A/N: (sighs) Okay. This will be a long fic. And I know, I iknow/i, I KNOW what y'all are thinking, if you have read any of my fics from the beginning. They have a tendency to end up being tortuously plotted, unbelievably convoluted, endlessly endless, and very, very long. And I'm going to be honest, and say from the start that this one is LONG. But before anyone starts the come-to-Jesus talk and arranges the intervention (are you ready to admit that your life has become powerless over your addiction to D/G fanfic? Do you need to start and never then finish a certain number of fics? Do you lie about how many chapters each fic will be?) I will tell y'all this.

I did something with this fic that I have never EVER done before. I wrote most of the entire THING before posting ANY of it!

(everyone falls over and faints from shock. Or at least, I do!)

Now, this doesn't mean that ALL of it is completely done, so clearly it doesn't mean that nothing could change about this fic or that nothing could evolve, especially based on the readers' thoughts, inputs, and reviews. (Which is appropriate, considering that evolution is one of the fics' themes.) And some things undoubtedly will. However, it DOES mean that the evil rabid plot bunny of doom has been tamed and is now hopping around on the grass and delivering Easter eggs. :)

So, with no further ado...

As a final footnote to life's little joke, I remind readers that one prominent (or at least parochially beloved) mammalian lineage has a long and extensive history of conventional depiction as a ladder of progress—yet it lives today as the single surviving species of a formerly more copious bush. Look in the mirror, and don't be tempted to equate transient domination with either intrinsic superiority of prospects for extended survival.

-- Stephen Jay Gould, iFull House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin/i

The first time that Ginny Weasley ever saw Draco Malfoy sneering at Harry Potter outside Flourish and Blotts, she thought he was a horrid, spoilt, inbred, ferret-faced brat, and that anyone who hated Harry, the boy she loved with all her eleven-year-old heart, must clearly be a vile spawn of Satan. Or at least of Lucius Malfoy, which amounted to the same thing, considering the way that her father talked about him during all of her growing-up years. But she also thought that the twelve-year-old Draco looked at her just a ilittle/i too long. She would later think of that age as still belonging to her innocent childhood years, the years before the diary and Tom Riddle and the violation of her mind and spirit, and the slow, tortuous building of her mind and spirit from such a broken beginning. Draco Malfoy had been a child, too, right on the edge of an age when his hormones would push him towards girls for genders' sake, but still lingering at the precipice, not quite yet crossed over all the way into adolescence. Even so, his crystal-gray eyes lingered on her freckled face and curly red-gold hair as if he were seeking the answer to a riddle he had just been asked, or the lock that matched a key he had been holding during all of his young life.

On the other hand, his contemptuous sneers and insults were exactly as they should be. He was a Malfoy and she was a Weasley, and the two pureblood families had loathed each other past all sense and sensibility since long before the Norman invasion had occurred in 1066, or the Angles and the Saxons had stepped on British shores, or the Druids had watched the sun rise on Stonehenge, or Avalon had sunk beneath the sea. Probably since before the first fish had crawled out of the ocean, actually. So Ithat/i was all right.

Ginny watched Draco Malfoy far more than she herself ever realized when they were at Hogwarts together. He turned thirteen, and then fourteen, and then fifteen years old. There were times when she had to admit, in the darkest, deepest, most unacknowledged part of her mind, that he was growing up into a handsome boy. iIf/i you liked the albino, inbred, ferret-faced, scrawny brat look, she always added to herself. Even a tall, blond ferret with enormous gray eyes and a beautifully chiseled face. Personally, she liked the noble, tragic, green-eyed-as-a-speckled toad heroic look. Even a hero named Harry Potter who was ignoring her, and who had actually called her "Janey" once and "Joaney" twice during her fourth year alone. But Draco was always superior and arrogant, cold and disdainful, and sometimes even uncaring and cruel. She took a vicious pleasure in setting Bat-Bogeys on him at the end of their fifth year, and she proudly reported to Harry that he was running away from them in Umbridge's office whilst screaming for dear life only because of iher./i

And all of this made perfect sense.

But then she could pinpoint the start of when things began to spiral apart, when the center no longer strictly held, and when nothing related to Draco made the slightest bit of sense anymore. Of course, this could only happen if she was going to be strictly truthful with herself on the subject of Draco Malfoy, which she very rarely was.

