Author's Note: This is one of three Halloween fics that I am posting this year, one for the Coldfire Trilogy and another HP one with a Tom/Harry pairing. That one will be up tomorrow: I know, I know, a day late and a dollar short - work's been crazy, though, so I can't get it finished until then. Samhain is a very special holiday for my family, though, and I wanted to commemorate it with a few good fics for my wonderful readers.
Warnings: Slash, pagan celebrations, and some angst on Ginny's part. Not nearly so angsty as the song would lead you to believe, though.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor do I own Lilly Maid.
A.N.2: Song is Lilly Maid by Heather Dale, a gorgeous ballad written from the viewpoint of the Lady Elaine of Astolat, who fell hopelessly in love with Sir Lancelot. When the knight was wounded in a tournament, she nursed him back to health, but he hurt her deeply when he rejected her love and instead offered to pay her for her help. After he left her father's castle, Elaine died of heartbreak, and is placed in a boat with a lilly in one hand and a letter she wrote to Lancelot in the other. She drifts down the river to Camelot, where her body is found, and the letter is read to Lancelot. Although the song tells a tragic story, this particular fic is not nearly so depressing.
A.N.3: This is written mostly from Ginny's point of view. Yes, Ginny Weasley, the Bitch Who Stole Harry Potter. Except in this one, she's not evil. I know I normally write her as semi-psychotic and totally horrid, but I felt like doing something different, and I don't like badmouthing people all the time. Just this once, I'll let her redeem herself a little.
It was three days before Halloween when Ginny Weasley realized her life, as she knew it, was over.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry had finally been repaired, the scars of the Final Battle erased from its ancient stone walls. Her students had returned, many of them still bearing scars of their own as they picked up the pieces of their shattered lives and tried to piece together a future. In the wake of the devastation that war had brought, many things were changed: old rivalries lay abandoned amidst the dust and rubble as new alliances were forged and strange friends began to blossom like exotic flowers.
Perhaps the greatest symbol of these changes was the startling friendship between one Harry James Potter, Saviour of the Wizarding World, and one Draco Lucius Malfoy, son of an Inner Circle Death Eater who had once been renowned as Voldemort's right-hand man.
Once the school had been rebuilt and reopened, Headmistress McGonagall had invited those students who ought to have completed their seventh year during the war to return for a special 'eighth year', recognizing that those who studied under the Carrows as well as those who were absent due to the war would not have gotten a proper education. Few Slytherins had returned, but those who did were welcomed with surprisingly open arms: this was due entirely to Harry, who had told his fellow students in no uncertain terms that the Slytherins were to be given a second chance. This decision was firmly supported by the actions of those who returned.
The House of Serpents had arrived at Platform Nine and Three Quarters en masse, lead by none other than Draco Malfoy. The blond Pureblood had undergone a radical change: his once slicked-back blond hair fell in loose waves almost to his shoulders, a short fringe of stylishly-angled bangs hanging just above his mercury eyes. His robes were still elegant, but far more tastefully subtle in their expensiveness. Most noticeable of all, though, was the sudden absence of his haughty air: he held his head high, and there was still pride in those cool grey eyes, but the arrogance and cruelty was gone. He looked like a new man - a very striking and attractive one.
Silence had fallen across the station as many held their breath, transfixed and more than a little wary at the sight of so many Slytherins. They were huddled together behind Draco, all of them having undergone similar transformations: the haughty callousness was gone from their demeanor, and they looked at the other students not with disdain but with cautious hope. For a moment, the scene had been frozen, a breathless tableau - then Harry stepped from the crowd of students, his green eyes bright but calm and a hint of a smile on his face.
"Draco." Ignoring the waves of shock that resonated from the crowd at his use of the Malfoy heir's first name, Harry actually smiled at his one-time rival, and held out his hand. His fingers were curled loosely around a familiar hawthorne wand. "I think this is yours."
To the even greater shock of the watchers, Draco smiled too. If the lack of arrogance had altered his face, the smile transformed it: his eyes shone silver-grey as soft as willow catkins as he stepped forward, reaching to accept the wand, his fingers just brushing those of his old archenemy.
"Thank you... Harry."
From that moment onward, every student at Hogwarts knew that things had changed forever. No one quite understood how seven years of rivalry and seeming hatred had disappeared overnight, not even Ron and Hermione, but it was clear that such was the case. The Gryffindor Hero and the Prince of Slytherin still dueled words at times, but wands were never drawn, and the verbal duels were those of wit and not of insult. A new energy seemed to hum in the air between the two powerful young wizards, a crackle of something that no one could quite put a name to, but it was clear that further change was still in the wind.
