Pan out to the study. Draco and Ginny are curled up beside each other on the chesterfield, sharing a large bowl of popcorn.
Author: (clears throat dramatically) And now it is time for—drum roll, please—
Ginny jumps in her seat and leans forward, rapping her palms against the coffee table for effect.
Author: The dénouement!
Ginny: (pumps fist in air) Yay for the unnecessary usage of a French term where an English one would have easily sufficed! (pauses) Wait, what does dénouement mean again?
Draco: (munches on popcorn) It is the unravelling or untying of the complexities of the plot, thereby ending the story.
Ginny sucks in her lower lip and shrugs, letting out a futile 'oh' sound. Reaching over, she scoops a generous handful of popcorn from the bowl on Draco's lap and shovels it into her mouth.
Ginny: (chews) You know, if we're both figments of Author's imagination, (swallows) how come you know all the answers and I don't?
Draco: (pulls the bowl away from Ginny and directs her a haughty look) Probably because you represent the clueless, ill-tempered, do-goodness side of her while I represent the indefatigable charm and wit.
Draco smirks and Ginny wipes her buttery palm on Draco's shoulder, causing the blond to recoil in abject horror. The redhead then leans forward and surreptitiously nips the popcorn bowl from Draco's grasp.
Ginny: And you represent her rude, priggish side. (smiles smugly and eats the coveted popcorn)
Author: Okay, stop erroneously analysing my personality based on your imaginary personalities. I want to finish this damn story so that I can go to bed. Is that too much to ask?
Ginny and Draco share a knowing look.
Draco: At least we're not tetchy like she is.
Author growls and picks up her empty water bottle before throwing it at Draco's head. Ginny bursts into uproarious laughter at Draco's expense.
Draco: (rubs head and mumbles) Someone needs to take her medication . . .
17 September 2010
Draco had never felt pain like this before—not that he could remember. It wasn't an obvious sort of pain, like being sliced across the chest with the Sectumsempra spell. No, that had been terrible agony. The pain Draco felt now was something different. It was persistent and inescapable. It was as though every part of his body was distended and wreathed in flames. Every joint, every muscle was stiff and sore, and it was an arduous task to even lift his head to take a drink from his glass of water.
The problem was that Draco had never been sick his entire life, not even as a child. He didn't know how to deal with the pain—the kind of pain that drained him completely and weakened him to the state of an infant. In the past whenever he had come close to getting sick his parents would force-feed him potions and salves and at school he had learnt to take the proper precautions.
But for the Dragon Pox there was no quick solution, no swift recovery. He would have to suffer through the pain and hope that he would beat the fever. If he didn't, then . . . well, Draco didn't want to think about what happened to his grandfather, Abraxas Malfoy.
So with a grunt, Draco set down his glass of water and rolled over onto his side, facing Ginny's bed. The room was lit brightly from the moonlight spilling in through the large windows. And it was with this natural light that Draco was able to see with crystal clarity that the redhead was no longer in her bed.
She was gone.
His voice was raspy from lack of use and his throat felt raw, like he had swallowed shards of glass. He tried her calling her again, wondering if she had slipped off to the lavatory. Draco then turned back over on his side and tried to suppress the whimper that rose to his throat from the pain. He glanced in the direction of the toilets and noticed that the door was open and no light was on.
Draco should have left well enough alone and gone back to sleep. The woman had obviously been discharged, but the niggling, persistent thought at the back of his mind told him there was no way she could have been let go; she was just as sick as he was, if not sicker. There was no way they would have discharged her yet, even if she was feeling better.
So where exactly was she? Was she wandering the halls of the school? Did she take off somewhere? Or did she not make it and they removed her body while he was sleeping?
Draco rolled his eyes at his own foolish thoughts. It was obviously the fever talking. Certainly there was some reasonable explanation. Surely she was all right. She was just . . . gone.
Why did he even care?
He should have gone back to sleep and thought nothing of it. Yes, he should have but he didn't. Instead, Draco groaned loudly and sat up, folding back the sheets and rising out of bed like a zombie. Wavering on his feet for a moment, he managed to balance himself and take a step forward, awkwardly perambulating about the room—hobbling, really.