The first time that she saw Draco Malfoy after his sixteenth birthday was on the Hogwarts Express while she was walking back to a car full of Gryffindors with her Pygmy Puff on her shoulder, and she thought that he gave her the strangest look she had ever seen. It was as if he iexpected/i her to turn and look at him—which never would have happened in the first place-- and then really isee/i something in him, something of who and what he was beneath his cold surface, when there had never been any reason that she should. Or to recognize something different in him than she had ever had any chance or reason to see. Ginny did feel a sharp pang of pity, which she quickly repressed, because he was, after all Draco Malfoy, the spawn of ultimate evil, and she'd already heard a number of dark whispers between Ron, Harry, and Hermione on the theme of their theories about what he'd supposedly been up to that summer. But he looked so ithin/i. Molly Weasley would have immediately tried to feed him gallons of Dr. Mopsey's Magical Milkshakes (Guaranteed to Put On 1 Kg Per Cup!) And he was dressed all in black, and he looked so pale, and his grey eyes didn't seem to see anything around him… well, except for iher./i He did seem to see her. He kept seeing her all year.

And there it was, the beginning of everything that didn't make sense about Draco Malfoy.

When he was dragged into Slugworth's Christmas party by a leering, triumphant Filch, his eyes flickered immediately to Ginny where she was standing by the door. She turned to look at him, as if he had pulled her by a string. She never knew why. He turned his head violently away from her and down, his eyes filled with shame. "Don't you dare ilook/i at me like that, Weasley," he'd spat at her under his breath, but his voice sounded as if he were about to cry. She saw him in the deserted corridor, hours afterwards. She laid a tentative hand on his arm. He froze, and he gave her the same look he had on the train, except that now she saw more clearly than ever that she simply couldn't decipher what it meant. Then he turned and walked away from her as fast as he could.

Ginny figured out that year that he slipped into the Room of Requirement alone, just as she did. The difference was that she thought his reason was the same as hers, which was to throw off the stifling normal self that everyone else expected her to flawlessly portray, just for a little while. She didn't know the real reason until it was too late. Ginny spent a lot of time trying to convince herself that this was why she'd come so perilously close to kissing him two nights before he let Death Eaters into the school. She was lingering by the unicorn tapestry, trying to decide whether or not she wanted to go in, and she heard the sound of sobbing. She knew it was his. When she went in, she found Draco crying over a dead bird cupped in his hands. She stroked his hair and his face and his wet cheeks, and he sank down to his knees and laid his head on her breast, and when he looked up at her, she leaned down and came within a hair's breadth of kissing him. Simple as that.

Except that it wasn't simple at all, because Draco was the one who pulled back from iher/i, not the other way around, and his eyes were filled with what looked like horror.

"M—Ginny?" he said numbly.

She couldn't look him in the eye, and she ran out of the room. She'd come so iclose/i. She'd nearly kissed iDraco Malfoy/i, and if ihe/i hadn't stopped the kiss, she would have done it. And who could say what else might have happened, after that? That near-kiss made her feel like a complete stranger to herself. It was the reason why she kissed Harry Potter in the Room of Requirement only a few hours later, in almost exactly the same spot where she had almost kissed Draco. She had convinced herself that she had loved Harry since she had first known who he was, and so she was the Girl Who Loved Harry. If she could remind herself of why she loved him so much, then she would know herself fully again. But it didn't work at all.

Ginny stole up to the infirmary and stood by Draco's cot in the middle of the night. She watched him for a long time while he was sleeping, although she was sure that he never knew it. He might have been one of her brothers lying there, a lost, silvery-haired brother; yes, that was it, she was sure of it. She felt so very sorry for him, after all. It was why she had tried to protect him when nobody else had so much as lifted a finger. Hermione and Ron hadn't approved of what Harry had been done, Ginny knew that. But they had sat around with him in a silent circle and stared at the walls of the Gryffindor common room after Harry had nearly killed Draco Malfoy with a spell from the Half-Blood Prince's potions book, and only Ginny had finally said, "You've got to get rid of it." She had taken Harry to the Room of Requirement and had put the book someplace where she knew he'd never find it, because ishe/i knew that otherwise Harry might be tempted again, and Draco Malfoy might never be safe. Nobody, inobody/i else had spoken for up for Draco, or tried to protect him, or even punished Harry for what he'd done. Ginny had a slow, creeping, frightening knowledge that it was wrong, desperately wrong. She couldn't think about it too much, or an awful anger towards Harry might begin to grow deep in her heart. And this simply couldn't be allowed to happen.

