Author's notes and sundry warnings: Draco. Ginny. Snow. Christmas. Pointless, plotless, angst and fluffiness. Rampant indulgence of my fascination with cloaks. I notice mistletoe is becoming somewhat of a theme.
This was originally written for the Christmas Fic challenge on the Draco/Ginny list (at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DracoGinnyFanFic) Am posting it here for all of you who are waiting so patiently for Chapter 8 of TPDGA. This isn't set in the same universe, but it's something.
Dedicated to the D/G girls.
White are the far-off plains, and white -Snow, Archibald Lampman
The fading forests grow;
The wind dies out along the height,
And denser still the snow
A gathering weight on roof and tree,
Falls down scarce audibly
-Snow, Archibald Lampman
She heard them before she saw them, shrieks of laughter echoing in the still air, muffled slightly by the falling snow but clear as bells all the same. In the curious gray non-light under the clouds colours stood out brightly; the banners on the Quidditch towers, the red and gold in their scarves, the menacing green-black trees of the Forbidden forest, their hair, red and black and brown all caked with falling snow.
Ginny huffed in disgust, a shimmering rush of icy air surrounding her face and hair, wreathing her in silver. Ron and Harry and Hermione, laughing and chasing each other with snowballs, didn't even glance back at the castle, where Ginny sat down on the steps and buried her face in her knees with a sigh. She had said she'd only be a minute, she only had to run up the tower to get her cloak, and instead of waiting, as Ron had promised they would, they'd gone off without her, down into Hogsmeade for the day. It was Christmas Eve, and despite the ever-present danger, Dumbledore had said they might visit the town for a little while.
She was cold now, and suddenly tired and - she was shocked to discover - horribly lonely. She didn't want to sit out here in the snow, watching her brother and his friends make their way across the school grounds to go off and have fun without her, but she didn't want to begin the long, slow trek back up to Gryffindor tower, to sit and mope and be forgotten about either. So she sat, head down, curled in as small a ball as possible. The cold was seeping through her cloak and robes, making her shiver slightly, but she didn't move.
"If you don't get up, you'll freeze there."
The sound of that drawling voice made her jerk her head up and around, whipping fire-gold hair around her head in a static-y frenzy. She knew that voice, although it was seldom directed at her, and it was no surprise to find Draco Malfoy behind her, tall and elegant and handsome in his winter robes, leaning one arm insolently on the stone banister. "What do you want, Malfoy?"
He raised one shoulder in an arrogant shrug, his cool gray eyes pinning her to the steps. "Merely stating a fact, Weasley. If you don't get up, you'll freeze to the steps. It's cold enough."
"What do you care?" She knew she was being rude, but she couldn't seem to help herself. This was Malfoy, after all, and that slow, superior voice made her grit her teeth every time she heard it.
"Did I say I cared?" He shifted slightly, rolling off his elbow to lean back against the handrail, hands shoved into his pockets. He was wearing a gorgeous cloak, Ginny couldn't help but notice, a rich deep charcoal, double lined in lamb's-wool, with silver ermine trim around the hood that set off his hair and eyes wonderfully. His robes were the same fine material, dark and thick and - above all - warm looking. She hunched her shoulders into her own worn cloak and shivered again, then shoved herself to her feet.
"What do you want?" she demanded, planting her feet on the top of the stair, hands on hips. "If you've come out here to bother Ron and Harry - "
"I did not come out here to bother your precious Harry, Weasley. I wanted some fresh air." He narrowed those icy eyes at her. "Despite what you may think, my entire existence does not revolve around Harry Potter. Unlike some people I could name." He shifted his gaze from her, looking out over the green, suddenly disinterested.
Ginny gaped at him, knowing that it made her look horribly unattractive but unable to help herself. "My existence does not revolve around Harry!"
"Of course it doesn't," Draco said lazily. "That's why you're out here in the cold, watching him have a snowball fight with his friends. Or is it just that you don't have any friends of your own?"
Ginny's cheeks flushed with heat, the offhand remark startlingly close to the truth. "I do so have friends!"
