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Grey Clouds by cherrypie3601

Format: Novel
Chapters: 27
Word Count: 69,597
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language

Genres: Romance, Angst
Characters: Harry, Draco, Ginny
Pairings: Harry/Ginny, Draco/Ginny

First Published: 09/24/2006
Last Chapter: 11/03/2007
Last Updated: 11/03/2007

Summary:



Ginny Weasley, now an adult, finds herself drawn to the irresitible Draco Malfoy. On the other hand, she finds Harry still holding on to her. A cold and hilarious Christmas spent at the Burrow with all the Weasleys forms a love triangle in which Ginny finds herself being torn between two men. One whom she could never love and one whom she could never stop loving. Thanks to Cache Dea for the great banner! And thanks to Alohomora for the chapter images!


Chapter 1: Rebellion and Guests
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"Ginny!" Molly Weasley banged on Ginny’s door six times before she finally opened it.
Molly surveyed her twenty one year old daughter and raised an eyebrow. Ginny had always been the mature one, but seeing as she was raised in a house with five boys, that wasn’t saying much. Today she looked like a five year old child refusing to leave the store until her mother bought her everything she wanted.

"What is it, Mum?" Ginny asked impatiently.

"Why on earth isn’t your room cleaned out?" Mrs. Weasley asked angrily.

"Mum! For the LAST TIME, I’m not letting Draco Malfoy stay in my room!"

Molly sighed and walked into Ginny’s room. She looked around at the pale green walls and darker curtains. On every corner of the room there was a beautiful flower pot hanging and swaying gently with the breeze. There was a sweet smell of citrus in the air along with a hint of cinnamon. She sat down on Ginny’s bed and motioned for Ginny to join her, but she stood where she was, looking like she was about to explode.

"Listen to me, honey. Draco is not going to be staying in here with you. You’ll be moving into Ron’s room while he and Hermione stay in the room in the basement."
"I understand that, Mum, but why is it that anytime someone comes to stay, it has to be my room that they stay in? What’s wrong with Ron’s room?"

"Honey, your room is the only one not on the verge of collapsing. You’ve taken such good care of your room! The ceiling is in tact, the floor boards aren’t loose and the paint isn’t peeling off the walls; which is more than I can say for your brothers’ rooms."

"Exactly, Mum! Why do I have to give up my room for someone else to enjoy while I’ve been taking such good care of it? I don’t want some Death Eater doing who knows what in my room!"

Mrs. Weasley buried her face in her hands and sighed. "Ginny! For the last time, Draco is not a Death Eater. You and I both know it. We were both there for his trial…remember how the poor dear was sobbing about You Know Who threatening his family? It was terrible."

Ginny scoffed and rolled her eyes. "Yeah, it was terrible if you believe him."

"Ginevra Weasley! Draco is a good boy and even if you don’t think so, you’ll have to pretend. He’s reached up so far in the Ministry at such a short age, and it’s an honour to have him staying here for Christmas. Do you have any idea how much he’s helped your father?"

"I do, Mum. That’s great and all, but that doesn’t mean that I have to vacate my personal and private space."

"Well, it’s not like you’re leaving anything in here for him except your bed!"

"Well, yes." Ginny looked at her mother, trying to get her to understand.

"What damage could he do…oh!" Mrs. Weasley’s eyes suddenly lit up with comprehension. Draco Malfoy was not only one of the most successful wizards, but also one of the most eligible ones. He was famous for his night time encounters with many witches, and unless they all lied, Draco was very good in bed. Ginny’s friends at Witch Weekly had also heard about wild encounters in the most awkward places and about how they would all pay to have one night with Malfoy. Ginny would then tell Hermione about these conversations and the two of them would laugh their heads off.

Mrs. Weasley was blushing furiously as she spoke. "Well, Ginny, I’m sure all these rumours going around aren’t all that true."

"Fine! Even if the aren’t, I still don’t want to move into that cold, damp room at the top of the staircase and let Malfoy move into my warm, cozy room."

"First of all, young lady, you will refer to him as Draco. It is very impolite to call someone by their last name; it’s so cold and unfriendly-"

"I don’t want to be Malfoy’s friend!"

"That’s it, Ginny! This conversation is over. Draco will be here in a few hours, and I want this room spotless. Ron will be here soon along with the twins, so you’d better hurry."

Mrs. Weasley got up off the bed and immediately walked out without waiting for Ginny to reply. Ginny, meanwhile, cursed under her breath and kicked the wall beside her rather hardly. All of a sudden, her toe started to swell and she fell back onto her bed.
She closed her eyes and tried to think of why she was here. Ginny didn’t actually live with her parents anymore. In fact; none of her brothers did either. Usually, during the year, the Burrow would seem abandoned; no rowdy kids yelling about losing their things or complaining about each other. Then every Christmas, the family would reconvene from all over the world. Bill would turn up with Fleur, Charlie would arrive with his fiancée Athena, while the twins would each year bring their new girlfriends. Even Percy managed to take a break from his busy schedule and visit. Ron would always pretend he hated these reunions, but secretly, everyone knew he loved them and was always the first one to show up with Hermione. The first couple of years, it was pretty hard to fit everyone in the tiny abode, but soon, after Mr. Weasley’s promotion, the Burrow’s rooms were expanded and two more were added downstairs. One was Harry’s room which was always kept tidy by Mrs. Weasley. Harry would always visit for special occasions and Christmas was no exception. The second room belonged to Ginny, which she decorated very carefully for herself and which she enjoyed staying in every year she visited.
Ginny worked as a journalist for Witch Weekly, and lived pretty close by in a small, but snug apartment. She had had a few relationships with Neville, Dean and some other students at Hogwarts, though none were very serious. The biggest commitment she’d ever made was when she had been dating Oliver Wood and she’d moved in with him for two months while her apartment had been infested with doxies. The relationship eventually went downhill and no one was as relieved to see them break up more than Mr. Weasley who’d been worrying about his daughter dating someone five years older. After that relationship, Ginny decided to take a break from finding Mr. Right, much to Mrs. Weasley’s disappointment, and focus more on her career. She had no regrets about that decision, despite her family’s objections. The one thing that made her feel better was Harry’s support. All of the Weasley’s had protested over Ginny becoming too career orientated, but Harry had sat them all down and convinced them to let Ginny lead her life the way she wanted it.

Harry had always supported Ginny through and after Hogwarts. Even though their brief relationship in Harry’s sixth year had probably been more serious than any other she’d had, after Harry defeated Voldemort, they’d agreed to spend some time apart. Harry needed to adjust his life into that of a normal wizard (or as normal as it would ever be for the 'Boy Who Defeated the Dark Lord'), while Ginny needed some time to settle into her life away from home. Eventually, their feelings of romance grew fainter and they were just friends.

Ginny huffed and stared angrily at nothing in particular. She knew there was no way of venting her anger at someone in the family because they were all older than her. She took out the only thing that helped her control her anger without the use of a wand and a Bat-Bogey hex: her diary. Ginny held the red book in front of her face and looked at its soft cover where the golden lettering glimmered in the sunlight spelling the words: Ginny Weasley. Hermione had given this diary to her for her graduation present after her seventh year. It had been enchanted so that only Ginny could read what was written. The spell that Hermione had used was a pretty simple one, but no one in the house knew that Ginny kept a diary. Anyone who’d see this would assume it was one of Ginny’s useless, empty books instead of a vault for her most precious memories and thoughts.
She flipped through the pages until she reached her last entry and started on a new one.

December 2nd
I hate Draco Malfoy. I hope he gets lost in the Floo Network and ends up in fireplace far away on an island where no one speaks English. I hope his wand snaps in half and a stick gets poked right up his tight arse. There’s no way he’s coming anywhere near my room or I’ll tie his hands to his toes and roll him down the stairs until he reaches exactly where he belongs: at the doorstep, outside the house. It’s totally unfair that I spend all my spare time here trying to decorate my room and keep it spotless and all of a sudden, some little blonde, arrogant prick comes along and steals it. I HATE YOU, MALFOY.

Ginny finished her entry by jabbing into the paper where her full stop should have been. Just as she closed her diary, there was another knock on the door.

"Gin…it’s me." Ron’s voice came through the door as he knocked a second time. "Just open the door."
Ginny quickly opened the door and hugged her brother gloomily. "Hey, Ron," She muttered as she turned back.

Ron looked slightly hurt and said, "Well, it’s nice to see you too. I’m doing fine, thank you."

"Oh, sorry about that. I’m just ticked off…"

"Yeah, Mum told me. It doesn’t sound like you have a choice though; both Mum and Dad have made up their minds."

"So they sent you up here to talk to me, right?"

"Nah, I’m here to pack your stuff and send it upstairs."

"Ugh!" Ginny kicked her pillows, causing the delicate lace on them to rip slightly.

"You’d better gather your breakable stuff, because there’s no way I’m packing your things the Muggle way." Ron looked frightened at the thought of lifting each item and placing it individually in a suitcase.

Ginny rolled her eyes, picked up her diary and put it in a little painted box. Ginny’s few valuable things were usually kept safely in that box. Some of those items included: a thin golden bracelet given to her by Harry, a long silver ribbon with thin embroidery given to her by Ron, some books and a scarf given to her by her parents, and a couple of other presents from her brothers over the years.

As Ginny walked over and stood behind Ron, he waved his wand in one flick and muttered the word, Pack!

Everything in Ginny’s room (with the exception of furniture) started flying and made its way over to the trunk lying by the doorway. Her closet burst open, and layers of clothes poured out and fell into the trunk. Even things Ginny had never seen before randomly started popping out, like a green mini skirt and an entire box of Every Flavoured Beans. By the end of it, the trunk was untidily cluttered with everything from all over the room and the room itself was bare with the exception of a beautiful chandelier hanging from the ceiling, a large single bed, a desk with a lamp and a cushy chair.

Ron smiled at his sister and pointed his wand at the trunk. He quickly went through the incantation in his head making sure he wouldn’t make a fool of himself in front of his baby sister.

"Wingardium Leviosa!"

The trunk lifted itself effortlessly and moved out the door as Ron guided it with his wand. He stepped into the hallway and up the stairs as he called to Ginny, "Better head down to breakfast, Gin. They’re like animals down there, might not be anything left for you."
Ginny glanced at her bare room one last time and walked out, shutting the door behind her.

***
Ginny dragged herself downstairs into the kitchen where everyone was seated at the dining table. Mr. Weasley sat at one end of the table, drinking out of his cup and casually reading the Daily Prophet. Beside him, Bill was eating a stack of pancakes flooded with maple syrup, while Fleur was at his side, nibbling on some toast and conversing with Hermione across the table. Fleur looked as radiant as ever with her silky silver hair and perfect eyes. Next to Fleur were Charlie and Athena. Athena wasn’t a witch of traditional beauty, but she always had a warm expression and kind, soft, dark eyes. She had dark hair that was usually tied up in a messy pony tail, but a few strands would get loose and drop softly across her face. Charlie always talked about how he loved it when that happened. Both Charlie and Athena were busy talking to Fred and George who were sitting across from them, this time without girlfriends. Between Percy and Hermione was an empty chair (probably for Ron) and beside Hermione sat Harry. He got up off his chair and went over to help Mrs. Weasley serve breakfast to everyone. Ginny smiled to herself as she saw Mrs. Weasley complaining to Harry about how thin he was and how he should eat more. Regardless of her bad mood, Ginny couldn’t help smiling as she watched her family and closest friends sit together at the table, just enjoying their time together.
Harry turned and saw Ginny walking down the stairs. He smiled at her as he took three plates of eggs and served them on the table. She smiled back and looked into those affable eyes. Even after their break up, Harry and Ginny had remained very close friends, always there for each other.

Mrs. Weasley turned to see what Harry was looking at and smiled as Ginny took a conjured chair between her father and Harry. She listened in as Charlie and Athena were busy talking to Fred and George. Apparently, everyone around the table had stopped doing other things and were joining in the conversation too.

"It wasn’t my fault, this time," George was telling Athena, indignantly.

"Absolutely! It wasn’t mine either!" Fred chimed in.

Charlie was laughing while Athena was trying not to. Everyone was sniggering quietly as well while Fred and George were frantically explaining their situation.

Bill spoke, trying to control his amusement. "I agree," he said. "Anyone could have mistaken Bulgarian men for two women." Everyone burst out laughing.

"What’s this about Bulgarian men?" Ginny asked.
"Funny story," Charlie said. "Apparently, these two decided to go to Bulgaria for some joke stuff and met these two ‘attractive’ women. Only it turns out that they weren’t women but two very…angry men."

"Yeah," Bill said. "That would explain Fred’s black eye."

"Hey!" Fred said. "Those two wouldn’t listen to us. We tried to apologize, but they just wouldn’t bloody get it. Then one of them punched me in the eye and we ran for it, bloody idiots."

Everyone continued laughing as Mrs. Weasley bustled in and started serving tea.

"Alright, that’s enough, all of you," Mrs. Weasley said. "Ginny dear, is your room cleaned out?"

Ginny sighed and nodded. "Yes, Mum, it is. So now Malfoy can enjoy my comfortable room while I sleep in the bloody attic, freezing my arse off."

"Ginny! Watch your language!" Mr. Weasley scolded and turned to Ron who had just joined them. "Ron, you said you wanted to tell us something."

"Well…um…yes." Ron stuttered a little bit, blushing slightly. "Um…Hermione?"

Hermione leaned into Ron’s ear and whispered, "Oh, Ron! Just go ahead. Don’t be afraid of anything."

"What’s there to be afraid of?" Mr. Weasley asked. "We’re all family here anyway."
"It’s just that…maybe Hermione should tell you." Ron blushed even more, now resulting in his face turning a flaming red to match his hair. Hermione rolled her eyes and pinched Ron’s arm.

"Ow! Alright, fine. It’s just that…um…ok…so…"

"Oh for heavens sake, Ron!" Hermione made him stand up and urged him on.

"Hermione…" Ron began, sweating a little. "Well, it’s just that…"

All of a sudden, the fireplace erupted in emerald flames and smoke started spewing out. Everyone turned as the tall flames spat out a tall figure. The figure landed smoothly, but was covered from head to toe in soot. His beautiful blonde hair had dashes of grey smoke while he gently dusted himself of. His grey eyes weren’t their usual cold, but warmer and friendlier. Draco Malfoy turned and saw the entire Weasley family staring back at him.



Chapter 2: Friends and Diaries
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Draco set his eyes, scanning the scene in front of him. All around him, sat the entire Weasley family and some others, including Harry Potter. All of them seemed to be staring right back at him, some with loathing, others with curiosity, and a few with kindness. His eyes shifted from one person to the other, slowly glancing shortly at everyone. From red head to red head, he looked around, but abruptly stopped and gasped. Not even Draco Malfoy could hide his surprise on how Ginny Weasley had turned out.
The last time he had seen her was at his last year at Hogwarts. She was still flat and plain and possessed no charm or beauty. Her pasty red hair would be tied up in a pony tail, while some of it fell messily on her face, hiding her blemished skin. She was short and had developed some curves by her fifth year, but they all seemed out of place and awkward. She had those famed Weasley freckles on her face, which were worsened by her lack of make up. She walked, more like wobbled, like an injured cow, and her head always hung low, which kept her out of most people’s notice.

But today as Draco looked at Ginny, he saw an entirely different person, not only physically, but also emotionally. She looked, beyond doubt, like a perfect physical specimen. Her dull hair was now fiery red and instead of tangled strands falling over her face, her hair was let down and gently tucked in behind her ears. The sunlight from the window gently highlighted her hair, making it seem almost unrealistic. Her eyes were no longer hidden, but instead, beautifully shaped and contained resilience and confidence that Draco had never seen in her before. Draco couldn’t help looking at Ginny’s faultless figure which placed definite curves at the most perfect places. Her voluptuous body and significant height seemed to echo through Draco’s mind as he remembered that short little brat that always hung out with Harry Potter.
***

Ginny looked at Draco and couldn’t help but smirking at the irony. Draco Malfoy, named by Witch Weekly as one of the top 10 hottest wizards, was always known to be perfect. His hair was always combed back and seemed to shine in the sunlight unnecessarily. His pale complexion was flawless without a single blemish or scar. His posture was that of a nobleman: always upright with his chin held high and his body was no secret to anyone. Ginny remembered Draco’s last year at Hogwarts when juniors were dared to sneak into his dormitory and catch a peak at his toned, firm body. Ginny never had the displeasure of seeing it. Draco’s eyes were considered his greatest feature, those that contained mysteries of innumerable value about Draco. Ginny stared into those eyes now and didn’t see those doors opening into his soul, as described by Luna, or that cold, intimidating persona as described by Pansy Parkinson. All Ginny could see were eyes; pale grey eyes that seemed as flawless as the rest of him, not a single eyelash out of place. The irony, Ginny thought to herself, was that this perfect bachelor of the highest standards stood covered in ashes in the middle of a tiny kitchen already cramped with a dozen people.
Yet still, the way Draco was staring at her…

She was venting every drop of hatred she contained into him, and yet, he didn’t seem to care. Even though his eyes fell on her directly, he seemed to be in his own world, surrounded by his own thoughts. Ginny felt a bit awkward, and for a second, she almost started to blush. Immediately, she snapped back to reality.
What on earth are you doing, Ginny? she thought to herself. Are you actually blushing at Malfoy?

Before things could get any more unusual, Ginny tore herself away from his gaze and looked in the other direction, turning and expecting to see the faces of her loved ones staring at her in awe. But nothing of that sort happened. Everyone at the dining table seemed to be preoccupied with Draco’s presence to notice Ginny and Draco staring at each other.

Mrs. Weasley finally broke the silence. "Welcome, Draco." She moved forward quickly and conjured up another chair. "I’m so glad you could join us this year."

Draco seemed to think the opposite with a sour look on his face, but smiled anyways. "Thank you."

Mr. Weasley got up and shook Draco’s hand. "It’s nice to see you."

Draco nodded politely. "Likewise, Arthur."

Mr. Weasley flinched slightly at the sound of his first name being spoken by someone only a year older than his youngest daughter, and smiled plastically.

"Where’s your luggage?" he asked. "I trust you will be staying with us until New Years."

"Yes, of course," Draco spoke quickly. "I had it sent here. If I’m not mistaken, it should be in the room you designated to me."

Mr. Weasley nodded, looking slightly abashed by Draco’s arrogance. He looked up and down at Draco and then sat back down in his chair. "Have a seat." He gestured to the chair that his wife had conjured up.

Draco looked at his sordid hands and clothes. He dusted himself off as best as he could and ran his fingers through his hair.

"If you don’t mind," he began, "I’d rather get cleaned up and unpacked."

"Of course," Mrs. Weasley chimed in. "Why don’t you go up to your room and get cleaned off while I prepare some breakfast for you? How do eggs sound?"

Draco smiled politely and nodded. "Which room is it?"

"Oh, right," Mrs. Weasley said. "Well, it is right down the hallway. Climb the short stairs and turn to your right. There are two doors there. Now, let me remember…was it the one with the chipped door or the one with the broken knob…hmm…I believe it was the one with no knob"

Ron shook his head in disbelief. "Mum! They’ve both got no knobs! I think it’s the one with the crooked corners."

"No, it’s not," Bill pointed out. "The crooked corners door was replaced last week, but I think it’s the door with blue paint."

Both Fred and George joined in this time. "No, the knobs got fixed too…"

Draco stood there and watched as the Weasley family got into a huge argument about which door lead to his room. Finally after thirty seconds of nonsensical arguments, Mr. Weasley silenced everyone.

"Why doesn’t Ginny just show Draco to his room?"

Ginny suddenly looked up. "What?"

"Well, that was your room, wasn’t it? You know it better then any of us do, so go and show our guest to his room and get him settled in." Mr. Weasley pointed towards the hallway and nodded at Ginny.

Ginny looked pleadingly at her brothers who didn’t seem to be able to do anything. She looked at Harry, who smiled encouragingly and nodded his head as if telling her to do it. She snarled before she left the room, and mumbled something that sounded like ‘follow me’.
***
Ginny rolled her eyes as she climbed the short stairs that led to her, or what used to be her bedroom. She turned right at the corner and arrived at a dead end with two doors on either side of her.

Draco caught up with her and looked at both doors. "So…which one is it?"

Ginny sneered, but suddenly a thought occurred to her. "Guess," She demanded spitefully.

"Excuse me?"

"There’s all this buzz about you being so smart and so perfect, so let’s see it then. Guess which door leads to your room."

"You’re challenging me?"

"I guess so."

"You can’t do that, particularly not to anyone who’s a guest in your house." Draco smiled mischievously.

"So, you don’t think that you’ll be able to guess which door?"

"Reverse psychology doesn’t work on me, Virginia." He looked at Ginny straight in the eyes. "But since you seem so adamant, I’ll accept."

"Fine, just pick one of the doors and we’ll open it. One leads to my room and the other to Harry’s room. If you pick the wrong door, then you’ll be sleeping up in the attic with the ghoul and his bloody rattling chains and I get my room back."

"Ah!" A look of understanding shot into Draco’s eyes. "So this is about your room then, is it?"

"Correct. It is my room and I deserve fully to stay in it, but for some reason you decide to show up and I have to move upstairs." Ginny realized she was shouting, and quickly lowered her voice before the rest of her family followed her here.

"Well, Virginia, I agree to your terms, but if I choose the correct door I get a favor from you."

Ginny raised her eyebrow suspiciously. "What kind of a favor?"

Draco shrugged, but his eyes danced mischievously. "When the time comes, you’ll owe me one."

Ginny shrugged too. She was far too excited about getting her room back to actually care about what Malfoy the prick was saying. "Fine, whatever. Just pick!"

Ginny watched as Draco looked at both doors. The one to his right was a brown oak door with a rusted knob and chipped off corners. The smell coming from that room was strongly of sweat and mud. Draco turned his attention to the other door to his left. That door was smooth and a lighter brown. The knob on that door was a shiny bronze, and as Draco lightly touched it he could feel its looseness. That room smelt mostly of cinnamon, and Ginny saw Draco’s eyes light up.

"I choose this one." Draco turned and put his hand on the bronze knob. He slowly rotated it and pushed the door open. Ginny cursed loudly as Draco entered an almost empty room with the exception of a bed, a chandelier, a study desk, and a chair.

"That wasn’t very challenging," Draco smirked. "Perhaps next time you’ll do better."

"You probably cheated with some of sort of spell."

"How could I have done that? You were standing right here!"

"Well then, how could you have guessed without magic?"

"It takes common sense, not magic, to figure out that only someone as sloppy as Potter would leave his room smelling like sweaty socks and mud."

Ginny cursed again and started to leave as Draco called out to her, "So now you owe me."
"What’re you talking about?"

