A/N: Just a reminder of the suggested "Faces like mine" for the coffee scene.
Her timing was completely off. Again. Malfoy winced, watching Ginny murder the piece.
"Stop! Stop!" he interrupted. Ginny froze, eyes wide, hands poised over the keys.
"You're completely out of time." Whenever she got into the piece, Ginny flat-out ignored the metronome.
He sat next to her, thinking on how to correct the problem. Then it came to him.
"Do you know how they measured timing before the metronome?" he asked the redhead.
"How?" Her voice was guarded. Was he trying to patronise her?
"The heartbeat." Her eyes met his silver ones, unsure, "Not very exact, perhaps, but generally speaking the human heartbeat is more or less the same for everyone. And so it was used to keep time." Gently he took her small hand and put it over his heart, still holding her gaze.
Something new and strange and altogether unsettling was in the air. Ginny swallowed hard, feeling his warm skin through his robes, trying to concentrate on his heartbeat. Draco noticed that she smelled of cinnamon. Or nutmeg. Or something spicy that permeated his nostrils. There was something odd in the air, and afterwards when she tried to give him back his scarf, pulling it out of her bag, where she had neatly folded it, his lips twisted into a not-quite-his-usual-smirk, and he told her to keep it. Then, as an afterthought he added that he thought the colours suited her, though she didn't take the bait.
A few weeks after the metronome incident, Ginny Weasley went on a pre-dinner stroll. Most of her friends, those from the year above, weren't in the best of moods, so she went by herself and found that Draco Malfoy was standing by the lake near an overhanging copse of willows. He was glaring out at the water and clutching a sheaf of parchment in one pale hand. He was, uncharacteristically, alone. Not sure why she did so, she strolled unhurriedly over to where he was standing. A gust of wind whipped her hair across her face. She wished she'd thought to tie it up.
"You too, huh?" she observed, when she was near enough not to have to shout.
Malfoy's head whipped around. "Excuse me?" He snapped, finding Ginny Weasley, all dark eyes and red hair peering up at him. The annoyance did not vanish from his face and his hand clutched the parchment tighter yet.
She glanced pointedly at the parchment before shifting her gaze back to his face. Another gust of wind got hold of her hair and rippled the water a few feet away from them. "Potions, right? I heard Harry and Ron complaining about it earlier. Apparently Snape was absolutely brutal. Even to the Slytherins, I can see." Draco's lips thinned. Potions was his best subject and he absolutely refused to allow his marks to drop just because Snape was feeling peaky. He'd worked his arse off on this essay, and the bloody thing counted a quarter of his year mark.
The Weasley girl just rolled her eyes, remembering her own private conclusion about his uptightness. Their interactions had been odd lately, all sorts of boundaries unclear. "Lighten up, Malfoy. It's just one essay. Anyway, I know what would make you feel better. You can't just stand there brooding, you know."
She wondered why she was bothering at all, then shrugged it off. Hermione, she knew, would never approve of such disrespectful treatment of homework.
"Wha-" Draco wondered where she got off but before he could voice the sentiment, she had yanked the parchment out of his hand, pulling her wand out and setting it alight. Malfoy watched, stunned, as the ashes were carried to the dark water, before disappearing in the depths of the lake.
"There," she said, looking satisfied. He was staring at her, disbelief painted across his sharp features.
"Like I said, lighten up."
It was cold in the forgotten room. No-one had bothered to light a fire, and Malfoy sashayed in to the now familiar sound of warm-up scales. A shivery looking Weasley sat at the old instrument. Draco rolled his eyes and pulled out his wand
She turned around just as he approached. Instead of looking wary, she eyed him curiously.
"Honestly, Weasley, it's freezing in here. You have your wand, so use it." While he spoke, he ignited the logs and waited for them to start crackling cheerily. He sat next to her and she felt suddenly warm. All of a sudden she couldn't play at all, so focused was she on the feeling of his arm and thigh against hers.
They had a little argument, a continuation of a long-running one, where Ginny 'improvised' and Malfoy was in the horrors at the very thought. After she mistook yet another chord, Malfoy interrupted.
She looked up, surprised.
"I don't know what you think you're doing. Maybe the cold's got to that brain of yours, but this is definitely no good." Not letting her respond, Draco jumped to his feet and grabbed her elbow, dragging her after him. "Clearly you've done just about all you can today. So let's get out of here!"