Days turned to weeks and Samhain fast approached: the Headmistress declared that there would be a lavish Samhain dance, in the guise of an Arthurian ball, to celebrate their new freedom and give thanks for their survival. All students were to attend, and each was to arrive in the guise of a character from Arthurian legend. Moreover, in keeping with the old traditions of Samhain, the ball would open with a series of songs performed by various students - songs sung in the role of each person's chosen character. The school was abuzz with rumors of who was to accompany who, and what costume each person would wear, and who would sing which song: having learned that Harry was attending as Sir Lancelot, Ginny was happily planning her costume as Queen Guinevere. She was even considering a rendition of some love song that could be tweaked to fit the Queen, just to really impress Harry. After all, few people knew of her talent for singing, and surely he would enjoy the romantic touch of a sweet love song? That plan changed, however, the morning of the twenty-eighth of October
Ginny had the first period free, thanks to an accident earlier in the day that had put the Potions classroom temporarily out of commission, had decided to go for a short walk down by the Black Lake. It was a beautiful day with a cloudless blue sky and a crisp, cool autumn breeze, so she left her bag in Gryffindor Tower and headed down across the emerald grass.
She wandered aimlessly along the shore for a time, smiling at the sparkling water as she dreamed idly of the future. Her happy daydreams of a white picket fence and three perfect children were disrupted, however, by the sound of soft voices from nearby.
Looking around in curiosity, Ginny realized that the voices were coming from behind a row of unidentifiable shrubs just a few meters further down the bank. She started forward, curious as to who else might be out here - and stopped dead as she heard a familiar laugh ring out.
She almost called out to him, but her voice caught in her throat as she heard another boy's voice, almost as familiar as Harry's - albeit in a far less pleasant way.
"Honestly, if I didn't know better I would think you were a bloody Muggleborn." Draco Malfoy said, amusement and fondness mingling in his tone. "Don't you know anything about wizarding history?"
"C'mon, Draco, you know I might as well be Muggleborn." Harry replied, chuckling softly. Ginny edged closer, ducking behind a tree even though she couldn't be seen through the bushes, curiosity overcoming a brief flash of guilt for eavesdropping. She had never understood what made Harry change his mind about the youngest Malfoy, nor why he seemed to enjoy hanging out with the stuck-up blond so much. Perhaps now, she could figure it out. "The Dursleys forbade me from even saying the word 'magic' - and Binns is even less effective than Lockhart was, frankly. At least Lockhart managed to demonstrate that pixies are dangerous."
Draco laughed. Even Ginny had to admit that the sound was very attractive, warm and almost musical. The Slytherin Prince definitely had a nice laugh - and a nice smile, and those gorgeous stormy eyes...
Ginny slapped herself mentally. Stop that, you're with Harry! You can't go around ogling Malfoy! Besides, it's Malfoy! Even if he's reformed, he's bad news. Stick to thinking about Harry, girl, he's the One.
The Gryffindor in question sighed suddenly, and she caught the wistful tone in the sound. Draco spoke, sounding concerned.
"You alright, Harry?"
"Yeah." Harry voice was soft, and utterly unconvincing. There was a pause, and Ginny could practically see Draco's artfully skeptical raised eyebrow. Harry sighed again.
"It's just... Drake, what am I going to do?"
Draco's voice softened. "Harry, you're not doing anything wrong. Not for lack of trying on my part, but... I get why you want to wait, I do. I wouldn't really want you to cheat on Ginny - Merlin knows I wouldn't have fallen so hard for you if you weren't such a noble Gryffindor prat to begin with. But don't you think it's time you made up your mind? If you can't even just skip class and hang out with me without feeling like you're cheating on her, then something needs to change. If you want me to back off..."
"No!" Harry sounded almost panicked at the thought. "Merlin no, Drake - I can't lose you. I just can't. But... I do love Ginny, I'm sure of it. I just don't know if I love her the same way she loves me. Ginny is - well, she's safe. She's always sort of meant safety and family to me, and I don't want to lose that. Now that the war's over, though... I think maybe I always loved her more as a sister than as a girlfriend. I do know that... well, this is going to sound really corny, but she doesn't affect me the same way you do, Drake. She doesn't make my heart race or my head spin, I don't want to kiss her every time I look at her, I don't... I don't think I'd die if she left me."