Since he was already up, he decided to use the toilets before looking around for the redhead. On his way out of the lavatory, though, he happened to look outside one of the bay windows. On the ground below something red and white caught his eye.
Ginny was ambling southwards towards the lake. Her red hair and white gown were billowing out behind her in the breeze.
"Bollocks!" Draco leaned forward, resting the palm of his hands against the cool pane glass. "How in Salazar's name did she get out there?"
Without thinking, not that he was in his right mind to begin with, Draco turned on his heel and marched out of the infirmary. Carefully making his way through the labyrinth that was Hogwarts' hallways, he finally managed to stumble his way to the Tower entryway, intent on cutting Ginny off at the pass. The doors, however, were locked and by the time Draco was able to circumvent their mechanics (he managed to slip out an open window down one of the corridors), it was too late; Ginny was already making her way to the beach.
Mustering every bit of strength left in him—and cursing loudly at the gods—Draco took off in a sprint towards the lake. His feet ached and his backside was freezing (due to the draft from the open-back hospital gown), but he made it to the sandy shores. Bending over, he rested his hands on his knees and tried to catch his breath. When he stood back up he yelled Ginny's name once more, but the redhead was already in the water' the dark waves were licking at her calves.
Draco palmed his face in hopeless frustration. He wasn't sure what he was going to do. Ginny was now thigh-deep in the water and still wading through, using her hands to scoop up the cool liquid and splash it onto her face.
"Weasley!" Draco shouted above the gentle roar of the waves, but the redhead didn't seem to hear him or care for she continued to wade through the water, waist-deep and sinking. So Draco cupped his hands around his mouth and screamed her name again, "WEASLEY!"
This time Ginny turned. The water was rising up to her chest. She looked deranged in the moonlight; her eyes were wild and her red hair was wet, slicked back against her neck. She was shivering uncontrollably yet her face was flushed and splotchy red with the heat of the fever.
"I'm s-so h-hot," she said through chattering teeth, hugging herself. "I-I n-need—I n-need to c-cool d-down."
Even in Draco's fever induced mind he knew this to be a bad idea. She could get hypothermia or fall unconscious in the water and drown.
"Get out of the lake, NOW!" he demanded, pointing at the shore in front of him. "You stupid, silly little ginger!"
"I called you a stupid, silly little ginger!" Draco barked, hoping to incite her ire so that she would come out after him. "Now get out of that water this instant or so help me Merlin I will come in there and I will drag you out by the roots of your stupid ginger hair!"
Draco instantly went flush at the end of his speech, feeling the fever and the vertigo weakening him. It took almost all of his energy to run down to the beach and yell at her and he wasn't sure how much he had left in him. Ginny, on the other hand, who was chest-deep in the lake, just stared at him unflinchingly before a cheeky grin rose upon her lips.
"Hullo, Blonny," she slurred, as though drunk, slicking back her wet hair. "Try not ta get your knickers in a twist, would ja?"
Ginny then openly grinned at Draco and spread her arms wide, falling back into the water. She languidly kicked outwards with her legs, performing a lazy backstroke.
"You needa relax a bit," she said, still swimming. "Why not take a dip in the lake and coo' off?"
What happened next was either fuelled by fury, frustration, or fever—or all three Fs—because Draco stormed right into the lake after Ginny. Wading through water that felt thick as molasses, he finally managed to catch up to the redhead, who was floating flat on her back. With a determined effort, he encircled his arms about her waist and pulled her up out of the water, dragging her back to the shore with him.
She struggled at first, pushing him and clamouring out of his grasp, but once she had got away she had lost all strength. Being as far out as she was, Ginny couldn't touch the bottom and, in a panic, she tried to swim back to the shore towards Draco. Her effort was in vain, though, for she was soon sucked under by the current.
Without thought Draco dove into the water after her. Reaching out with his hands, he found her shoulders and then her waist, securing his arms tightly around her before pulling her to the surface. They both took in great gulps of air and Draco tried to stand. He was tall enough to touch the bottom with his feet but the waves were relentless and they continued to assault them. He tried his best to balance her weight with his but the current was too strong and he was too weak. With one last crash of the waves, they were both taken under.