"Right." It was amazing, Ginny reflected, exactly how much scorn he could put into a single syllable. She glared at him, her fists clenching and a burning sensation welling up behind her eyes. She would not cry in front of Draco Malfoy. She wouldn't. She settled for glaring at him and stalking up the steps. She swept past him as haughtily as she could, pulling open the huge front door and yanking it shut behind her.
She stopped and sagged against the door, the tears she refused to shed in front of Malfoy rolling down her cheeks. Because, the thing was, he was right. She didn't have any friends, not really. Unless you counted Colin, and Ginny didn't. Or Neville, but Nev had gone home for the holidays. The girls in her year were unutterably silly, and she avoided them as much as she could, preferring even Colin and his little tagalong brother to the Nest of Ninnies, as she was wont to call them. Ginny thumped her head against the door in frustrated self-pity, willing her tears to stop. No point in crying, just because Ron was oblivious and Malfoy was a git.
Muttering her way up to Gryffindor tower, she thought of all the things she could have said. I don't see your little bully boys around, Malfoy. Don't you have any friends either? Or, Even tagging after my brother's friends would be better than having to hang about with Slytherins. Or, or...she sighed and stopped. She wasn't really in the mood for thinking nasty things about Malfoy. It was Christmas, and she didn't want to spoil it by being horrible, even to people like Malfoy, who deserved it.
She settled for curling up in the Common Room with a novel filched from one of the Ninnies, munching on shortbread cookies from Mum's care package. Ron and Harry and Hermione came back hours later, stuffed with sweets and last-minute presents, and tales of how they'd spotted Malfoy slinking about in Gladrags doing who-knew-what, and what on earth was he doing at school for Christmas anyway? (Which was a common matter of conjecture around the Common Room, since all the other Slytherins had gone home, barring one or two first years, and Malfoy never stayed for Christmas. Ron and Harry and Hermione talked about it in dire-sounding half-whispers, when they got bored of talking about other things.) Ginny watched them unhappily from her chair by the fire; they didn't notice her there, not even when she got up and slipped out past the Fat Lady.
Ginny was wandering aimlessly through one of the forth-floor corridors; she'd gone to the library but it was too cold to be comfortable, so she was indulging in one of her favourite pastimes and playing 'Get Lost' with herself. She had made this game up in third year, wandering 'round the castle to see how far she could get before having to resort to asking the armour or the portraits for directions. Now, in her sixth year, there were very few places she didn't recognize within Hogwarts walls; she'd even stumbled across a hidden passageway or two that she didn't think anyone else knew about.
She'd been down this corridor before, she knew. She had a vague recollection of its origin somewhere near the North tower, and its eventual end in a seldom-used stairwell that led down to the dungeons. It was deserted now, of course, the odd torch flickering here and there over the dust that drifted in the corners. Silence lay over the hall, muffling any noise she might make, and she fancied she could hear the snow falling outside, if she listened hard enough. It felt like she was the only person alive left in the world, prowling the shadowed halls, a thrillingly eerie thought.
So it nearly frightened her out of her wits when a door opened directly in front of her and she walked smack into Draco Malfoy.
He let out an extremely undignified yelp, in counterpoint to her terrified shriek, and stumbled back from her in alarm. "What the hell are you doing here, Weasley?" he demanded.
Ginny had doubled over, one hand steadying herself against the stone wall as she pressed the other to her chest in an effort to stop her heart pounding. "I could ask you the same question, Malfoy. You nearly scared me to death!"
"I am studying," he said loftily, drawing himself up, his familiar smirk in place again as he waved his hand at the room he'd just exited. Ginny glanced toward the door, at the deserted classroom beyond. "What are you doing?"
Ginny straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin. "I'm out for a walk," she replied, just as loftily. "And there's no rule saying I can't, so just push off!"
Draco narrowed his eyes at her and opened his mouth, probably to say something scathing. Ginny braced herself, jaw set and mentally refusing to let him get to her, when an icy breeze swept past them both and coalesced into Peeves the Poltergeist. The small ghost swirled about in the air between them, swooping back and forth, cackling and waving a small sprig of leaves and berries over their heads.