His last words surprised them both, implying that he wished to spend any sort of time with her outside of the forgotten music room.
"Out?" Ginny repeated, sure that he had misspoken and wanting to give him an out.
"Yes, out." He was putting out the fire and the room became cold again, not having had time to warm up properly.
"You mean, in public? But someone might see us."
Malfoy stopped to consider this, then shrugged elegantly. True, being seen with the Weaslette might cause a few problems, but nothing that would not be overshadowed by some other gossip by the next morning.
"Oh, really." He rolled his eyes, "It's not like I'm proposing we elope." He was surprised to see her blush at this, nervously tucking a fly-away strand of hair behind an ear.
The expression on her face made him look at her thoughtfully and somewhat suspiciously. Ginny felt more than a little suspicious herself, wondering why it was that he was suddenly proposing they go somewhere together. It was bound to feel weird and awkward and all sorts of strained, so she really didn't know why she nodded, and gave him a small smile.
"Fine." Then, because that didn't seem enough she added, "Let's go." So they did, separating to fetch their winter cloaks. They met again in one of the less frequented corridors coming out of the entrance hall. Not that they'd needed to bother – the castle was mostly deserted. Ginny wore the green scarf, though she didn't want to think about why. Draco noticed this, an unreadable expression fleeting across his face.
Only then did Ginny think to ask where there were going.
"Hogsmeade, of course. It is Hogsmeade weekend, you know," Draco replied with absent-minded sarcasm while buttoning his cloak. It was a rich black and looked very warm. Brushing against him accidentally as they walked, Ginny felt a tingle of what were surely warming charms woven into the heavy fabric.
"Yes, I know," she replied, all the while wondering what to say next. Suddenly, now that they were out of their customary surroundings she felt at a loss for words. She wondered what this little trip of theirs could mean.
In Hogsmeade, no one paid them much attention, groups and couples scuttling through the snow that had begun to fall softly, eager to get out of the cold, or standing in clumps, laughing softly at private jokes. Still, by unspoken accord they made for one of the less-frequented little cafes in the village. And so Draco found himself seated across a narrow little table from a girl in the shabbiest robes he'd ever seen, and he didn't mind in the least.
Still eyeing each other warily, they waited for their orders to be set before them. Ginny had ordered hazelnut coffee, still shivering from the cold. It was a bit pricey, but what good was an allowance if you didn't enjoy it? Malfoy ordered his coffee black.
"Anything to eat, Red?" the boy asked unconcernedly, his face unreadable. Ginny was startled by the nickname. It had more or less died out in the family as she grew older. Not that Malfoy would know anything about that.
She glanced down at the pricey menu, absently. She really was running low on allowance, and supper would be in a few hours.
"No, I'm fine." He peered at her,
"You look all pale and chittery, Weasley," he remarked conversationally in a voice that brooked no argument, "Stop being ridiculous and order something."
Ginny was about to answer back, but decided she couldn't be bothered.
"So why were you cooped up by yourself with all the cobwebs instead if being out here with your little friends?" Malfoy drawled, sounding rather unkind. It was no secret how he felt about her friends, and he saw no reason to put on airs. For one thing, he thought they were remarkably insipid. Ginny shot him a look but his silver eyes were unreadable, and she glanced back down at her hands for a moment, frowning.
"I could ask the same of you, Malfoy." She wondered when 'ferret' had gone out of use.
"You couldn't," he informed her, simply, slowly taking off his gloves (black, of course). "I'm not known for being attached at the hip to the point of ridicule to any of my friends."
"Oh, really?" The redhead snapped, glaring at his aristocratic face. "Then how do you explain your permanent entourage? Not to mention those bodyguards of yours."
"Just because we choose to move around together, Weasley, doesn't make it a necessity." Not bothering to take the bait or argue further, Ginny shifted the conversation slightly. She wondered if she should tell the truth then figured she might as well.
