Note: This is my response to the "Christmas D/G Fic Challenge" issued at my now defunct D/G forum.

Prompt: lots of snow, Christmas decorations, mistletoe at the entrance of the Great Hall, and a kiss on the lips.

This is not a song-fic, but it was inspired by the beautiful song 'Black', by Pearl Jam. Lyrics, including the summary, belong to them.

Merry Christmas!


Black

And now my bitter hands cradle broken glass
Of what was everything
All the pictures have all been washed in black, tattooed everything...
All the love gone bad turned my world to black
Tattooed all I see, all that I am, all I'll be...


I know someday you'll have a beautiful life, I know you'll be a sun
In somebody else's sky, but why
Why, why can't it be, why can't it be mine…

--"Black", by Pearl Jam

X

Draco Malfoy opened his eyes slowly, letting them adjust to the wan morning light of winter streaming through his enchanted window. He stretched leisurely in his four-poster bed, enjoying the looseness in his limbs, the warmth of the covers, and the knowledge that he wouldn't have to be anywhere today, that he could stay in bed if he wanted to.

And, of course, as soon as the realization hit him, he no longer wished to remain there. He quickly jumped out of bed, enjoying the cool contact of his bare feet against the stone floor of his dungeon room, pushing some strands of fair hair away from his eyes. It had grown longer since he'd cut it in the summer, now reaching past the nape of his neck.

Running his fingers carelessly through the silky mass, he padded with unconscious grace over to his bathroom, wanting to relieve his bladder.

And suddenly it hit him- he had been awake for exactly two minutes, and he hadn't thought about her yet.

He froze in place, silver eyes wide and unseeing; the realization made something coil in his belly, something prickly and cold- fear.

Could it be that he was losing her already? The part of her that he'd sworn to himself would always remain locked away somewhere inside of him, secretly? It had been more than a year, it was true, since he had last touched her, since he had spoken to her directly, though he saw her every day. More specifically, he observed her covertly, greedily inspecting the details of her face when he was sure no one was watching.

He grieved for her as if she were dead, noting all the little changes in her, the dull look in her once bright eyes, which seemed to him had once been open with expectancy at all the wonderful things life supposedly had to offer, the way her skin had lost its healthy glow, the way her fine brow would often furrow in an expression of unhappiness. Her shoulders were often hunched, and she would wrap her arms around herself, as if she were broken- and he knew she was. He had broken her himself.

Sometimes she looked at him, and he would pretend not to notice, pretend that he couldn't tell her eyes were fixed on him, as if they didn't burn holes through his skin. But recently she'd stopped looking at him altogether.

Draco's shoulders tensed bitterly as he thought of the possible reasons why. If he had really wanted to know the answer, he could easily find out… just by looking into her eyes. But he didn't really want to do that- maybe he didn't really want to know what was setting her free, and secretly, though it hurt him, he was glad that she was starting to move on. She deserved to be happy.

It had been a long, long time since he had made eye contact with her; he was afraid of what she might see there, afraid it would encourage her to act. If she even so much as suspected that he had any sort of feelings for her, she would never let him go. And he knew that.

The knowledge was comforting, but it was also a curse; he'd had to be convincing, ruthlessly so.

The words he knew by heart, the words that would echo in his own ears every time he saw her, must be scrawled in her heart and must bleed every time she saw him.

"Oh, Ginevra…" he heard himself sigh condescendingly, as he ran the shower and the scent of vanilla and sandalwood filled his nostrils- his mind insisted on replaying that scene over and over, as if to ensure his own heart would never heal. "I never really cared about you, can't you understand that? I just wanted to know what it was like to fuck Potter's girl. I wanted to be the first…"

Draco had been no stranger to lying, even then. But the moment the words had left his lips, he'd understood that sometimes you tell a lie so big it crushes you from the inside, and you'll never be the same again; the words had burnt his insides on their way out of his lips, and they had broken her. They had broken him as well. He knew that he would never forgive himself for the pain he had caused her. His cruel words had vilified and belittled the single most meaningful and important moment in his life.

Even now, a year later and standing in the fragrant mists of his morning bath, if he closed his eyes he could still see the image of her lying on his bed, beautiful and pure, her bare skin soft against his body as she slept in his embrace. He had never felt as undeserving of something, of someone, in his entire life.

And then to say that… to look into her eyes and tell her that it had meant nothing, that she had meant nothing. And the look she gave him, the liquid pain in her beautiful amber eyes as she inspected his features, desperately seeking for some negation of his words…

But he had known then there would be no expression on his face; his father had taught him well. In the world of Lucius Malfoy, being readable was as good as being dead.

