Sorry it took me so long to get this out. Last chapter! It's been a good run^^
I won't apologize for any OOC-ness. I'm sorry, but I've warned you that I'm not a romance writer, and no-one's forcing you to read this anyway.
Ginny paused to straighten out kinks that were weighing heavily in her sore back. She had been leaning over her work for hours, her mind working fervently. Her fingertips were a little numb from drumming endlessly on the wooden table in front of her, and her eyes were bleary. The pages in front of her swam in her vision, the markings on the paper shifting and dancing to their own music.
Why did this have to be so blasted difficult? Ginny had never done anything like this, and so with the ignorance brought on by inexperience, she had thought that it would be easy. She knew how to do it; it was just doing it that was the trick.
He had better appreciate this.
But that brought up a problem—how could he appreciate it? It wasn't a question of character, or an insult on the gift itself; it was simply that Ginny had the means to create the gift, but not the means to give it. A beautiful package without wrapping.
But Draco was a musician at heart. Melodies spiraled soundlessly in his head all the time; Ginny knew him well enough to know this. His imagination stretched farther beyond anyone's that Ginny had ever met. Surely he could make it come alive by himself.
But she wasn't so sure.
She was still an amateur. She had spent only two weeks in the world of music, and however strong of an impact it had had on her, it was nothing compared to the years of majestic influence that Draco had.
Ginny sighed. Why was she even doing this? Draco Malfoy wasn't the most pleasant person in the world, nor did he want to be. He seemed to everyone to be just like his house name was envisioned—a curling serpent, cold to all, ready to strike. But as a small Weasley had found out, he wasn't that. He wasn't wonderful, he wasn't terrible, he just…was. It had become startlingly clear: Draco Malfoy was an enigma. An enigma that projected auras of immense unpleasantness in an effort to protect itself, a snake whose only defense was its poisonous tongue and not its teeth. He was by no means a pussy, but not the enraged cobra that everyone else saw.
And the knowledge that Draco would be giving her a present wasn't very flattering. He gave presents to plenty of people he didn't like. Sure, so he didn't exactly turn up at the Gryffindor common room with a basket of sweets for Harry and Ron, but just the same. Ginny sure didn't feel very special.
And why had he taken an interest in her? What about her so compelled him? She wasn't stupid; she didn't just overlook the hints. It was obvious. She saw the way Draco looked at her, his quiet, calculating gaze seeming to penetrate the redhead and analyze her very character. The way he spoke carefully to her, his gauging voice always carefully picking and choosing his words, which always came out in flows of seamless, nearly poetical sentences.
Draco Malfoy was interested in her. He didn't like her, that special "like" that most girls giggled endlessly about; it seemed too childish, too common of a word to describe it. Infatuation wasn't it either; he certainly didn't stalk her. Love. That was too strong of a word, especially now.
What it was, was a simple, candid interest that when kindled right, could easily amount to something more.
But back to the first question: why? What made him so interested? It wasn't her looks. There were plenty of beautiful girls around the school. Ginny, of course, was considered very pretty too, and had the silky volumes of dazzling red hair that rippled like water when it was allowed to cascade down her back, but she sincerely doubted that she would be voted prettiest girl in school. Her breasts weren't fetchingly large. Some of the other girls showed off their bosoms in the most unseemly manners. She had had no idea before how simple school robes could be adjusted so…strangely.
She sighed. She was a good student, above average, and could very well be great if she put her mind to it. But she didn't. And so her grades, her intelligence, really had nothing to do with anything. Plus, Draco was a good student himself, second to Hermione in their year, and Ginny didn't think he needed any help in his studies. And Draco could never be so superficial.
There was only one real answer—Draco had always been surrounded by shallow 'friends'. In Ginny, he had met someone that shared a passion. It wasn't what he saw in her. It was that they had something in common. Ginny didn't know whether or not this was preferable.
She sighed; her life was so weird.
It had been by total accident that he had found it. He had just been wandering along, his mind dwelling on nothing particular, not even on Ginny, but totally unfocused and letting random thoughts drift through his head. Draco had been walking along the side of the hallway leading to the Owlery—he had been briefly considering sending a letter to someone, he didn't know who—with his hand trailing along the stone side of the spiraling staircase.
He was in one of the towers with only a foot and a half of stone serving as a wall between him and the crisp, cold air outside, so logically there was simply no room to be a hidden room anywhere. But Hogwarts had never exactly been the epitome of logic, and all sorts of strange things popped up where they were least expected. It was only worrying when things appeared exactly where they were expected, at the time they were expected, and were received without any inclination of surprise whatsoever.