"I was going to, actually, but when I got down to the common room they'd all vanished." Their drinks arrived, and having added just the right amount of sugar so as not to ruin her drink, Ginny lifted the steaming mug gratefully to her lips. Malfoy stared as she drank what had to be near-boiling liquid. It was a habit Ginny got from her grandmother, and one most other people seemed to find odd, her tolerance for scalding beverages. She closed her eyes momentarily, enjoying the hazelnut taste on her tongue and the warmth spreading through her. Draco studied what he considered her somewhat-pretty features, with her hair half-out of her blue hair band, and the obvious enjoyment written clearly across her face and something in him tightened. Then she opened her eyes and sparkled at him. Draco clutched his own cup of too-hot coffee.
He tried to think back to what they had been discussing…friends. Grasping upon the idea, Malfoy carried on the conversation, looking unperturbed.
"Your friends vanished, you said?" He looked suddenly contemplative, lifting a teaspoon to stir his drink absently, though he didn't take sugar.
She nodded. "'Mione would probably have set out early. She was saying something about a new robe and the bookshop. Couldn't find Luna or Harry. Ron had a date." She didn't remark on how strange that was. They usually always went to Hogsmeade all together.
Actually Draco's friends had vanished too. Zabini had been a bit shifty, not his usual self at all. Parkinson had looked pretty determined too, and when he asked her where she was going she snippily told him in was none of his sodding business. Then she slammed the door behind her. He told Ginny as much, and she burst out giggling, nearly snorting the hot chocolate she'd been drinking at the time.
"What?" Draco demanded a bit testily just in case she was laughing at him.
"Oh! It's nothing, its just a weird co-incidence, and I'm sure lots of people's friends act weird from time to time, its just, were they anyone but my friends and yours, I'd say they were in on something together." Draco had to laugh at the idea. It was a very different laugh from the snide one Ginny had heard him use whenever he'd got one over someone. It made her pause and look at him, the lighting making his hair look slightly darker, grey eyes glittering and pale cheeks flushed faintly with mirth. Apparently he found the idea more ridiculous than she did. Ginny decided she rather liked it when he laughed like that. It made her want to laugh with him, and suddenly there were butterflies in her stomach. Or perhaps moths were more fitting, she decided When he'd recovered from his uncharacteristic mirth, Draco shook his head.
"Un-bloody-likely. Who do you picture Pansy with? That git brother of yours? Or sterling Potty?"
"I don't see why you have to pick on them every time," she said a bit sharply, putting her mug down. In London the drink came in tall, fragile-looking glasses, enchanted not to burn you. Ginny liked the mug better. Their food arrived. Malfoy lifted a forkful of chicken and mushroom pie gracefully, not dropping any of it. Ginny, who sat near Ron, Harry, Seamus and Dean most mealtimes, was suitably impressed.
She tasted a forkful of the Cornish pie she'd ordered, and when she looked up, Malfoy looked amused, "And I'm sure they are very gracious when they speak of me." She didn't reply.
"Double standards, Red. But go on, then. Potter or the Weasel? Or does the thought of Potty with anyone else put you off?" He added the last bit slightly maliciously.
It was Ginny's turn to look amused. "You're a bit behind on the gossip, Malfoy."
"Oh? So your love for the boy wonder's dead, is it? Sure didn't look that way when you defended him on that Quidditch pitch last week."
There was something strange in his eyes. Or perhaps it was just the candlelight. A bell jingled, followed by a gust of wind as someone came into the little bistro, making Ginny shiver as she had discarded her cloak.
"It's called friendship. Perhaps the concept is foreign to you. But since you seem so interested, yes I did have a crush on Harry once, but it's disappeared now. Hard to keep after someone who doesn't notice you. Not to mention someone who thinks watching your brother squirt milk out of his nose is amusing." Fred and George had thought it was pretty funny too, but then the whole thing had been their fault in the first place.
Malfoy looked smug again, because he certainly wasn't about to look pleased. He examined his pale, elegant fingers. "Yes, I can see how that's a dampener. I imagine it was the holier-than-thou goldenness that was so attractive. Regular knight in shining armour. Muggle made armour, of course."
"What's it to you?" she carefully lifted another forkful of her own Cornish pie.
"To me?" he snorted. "Nothing."
His face was unreadable, so Ginny just shrugged, "Maybe it was, once. And now that it's over with we can be friends. The hero thing…it's overrated." She thought about the constant worry, and emotional strain he was always under, "But there's more to him than that, and what I did like…well, it seems overrated now. I liked him from before I knew him, which kept me from knowing him." She didn't elaborate and Malfoy was careful not to ask her to.