Draco and Ginny looked at each other in horror. Peeves had discovered the wonders of mistletoe earlier in December, and had been harassing students and staff alike with sprigs of the plant, and doing awful things to anyone who wouldn't snog whoever happened to be closest. Professor Snape still had green spots all over his face for refusing to kiss Professor Flitwick, and poor little Mindy Malone, a Ravenclaw first year, wasn't even allowed out of the hospital wing. Peeves grinned horribly at Draco and Ginny in turn, and began making great, smacking noises with his mouth. "Kissie, kissie, kissie!" he cackled.
For a moment, Ginny was tempted to flee, but gave it up as a bad job; running from Peeves only served to encourage him. She looked at Draco, who had gone paler than usual and was staring back at her and looking suddenly vulnerable, his gray eyes huge in his thin face. Peeves made a particularly loud noise and whirled threateningly, and both of them hurriedly took a few steps closer to each other.
"I...I suppose we have to," Ginny said resignedly, and held her hand out to Draco, who nodded and took it.
"I suppose." He cleared his throat and gazed down at her with those unreadable gray eyes. His hand was cool and smooth and, Ginny was startled to discover, trembling slightly in her own. He raised his other hand and rested it lightly on her shoulder, and leaned his head toward her.
She had a brief impression of pine trees and snow and damp wool, and a scent that she could only describe as boy, and then his lips were on hers and he was kissing her. So she did the most sensible thing she could think of, under the circumstances, and kissed him back.
And it was wonderful.
He tasted like chocolate and sugar and butterbeer, and Ginny's mind was whirling as crazily as Peeves ever had, full of a strange, tingling warmth that spread from her stomach through her whole body. She could feel his hands, at her neck and waist; the sensations were both immediate and impossibly far away, somehow less important than the way his lips moved against hers, the way their breath mingled. She wrapped her arms around his neck, sliding her fingers into his hair, and Draco made a low, soft noise in his throat and pulled her closer.
There was a huge crash, and they sprang apart, looking guiltily at anything but each other. The cause of the noise was apparent; Peeves, upset at their enthusiasm, had knocked over a suit of armour, which lay scattered across the floor in pieces. The poltergeist spun around in the air, cackling with glee now that he was the centre of attention again, and swooped off down the hall.
Ginny cleared her throat nervously and glanced at Draco, who had stuffed his hands in the pockets of his robe and was leaning against the wall, examining the toes of his boots. "Um...I should...I..." She stammered to a halt, and took a deep breath. "I should probably go."
"Yeah," Draco said, without looking up.
She didn't know what made her do it - an instinctual impulse, she supposed, that made her stop and move back to him. He looked up when she reached his side and gasped, startled, when she slipped her arms around him, and rested her head against his chest. Draco froze for a moment, then his arms went around her and he held her tight, resting his cheek against the top of her head, one hand gently winding itself in her hair.
Another noise, from the stairwell at the end of the hall, yanked them apart again reluctantly. Draco looked around the corridor, then down at her, eyes full of apprehension and fear and something...else.
Whatever it was, it frightened her too. She felt...strange and unsettled by this, and by him. She needed to think. I really should go," Ginny whispered, and spun on her heel before she couldn't leave. She raced down the corridor, back the way she had come, running full tilt until she skidded to a breathless stop in front of the Fat Lady. The Fat Lady's friend Viola was with her, and they tittered and teased at Ginny while she got her breath and composure back before venturing into the Common Room.
It was still cold when she woke up on Christmas morning, cold enough that she could see her breath faintly in the air. Ginny sighed and rubbed at her head. An entire evening of thinking, and a mostly sleepless night had left her no closer to understanding what had happened yesterday with...with Mal - no, with Draco. A Draco with no cruel words, with no sneers or mockery, who had brushed at her hair and caressed her skin like it was the finest porcelain, who had whispered broken, half-heard words and held her like he hadn't ever wanted to let go...