Draco went through his ablutions now, dressing slowly, his body now used to operating automatically whenever his mind chose to wander. And when it wandered, it went to her. If only she knew, if only he could show her…

But anything he did would defeat the point, and all these years of their collective suffering would have been in vain.

And nothing would change.

X

He was dressed in a black sweater and tailored black trousers, with his hair, white by comparison, shining like a beacon in the filtered sunlight of the enchanted ceiling. He knew he stood out from the colorfully dressed people he encountered, as he well should; he was a Malfoy, after all.

Eyes followed him as he walked into the newly decorated Great Hall, but he wasn't bothered by it. He was used to it, for one thing, and for another he knew himself to be striking- he had his mother's tragically beautiful Veela looks and his father's devastating charm. It was funny to see the effect it produced in other people.

Now sitting at breakfast, he picked at his croissant and occasionally sipped orange juice as he made small talk with Zabini.

Since it was Christmas break and so few students had stayed behind, everyone sat together at the Ravenclaw table- everyone except Draco Malfoy and the four other Slytherins that had stayed for the holidays. Since the outbreak of the war the invisible line that had always divided Slytherin from the rest of the Houses at Hogwarts stood out more clearly now, and the fragile bond between the members of the House of the snake had grown stronger.

Draco had been both dismayed and overjoyed upon realizing that she would be staying at school over the break, too. He would have wanted some respite from the sight of her, but at the same time, the thought of not seeing her for more than a day hurt more than seeing her sit there in silent suffering…or in silent coping.

Besides, he reasoned with himself, with the way things were going, she was safest here than at home.

On this morning she sat in between the Mudblood and Potter, pale as a ghost and with her freckles clearly marked against her sallow skin. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail and she wore a hideous hot pink sweater with a gigantic W sewn on the front- and she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

Draco observed her covertly as he listened to Zabini speak of the latest news- a Death Eater attack on an Auror's family. A Slytherin through and through, Zabini kept his sharp, dark eyes on the morning's paper- he knew better than to ask his friend if he knew anything about it; Draco wouldn't have answered the question.

Besides, they both knew what the answer was- Draco didn't roll his sleeves all the way up to his elbows anymore, not since returning from summer break. At the moment his sleeves were up to a certain point in his beautiful forearm; he held a half eaten croissant in one of his hands, elbow resting on the table, his head half cocked to the side in concentration, silver eyes narrowed as he listened to Zabini.

He was nearly done with breakfast when his family's majestic owl, a beautiful, black feathered bird known as Mercutio, swooped down to perch on his shoulder. It extended one of its legs, around which was bound a rolled up piece of parchment.

Draco ignored the sudden foreboding in the pit of his stomach and caressed the ridge between the owl's large, amber eyes affectionately before relieving it of its burden.

There were two lines written on the parchment, in his father's neat and elegant cursive. Draco read them over twice before incinerating the piece of paper, earning himself a glare from old Flit, the nearest teacher.

The Slytherin ignored him.

It was almost funny how he'd been waiting for that order -or one like it- for months, the stress and the worry of imagining the words gnawing at his insides, like a parasite, and when it had finally come he'd felt nothing.

He sat there as if nothing had happened, as if his life hadn't just completely changed. And then slowly it began to sink in, and he realized he must reply, and he must do so in privacy. Even Mercutio seemed to know this, for it stared at him silence and only left its perch on Draco's arm when he stood to go.

"See you later," he told Zabini, who merely nodded, but it was lost on Draco.

His slate gray eyes slid over to Ginny, who no longer sat with her back to him, as she had during those first months. No, she sat proudly facing him.

It's as if she wants to punish me, wants me to see…

Potter's hand was covering hers, which lay flat against the surface of the mahogany table. A searing sensation went through Draco's heart, but he ignored it and made to leave. As he slipped out he couldn't help but notice the way Potter leaned into her and whispered in her ear, the way she leaned towards him, a faint smile curving her plump, cherry red lips.

So it had begun.

He knew it would happen eventually. She really would be Potter's, someday.

X

A mixture of rage, jealousy and pain twisted Draco's gut as he walked to the owlery, clutching the note he'd written his father in his gloved hands. It was cold, but his fine dragon hide boots protected his feet from the snow, and his black tailored coat and dragon hide gloves kept him warm enough. He knew he looked out of place where everyone else dressed casually, but he was Draco fucking Malfoy and being well dressed just came with the rest of what that entailed: money, power, beauty, exquisite manners and table etiquette, and…The Mark.

For one second he allowed himself to imagine what things would be like if he weren't bound by duty and love to his family, if his father's choices hadn't molded his own future, shaping it beyond his control.

