvement from, "Weasley, do TRY to be on time", his previous note to me. And I can't deny the tingle of something at the knowledge that he thought of me, that he actually wrote to let me know when I could see him.
How Draco-ish of him.
A smile tugs at the corners of my lips as I slip the note into the pocket of my robes, and not even the prickly feel of everyone's eyes on me stifles the little glow I feel inside.
By the time my afternoon classes are done, the whispers that had met me at the Gryffindor table that morning follow me everywhere I go. It seems even the Hufflepuffs know about it, judging by the way Christina Roh - their Quidditch team Keeper and their captain - stared at me, a mix of jealousy and admiration clearly written on her face as I walked by her in the hallway.
"You're with Malfoy now?" Colin demands as we exit Muggle Studies, his hand on my shoulder, his eyes scanning my face with incredulity and perhaps...hope. Hope that I'll deny everything.
I stare at him blankly for a moment, and then nod.
"But, but - how? How did this happen?" Colin demands of no one in particular, in the tone of one who is struggling to comprehend the sinister workings of fate.
"What I want to know," cuts in Melina Sanchez-Hayes, a Gryffindor in our year, "is if the rumors are true...you know...is Malfoy really as talented as they say he is?"
I gape at her, too shocked to blush like a Weasley this time, but Colin blushes for me.
"Ooops," she murmurs, wincing. "Too soon to ask, it seems..." And then she winks in what I assume was an apologetic manner.
"I - erm...I gotta go guys," I murmur, heading in the opposite direction.
"Enjoy!" Malina calls after me, and I walk a little faster.
Melina has raised an issue that I've been obsessing over ever since the first time Draco's lips met mine, and I don't want to think about that right now. I can feel a thrill of excitement in my lower body at the thought of how "talented" Draco might be, and the realization that I'm in a position where I'll get to know. It's scary and elating and scary! It's one thing to fantasize about it when it seems impossible, but now…
Why isn't Shawn here?
Well, for one thing Shawn doesn't take Muggle Studies, for another she is serving detention with Snape, for a change.
I grin to myself thinking of my friend. A quick glance at Mickey tells me it's five fifteen; we've been let out early. I have three quarters of an hour to kill before going down to the pitch to see Draco, so I figure I'll drop by on Shawn.
I don't want to get to the pitch at six...I want to be late, so as not to appear eager; there's no reason why Draco should know about how I've counted every second until I see him again - but I have.
I haven't seen Draco all day! He wasn't at breakfast, and I'd had lunch at our newspaper staff room with Cho, during our meeting to discuss the newspaper launching party next Thursday.
Cho, by the way, didn't mention Draco - but she gave me a knowing grin when I said I couldn't meet her later tonight.
"Yes, I'm sure you'll be busy," she murmured, arching her eyebrows in a way I didn't care to ponder.
I reach the dungeon level and soon find myself at Snape's lab. The door is open and I step through, expecting to find Shawn alone; Snape usually locks himself up in his office during his detentions, leaving his unfortunate students on their own to carry out the petty and vindictive tasks he usually assigned - such as harvesting Brockwurst slime - manually.
To my surprise, when I enter the lab, Snape is there. With Shawn. They're so engrossed in what they're doing that they don't notice me come in.
Get your mind out of the gutter - they aren't doing anything interesting, although in a sense they are. They're working together.
They stand on opposite sides of one of the back tables of the lab, their heads - one blonde, one raven black- bent together over the ingredients spread out before them. Snape's back is very straight, his head inclined as he cut strips of what appeared to be blackroot, his long black sleeves reaching almost to the knuckles of his pale hands. I can't see his face - his side is to me, and his dark hair covers everything but his hooked - yet elegant - nose; but I can tell, by the uncharacteristic lack of tension in his shoulders, that he's relaxed.
Shawn is just the opposite, however. She's standing across from him, stirring the makings of what - judging by the ingredients they're using - appears to be an advanced potion. Her back is straight as a rod, her movements slightly jumpy, and occasionally she looks up from her work, letting her eyes roam over the Potions Master's face. The look she has - it's nothing I've seen in her eyes before, not even when she used to pine over Seamus. It's something like... respect. Respect and appraisal. And then...well, yeah, longing. That part is familiar.
I knew it!
I smirk to myself as I stand by the door, but my expression sobers a moment later. For some reason it feels wrong to be here...I feel uncomfortable seeing them, like maybe I shouldn't be, like I'm interrupting something.