"Harry, I really do want you to be happy." Draco said quietly. "I want that more than anything. If that meant I had to step aside, then I would - but it doesn't sound like Ginny's really what you want. I think that the Weasleys were the only family you had, so you naturally wanted to be as close to them as possible, and with Ginny already having a serious case of hero-worship... I think you both needed something to anchor you through the war, but now that it's over I think you need to reevaluate what you're really looking for, for the rest of your life."
"Maybe I do." Harry said. There was a long moment of silence, during which Ginny's heartbeat pounded in her ears and her throat ached with suppressed emotion. Then...
"I'll tell her after the dance." Harry sounded both sad and relieved, as though some burden had been lifted from him but he was ashamed of his own lightheartedness. "I don't want to hurt her, but... I don't think I can stay with her, and it might hurt her even more if I wait. Besides, this isn't fair to you. I've been putting this off for months, and you've been waiting patiently this whole time for me to figure out whether I'm even going to give you a chance. I'm amazed you haven't hexed me yet."
"You and the rest of the school." Draco said, his smile audible in his voice. "I know it sounds a bit self-serving, but I really do think you're doing the right thing, Harry. And... I couldn't say this before, but I think you deserve to know. I love you, Harry."
"Oh, Drake." Ginny felt her heart clench, and she closed her eyes tightly: she knew that tone all too well. It was the tone Harry's voice had carried when he spoke of meeting his parents and godfather in the Forest: so full of joy and sheer love that it almost broke her heart. "Drake, I... Merlin, I love you too."
"Harry..." Ginny didn't hear the rest of what Draco had said: she was already backing away from the tree she had ducked behind, trying to keep her movements silent as she fought back tears. Once she was safely out of range, she turned and ran, fleeing back to Gryffindor Tower as fast as she was able.
Fortunately, the dormitory was empty when she burst in. Flinging herself down on her bed and yanking the hangings closed, she immediately succumbed to tears, her whole body shaking with it. She had feared something might be wrong, Harry had been pulling away recently - but he had been drifting away from Ron and Hermione as well, spending more and more time with Draco, and Ginny had fooled herself into believing that it was simply him growing up and making new friends. She had been so sure that he would come back to her...
It was nearly twenty minutes later, only half an hour before her next class would start, when Ginny finally reigned in her tears and sat up on her bed. Scooting back to sit against the headboard and wrapping her arms around her knees, which were pulled up to her chest, the youngest Weasley did some serious thinking.
She reviewed the conversation she had overheard, picking out the important facts and laying them out in her mind. Harry had been in love with Draco for some time, from the sounds of things: Draco clearly returned the sentiment. They had discussed it some time ago. Nothing had occurred between them, not from a lack of passion but because Harry insisted on waiting until he had settled things with Ginny and Draco had respected his wishes. Harry had been wavering between the two, but it was more a sense of duty that kept him with Ginny than true romantic love. He thought of her as a sister, but he didn't want to marry her. He didn't want to hurt her, but knew that he would eventually, and had just this morning reached the decision to break the news after the Samhain dance.
Ginny breathed slowly and deeply, feeling the last of her anger and hurt drain away, gradually but steadily being replaced by acceptance. The pain still lurked beneath, insidious and sharp, but she knew that it might take months or even years for that to fully fade. What was important now was her course of action, now that she knew what was going to happen - and happen it would, of that she had no doubt. It was too late to win Harry back. The love in his voice when he spoke to Draco... no, she would only make it worse if she clung to him and tried to woo him back. She could let him go in silence, or she could make a last statement, but she had already lost his heart.
Feeling almost trancelike in her sudden calm, Ginny pulled back the curtains and rose from the bed. Class would start soon, and she had to plan some alterations to her costume.
Ginny had told Harry to go down to the ball ahead of her, saying she wanted to make the biggest possible impact with her costume. This was true, of course, but what she hadn't told him was that she was no longer going as Guinevere. No, Ginny was going to be someone else entirely - still a character with a connection to Lancelot, but one that would serve to send a message to her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend.
She didn't want to hurt him, but this needed to be said.
So, that was why she was walking into the Great Hall alone, after most of the attendees had already arrived. As she drew a steadying breath and stepped through the open double doors, a slight hush traveled through the room, as one by one people caught sight of her and stared. It had been a widespread rumor accepted as truth that she would be the Guinevere to Harry's Sir Lancelot: as she stood in the doorway, though, Ginny knew that there was no mistaking her identity.