"Well, you lost. Now you owe me one favor."

"What kind of a favor?"

"I don’t know yet. I’ll let you know when I think of something."

Ginny huffed and marched down the hallway. She thumped loudly as she clambered up the stairs. She reached the top floor and threw the door to her room open. Without bothering to close it again, Ginny lay on her bed with her face buried within the pillows. It seemed like she had lain there for hours just thinking of all the fun ways to hex Malfoy and all the different spells to use.

Maybe a wart potion…then that little prick won’t be so perfect anymore. Or I could just as easily slip him some Polyjuice potion and for the next few hours he’d look like Great Auntie Muriel.

"Ginny?"

Ginny heard someone knock on the opened door and didn’t even bother to turn around to see who it was. That sweet, soothing voice could only belong to one person.

"Go away, Harry!"

"I brought you some breakfast."

"I’m not hungry…I just want to be alone!"

"Come on, Ginny. Your Mum went through so much trouble…at least eat something."

"I already told you, I’m not hungry!"

"Fine, don’t eat. At least talk to me."

"You won’t understand, Harry…I just hate that stupid arse."

"You’re talking about Malfoy, right?" Harry laughed to himself. "Ginny, I’ve spent a good seven years of my life hating that stupid arse…I think I can understand."

Harry walked over quietly to Ginny’s bed and sat beside her. Ginny sat up too and brushed away some hair in front of her face. The two just silently sat there for about four minutes until Ginny spoke again.

"It’s not fair," she said gloomily.

"What isn’t?"

"This…you know…being the youngest child and all. Just because I was born last doesn’t mean that I have to give up everything."

"Ginny, it doesn’t always happen like that."

"Yes, it does! I’m the one who always has to give up my belongings in the end. It’s been happening since I was ten. Ron wanted some stupid old toy of mine and just because he was the older one who was going off to Hogwarts, I had to give it up. Now it’s over ten years later, and still nothing has changed."

"Maybe your parents think you’re the only one who can handle it."

"What’re you talking about?"

"I’m just saying that maybe your parents always make you switch things or give up things because you’re the only responsible and mature one in the family who can handle these changes."

"That’s bullocks, Harry."

"No, it isn’t. I mean, let’s face it; your brothers don’t seem to adjust to change very well. It had taken them weeks to get used to the new layout of the house after your parents got the rooms built in."

"I guess…maybe you are right."

"And besides, you’re lucky! You get to move away from Malfoy. I’m the one stuck being his neighbor for the entire month."

"Well, that’s perfect because that’s what you deserve!"

"What do you mean I deserve it?"

"Well, you did cheat during our Quidditch match yesterday, and now it’s your penance. You have to live next to Draco Malfoy."

"Hold on, I did not cheat! Besides, you can’t punish me."

Ginny cleared her throat. "Mr. Harry Potter, you are hereby sentenced to live within close proximity of one, Draco Malfoy, for the duration of one month. During this time, you must, and will, have to endure his constant perfection and arrogance."

Both of them burst out laughing like little children. The two of them continued to laugh and giggle for what seemed like hours. Ginny smiled at Harry after her laughing fit was over and rested her arm on his shoulder.

"Thank God you’re staying with us," she said, "or I wouldn’t have been able to live for two days without shrinking Malfoy into the size of a shriveled prune."

"I’m always here for you." Harry looked at Ginny softly and caressed her face. Ginny could’ve sworn she saw Harry almost lean in for a kiss and pull back, but she shrugged it off as her stupid imagination.

"I’m starving though." Ginny rubbed her stomach and smiled at Harry. "Any chance you’ve saved me some breakfast?"

"Pancakes… maple syrup, no butter... and tea…little cream and two sugars."

Ginny grinned. "I can’t believe you remember all that."

"Ginny, I’ll always remember everything about you."

Ginny placed her hands on Harry’s and kissed his cheek. "That’s so sweet, Harry. With all that cheesy romance, you could make any girl fall head over heels in love with you."
Harry raised his eyebrow. "Any girl?"

Before Ginny could answer, there was another knock on the door. Both Harry and Ginny turned to see Bill standing in the doorway. His hands were placed in his pockets and his bright hair clashed against the oak door.

"Mum sent me up here to check on you," he said, rolling his eyes.

Ginny sighed. "Well, you can tell her that I’m fine now."

Bill ran his hand through his hair. "I’m not talking to you, I was talking to Harry. Mum sent me up here to make sure you hadn’t hexed Harry out of rage."

Ginny looked shocked, while Harry laughed in amusement.

"That’s ridiculous!" Ginny protested. "Why doesn’t Mum ever trust me?"

"Oh come on, Gin! Just forget about it…can we just go down to eat with everyone else?"
Ginny thought about it for a second and nodded reluctantly. All three of them headed towards the dining room where Draco had now joined the family and was feasting on some eggs and bacon. He looked so polished now that he had showered and put on nicer clothes. His hair was neatly combed back, and he was wearing a simple black trouser with a navy blue button down shirt. Ginny almost didn’t recognize him without his school robes on.

Mrs. Weasley looked over and saw Ginny and Harry coming down with Bill. She sighed in relief and smiled at the three of them.

"So, are we all feeling alright?" She asked pleasantly.

"Yes, Mum. Now can we please have some breakfast?" Ginny pleaded.

"Sure, love." Mrs. Weasley unloaded four pancakes on Ginny’s plate and showered it with maple syrup. She then walked over to Harry’s plate and dumped two eggs and three sausages, which Harry happily started to eat.

After everyone got settled into their meal, Mr. Weasley looked over at Draco and initiated conversation. "So, Draco, how was your journey through the Floo Network? I heard things are getting a bit chaotic with all the witches and wizards trying to get home in time for the holidays, and I daresay that our fireplace does require some tweaking."

Draco swallowed a mouthful of eggs and said, "Well actually, apart from the dusty entrance, I seemed to have traveled fine."

"I heard the network was busy this morning," Athena pointed out.

"It was, but it could’ve been much worse." Draco suddenly broke out into a smile. "I mean, I should be thankful that I didn’t get lost in the Floo Network and end up in a fireplace far away on an island where no one speaks English."

Ginny gagged on her pancakes and started to cough, but Draco continued. "I might’ve had my wand break in half or had a stick poke right up my…backside."

Ginny gazed in shock as Draco recited her latest diary entry word for word. He seemed to be pleasantly enjoying this conversation.

"Well…" Hermione started, "It’s good that didn’t happen."

"Besides," Draco continued, "I heard that natives on far off islands are very unwelcoming of guests. Apparently they tie their guests’ arms and roll them down the stairs until they reach the door step. Terrible people."

Ginny gazed in horror as Draco gave her a mischievous smile. She suddenly looked in all directions except Malfoy’s, but couldn’t get rid of her shock. How on earth was Draco Malfoy reading her diary?

Ginny shot up from her chair and excused herself as fast as she could. She dashed into the hallway, and as she was about to go up the stairs, she heard a voice call her from behind.
"Virginia?"

Ginny turned around and saw Draco standing at the entrance into the hallways. He had his arms crossed, and his gaze was fixed on her. She felt so angry that she was sure she’d hex him. In his hands, Ginny saw a book with the words "Ginny Weasley" gleaming in the sunlight. She dashed over and quickly grabbed the diary from his hands and put it safely in her arms.

"What is your problem?" she asked Draco.

"I know this upset you, Virginia, and-"

"Of course it upset me! You can’t just bloody go around and read people’s diaries!"
"Well, I only read the one entry…and seeing as it was about me, I don’t think that was a big problem."

"How on earth did you find my diary, anyways?"

"I found it on the stairwell. It was empty with your name on it."

"Hermione’s spell should’ve worked…you shouldn’t have been able to see the invisible ink!"

"I used a spell on it," Draco said blatantly. "We live in a world of magic here; blank paper is not always blank paper. I just said ‘Aparecium’ and the ink appeared."

"Oh." Ginny looked idly as she realized how stupid she looked right now for having forgotten about revealing spells. "Well…either way, Malfoy…you can’t just go and –"

"I don’t want to argue with you, Virginia. I want to start afresh."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, that finally I’ve got the chance to redeem myself, and I don’t want to bother with petty Gryffindor-Slytherin arguments."

"Well then, what do you want?"

"I want to be your friend." Draco’s words echoed in Ginny’s mind.

Friend? He wants to be my friend?
Don’t be silly, Ginny. He’s just trying to trick you.
He’s changed! Besides, everyone deserves a second chance.
Hello! This is the guy that has been poking fun at you since the day you arrived at school.
Well, he has changed.

Ginny searched Draco’s eyes for that glimmer of malice that she’d always seen at Hogwarts. She kept staring at those grey circles to find something that would give away the fact that he was lying, but she found nothing. His eyes were as clear as crystal and showed nothing but sincerity, something which Ginny had never seen in a Slytherin’s eyes before.

"Listen, Virginia," Draco said, "I understand that-"

"Don’t call me that," Ginny interrupted. "That’s not my name."

"What?"

"My name isn’t Virginia. You’ve been calling me that ever since you arrived."

"Well, I just…you know…I’ve never really called you anything but Weasel, and isn’t Ginny short for Virginia?

Ginny shook her head in embarrassment. "It’s short for Ginevra."

"Why would someone name their daughter that?"

Ginny was appalled. She placed her hands on her hips and spoke sternly. "Ahem. My parents would!"

This almost felt like they were back at Hogwarts where Draco would make a snide comment at Ginny, and then she would argue with him until a teacher came. But instead of sneering at her, Draco did something he’d never done before…apologize.

"Sorry," he muttered. He looked up suddenly, realizing that he’d apologized to a Weasley. "So…are we okay now?"

Ginny hesitated. "You can’t just compel people to be friends, Malfoy."

"I don’t want to force you. I want you to give me a chance."

"Well…" Ginny thought about it for a moment and smiled. "We can’t go from enemies to friends in one day, but I guess we could just start with a clean slate.”

"Absolutely," Draco smiled too and held out his hand. "Hi, I’m Draco Malfoy."

Ginny smiled back at him and took his hand. "Hi, I’m Ginny Weasley."



Chapter 3: Dinner and Surprises
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Night had fallen, and Draco was back in his room, putting the last of his stuff away. He messily jammed his last sweater into a cupboard and went to shower.

As he entered the bathroom and got into the shower, he couldn’t help but thinking of a particular redhead. He kept imagining those sleek legs, perfect curves, her fiery red hair, and her soft features. Eventually, he had to turn the water cold to cool himself off.

Her eyes were so beautiful; they were a deep chocolate color, and even without make up she looked priceless. He tried to shake her from his thoughts, but couldn’t do it. Draco Malfoy was actually crushing on a Weasley.

He snapped out of his thoughts when he heard someone knocking on his door. Quickly, he dried off and put on his silk pajamas and went to answer it.
***
Harry sat in his room, quietly polishing his Firebolt. He had always enjoyed taking care of his broomstick ever since he’d gotten his Nimbus 2000 in his first year. It had become more of a ritual now than an actual chore. It helped him take his mind off other things that were going on in his life, but today, it was failing miserably.

Nothing Harry did could remove that beautiful redhead from his mind. That smile, those mischievous brown eyes, and that beautiful face. All he could do was think about her and about what an idiot he had been.

Harry remembered that day in his sixth year when he had told Ginny that he didn’t want Voldemort to know how close they were. He had broken up with her, and that was the hardest thing he had ever had to do. He had spent many nights thinking of her then, but always had the hope that as soon as Voldemort was defeated, they’d get back together. Then, after that fateful night when the greatest dark wizard of all time was killed, Harry, Hermione, and Ron had ended up at St. Mungo’s with hordes of reporters from all over the world. Harry recalled later that morning when the whole Weasley family had come to visit him. Mrs. Weasley had been crying, while everyone else had been praising Harry and showing him newspapers from all around the world with his face on the cover. When they all had left, one figure had stood waiting at the back of the room…Ginny.

She had looked so beautiful that Harry had thought he was dreaming.

Without a word, Ginny sat beside Harry’s bed and leaned in for a kiss. But for some reason which Harry never figured out, he turned his head leaving Ginny to kiss his cheek. She had come to see if there was anything between them, and she had gotten her answer. Tears had welled up in her eyes and Harry couldn’t even look at her. She had left without a word, and Harry knew then that it was over. After a few months, their relationship had built up again, but only as friends…nothing else.

Today, eight years later, they were close friends, but Harry’s heart still remained incomplete. He never truly understood how a teenage crush had built up into such deep love, but it had. It had built into a love so deep that he could never have imagined.
***

Draco walked over and opened his bedroom door to find Mrs. Weasley smiling kindly.

"Draco, dear," she said warmly. "I brought you some extra blankets just in case you get a bit chilly."

Draco smiled and took the blankets from her. "Thank you…Mrs. Weasley, may I ask you something?"

"Sure, dear."

"Did you receive any letters for me today?"

"I don’t think so. The post usually arrives in the mornings…are you expecting a letter?"

"Um…yes. It’s nothing urgent, just something from a friend at the Ministry."

"Well, dear, I’ll let you know as soon as I get the letter. Goodnight, Draco."

Mrs. Weasley nodded and walked down the hallway and up the stairs to her own room. Draco closed the door and remembered his own mother. She was currently living in Italy, in a beautiful villa on the countryside. Like in England, the Wizarding community was separated from the Muggle community, and Italy had its own Ministry of Magic as well.

It had turned out that Lucius had slowly, but surely, been controlling Narcissa with severe dark magic. After he was sentenced to life in Azkaban, the magic had been broken and Narcissa was freed from his hold, but was weak and unwell. Healers from St. Mungo’s had suggested that she should be given some fresh air and serenity, which is why Draco had bought her a beautiful place in Italy where she could rest.

Draco remembered his nights as a child when his mother used to tuck him in and stay with him until he fell asleep. He remembered her beautiful satin robes which were always so soft against his face as she tried to put him to sleep.

Tonight, Draco would have to sleep without those soft robes and without the warmth of his own mother. But something about the Burrow made him feel more complete than he’d ever felt in his lavish house.
***
"Ginny! Wake up!"

Fred and George were squirting water on Ginny’s face as she awoke from her sleep. The sunshine from outside flooded the interior of the room, lighting it up. Ginny checked her bedside clock, which read 11:12 a.m. She got up angrily and glared at her twin brothers.

"What do you want?" She rubbed her eyes and yawned, but her voice remained stern and steady.

"Get downstairs! Hurry!" Fred was yelling at her excitedly.

"Why? What happened?"

"You won’t believe it," George said. "Even we couldn’t believe it when we first heard it!"

"Believe what?"

"Ron and Hermione are going to have a baby!"

Ginny’s fatigue vanished immediately as she jumped out of bed. She looked in disbelief at her two brothers. "Are you serious? I hope this isn’t one of those stupid jokes!"

"We’re bloody serious. Ron told Mum this morning and she practically hugged him to death."

"Oh my God! I’m going to be an aunt! This is so great! Are they downstairs?"

"Yes…hurry and go!"

Ginny threw on a pink robe over her pajamas and darted down the stairs to the living room. Mrs. Weasley was there hugging Ron and Hermione to death, while Bill and Charlie were smiling along with Percy. Harry was immersed in the excitement and celebration as well, and even Draco seemed to be happy. Athena and Fleur were talking excitedly as Mr. Weasley was patting his son’s back. He saw Ginny run in and smiled at her.

"I take it that you’ve received the good news?" He smiled at his daughter.

"Of course! This is perfect…a cute little baby!"

Ron and Hermione managed to wiggle out of Mrs. Weasley’s grip and turned to face everyone in the room. Ginny ran over and hugged her brother tightly. "Congratulations!"

"So," Athena began excitedly, "when is the baby due?"

"Well," Hermione started, "With a Muggle, it’s always nine months, but with witches it’s different. We’re going to St. Mungo’s at noon to find out."

"Well, there’s not much time, then," Mrs. Weasley said. "You two had better get ready! I’ll set some breakfast. Oh this is so exciting! My little Ron is going to be a father!" Mrs. Weasley bustled out of the room and into the kitchen.
"Oh my," Mr. Weasley said. "I guess that would make me a grandfather! Just imagine…in a few months there’ll be a little boy or girl calling me ‘Grandpa’."

"Do you two want a boy or a girl?" Bill asked.

"Well," Ron blushed. "I’m not quite sure…you know…we haven’t really had that much time to talk about this!"

"Well, how long have you known about the baby, Ron?" Harry asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Well, two weeks, but we've spent so much time discussing how to tell you that we haven’t really thought about it."

"I ‘ope it iz a girl," Fleur exclaimed. "Zey are so much more mature zan zey boys."

"Hermione," Percy asked. "What do you want? A boy or girl?"

"Well," Hermione said pensively, "I’ve always wanted a little girl, but a boy would be absolutely adorable too."

"Well, either way," George said as he joined the rest of the family downstairs with Fred, "we know that Ron’s done good." He winked at Ron who blushed furiously. His hair was almost the same shade as his face. Everyone laughed as Mrs. Weasley rushed back in holding some toast and butter.

"Here you go, dear," she said as she placed some buttered toast into Hermione’s hands. "Something dry for breakfast will help ease the morning sickness."

Hermione started to nibble on the toast as Ron looked at the clock which read 11:50 a.m. "Hermione," he said, "I think we'd better get going."

"Alright then, I’ll just finish the toast when we get there."

"Good, so do we Apparate into the waiting room or in the Healer’s office?"

"Ron, you idiot," Athena said. "Pregnant women can’t Apparate, nor can they use the Floo Network. You have to hold on to Hermione and then she’ll Apparate with you."

Ron sighed and nodded. "Alright, well, we’ll be going now." He grabbed onto Hermione’s hand. All the girls in the room started to smile. Ron blushed one last time before he waved his wand and the both of them disappeared.
***

Ginny sat in her room in the attic, thinking about the wonderful joys of having a baby. She had always had a soft spot for children in her heart; they were always so cute and so appreciative of all the little things people did for them. She was immersed in her own thoughts when she heard a gentle voice call her name from the other side of the door.

She knew only one person with such a kind and soothing voice. "Hold on, Harry. I’ll be out in a minute!"

She walked over to the door and opened it, only to reveal that standing at her doorway was not Harry, but in fact, Draco. Ginny couldn’t believe that she’d mistaken Draco for Harry.

Draco was smiling slyly and looked unnecessarily perfect in his black silk pajamas that clung to his body, revealing his toned physique. "I’m not Harry," he said softly.

"Oh… I know…I just thought…" Ginny mumbled like a fool and then turned to face Draco again. "Is there something you needed?"

"Not particularly," he said. "I was just walking by and happen to hear you pacing around your room."

Ginny tried to read Draco’s expression and returned his sly smile. "You were just casually patrolling the top floor that happens to be empty except for this room?"

"Pretty smart, Ginny," he remarked.

"So what is the real reason you’re here?"

"Alright, well I figured that I’d check to see if you were asleep, and you weren’t. Since you weren’t asleep, you were probably thinking of me, and if you were thinking of me, then I thought you might want to talk about it some more."

Ginny stared, confounded. "I didn’t really understand what you just said, but I was not thinking about you." She smiled at him and let him into her room.

"Well then, what were you thinking of?" Draco took a seat beside Ginny, who sat on her soft bed.

"Well, if you must know, I was thinking about the baby."

Draco looked disappointed. "Thinking of names, I suppose?"

Ginny shook her head. "I was thinking about when I would have my own baby."

Draco was surprised. "You’ve planned this already?"

"Of course not! I was just thinking about it."

"Shouldn’t you consult your boyfriend about this?"

Ginny was taken aback by the question. She thought for a moment about her answer, and saw that Draco had leaned in, and was listening intently and patiently for her response. She could see the anticipation in his eyes and decided to tell the truth.

"I…I don’t have a boyfriend."

"Oh." Draco’s eyes lit up with excitement. "Well, that’s too bad."

"I don’t really care about it that much. I’d rather focus on my career."

"You work at Witch Weekly, right?"

"Yes, how did you know?"

"I figured that if I’d be spending the holidays with your family that it might be good to know a few things about each of you…you know…to fill those awkward silences."

"So you stalked us?"

"I did not stalk you, Ginny. Relax. Can we talk about something else, maybe?"

"I guess so…um…why isn’t your girlfriend spending Christmas with you?"

"Girlfriend?"

"Pansy Parkinson…I write for Witch Weekly, Draco. It’s not very hard to get in on the gossip."

"We broke up a few weeks ago. She wanted to rush in and have kids while I wasn’t ready yet."

"Oh, I see." Ginny rolled her eyes and scoffed.

"What do you mean, ‘you see’?" Draco asked inquisitively. "And why did you roll your eyes at me?"

"I know your type, Draco. The kind that leads a girl all the way through the relationship, making her think that she’s getting a committed guy, and then you just leave her for someone else."

"That’s not true. I broke up with Pansy because I didn’t love her."

Ginny was taken aback. "What?"

"A Slytherin is, after all, a Slytherin…even after Hogwarts. Pansy wanted to have children only because she would get more in the divorce settlement if we ever got married."

"How’d you figure that?"

"Only a Slytherin can understand the mind of an evil gold-digger."

Ginny smiled shortly to herself and looked back up at Draco. "I…I’m sorry," she said softly. She placed her hands on Draco’s and could feel the warmth as he interlaced his fingers within hers. "I just can’t believe that you’ve changed."

"Well, I feel extremely hurt," Draco said.

Ginny felt a pang of guilt hit her. She had no idea that she had offended Draco in such a manner, but then she looked into those pale eyes and saw mischief dancing around in them. "Oh really?" she smirked.

"Absolutely!" Draco said indignantly. "I won’t forgive you."

Ginny smiled. "Well, what do I have to do to make it up to you?"

Draco looked at Ginny and thought about his answer. He held his breath and crossed his fingers as he asked his question, hoping that she would say yes. "Have dinner with me."

Ginny was stunned at Draco’s request. She had expected him to dare her to sing a show tune during dinner or something…but this, she had not been expecting. Ginny replied slowly, "I…I don’t know what to say."
"Say yes," Draco said.

"Draco, I would love to say yes…" Draco’s eyes lit up, but then died down again realizing that Ginny’s sentence wasn’t finished yet. "But…I can’t."

"Why can’t you?"

"It would just be too weird. I haven’t even had a chance to adjust to this new you. I mean, even now when I look at you, I remember you jinxing me in the hallways at Hogwarts or ripping my bag open."

"Ginny, you know that I’ve changed," Draco said softly.

"I know, Draco, but I just need a little bit of time. This is also way too soon. I mean…a date?"

"Okay then, don’t think of it as a date," Draco said stoutly. "Think of it as the favor you owe me."