I take a step back and let myself out silently, glad that neither of them noticed me.
So much for Shawn, then.
I still have forty minutes to kill...
Walking back up the stairs, I ponder my options. I'm tired of feeling like a show poodle, so the library is out.
Just as I reach the main level Marvin Gray catches my eye - you remember him, one of the Hufflepuffs on staff at the newspaper. Well, he just bounds up to me and demands to know "if it's true".
"If what's true?" I reply innocently, remembering how I tried to force him into covering Draco's club for the newspaper so that I wouldn't have to, a little over a month ago.
I feel a flash of relief at the fact that fate stepped in - that, or Marvin is more obtuse than any one Puffle should be; either way, I'm grateful.
"That you and Malfoy-" Marvin trails off.
This is only the tenth time today I've been faced with this inquiry, and I realize that my confidence in more or less dealing with it comes from having witnessed Draco's behavior in front of Seamus and Dean.
Draco's obviously not ashamed of being seen with me, and I'm sure he won't be upset if someone tells him I've confirmed our, err, relationship. Still, it feels weird, and I wish the questions would stop.
Once I manage to get rid of Marvin, I err - retreat - to Gryffindor Tower. Okay, more like flee. Escape. Run away from the questions, the murmurs, the murderous looks and congratulatory pats on that back - seriously - that seem to meet me wherever I go. I hadn't even realized just how coveted Draco really was until today; coveted and feared. It seemed every Slytherin I encountered glared at me with grudging respect. Respect and loathing, alright, but you can't have it all.
I make it to the portrait without encountering anyone else, I'm glad to say, and I very much doubt there will be anyone in the common room at this time.
"Oh, hello dear," the Fat Lady murmurs, her beady little eyes darting behind me expectantly. "And where is the delightful young man that escorted-"
"-Shish kebab!" I snap, and she swings open in mid-sentence.
I stomp into the common room, ready to bite the head off the next person who even so much at looks at me too long.
And of course the first people I see are the Dream Team; Ron and his courageous friends are sitting in a corner, with Hermione and Harry's heads bent over a textbook and my brother sitting on a couch, scribbling furiously on a piece of parchment.
I ball my hands into fists and determine to ignore them, but Ron looks up and meets my eye as I walk by.
"Oh. It's you," he mutters, and his expression instantly sours.
I stiffen, but instead of unleashing his brotherly rage and indignation on me, he reaches into the school bag lying at his feet, draws out a medium sized envelope and tosses it to me unceremoniously. "Here."
I plop down on the couch next to him, relaxing for the first time today as my fingers work to open the package from home. Being under a microscope is hard work, and I hadn't even realized the toll that dealing with this new kind of attention had taken on me until just now. I feel oddly safe here with the Dream Team.
I empty the contents of the envelope onto my lap, not surprised to discover the once dirty pair of socks I had sent my mum for mending in response to her angry "What Have You Done To Poor Fred?!" missive. I inspect the socks thoughtfully, wondering why it's taken her this long to get them back to me - now in perfect condition, of course. I guess she must have been seriously pissed off.
No note from her this time, thank Merlin, but there is one from Charlie.
So he's home again; he has to go down to the Ministry every three months or so, to report to the Wildlife and Gaming Commission about the dragon reservation he runs in Romania. I feel the corners of my mouth turn up in a smile as I hold the thin envelope, taking in my brother's familiar handwriting before opening it.
It's always great to hear from my childhood favorite brother. Already I can my tension slowly dissolving; this is just what I needed.
And then I read the note, and my mouth literally hangs open.
What's this about you dating the Malfoy kid, then?
I gape at the piece of parchment in my hand, my eyes still disbelieving.
Aside from the fact that I can't hope to reconcile the words "the Malfoy kid" with the image of Draco, I simply can't believe that even Charlie - CHARLIE - knows about us. How could he possibly have-
And then it hits me, and I feel like kicking myself. I feel like kicking him.
"RON!" I bark, and he jumps next to me, his elbow digging into my side painfully.
"Ow!" I whine, twisting reflexively before remembering how pissed off I am. "Didn't take you long, did it!" I accuse, shoving the parchment into his face.
"What are you talking about?" he snaps, even as his blue eyes scan over Charlie's succinct note. "I haven't told anyone," he says gruffly, raising his eyes to mine once he's done reading. "It's not like I'm anxious to discuss that subject, in case you haven't noticed."
I feel the crease between my eyebrows soften as I take in my brother's morose expression.