So he really shouldn't have been surprised but couldn't help being a bit startled when his hand, trailing only lightly on the walls, barely touching the stone, encountered a strange crevice. His fingers felt it before his eyes saw it, but when he turned to look at the strange indentations.
There was a sort of cross there. Its smoothly cut lines sharply contrasted with the rough, guttural edges of the stone. He knew about that already, he had encountered it many times on his treks up to the Owlery. He usually used it as a mark for himself; once he passed it, he had only one more band to turn and then he would be amidst the soft hoots and glimmering eyes of the owls.
But this time, something felt different. He peered closer.
He had never noticed before how there was a circle carved around the cross mark. He dug his fingernail into the curve and discovered that it went pretty deep.
Draco wasn't quite sure what made him do it, but he found his hand settling against the stone, warm palm against cool surface. He dug his fingernails into the cracks, and twisted his hand.
The whole thing twisted and shifted. Stones in the wall groaned as they moved for the first time in what had probably been hundreds of years. After a minute, a doorway emerged. Draco stared at it in amazement. He had always assumed the cross in the wall was just there; that someone had scratched it there for some reason.
Well, he was obviously going in. He made sure that the tip of his wand was well lit against the dark passageway, and entered. Shifting creaks let him know that the door was closing, and he spun around only to find that it had closed.
A momentary panic settled in on him; had he gotten locked in here forever? He ventured back towards where the doorway had been. As soon as he had reached it, stones moved again for him, parting the way. He sighed in relief, and headed back down the hallway. The dim light from his wand seemed especially frail against the dark shadows that danced in the corners.
He hadn't been stumbling along for more than five minutes when he staggered blindly into a warm, fuzzy light. He looked up.
Draco was in a room. He glanced around; it was a perfectly ordinary room, but at the same time, it was incredibly different. He had expected it to be a secret passageway to something, maybe treasure. He hadn't expected to find a room full of light.
His eyes were immediately drawn to the far end of the somewhat spacious room. His breath instinctively caught in his throat as he stepped closer.
He was over two hundred feet up, looking over a great expanse of sky stretched lazily over the grounds. Sunlight streamed everywhere and through the windows. Draco briefly remembered that it had been rather cloudy outside that day, but in the room it was like it was a warm, spring day. Trees erupted throughout the land and even the Forbidden Forest didn't look so bad.
He shook his head. Amazing.
The silver-haired boy looked around the room again. The walls were a sort of comforting golden color, and seemed to radiate a special light of their own. It looked like it hadn't been touched in years, not because it was dusty or dilapidated, but because it had a pure, untouched beauty about it that hadn't been tamed by the groping hands of passerby.
Draco sagged a bit. He then remembered the piano room, and the wonderful feeling that had emanated from it too. He looked around one last time before leaving. This had the same feeling of harmony too. If only there were a piano to fill it up.
Draco sighed as his mind turned to other things, like a certain girl…
Ginny shrugged to herself. Someone sitting nearby in the common room caught it and looked at her strangely. She didn't care.
What she did care about was the fact that she had finally reached a decision. She would finish her present for Draco. She didn't care if he didn't like it, or if he couldn't imagine it. She would make it and that was that.
Which was kinda moot anyway. She had already finished the project and she might as well give it to him. She looked down at it. Her entire soul had been poured into this one small thing. She grinned. 'Essence of Ginny.' That had a ring to it.
She packed up her things and headed upstairs to her dormitory, safely tucking them away where no prying eyes or hands could retrieve it, and then went back downstairs to join the cheerful caroling and jokes bounding throughout the common room.
It was Christmas Eve.
The next morning came without much of a warning. It was unexpectedly dreary for such a wonderful holiday. The sky was battleship gray and somber clouds drifted across the listless sky. The gray seemed to seep into the very grounds, dulling the crisp green of the grass, giving the day a soggy feel instead of the sharp, bright cleanliness everyone was used to around Christmas.
It did nothing to dull the cheer, though. When Ginny walked down the stairs after having thrown on sweat pants and a sweater—she thought she looked positively dreadful—the common room was a riot of reds and greens. Streamers danced around the room to their own magic, and Dean Thomas had created a lovely drawing of Santa Claus and reindeer on the far wall. She stopped a moment to admire it before she was enveloped in a hug. She looked up to see Ron grinning down at her. He tousled her hair lovingly and shoved a present into her hands.
"For you, Little Sister," he said, loopy grin plastered on his face. She grinned back.
"Captain Obvious," she teased, and carefully stripped away the wrapping. Her brothers had always teased her about that habit.