"What favor?" Ginny asked.

"You know, when you lost that bet about picking the door, you owed me a favor. Think of this dinner as me asking for it now."

Ginny laughed. "You’re kidding me, right?"

"I am not!" Draco said indignantly. "Okay, Ginny, just listen to me. Are you planning on eating dinner tomorrow night?"

Ginny nodded, still slightly confused as Draco continued. "Well," he said, "if we were to casually end up in the same place for dinner, say the famous restaurant The Green Emerald, then I assume it would be okay if we sat together."

"Hm…" Ginny thought about it for a moment and smiled. "I think I’d rather bump into you at the small café in Diagon Alley called the Witch’s Brew at 8:30 tomorrow night."

"That sounds fine to me," Draco said casually, but couldn’t mask the excitement in his voice. "And, this is, of course, not a date. You are just fulfilling that favor you owe me."

"That’s right," Ginny said, not sounding too confident. The two of them just looked at each other, smiling, and mildly blushing.

Half an hour later, Draco left, leaving Ginny with her own mixed up thoughts.

Did Draco Malfoy just ask me out?
I think he did.
Wow, wait till I tell Harry about this.
Suddenly, a thought occurred to Ginny…Harry. Should she tell Harry about her dinner with Draco tomorrow? He was her best friend, and telling him would obviously make things easier to talk about. She wanted to talk to someone so badly right now that her insides were bursting. She was having all these mixed feelings right now, and they were all overwhelming her. But Harry? She thought about it for a while, and decided that telling Harry was not exactly the best thing to do, seeing as he and Draco were still at an awkward stage. She didn’t want things to get weird between them, and decided that leaving Harry out of this was the best thing to do right now.

She drew her blankets over her shoulders and went to sleep, dreaming of that beautiful blonde boy.
***
Meanwhile, Harry, a couple of floors below, drew his blankets over his head and went to sleep, dreaming of that beautiful red head.
***
Knock! Knock!

Draco quickly got up and walked towards his door. His eyes were drooping low and his hair was all over the place, but he managed to navigate his way to the doorway without tripping or falling over anything.
As he opened his door, he saw Harry standing on the opposite side of it. He, too, looked tired and worn out and carried a small envelope with a red seal.

"Here you go," Harry said, handing the envelope to Draco. "It came in this morning’s post. Mrs. Weasley wanted me to give this to you."

"Um…thanks." Draco suddenly realized what he was holding and quickly woke up from his half-sleeping state.

"Potter…Harry…you and I are okay, right?"

Harry looked at Draco for a moment and then shrugged. "Well, we’re not enemies anymore if that’s what you mean."

"Right," Draco said shortly as he turned and looked at the envelope in his hand. "Thanks for dropping this off." Harry smiled quickly and walked back towards the dining hall.

Meanwhile, Draco carefully examined the letter in his hand and checked to make sure it was what he was expecting. He ran his fingers on the smooth, slightly raised seal that was clearly the emblem of the Ministry of Magic. He gently lifted the envelope open and read the message within it. The words were clear and simple, confirming what he was supposed to do. He placed the letter back in the envelope and tucked it away carefully in the pocket of his black leather overcoat, where the magnificent red seal glistened under the morning sun.



Chapter 4: Kisses and Letters
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The entire Weasley family had gathered around the dining table and was eagerly talking to Ron and Hermione as Ginny entered the room. The room smelled like fresh tea and biscuits, which combined with the aroma of sweet sugar to create a heavenly scent.

"So," Harry began, "tell us, Hermione. What did the Healers say?"

"The baby is in good health," Hermione started, "and it is going to be due in less than two months!"

"Two months?" Athena exclaimed. "Only?"

"Well," Hermione said. "It’s like I told you. Witches and Muggles have babies at different rates. For a Muggle it’s nine months, but for a witch it can be any time frame."

"This is so exciting!" Mrs. Weasley squealed. "Did they tell you if it’s a boy or a girl?"

"I think Ron wants to answer that," Hermione said as she looked at Ron, who was blushing slightly.

"Um…" Ron started softly. "It’s a…it’s…"

"Oh for heaven’s sake, Ron," Ginny exclaimed. "Just come out and say it!"

"We’re…" A smile broke out on Ron’s face as he made his announcement. "We’re having a baby girl."

The entire dining room erupted in cheers while Mrs. Weasley started crying and hugging Ron and Hermione. Everyone went over and hugged the couple, showering them with kisses and praises. Ginny noticed that Ron always had one hand placed on Hermione’s stomach, as if protecting his daughter even before she was born. She kissed Ron on the cheek and ruffled his hair, talking excitedly. Just as she had moved away from them, Ginny noticed Draco standing in the corner of the room, hidden within the shadows.

She walked over to the figure and smiled at him as she placed her hand on his shoulder. "What’re you doing out here, Draco?"

"This is a family moment," he said pensively. "I’d hate to ruin it."

"Well, Mum always says that anyone in this house is family, and you are living here in this house, so technically for the next few weeks you are family."

Draco considered her comment for a moment and nodded slightly. He looked into Ginny’s chocolate brown eyes as she looked back into his pale ones. For a moment, he thought about kissing her, about feeling those soft, luscious lips on his own. It took him every ounce of self control to stop himself from pressing his lips to hers.

He placed his gentle hands on her temple and tenderly brushed away some stray hairs that were falling on her face. He could feel her warm skin under his fingers as well as her smooth hair. His eyes fluttered a moment, taking in the sensation, the sensation of beauty and brains all combined into one divine being.
***

Ginny tried her best not to close her eyes and revel. Draco’s soft fingers were pressing against her temple, and she couldn’t help but feel a tingling sensation all over her body. She saw Draco lean in slowly towards her, and all of a sudden a mixture of thoughts jumped into her head.

Oh my God! He’s going to kiss me!
Should I let him?
Yes! He’s so romantic, and you know he is going to kiss you tonight anyway.
But…but…it’s Draco Malfoy!
Ginny, you've said it yourself, he’s changed.

At the last moment, Ginny stepped back slightly and Draco got the message. His eyes reflected some understanding and embarrassment, while Ginny’s just contained the latter. Just as Ginny opened her mouth to explain to Draco why she did pull away, Mrs. Weasley came bustling over and joined the two of them.

She turned to Draco and said, "Draco, dear, did you get that letter that came for you this morning?"

Draco smiled and nodded. "Yes, thank you."
"The owl that delivered it was most unusual," Mrs. Weasley remarked. "It didn’t even wait for water or some owl pellets. I suppose it was in a hurry, but I guess you can’t expect more from a Ministry owl."

"How did you know it was from the Ministry?" Draco asked.

"Well, the red seal of the Ministry, of course! And didn’t you tell me that you were expecting a letter from a friend of yours?"

"Er…yes," Draco said shortly. "Thank you."

"No problem, dear." Mrs. Weasley started to walk back towards the rest of the Weasleys when she turned to Ginny. "Ginny dear, come along now. I’ve got some tea in the kitchen… go ahead and serve everyone."

Ginny rolled her eyes and followed her mother, leaving Draco standing there alone. He stood, watching that flaming head of hair get smaller into the distance until he could no longer see her.
***

After the celebrations about Ron and Hermione’s daughter had died down and everyone had returned to their own chores in the house, Harry sat in his room, writing to Remus Lupin. He’d been keeping in touch with his ex-Professor after his graduation and saw him as the closest father figure he’d ever have other than Sirius and James. He read his letter to check if it made sense, and called out to Hedwig, who was sitting peacefully in her cage, sipping some water. She made an irritable hooting sound, but nonetheless, came over to Harry and started to nibble on his finger.

"Here you go, Hedwig," Harry said as he tied the letter to her leg. "I’m sorry to be sending you out in this weather, but when you return, I’ll have a special treat for you." He smiled at his faithful owl as she spread her wings and flew out of the window, disappearing into the afternoon sun.

Snow had started to fall and was covering the Weasley’s backyard. Harry looked down from his window and saw the gnomes in the garden trying to escape the cold weather. Harry saw Fred and George walk into the backyard and call out to Harry from below.

"Oye, Harry! Come on down here…let’s play some Quidditch!"

"In this weather? Are you serious?" Harry yelled back.

"The snow isn’t even close to being brutal yet. This’ll be our only chance all winter!"

"No thanks…you two can freeze by yourselves!"

Fred and George huffed and mounted their brooms. Harry laughed at them while they tried not to slip off their icy Comets in the cold weather. He heard a knock on his door and saw Hermione come in from behind.

"Hey, Hermione," Harry said cheerily. Harry quickly conjured a comfortable chair for her, which she gladly sat down on.

"Are you okay?" Harry asked.

"I’m fine," she said, "but the morning sickness is killing me."

"Even thinking about it makes me sick," Harry said, slightly grossed out.

"Harry…" Hermione started. "You’ve got to tell Ginny."

Harry was taken aback. He had no preparation time, and was in no way expecting to hear that. "W...w-what?" Harry stammered.

"Oh for heaven’s sake, Harry! I already know."

"Know what?"

"That you love her."

Harry’s jaw dropped. "L...love…who?"

"Ginny," Hermione whispered.

Harry took a considerable time to adjust to the shock. He sat down and sighed. Hermione placed her hand on his shoulder and smiled. "I’ve always told you, Harry…you can never hide anything."

"How did you know?" Harry asked.

"It’s not very hard, you know. I’ve seen the way you look at her, the way you laugh at her jokes…catching glances at her."

Harry sighed again and ran his hand through his hair. "You want me to tell her?"

Hermione nodded silently. "She needs to know how you feel."

"I…I can’t tell her, Hermione. What if she just rejects me?"

Hermione laughed. "That’s what you’re afraid of? Rejection? Harry, this isn’t Hogwarts where you’re worried about the pretty girl not liking you…this is love... Ginny’s your friend, she’ll understand."

"That’s just it," Harry said solemnly. "Even though she doesn’t know how I feel, we’re still friends. Hermione, I remember our seventh year, the night we defeated Voldemort. She came to me and I pushed her away…I scared her. We didn’t speak for weeks, and only I know how I spent those weeks. It was bad enough not to have my girlfriend speaking to me, but it was worse not to have my friend talking to me either."

"Harry, you can’t hide the truth…not from yourself and not from Ginny. You love her, and if you don’t tell her now then you’ll regret it for the rest of your life."

"I’m not hiding it from myself. I accept the fact that I love Ginny, but I can’t tell her. Not now…"

"Harry, you’re holding on to the past. You’re holding on to your sixth year, and you’re afraid of making the same mistakes again. Harry, trust me. Let go of the past for one day, and you’ll wake up and find that you have nothing left."

"I…I don’t know…" Harry’s mind was clogged with emotions. Should I tell Ginny? Should I just get on with my life and find someone new? That’s impossible…I'll never love anyone more than her.

Ron’s voice came from the downstairs. "Hermione!" he called out. "Come on down here!"

"Coming, Ron!" Hermione called back to him. She looked at Harry one last time and kissed him on the cheek.

"Promise me that you’ll think about it," she said quickly as she headed out the door.

"Yeah…" Harry said absentmindedly as Hermione closed the door behind her. Harry sat there for a while, reminiscing about the days in his sixth year with Ginny. He’d always thought that when he had defeated Voldemort, he’d be able to settle down, get a job, get married to Ginny, and then have the perfect life. When did things get so complicated?

Thoughts swirled around Harry’s mind, and he was far too preoccupied to notice Draco Malfoy sneaking past his room, trying not to be noticed.
***

Ginny threw clothes from one end of the room to the other. There were dresses, skirts, scarves, shirts, pants and shoes sprawled all across the room. On the bed, there lay Witch Weekly magazines with pictures of Draco and his dates, while an array of hats were scattered around the tiny beside table. Ginny was staring intently into the mirror; she was wearing an emerald green sweater with a black pencil skirt and leggings. Behind her, a small wobbly figure kept running back and forth with clothes in its hands. It was Faellia, Ginny’s house elf. Ginny, though she lived in an apartment, had a house elf who kept the place neat and tidy while she was out working. Ginny had just summoned Faellia here to help her pick out clothes for her dinner with Draco tonight.

"Do you like this one?" Ginny asked her house elf as she held up a white scarf to her neck.

"Yes, Mistress looks very pretty," the house elf squeaked excitedly.

"Ugh," Ginny said. "I look like a radish. What color do you like, Fael?"

"Faellia likes red for the mistress; it looks nice with her hair."

Ginny giggled and rummaged through her piles of clothes for something red. She found a sparkling red halter top and put it up against her body. She squinted from each angle and finally got a sour look on her face.

"This is all wrong. I want my look to say ‘Smart and Stylish’ not ‘Trashy and Available’." She flung the red halter onto the growing pile of rejected outfits. She then reached for some black fishnet stockings and groaned.

"Why did I ever buy these? I'll look like a hyperactive teenager if I ever wear these…I’m 25 for God’s sake!"

"Mistress did not buy these," Faellia squeaked. "They were given to her for a Christmas present."

Ginny tossed the stockings aside and picked up one of the Witch Weekly’s magazines. On the cover was a dashing Draco Malfoy arm in arm with the beautiful Pansy Parkinson. Pansy was wearing a sleek, low cut black dress that barely touched the tip of her knees. The thin straps hung tightly on her weak shoulders, and her neck was decorated in a glamorous jade necklace.

Ginny looked at the picture and sighed. "Faellia…why can’t I look like that?" She gestured to Pansy’s picture and flung it onto the bed.

"Mistress is much prettier…she is not to worry."

Ginny smiled reassuringly at her house elf, but could feel her insides tingling. Of course there was much to worry about. In about four hours she’d be sitting across from Draco Malfoy in Diagon Alley on her first date in six months, and she had nothing to wear. Plus he tried to kiss her today and she was sure he’d try again tonight. Adding all that up, Ginny sighed; there was definitely something to worry about.
***

Draco quietly strode across the wooden floors and arrived at the fireplace in Weasley’s dining room. There seemed to be no one around as he surveyed the room and knelt down on the floor. He took a handful of Floo Powder, threw it into the fireplace, and stated the name of the person he wanted to see.

"Rufus Scrimgeour!"

The fireplace erupted in green flames and Draco stuck his head in. He could feel himself being spun at a fast rate, and he started to feel a bit nauseous when all of a sudden, it stopped. He looked and saw the lavish office of the Minister of Magic, decorated with huge paintings and rich fabric draped over the walls. A huge oak table sat in the middle of the room, surrounded by large chairs, all made of rich velvet.

Draco looked around the office to try and spot the Minister of Magic. He couldn’t see much because it was only his head that was in the fireplace and not his whole body. Soon, however, he spotted a tall figure standing near one of the windows, staring out into the sky. He wore thin wire rimmed spectacles and had streaks of grey in his tawny hair.

The man looked over and saw Draco in the fireplace. He quickly walked over and knelt down in front of him.

"Malfoy, I told you not to contact me," he hissed.

"This is important, sir," Draco urged. "I received your letter a few days ago, and…"

Scrimgeour seemed impatient. "Listen Draco, and listen well. I told you specifically not to contact me. You know the consequences..."

"I think you’re making a mistake with Arthur Weasley, sir."

"This…this? This is the important thing you wanted to say?"

"It’s a mistake, sir. I think we should stop this and let the Weasleys get on with their holidays."

"Draco, you are not senior to me in any way, shape, or form. This will not stop until I say that it is time to stop. Until then, do what you have to do...the letter has expressed all details, I assume?"

Draco opened his mouth to argue, but saw the iciness and obstinacy in Scrimgeour’s eyes. He silently nodded and closed his eyes, readying himself for his journey back to the Burrow. He pulled back gently and could feel that familiar spinning sensation as the lavish office of Rufus Scrimgeour dissolved itself back into the Burrow.
He dusted himself off and headed back upstairs as he thought to himself, What have I gotten myself into?
***

8:35 P.M.
Draco checked his watch again and again to make sure his time was right. He was in Diagon Alley, waiting in front of the Witch’s Brew for Ginny. He was wearing black pants and a dark overcoat that shielded him from the bitter December winds. Under his coat, he wore a smooth, white button down shirt. His hair wasn’t sleek and pulled back like at Hogwarts, but a bit loose and slightly messy in a very adorable sort of way.

He cursed himself for not waiting for Ginny at the Burrow who, according to Percy, had gone to pick something up from her apartment. He checked his watch again, and it read 8:39 P.M. this time.

Why didn’t you just wait for her, you stupid git?
She’s not ten years old; she can find her way here easily.
Yes, but how impolite does this look… you didn’t even wait for her.
Well…we said we’d bump into each other…
Maybe she stood you up…
WHAT?!
You were kind of mean to her at Hogwarts…maybe this is her way of getting back at you.

Draco couldn’t stand it anymore. He cleared his mind and looked at his watch again, which read 8:52 P.M. He sighed and started to make his way towards the Leaky Cauldron. The snow was lightly trickling down from the sky and lightly sprinkling on pedestrian's heads. Just as he started to turn a corner he heard a soft voice call his name.
"Draco?"

He quickly turned and there she was. Ginny was standing near the entrance of the Witch’s Brew, looking more radiant than ever. She was wearing fawn pants and an emerald green, low cut sweater under her darker green coat. Her hair was let down and fell lightly on her face, while the fiery red color contrasted the emerald green beautifully. She looked so perfect that even Draco Malfoy couldn’t stop staring at her.

She walked up to him quietly and looked at him bewilderedly. "Where were you going?"

"I…I…" Draco was at a loss for words. "I was…it doesn’t matter."

"Um…okay…" Ginny smiled at him and Draco held his arm out to her.

"Shall we?" he said smoothly. He grinned as Ginny took his arm, and the two of them walked towards The Witch’s Brew.
***

Harry was immersed in a game of wizard’s chess with Ron. Currently, he was on the verge of losing, and had to think of some clever way to outsmart Ron. Before he could start, Ron made his move and the game ended with Harry losing very badly.

"Face it, Harry. No one can beat me at wizard’s chess," Ron said proudly.

Harry laughed as Mrs. Weasley brought over some apple cider for everyone. She looked around the room and sighed. "Would you look at this?" she said huffily.

"What is it, Mum?"

"It’s two weeks before Christmas and everyone still has work to do. We should be spending time with each other, not gallivanting around the city doing work. Fred and George have to go check on some shipment of joke products, Ginny has something to pick up from her apartment, Bill has to go look over some accounts, and even Draco has to go do some Ministry work."

"Oh, that reminds me, Mrs. Weasley. I’m going to be gone for three days in two weeks," Harry said.

"For what reason?"

"Well, there were a couple of reported dark magic cases that the Ministry wants me to review before the New Year. It’ll take me a few days to go to Azkaban to get the reports and such…so I’ll be gone."

"Wow," Ron remarked. "I always thought being an Auror would be fun, but that sounds just plain boring."

"Ron, don’t be rude!" Mrs. Weasley scowled and turned to Harry. "It’s alright, dear. Just make sure you’re home in time for Christmas."

Harry nodded and smiled at Mrs. Weasley, and then he turned to Ron. "By the way, there was another owl for you," Ron remarked.

"From who?" Harry asked.

"Padma Patil."

Harry groaned loudly. "Again?"

Ron laughed. Harry had been receiving owls from every witch around the world asking for dates, but none was more persistent than Padma Patil. She kept owling him, sending him flowers, and asking him on dates. Harry had always politely refused, but for the last few days, he had just resorted to ignoring her.

Harry sighed. Every eligible single witch wanted to be with him…all except one. And that one was the one he loved the most.
***

Ginny and Draco had been sitting at their table for over an hour just talking and eating. The Witch’s Brew was a cozy, warm restaurant with beige walls and a huge chandelier in the middle of the ceiling. There was some half eaten chicken lying on Draco’s plate, while there were some vegetables lying on Ginny’s. The two of them had been talking about so many different things that neither noticed that a waitress had taken their plates away.
She returned after a while and cleared a throat to get their attention.

“You guys want anything for dessert?"

Draco shook his head. "No dessert for me, but I’d like a glass of crystal wine." The waitress noted down his order and then turned to Ginny.

"I’ll have a small slice of pecan pie," Ginny said. The waitress jotted that down too and waved her wand. The paper quickly disappeared and suddenly a glass of wine and a plate of pie appeared. She placed both on the table and walked away.

"This is very good wine," Draco commented.

"See, I told you this was a nice place," Ginny pointed out as she took the small piece of piece of pie into her mouth.

"How’s that pie of yours coming along?"

"It’s lovely, thank you very much."

"Well, seeing as you’re done with the pie and I’m done with my wine, we’d better pay and go home."

Draco called for a waitress and paid the bill. Then he and Ginny walked out of the restaurant and into the chilling December winter. The night sky was dark, and the snow seemed to shine against it as it gently trickled down from above. Ginny just stared at the stars in the clear sky and looked mesmerized.

She seemed to be in her own thoughts when she heard a whisper in her ear, "Thinking about me?"

"Yes…What? Wait, no…no…no… I wasn’t thinking about you, Draco," she said quickly. "I was just thinking of how beautiful the sky looks tonight."

"It does look stunning, doesn’t it?" Draco said tenderly.

Ginny suddenly turned and looked at the beautiful blonde boy beside her. "Speaking of stunning…you haven’t said a word about how I look tonight, Draco Malfoy."

Draco gazed into her deep chocolate brown eyes and ran his fingers against her soft cheek. He lightly put his hand against her ear and drew her closer. Before Ginny knew what was happening, Draco’s soft lips were against hers. She could feel his hand stroking her hair as he melted her with his kiss. She decided she could no longer resist him, and let herself get swept away like a lone leaf in a raging storm. After what seemed like an hour, they broke apart. Ginny was still in shock, while Draco gave her a soft smile and whispered into her ear, "You look gorgeous."



Chapter 5: Invitations and Broomsticks
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Rufus Scrimgeour paced his office nervously. The dark circles under his eyes clearly defined his old age, while the fatigue in his eyes reflected it. His feet were sore to the bone, and yet he still couldn't stop pacing; it seemed to relax him. The glare of the moonlight flooded the dimly lit office, reflecting off the fine pieces of silver that hung on the walls. The icy winds blew in through the open windows and circulated the room, gently moving the smooth tapestries. The night was cold and unfriendly, like most of nature was to Scrimgeour. He had never seemed to find the comfort that others found in walking through the tall grass that gently tickled your legs, or smelling the flowers while their petals ruffled against the tip of your nose. It all seemed so arbitrary and pointless.

Power, on the other hand, was different. Status and authority gave meaning to life like nothing else he did. The control and influence that one can have over thousands of people was alluring and definitely enticing. Scrimgeour placed his hand on the sumptuous chair in front of him, the chair of the Minister of Magic. He remembered sitting across from that chair, waiting for Fudge to arrive and just imagining the feeling of supremacy.