They were only under water for a few seconds, but it felt like minutes before Draco finally reached the surface. He gasped for air, filling his lungs, and then pulled Ginny up. She sucking in a hitching breath and coughed before wrapping her arms around his neck and clinging on for dear life. With one free hand—the other trying to prevent Ginny from choking him to death—Draco managed to feebly swim back to shore. Exhausted, they both collapsed onto the wet sand, breathing heavily.
"The water does feel nice," Draco conceded with a mumble, his cheek flat against the shore.
Ginny was lying beside him; her hair was wet and matted with sand and a smattering of pebbles lined her cheeks, glowing luminescent in the moonlight. Her long eyelashes were plastered against her cheeks and her eyes were shut tight, unconscious.
"Feels . . . nice," Draco said groggily, before following suit and passing out with Ginny on the moonlit shores.
Ginny: (clasps hands together) Aww, you rescued me!
Draco: I was delirious with fever, Weasley. I didn't know what I was doing.
Ginny: (grins and playfully pokes Draco in the chest) You like me!
Draco: I do not! (licks his lips and looks away) Now be quiet so Author can finish this ridiculous story.
Author: Thank you?
Ginny: (giggles and whispers) You like me.
Draco woke to the sound of birds chirping in the distance. Instead of opening his eyes he shut them tighter, furrowing his brow in annoyance. Stupid birds waking him up in the morning. Didn't they have anything better to do in the wee hours of—
Morning? Wait—wasn't it midnight and wasn't he lying on the beach? It felt more like he was lying in a bed, an uncomfortable yet familiar bed. The infirmary? Perhaps the almost drowning incident last night was a dream.
Draco slowly opened his eyes, focussing on a long face with a strong chin and striking green eyes. "Theo?" His voice was barely above a hoarse whisper. He opened his eyes fully and glanced upwards, seeing the familiar sterile white ceiling, and grimaced.
"How are you doing?"
Theodore took a seat on the edge of Draco's hospital bed and Draco groaned, pulling himself into an upright position as he shook his heavy head. He felt like he had been recently beaten with a sack of doorknobs (not that he knew what that felt like).
"I feel like utter shite." Draco coughed, bringing a hand to still his throbbing head. He cleared his throat uncomfortably and brought his hand back down, squinting his eyes as he looked about the room. "Wait, Weasley—Weasley was in the lake!"
Theodore brought a large hand down on Draco's shoulder, squeezing gently. "She's fine, Draco. We found the both of you washed up on shore last night. What were you two doing out there anyway?"
Draco glanced past Theodore, who was obstructing his view of the bed next to him. He could see a glimpse of matted red hair; then the body attached to that hair began to shift and wide brown eyes suddenly met his.
"Going for a swim," Draco mumbled, turning his head away in a huff, which only caused more throbbing pain.
"Sure, Draco." Theodore grinned and glanced at the waking Ginny before turning his attention back to Draco. "Sure."
"Is there something you wanted to tell me, Theo?" Draco glowered at his best mate. He wasn't exactly a pleasant man on his healthiest days and when he had a headache everyone might as well have stayed clear of him.
"Yes, I wanted you both to know that we found out how the Dragon Pox was brought to Hogwarts."
"How?" Ginny sat up in her bed. She was pale and flushed but looked surprisingly healthy compared to last night.
"You, actually," Theodore said, turning to face the redhead, and Draco pointed an accusing finger at Ginny.
"I knew it! I knew that this was all your fault!"
"Not quite, Draco." Theodore shook his head and reached over to lower Draco's hand. "We found traces of the bug in the crates that carried the first-year brooms."
"The Holyhead Harpies' donation?" Ginny groaned, and Theodore nodded.
"They must have not inspected the crates before they shipped them to Hogwarts."
"And you never inspected the brooms," Draco added with a sneer, looking directly at Ginny.
"I didn't think I had to," Ginny said defensively, the fire returning to her eyes.
The two locked gazes and looked as though they were about to start fighting when Theodore interjected, raising his hands between them.
"Alright, there's no need to point fingers." He trained a critical eye on Draco. "And this isn't Ginny's fault, Draco."
Draco muttered several colourful expletives, suggesting that he did not agree with his best mate's hypothesis. Theodore, in turn, shook his head and let out a weary sigh before rising to his feet.
