Chapter One: A Kiss
Draco's lips overcame his instant of surprise before his brain did, and they responded to the unexpected kiss, accepting and extending it. But then his brain kicked in, and he drew back.
"Ginny." He blinked at her.
"I didn't think you were ever going to kiss me."
"I wasn't going to. And we shouldn't." He looked around at the empty, abandoned classroom. They sat on Transfigured cushions on the floor, surrounded by their books and parchments. Late afternoon sun filtered through grimy windows.
"There's no one here," Ginny said. "We've met here almost every day for weeks. No one ever has seen us here."
"And if anyone ever does, they won't find us doing anything but revising for NEWTs. Not ever," Draco said. He handed her the notes he'd been copying and stuffed his copies into his book bag. "Thanks. I have to go."
"Wait! Draco, don't go. I'm sorry. I just thought . . . it seemed you felt the same," Ginny said, taking his arm as he stood.
Draco shook his head. "What I feel doesn't matter."
"What about what I feel?"
"I can't let that matter, either," Draco said softly. He lowered his head, and his long blond fringe fell over his eyes.
Ginny's friendship had been both unexpected and unexpectedly welcome. When he had returned to Hogwarts after more than a year in hiding in Sweden with his mother, Slytherin House had not welcomed him back with open arms. Professor Snape had done what he could to help him adjust to the new reality, but there was only so much that his Head of House could do—and only so much that Draco wanted him to do. He was a man, after all, and he'd taken care of his mother for that year in exile. He could take care of himself.
One of the first things Draco did was change his name. To please his mother, he had kept "Malfoy" as a middle name, but his surname was now "Newman." Anyone who called him "Malfoy" was simply ignored, as was anyone who tried to taunt him about his new name. He had slowly created a new place for himself in Slytherin House, and if it wasn't as a leader, he found himself content with that for the moment.
On Professor Snape's recommendation, the Headmistress had reinstated him as a prefect, and that had helped his standing in his House, if it also did create a few difficulties for him. He could not put one toe out of line, or he would lose both his prefect's badge and the symbolism that came with it. The badge was a concrete sign of the Headmistress's trust and of his own new start in a wizarding world with no more Dark Lord and an army of Death Eaters, and Draco did not want to lose it.
Draco raised his eyes to meet Ginny's. "I'm a prefect, Ginny. I can't be caught doing anything even slightly outside school rules—or even right at the edge. This classroom isn't technically out-of-bounds for us, but even meeting here to revise is risky."
"And that's all it is?"
Draco's brows drew together and he shook his head. "I don't want to get you into trouble, either."
"I don't mean anything like that—school rules, getting caught, whatever. Are there other reasons? I don't want to make a fool of myself," Ginny said frankly, "and if I've misunderstood you, then . . . I guess I'll deal with it. But I thought you liked me."
"It's not a question of whether I like you or not. I have enjoyed revising for NEWTs with you, and you know I appreciate your help and like being with you. But we both have to think about the future, and you know what your father would say if you became involved with me."
"Actually, I don't know what he'd say, but I can pretty easily guess that your father wouldn't be happy about it."
"I don't know about that . . . but even if he thought it the best strategy for me to gain a place in society, it wouldn't matter to me. In fact, if he were in favour of it, it would worry me. But I don't really care what he thinks anymore. Or not much." Draco shrugged. He'd already talked to Ginny about his ambivalent feelings about his father. She knew that he cared both more and less than he wished to. "Mother wouldn't say if she disapproved, not unless she thought it would be a real disaster and not merely a . . . a social faux pas, but I think that she'd be happy if I were happy. But none of that matters. It wouldn't be good for you. You already have a lot of problems in your life; you don't need me making things more complicated, especially when it probably wouldn't last, anyway."
"So . . . you're saying you would like to, except for your father's opinion, which doesn't matter to you, and your mother's opinion, which you think would be okay, and my dad's opinion, which even I can't guess, and—what else was it?—oh, yeah, and that if we get caught doing anything more exciting than revising for the ethics portion of the Defence exam, you might lose your prefect's badge and become a disgrace and I'll lose points from Gryffindor. Or was losing points from Gryffindor a plus?"
"When you put it like that—"
"When I put it like that, it sounds like we should only go by what we feel, Draco. And I really like you. You've been seeming to like me, too."
Draco shook his head slowly. "It isn't that simple."