Scrimgeour turned to a portrait of his grandfather, Albert Scrimgeour. The man in the portrait was strict in appearance. He had shoulder length grey hair that was tied back in a pony tail. The man wore long violet robes with gold seaming and a silver ring on his finger. The man's posture was rigid and upright, and his eyes were cold and blank.

Scrimgeour poured himself a glass of Fire Whiskey as he recalled his late grandfather's words of advice to him. He was only thirteen when his grandfather had lost out to a woman for the post of Minister of Magic. Bitterness had overwhelmed the old man, but he still did not lose his wisdom. Scrimgeour closed his eyes as the words echoed in his mind. Never stop fighting, boy. The only thing that can come between a person and success is death.

And so it had been. Until his last days, Albert Scrimgeour fought every way to ascend to Minister of Magic, but never succeeded. Scrimgeour closed his eyes and thought of his plan and Draco. He had chosen the right man for the job. The plan that he had formed was indeed conniving, but had enormous potential and nothing but death would get between him and his goal.

Scrimgeour raised his glass of Fire Whiskey to his grandfather's portrait and whispered into the stony silence, "Till death."
***

Harry awoke from his dreamless sleep suddenly. He looked over at the bedside table and quickly grabbed his glasses, which, after he put them on, brought everything around him into focus. The gentle orange glow in the sky indicated that it was right before sunrise. The magnificent rays of the sun shone proudly and engulfed the heavens in their beauty. Harry looked at his window and found the cause of his sudden awakening.

Hedwig was noisily tapping at the window, indicating that she wanted to be let in. The snow outside was collecting on her feathers, and she clearly did not like it. Harry walked over to his window and let his faithful owl in, who immediately started to sip some water from her cage. He gently untied the letter that she was holding and held it in his hands. The envelope was a plain white one, and it was addressed to Harry Potter. Harry immediately recognized the writing as Lupin's and quickly opened the letter and read it.

Harry,
Glad to hear things are getting along well at the Weasley's. I'm probably going to end up spending Christmas nearby London, so I might be able to drop by and see you all. As for Malfoy, I think you should give him a chance, even though you have your differences. Bury the past and start a new future... trust me, Harry, it's the best way. Keep in touch.
Regards,
Remus

Harry re-read the letter again, for the second time, and recited one particular line in his head. Bury the past and start a new future...trust me, Harry. Harry was reminded of Hermione's lecture when she had told him to tell Ginny about his feelings. Why was everybody telling him the same thing? Harry stroked Hedwig lightly as she nibbled on some pellets. He folded the letter neatly and walked over to his trunk, where he placed it carefully.
***

"Bill! Have you seen the candy canes that I bought last week?" Mrs. Weasley bellowed as she paced the house frantically.

"No, I haven't. Why do you need them?"

"Oh, never mind," Mrs. Weasley said irritably. She looked under sofas and in cabinets, but couldn't find the box of peppermint candy canes that she had bought last week.

"Ginny, have you seen them?"

"No, I haven't, Mum. Nobody has! Just buy a new pack."

"Your father is going to be here with the Christmas tree any minute, and I need the decorations. I found the box of ornaments, but the candy canes are missing!"

Everyone was running around the house trying to find something. Harry was helping Mrs. Weasley find her precious candy canes, while Ron and the rest of the Weasley brothers were searching for tree trimmers, ribbons, and candles.

Ginny was alone in the attic, rummaging through old trunks to find the Christmas star that they always put on their tree.

Suddenly, she felt two strong arms come up from behind her, and grab onto her waist.

She smiled to herself, and then without looking at the figure, spoke to him.

"Draco," she whispered gently. "Not here...someone might see."

Draco turned Ginny around and kissed her softly on the edge of her lip. He stroked her back and then started to peck on her neck.

"Let them see," he replied quietly. "I don't care."

He pulled Ginny into a deep kiss and she did the same. The two were in their own world and were suddenly pulled out when Mr. Weasley called out from below.

"Ginny! Come down here, look at the tree!"

Ginny suddenly pulled back, while Draco stumbled a bit. The two caught their breath and Ginny placed her fingers on her lips and realized they were swollen. God, how long have we been kissing? she wondered. She quickly pecked Draco on the cheek and ran downstairs to her father.

"Wow, the tree is gorgeous," Ginny squeaked as she entered the living room where a tall, magnificent Christmas tree stood. The tree seemed to have every branch intact, and it stood tall over everyone in the room, even Draco, who had now joined the family.

"So, Draco," Mr. Weasley began. "How do you like it?"

Draco smiled. "It's beautiful. I can't remember a time at my house when my father actually went down and brought a tree himself."

Mrs. Weasley brought out some tea while everyone decorated the Christmas tree. By the end of the evening, there were over a hundred different ornaments, trimmings, candy canes (which Hermione had found hidden under Ron's pillow) and a shimmering gold star at the pinnacle. During his life at Malfoy Manor, Draco had never recalled his expensive, professionally decorated Christmas trees to look as beautiful as this one did.
***

Harry looked into his mirror and adjusted his messy hair. He pressed it down, ruffled it harder and even put gel into it, but nothing seemed to make it look decent. Finally, he gave up and took one final look at himself. He was wearing a blue button down shirt with a dark jacket and black pants that contrasted against his bottle green eyes. He sighed heavily.

"You don't look at that bad," a voice mused from behind.

Harry turned and smiled at Ginny, who was standing at the doorway. "I look like a baboon," he said.

"Well," Ginny pondered, "a very cute baboon. Are you going somewhere?"

Harry nodded. "Yeah."

Ginny walked into the room and sat down on a chair. "And who are you going out with?"

Harry tried to hide his surprise as Ginny giggled. "Just because I'm going out doesn't mean it has to be a date."

"Oh, come on, Harry. I've known you long enough to know that you never care about the way you look unless you're going out with a girl. Now who is she?"

Harry sighed. "Lavender Brown."

Ginny looked up in astonishment. "Lavender? The one whom you broke up with?"

"I never broke up with her!" Harry said resentfully. "It's just something Rita Skeeter made up to boost the circulation of Witch Weekly."

Ginny laughed. "Well, I hope you have a great time. I just need to borrow some of those weird mint things that make your breath smell nice."

Harry raised an eyebrow. "And why do you need them?"

Ginny smiled slyly. "Because I'm going out too."

Harry couldn't hide is disappointment. "Oh," he said shortly. "With whom?"

"With no one. Now can I please have them?"

"Not before you tell me."

"Come on, Harry. Please!"

Harry huffed and reached for his coat pockets. He took out some small packaged candies and threw two at Ginny, who caught them expertly.

"Thank you so much!" she said excitedly. She gave Harry a quick hug and walked out the door. Harry didn't have time to think about what had just happened since Hedwig started to peck on his watch.

"Hedwig, what is it?" Harry suddenly looked at his watch and realized he was already almost twenty minutes late. He ran out the door and towards the Weasley's living room and apparated to Lavender Brown's doorstep.

***
"You brought me to the roof of my house?" Ginny asked incredulously.

"Yes, I did," Draco stated flatly. "But there's more. Close your eyes."

Ginny quickly shut her eyes and felt Draco grab onto her hand. He guided her around the roof and stopped her somewhere near the edge. Ginny opened her eyes and saw a beautiful, polished broomstick standing right in front of her.

Ginny couldn't help but feel a little disappointed. She had expected a romantic dinner for two or a bracelet or anything other than a racing broom. However, it seemed that Draco knew that. He held out his hand to her and smiled.

"Let's take it for a ride."

Ginny's eyes widened. "What?"

"I got this broom last year, and I haven't used it since. Let's go try it out."

He mounted the broom and Ginny took his hand. She sat in front of him on the broomstick and felt the cool night breeze hit her face softly. Ginny lightly leaned back on Draco and placed her head on his shoulder as he smoothly kicked off the ground. They soared into the night sky.

The moonlight danced playfully around the two of them as they flew effortlessly between clouds. The lights from the cities below looked like a cluster of distant stars, all waving merrily to the Ginny. Ginny couldn't deny it: this was the perfect date. No boy had ever taken her on such a thrilling, romantic date, not even Harry. She closed her eyes and placed her hands softly on Draco's.

"Having fun?" Draco whispered into her ear.

Ginny nodded. "More than I ever could've dreamed."

Ginny turned her head towards Draco's and kissed him. Her lips melted against his and she could feel her heartbeat quicken. If it hadn't been for Draco pulling back, she was sure they could've kissed for hours.

"What's the matter?" Ginny asked.

"If we keep doing this, I'm going to crash into something pretty soon."

"Oh, alright," Ginny said, sounding annoyed.

Draco kissed her cheek and the two continued soaring over the tiny houses, for the first time, content with their lives.

***

"Harry! You're late!" Lavender was glaring at Harry Potter, who stood at her doorway.

"I'm sorry, Lavender. I just lost track of time."

"Apologies don't work anymore," she said. She was wearing a pink dress with white trimmings. Her hair was tied up in a braid and was then decorated with small silver beads. "I spent so much time getting ready."

"And you look beautiful," Harry said gently. "Come on, please. I even got you roses."

Harry gave Lavender a bunch of fresh, fully bloomed roses and it seemed to do the trick.

She smiled slightly and then smelled the roses in her hands. "Well...they are pretty, and I did spend a lot of time getting dressed..."

Harry held out his arm and she took it. "So where are we going?" she asked.

"Dinner...but I think our reservation has expired."

"Oh, don't worry about it," Lavender said, giggling. "You're Harry Potter. The entire restaurant would turn itself upside down to allow you a seat at their table."

Harry tried to laugh along with Lavender, but couldn't get his mind off Ginny. Just the thought of Ginny sitting with some other guy right now made Harry feel a bit uneasy.
***
"Ron, put on your sweater."

"Mum, please! I'm bloody old enough. I don't need to wear a sweater!"

"Ronald Weasley, you are not 'bloody' old enough. Now put on that jumper before I impale you."

Fred and George were rolling around the floor in laughing fits as Mrs. Weasley forced a yellow jumper over Ron's head. It was a cold December morning, and Mrs. Weasley had been insisting all morning that he put on a thick jumper so he wouldn't catch a cold.

"Ron, you already have a cold! You're going to infect Hermione, and that's bad for the baby!"

"So, this isn't even about me? All you care about is the baby?"

"Stop being so silly, Ron! Just put on the sweater!"

"You know what, Mum? I won't."

"Fine! But you won't be able to sleep in the same bed as Hermione. I will not let you jeopardize the health of my granddaughter!"

Ron started to go red. He rolled his eyes and gave in. Mrs. Weasley pulled the sweater over his head, and he angrily stormed out of the room.

Mrs. Weasley shook her head in disbelief. "Kids these days!"

***
Ginny woke up slowly, and could hear loud laughter coming from downstairs. She cursed her brothers and turned her head. She grabbed the nearest pillow on her bed and put it over her head to block out the constant noise coming from the living room.

She felt something hard under her pillow and got up grumpily. Her hands were rummaging under the pillow, trying to find whatever it was that wasn't allowing her to sleep, and finally she found it.

It was a piece of rolled parchment with a thin, green silk ribbon tied delicately around it. Ginny suddenly came into full consciousness as she opened it up quickly. The parchment was written on with beautiful scripture.

Mr. Draco Malfoy,
It is with pleasure that we request the honor of your presence at the annual Ministry of Magic Christmas Ball. This tradition has been ongoing for hundreds of years when employees and employers gather together as equals and enjoy a night of dinner, music and dance. You are welcome to bring a guest with you. All attending male members are requested to wear dress robes and all attending female members are requested to wear either dress robes or a dress.
We look forward to seeing you there,
Sincerely,
Doris Craywalker - Assistant to Minister of Magic

Ginny jumped out of her bed and quickly dove into her closet, trying to find a robe. She put it on quickly over her pajamas and darted out the door.

"Draco? Draco, open the door!" Ginny whispered.

Ginny hastily knocked on Draco's door, trying to be as quiet as possible. Draco took about five minutes to open it. He was wearing dark maroon pajamas and looked tired.

"What happened, Ginny?" he asked amidst a yawn.

Ginny hushed him up and quickly went into his room. She closed the door behind her and took out the roll of parchment. "What is this?" she asked.

"What do you mean 'what is it?' It's parchment." Draco said, smiling slightly.

"I know it's parchment, but why was it under my pillow?"

"I put it there. Last night."

"Why?"

"Well, have you read it?"

"Of course I've read it!"

"And?"

"What do you mean 'and'? What if someone had found it, Draco? I don't want my family to get involved in our relationship. My family still feels a bit weird around this good version of you."

"That's not what I mean. Will you go with me?"

"Go where?"

"To the Christmas ball," Draco said.

Ginny suddenly stopped short. The Christmas Ball. She'd forgotten the content of the letter over all the hype about her family finding it. Draco had just asked her to go the Ministry Ball with him. Ginny remembered her mother getting ready for the annual Christmas Ball, and she'd always been so envious, wanting to dress up herself. Now that her father was retired from the Ministry, he didn't go anymore.

"Well..." Ginny started. "Of course I'll go with you, idiot." She hugged Draco tightly.

"Good," Draco said. "So you'd better start getting ready this afternoon."

"Excuse me...what?"

"The Ball is tonight, Gin. Didn't you know?"

"Does this look like the face of someone who knows? Draco! I have to find a gown or a dress and shoes! MY GOD! I don't have any shoes. I can't live like this...I won't be able to get ready..."

"Ginny, sweetheart, calm down." Draco placed his strong hands on Ginny's tender shoulders. She took a few deep breaths. "How about we go shopping? I'll take you."

"No...no..."Ginny said. "I'm okay. I'll go get something myself, but I still hate you, Draco."

She walked out the door, muttering something to herself and cursing Draco under her breath. Draco was a bit puzzled as to what had just happened, but decided to get ready and head downstairs.

***

Ginny had taken a few moments to calm down, and then she'd gone to her apartment and picked up her favorite dress. She'd bought this dress for an exclusive Witch Weekly party, but missed the chance of wearing it because she'd been sick. Tonight she would wear it and blow Draco away.

She felt like a princess today, with her beautiful dress and prince charming. She smiled to herself. Tonight she didn't have to be afraid of her family members finding out about her relationship with Draco. Her dad wasn't going to the ball, and none of her brothers worked at the Ministry. She was so excited. She reminisced about her romantic slow dances with Draco and their subtle flirting at dinner. It would be the perfect night, but it seemed that she was forgetting something...
***


Two floors below, Harry reread the piece of parchment that had been sent to him a week ago.

Mr. Harry Potter,
It is with pleasure that we request the honor of your presence at the annual Ministry of Magic Christmas Ball. This tradition has been ongoing for hundreds of years when employees and employers gather together as equals and enjoy a night of dinner, music and dance. You are welcome to bring a guest with you. All attending male members are requested to wear dress robes and all attending female members are requested to wear either dress robes or a dress.
We look forward to seeing you there,
Sincerely,
Doris Craywalker - Assistant to Minister of Magic

Harry shook his head jadedly and took out his dress robes. He smiled as he remembered his fourth year during the Yule Ball. Ron wore hideous, frilly dress robes, while Hermione wore her beautiful blue ones. Ginny had looked so gorgeous that night.

Harry had debated for hours about inviting Ginny, but in the end, he'd invited Lavender. His work in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement as an Auror required him to fight many battles, but the one he was fighting within himself was the hardest one yet.

***

Chapter 6: Dances and Meetings
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So where exactly is the Ministry ball happening?” Ginny asked.

“I’ll tell you once you get ready. You’re taking forever,” Draco said to Ginny’s door. She had been in her room for almost an hour and she still wasn’t ready yet.

“Well, if you’d bothered to tell me about the ball a few days ago then maybe I would’ve had a chance to plan ahead.”

“Come on, Ginny. Please hurry up!”

“Okay, fine I’m done,” Ginny said. Draco opened the door and walked into her room

His eyes were motionless as he fixed his gaze upon the sight in front him. Everything he’d thought about Pansy Parkinson, about how beautiful she was, was now a faded memory. If Ginny was a rose then Pansy was a wilted thorny shrub. Ginny was wearing a pure white gown. It clung to her sides, revealing her tiny waist and then flared out slightly at the bottom, near the feet. Her hair was curled lightly and put into a light bun, while a few stray curls hung loosely around her cheeks. She was wearing a thin silver chain around her neck and small diamond earrings. Draco could’ve stood staring at her all night, which he would’ve been more than happy to do.

“How do I look?” Ginny asked him flirtatiously.

Draco grinned as he kissed her hand. “It was worth the wait.” Ginny couldn’t deny that even Draco looked his usual handsome self. His eyes were mysterious and mischievous, his elegant black dress robes were fitted perfectly, revealing his toned physique and emphasizing his charming good looks.

“So now will you tell me where we’re going?” Ginny asked slightly impatiently.

“I will…eventually. But for now, I have something for you.”

“What is it?” Ginny asked excitedly.

Draco held out his hand, and in it was the most elegant and beautiful diamond necklace that Ginny had ever seen. She could feel her eyes well up and she kissed Draco gently. After they finally broke apart, Draco tenderly placed the necklace on Ginny’s frail neck and tied it. He removed the plain chain and placed it in Ginny’s hand.

“Shall we go?” Draco asked her.

She nodded and smiled. Draco checked outside to make sure that no one was there. He grabbed Ginny’s arm, and the two of them Apparated.

***

“So, Harry, how do I look?” Lavender asked flirtatiously.

She was wearing a yellow, off shoulder dress sequence around the sleeves. Her hair was let down loosely, and a small, delicate flower was position right above her ear and glimmered in the moonlight.

Harry smiled lightly. “Lovely,” he said. “We should get going now, or we’re going to be late.”

“Oh okay,” Lavender squeaked. “By the way, you don’t look half bad in those green dress robes. That dark bottle green brings out your eyes.”

“Er…thanks…” Harry said slightly awkwardly. “We should Apparate from outside your front door.”

“Whatever you say,” Lavender giggled girlishly, causing Harry to raise his eyebrow slightly, wondering why exactly he was going with her to the ball.

***

Ginny entered arm-in-arm with Draco into the most beautiful room she’d ever seen. The ceilings were tall and had engravings of all kinds on it. The room itself contained embellished, beige walls with a golden hue. There were tall, floating candles around the room that illuminated it and bathed it with shimmering light. At the center of the ceiling was the biggest chandelier that Ginny had ever seen. It was a pure crystal chandelier that reflected the light in all directions, causing it to glow against the rest of the ceiling. The ballroom itself was lavish and large, decorated with huge paintings, lavish drapery and expensive ornaments. At the corner of the room stood an enormous Christmas tree decorated with all sorts of colorful trinkets and was being encircled by little glowing fairies that seemed to be having fun.

“Oh, wow!” Ginny exclaimed. “This is beautiful.”

“It is, isn’t it?” Draco remarked. “I used to come here when my Father brought me to meet other Ministry officials.”

“My Dad never brought me here. He always told me that I would get to go when my time comes.”

“Well, I guess your time did come.” Draco started to kiss Ginny’s neck tenderly.

“Draco, come on, not here…somebody might see us,” Ginny whispered.

Draco sighed and pulled away. The two walked down the ballroom and met a small, stout wizard wearing a pointy hat. He had straw colored hair and a bushy moustache. “Good evening, sir,” he muttered clumsily. “May I see your invitation?”

Draco reached into his pocket and took out the roll of parchment, which he then handed to the small man. He read the invitation over carefully and then nodded courteously. “We hope you enjoy the evening, Mr. Malfoy and…” He looked at Ginny.

“Ms. Weasley,” Draco said.

The man nodded silently and noted Ginny’s name down. “Thank you. Have a nice evening.”

Ginny smiled and felt truly aristocratic at the moment. So this is what if would feel like to be a Malfoy…

The tables themselves were around situation on the outskirts of the room, while the center was a huge dance floor. There was beautiful music being played from the band, and there were a few couples dancing slowly. Draco and Ginny sat down at their table while a floating tray of champagne stopped by them and offered them drinks. Draco took two glasses and placed them on the table, one in front of Ginny, the other in his hand.

“So, what exactly are we supposed to do at a ball?” Ginny asked, feeling slightly stupid. “Just sit here and look pretty?”

“More or less,” Draco said, smiling slightly. “Plus we have to go around and meet others…just hold out your hand when you meet someone higher in ranking, and let them kiss it.”

“That’s gross,” Ginny said incredulously. “What if he has food all over his mouth?”

“Then you can just ignore him…most people here aren’t slobs though,” Draco said as he caressed his champagne glass and looked over behind Ginny. “But, of course, there are exceptions.”

Ginny turned and saw an old wizard coming up from behind them. He was particularly round around the middle, wore rectangular glasses, and had lost most of his black hair. Ginny laughed softly as Draco quietly whispered to himself, “I hate these bloody parties.”

The old man tottered up to Draco and laughed joyfully. “Draco, m’boy, haven’t been seeing a lot of you lately. How have you been?”

Draco tried to cover up his sour face with a plastic smile and got up. “Mr. Peksky, it’s nice to see you.”

The old man grabbed Draco and hugged him roughly. Ginny saw Draco lose his blood circulation as the old man squeezed him tightly. He finally let go of Draco, who coughed a little and gasped for air, still trying to smile. The old man then turned to Ginny. “And who is this charming young lady, Draco?”

“This is Ginevra Weasley. Ginny, this is Mr. Peksky, head of Magical Games and Sports.”

Ginny smiled politely at him and reluctantly held out her hand. She could clearly see some left over food hanging around Mr. Peksky’s mouth; however, he didn’t seem to care about it. He reached over, took Ginny’s hand, and kissed it. Ginny had to stop herself from jerking her hand away as some food from his mouth transferred onto her smooth, clean hand.

“This is quite the lady you’ve got here, Draco,” Mr. Peksky said jovially.

“Er…thank you, sir.”

“See you around, m’boy.” He patted Draco hard on his back and walked away. When he was out of sight, Draco started to laugh as Ginny scrambled for a napkin and started to wipe her hand frantically.

“Please tell me that there aren’t anymore like him,” Ginny pleaded, smiling a little.

“Don’t worry…he’s about as bad as they get.”

Suddenly the lights began to dim and all the gold lighting vanished. Instead, the silver glare of the moonlight bathed the room and the crystal chandelier glowed in the darkness.

“What’s happening?” Ginny asked, slightly nervous.

“Don’t worry,” Draco said soothingly. “It’s part of the ball. Everybody gets onto the dance floor while the band plays a soft, romantic song and then we dance in couples. It’s kind of cheesy but…you know…we could…”

“Dance?” Ginny said, musing over Draco’s nervousness to ask her to dance.