Ginny pressed a chaste kiss to Draco's forehead in his hospital cot before she even quite realized that she was doing it, but she was sure that he never felt it. A sister's kiss, she tried and tried to convince herself, but she couldn't quite manage it. One of his hands twitched above the coverlet, as if reaching out for something or someone who wasn't there. No-one was there except for Ginny herself. He was all alone, this lost, wounded, deserted boy, and his face was so beautiful in the stark moonlight flooding in through the window that Ginny didn't think she could bear to look at him. She was never sure why, but she leaned forward and laid a hand along the side of his cheek.

He stirred a little in his drugged sleep, and she froze.

"M.. ma.." he began to say in a slurred voice.

iIs he calling for his mother?/I Ginny wondered. It was impossible to imagine anyone ever addressing the elegant Narcissa Malfoy as "mama", though. She listened for several minutes more, but that was all Draco said, and then she heard a rustling noise and grew afraid that Madame Pomfrey might be coming back with a potion or something. She did inot/i want to be caught at Draco Malfoy's bedside! So she crept back to the Gryffindor girls' dormitory, although it took her quite some time to fall asleep. She dreamed that she had lain down in the narrow hospital cot and pressed herself to him and that he had clasped her in his arms, and that made no sense at all. The rest of the dream made her blush just to remember it, and had required a long, not-very-satisfying session with her fingers between her legs under the covers, hoping that the Silencing charms around her bedcurtains held.

The next night, of course, everyone learned what Draco Malfoy had really been doing in the Room of Requirement all year long. Ginny could hate him then, and she convinced herself that the hatred would be pure and clean.

On the night after the last battle, over a year later, her family was staying in one of the ramshackle guest bedrooms in a spare tower at Hogwarts. Ginny couldn't sleep, and she wandered the dusty halls for awhile. She saw Draco with a sinking sense of inevitability. He stood at the end of the corridor, the moonlight shining off his silvery hair, his face in shadow.

"Oh, fuck, what do iyou/i want?"she asked.

"I don't know," he said. He walked towards her until his face was brightly illuminated by the moon, too.

"I don't want to talk to you," she said.

"I'm sure you don't," he said.

"I want you to get away from me," she said.

"M—" He bit his lip. "Ginny…" he said. He raised a hand to the side of her face, and she stood motionless. She could feel the warmth of his skin coming towards her. If he touched her, she knew that she would be drawn into something sweet and terrible, something she could not resist. And she wasn't sure if she even wanted to.

The sleeve of his robe fell back. The twisted, ugly mark on his left wrist was exposed. In a flash, her mind raced through connections. The Dark Mark of the Death Eaters. Fred had died because of them… because of the people who wore this… because of Voldemort, who had given it to all of them… and Draco had knelt before that filthy thing and taken the mark into his flesh.

She watched her hand reach out and slap his face, hard.

He flinched back. Then he turned, and was gone.

Now, ithat/i part made sense. He was a Slytherin and a Death Eater and a Malfoy, and he was on the losing side. She was a Gryffindor and all of her family was in the Order and she was a Weasley, and she was on the winning side. And she had slapped him. But nothing that led up that action made the least bit of sense.

For the next two years or so, Draco Malfoy had simply dropped out of her life, which made all the sense in the world. She heard scraps of news about the Malfoys from time to time, always bundled up with the doings of the other Death Eaters. This one had gone to Azkaban. That one had done away with themselves, using a Suicide hex. The other one had moved their entire family to the Northwest Territories, never to be heard from again. About six months after the end of the war, she heard that Lucius Malfoy had died. Her first reaction was a vindictive gladness. She despised the man, as she should. And it wasn't only because the fact that he had slipped her Tom Riddle's diary and landed her in the Chamber of Secrets; it was as if there was something more, something she couldn't name, something about him that seemed more personal and that made her feel positively ill whenever she even thought of him.

"I hope iall/i of the Death Eaters are getting ready to die out," she'd said to her mother when they both read the news in the iDaily Prophet/i, and Molly Weasley had nodded grimly.

"I doubt they can adapt to the wizarding world we have now," said Molly. "At least, I hope they can't. Either way, they ought to be exterminated."

Her mother had become so hard, thought Ginny. So cold, sometimes. A chill went through her. It was right that her mother should have changed, though; of course it was. She tried to convince herself of this. But then she thought of Draco's pale, gaunt face when he raised a hand to the side of her face in the corridor, and she didn't know what she felt anymore at the thought of him losing his father, and it didn't make sense anymore. So she didn't think about it anymore.