"Well, you both survived and no longer have fevers. Be grateful for that."
Both Draco and Ginny turned and glared at Theodore, suggesting that they did not feel as grateful as he would have liked. The tall wizard laughed somewhat nervously and brought a hand to rub at the back of his neck before stuffing his fists into his pockets.
"Madam Pomfrey said that you'll both be in the infirmary for at least another week. Although the redness and swelling and the . . . uh . . . pockmarks—" he pulled a hand out of his pocket and waved vaguely at his own face in demonstration "—they, uh, will take another week or two to fully heal with the proper potions and salves."
Draco rolled his eyes and let out a groan. "Fan-bloody-tastic."
Theodore clasped his hands together and pointed them at Draco and then Ginny. "Well, I shall leave you two to your rest." He smiled at Ginny and bowed slightly. "I will be back to visit you both tomorrow."
Ginny thanked him and Theodore exited the room, leaving Draco and Ginny alone. A minute passed in silence and then another, before Draco lifted his arms and crossed them behind his head.
"So, Weasley," he drawled, "is every week going to be an adventure with you here? If so, I'm going to have to invest in a more comprehensive life insurance policy."
Ginny let out a snort of laughter and shook her head. "Funny that you are the one to find humour in all of this."
"Why is that?"
"I dunno." She shrugged. "You never had much of a sense of humour in school."
Draco leaned back into his pillow and pulled the sheets up to his chest. "That was twelve years ago, Weasley." He ran his fingers through his blond fringe. "Times change. People change, too."
"You're right," she admitted, pulling her own sheets up to her chin.
"Of course I am."
Ginny let out a breathless laugh and closed her eyes, and Draco did the same. After a moment he felt his body relax and he began to drift off to sleep.
Draco opened his eyes and turned his head, glancing at the redhead with unmasked confusion. "For what?"
"I might," Draco said, revelling in her unease, "but I think you should tell me anyway."
Ginny took in a deep breath. "Thank you for saving me—twice."
"You're welcome, Weasley."
"Thank Merlin it's all over now," Ginny said, nestling further into bed.
"Right. No more wacky dreams."
"Mhm." Draco yawned and turned over onto his side to look at the redhead. "I had one where I was wearing nothing but jogging bottoms and you were mooning me with that silly hospital gown—"
Ginny's eyes suddenly went wide and she flushed a scarlet red. Draco opened his mouth to speak but the redhead abruptly turned away from him and curled up into a ball, hiding her face in her hands.
"Weasley? Are you okay?"
"I, uh, yes I'm fine," she said a little shakily. "Just a little tired is all."
"Er, okay." Draco turned over onto his back. "G'night then, Weasley. Or g'morning—whatever time or day it is."
Draco shook his head. Women. He was never going to understand them.
As he began to drift off to sleep Draco heard a rustling in the bed next to him. He turned his head and opened an eye to see Ginny inching towards the edge of her bed. She held her arm out over the side and slowly reached for his hand with hers. He felt sure that he should not let her have it, but he couldn't stop it from happening—stop his own hand from seeking hers. Nor could he stop his captured hand from turning in her grip so that it could close on her small, slender fingers.
Maybe having Weasley around wasn't so bad.
Author neatly stacks the loose papers and yawns loudly. Once done, she interlaces her fingers together and bends her elbows outwards, stretching her arms up over her head. Letting go, she rolls her shoulders back and twists to the side, cracking out the kinks in her back and neck.
Author: All right, you two, it's time for me to go to bed. (glances at Draco and Ginny and rolls her eyes) Have fun.
Author pushes her chair back and stands. Heading for the exit, she takes one last look at Draco and Ginny and mutters softly to herself before closing the door shut behind her. On the chesterfield sit the blond and the redhead, both wrapped up together in a big, fluffy blanket—kissing softly in front of the dying fire.
And people say romance is dead . . .
Author notes: Satisfying ending or just a big tease? Ah, you got your kiss—isn't that good enough? As for the dream Ginny had earlier, in chapter four, did it really happen? Hmm, I dunno. Am I being a tease by even introducing it in the last chapter and not answering? Yes, yes I am. ;)
. . .
Thanks so much for the reviews and the support. Until next time . . .