Ginny's grin grew even wider as she saw her present. It was a beautifully embroidered book. The dark red velvet cover was sleek and soft to the touch and felt milky against her fingertips. She flipped it open carefully and was delighted to see the blank, creamy pages. She looked up, grinned, and hugged her brother tightly. He ruffled her hair and walked away to join his friends at the other side of the room.
It would be perfect for a journal. Or something. Something would be better; she felt that the book was too exquisite to write her boring thoughts down in it; it deserved better than that.
The idea suddenly came to her. Of course—it was obvious. It would be a music book. A music book, where she could jot down all of her ideas for little ditties and songs—what did it matter if she didn't have a piano? You didn't need to have an instrument to make music. It all came from the heart. Corny, but true.
Ginny wandered around for a little while and opened the rest of her presents—a hand-knit sweater from her mother, chocolates from Papa; a can of mace (Just in Case) and more candies from Charlie, a set of fine eagle quills from Percy, and a pretty necklace that Bill had bought while in Egypt. She eagerly clasped it around her neck. The chain caught the dim rays of light seeping from the outside and turned the dormitory into a dazzling lightshow.
She had been a little disappointed when no package from Draco arrived, when she found no hidden little present tucked in her pile. She supposed she should have known—she had asked the impossible of him; had pretty much asked him to find the piano, even though the school was huge and the secret room could be anywhere. She had asked too much.
And had probably given too little.
Her thoughts were interrupted when another girl in her year popped her head in the doorway.
"Come on, Ginny," she said, "let's go to breakfast."
Ginny smiled wryly. "I'm not decent."
Her friend laughed. "When are you ever?" She giggled a moment before saying, "Just run a brush through your hair, Ginny, your appearance is the last thing you need to worry about." Ginny rolled her eyes but got up nonetheless.
The Great Hall was probably the busiest it had ever been on a holiday. At least, the busiest she had ever seen it. Laughter was abounding, leaping like an invisible spirit from table to table until no-one was left untouched. Students had dropped their customary school robes in favor of reds and greens, tinsel wrapped around necks and wrists and entwined in hair, even some antlers that had been magicked up by one of the more advanced students.
Christmas carols blared from every which way, especially from the Gryffindor table. Anytime someone didn't know the words they'd make some up, and the carol would collapse when everyone got so confused that they just had to laugh helplessly at themselves.
Ginny sat herself down between her friend and a few other girls from her year. She called a merry greeting to Hermione and Harry, who cheerfully called back, and helped herself to bacon. She loved bacon.
It was a dazzling sight to see the owls swoop in through the windows of the Great Hall. They, too, were adorned for the occasion. Tiny bells were loosely wrapped around their talons and jingled gaily; holly was tucked into their feathers. They carried late-arriving packages to students that brightened up, delighted that that special person had remembered their gift. Silver, gold, shining green, sparkling white wrapping paper was everywhere.
Ginny had finally gotten caught up in the good cheer—it couldn't be helped—and she barely noticed when a small, tawny owl swooped right in front of her, dropping a little note right in front of her. She barely caught it before it fell into her pumpkin juice. Her name was written in perfect lettering on the front. She opened up the snow-white parchment and read the neat, even words:
Meet me in the North Tower at seven o'clock. Make sure that no-one comes with you.
D…M? Ginny thought for a moment, and almost dropped the note—Draco? What did he want?
She subconsciously glanced over to the Slytherin table, where the festive cheer was nearly as radiant as everyone else's. Draco himself had green and red on; a nice, turtle-necked sweater. He had been following the owl's progress as it had made its way to Ginny through the mass of feathers and safely deliver the note. His cool gray eyes met her warm brown ones with absolutely no emotion. He simply raised one eyebrow, as if to ask: Did you get it?
Ginny nodded slightly, only enough for him to see. Yes. She got it. And she would be there.
Draco looked away.
Ginny went back to eating her bacon, but suddenly all of the light-heartedness went out of her like a balloon. She felt…nervous. Why would he want to meet her? ...To give her a present, of course, her mind said. He didn't want to leave it in your pile this morning and take the chance that someone else would stumble upon it…
The redhead felt a small thrill course down her spine. So he was actually giving her something…
She played with her food the rest of breakfast, and snuck glances at Draco when no-one else was looking. He sat at one of the corners of his table, surrounded by others but oddly detached. It was just an aura he projected—Ginny knew she was being silly for thinking that, but she couldn't help it—that made him seem…unfit for Slytherin.