This babbling to Charlie isn't his style, to be honest. Ron nags incessantly when he doesn't approve of one of my choices, he's on my back for days, but it's between him and me, and he would never write to anyone else about my things. I like that about my brother; he's nosy as hell but oddly discreet - I know I can trust him.
"I'm sorry, Ron," I mutter with some chagrin, the fire of my anger put out just as quickly as it exploded into being. "But how could Charlie have possibly found out about -"
"-Uh, Ginny..." Hermione murmurs in a very small voice. "Ginny, I...I'm sorry."
Ron, Harry and I all turn to stare at her in amazement.
"I'm really, really sorry...I didn't mean for-"
"Hermione?" I breathe incredulously, taking in the guilty and apologetic look in her chocolate brown eyes. "You told him? You owled Charlie to tell him about me and Draco?"
"Draco and me," she corrects mechanically, and I hear a sound between a growl and a gasp rise from the back of my own throat. She must have heard it too, for she instantly blushes several shades of red and hastens to explain.
"No, I didn't...I didn't owl Charlie, but…"
"You told Fred," I retort flatly, having already made the connection.
"Well, yes," she admits, "I told Fred...but only because I was so worried about you, Gin! And Fred told Charlie because he says you listen to him...I really...I didn't mean..." Hermione trails off under my glare, and Harry pats her shoulder awkwardly.
As I continue to stare at the brunette, I realize that I'm reacting as I know she expects me to, but deep down, and for some reason I don't understand, I can't really bring myself to be angry.
It was tremendously nosy of her to interfere that way, but didn't I do the same with her and Fred?
I was worried about her, and I did what I thought was best. I think the same applies here, and even though she was wrong, I know her intentions were good.
"Please don't be upset, Gin," she continues, grasping the edges of her textbook in a sign of nervousness. "I'm just really worried about you..."
"We're all worried," Harry interjects quietly, and I don't know whether to roll my eyes or sigh.
"I can't believe you people," I mutter, sinking back into my seat.
Ron, who had somehow managed to remain silent thorough the exchange, snorts derisively. "Right. You snuggle in the hallway with the biggest scum in school, and we're the ones who are acting funny."
"He is not scum, Ronald," I snap, glowering at him. "And even if he were, there are a few choice names I could call Parvati, but I don't; I expect the same courtesy from you."
"You can call Parvati whatever you want," Ron lies, "that doesn't change the fact that you're making a huge mistake and getting in over your head."
I think of my "huge mistake", Draco, and feel something warm stir within me; it's almost six.
"Ron, you're welcome to say 'I told you so' when this is all over," I say, and despite the snarkiness of my tone, my stomach tightens at the very thought. "But for now, let me err in peace."
"Good grief," Ron mutters, and I stick my tongue out at him, standing to go.
My mood has improved enough that I spare a glance at Hermione, who nods imperceptibly, knowing herself forgiven.
"Later, guys," I mutter, turning to go. I intend to stop by my room to give myself a quick once over before going down to the pitch, but Ron's voice stops me dead in my tracks.
I turned around to face him, and my heart catches at the sober expression in his face.
"I know that you don't listen to me, and you don't want to listen right now. But please - just be careful," he murmurs, his eyes flicking down to his parchment. "I just don't want you to get hurt."
I stare at my brother in silence, wanting to say so many things, but knowing there is no place for those secret truths I know.
Like the fact that I trust Draco, that I have faith in him, that I know he will take care of me, that I feel safe with my heart in his hands. That even if I'm dead wrong, even if he destroys me in the end, the moments I can have with him now are well worth it.
There's no room for these words between my brother and I - not now, maybe never. I can only hope that one day Ron would see Draco differently - a little less like he used to be, and more like he wants to be. Maybe I can help, maybe I can make that happen. But where to start?
"Just take care of yourself," Ron continues, raising his eyes to mine.
For now, there is nothing for me to say. I look into the clear blue eyes that hold mine, tight with worry and frustration, and nod in silent assent.
I walk out onto the pitch, treading my way over the grounds by the dim light of my wand. It's cold and dark, and no moon or stars are visible in the night sky, only ragged navy blue clouds navigating lazily above me, like… emo cotton candy, I guess.
My shoulders are still tight with tension at the thought of my brother and his friends. Well, my friends, too, I'll admit it - though not out loud. I hate the way they think of Draco - they're so sure of him, so sure that he'll hurt me and use me. I hate their worry, the way they look at me as if I were marked for destruction.