He thought that it was odd and somewhat unsettling, the direction the conversation was heading in. Not that it wasn't odd to be sitting at Hogsmeade talking to the Weaslette anyway.
Sensing the mood grow heavy, Ginny felt the need to break it, "And to answer your earlier question, I'm thinking Harry. Ron and Pansy…would kill each other."
He looked surprised by that reasoning, and was glad for the topic change "And Pansy and Potty wouldn't? The insulting nature of this conversation, where Pansy's concerned, aside."
Ginny wondered if she was the only one who paid attention. It came with growing up with six brothers, she supposed. Like Moody was fond of saying, constant vigilance. She laughed again, at Malfoy this time, "Not in any way either of them would mind, I don't think." Her smile was faintly suggestive, making Draco shift slightly, his breath catching for a moment. Candlelight did wonders. Her smile was… adjectives floated around his head and none quite seemed to fit.
He almost didn't mind what he knew to be laughter at his expense. Almost. It was amazing how long two pies and two mugs of coffee could be made to last. Their conversation continued, mostly on lighter topics, with a few strained moments when one or both (Malfoy couldn't reign in the sarcasm for very long) said something the other found disagreeable, and Malfoy ordered them more coffee. Ginny found herself telling him things she'd never said out loud before, and things she hadn't even known herself. Neither seemed to notice the ease with which the conversation flowed, especially given the limited sphere of their previous interactions.
When at last their meal was finished, and they had a suitable squabble over the bill (Ginny wasn't about to let Malfoy pay for it, and he wouldn't hear of it any other way), they were wrapped warmly in their cloaks and out in the cold. It was almost time to go back to Hogwarts; darkness had fallen and the snowflakes had taken exception to swirling prettily, coming down instead in a way that made you want to squint and keep your head down. Ginny grinned as she watched them swirl around a lamp lighting the road. Malfoy didn't grin as he watched Ginny. He thought of her at the ball again, happy in her ancient dress robes. Her face had been alight just the same way.
As they trudged through the village, surrounded by other stragglers making their way back to the school, a gust of wind picked up, and Draco surprised her by asking if she didn't want to cast a warming charm on her cloak. She shook her head,
"Look, I'm not cold anymore." She said, and took his gloveless hand to show him. He looked startled by the sudden contact but didn't let it go. If Ginny noticed she didn't show it, and Malfoy wondered what on earth he was doing. But then, the whole day had been surreal and he might as well go with the flow. Tomorrow, he decided he would come to his senses.
A dark-haired couple walked a little in front and to the left. They didn't hold hands. They weren't touching at all, but something in the way they carried themselves next to each other, or perhaps their mussed hair and swollen lips implied that not touching was a recent thing. The girl's face was a mixture of haughtiness and smugness. The boy's bright eyes glittered. Before the Hogwarts doors she yanked him, none too gently, into a shadowy alcove to the side, for another snog. Neither seemed to mind the cold.
Ginny and Draco didn't speak much as they walked into the entrance hall together. Unlike the pair in the shadows, they did not kiss. Ginny resolutely told herself that that would have been neither here nor there. Their hands slid apart, and she scanned his impassive face. This was the awkwardness she'd been dreading. Being pleasant was all well and good with no-one to see, but they had no idea where they stood now that they were back at Hogwarts.
Saying stunted, and somewhat aloof goodbyes, they went their separate ways to stash their cloaks before dinner, which was in an hour. Predictably, neither was very hungry, and they studiously didn't look at each other. Pansy looked almost…cheerful, severely weirding out Draco.
Ginny caught Luna during dinner, and asked her where she'd been, explaining that she'd been unable to find her. Luna smiled serenely and explained that she had gone to the village to get ice-cream, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. Malfoy noticed that Blaise had a bit of a cough, wondering how he'd managed it, given his enchanted cloak.
Two days later, Harry had detention. He admitted as much when he showed up in the common room just past midnight, to find his friends still lounging around. His hair looked messier than usual. When his friends asked him what he was in for, he coloured and muttered something about the astronomy tower while they watched him curiously. It more or less clicked into place. "Ooh! Who were you with, mate?" Ron demanded, looking, of all things, proud.