Not, of course, that it meant he belonged in any of the other houses. Draco would never willingly join Gryffindor, with his all his shrewd, cunning sagacity; he was certainly too scholarly and not outgoing enough to be in Hufflepuff; Ravenclaw didn't seem to suit him either. But he didn't have the crude, nearly primitive air about him that was normally attributed to most Slytherins. He belonged in a class all his own.
Ginny looked at him again. His silver head was turned away from Crabbe, who was stuffing his mouth, and Ginny saw his lower lip curl in disgust. It wouldn't have been noticeable to anyone else, but she could read him like a book. The smallest alteration in his expression shouted emotion to her; what was passive stoic expression to anyone else was a neon sign of feeling. The tiniest twitch of an eyebrow; the most inconspicuous quirk of the mouth. Ginny knew what it all meant. Like a music sheet, she could read the notes of his mood.
Strange, how she was always comparing him to music. Music was always widely appreciated. Draco was not. Ginny supposed, now munching on eggs, like he was like classical music. A bolero of thoughts; a rhapsody of emotions. A symphony composed of a pointed nose, cool gray eyes, and silver hair.
Now that Ginny was on the subject of his looks—her eyes wandered, and she was surprised to find that she hadn't really given much thought to how handsome he really was. Defined brows rose above his eyes; a straight chin, even when his head was bowed, seemed to be raised higher than anyone else's.
She twisted a napkin in her hands, suddenly embarrassed and feeling like a small child. She couldn't believe that she had been checking out Draco Malfoy. But while it was a heinous crime in name, she'd bet that a lot of other girls—no matter what house they were in—and done that too, and hadn't been as shy about letting their eyes explore. Ginny flushed hotly at that, and the napkin ripped.
She wasn't going to be a giggling prat and pretend that there was no way that admittedly popular Draco Malfoy could ever be interested in her. She knew he was, and as shocking as it was, it wasn't sudden. Well, not too sudden anyway. It wasn't a crush at first sight; it wasn't a stupid cliché novel. He had gotten to know her in two weeks better than any other girl throughout seven years of school. They had a common interest. She knew he was interested, and she knew that he probably knew she was interested too.
But it wasn't that easy…this was like Romeo and Juliet. Ginny was familiar with the works of William Shakespeare. Unbeknownst to Muggles, the man, when not writing brilliant works of literature, had been a seller of frogs' eyes in Diagon Alley when he was still alive.
Draco was a Slytherin. Ginny was a Gryffindor. Her brother was Ron, a.k.a. Tybalt. And if Ron died by the steel of a sword, then five other brothers would take his place.
But she would not ignore him.
Ginny let down her hair that evening. Literally. She ran it through with a brush and swept it past her shoulders. She had changed into different clothes, nothing too dressy, but not the horrible stuff she had worn earlier.
After satisfied that she looked halfway decent, Ginny reached down under her bed and pulled up a loose floorboard. Underneath her present for Draco was hidden. She plucked it out, resettled the board, and safely tucked the gift under her winter cloak that she always wore in the castle when it got chilly.
She made it through the common room with no difficulty. Fred and George had been wonderful in teaching her how to convincingly act innocent when guilty, as it was a tendency of most to stammer or somehow give something away. No-one looked at her funny; they assumed that she was probably heading back toward the Great Hall to get a glass of eggnog and chat with friends.
Ginny walked as quickly as she could down the hallways without looking suspicious. She glanced at her watch, which was icy against her skin. 6:49. She hadn't wanted to arrive too early and make herself look like an eager child, but she didn't want to be too late and make him think that she didn't care.
Ginny constantly looked around her when she started getting close. Make sure no-one was following her…she felt a little…thrill. She wasn't scared.
Draco came into view a few minutes later. He was lounging against the North Tower wall, almost to the Owlery. He looked up as she approached, and silver hair fell into his eyes. He blew it out of his way, shoving his hands into his pockets. He held her gaze as she stopped at the step right below his—which, considering, made her rather close—but quickly reverted his eyes to the floor.
Ginny was fascinated. So, this was what the great Draco Malfoy was like when he was nervous. She smiled to herself, a secret smile that Draco may or may not have caught.
He managed a small smile. "You let your hair down," he said simply. He didn't need to say more.
Ginny raised her chin a bit; Draco, though rather short, was on a higher step. "Are you complaining?" she said, unable to keep her lip from turning up. She nearly balked as she realized that she was actually flirting.
Draco shook his head no and turned to the wall. Ginny shivered, but forgot to be cold once she saw a door slowly emerge from the shifting stones. Her mouth was a round o and Draco turned to her.
"But that's not possible," she breathed. "There's only a foot of wall between us and outside—how can there be a secret passage?"