Then everything sped up, as if a switch had been flipped that threw her suddenly into frenetically normal life.

Ginny sometimes thought that those years of her life, the Hogwarts years that led up to the war and then spanned it from age eleven to almost sixteen, contained so much drama that there simply wasn't any left over for the years that followed. There was hard work, delightful friendships, wonderfully normal fun, deliciously productive and rewarding work success. Ginny developed her artistic talents and got a good, entry-level job at a graphic design firm, she lived in Muggle London, and she had many friends. Her life was rich and satisfying… for the most part. One problem was that she also craved a dizzying and multiorgasmic sex life. But something always seemed to be getting in the way. She came to realize that a no-sex curse (which put her mother's stern warnings about white dresses on her wedding day to shame) clearly haunted her attempts to happily (or even unhappily) embark upon the sea of sensual delight. It seemed to develop a depressingly successful mind of its own and to orchestrate a series of curious events which apparently conspired to keep Ginny a perpetual virgin. It took her a long time to realize that Draco Malfoy seemed to be peripherally involved in all of them, and that it was only in these contexts that she started seeing him again after the last battle at Hogwarts, randomly and infrequently.

First, of course, there was Harry Potter. There was, as it seemed there had always been, Harry Potter. He was the original Chosen One, but that title didn't refer only to his status as the savior of the wizarding world. He was also Ginny Weasley's eternal, first, pure, excessively soppy One True Love, which naturally involved a melodramatic vow on her part to save herself for their wedding night, when she would at last slide into his sanctified arms in a white-canopied bed covered by nargle-infested orange blossoms. This had seemed like a perfect plan when she was eleven years old. By the time she was fourteen and snogging Michael Corner, however, or fifteen and allowing Dean Thomas's hand to sneak further and further under her robes before rather regretfully removing his fingers from the swell of her left breast, Ginny began to realize that she had a high natural sex drive and likely wasn't going to make it to the wedding. However, the Somewhat Revised Plan for One True Love still involved the two of them only wanting each other, and only satisfying their sacred carnal desires with each other.

Ginny did a great deal of fidgeting around in her narrow single bed at night during her sixth and seventh years at Hogwarts, and she spent a certain amount of time every week in learning more effective Silencing charms and hoping that they were really doing the trick when it came to containing her moans at three in the morning. (She istill/i thought that some of the Gryffindor girls tended to giggle behind their hands when they saw her during the daytime.) The really embarrassing part was that the images of Harry were never, ever enough to push her over the edge into one of her acceptable and yet never very exciting self-induced orgasms. And she idefinitely/i didn't want to think about the times when she'd wake up from dreams about a boy with silvery hair and gray eyes reaching out to touch her face in a moonlit hallway. Drowsy, still half-asleep, she would stroke herself to a much more satisfying climax then, and pretend that the entire episode had been a dream in the morning. It was particularly embarrassing when this happened the time that she'd slept over at Harry's flat at the end of her seventh year. Even though she was primly dozing on the couch in the living room because of uneasy qualms about her mother's ability to find out where she'd gone and track her down, she was still afraid that Harry could hear her moaning, well, isomeone's/i name. And that it hadn't been his.

After Ginny graduated Hogwarts, she decided that waiting any longer to consummate One True Love- type matters with Harry was simply ridiculous. She was eighteen years old, for Valhalla's sake! And seeing as how she'd been feeling distinctly sensual stirrings since her thirteenth birthday or so—or at least, that was the time when she'd found a stray issue of iPlaywizard/i that Fred and George had left lying about the house, with an article about male masturbation techniques, and had wondered if any of these could be adapted to girls, with moderately successful results—Ginny figured that the time had more than come, so to speak. She and Harry set up a date to meet at his London flat, which he had all to himself (Ginny was sharing hers with Luna Lovegood, who was extremely curious about everything and might have wanted to take notes. She asked Colin Creevey, because she thought he'd be on vacation on Fire Island all that week and he had a very nice flat, but he told her she'd got the dates wrong so that was right out. Ginny made a mental note to try yet again to find Colin a nice girlfriend. He was such a lovely friend and shopping partner, made Ginny chicken soup whenever she was ill, and was always helpful when seeking advice on hairstyles.)

But then everything seemed to go wrong right from the beginning.