Draco took Ginny’s hand and the two of them headed towards the dance floor. As Draco placed his hands on Ginny’s waist, snow gently began trickling down from the ceiling. It wasn’t actually snow, but just an illusion to add to the atmosphere of the night. The music started to play, and Draco masterfully began to work his way around the dance floor. Ginny rested her arm on his shoulder and the two danced gracefully, looking into each other’s eyes. Suddenly, another couple on the dance floor bumped into Ginny and Draco, causing them to break apart.

“Oh, I’m so sorry about that,” the woman’s voice came. Ginny tried to see who the woman was, but couldn’t in the darkness.

“It’s alright,” Draco said softly, though Ginny could hear the irritation in his voice since the couple had ruined their romantic moment.

“Harry, this is all your fault,” the woman said, referring to her date.

Ginny’s eyes widened with horror as she heard the man reply. “I’m sorry, Lavender,” the man’s voice said grumpily. Ginny could recognize that voice anywhere, anytime. She gasped loudly and started to walk really fast towards the end of the hall where she hid behind a pillar. She stood behind the pillar for a while, still in shock about her close encounter.

It was Harry. What is Harry doing here?

This Ball is for Ministry officials only-

He’s an Auror! He works for the bloody Ministry! How could I have forgotten?!

I’m here with Draco. If he finds out, he’s going to know about us! How could I have been so stupid?

***

Harry stood puzzled for a moment in the middle of the dance floor. The girl whom he’d just bumped into had run away. He wanted to apologize to her, but he couldn’t see where she had gone or what she looked like. Harry heard her partner go after her and had left them standing there, feeling really awkward.

“What on earth just happened?” Lavender asked, stumped.

“I have no idea…” Harry said bewilderedly. “I… I didn’t mean to offend her…”

“Who were they, by the way?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t see them. She just ran away after I apologized to you and he followed her.”

Lavender shrugged and grabbed Harry’s hand roughly, which she placed on her waist and started dancing again. Harry, on the other hand, had a strange feeling in his stomach. There was something about that girl…the way she had gasped…she reminded him so much of Ginny. Harry shook his head and tried to clear his thoughts.

God, Harry, you’re seeing Ginny in everything and everyone. Just get a hold of yourself.

Harry sighed to himself and returned to reality. Lavender was in front of him, a head shorter, pulling Harry across the dance floor. She seemed annoyed that Harry wasn’t actually trying to dance and kept giving him nasty looks.

The lights turned on again, illuminating the grand hall. The moonlight disappeared and instead a beautiful gold glow flooded the room. Lavender finally gave up on Harry and rolled her eyes as the two of them went back to their table. Harry, meanwhile, didn’t even notice Lavender glaring at him. Instead, his eyes kept scanning the room for that woman who reminded him so much of Ginny.

***

“Ginny, what happened?” Draco came up from behind the pillar and put his hand on Ginny’s shoulder.

“Didn’t you realize who that was?” Ginny said, gaping at Draco’s stupidity.

“Who are you talking about? Ginny, are you sure you’re feeling alright?”

“The couple we bumped into while dancing, Draco. The woman’s name was Lavender and the man’s name was…”

“Harry,” Draco said, realization dawning on him. “So wait, that was Potter?”

Ginny nodded, exasperated. “I can recognize Harry’s voice over a crowd of a thousand people. That was definitely him.”

“What is he doing here? This is supposed to be for Ministry officials…"

“Harry works in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, he’s an Auror. I can’t believe I forgot…I’m such a bloody idiot. If he had seen me then everyone would’ve found out about us-"

“Ginny, why does it matter if your family finds out about us?” Draco asked Ginny.

“You don’t know my parents, Draco. They’re the kind of people who’re comfortable with familiarity. They don’t know you. I mean, they know the Malfoy who kept making Ron miserable and the Malfoy whose father almost got me killed in my second year, but they don’t know you like I do.”

“Fine, Ginny, if it’s that important to you, we won’t tell anyone. Sooner or later, they’re bound to find out. Wouldn’t you rather it comes from you than from someone else who happened to see us together?”

Ginny nodded somberly. “I’ll tell them when the time is right.”

Draco stroked Ginny’s hair and felt the sweat on her forehead. He turned Ginny around to face him and looked into her brown eyes. “I think you’ve had enough of tonight…let’s go.”

Ginny internally thanked Draco for being so understanding. This night had been so important to him and he’d given it up for her. Ginny walked with Draco towards the exit, her eyes fixed on the huge oak doors that would lead her to safety. Suddenly, Draco whispered something indistinct to her and pushed her quickly behind a large stone sculpture. Ginny was about to open her mouth to demand an explanation when she stopped short and saw the reason Draco had pushed her. Harry was standing, now less than ten feet from Draco and was approaching him slowly. Ginny held her breath tightly.

Draco and Harry approached each other and nodded silently. “Came alone, Potter?” Draco said shortly.

Harry didn’t seem annoyed, but instead shrugged. “No, I’m here with Lavender Brown. What about you, Malfoy?”

“Oh, my date’s just in the ladies room,” Draco said briskly.

“Listen, Malfoy. You didn’t happen to see a woman in a white dress around here, did you?”

Draco’s eyes sharpened and his eyes pricked up, trying to catch every sound. “Sorry, what?”

“Well, there was this woman whom I accidentally bumped into tonight, but before I could apologize she ran away.”

Malfoy smirked. “A true Cinderella story, eh Potter? No, I have not seen her.”

Harry nodded and kept on walking past Malfoy, not noticing Ginny as he passed the pillar. Ginny relaxed a bit as she saw Harry’s head get smaller in the distance. She turned the other way and saw Draco looking at her, his eyes full of concern. She smiled briefly to indicate that she was all right, and the two of them walked out of the building.

Outside, the snow was tingling against Ginny’s bare neck and she started to shiver. She held her arms together to keep warm and rubbed her hands against each other. Draco took off his leather coat and put it over Ginny.

“Oh,” Ginny said. “Thanks, Draco. I didn’t know it would snow so hard tonight…”

“No problem,” Draco said, smiling. “Who said chivalry was dead?” Then he added, “Do you want to get something to eat? We didn’t get to eat anything back there…”

Ginny shook her head and sighed heavily. “I just want to go home; it’s been too long of a night.”

“Alright,” Draco said sympathetically. “You go on ahead and I’ll be there in an hour or so.”

Ginny looked up, puzzled. “Why don’t you just come home now?”

“I…I just have something to do. You go on ahead.” Draco kissed Ginny lightly and stepped a few feet back. He watched silently as the beautiful red head Apparated back to the Burrow, taking in the last of her flowing white gown as it disappeared into the darkness.

***

Draco eyed his watch that told him it was ten minutes to eleven. He went back into the ballroom and saw the Minister of Magic seated at one of the tables on the right. He walked up to Scrimgeour, who was dressed in ruby dress robes, and nodded to greet him. Scrimgeour got up and eyed Draco carefully.

“I saw you when you first arrived, Draco,” he said, carefully examining Draco’s _expression. “That young lady who was with you, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t that the daughter of Arthur Weasley?”

Draco nodded. “It was…but she had to leave.”

“May I ask what exactly you’re doing, Malfoy? I have given you a simple task that’s very important to me, and you can’t even accomplish that without getting your arms around some girl.”

“It’s not what you think. She has nothing to do with the plan, but I still think that this whole thing with Arthur Weasley is a wrong idea…we’re barking up the wrong tree…”

“Be quiet, you insolent fool,” snapped Scrimgeour. “We are amongst many who still don’t fully trust me. Your infatuation with this Weasley girl has distracted you, Draco. If you feel that you are incapable of this assignment then say so and I will give it to someone else. Just stop wasting my time.”

“It’s not like that,” Draco said defensively. “What I feel for her is not in any way connected to what I feel about this project. It’s immoral and wrong. Arthur Weasley will be defamed all over England if we go through with this.”

“He will get what he deserves, Draco. Remember our deal: you get me what I want from Weasley and I will give you what you asked for. Understood?”

Draco nodded reluctantly. Something about Scrimgeour’s attitude felt wrong. Something about his ambiguity told Draco that he wasn’t getting the full story. Something about Scrimgeour’s pale, cold eyes made Draco feel uneasy.

***

“Molly, are there any of those sugar cookies left?” Mr. Weasley asked his wife.

“Arthur,” Mrs. Weasley began sourly. “I really think you should stop this sick affair with sugar. Ever since you retired, it’s all been about sugar cookies, chocolate pie, cake, and ice cream…Eugh! Even thinking about it makes me sick. You have to start taking care of yourself.”

Mr. Weasley nodded timidly, but scoffed to himself very softly. He was reading this morning's Daily Prophet in the living room. Usually, he read his paper with breakfast, but the post had been late this morning, so he had to end up reading it in the evening with coffee. “Would you look at this?” he said, gesturing to the front-page article.

“What is it?” Mrs. Weasley asked as she peered over her husband’s shoulder.

“The Ministry’s made another arrest…this time it’s Perkins.”

“Perkins? Wasn’t he your assistant when you worked back at the Ministry?”

Mr. Weasley nodded sadly. “The lad was so enthusiastic, always ready to help. And now they’re using him as a pawn to create this image of the perfect Ministry.”

“What’re you talking about, dear?”

“I was speaking to some of my old friends at the Ministry, and believe me, Molly, it’s chaotic down there. Scrimgeour’s lost total control of the staff…half of them processing illegal documents, embezzling money. It’s just terrible. We all were hoping that after You Know Who’s defeat, things would get better, but now it’s the average wizard committing the crimes instead of one really evil wizard. Perkins is not guilty; I’ve known him for far too long. Scrimgeour just wants to start making arrests to fool the public into thinking that everything’s under control.”

“Oh my,” Mrs. Weasley said. “I hope they don’t drag Harry into this. He’s had it so hard already.”

“Don’t be silly, Molly. Not even Scrimgeour could get away with accusing the savior of the Wizarding World for stealing a couple of Galleons.”

Just then, Ginny came downstairs. She was wearing her red pajamas and looked exhausted. She threw herself down on an armchair beside her father and grabbed a cup of coffee.

“Ginny, are you feeling alright?” Mrs. Weasley asked anxiously.

“I’m fine, Mum,” Ginny said. “I’m just so tired. I just got back from...I just got back.”

Mrs. Weasley kissed her daughter’s forehead. “You should just go to bed then. A good couple of hours of sleep will refresh you a lot.”

“Where are Ron and Hermione?” Ginny asked amidst a yawn.

“They’ve gone to visit Hermione’s parents, you just missed them. They’ll be back tomorrow morning, though.”

Ginny nodded. She turned over to face the door as it creaked slightly and then opened. Harry walked in, looking gloomier than ever. He didn’t even bother removing his cloak and slumped down beside Ginny. Mrs. Weasley suddenly gestured to Mr. Weasley to get up. He looked a bit perplexed and then saw that Mrs. Weasley was pointing to Harry and Ginny. He suddenly got up too, and both of them left the room.

“What happened to you?” Ginny asked Harry.

“I…well…Lavender and I just broke up.”

Ginny sat up abruptly and widened her eyes. “I’m so sorry, Harry.”

“Don’t be,” Harry said. “It was long overdue.”

“So you broke up with her?”

“Yeah, she didn’t take it very well. Remember in those Muggle movies I showed you, when the guy does something stupid, the girl takes her drink and spills it on him.”

“Yeah…”

“Well, that happened to me too, except, instead of a drink, she threw a plate of noodles at me.”

Ginny giggled lightly. “That must’ve been pretty funny. Come on, Harry, remember what I told you? You can get any girl you want; you don’t have to chase these flimsy wannabes.”

“Lavender wasn’t all that flimsy, she dressed nicely sometimes too.” Harry smiled and looked at Ginny’s beautiful eyes. He had that urge again; the urge to kiss Ginny, to abandon all sense of reasoning, but reality hindered him.

“Ugh,” Ginny said. “I hate relationships. He loves her, but she loves somebody else blah blah blah. I’m just glad that you and I can be friends without all that nonsense.”

She cuddled up to Harry, who placed his arm around her shoulder. Harry looked down at Ginny, and the last gleam of hope that Ginny would someday love him back vanished into the sultry darkness.

Chapter 7: Love & Lies
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Harry sat awake in the middle of the night in his bed. Dark circles were forming under his eyes, but he felt no sleep or fatigue. If truth be told, he felt nothing but remorse, remorse about messing up his first and only chance with Ginny. Harry’s sudden break up with Lavender had brought life to a new perspective: one that was dark and somber and one that made Harry face reality: Ginny didn’t love him.

Harry got up and took out a piece of parchment. Throughout his life, Harry had always found solace in Lupin’s advice. Lupin was not only very wise, but also someone who cared about Harry a great deal and wanted the best for him. He needed Lupin’s advice now; he needed to tell someone the truth and this was the moment to do it. He rolled out his parchment and started scribbling out every feeling inside of him. An hour later, as Harry’s watch stated, Harry put the final full stop at the end of his last sentence and held the letter up to the light. He reread the letter to make sure it made sense; or as much sense as a letter written at two in the morning could make.

Thanks for your last letter, Remus. Life is the same here at the Burrow, and everyone is doing fine. Hopefully you’ll meet them all when you come to visit. There has been something bugging me over these last few months. I don’t know how much of this you’ve already figured out, but Ginny’s moved on with her life and we’re both great friends now, but I love her. You have no idea how much I’m in love with her and how bottled up all these feelings are. Hermione somehow figured this out and so she tried to talk me into telling Ginny, but I want your advice. What would you do? What would Sirius have done? What would Dad have done? I know this may all seem out of the blue, but I hope you understand. I’m leaving tomorrow for Azkaban to do some quick paperwork, and so I won’t be back for three days. Have Hedwig find me at Azkaban (though I doubt she’d like it there) or just send her back here and I’ll read your reply when I get back.
Harry


Harry rubbed his eyes and poked Hedwig awake, who hooted irritably at being disturbed. Harry tied the letter to her feet and let her out of her cage. She gave him one last cold look, spread her wings, and disappeared into the darkness.

***

“Ginny? Open the door,” Draco said, softly knocking on Ginny’s bedroom door. It was six in the morning, and Draco hadn’t spoken to Ginny all night.

“Go away, Draco,” Ginny said sourly. “I’m mad at you.”

“Why are you angry with me?” Draco asked innocently.

“You left me to Apparate here all by myself last night after the ball. You didn’t come back till for another two hours. You said one hour!”

“Alright, I’m sorry about it, but that’s no reason to be mad at me.”

“Of course it is! You’re being absolutely oblivious to everything!”

Draco sighed. There was no pleasing women. “Okay, how about you let me in and I'll try to cheer you up?”

“It’s no use; I’m in a very bad mood, you ugly, stupid boy.”

“Fine, if you won’t let me in, then I’ll come in myself.”

Ginny heard Draco mutter ‘Alohomora’ and the locked door clicked open. Draco entered the room, but instead of his own head, there was roasted chicken head sitting on his neck. “Do I look better like this?” Draco asked.

Ginny couldn’t help but laugh as Draco put some glasses on his chicken head. Her eyes were watering with all the laughing as Draco put a hat on his chicken head too.

“So am I forgiven now?” Draco asked.

Ginny smiled, but shook her head. “Absolutely not!”

“Oh come on, Gin!” Draco said, morphing his head back into his own. “I didn’t mean to upset you…”

“How do I know that you didn’t mean to?” Ginny asked.

“Because I love you.”

Draco suddenly stopped short. Did he just say what he thought he said? Never before had a Malfoy uttered those three words in that order. He quickly turned away from Ginny and looked at the wall. What did you just do, you idiot? He asked himself. Meanwhile, Ginny got up and walked up to him.

“W…What did you just say?” she asked.

“Nothing. I said, ‘I didn’t mean to upset you’ and then I just stopped talking. You heard nothing more.”

“Draco, you said ‘I love you',” Ginny said slowly, analyzing Draco’s face.

Draco sighed softly and turned to face Ginny. “I did. I…I…don’t know why…”

Draco expected Ginny to walk away or laugh at him, but instead she interlaced her fingers within his and rested her head on his shoulder. “Did you…did you mean it?” she asked quietly, almost afraid to hear the answer.

Draco closed his eyes for a moment and just savored the sweet smell of Ginny’s hair. “I did,” he said softly into her ear. Ginny’s face broke out into a smile like Draco had never seen. Her eyes were gleaming with joy as she leapt into Draco’s arms.

“Draco, you have no idea how long I’ve wanted to hear you say that.”

Draco put his arms around her and smiled. “So does that mean that you…”

“Of course I do! I love you, Draco.” Draco’s eyes lit up and he placed his soft lips on Ginny’s. The two were locked in an embrace that probably could have lasted for days had it not been for Mrs. Weasley calling Draco downstairs. Very reluctantly, Draco and Ginny separated as Draco jolted downstairs to see what Mrs. Weasley wanted.

“You called me?” Draco asked Mrs. Weasley as he entered the kitchen.

“Yes, dear,” she said as she handed Draco an envelope. “Your mother is in the fireplace, dear.”

“I beg your pardon?” Draco asked.

“She’s in the fireplace; she wanted to talk to you. Go on, dear.”

“Oh, thank you,” Draco said, his face lighting up slightly at the mention of his mother.

He darted into the living room and saw Narcissa Malfoy’s beautiful face poking out of the fireplace. She looked so much better now that she was getting a regular dose of fresh air and nature. Her hair was tied up in a gentle bun and her face was radiant.

“Draco, sweetheart,” she said as Draco bent down in front of her. “How’ve you been?”

“I’ve been fine, Mother,” Draco said, smiling.

“Now how am I supposed to know that? You haven’t been writing to me for weeks now! I was worried sick that something had happened to you!”

“Mother, come on! I’m old enough to take care of myself.”

“I know, but who will take care of me? Honey, I miss you very much.”

“I miss you too. I promise, the moment my work’s done here, I’ll come visit you.”

“Visit? I thought the Minister of Magic was going to get you transferred to the Ministry of Magic down here in Italy.”

“He will,” Draco said shortly. “I just have to do something for him before he does.”

“Well, tell him to hurry! I can’t wait to see you in person.”

“I know, Mother. The transfer is a lengthy process, though. I mean, to get moved to the same department of another Ministry of Magic will require some time.”

“Alright, honey, but now promise me that you’ll actually write to me so I don’t have to pop in through fireplaces.”

“Yes, Mom,” Draco said submissively.

“Well, I had better get back. I have to enchant some more rose bushes in the gardens. Bye, dear.”

“Bye, Mother,” Draco said as he kissed his mother’s cheek lightly. The moment she disappeared back into the emerald flames, Draco heard shuffled footsteps leave the room. He quickly turned around and saw Ginny staring back at him, her eyes welled up with tears, red enough to match her hair.

***

“Hey, mate,” Ron said cheerfully as he poked his head into Harry’s room.

“Hey, Ron,” Harry said, scratching his head and yawning. “Did you guys just get back from Hermione’s parents’?”

“Yeah,” Ron said as he sat down on a chair. “It was pretty dull, though. I heard you broke it off with Lavender…”

“Yeah,” Harry said as-a-matter-of-factly. “I don’t feel bad about it, though.”

“I’m happy for you, mate; she was a real pain…even at school.” Ron glanced over at Harry’s packed suitcases. “You’ve packed already?”

“Yeah,” Harry said. “I’m leaving tonight, but I’ll be back right before Christmas Eve.”

“You’d better be, or Mum will freak out. I hate it when all the women of the house go all crazy about family…”

“Hermione’s not like that…is she?”

“Ah, you have no idea, Harry. Ever since she found out about the baby, she’s been yelling at me about family closeness and how I should set a good example for the baby and blah blah blah…”

Harry burst out laughing just as Hermione came in. “What’s so funny, Harry?” she asked.

“Nothing,” Harry and Ron said innocently. “How’s the baby coming along?”

“Oh, fantastic,” Hermione said sarcastically. “I look like a balloon and feel like one too.”

“So,” Harry said, a thought occurring to him. “What have you guys decided to name the baby?”

Ron shook his head warningly to Harry. “Don’t even start on that subject, mate.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Ron and I have been debating for days on what to name her, in fact, Harry; you tell us which name you like.”

Ron spoke first. “I told Hermione that the name Sarah was very pretty, but no. She has to object to everything I say.”

“Ron, I don’t know how you would feel if your fiancé wanted to name your child after their ex-girlfriend, but I’d feel pretty annoyed.”

“Oh, come on! What about Amy? Sonia? Pamela?”

“They’re all stupid names, Ron!” Hermione burst out. “I love the name Melanie, but you apparently have some sort of problem with it-”

“Of course I have a problem with it. Why would I want to name my daughter after a fruit’s name? She’ll be called melon head for the rest of her life.”

“Well then, what about..."

Harry figured that Hermione and Ron didn’t really notice he was in the room anymore. He smiled to himself at his two best friends, and quickly slipped out of the room, avoiding the argument.

***

“What happened, Ginny?” Draco asked worriedly as he looked at the silent girl in front of him. The two of them were now sitting quietly in Ginny’s room after she’d run upstairs. She hadn’t said a word.

“Ginny, if you don’t talk to me then how am I supposed to know if something’s wrong.”

“Fine,” Ginny said coldly. “You want to know what’s wrong, then here we go. Why didn’t you tell me you were moving to Italy?”

Draco suddenly recoiled with understanding. “Ginny,” he said soothingly. “I love you and I would never do anything to hurt you.”

“Yeah,” Ginny scoffed. “Some love, eh? It lasted for three hours.”

“I was…I was going to tell you, Ginny. I promise. It’s just that I needed to be sure that it was actually happening…”

“You weren’t going to tell me, Draco. You’re never going to change; you probably had this planned from the moment you got here.”

“What’re you talking about?”

“I can’t trust you, Draco. How do I know that you didn’t step into this house from the moment you got here thinking that you can have a little fun and then humiliate me.”

“Ginny, you can trust me-”

“I can’t!” Ginny said, tearing. “If I can’t trust you to tell me something as important as this then I can’t trust you at all…”

“Ginny, stop crying…just let me exp-”

“Forget it, Draco. Just leave me alone.”

“Ginny, listen to me!” Draco yelled, his voice shaky and frustrated. “I love you, Ginny. I know this whole thing about Italy is sudden for you, but it’s not for me. I’ve thought about this a lot and I promise you, Ginny, that I would never leave you.”

Ginny remained silent as Draco continued. “If anything, I’d want you to come with me.”

Ginny looked up immediately. Her tears were now dry; her swollen red eyes were now wide open in amazement. She uttered a few indistinct words and then spoke to Draco. “Go to…Italy…with you?”

