Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, as much as I wished I did.
11 Let Dead Men Lie – Free-Falling
"Sorry about that," Draco said awkwardly as he closed the door behind him.
"Is she always that awful?" Ginny muttered, still seething from the encounter.
"She's not awful." Draco countered immediately.
Ginny raised her eyebrows sceptically.
"She can be… a little insensitive," He amended, occupying the vacated chair. "But she has good intentions."
"I think I should go." Ginny stated. She couldn't stand being in the huge, poisonous house; as much as it irked her that she was giving into Narcissa.
Draco was quiet for a moment. "I don't think you should."
"Why?" The question was almost a challenge.
"You haven't got the all-clear from Smethwyck yet," Draco offered lamely.
"I'm sick of being coddled." Ginny rolled her eyes. "Tell me something true, for once."
"That is true," He hedged.
She held his eyes for a heartbeat, a small sigh escaping her. "You haven't changed, have you?"
"What do you mean?"
"You're still hiding." The simple statement was devastating to say out-loud.
"So are you," Draco countered, surprising the woman who looked so small in the bed beside him. He watched the emotions flicker across her face, the beginnings of a minuscule smile finally emerging. It was as precious to him as a sunbeam was to a winter ravaged flower.
They sat for a while, a familiar silence settling around them.
In a bold gesture, Draco scooped up her hand.
"I think we need some fresh air," He tugged her upright, the sheet dropping to her waist.
"Draco!" Ginny squealed. "I'm still in my underwear!"
"Sorry," Draco drawled, his tone anything but apologetic. "I completely forgot. I'll find you some clothes." He unsuccessfully hid his smirk.
Ginny refused to meet his eyes, uncertain of what she would find in their depths.
The polite knock on the door announced Draco's return. Ginny tucked the sheet securely around her, determined not to have a repeat performance. He tossed a bundle of clothes onto the bed, smirking as she examined the contents.
"What happened to my clothes?"
"I didn't realise you wanted them," Draco mocked lightly. "It was quite an eclectic mix."
Ginny glared at him. "Are you going to leave while I change, or not?"
"It's not like I haven't seen it all before," Draco muttered as he left the room.
Ginny rolled her eyes as she threw back the covers. She buckled the jeans around her waist, thanking her mother's foresight to teach her a solid altering charm. She inspected the shirt, giggling quietly when she saw the Slytherin crest embroidered onto the breast pocket. She gently fingered the buttons, memories crashing over her.
"Oi!" Ginny exclaimed as Draco entered the room unannounced.
"You were taking too long," he smirked, eyes drinking in the sight of her. "That shirt always looked better on you."
"Boobs tend to have that influence on clothing," Ginny joked. "Where are we going?"
"Well, I was thinking – maybe you'd like to wander around the gardens with me?" There was something hidden behind his casual invitation that Ginny couldn't place.
"Sure, as long as it's not a date." She jested, not noticing the way his smile dropped a fraction.
She fell into step beside him as he directed them through the maze of hallways, leaving her in no doubt that by herself, she would get lost in record time.
"Here we are," Draco opened the heavy door with a flourish.
"It's lovely," Ginny gasped as she absorbed the colours that cascaded over the grounds. She walked into the warm sunshine, shading her eyes as they adjusted to the brightness.
Draco watched her venture into the garden, struck by how her hair gleamed copper in the sun. His eyes dropped to the curve of her waist. He followed the line of her hip, lingering on the way the jeans hugged her derrière. Snapping his attention away from her swaying hips, Draco followed her into the fragrant air.
"I didn't know so many flowers bloomed in the autumn." Ginny commented, gently caressing a bud as she wandered past.
"I think Mother cheats a bit," Draco smirked. "But don't tell anyone."
Ginny couldn't help the grin that crept over her cheeks.
They wandered along in a comfortable silence, neither wanting to break the tentative companionship.
"You have a lake?" Ginny exclaimed, not knowing why she was remotely surprised.
"Do you want to go swimming?" Draco asked. The water rippled invitingly.
"No way. It'll be freezing!" Her hands rested on her hips. "And weren't you supposed to be concerned about my health?"
Draco grinned cheekily. With a swift push, Ginny was flailing into the water.
Ginny gasped raggedly as her head broke the surface. "Oh, it's lukewarm."
Draco cocked an eyebrow. "Of course it is. Did you expect anything less?"
Ginny narrowed her eyes, launching over the bank and grabbing his ankle.
"Hey!" Draco spluttered. "This is a nice shirt!"
"Shouldn't have pushed me in, then." Ginny splashed the charmed water into his face.
"Are you challenging me, Weasley?" Draco drawled, swimming dangerously close.
"No! Don't!" She cried out before she was unceremoniously dunked.
Coughs racked her body as she raised her palms in surrender.
Draco looped an arm around her waist for support. "Swallow too much water?"
Ginny unsuccessfully tried to glare at him.
He pulled her onto the embankment, making an effort not to stare at the way the drenched clothes clung to her body.
"Sorry," Draco apologised sheepishly. "It was a stupid idea." He cast a drying charm on them both before a breeze could chill them to their bones.
They sat under a bowed willow tree, watching the wind play across the water.
"I didn't realise how much I'd missed this," Ginny said quietly.
"Being with you. It was always different when I was with you."
"Good different or bad different?" Draco asked nonchalantly, fiddled with a dangling twig.
"Good different," Ginny flushed awkwardly. "I didn't have to be Ron's Little Sister. When I was with you, I knew that you were seeing me for the person I was."
She cringed internally at the pregnant pause, scolding herself for giving too much away and letting old feelings cloud her judgement.
"You know, when I was with you," Draco finally spoke, "I didn't have to pretend either."
The confession came a second too late. Ginny had drawn the shades around her inner most part.
"It would've been nicer if you hadn't ruined everything." Her words struck Draco in the chest.
He rushed to catch up with her. "Ginny, stop it."
"Stop what?" She pretended to be indifferent.
"I made a mistake, I get it. A huge, shattering mistake. But that's who I was, not who I am trying to be." He took a steadying breath. "I'm trying to be a better man." Like you always believed I could.
She faced him, eyes piercing him. "Are you?"
An uncomfortable pause filled the space between them, pushing them towards a conversation that they needed to have.
"I hated you for leaving." Ginny muttered.
"I hated myself." Draco told her something true. It resonated in her soul, breaking her heart.
She held out a quivering hand. Draco enfolded it in his, holding it tightly.
"I won't let you fall." Draco promised.
I trust you, Ginny whispered in her heart. She dropped his hand, not ready to say it out loud.