But despite the heaviness of my thoughts and the gloominess of the landscape I feel cheerful, comforted by the pleasant heat of the warming spell I've cast over myself, and the knowledge that I will soon see Draco.
All thoughts are brushed aside as the realization hits me - I'll soon be in his presence again, my eyes will see him, my fingers will touch him, my lips will kiss him. Dozens of butterflies dance madly in the pit of my stomach at the thought of him, and for a moment it feels like I can't breathe. Sometimes I feel like I can squeeze him to the death, crushed by the sheer force of my love...
Yes, I'm crazy, but don't act like you never noticed it before.
I arrive at the pitch and instantly spot Draco, whose white-blond hair - done in the signature half-ponytail he wears for all things Quidditch - is shimmering softly, like a beacon in the darkness. He's flying very high and very fast, a figure clad in black, cut against the vastness of the clouds. Other figures join him, giving chase, but he outmaneuvers them with obvious ease.
I can tell from the informal way that he and his teammates are flying, and by the sudden whoops and bursts of laughter that punctuate the silence of the night, that the practice session is over and they're indulging in a game, by the looks of it a fun one.
I find myself wishing I'd brought my broom along so I could join in before it hits me - these are Slytherins, and other than Draco and Blaise, and possibly Theodore Nott, they all hate my guts.
The thought sobers me a bit, reminds me of the Dream Team, but a moment later my eyes find Draco again and I am instantly cheered up. He's playing Chaser against Blaise, and at the moment he's racing towards one of the hoops with a Quaffle safely tucked under his arm, unhindered by Nott's efforts to Bludger him.
I watch him fly with the same sense of awe I feel every time. He is... beautiful.
"He's pretty good, huh?" a female voice says from behind me.
I turn to discover Aiken Dunn standing there, and it is only now, when curves of my mouth turn down, that I realize I'd been smiling a moment ago.
She looks me up and down, her lips twisting into something between a sneer and a deprecating smile.
"By Merlin," she murmurs quietly, flipping her long blonde hair over her shoulder, "I still don't know what it is they see in you."
I suppose by 'they' she means Blaise and Draco, and I feel my face burn with shame and anger; Aiken has just voiced my thoughts, the thing I've been wondering over and over since my conversation with Draco in the broom closet: why me? Why did Draco Malfoy choose me?
But who the hell does Aiken Dunn think she is, that skank, that she can talk to me in this way, anyway?
"Who cares what they see?" I say airily, looking her straight in the eye. "The point is I'm the one they want, isn't it?"
The blonde girl flinches delicately and I instantly regret the words. I, out of all people, know what it's like to pine.
The thought of apologizing actually flashes through my pathetic mind, but good Slytherin that she is, an instant later Aiken's face is completely blank.
"Draco is very... fickle," she says lightly, playing with a strand of her pale hair. "Enjoy him while you can."
"Oh, I will," I reply casually, displaying an indifference I don't feel, and turning away to face the pitch again.
I'm trying to act unruffled, but my heart is pounding wildly, and I'm wondering at the Slytherins' shared ability to unerringly identify other people's insecurities and fears.
Aiken isn't done, apparently, because I can hear her footfalls approach me from behind in the same instant that a platinum blond head turns towards me.
And then Draco's eyes lock with mine. In that instant my breath catches in my throat, and I feel the old shivers begin to make their way down my spine. We look at each other for a moment, and everything else fades away. But then Draco's eyes go from mine to the place behind me where I know Aiken is standing, and a moment later he's diving towards me in a flash of black.
He touches down lightly, dropping his state-of-the-art broom as if it weren't worth several thousand Galleons. Before I can say a word he's standing in front of me, and he's wrapped his powerful arms around my waist, lifting me to him as his soft, cold lips descend on mine.
The kiss is brief, but it leaves me blushing and breathless, with my knees wobbly as if they were made of jelly.
I vaguely register the catcalls and hoots that erupt from - who else? - Blaise and Nott, still perched on their brooms high up in the sky.
"I won," Draco announces smugly, his voice low and breathy in a way that makes something curl inside of my belly.
My hands are wrapped around his neck, and I let them stay there as my eyes hungrily scan his face, taking in everything about him, the Aiken Dunns of the world forgotten as the tips of his cold fingers touch the skin of my face.
He's wearing his tight Quidditch pants and a black pashmina sweater that feels incredibly soft against my face. Yes - Draco Malfoy actually wears cashmere to Quidditch practice. Are you surprised? Cause I can't say I am.