Maybe it wouldn't be Potter sitting with her at the Ravenclaw table, holding her hand and whispering in her ear. And maybe she wouldn't be smiling faintly but laughing, really laughing, with her amber eyes sparkling, her head thrown back over his shoulder, her entire frame trembling with her mirth. And he would laugh with her, because maybe…maybe they would be together.

No, not maybe. They would be together forever, and he wouldn't have to do with just remembering the feel of her in his arms, the way her eyes danced with happiness and love when she looked up into his.

But none of that was real now.

What was real, he told himself, hastening his pace, was that his father had fallen out of grace with the Dark Lord, that plans were brewing under Dumbledore's nose that would ensure the defeat of the Oder of the Phoenix, and would secure Voldemort's place as master of the wizarding world. The Malfoys were in too deep now- they had always been.

What mattered was that he was father's son, and he would never, ever, be able to betray him.

He had reached the owlery now, and Mercutio immediately flew to him, anxious to deliver the reply.

Yes, I'm ready, Draco's parchment read.

And he was.

He was scared, he could admit it to himself, but that wouldn't stop him. He was scared of failing, and he was scared of succeeding, but he would do what he must.

The odds were against him and that meant -in all probability- that he and his family would die.

Even if he succeeded, some small part of him could only hope something else would go wrong for the Dark Lord, even if that meant he himself would eventually end up in Azkaban. What happened to him wasn't important, as long as she was safe, as long as his mother and father didn't lose their lives because of him.

X

It was snowing again, and he walked slowly back to the castle, enjoying the way snow crunched under his boots, the way it fell over him gently, like a blanket. It was good to find small comfort in these simple things, good to think that they would endure even when his life, by comparison inconsequential, was snuffed out.

His boots cut a clean track through the snow, and he knew he must paint a desolate figure- a black, forlorn spot in a world of endless white. It could serve as an analogy for other things, he mused.

Was this how she felt about him, about his presence in her life? Or had he already faded to gray? Had she stopped thinking about him at all?

Draco had things to worry about, much more important things, but the image of Potter's hand covering hers…

And how lovely it was to see her smile, even if it wasn't for him.

For one wild moment Draco wished he could see her again, see her for one last time before everything changed so irrevocably. He wished it fervently, standing there as the snow continued to fall, dotting his pale eyelashes as he tightly shut his eyes.

But the moment passed and he continued walking, now anxious to get to his room; he had to prepare for tonight. He strode into the castle, pausing to kick snow off his boots, and then silently making his way down the corridor that would lead to the dungeon.

The Christmas decorations outside of the Great Hall were bright and cheerful, with thick, rich garlands and green and red drapes adorning the wall. And, of course, there it was- the ever-present mistletoe on its prominent place in the golden archway.

It was all beautifully done, a happy explosion of light and color.

But Draco couldn't see any of it; he couldn't see color, and he couldn't see light. All that was real was the image of her standing there before him, burning in his eyes and in his heart.

She was…

She was everything.

Ginny…

He hadn't allowed himself to think of her, to say her name, even to himself, for the longest time. And she was standing there calmly, looking at him, unhurriedly taking in every detail of him.

Draco could have sworn he felt his heart stop, and he knew he should look away before her eyes went from the snow flakes caught in his fair hair, from his upturned collar and his burning cheeks, to his own wide, stormy gray eyes, which were staring at her helplessly.

But he couldn't move, and he couldn't look away, couldn't tear his eyes away from hers. The eyes he dreamt of every night, the eyes he had known so well; warm, brown, and open. True windows in to her beautiful soul.

She never could hide anything, for all of her secrets were laid bare for him to see in the gentle amber depths. And right now he was overwhelmed by the love he saw in them, the acceptance and the warmth, even after everything.

There wasn't a hint of accusation in them as she took him in, and this hurt him just as much as if there had been.

"It was your father," she said quietly. "That note you got today, it was your father."

Draco's exquisite face remained expressionless, never betraying the shock he felt at her statement, but he felt the blood freeze in his veins.

How could she possibly know? And if she knew, did that mean Potter…?

"I know, Draco," she said softly, taking a step toward him. "It took me a while to figure it out, but I know that you didn't mean any of that, and I know why you did it…"

Draco remained unmoving, staring at her in silence as his mind worked furiously.

How much, exactly, did she know? And more importantly, how? Did this mean his father's mission –his mission- was compromised?

"I've been watching you," she said softly, her eyes beseeching him, "I've seen you change…you've been so worried…"

Draco continued to look at her with indifference, though his heart was pounding a million miles a minute. She was coming closer still, until she was standing in front of him, barely a foot away.