Ginny shook her head abruptly, willfully putting it from her mind. Dwelling on it hadn't helped, so she simply wouldn't think of it at all. Draco Malfoy...she sighed and shook her head again. The whole thing had just been strange, and she half-felt as though she'd imagined the entire episode. With a decisive nod, she pulled her slippers and dressing gown out from under the sheets at the bottom of her bed, where she'd stuffed them to keep them warm during the night. She could hear Ron at the foot of the stairs, yelling for herself and Hermione to bring their presents downstairs so they could open them together. Ginny yawned hugely, stuffing her slippers on her feet and her tattered dressing gown over her nightgown, reaching for the small bundle of presents at the foot of her bed. She gathered them all up and trudged down the stairs after Hermione, juggling presents, wand and dressing gown hem until she got to the common room and managed to collapse into a wing chair.
Ron and Harry had already taken over one long couch, with room left over at one end for Hermione, who promptly curled up there, tucked her dressing gown around her knees and burrowed her feet underneath Ron's legs to keep them warm. Ron had already unwrapped and discarded his jumper, and was nose-deep in a box of chocolate frogs; he allowed Hermione's encroachment upon his personal space with only minor grumbling. Harry was examining his new broom-servicing kit, oblivious to anything else.
Ginny let out a resigned sigh and began poking through her gifts, unwrapping her own jumper first and shrugging out of her dressing gown to pull it over her head. She moved onto the next few presents; a package of quills and ink from Neville, a bottle of her favourite perfume from Hermione, a silver chain with a tiny dancing fairy pendant from Ron, a leather-bound copy of Famous Fire Eaters from Harry. There was another package, too, one that was surprisingly thick and squishy. She looked at it, then picked it up and turned it over. There was no name, no note, no card, just the strangely soft package wrapped up in plain brown paper.
Ginny frowned, her brow furrowing. That was strange; she'd opened Neville's present already, and she couldn't think who else would be buying her gifts. She glanced up at Ron and Harry and Hermione, but they were all engaged in their own presents and not paying attention. Shrugging mentally, she slid her hand under the spellotape and pushed the paper apart to see what the package contained.
It was a cloak.
More than a cloak; one of Gladrags' finest, mahogany brown, trimmed in mink, double-lined in the softest lamb's wool, with a waterproofing spell built in. The kind of cloak that would last for ages and not wear out, that would never look threadbare or worn. She ran her hands over the fine fabric, then stood up silently and shook it out so that it fell to the floor and twisted it around her shoulders. Delicious heat instantly began to seep through her jumper. There was a warming spell on it too. Ginny closed her eyes and curled her shoulders luxuriously. It felt wonderful
"Ginny, what is that?"
She looked up at Hermione with wide eyes. "A cloak," she said. It was with my presents."
Ron looked up and frowned, brows beetling. "Who's it from?" he asked suspiciously.
"I don't know. It was just there, and there wasn't a note or card."
"Is that a Gladrags cloak?" Hermione stood up and rested a hand on Ginny's shoulder, gently tilting her head forward so that Hermione could peer at the tag. It is. Ginny, do you know how much these things cost?"
"A lot." Hermione frowned, fingering the edge of the cloak with her fingers. Who would send you something like this? Who could afford something like this? It must have cost a fortune."
Ginny shrugged again, bewildered. Hermione narrowed her eyes and looked suspiciously at Harry. He blinked back at her in surprise and shook his head vehemently. "Wasn't me."
"Then who...?" Hermione trailed off, deep in thought.
Ron peered at Ginny, beady-eyed. "Any ideas, Gin?"
She just shook her head, as baffled as the rest of them. Hermione frowned, then drew her wand from the pocket of her dressing gown. "Let me see it. I want to check and make sure it's not spelled or something."
Ron and Harry rolled their eyes, but Ginny stood quietly while Hermione poked at the cloak with her wand and muttered under her breath. Finally she stood back and shook her head. "Well, I can't detect anything, beyond a warming spell and a waterproofing one. Seems safe enough. That is strange, though. I wonder who sent it."