He's also wearing his Quidditch gear: boots, kneepads, wrist guards and fingerless gloves - I'm trying hard not to drool.
"Come on, let's get out of here," he says, mounting his broom lightly and making room for me.
I've yet to say a word, still dazed by the sight of him and the lingering taste of him on my lips. It takes me a moment to react, but I finally do, climbing on the broom in front of him with my skirts gathered demurely at my sides.
Draco circles my waist with his arms, reaching around me to grab the front of the broomstick. For some reason my heart is pounding wildly, and I wonder if I will ever get truly used to him.
"Midnight sexcapades!" Theodore Nott shouts from above, making a very obvious, very tired reference to my now famous --or should I say infamous-- sex-on-a-broom story, 'Midnight Garden'.
"More like six o'clock sexcapades!" Blaise amends loudly, making a show of checking his watch. "It's never a bad time, if you ask me..."
I roll my eyes and turn to look at Draco, whose hands have left my waist; they're busy making a very rude gesture at Blaise at Theo - something involving his left fist and his right index finger...I won't go into details.
Once he is done, uh, communicating with his mates, Draco wraps his arms around me again, reaching for the broomstick and guiding us upwards smoothly.
We shoot up and I snuggle back against him, enjoying the way he rests his chin on one of my shoulders.
It occurs to me now that it has been years - literally years - since I've flown on the same broom with someone, and I never thought I would be doing it with Draco Malfoy, of all people. He flies beautifully, maybe better than Charlie, which is really saying something.
"Hi, Ginny," he says quietly, leaning forward so that I can feel the softness of his cheek brush against mine.
"Hi, Draco," I answer softly, trying to keep my voice from wavering.
"You're kind of quiet today. Everything okay?" Draco inquires, as he veers the broom gently to the left, completing an idle loop around the pitch.
I shiver, partly from the cold, partly from the intimacy of his question, the way he asked...
I love him. And I'm...happy. I realized it just now.
"I'm okay," I say quietly, turning my face to the side. I find he's already looking at me, his stormy gray eyes leveled on mine; my heart skips a beat. "I'm just...I'm happy."
Draco doesn't say anything, but I feel his arms tighten around my waist as we continue to circle the pitch. It seems he's enjoying flying around with me, and the thought makes something glow inside of me as I snuggle deeper into his arms.
It takes me a while to realize that everyone else has gone - it's only the two of us out on the pitch, and a minute later Draco corrects our course, flying towards the castle's highest tower.
To my surprise, once we land at the Astronomy Tower's viewing galleria we're met by two young Slytherin boys - fourth years, I think - whose names I don't know.
"Did anyone give you any trouble?" Draco questions, reaching into his back pocket; I take the opportunity to admire his firm bum.
"No. Some Hufflepuffs came up, but we ran them off," one of the boys says smirking.
"Good," the blond replies, tossing him something that looks suspiciously like a pack of cigarettes. "Nice work," he adds, watching as the boys leave down the winding stairs.
I stare after them incredulously, and then turn to Draco with my hands on my hips.
"What?" he demands, arching an eyebrow.
"You gave them cigarettes!" I accuse.
Draco laughs. "Yeah, well, I had to. It was either that or PlayWizard and there's no way I'm giving those up."
"Psssh," I mutter, as he grabs me by the waist, drawing me to him firmly until I'm pressed against the front of his body.
"I had to reserve the place, love," he murmurs, and I shiver. "Do you have any idea how many people think they can just come up here to snog during dinner?"
I wrap my arms around his neck, feeling a tingle in my belly, a flutter of something at the way he just called me "love", at the way his hands are holding me against him, and he seems to devour me with his eyes.
By Merlin, I want to be devoured.
"The nerve of them," I murmur, standing on the tips of my toes to reach his lips. "Coming up here to snog..."
My mouth closes over his, my eyelids fluttering as his lips open close against mine, the tip of his tongue darting out to trace my bottom lip before slipping through in search of mine.
NOTE: This here is NOT the end, obviously. It is, in all honesty, a filler chapter. *cough, cough*
I started working on the final chapter, and I struggled and I struggled with it - but the thing is, as someone once said, "Draco is like fine wine- he needs to breathe".
He does, and he is like fine wine- in more ways than one. u_u
The ending I had written up felt too rushed, and I felt I had more to say, more to build up on, really, before I could get to where I want to go. So bear with me! I have board exams to take, and so I don't know when I'll be able to update again, but I WILL finish this!