Her long red hair flowed free down her back, but her bangs had been twisted into a sort of tiara of small, sleek braids. Woven into those braids were several small, pure white lilies, beautiful yet slightly chilling in their association. Her gown was a creamy pearl color, richly layered silk with hints of pastel blue here and there, and in her hands she held a small bouquet of lilies. Around her neck lay a fine silver chain, from which there hung an unmistakable pendant - a small copper coin, bearing the symbol of the swan. A copper coin gifted to her by Sir Lancelot du Lac.
Ginny swept her gaze over the crowd, acknowledging the shocked stares of many students, and feeling a small flicker of satisfaction as whispers erupted everywhere. Before she could be approached and questioned, however, she was already gliding smoothly toward the separate waiting area near the head of the Hall. All those who intended to sing were gathered there, in a small area that had been cordoned off near the stage, which had been temporarily constructed where the Staff Table usually stood. The musicians were also huddled nearby, tuning their instruments: McGonagall had hired a Neo-Medieval folk group to make it sound more authentic. The moment Ginny joined the other singers, questions burst forth: the leader of the questioning was Hermione, who was dressed as Morgan le Fay and had decided to sing a piece about Mordred, her brown eyes filled with worry.
"Ginny, what in the world are you wearing?"
Ginny smiled slightly. "I'm guessing that's a rhetorical question, Hermione, because of all people you should be the one to recognize me."
"Well, of course, I know what you're wearing." Hermione said quickly. "You're obviously dressed as Elaine of Astolat - the lilies gave that away immediately. But why? I thought you were coming dressed as Guinevere!"
Ginny sighed, smiling wistfully, well aware of the students all around trying desperately to eavesdrop. "I was, Hermione. Things changed. There's something I need to do tonight, and this costume is part of it."
After that, no matter who asked what question, Ginny refused to speak. McGonagall officially began the dance, and one by one, students both male and female went up onstage to sing. Ginny watched it all as if from a distance, her mind far away, dwelling on what she was about to do. There was no going back from this, no taking these words back - but the time for turning back had passed long ago, so when McGonagall called her name, Ginny stepped up to the stage without hesitation and turned to face the silent audience.
Ginny gazed out over the students, a sad smile gracing her lips as she finally caught sight of Harry where he stood near the stage. He looked quite confused, and his green eyes were glowing with concern as he gazed up at her - but Ginny, from her higher vantage point, could see what he could not.
Only a few feet behind Harry, Draco Malfoy was hovering in well-concealed yet still visible concern, his grey eyes unusually warm with emotion. During that frozen moment, his gaze met Ginny's, and her smile grew still more wistful as she saw the understanding dawn in his eyes. Take care of Harry, she told him silently, and felt a weight lift from her heart when the blond nodded, his expression serious and tender as he turned back to Harry. Steadying herself, Ginny signaled to the musicians, waited just a moment longer as the music rose, and began to sing.
"Good sir, I now present myself before you.
With velvet robes and lilies in my hair,
My ladies do their best with what they're given,
And I only pray that you will find me fair.
I ask you leave a penny for the bargeman
And one in penance for the hearts you break.
And keep these words forever as reminder
Of what sends a dying lily to the lake."
Ripples of wonder and confusion spread through the crowd like waves upon a still pond, as the listeners wondered at the deeper meaning in her choice of song - for this was no simple song of love, but a song of tragedy and heartbreak. Ginny's eyes sought Harry's again, and she smiled at him, trying to ease the stricken look dawning in his eyes as she sang gracefully on.
"Dear Lancelot, my sorrow clad in silver,
You see my thoughts return to you again.
You came to me as others come a-courting
But nothing is with you as other men."
Ginny knew that of all people, Harry would understand the message in this song. This was not about accusation, nor retribution, nor was it a futile attempt to win him back. It was a heartfelt expression of the pain she felt, and it was mourning for what they had once shared, but most of all it was the simple truth of how much power love held over someone's heart. She had allowed herself to love him, and that love had gotten her hurt: the song was a warning to him - to never hurt Draco, who was likewise vulnerable, to remember just how much harm love could do.
"I ask you leave a penny for the sermon
And another for the errors that you make.
And keep these words forever as reminder
Of what sends a dying lily to the lake."
The confusion in the crowd was gone, now. There was no doubt in anyone's mind for whom the redheaded young woman sang, as she closed her eyes for the next verse, her voice strong and surging with emotion. Indeed, her voice nearly broke as she sang the last verses, but she forced herself to hold steady, to be strong this one last time.
"With trembling hands I held your life inside you
But failed to earn your favor for my own.
Your coppers were an empty consolation,
For my needs are met by you, and you alone.