"Astronomy tower…" Hermione sighed in a long-suffering manner. "Why is everyone always meeting on top of the astronomy tower? You'd think it'd be more crowded by now." Ginny nodded agreement, rolling her eyes. She often wondered, from all the stories one heard, whether one had to book the place two months in advance. By morning everyone in the school knew that Pansy Parkinson had detention for the same reason. It didn't take long to put two and two together, which caused quite a stir.
Potter simply shrugged when any of his fellow Gryffindors asked him about it, looking uncertain, their eyes flitting this way and that. Pansy handled it with her disdainful sneer firmly in place, so very few were brave enough to ask her about it. And some students really didn't care.
"Pans and Potter," Blaise muttered with a shake of his head. "The mind boggles."
Draco nodded. Crabbe looked startled, as did Goyle. Theodore Nott tried not to look disappointed. It did not escape Draco that Blaise carefully kept the identity of his mysterious little friend under wraps.
Harry Potter's mind wasn't boggled. At least not by his…thing with Parkinson. She was a Slytherin and they were all about shadows and cloak-and-dagger. Was is really so difficult to imagine that the spotlight got old very quickly and shadows could be a comfort? Besides he knew for sure she didn't like him for the fame. She'd made quite a point of how much she didn't like him at all.
When Ginny and Malfoy met again in the music room something had changed resolutely and irreparably. Malfoy still loathed her friends, and acted like a complete prat when the urge struck. Ginny still considered him to be a right bastard at times and fully participated in the hexes thrown across courtyards. But something was undoubtedly different. If Ginny had to give the effect of the past few months a musical term, she'd call it a deceptive cadence. Simplified, that would mean that when you expect a moment of tension to resolve to certain chord, an expected one, that it feels right should follow, it doesn't, resolving to an entirely different one instead.
Malfoy stared at her with an intensity she found astounding, especially in someone so reserved.
They sat side by side, warmth tingling where limbs touched, and silence reigned, though it would not reign for long. Draco began first, pianissimo, and Ginny joined him, their duet growing louder, then softer again, entwining itself around them, almost ruffling their hair and stroking across their faces. Ginny wasn't so sure about lack of magic involved in piano playing. Draco was no longer so very much against improvisation. Not that he agreed with it.
They had taken to speaking during their strange meetings. Speaking of things other than music.
He came to know several things about Ginny Weasley,
Ginny liked opals and moonstones, and she hated gold because it clashed with her hair. She wrote poetry on her hand when she didn't have any paper, and he mocked her for it mercilessly, because he thought it was a Lovegood thing to do. Her poetry only came together when just the right mood struck and when it did it was often cheery and fanciful, like multicoloured silk scarves on the wind. Not to his taste in the least.
She had kept his scarf, though she didn't wear it around her fellow Gryffindors, and when he had asked her about that, she'd smirked in a way that unsettled him before charming a red and gold series of stripes to intertwine with the green. He'd raised a cool eyebrow and was secretly glad the charm wasn't a lasting one. Green and Red! Just the thought made him queasy.
He hated her perfume. The one she wore with the little blue forget-me-not earrings. It was loud, bordering on brash, it was strong, and it followed him around the rest of the day. When he told her how much he hated it, she waited patiently for the next Hogsmeade weekend and bought another bottle. She'd been running low anyway.
She laughed at him often and endlessly told him that he took himself too seriously. She never backed away from what promised to be a spectacular fight. She had a terrible taste in friends, and often said the same about him. She thought Parkinson and Potter were a good idea if only they'd calm down a bit.
Her friends were suddenly catching on and his seemed to care far less than he expected. None of them refrained from throwing around a few barbs of course. It took a while for Ron to stop glowering, but Hermione was surprisingly reasonable. Harry didn't seem very interested.
For Christmas, Malfoy sent her a gift, a single stand of genuine, freshwater pearls. He knew that she was a little embarrassed in owning nothing but paste jewellery in a world that valued gold and silver, and that she would never admit to it. When Ron implied a boyfriend in a letter to their mother, Ginny had been bombarded with a letter full of all sorts of questions she didn't know how to answer. She made sure Ron regretted blabbing.