"Nothing's simple, Draco! And life pretty much sucks a lot of the time. But I feel better when I'm with you, and you do, too, I think. You're one of the only people who seems to understand me, or at least, to listen to me. And you've been really sweet. I had no idea what to think when you gave me those chocolates just because I'd loaned you some notes, but you liked me even then, didn't you?"
Draco took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Yeah, of course I did. But . . . you aren't going to understand this, Ginny, but . . . I like you even more now, and that's why we have to stick to revising together and nothing more. We have to think about the future."
"You don't make any sense sometimes!"
"And you just dive right in without thinking about the consequences!"
Ginny was quiet. "Yeah, okay," she said. "Whatever."
"I'm sorry, Ginny. I didn't mean that." Draco reached out to touch her arm, but she pulled away.
"Doesn't matter what you meant. It's true. And you're smart not to get involved with me." Ginny's jaw was tight as she began to stuff her books and parchments into her bag.
"Ginny, don't be like that!"
"You're right. I just dive in and I get people killed." Her voice cracked, and she didn't look at Draco.
"Don't leave! Ginny!" Draco reached toward her, but she was already turned away from him, hurrying out the door, her head down. The door closed behind her.
Draco dropped his book bag with a thump and sank back down onto one of the cushions. That had been an abysmally stupid thing to have said. He knew how guilty Ginny felt about Percy's death. He had only been thinking of basic Gryffindor brashness, but he was certain that her mind immediately turned to that early morning when the Dark Lord—Riddle, Draco corrected himself—had turned his wand on her as she dashed out to Harry. She had survived, but her brother had been hit by the Avada Kedavra as he jumped on her, pushing her to the ground and out of the way of the curse. Then his father, for whatever reason, had distracted Riddle, who cast another Avada Kedavra at him. Potter, knowing that he had to be hit by the Killing Curse, had thrust himself into the path of the curse and kept it from hitting Lucius. Draco still didn't understand what had happened next, except that the curse hadn't killed Potter, and a phoenix had appeared from nowhere and carried his apparently lifeless body away. It must have been a very old and Dark magic that saved him. The rest, as they say, was history, and Potter had reappeared in the midst of the battle and engaged Riddle, destroying him.
Draco hadn't witnessed any of it, of course, but he had heard about it, and read all of the Daily Prophet articles. He wished he'd been there and been one of "Snape's Slytherins," joining the Headmistress in defence of the school, but a very uncomfortable part of him knew that if he had been there, he likely would have been fighting on the wrong side, whether he had wanted to or not. A familiar sense of frightened relief washed over him as he remembered the choice that the Headmistress had given him in the spring of his sixth year—relief because he had been given a choice and had chosen well, and frightening because he was all too aware that if things had been even slightly different, he either would have chosen badly or not been given any choice at all.
Draco shook himself internally and stood, grabbing his book bag. He hoped that Ginny got over his poor choice of words quickly and realised that he'd been speaking thoughtlessly. He wished that she could see that they both had to think of the future. He had to find a way to earn a respectable living and make a new place for himself in the wizarding world. Becoming distracted by a girl wasn't an option, even if she weren't a Weasley, even if she were some dull, inconsequential witch . . . he wouldn't want a relationship with some dull, inconsequential witch, though.
Suddenly, he saw a future where he had a job, a home, and . . . nothing else. He might never find another witch as interesting, lively, and intense as Ginny. Whatever his father's sins, and however those sins may have hurt his family, Draco knew that the one thing that meant more to his father than the Dark Lord, money, or his pureblood status, was his family. Lucius Malfoy didn't always do the right or wise thing for them, but Draco knew that his father loved his family.
Maybe this was a time to go with his feelings . . . to jump in with Ginny. Well, not jump in, but wade in slowly. Maybe it would be possible for his future and Ginny's future to merge.
He waved his wand, returning the cushions to their usual forms as a lectern and a small table, then he Levitated them to their home in the far corner of the room. He looked around, and assured that the room was in the same condition they'd found it in, he turned to leave.
Draco paused at the door to the classroom, startled by the sound of voices, one of them, the Headmistress's voice. He couldn't tell what they were saying, but they were coming closer. His heart pounded in his chest. He wasn't doing anything wrong, he reminded himself, and if he tried to hide and was found, that would look far more suspicious than simply stepping out of the classroom as though he were innocent—which he was. This was what Ginny didn't understand, this was what he would be bringing her into—a life with a very tenuous hold on respectability, where everything could be lost in a moment, with one ill-considered decision, with one rash choice, or at the whim of one powerful person who took exception to something he did, or just to the way he looked at them.