“With me,” Draco repeated. He smiled at Ginny and quickly pecked her cheek. He took a deep breath and walked out the door, adding just before he left, “Think about it.”

***

Mrs. Weasley was washing some dishes as she saw Draco come downstairs and sit quietly on one of the chairs in the kitchen. His pale eyes reflected fatigue and his mouth twitched on the side, which indicated his annoyance with something.

“Is something wrong, Draco?” Mrs. Weasley asked the blonde boy out of concern. “You seem awfully preoccupied."

“It’s nothing,” Draco said.

Mrs. Weasley picked up a dirty cup in her hand and started to scrub it ruthlessly with her sponge. “Draco, I’ve raised six boys in this house. I can easily tell when something is bothering someone, and right now, I think something’s bothering you.”

“It’s nothing that’s bothering me, Mrs. Weasley. I’m just a bit annoyed about something.”

“Oh,” Mrs. Weasley said. “What is it?”

“A friend of mine was supposed to go with me to the Green Emerald for lunch today…”

“The Green Emerald?” Mrs. Weasley asked, her face dazzled with amazement. “That’s such an expensive place, Draco.”

“I was going to go have lunch but my friend just cancelled, less than ten minutes ago. Now I’ll have to cancel the reservation and they’re probably going to charge me anyways for the reservation…”

“That’s terrible, dear. Why don’t you go with someone else? I’ve heard so many things about the hotel, particularly about the price and difficulty to get a reservation. Ah, Arthur and I used to always dream of going there, but we never got around to it.”

Draco looked up. This was the moment that he’d been building up to. He had been hoping Mrs. Weasley would mention something like that so he could make his move. Something inside of him was telling him that he shouldn’t do this. He shouldn’t deceive the family that allowed him into their home, but he had to…

Draco gulped. “Why don’t you and Mr. Weasley go?” There, he’d said it.

Mrs. Weasley was taken aback. “Me? Go to the Green Emerald? Oh no, honey. It’s terribly expensive and we can’t afford it right now…”

“That’s okay,” Draco said. “I’ll pay for it.”

“Oh heaven’s no! Arthur and I can’t take money from you, Draco.”

“Don’t think of it as money, just as a payback for all your generosity.”

“It’s a sweet gesture, dear, but we can’t go.”

“Mrs. Weasley, I won’t take no for an answer. I don’t feel like going myself, and I can’t think of anyone other than yourself and Mr. Weasley who deserve a nice afternoon together. I’ll go get my reservation card.”

“Oh, Draco,” Mrs. Weasley said kindly. “Thank you so much, dear. I can’t wait to tell Arthur, he’ll be so excited.” Mrs. Weasley, bubbling with excitement, left the kitchen to tell her husband. Meanwhile, Draco took out a piece of parchment from his pocket on which he scribbled a quick message.

The two older Weasleys are out of the way for the afternoon. I’ll retrieve the information in an hour or so. Keep the transfer papers ready.
Malfoy


Draco scrambled over to one of the Weasley’s owls and tied the letter to its leg. “Take this to Rufus Scrimgeour,” he whispered to the owl, who spread its wings and flew into the sunlight.
Draco looked at the time. 3:42 P.M.
***
4:59 P.M.
Draco stood amongst the shadows in Mr. and Mrs. Weasley’s bedroom. The elderly couple had just left to go to their exclusive dinner at the Green Emerald, and that had been Draco’s cue to begin the task that had been a month in planning.

Draco quietly muttered ‘Lumos’ and lit the tip of his wand. He then began to tiptoe around the edges of the room, carefully stepping over anything that might cause a sound. He arrived at one corner, where he prepared himself for the spell. The spell that he was about to cast wasn’t an easy one, and definitely wasn’t quick.

The spell that Draco was about to use was a summoning spell, but no as simple as saying ‘Accio’. When using ‘Accio’, the spell caster had to imagine the object in his head and it would then come to him, but Draco didn’t know where this particular object was kept. So now, Draco had to fully concentrate his mind on visualizing the object itself, as accurately as he could. When he finally thought he had the image fixed in his mind, he raised his wand and whispered into the stony silence, “Invenio!”

The room remained silent, with no apparent changes visible. Draco cursed and then closed his eyes, focusing on the image of the object he needed. Once again, he muttered, “Invenio!” This time forcefully and clearly.

After a few seconds of deadly silence, a small green glow appeared around a picture frame that contained the picture of all the Weasley family. Draco heaved a sigh of relief and walked over to the picture, which was bathed in the green glow. He reached over and saw the faces of all the Weasleys smiling and waving at the camera, each one gleaming with happiness. Draco felt guilt flood him, but turned away. He had to do this. He reached behind the frame and found what he was looking for. He took the object out from behind the picture and held it to the tip of his lit wand.

He was holding a key in his hand. It was bronze and looked like any ordinary key except that it had three numbers engraved on it. 675. Draco pocketed the key safely and Apparated to his room, making sure no one had seen him.

***

“Charlie…” Ginny said pensively as she sat beside her brother. Everyone else was somewhere around London getting last minute work done before Christmas, and the two of them were alone in the living room.

“What is it, Gin?” Charlie asked, reading the Daily Prophet.

“What do you think the weather’s like in Italy?” she asked dreamily.

“What?” Charlie said, putting the paper down and looking at his sister.

“The weather…in Italy. Do you think it’s nice and warm, or is it cool and windy?”

“Ginny, why do you care what weather it is in Italy? Are you feeling okay?”

“Of course I’m feeling fine, idiot. I was just curious.”

“You know, Gin, you’ve been acting weird for a while now. Is there something going on?”

“No, there isn’t,” Ginny said heatedly. “Weren’t you supposed to go get some ham for tonight’s dinner, anyways?”

“Damn, you’re right.” Charlie got up and looked out the window. “The bloody weather is terrible, though. There’s a snowstorm going on …”

“Dress warmly,” Ginny said coldly to her brother.

“Fine. I’ll just go up and grab a coat. If Mum comes back then tell her I have already left.”

Charlie darted upstairs and came back after a few minutes with a black leather coat. Ginny almost choked on some toast as she realized that it was Draco’s jacket that he was holding. Ginny recalled back to the night of the Ministry’s Christmas Ball when Draco had given her his jacket as they had left the building. It had been lying in her room ever since and she’d forgotten to return it.

“I didn’t know you had such a nice coat,” Charlie remarked as he examined the leather coat. “I’m borrowing it.”

“Charlie…take dad’s coat…leave that one here…”

“Relax, Gin. I’ll be back in an hour and I promise I won’t ruin your precious little coat.”

Without another word, Charlie Apparated in front of Ginny, leaving her alone in the living room. She stared at the spot where her brother had just stood, praying that Charlie wouldn’t figure out whose coat it actually was.

***

Upstairs, Harry got ready to Apparate to the Ministry of Magic, from where he would travel to Azkaban and finish his remaining paper work quickly.

He felt that spinning sensation again as he began to Apparate and saw the last of his room dissolving into black oblivion.

***

Draco closed his eyes in relief as he saw a Ministry owl fly off with a rather thick envelope on its legs. That envelope contained the key that he’d found in the Weasley’s room and a letter stating that his demands for a transfer to Italy to his mother must be met.

His shoulders felt light, like a burden had been lifted off of them. He stared into the friendly sky and grimaced as the clouds danced merrily in the wind. However, not even he knew the problematic future that awaited him.
***

Many miles away, Charlie Weasley was standing in line, taking out the money he needed to pay for a whole ham that he’d just bought.

He counted the money in his hands and cursed loudly, realizing that he was missing a few Knuts. The woman in front of him was holding her hand out, waiting for the money. Charlie fumbled through his wallet, but couldn’t find any spare change. He prayed that Ginny had left some money in her coat, and started to rummage through the pockets of the leather coat. His fingers felt something brush up against them, it was a piece of paper.

Charlie reached into the pocket and took out the paper, which actually turned out to be an envelope. There was a dark red seal on the envelope, -clearly the emblem of the Ministry of Magic- which Charlie lifted. He read the parchment within, which contained a few selective words that left him dumbfounded. He reread the words at least ten times and could feel his heart pounding in his ears. He turned the envelope over and saw whom it was addressed to: Draco Malfoy.

Charlie could never have imagined the impact of a few words, but there it was, crystal clear in distinctive, neat writing.

Find the key to Gringott’s vault 675, Arthur Weasley’s vault.
***


Chapter 8: Unexpected Guests...
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Mrs. Weasley, as always, woke up promptly at 6 A.M. and started to cast spells on the brooms and sponges to start cleaning. She walked around the house, turning on all the lamps as she reminisced about her romantic dinner with her husband last night. The evening had been so perfect, not to mention the food. There had been shortage of nothing at the Green Emerald. There were appetizers, entrees, desserts and drinks from all over the world with different flavors and ingredients. She waltzed into the kitchen and prepared a cup of tea for herself.

Usually in the mornings, Mrs. Weasley sat down with her cup of tea and read her Witch Weekly magazine for about fifteen minutes before she woke Mr. Weasley up and started on breakfast. She sat down comfortably in her chair and opened up the current issue of Witch Weekly, which featured Harry and Lavender’s face on the cover with a huge rip between the both of them. Apparently, the news that the most famous wizard of all time had dumped his current girlfriend had spread like wildfire.

Absorbed in her magazine, Mrs. Weasley did not notice Charlie come downstairs until he tapped her on the shoulder. “Charlie?” Mrs. Weasley looked up at him. “What on earth are you doing up so early? My lord, you look awful.”

Indeed, Charlie did look terrible. There were dark circles under his eyes, which were drooped lower than usual. His eyes, which were usually cheerful and jovial, were troubled and disturbed.

“Did you not sleep well?” Mrs. Weasley asked her son as she stood up.

“Listen, Mum,” Charlie began. “I need to talk to you…and Dad. Where is he?”

“Honey, he’s still asleep. It’s only 6:15. What’s wrong?” Mrs. Weasley’s voice was growing increasingly panicked; she seemed to sense the foreboding tone of her son’s voice. “Charlie, does this have anything with you missing last night’s dinner?”

“What are you talking about, Mum?”

“Fred told me that you didn’t get home until 1 A.M. and you even missed dinner. Charlie, what’s wrong?”

“Mum, please,” Charlie urged. “Just call Dad…and Ginny.”

“Ginny? What does she have to do with this?” Mrs. Weasley’s voice was now quivering.

“Mum, just get Dad. Please! I need to tell this to the both of you,” Charlie said, sounding more pressing.

Mrs. Weasley decided that she didn’t want to argue with her son, and instead went inside her bedroom to get Mr. Weasley. Charlie could hear Mr. Weasley grumble irritably and footsteps coming back towards the living room.

“Charlie, what is it?” Mr. Weasley asked, sounding tired and slightly annoyed.

“Dad, where do you keep the key to your Gringott’s vault?”

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley’s eyes widened. “Why do you need to know?” Mr. Weasley asked.

“It’s important, Dad, please.”

“Charlie, what’s wrong?” Mr. Weasley asked, sensing the tone of urgency. “I’m not telling you were the key is until you tell me-”

“It’s behind the family picture in our bedroom,” Mrs. Weasley said quietly, interrupting her husband. “Now what is this about?”

“I read this letter yesterday,” Charlie began, sweating slightly. “It…It…was…”

“Charlie, just go ahead and say it.”

“It’s not that easy, Mum,” Charlie said, frustrated. “The letter said that-”

Charlie didn’t have time to finish his sentence. The front door of the Burrow was burst open; the shards from the shattered door flew all over the living room and knocked down Mr. Weasley. Charlie grabbed his mother’s arm and pulled her down as an intense red light flooded the once peaceful room.

***

Bill awoke with a start.

He heard a loud bang downstairs and it had sounded dangerous. He heard the screams of his mother and got up immediately. Fleur was sitting up in bed too, her eyes drowned in fear.

“Stay up here,” Bill ordered his wife. “Fleur, don’t move from here, understood?”

“I am coming wiz you,” Fleur said bravely.

Bill reached for his wand and held it steady in his right arm. “No. It’s too dangerous, let me go check what it is.”

“Bill, no!” she exclaimed, but it was too late. Bill had already left the room, wand in his hand, his eyes full of determination and of fear of what he might find downstairs.

***

Charlie couldn’t see a thing in the smoke and red light. His leg was severely injured and he could feel his mother by his side, lying on the floor, sobbing. He groped around for his wand, but didn’t seem to get anything.

Suddenly he saw a figure loom over him and point his wand straight in his face. The figure opened his mouth to shout an incantation.

“Expelliarmus!”

The figure was knocked backwards into the wall and fell face forward onto the ground. As the smoke cleared up, Charlie saw Bill holding his wand, still pointing it at the man. He got up and finally found his wand lying beside Mr. Weasley.

Ron and Percy had arrived downstairs too, their wands held in their hands steadily. Fred, George, and Athena came to the scene as well. Athena ran over and helped Mr. and Mrs. Weasley up, who were both injured slightly.

The smoke had cleared up now and the red light had died down. Charlie could see who had caused the explosion in the doorway. There were four men standing at the huge hole where their door used to be, each one of them wearing black robes.

“Who the bloody hell are you?” Charlie asked the four men. Draco, Ginny, and Hermione had come downstairs too, Fleur just behind them.

“We’re from the Ministry of Magic,” the tallest man said calmly. “Now put your wands down before you get in any more trouble.”

“Any more trouble?” Bill asked.

“You’ve already assaulted a Ministry Official,” a second man said, looking at Bill cruelly. “Put down your wands before we’re forced to disarm you.”

Bill looked the man straight in the eye, his wand gripped even tighter. “Just try me.”

Fleur came up from behind Bill and placed her arm on his shoulder, gently squeezing it. Bill looked coldly at all four men before finally lowering his wand, however, his grip was still as tight as ever.

“What is the meaning of all this?” Percy asked heatedly.

The tallest man spoke again. “We will require all of you to lower your wands, or you’ll be breaking a lot of Ministry rules.” He stepped closer.

“You know what else we can break if you take another step closer?” Fred asked nastily.

“Fred,” Hermione said softly, "lower your wand or we’ll never find out what they want.”

Reluctantly, Fred lowered his wand and everybody followed him. Even Draco lowered his arm, though his face was red with rage and his eyes were glimmering with shock.

“Good,” the third man said haughtily. “Now to get to the point.” He reached into his pocket and took out a parchment from which he read, “We are here to apprehend one, Arthur Weasley on the grounds of-”

“Wait a minute, what did you just say?” Bill asked dangerously.

“Are you deaf, boy?” the second man snarled. “Or perhaps you just can’t understand the big words in the sentence. Let me put it simply for you, your dad’s going to jail.”

“Are you mad, you bloody toad?” Ron asked incredulously. “You just can’t come in here and arrest our father…”

“Oh yes we can,” the fourth man said, smiling slightly. He reached into his pocket and took out a slip of paper, which he handed to Hermione, who was closest to him.

Hermione read the slip of paper and scoffed. “Embezzlement? You’re arresting Arthur Weasley because you think he stole money from a place where he doesn’t even work?”

“Don’t try to act smart, you foolish girl,” the first man sneered. “We have enough evidence to get your old man locked up for a good three years.”

“What kind of evidence?” Mrs. Weasley asked rudely. She and Mr. Weasley had stood silent, but both had determination embedded in their eyes and courage etched in the lines of their faces.

“Last night, a deposit of fifty thousand Galleons was made to the Gringotts vault 675, and coincidently, the same amount of money was stolen from the Ministry of Magic a few weeks ago.”

Charlie’s eyes hardened with realization. He turned his head slowly and matched the gaze of the blonde boy standing in the far back. Draco looked back at Charlie and saw the hatred in his eyes. Charlie knew. Draco still couldn’t believe what was happening. Scrimgeour had framed Arthur Weasley.

“You’re accusing him on speculation?” Athena said furiously.

“Listen, young lady, there are documents and letters that state that he was planning to steal this money for months!”

“Where did you find such letters?” Mr. Weasley asked.

“They were in the vault. Vault number 675.”

“Why on earth would Mr. Weasley leave evidence of his guilt in a bank? Think about this logically, wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to burn it?”

The first man was growing impatient. “I don’t know why he did not burn the documents, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t care. We were sent here to arrest this man, and we are not leaving without him.”

“Fine,” Bill said sharply, “but you have to get by us…”

“No.” Everyone turned and saw Charlie standing in the back, his head bent low. “No,” he repeated again. “This was not my father’s doing, I can prove it to you that someone else framed him.”

***

Rufus Scrimgeour took a sip of his drink as he sat by his fireplace in his huge mansion. He checked his watch and smiled to himself. By this time, Arthur Weasley is probably being dragged out of his house, being sent to a temporary prison until his trial. Scrimgeour heaved a sigh of satisfaction. A plan that had been months in the making had finally taken action and it was turning out perfectly so far.

Three months ago, Scrimgeour had received yet another report of stolen money from the Ministry of Magic. The witches and wizards of London were rapidly losing faith in him and he knew that with the upcoming elections, he would surely give up his post of Minister of Magic to some loser.

Then the idea had struck him. The quality of a man is measured not by the number of times he falls but the way he rises up after he falls. Scrimgeour was taking numerous falls right now because of the illegal smuggling and embezzlement going on at the Ministry, and it was his time to rise. If he could prove to the public that he could control this nonsense at the Ministry, then he knew he could win their trust back. He needed to show the public his power and control, but the real culprits were far too careful and sneaky to be caught, so Scrimgeour set out to find scapegoats.

Over the course of two months, Scrimgeour had arrested fifteen innocent members of the Ministry and convinced everyone that they were indeed the criminals. Before he could claim that all stealing had stopped, he needed one more big catch. He needed to arrest someone whose incarceration would cause shock and allow him more praise. Accusing Harry Potter would have been absolute madness, and Draco Malfoy was far too clever to be entrapped, so Scrimgeour targeted the one family closest to Potter, the Weasleys.

The task was easy, but Scrimgeour couldn’t do this alone. He needed someone to get into Arthur Weasley’s house and someone who would get the key to vault 675. He’d found the perfect person to do that. They had set the plan in motion, and within two weeks, Draco had befriended most of the family. By the third week, he had retrieved the key to the Weasley’s vault.

After receiving the key, Scrimgeour had taken fifty thousand Galleons, some fake letters and documents, and had them placed in vault 675. The huge deposit made to the vault was alerted to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, who had gone over to arrest Arthur Weasley.

Scrimgeour smiled contemptibly. It was only a matter of time.
***

“Charlie, what are you talking about?” whispered Athena.

Charlie didn’t answer her, but walked over to arm chair facing the doorway. He placed his bleeding hand on a black leather coat, leaving a few red spots on it. Draco froze with terror as he recognized the black coat that Charlie was holding, but nothing matched the horror that dawned on him when he realized what Charlie had pulled out of his coat.

Charlie held the letter in his hand steadily and flung it at four men. The tallest one bent down to pick it up and read it aloud. “Find the key to Gringott's vault 675, Arthur Weasley’s vault.”

There was confusion and disdain on all of the faces in the room. The tallest man passed the parchment to the man beside him, who read it again. “Find the key to Gringott’s vault 675, Arthur Weasley’s vault.”

The third man, however, grabbed the parchment from his hand. This man was shorter and stockier with a black moustache. He waved the paper threateningly and his face was turning red. “What is this supposed to mean?”

“You tell us,” Ginny snarled. “You’re the Ministry officials here.”

“Where did you find this letter?” the tall man asked Charlie.

Charlie looked at Draco from the corner of his eyes and shook his head. “I found it lying around, and as you can see from it, someone was sent to steal our vault key.”

“That’s nonsense, boy,” sneered the tall man. “For all we know you could’ve written this yourself.”

Bill’s grip tightened around his wand, and his fist was now turning purple. “Where’s the key?” he asked Charlie.

“I don’t know, it’s supposed to be behind the picture frame. Ginny, go check to see if it’s there.”

Ginny nodded and took a step forward. Immediately a jet of yellow light shot out of the tall man’s wand, narrowly missing her. “No one will move,” he said tightly.

“How in Merlin’s name are we supposed to check for the key if you won’t let us move?” Percy asked.

The tall man pondered for a bit and then turned to the third man. He mouthed a few words and gestured towards Ginny and then towards the door. “He will go with you,” the tall man said to Ginny. “Don’t try to do anything smart. This man here is a fully trained wizard who knows more spells then you could imagine.”

Ginny glared and started to walk towards her parent’s bedroom, followed closely by the third wizard. When she disappeared into the dark room, the atmosphere in the room became so tense that you could almost taste the contempt.

“What’s going to happen to me?” Mr. Weasley asked, anger reflecting his eyes.

“As soon as we get this letter nonsense cleared up, you’ll be taken to a Ministry temporary detaining facility where you’ll await trial.”

Mrs. Weasley flinched and grabbed on to Ron’s hand, who tried to comfort her. Meanwhile, Ginny had entered the room again with the stocky wizard behind her.

“What happened?” Hermione asked pressingly.

Ginny shook her head and the stocky wizard looked confused and upset. “It wasn’t there,” he said fearfully.

Mrs. Weasley expelled a great sigh of relief. “See? We don’t have the key…it was stolen.”

“This is all nonsensical,” raged the tall wizard. “There is no proof that this is a set up. Take the old man and let’s go!”

“Hey! Wait a minute!” Bill yelled.

“You can’t just take him like that,” protested Ron loudly. The second and fourth wizards stepped forward and pointed their wands at Mr. Weasley.

“Incarcerous!” Ropes shot out from the tips of their wands and weaved themselves around Mr. Weasley. His arms were tied tightly together, and Charlie could see Mrs. Weasley starting to sob.

However, before anyone knew what had happened, Ron pointed his wand straight at the stocky wizard and yelled loudly, “Stupefy!”

The man was knocked back hard against the wall and fell to the floor with a thud.

“Ron!” Hermione yelped. “Stop it!”

The tall man stepped forward and raised his wand to point at Ron. Bill, however, stepped in front of Ron and pointed his wand back. “You’re not leaving until you sort out that letter.”

“There’s nothing to sort out,” the tall man said firmly. “We don’t know who wrote that letter or who received it, and unless we get someone to confess, that letter is not evidence.”

“Then find out who wrote that bloody letter,” bellowed Ginny, her voice quivering at the sight of her bound father whose wrists were bleeding slightly because of the tightness of the ropes.

“That is not our problem, we were given strict instructions to arrest Arthur Weasley, and we have done so, with great difficulty.” The tall man flicked his wand and Mr. Weasley was pulled forward roughly.

The second man bent down, pointed his wand at the two fallen wizards, and muttered something. The two men’s eyes opened abruptly and they both got up. The five men now stood straight and started to head towards the door when suddenly a flash of blue light created a shield around the doorway, allowing no one leave.