When they kissed it came as suddenly and unexpectedly as their whole situation. Which is to say it crept up on them until suddenly there was no way around it. It happened when they were standing by some trees near the lake again and she was humming a tune. It had still been winter then, just before the Christmas holidays, which had then dragged on at a glacial pace. Their eyes caught, and something passed between them. There wasn't anyone around, but it wouldn't have mattered either way, because suddenly his hands were in her hair and her hands were clutching his arms through his cloak and their lips met. And danced, almost twining. It was tempered and fierce a bit like the green fire and the eldritch humming and the beautiful compulsion of music in the mind. It was right, and it had been a long time coming. Ginny leaned against his stronger frame and his arms tightened around her and all the unspoken things passed between them. When at last they broke apart their breaths were ragged, and their eyes were dazed and enigmatic smiles curled both sets of lips.
One day, as they sat in the stands after their respective Quidditch practice, wrapped against the now-diminished rain and the chill that still lingered with the coming spring, Draco wondered when she had managed to become beautiful. Her hair was a mess and her robes were stained with mud and rainwater, not that Draco looked much better. Ginny, whose practice had finished last, was still trying to catch her breath. His mind drifted back to a conversation they'd had about what their relationship actually was. Ginny had looked at him contemplatively, bright eyes wide. He'd asked her to trust him.
"You'll do something inconsiderate." She'd spoken carefully, the levity in her voice belying all sorts of things. "Like break my heart."
"Or perhaps you'll break mine." She didn't make any cracks about his not having a heart for the breaking. It wasn't the time for cheap jibes. Instead she'd nodded slowly.
"Perhaps." It was a risk worth taking. Her brother was going to be out for his blood.
The rain had become a light drizzle and something resembling the sun was beginning to appear. Everyone else had already left their changing rooms and gone up to the castle. The Slytherin and Gryffindor remained on their bench, stubbornly ignoring their muddy state and talking in soft voices.
It was a most singular situation Draco Malfoy found himself in. He wasn't the agonising sort. He didn't hover angstily in his dorms like some Ravenclaw, writing 'dark poetry' to express his inner turmoil. He didn't spend sleepless nights staring at his ceiling or sport dark circles under his eyes in the morning. He didn't go around with wide tortured eyes or sigh dramatically to emphasise any despair. As it were, Draco didn't have much in the way of inner turmoil at all. Which meant that once he had come to his conclusion (be it after ranting or contemplating in a moment of brooding, thoughtful silence) he was as decided as he was going to be. It saved him loads of time sitting around by the lake or by the window lost, in deliberation.
It didn't happen overnight, of course, and it might have gone on for a very long time without his realising, though, naturally, Draco didn't like to think that. All the same, it happened somehow, and one day it just was.
So when Draco Malfoy made up his mind about being in love with Ginny Weasley, as preposterous that the idea might have seemed, he did not dissemble. Turning to her, he told her as much, his voice sure and clear. He never was one for self-doubt. Her eyes lit up.
There was the war to worry about, of course, but that turned out to be less of a worry than Ginny had expected. The problem, and one that Voldemort seemed to have overlooked (which was little wonder, as Hermione observed, given the megalomania), was an obvious one. Voldemort seemed to have forgotten the self-serving nature of the many former Slytherins within his ranks. Self-preservation before and above all else. Which meant that once some of them calculated risks and benefits they had no problem stepping over to the other side. Lucius Malfoy was among the first and most significant, taking many of his own private supporters with him. This had less to do with changed opinions and more with a price too steep to pay. These turncoats were treated with expected suspicion, but came to be grudgingly tolerated, if not accepted, once they began talking. Lucius Malfoy was a particularly rich mine of all sorts of useful information. Harry sometimes joked that Voldemort should have gone with Hufflepuffs instead. At least they were loyal.
Give or take twelve months after Malfoy and the rest of his year left school, there had been a victory ball, following a one year commemoration of the fallen, of which there were fewer than expected given Voldemort's thinned ranks. Ginny Weasley wore freshwater pearls and a flowing set of dress robes, neither of which was key to her happiness. She went with someone entirely wonderful: Draco Malfoy, surprising as that conclusion would have been back at school, when she had been agonising over the Yule ball. He led her in a desperate sort of waltz, while her eyes were brimming over. Her hands dug into his shoulders as they twirled.
In the middle of a serious conversation with Blaise Zabini, Malfoy did not appreciate his long-time friend rolling his eyes.
"Well, why don't you just marry the girl already and shut up about it?" Zabini, of course, with familiar exasperation.
"Well, maybe I will!"
And he did.