I ask you leave a penny for the water
And another for the liberties you take.
And keep these words forever as reminder
Of what sends a dying lily to the lake."
Ginny's voice quivered and nearly failed her as she opened her eyes once more, locking gazes with Harry as she softly repeated the last refrain. Her voice hovered in the near-silent evening air, poignant and filled with a heart-wrenching mixture of love, sorrow, and gentle acceptance.
"Please keep these words, my love, as a reminder..."
Ginny felt as though a weight had fallen from her shoulders as she stepped back, her ears ringing with heartfelt applause from the baffled but nonetheless awed crowd. Smiling softly, she turned and descended from the stage, her steps light once more. Now that all had been said, now that she had shown her love one more time and had said goodbye... maybe now, she could begin to let go.
As he watched Ginny walk off the stage, Harry jumped slightly when he heard a soft voice in his ear. "I didn't give her enough credit, all these years. She's a great deal more perceptive than her brother."
Harry turned to Draco, his eyes wide. "How did she know?"
Draco shrugged, his grey eyes lingering thoughtfully on the redhead departing from the stage. "Who knows? Maybe she followed you to one of our meetings. Maybe she just knew."
Harry was silent for a moment, then he said quietly, "This isn't how I wanted her to find out, but I'm glad she's okay with us being together. After what happened in the war, the last thing I wanted was to cause her any more pain." Glancing around at the curious looks aimed their way, the Gryffindor sighed. "This is also not exactly where I wanted to have this conversation, to be honest."
Draco smiled at him, grey eyes gentle as he said quietly, "Come with me."
He led Harry out of the Hall, somehow managing to get them out virtually undetected: Harry suspected he had used a charm to keep them from being noticed. Outside, they found that McGonagall had really gone all the way: the courtyard had been enchanted as it had for the Yule Ball, into a lavish garden full of winding paths and sheltered alcoves. Draco drew him down one of the paths, to a hidden niche in the vegetation that was shielded from view by a screen of graceful willow branches. The Slytherin then pulled Harry into his arms, gazing into the other boy's stunning green eyes as he asked softly, "Can I kiss you now?"
Harry smiled, the remaining tension relaxing from his body as his eyes shone. "Absolutely."
Draco leaned forward and captured his mouth sweetly yet almost desperately, holding him as though he might never let go. Harry held him back just as tightly, feeling warmth sweep through him: this was everything his kisses with Ginny had lacked, the heat and the joy and the sheer dizzying sensation that made his skin tingle and his heart ache with longing.
Eventually, they reluctantly drew apart, though neither released the other from their embrace. After a moment, Draco murmured, "I've wanted to do that for so long. Do you think she knows how long this has been building?"
"Probably not." Harry said, smiling a hopelessly enraptured smile as he drank in the sight of Draco's mercury eyes sparkling with starlight. "Even if she overheard us, she wouldn't have guessed... who would ever believe that we've been falling for each other since third year?"
Draco laughed softly, his arms tightening a little around his new boyfriend's waist. "Very few people, if any. In a way, though, that just makes it even more special. We already survived a war - somehow, the prospect of fighting over the colour of the curtains on our first house doesn't seem so daunting."
Harry's green eyes sparkled mischievously. "Well, about that... I was thinking, I am a Parselmouth, and the Hat did almost put me in Slytherin, so... why not just go with green for the decor and we'll both be happy?"
Draco let out a soft whoop and kissed him again. "I knew I picked you for a reason." he panted when he finally pulled back, his smile just as dazzling as Harry's.
The Gryffindor laughed, nestling against Draco's chest and resting his head on the Slytherin's shoulder. "You realize, of course, most people are going to think you've got me under some kind of spell."
"So?" Draco said, deliberately putting a touch of his old arrogance in his tone. "As if I could put a spell on their precious Chosen One, who's known for being immune to the Imperius."
"Oh, but you have put a spell on me." Harry said, grinning as he pulled back and looked up at Draco. "Just not the one they're thinking of."
Draco laughed. Listening to that beautiful sound ring through the starlit gardens, and knowing that he was the cause of the Slytherin's merriment, Harry's heart soared. Maybe it would take some time for things between him and Ginny to settle, and maybe it would take even longer for the rest of the world to accept them, but that could be dealt with when it became necessary.
Tonight, just having Draco in his arms was more than enough.
Yes, the ending went horrendously sappy. I couldn't stop myself. Tomarry fic will be posted sometime tomorrow, and as always, reviews are treasured and valued even above Halloween candy!