Everyone turned around, looked for the source of the spell, and fixed their eyes upon Draco Malfoy. His pale eyes were full of remorse and anger while his red fist clutched his wand tightly.

Draco spoke, for the first time that morning, and his voice was steady. “I need to say something.”
***

A/N: KEEP THOSE REVIEWS COMING! I need all the encouragement I can get since I have a lot of work already. Anyways, if you totally dont understand what's happening, the next chapter should make everything clear

Chapter 9: Confessions and Confrontations
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The stony silence in the room was deafening. The five wizards from the Ministry stood paralyzed, facing the blonde boy who stood in front of them. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on Draco, including Ginny’s; each held an expression of confusion, except Charlie. Charlie was the only one whose head was bowed down, his face red enough to emulate his hair. Draco’s pale eyes that once contained mischief and love now contained surrender and fatigue. He was tired, tired of these lies, tired of this deception, tired of life.
He took a step forward and his face caught a hint of light under the dim morning sun.

“Mr. Malfoy?” asked the stocky wizard.

The five men were now transfixed at the man who oversaw every important procedure in International Magical Cooperation. “Sir…” the tall wizard began fearfully. “We didn’t see you…what are you doing here?”

Draco didn’t answer him but instead looked at Ginny. He gave her a small nod and then turned back to face the fate that he had evaded too many times now. “I need to say something.”

“Of course, sir…what is it?”

“That letter…the one about getting the key to vault 675, you’re missing part of it,” Draco began slowly.

“I beg your pardon?” one of the wizards asked.

“There was an envelope with it,” Charlie said softly. He turned to look at Draco, who nodded somberly, an indication that it was time to reveal everything.

Charlie reached into the coat pocket once more and this time produced a white envelope with a raised seal on it. He handed the envelope to the tall wizard, who examined it carefully, his beady eyes scanning each inch of the paper. Then he turned it over and read the other side, his eyes widening with horror.

“What does it say?” Ron asked roughly.

The tall man ignored him and addressed Draco. “Sir…this…it’s addressed to you?!”

Draco looked away. He couldn’t bear the thought of looking at Ginny’s expression. The hurt, the contempt, the hatred. Mr. Weasley looked over at Draco and squinted slightly, as if trying to see the real man hidden beneath the mannequin.

“That letter was sent to me,” Draco said after a while. “I was supposed to find the key to vault 675.”

“And you succeeded…” Mrs. Weasley gasped, her eyes welling up again. “That dinner at the Green Emerald…my lord…the key being missing…” She couldn’t withstand all this new information and so she had to lean against a wall for support.

“What dinner?” Bill asked.

“Draco sent your mother and me for a dinner at the Green Emerald,” said Mr. Weasley coldly, obviously fully understanding the situation.

Ron lunged forward at Draco, but Charlie restrained him. “No, Ron!” Mr. Weasley said firmly. “I want to hear this.”

Draco looked around at all the Weasleys, who seemed to be ready to plunge forward with their wands and poke his eyes out. All accept Ginny. She was the only person in the room who hadn’t had any reaction. Her eyes were transfixed, and her face contained a hybrid of shock and pain.

“Before I explain any further,” Draco said, unable to contain his pleading voice. “I need you all to know that whatever happened during this visit was unintentional. I didn’t plan this at all. This task had nothing to do with what I said and felt during this visit…”

Ginny knew that Draco was referring to her. His voice was somber and serious, and Ginny just wanted to run away right now. However, she couldn’t. She forced herself to stand, painfully watching the man she loved betray her in front of her eyes.

“Of course you bloody planned this,” George hissed menacingly.

“George,” Mr. Weasley said slowly, indicating that he wanted to hear the rest of Draco’s explanation.

“I…I did get the key…” Draco stammered, now sweating.

“Mr. Malfoy,” interjected one of the ministry wizards. “Who was that letter from?”

“It’s not important. What’s important is that Arthur Weasley is innocent. I was sent to retrieve the key to Gringotts…” Draco choked a little and continued. “So the money stolen from the Ministry could be placed in his vault and he would take the blame for it. Let him go.”

“Sir…we cannot let him go unless we have actual evidence.”

A large vein was popping on Draco’s neck, and Ginny could tell that he was on the verge of exploding. “You have the letter. You have the envelope with my name on it. YOU HAVE MY BLOODY CONFESSION!”

“Mr. Malfoy…please…sir…”

“Maximus…” Everyone turned and saw the stocky man who had just spoken to the tall one. “Maximus,” he repeated. “We have enough evidence to let the man go.”

The tall man turned and spoke to the stocky man. “We were given strict orders…” He became quiet after he witnessed the look on the stocky man’s face and then turned back to Arthur Weasley. With one wave of his wand, the ropes untied rapidly and fell to the floor. Mrs. Weasley dashed over and hugged her husband, while the rest of the family went over to him too. Only Ginny was left standing at the back of the room, staring at the only man she had ever loved. Draco glanced one last time in her direction and met her tearful eyes. He turned away quickly and walked towards the Ministry wizards, each step he took away from her pierced Ginny’s heart.

The tall wizard didn’t produce any ropes to tie Draco with but instead, guided him out the door. The four other wizards followed behind, and the last one to leave waved his wand one last time and the void in the wall disappeared. Ginny’s vision was blurred with silent tears as she tried to glance over the heads of her family to see Draco, but he was gone. As the last of the wizards Apparated in front of the house, Ginny felt her heart shatter to pieces
***
“Speaking of stunning, you haven’t said a word about how I look tonight, Draco Malfoy.”
He smiled at her and drew her in close into his embrace. The cold winter night was trying its best to ruin this beautiful moment. The chilling winds, the freezing snow and the sultry darkness…but nothing could ruin this moment. Not now. Not ever.
“You look gorgeous,” he whispered into her ear after they broke apart.

Ginny jolted awake in her bed and looked around. Her room was dark except for the thin streams of sunlight that had managed to sneak in through the dark curtains, dancing playfully around the walls. The painful silence told her what she feared: she was alone. Draco had been taken to the Ministry less than two hours ago, and no one had heard from him since.

Ginny got up and walked over to her cupboard, from which she drew out her diary. She took out a feather quill and started to write, her salty tears smearing the ink.

It's scattered across the moonlit skies,
Accompanied by heartfelt sighs.
It's drifting over the gentle rain,
A symbol of my silent pain.

It's buried beneath the meadow fair,
Conjoined with all the sorrow there.
It's lost among the stars this night,
Too far to ease my quiet fright.

No, gentle winds, seek not my heart,
For simply...it has torn apart.

Ginny closed her eyes and reread what she had just written. It was a confession of her pain, love and silence. She held it close to her heart and reminisced over the last few weeks that had been perfect.

After a few minutes in silence, a small pecking noise came from the window and it grew louder and more impatient. Ginny placed her diary on her bed and hurried over to the window, which she opened swiftly, letting the morning breeze hit her hard.
A small owl fluttered in through the window and perched itself on the banister. It was carrying a tiny scroll on its legs, which Ginny gently untied. She opened the letter and read the message. Three words. Three words that told her more than a thousand books could have. Three words that told her he was alright.

She read the letter again: I love you.
***

The day had passed in a stiff silence. In the evening, the family sat around the fireplace, each person absorbed in their own thoughts. Ginny sat on the floor beside Bill and was staring into the flickering orange flames that were emanating from the fireplace.
“Has anyone heard from the Ministry?” Charlie asked slowly.

Mr. Weasley shook his head. “There’s been no news.”

All of a sudden, the orange flames started to flicker loudly and turned green. A rather large head appeared through the green flames, the head of a man with graying hair and thick glasses.

“Amos?” Mrs. Weasley said, staring at the face of Amos Diggory.

“Molly, Arthur, did you guys get the word yet?” he asked frantically. “Rufus Scrimgeour has been sacked!”

Everyone in the room gasped and leaned in forward to listen more closely. “Sacked?” Mr. Weasley asked. “What on earth are you talking about?”

“I just got the news. Apparently, he’d been planning to frame people for the embezzlement going on at the Ministry. He’d even got the Malfoy boy to help him...”

Ginny’s heart skipped a beat. She prayed that Draco was alright as Mr. Diggory continued. “The boy turned against him at the last minute. He confessed this afternoon officially and Scrimgeour got booted out of office.”

The room fell into a stony silence that was only broken after Bill decided to speak. “So, Mr. Diggory, why did Malfoy confess?”

“There’s no news on that yet, Bill. All I know is that Malfoy was getting a transfer to Ministry in Italy in return for helping Scrimgeour.”

“Isn’t that where his mother’s living?”

“Yeah,” Mr. Diggory said. “Aurors didn’t arrest him, though. They said that as long as he took his transfer papers and left for Italy, they wouldn’t harm him.”

“He’s leaving?” Ginny gasped. Her heart began to pound wildly in her ears. She was losing control of her tears, but she had to contain them.

“I’m guessing so, my dear,” Mr. Diggory said. “Listen, Arthur, I just dropped by to give you the news, but I’d better be on my way.”

Mr. Diggory pulled back from the fireplace as a slight pop came from the kitchen. The entire family turned and saw Draco Malfoy standing in the back, his eyes as pale as ever and his head bent low.
***

Mr. Weasley rose from his chair and walked towards Draco, his eyes flaming. “What do you want?”

Draco turned and looked towards the side, unable to meet Mr. Weasley’s eyes. “I need to ask for forgiveness,” he said quietly.

“Forgiveness?” Mr. Weasley asked. “You already got that from us when you first stepped into this house a few weeks ago.”

“I…I…don’t understand.”

“I am a man who believes in second chances,” Mr. Weasley said, trying to make his voice sound steady. “I always believe that mistakes are made and they should be repented.”

“I do regret it, Mr. Weasley,” Draco said. “I didn’t know Scrimgeour was going to use the key…”

“I don’t care!” Mr. Weasley burst. “You knew that he wasn’t going to do anything righteous with the key, and yet you still got it for him!”

“I admit I made a mistake!” Draco bellowed, his voice cracking. “I want a second chance to redeem myself!”

“I already gave you a second chance, Draco,” Mr. Weasley said. “I may believe in forgiving people, but even I’m not foolish enough to play with fire once I’ve gotten burned twice.”

“Mr. Weasley, your forgiveness is more important to me than you think.”

“Malfoy, leave my house now. Leave my house before I do something I’ll really regret.”
Fred and George got up and held the door open for Draco, but he didn’t budge. He looked past Mr. Weasley’s shoulder at Ginny, who looked broken. Her eyes were red with tears and her face was drained of its entire color.

“I’m not letting this end here,” Draco said firmly. “You need to know something about me and –”

“Malfoy! GET OUT!” Ron bellowed. “You’ve made fun of us because of the size of our family. See, the irony is that the family you’ve made fun of for all these years is now outnumbering you severely. Get out before you get hurt.”

“I’m not leaving.”

Ron pulled out his wand and yelled, “Petrificus Totalus!”

A jet of light sped towards Malfoy, who raised his own wand and deflected the spell easily. “Lay off the petty spells, Weasley.”

Ron darted forward, but Hermione restrained him. “Ron, no! This is between your father and him.”

“It bloody well isn’t!” Bill bellowed.

“He’s been humiliating us for years…making fun of you too, Hermione!” Ron yelled. “It’s time he really pays for what he did. No more first year dueling spells.”

“Ron, just listen for once!” Hermione said, on the verge of tears. “Stop being rash for once and just hear what people have to say!”

Ron lowered his wand reluctantly and pulled back. He matched Draco’s gaze and shot him a nasty look.

Mrs. Weasley then spoke for the first time that evening. “Why do you want our forgiveness?”

Draco closed his eyes and his face turned pale as he heard Mrs. Weasley’s kind voice echo through his head. She continued somberly, “Why do you want to drag yourself through humiliation for our forgiveness? There must be some reason other than your own guilt.”

Draco looked at the clever woman pensively. She was indeed very smart. Draco didn’t know where to start with the explanation. “It’s not that easy to understand,” Draco began softly.

“Go ahead with it,” Charlie said coldly.

“When I first got here, I guess you could’ve figured out that I wasn’t very thrilled about coming here…But then I got to know you all, and I realized that even though your house is smaller and your rooms are more worn down, your family is more complete than my life is.”

Ginny felt a tear slip from her eye as Draco continued. “I realized that all my family’s money put together could not buy me the happiness that I felt here.”

“You’ve past the point of flattery, Malfoy,” Percy hissed. “If you have something important then get on with it.”

“I…I…just don’t know how to say it.”

Ron scoffed. “Funny, isn’t it, Malfoy? All your life you’ve never shut up and when the moment comes for you to finally talk, you have nothing to say.”

Ginny saw the vein in Draco’s neck pulse again and this time she was sure it would pop. “The reason I asked for your forgiveness is because…I love Ginny.”

A deafening silence rang throughout the room.

Bill stepped forward, his wand in his hand. “You bloody-”

“Bill! NO!” Mrs. Weasley grabbed her son’s arm and pulled him back.

“Mum! Let go of me! He’s dragging Ginny into this…he’s going to get what he deserves!”

“I’m not lying,” Draco pleaded. “I swear on my magic that I truly love Ginny and she loves me.”

“Malfoy! Don’t you dare talk about my sister like that, you bloody jerk!”

“We’ve been going out for weeks now! I love her and she loves me…just ask her! I swear!”

“You probably just confunded her!” Charlie said, lunging forward and grabbing Draco’s collar. “What did you do to her?”

“Mum! Take Ginny inside!” Ron ordered.

“I did nothing! I swear!” Draco said. “Get off me!”

Draco reached for his wand and was about to pull it out when somebody shouted something indistinct and a jet of red light shout out. Bill, Charlie, Ron, Percy and Draco were all thrown to the floor, and everyone turned and saw Mr. Weasley point his wand at them. His eyes were flaming with anger and his face was harsh.

“Malfoy,” he said, addressing Draco. “It’s bad enough that you try to humiliate me, but now you’re trying to defame my daughter?”

“Mr. Weasley, I swear to you that it’s true. Use a truth spell if you have to. Just believe me when I say I love her.”

“A truth spell is very advanced magic,” Hermione said. “It requires special training…and it’s painful to the person who takes it.”

“I know how to do it,” Draco said. “My father taught me.”

Draco took out his wand and pointed it at his chest. He closed his eyes and braced himself for the excruciating pain that he was about to feel.

“Mr. Weasley!” Athena shrieked. “Stop him! This spell twists your heart and mind to extract the truth. He could die from the pain!”

“He deserves much more than death for what he’s put us through,” Bill said. “Let him do it.”

“You don’t understand, Bill,” Hermione said. “This spell is worse than the Cruciatus Curse. It gnaws on your heart until the truth is revealed! Ron! Stop him from doing it!”

Ron looked away, unable to match Hermione’s gaze and whispered silently, “He deserves it.”

Draco took a deep breath and positioned his wand. He yelled loudly, “Verit-”

The spell never completed itself. Draco was knocked against the wall by Ginny. She hugged him tightly and sobbed on his chest. “Don’t – ever – do – that,” she whispered between her sobs. “You could’ve died!”

Draco put his arms around Ginny and allowed her to rest her head on his shoulder, but Ginny turned around. She looked at her family. Her parents and brothers were staring at her with such disbelief that Ginny was sure, they would’ve thought they were dreaming.

“Dad,” Ginny whispered softly, “I love him.”
***


Chapter 10: Goodbyes and Heartbreaks
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Mr. Weasley stared with disbelief at his daughter, her eyes welling up with tears. The room had fallen silent and all eyes were fixed on the sobbing red head.

“Ginny, get up,” Mrs. Weasley said to her daughter, biting her lip nervously.

“No, Mum. I love him, and I’m not leaving him.”

“Ginny, listen…just get up…” Mrs. Weasley pleaded. She reached for her daughter’s arm that was still clinging on to Draco. She tried to hold it, but Ginny shrugged her off.

Draco got up off the floor, with Ginny by his side. He stood by the wall, Ginny still holding him and stared at faces flooded with anger and disbelief.

“Just come over here, Ginny,” Mrs. Weasley urged, but she didn’t budge. “Arthur, try to reason with her!”

Mr. Weasley didn’t react immediately nor did he speak abruptly. He looked at the sight and finally uttered a few words after a heavy silence. “How long has this been going on?"

Ginny looked at Draco, and he knew how scared she was. They were both in this together. He loved her, she loved him, and that was it. He nodded to her gently and looked at Mr. Weasley. “A few weeks.”

“And in these few weeks,” Mr. Weasley said to Ginny, his voice building up, “you couldn’t have sat down for one moment and told us about this?”

“Dad, I’m sorry,” Ginny pleaded. “I was going to tell when it was the right time. I didn’t want you to find out about Draco until you were ready.”

“We were never going to be ready for this, Ginny!” Mr. Weasley bellowed. “This man came into our house and tried to defame your family-”

“It’s not true, Dad!” Ginny urged. “He didn’t know this was going to happen, I promise you. Draco didn’t know that Scrimgeour was going to break into your vault.”

Mr. Weasley ignored his daughter, who was now sobbing profusely, and turned to Draco. “Do you know what I’ve always prided myself in, Draco?” he asked, disappointed. “Even through the worst of times, when we had little food, I could take pride in my family. We were always together, there for each other, in the worst of times.”

Draco looked away, unable to bear the look of sadness in Mr. Weasley’s eyes. Mr. Weasley continued, “I have always taken pride in the honestly of my family. We may have been poor, but we always had our morals, especially Ginny. She was always the best of us all, always praying before bedtime, helping us with work that wasn’t hers, and talking to us whenever she had a problem.”

Draco looked at Ginny. Tears were escaping her eyes at a remarkably fast pace.

“But today,” Mr. Weasley said, “when I look at my girl, I’m not proud. She lied to us about something as big as this. She hid a terrible secret from us and that was because of you, Draco.”

Draco looked up immediately. “I’m a man of principle,” Mr. Weasley said, “so, I’m going to give you one last chance. Not the chance at forgiveness but a chance to leave this house, leave our lives and never show your face ever here again.”

“Dad, please,” Ginny sobbed.

“Ginny!” Bill said firmly. He walked over and pulled his sister away from Draco. She resisted, but he pulled harder and finally broke the two apart. Ginny felt herself give in as Bill turned to Hermione. “Take Ginny upstairs, Hermione.”

Hermione nodded silently and gently held Ginny’s hand, patting it soothingly. Ginny’s salty tears drenched her face as Athena and Fleur came up from behind and went with them upstairs. Ginny turned and met Draco’s eyes one last time, gazed into his pale grey pupils and saw the defeat that echoed within.

***

When Ginny and the others were finally out of sight, Bill turned to Draco, his wand at the ready. “You’re very lucky, Malfoy,” he said angrily. “If my father wasn’t this generous, you would be on the floor right now with a few missing limbs.”

“Take your chance now,” Charlie said. “If you don’t go, you’re going to be in a lot of pain.”

Draco didn’t say anything. He just gazed at the empty stairwell, where Ginny had stood a moment ago. He felt his heart weigh him down heavily as he tried to think of words to express what he was feeling. “I’m sorry,” he said after a while. “I’m sorry for all the pain I’ve caused you.”

Fred and George were ready to jump on him, but Mrs. Weasley gave them a stern look as Draco continued sombrely, “I’m sorry that this happened. My Portkey is arranged to leave in an hour. I’ll go get my luggage.”

He was leaving. He braced himself for the painful months that would lie ahead as he tried to get over the only woman he ever truly loved.

***
Upstairs, Ginny was in her room, sobbing uncontrollably on Hermione’s shoulder. Fleur and Athena were at the top of the staircase, trying to listen to what was happening downstairs, but Ginny didn’t care. She had seen that look in Draco’s eyes and she’d known. He was going to leave her; Ginny knew how much Lucius’s imprisonment had affected Draco’s perception of family. Under no circumstances was Draco going to make Ginny sacrifice her family for him.

It was over.

Suddenly, Athena came slowly into the room and sat down beside Ginny. She stroked her hair soothingly and grabbed her hand. “Ginny,” she said quietly, “Draco’s leaving.”

Ginny was quite certain that she heard her heart shatter into millions of pieces at the point. “He’s finished packing, and he’s leaving in a half hour. Your father has forbidden him from seeing you.”

Hermione patted Ginny’s cheek and whispered, “I’m so sorry, Ginny.”

“But,” Athena said, "he’s allowed Draco to speak to you one last time before he leaves.”

Ginny didn’t reply. It was too much for her to take. She just sobbed until she heard a soft voice call her. “Ginny.”

Ginny looked up immediately and saw Draco standing in her doorway. She looked at Hermione, who nodded. The two girls exited the room, leaving Draco and Ginny alone.

“This is it,” Draco said, unable to contain the sadness. He looked over at Ginny’s red face and smiled gently. “Don’t worry, Ginny.”

“How can I not worry, Draco? I’m never going to see you again.”

“Ginny, our paths crossed that one winter morning, and I know that they’ll cross once again. This isn’t the end of our story, I promise you. We will meet again.”

Ginny wasn’t all that comforted, but she still embraced Draco. “I love you,” she whispered into his ear.

“I love you too, and I always will.”

“I know.”

Draco placed one last kiss on her cheek and went towards the door. “Wait,” Ginny said. She reached into her drawer and pulled out something that she placed in Draco’s hands. He looked down at the item that Ginny had just given him and saw the diamond necklace. He remembered putting this on her neck at the Ministry Ball and smiled. “I gave this to you,” he said, “and it’s yours.”

Ginny shook her head. “If we do meet again,” she said, “I want you to give this to me when we do.”

With one final glance at each other, Draco walked downstairs and left the Burrow, as Ginny looked out the window and into the stars. Her mother had always told her that these stars contained our fates. Somebody had written the destiny of every person and placed it in the stars. Ginny gazed at the millions of twinkling sparkles, praying Draco was her destiny. She wept to herself. If these stars wouldn’t give her the destiny she wanted, she would squeeze them, twist them and tread over them to meet the man she loved.

***

The next day passed much happier. The whole family was in high spirits that Draco had gone, but all of them were worried about Ginny. She had been neither eating nor sleeping properly and rarely spoke anymore. Tonight was Christmas Eve, and a week later, it was New Years. Soon after the holidays, everyone was due to return back to their own homes, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were worried if Ginny would be okay by herself.

Ron was sitting by the window in his own room, Hermione by his side.

“Did you eat lunch yet?” he asked his fiancée.

She nodded quietly. “Don’t worry, the Healers said that the baby is fine. If anyone, it’s Ginny whom you should be worried about.”

“Is there something wrong with her?”

“Not medically, but she still isn’t eating her meals properly. I’m worried, Ron.”