Ginny shrugged again. "Whoever it was, I'm not about to give it back," she said lightly. "It's far too pretty." She brushed her hands against the smooth inner lining, then reached up and unclasped the cloak, pulling it off and folding it over the back of her chair. Her brief levity didn't last, though; she sank back into her chair, frowning slightly, lost in thought. Ron had to shake her out of her reverie to send her up to change for breakfast.
They trooped down in a group, Ron and Harry and Hermione in the lead, with Ginny trailing along behind, eyes on the ground, still deep in thought. There were so many students still here for Christmas that the House tables were still set up, and they joined the small group of Gryffindor first years who had already come down for breakfast. Ginny absently helped herself to sausages and eggs, and poured herself a glass of orange juice only half-listening to the conversation around her.
Her attention was caught by Ron's indignant whisper. "He's looking over here. He is! Staring right at us, the rat!"
Ginny looked at her brother with a frown, then in the direction of his outraged glare. Ron was glowering at the Slytherin table, where Draco Malfoy had just sat down, coolly ignoring the younger students at the far end of the table. He was looking at the Gryffindor table, but not at Ron.
He was staring at Ginny. She caught her breath as their eyes met, but he yanked his eyes away and focussed on his plate, two spots of crimson high on his cheekbones. Ginny smiled faintly; so the whole thing hadn't been a product of her imagination. Ron, oblivious, continued to mutter, while Harry shook his head and Hermione made soothing noises.
She glanced up again, but Draco was studiously not looking in their direction. Ginny sighed and pushed her eggs around on her plate. She hadn't imagined it; Draco really had kissed her, had held her, but nothing really had changed. He was still...himself, and she was still a Gryffindor, and Ron and Harry and Hermione still weren't noticing anything that happened outside of their little threesome, and nothing at all had changed. She gave up on her breakfast and set her fork down, leaned her elbows on the table and looked over at the Slytherin table. Looked over at Draco, really, who was munching on a piece of toast and reading a book he had propped up beside his plate. Ginny frowned suddenly; his eyes had flickered over to their table, and back to his book, so quickly that had she not been watching him she wouldn't have noticed. She rested one hand on her chin, and kept watching.
Not a minute later, he did it again, once again so quickly that had Ginny not been watching, she would never have seen it. It was barely a flicker of his eyes in her direction, subtle and almost unconscious-seeming. Ginny's frown deepened. When had he started doing that? It seemed almost like a habit, like it was just something that he did. She turned to tell Ron and Harry and Hermione, but stopped herself. They had dismissed Malfoy as suddenly as they'd noticed him, once he'd stopped being obvious about watching the Gryffindors, and were discussing something else, heads down and blocking out everyone else.
Ginny looked at the three of them, red and black and brown heads bent together, and sighed. So much for discussing it with any of them. She watched them for a moment longer, then without saying a word, she stood up from the table and slipped out the door, and up the stairs to the Tower. She gathered up her new cloak and twirl it around her shoulders, then just as silently slipped down the stairs again and out the hall doors. It wasn't as if they'd noticed she'd gone, anyway. Not as if anyone would notice.
Her breath still wreathed her hair in a great white mist, her feet sinking slightly into the snow that covered the courtyard like a fairy blanket. She crossed the courtyard quickly, and climbed the stairs to the narrow bridge that led down to the boathouse then stopped, looking out at the black water of the lake. Behind her, she could hear the main doors open, then the crunch of footsteps on new snow, coming toward her.
"Ginny." She stopped and turned at the sound of her name, and looked at him. He smiled slightly, a lopsided, tremulous smile, but a real one; a rarity, considering who and what he was. "D'you like your new cloak?"
She curled her shoulders slightly within the fall of soft brown fabric and smiled, extending her hand. He took it in his own, curling his fingers around hers and taking a step forward; snowflakes were gathering in his hair, melting slightly and leaving honeyed streaks behind. It was still cold, but it could be a thousand degrees below and not matter. There was a little spot of warmth inside of her now, under her heart, and that was all she needed, and all she ever would.