Draco shrugged. "It's Hogwarts." As if that explained everything. It did.
He stepped into the complete blackness of the passageway and motioned for Ginny to follow. She did, but with hesitance, he noticed. She clearly didn't like the dark, and looked very relieved when he lit up his wand. She started to light up hers, too, but he stopped her with a shake of his platinum head.
"The light's only for me to see," he said, quirking a grin. "You're closing your eyes."
Ginny looked at him like he was daft.
Draco's grin was replaced by a serious expression. "Trust me."
Ginny gave him a measuring glance. If it had been anyone else…but it wasn't. She nodded and stepped in, starting when the passageway closed behind her.
"Close your eyes."
"You're crazy," Ginny said, but closed her eyes anyway. She felt Draco's hand take her wrist. It was surprisingly warm; comforting to the touch. It sent little thrills through her skin; her nerves were aflame with a pleasant fire.
It seemed like forever that they walked down the winding passage that simply should never have existed. Draco carefully watched the ground for any potholes and guided her around them.
And at long last, they emerged into the room.
"You can open your eyes now," he said softly, his breath just barely reaching Ginny's neck. She shivered and opened them.
For a full thirty seconds, she was speechless.
It was a pretty room. She might have stopped to inspect it, but she was too shocked.
Right in the middle of the room was a gorgeous, cherry-wood piano.
"You've found it," Ginny breathed. Draco shook his head, and gently pushed her toward the piano. Lightly emblazoned in gold lettering on the hood was Ginny Weasley. She traced it with her fingers until she got it and her eyes widened. "It's not the same one?" she asked, hardly daring to believe that he'd gone and done…
Draco shook his head.
Ginny's knees trembled. He had gotten her a piano. A brand new piano. He'd known that they'd never be able to find the old one. So he'd gotten her a totally new one. "I don't believe this," she whispered. "I can't believe you did this for me." Her eyes tore themselves away from the beautiful keys and traveled up to his features, which a little corner of her mind decided, were far lovelier.
Draco's cheeks were pink and his eyes were downcast. Ginny could tell that he wasn't about to pretend that it was cheap. Even for a person of his immense wealth, this certainly took a chunk out of his pocket money. And he had done it for her.
She didn't even know what she was doing; her senses didn't have time to advise against it, but she found herself suddenly hugging Draco tightly around the middle, and kissing him on the cheek. She didn't even pull away in embarrassment when she did realized what the crap she had just gone and done. She didn't care.
Draco stiffened. He had expected her to be happy, had even prepared himself for a possible, quick hug, but she had just kissed him and was still latched on. Awkwardly, he put his arms around her and returned the hug. They stayed like that for a few moments until they both pulled away at the same time. Ginny was grinning like mad; her smile lit up her whole face. Draco smiled too, although he was still blushing madly.
There was a silence between them, but it wasn't awkward. Ginny, in fact, seemed to be thinking, casting her eyes down and considering in the direction of the floor. Draco studied her face carefully; he knew she loved the present, but what was she thinking now?
Wordlessly, Ginny pulled something from an inside pocket of her cloak. It was a few sheets of parchment, loosely bound together by string at one corner. She showed it to Draco and he saw that music notes spiraled across the pages.
"I didn't know how I would give this to you," she murmured, studying it. "I didn't think I'd be able to play it for you—but I wanted to write it anyway."
Ginny looked up and smiled. "Sit with me," she said, and placed herself on one end of the bench. Draco nervously sat next to her. Ginny stretched her fingers and placed the sheets on the rack in front of her, and placed her fingers with perfect posture on the keys.
And she started.
Draco listened in silence as the notes leapt up from the page to drift in the air, as a simple, yet profound melody spelled out from Ginny's fingertips like no magic he had ever witnessed. Though obviously amateur, there was an earnestness about her that was mesmerizing, and the music, sweet and cooling, held a spell over him.
It lasted for a few minutes, and the gentle sensation still lingered after the music stopped. Ginny looked at Draco expectantly. She could tell he had been moved.
"That's very impressive," Draco managed to croak. "You're talented."
A smile of relief flooded Ginny's face. "I'm glad you like it."
"You wrote this yourself?" Draco's face registered disbelief.
Ginny's beaming smile was all the proof he needed. He shook his head in wonder. "Wow."
Ginny's smile changed. It evaporated from being relieved and proud to something more sincere, as she looked at Draco with an expression he couldn't quite read. He was still puzzling when she leaned in and kissed him softly. Draco didn't pull away.
Ginny broke off and said simply, "Play with me," and placed her fingers once more on the keys.
A/N: It's been fun! I hope to write more D/G later.