Draco opened the door and stepped out. Professor McGonagall and Laura Walker Manning, the librarian, were walking down the corridor toward him. McGonagall had just flicked her wand and opened a classroom door, and Manning stuck her head in. The Headmistress had already noticed him, however, and turned toward him, waiting for him. Draco swallowed and started down the hall.
"Good afternoon, Headmistress, Ms Manning," Draco said. When the Headmistress nodded in greeting, he thought for a moment that the two would just let him pass.
"Mr Newman, this is an unusual place to meet you on a beautiful Sunday afternoon," Professor McGonagall said.
"I was working. I found a quiet classroom to revise for exams," Draco replied.
Laura Walker Manning smiled at him. "The library is quiet—and it's even pretty empty today."
Draco blushed. "I was revising with someone. We were talking and exchanging class notes."
"Ah, then best to do that elsewhere," the librarian agreed with a nod.
"Revising with Miss Weasley again?" the Headmistress asked.
Draco's mouth opened and closed. He nodded. He hadn't thought anyone knew they were meeting. Professor Snape knew that Ginny was lending him her class notes for Defence Against the Dark Arts, which he wasn't taking that year—although a few weeks ago he had received permission from Professor Dumbledore to take the NEWT in it—but even Professor Snape didn't know that they were meeting regularly. Or he had found out and said nothing.
Professor McGonagall smiled. She seemed amused by his confusion. "I may not be omniscient, Mr Newman, but there are a few things that I notice. Miss Weasley seems happier than she had seemed, and I have no objection to the two of you using one of these classrooms for revision." She looked around them. "These classrooms haven't seen use in many years. Ms Manning and I are making plans to put them to use next year—though in a different capacity than they had. But nothing will be done to them until summer. Until then, feel free to use any of them—but be aware that I or another member of staff may be nearby. Preparing for the renovation, you understand," the Headmistress said, seeming almost to wink at him. "If I were you, I'd keep an ear out for them. I'll make sure that everyone on staff knows that students are allowed to revise in this wing—as long as that's what they are doing, and not . . . something else. We won't be advertising it, however, and you should find that you and Miss Weasley may continue to revise without being disturbed by other students."
Draco nodded. "Thank you, ma'am. And, um, thank you. For everything, you know?" He glanced quickly at the librarian, then back at the Headmistress. "I hadn't said thank you before."
"I am glad to see you doing well. Have a good evening, Mr Newman," the Headmistress said. "Now, Laura," she said, turning to the librarian, "I thought the new common room at the other end of the wing—less noise to carry that way . . ."
The Headmistress and the librarian continued talking as they walked, and Draco hurried away, relieved that it seemed that their use of the classroom had received the Headmistress's blessing. He would have to tell Ginny, though. He thought that Professor McGonagall's warning to "keep an ear out" for staff was her way of telling him that if there were anything other than revision going on, not to be caught doing it. She didn't seem at all troubled by the two of them working together, but then, she wasn't family. She was, however, highly influential, and if she didn't have anything negative to say about it, perhaps others would follow her lead.
Draco clattered down the stairs, taking the six flights down to the ground floor as quickly as he could. He could still catch some fresh air and warm spring sunshine for an hour before dinner. And if he sat in just the right spot, and if Ginny were in her dormitory room, she might look out and see him.
Author's Note: This is planned out to be a fast-moving, fun little story with short, fast-moving chapters. I hope you enjoy it!
This is one of a few sequels to Death's Dominion, which is also here on ffnet, and it's a companion story to A Long Vernal Season, which is available on the Petulant Poetess. It's not necessary to be familiar with either story to enjoy this one, however. Draco's Heart is also a kind of sequel to "The Sorting of Suzie Sefton," which is also posted here on ffnet. ("The Sorting of Suzie Sefton" takes place in the autumn of 1998, the first school year after the war, and Draco's Heart takes place in the spring. Draco also appears in "The Sorting of Suzie Sefton.")
By the way, if you are confused about why the Headmistress addresses Draco as "Mr Newman," it is explained in A Long Vernal Season that he decided to change his last name from "Malfoy" to "Newman," keeping "Malfoy" as his middle name to please his mother. He wished to distance himself from the past and from his father's choices. His conversation with Professor Snape regarding this decision takes place in A Long Vernal Season, Chapter Eighteen, "A New Man."