"It's your family…and it's the war." She bit her plump lower lip and looked up at him, shivering gently. "It's the Dark Lord, isn't it?"

Draco's hands clenched into fists as he stared at her, the wound in his chest now bleeding freely.

Potter.

She was Potter's now.

Maybe…maybe she had told him. She'd told him everything that had happened between them, and they'd sent her.

How desperate they must be…and how foolish he had been, thinking his own hurt had been invisible to her.

Anger and pain burned in his heart now, his gray eyes narrowed as he scanned her face, the face he loved so much.

She stared back at him unflinchingly, her brow contracted as she reached out to him. He'd never felt so betrayed in his entire life.

"Draco…" she said softly, but was immediately silenced as his lips crashed down on hers.

His lips were cold where hers were warm, but it was the same softness he remembered, the same firm, plump flesh molding to his.

And now her hands were on his face, drawing him in, the tip of her tongue tracing the curve of his bottom lip. He wound his fingers through the red silk of her hair, breathing deeply as his heart continued its wild beating.

Ginny…

"Draco," she murmured desperately against his skin, but he silenced her again with a new assault on her lips, covering them with light, feathery kisses.

He pressed her tightly, crushing her to him, enjoying the feel of her in his arms for the last time. He covered her lips with his again, breathed her deeply for a moment, that scent of warm sugar and strawberries he knew so well, and then forced himself to push her away.

She staggered slightly, out of balance, and stared up at him with obvious surprise. Draco stared back, his eyes hardening until he was certain they resembled steel- it was a look he'd seen in his father's eyes many times, a look he saw every day in the mirror.

Now his lips curved into a smirk, even as his heart broke a little more, even as he struggled to memorize her face, to memorize the exact shade of red of her hair, and the way it contrasted against the paleness of her skin.

"Mmm…" he purred softly, biting his lips as his eyes bore into hers. "Very nice- but not as sweet as I remember."

He saw her eyes widen with shock, her face flush a deep red, but he forced himself to go on.

"And you're wrong, love," he said drawled casually. "I meant every word I said that day…"

She was blinking rapidly, looking up at him with wide, disbelieving eyes.

"N-no…no, I don't…I don't believe you-" she stammered, reaching out to him again.

He smiled pleasantly, displaying his white, perfectly aligned teeth in a feral grin, and she froze in place.

"Yes, you do," he murmured, his lips curving into a mocking smirk. "You always knew it wasn't real…that's why you kept asking me if-"

She whimpered and bit her lip, and Draco found he wasn't able to continue.

Do you love me, Draco? He could hear her lovely voice whispering softly, that first time. Tell me that you love me…

Pain seared across his insides again, and he had the distinct impression that someone was jamming a broomstick into his chest, but he forced himself to regain his composure.

The plan had to work.

His parents' lives depended on it.

And no one would stand in his way.

Not even her.

He looked at her coldly now, ignoring the pain he read in her eyes, ignoring the tears that slid down her face, ignoring the way her arms wrapped themselves around her too-thin frame.

She's Potter's now, he told himself desperately. And it's better that way. He'll make her happy, and he'll keep her safe. Long after…long after I'm gone…

His heart was beating wildly in his chest -which felt as if someone was tearing it apart- and he wished he could shield his eyes from the sight of her. But he forced his voice to remain emotionless as he spoke, raising his pale gray eyes to hers.

"Happy Christmas, Ginevra," he said softly.

She swayed, and landed roughly on her knees. But he had already turned away, and he never looked back at her, that she wouldn't see the wetness burning in his own eyes.

He kept walking, concentrating on the sounds of his own footsteps, the sound of his own labored breathing, forcing it to drown out the heart-wrenching sobs that echoed in his ears in that moment, that continued to echo in his very soul, long after that day.

The End



Notes: So, obviously, this is what really happened in canon- it's just that JKR was so busy trailing after the Golden Trio, she didn't pay enough attention to Draco and Ginny to realize that they were in love all along. u_u

Err- kidding. This is obviously AU: set in Draco's 7th year, implying D and G had a relationship in his 6th year; BUT, it follows canon in the sense that Draco is a Death Eater and he's been charged with a certain mission…

Alas, he's no murderer, so you can be sure the rest of the story follows canon as well… but if you place this as the back story to canon Draco and Ginny, it really puts that Kings Cross scene at the end of DH –in the epilogue of doom! *shakes fist*- into perspective. Especially when you hear Eddie Vedder singing his broken heart out in the last lines of the song Black… ;_;

Hope you enjoyed it!

Please review!