“I know,” Ron sighed. “I…I just can’t stand to see her like this. She used to be so bubbly and spirited, and now…” Ron looked at the window and crumpled a piece of parchment in his hand.

“What’s that?” Hermione asked, gesturing to the piece of paper in Ron’s hand.

“It’s from Harry,” Ron said. “He said that he’s coming back tonight.”

“Harry? Oh my…Ron, Harry doesn’t know about any of this.” Hermione squirmed.

“What’s the big deal, Hermione?” Ron asked. “We’ll just tell him when he gets back. I bet he’ll be pretty happy to see Malfoy gone.”

“Ron, it’s- you don’t understand…” Hermione stuttered. She wasn’t sure if she should tell Ron, but circumstances called for it.

“Hermione, is there something you’re not telling me?” Ron asked shrewdly.

Hermione laughed. “You have become smarter, haven’t you?”

“I’ve learned from the best,” he said, winking at Hermione. “What is it?”

“Ron, Harry doesn’t know that Malfoy and Ginny were…are in love.”

“Does it really matter?” Ron asked thickly.

“You know what, Ron?” Hermione said sarcastically. “I don’t think you’ve gotten any smarter. Think about it…have you ever seen Harry happy with another woman?”

Ron thought about it a moment and shook his head. “Not really. Well, unless you count Ginny. Harry always seems to be really happy around her and-”

“Exactly,” Hermione said as she saw Ron’s expression suddenly flash in understanding. “Harry’s still in love with Ginny.”

Ron was stumped. “Now that you mention it, he’s always…I dunno…so cheerful around her…”

“Exactly, Ron. Harry has never been happier with anyone else, but Ginny has. She was overjoyed when she was with Draco. Trust me, I noticed her mood change. She was always so positive and just giggly.”

“So, what does this mean? Do we tell Harry?”

“Alright, promise me you won’t say anything to anyone about this. I think Harry’s going to tell Ginny how he feels, but I’m not so sure it’s a good idea anymore.”

“Why not? Ginny needs to know how Harry feels…”

“Ron, Ginny’s in love with Draco Malfoy. She’s in love with someone else.”

“That doesn’t matter. Hermione, you and I both know that Harry and Ginny are perfect for each other. For the love of God, they’re more compatible than you and I are.”

Hermione smiled. “I know,” she sighed, “and I’m almost positive that Harry’s going to talk to Ginny before the holidays are over.”

“Then we don’t tell him about Malfoy,” Ron said flatly.

“What?” Hermione asked.

“I don’t think we should tell Harry about anything that happened between Malfoy and Ginny. We’ll just say he left or something…unless Ginny tells him.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Hermione said. “If she wanted to tell Harry, she would’ve told him a long time ago. But…that doesn’t mean that she’ll agree to go out with Harry.”

“Who knows? Maybe she still has feelings for Harry, and maybe this whole Malfoy thing will help her see that she’s meant to be with him.”

“I…I just don’t know, Ron.”

“Listen, Hermione, Harry’s not going to tell Ginny anything if he finds out that she loves another man. All he needs to do is tell Ginny how he feels so that she knows. When she’s ready for a relationship, she’ll know that Harry loves her. Right now, she thinks that they’re just friends.”

“Well, Ronald Weasley,” Hermione said, grinning, “I must say you are very attractive when you’re so organized and logical. And if it wasn’t for my inability to bend down because of this blimp, I would give you a kiss.”

***
Narcissa Malfoy was sitting down to dinner when she heard the front door of the villa creak open. At first, she was afraid that a stranger may have broken in, but as a figure came into view, a huge smile broke out on her face.

“Draco!” she said joyously. She got up and hugged her son as tightly as she could.

“Mother…”

Narcissa let go of her son and smiled at him, excitement bubbling in her. “Oh, honey, I can’t wait to tell you about all the things that have happened here. You know those wilted rose bushes-”

Narcissa stopped as she saw the look of blankness in Draco’s eyes. “What’s wrong, Draco?” she asked.

“Nothing…I just…I…it’s nothing.”

“Come on, sweetheart, cheer up! It’s Christmas Eve!

“Yeah…I’m going to…I think I’m going to call it a night.”

“Draco, are you quite sure you’re alright?”

“Yes, Mother. I’m fine. I just had a very tiring journey. Goodnight.”

Draco took his luggage upstairs and walked towards his room. Narcissa watched him go out of sight, and knew there was something wrong. Though she wasn’t very great with maternal instincts, any mother could tell when there was something bothering her child. From what Narcissa could tell, it was big.

***
“Ginny?” Mrs. Weasley peered into Ginny’s room and saw her reading a book.

“Ginny, I brought you some lunch, sweetheart.”

Mrs. Weasley walked inside with a tray full of grilled chicken, mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. She placed the tray gingerly in front of Ginny and sat down beside her.

“Listen, Ginny, I know you’re upset, but you have to understand, what your father did was for your own good.”

Ginny didn’t reply. She picked up a piece of steamed broccoli and started to chew on it mindlessly. “I need to talk to you about something,” Mrs. Weasley said.

“What is it?” Ginny asked in a barely audible voice.

“I want to talk to you about Harry.”

“What about Harry?”

“Ginny, I know you’re no fool, you know that Harry still has feelings for you.”

Ginny didn’t respond for a while but nodded sombrely. “He’s not very good at hiding these kinds of things,” she said quietly.

Mrs. Weasley laughed softly. “No, he isn’t. But he loves you very much, and he’s returning tonight.”

Ginny looked away. “Ginny,” Mrs. Weasley said kindly. “Give him a chance. Don’t let some other boy come in between something really special.”

“He’s not some other boy, Mum! I love him! I love Draco!”

“Draco! Draco! That’s all I hear. Ginny, it’s too late. He’s gone; he’s out of your life. Let go of the past, Ginny, or one day you’ll wake up and find you have nothing left.”

Ginny got up and shrugged her mother’s hand off. “Mum, please go.”

“Life plays cruel tricks, Ginny. One day, you’re in love and the next, you’re on the street begging. Don’t dream too big. Take what you have.”

“Mum, please…” Ginny pleaded.

“Please think about it,” Mrs. Weasley said. “I love you, Ginny, and I want to see you happy.”

“If you wanted to see me happy then-”

“Molly! Come down here!” Mr. Weasley’s voice called from downstairs. “Harry’s here!”

***


Chapter 11: Old Feelings and New Guests
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Mrs. Weasley came down the stairs into the living room and saw her entire family sitting huddled around Harry, welcoming him back.

“Harry!” Mrs. Weasley squealed as she made her way over to him and hugged him tightly. “How have you been, dear?”

“I’ve been fine, Mrs. Weasley,” Harry said, smiling.

“How was your trip?” Bill asked.

“It was good, or as good as it would ever get when you go to Azkaban.”

“Ah, yes,” Mr. Weasley said. “I guess you can’t expect much from such a dark, dreary place.”

“Alright, everybody,” Mrs. Weasley said, “let’s leave the questioning for later. Harry’s just gotten here, and he hasn’t even had time to eat anything.”

Harry smiled. “The food in Azkaban was terrible. It tasted like that apple pie Ron had made when he’d forgotten to add the apples.”

The room burst out laughing while Ron huffed. “Well, now we know what you’re getting for Christmas,” he said moodily.

“Speaking of which,” Mrs. Weasley said, "tomorrow’s Christmas day, and we haven’t even gotten all the presents sorted out!”

“It’s not that much work, Molly!” Mr. Weasley said. “We just have to put them under the tree for tomorrow morning.”

“Yeah, Mum,” Fred said. “Can we just go have dinner?”

“Oh alright,” Mrs. Weasley said as everyone tried to scramble to the dining room where Mrs. Weasley had laid out a full buffet.

Harry, however, stayed behind. He searched the room for Ginny, whom he hadn’t seen all evening. He scanned the room twice before he walked up to Mrs. Weasley and asked her, “Where’s Ginny?”

“Oh,” Mrs. Weasley said. “She’s...not feeling quite well. She’s upstairs in her room, dear. Why don’t you go bring her down here?”

Harry nodded as Mrs. Weasley smiled. He left his bags where they were and made his way upstairs to Ginny’s room on the top floor. As he passed his room, he realized that the room across from him was empty. The room that had belonged to Draco had no clothes, no items or anything. Harry stared bewilderedly at the empty space before quickly realizing that he had to go fetch Ginny.

He had missed Ginny so much on his trip. He missed seeing her smile in the mornings and her bright red hair wherever he went. He missed the warm feeling he got when he sat beside her and the smile that she always brought to his face.

If being away at Azkaban had taught him anything, it was that he couldn’t be without her. He had been gone for three days and right now, he was yearning to see her; to feel her hair; to kiss her. This whole friendship charade had to be stopped; he needed to tell Ginny how he felt.

***

Ginny opened her door and felt her heart crumble to pieces. Harry was standing in front of her, smiling sweetly. Her life had just gotten a whole lot more complicated.

***
“Draco?”

Draco turned around and saw his mother walking into his room, holding a cup of pumpkin juice. She placed it on his bedside table and walked over to him, gently putting her hand on his shoulder.

“You haven’t eaten since you got here. Are you sure you’re not hungry?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” Draco murmured softly.

“Alright, listen, Draco, I know I’ve never been very maternal, but I can tell when something’s bothering you. What is it?”

“Mother, it’s really nothing,” Draco insisted.

“Is it about Ginny Weasley?”

Draco stopped and turned around to face his mother. Narcissa was standing quietly, examining the expression on Draco’s face and waiting for a response.

“How? How did you know?”

“You’ve gotten seven owls from her in the past three hours. Someone who sends you that many messages either really loves you or really hates you.”

Narcissa held out seven envelopes addressed to Draco, from Ginny. Draco walked over to his mother and took all seven of them, holding them gingerly in his hands.

“So which one is it?” Narcissa asked. “Does she love you or hate you?

Draco laughed sadly. “I don’t know.”

“What about you? Do you love her?”

Draco smiled sorrowfully at his mother. “I’ve sent her twelve owls in the past two hours, what do you think?”

***

“Uh...hi...” Ginny said, trying not to sound awkward. At the same time, she was trying to mask her sadness.

“Is that all you’re going to say?” Harry asked playfully. “You haven’t seen me in three days and all you’re saying is ‘hi’?”

“I...I’m just not feeling well, Harry,” Ginny said.

“Yeah, your Mum told me. Are you going to be fine?”

“Um, yeah...it’s just a headache.”

“Do you want me to get you anything? Tea?”

“No, it’s okay.”

“Well, your Mum sent me up here to get you to come eat dinner.”

Ginny laughed a little bit. “Mum’s got you doing work already, eh?”

Harry laughed. “I don’t mind it that much. So are you going to come?”

“I don’t think so. I’ll just get her to send me some food upstairs.”

“All alone? You’ve become so depressed...and I was only gone for three days.”

“It’s not that, Harry. I just need some time away from all the noise and everything.”

“I’m not going to feel right. We’ll all be downstairs having fun while you’re up here all alone.”

“I really don’t mind.”

“Alright, fine. I’ll go get us both a plate and we’ll sit and eat here.”

“What?”

“You won’t be eating all by yourself on Christmas Eve.”

Before Ginny could say anything, Harry turned and headed downstairs to get some dinner, leaving her standing at the doorway.

***
“I honestly forgot the apples,” Ron said exasperatedly. “It’s not my fault!”

Everyone around the table laughed as Mrs. Weasley served some tea. Though the atmosphere in the dining room was very casual and light, she could sense the eagerness as everyone kept their ears pricked for any sound from upstairs.

“Have you guys finally decided on a name for my granddaughter?” Mr. Weasley asked Ron and Hermione.

“I don’t think we ever will,” Hermione sighed. “Ron hates all the good names and wants all the bad ones.”

“I do not!” Ron said defensively. “Is there anything wrong with the name Cissy?”

“No,” George said, “not unless you want your kid beaten to a pulp at Hogwarts.”

“Exactly,” Hermione said. “We keep fighting about the same thing.”

“Ah, Ron,” Fred said mischievously. “I told you marriage was going to be a problem. Look at me. I’ve got no problems with women.”

Ron scowled. “That’s because you have no women,” he retorted.

Just as everyone burst out laughing, Harry came dashing downstairs, grabbing everyone’s attention.

“Is Ginny not coming?” Athena asked.

“She’s not feeling well,” Harry said. “Mrs. Weasley, can I have two plates of food?”

“What for?” Mrs. Weasley asked.

“Ginny and I are going to eat upstairs. She’s not feeling well and I’ll just give her some company.”

Mrs. Weasley smiled kindly and prepared two large plates of food. She gave them to Harry, who was starting to go upstairs but stopped midway.

“What is it, Harry?” Mr. Weasley asked.

“I was just passing my room, and I noticed that Malfoy had left,” Harry stated slowly. The entire room exchanged looks quickly and Hermione spoke.

“He...he had to go,” she said.

“But I thought he was staying for the holidays,” Harry asked. “Not that I wanted him to stay, but still...”

“Well,” Ron said, “he got an owl and had to leave. I don’t think he’ll be coming back, though.”

Harry nodded and shrugged. He took the two plates of food and walked up the stairs back to Ginny’s room.

***

“Here you go,” Harry said cheerfully as he placed a plate of chicken, rice, vegetables, sauce and everything else in front of Ginny.

“Wow,” Ginny said as she examined her plate. “Mum’s really overcooked this year, but then again, she always does.”

Harry took a spoonful of rice into his mouth and nodded. “Try the rice. It’s really good...but not as good as the chicken.”

Ginny ate a few beans off her plate. “Ginny, I need to say something to you,” Harry said slowly.

“Not now, Harry,” Ginny said sadly. “Please...”

“But you need to know.”

“I...I’m really not feeling very well...”

“Ginny, I...”

“Harry, I really don’t want to hear anything.”

“Ginny...”

“Please, just go. I’m feeling dizzy.”

“Just hear me-”

“My head is spinning, Harry! Please just go!"

“Ginny,I lo-”

Ginny shrieked and collapsed on her bed. Harry got up immediately and walked over to her, his arms were very tense. He placed his fingers on her neck and felt her pulse, but it was weak. He put his hand to her forehead and felt a huge amount of sweat against her burning skin. Her face was now pale as she lay inertly; her closed eyes, motionless.

Harry said Ginny’s name multiple times, trying to help her regain consciousness, but she didn’t budge. The door flung open and Ron was standing in the doorway with a concerned face.

“We heard someone yell- Ginny!” Ron dashed over to his still sister and tried to shake her awake. “What happened?” he asked frantically.

“I- I don’t know,” Harry said. “I was saying something and then she just started to say that she felt dizzy and she fainted.”

“Hermione!” Ron bellowed. “Get up here!”

Within a few minutes, Hermione came upstairs and gasped. “Ron! What happened?”

“It doesn’t matter!” he bellowed. “Just try to get her conscious!”

Hermione took out her wand and pointed it at Ginny. She mumbled a few words, and a faint sound came out, but nothing happened to Ginny. She tried a few more spells, but still, nothing worked.

“Her hands are getting warmer,” Harry said, gently rubbing them together.

Mrs. Weasley came up next and almost yelled at the sight before her. She rushed back downstairs and returned a few minutes later with something green in her hand.

“This root of ginger should help her,” she said, placing the ginger on Ginny’s forehead. Ginny face started to regain some of its lost color, and she began to take a few short breaths.

Harry heaved a sigh of relief and smiled slightly as he pressed his fingers against Ginny’s neck and felt a steady pulse.

“What had happened to her?” Hermione asked.

“I don’t really know,” Harry said. “She just started to feel dizzy and she kept saying that she wasn’t well.”

“Don’t blame yourself, Harry,” Mrs. Weasley said gently. “I’m sure she was just a bit exhausted.”

“Right,” Harry said tentatively.

“Alright, everyone, leave!” Mrs. Weasley ordered. “Ginny needs some rest!”

Harry, Hermione and Ron left the room quietly. As Harry walked out the door, he turned and glanced one last time at Ginny as she began to open her eyes.

***

Harry, Ron and Hermione had just left the room. Mrs. Weasley walked over to her daughter and sat beside her on the bed, looking at her with sad eyes.

“He was about to tell you that he loved you, right?” Mrs. Weasley said quietly.

Ginny looked up slowly and then looked away. “Yes,” she said in a barely audible tone. “How did you know?”

“I just did,” Mrs. Weasley said softly. “Why are you doing this to him?”

“Doing what?”

“You’re hurting Harry, Ginny. He loves you and you’re hurting him.”

Ginny tried to stand up but didn’t have the energy to. “I didn’t faint on purpose, Mum,” she said. “He just started saying that he needed to tell me something...and I kept seeing images of Draco, and I...I couldn’t take it.”

“Ginny, listen to me,” Mrs. Weasley said, “you can love the heart that hurts you, but you can never hurt the heart that loves you. Harry loves you. Don’t hurt him.”

“I don’t want to hurt him!” Ginny said. “I just want him to leave me alone! I just want to be with Draco!”

Ginny began sobbing softly. “I just want to be with him...no Harry, no complications, and no rules...just love.”

“When the time comes, Ginny,” Mrs. Weasley said, "you’ll realize how much you take Harry for granted and then it might be too late.”

“How many times do I have to hear this, Mum?” Ginny said. “Please, just go.”

Mrs. Weasley got up and walked towards the door. She turned the lights off before she left, whispering quietly. “Goodnight, Ginny.”
***

***
Harry looked over at the clock beside his bed, which read very clearly: 11:42 p.m. He couldn’t sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, a picture of a falling red head would pop into his mind and he’d be woken up again. He wanted to make sure that Ginny was all right. He needed to.

He put on his robes and tiptoed up the stairs to Ginny’s room. The candles floating around the stairwell were slowly illuminating his pathway and giving life to his shadow. He finally reached the top floor and quietly turned the knob on Ginny’s door.

“Ginny?” Harry whispered. He didn’t hear a response, and so he assumed she was asleep. He walked in and looked over her, making sure she was alright. He placed his hand to her forehead to make sure her temperature was normal; he felt her pulse and was satisfied when he heard a steady beat.

Ginny’s face was turned to the side, and Harry couldn’t see her soft features. He sighed heavily and turned to look out the window at the beautiful clouds gently shivering in the cold wind.

“Ginny,” Harry began, fully aware that she was asleep and couldn’t hear what he was saying, “I love you.”

“I know it’s really crazy,” he said softly, realizing that he was talking to no one, "but I love you...I’ve never stopped loving you. You mean the world to me and even more.”

Harry laughed to himself softly. “Can you believe it? I’m talking to you even though you’re asleep. I love you very much, Ginny, and maybe now you’ve forgiven me and we can give our relationship another chance.”

Harry heard the clock downstairs strike the hour loudly, indicating that it was midnight. “Merry Christmas, Ginny,” he said softly before leaving the room quietly.

Perhaps, if he’d stayed a little longer, he would have noticed a silent tear escape Ginny’s open eyes.

She turned around when Harry had left and gazed into the darkness. “Merry Christmas, Draco,” she whispered.

***

In another part of the world, Draco gazed out into the snowing sky. He closed his eyes as the clock began to strike loudly, indicating that it was midnight.

“Merry Christmas, Ginny,” he said softly, letting a lone tear escape his eye.
***


Chapter 12: Christmas and Revelations
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Merry Christmas!” Mrs. Weasley said excitedly as she joined everyone else in the living room. The focal point was, of course, the beautiful Christmas tree under which were an overwhelmingly large number of presents.

“Can we open our presents now, mum?” George asked impatiently.

“We don’t have to ask her!” Fred said proudly. “We’re fully grown adults here; we can make our own decisions!”

“Ahem,” Mrs. Weasley said sternly. “Nobody will open the presents until I say so.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Fred said dejectedly.

“What are we waiting for?” Ron asked grumpily.

“We need to wait for Percy to wake up; it’s rude to not wait for him.”

“Mum! Please!” Charlie pleaded. “He always gets the most boring gifts anyways.”

Mrs. Weasley looked at all the pleading faces around the room and sighed. “Oh, alright!” she said.

The entire room burst into excitement as hands dived in for their presents. The twins were scrambling through the pile rapidly trying to find their gifts while Ron was picking up random presents and checking the name tags to see who it belonged to. Harry was sitting beside Ron and Hermione, smiling as everyone was fighting for their gifts. The only person not involved in the festivities was Ginny, who though sat nearby watching emotionlessly as Bill piled her presents in front of her.

“Harry, oh my god!” Hermione squealed as she held up a large, old book that was entitled, ‘Hogwarts: A History’ First edition. “I’ve been looking for this forever!” She hugged Harry tightly while Ron rolled his eyes.

“Ron, I absolutely love this sweater,” Mr. Weasley said beaming, as he tried on his black, custom made, wool sweater. “This fits perfectly, did you get it custom made?”

“Yeah,” Ron said shiftily. “I…got it especially made for you, dad”

“That’s bullocks, dad,” Fred laughed. “Hermione bought it for you and she got it made.”

Ron turned red and scowled as Hermione handed Ginny a present. “This one’s for you,” she said as Ginny absentmindedly took the gift and unwrapped it. She held up a silver charm bracelet and tried to smile. “Uh…thanks Hermione,” she said.

“It’s not from Hermione,” Charlie said sounding hurt. “It’s from me.”

“Um, yeah…thanks,” Ginny said, still not fully paying attention to what was happening around her.

Mrs. Weasley shot Mr. Weasley a worried glance, who turned and looked at Ginny sitting by idly. He nodded to Mrs. Weasley gently and turned back to everyone else.

“Ginny, you haven’t thanked Bill for the earrings he got you. They’re real Egyptian gold, you know.”

Ginny snapped back to reality and looked around confused. “Sorry, what?”

Ron and Hermione looked at each other sadly as Mr. Weasley glanced at Ginny. “I said that maybe you should thank Bill for the earrings he got you.”

“Oh, yeah…” Ginny glanced around her and found silver unwrapped jewellery box with a pair of beautiful, handcrafted earrings in it. “Thanks,” Ginny said quickly.

“Um, no…no problem,” Bill said awkwardly.

“I think it’s time that everybody had some tea,” Mrs. Weasley said, trying to ease the tension in the room. “Come along, now.”

Everyone piled into the kitchen and poured some tea for themselves. Ron and Hermione seemed to be the point of attention as their daughter was due in a few weeks. Ginny waited until everyone had left and whispered to Mrs. Weasley. “May I go to my room?” she asked.

“Ginny,” Mrs. Weasley said forlornly. “It’s Christmas morning, why do you want to be by yourself on such a beautiful day?”

Ginny didn’t reply and instead looked away. Mrs. Weasley sighed. “You can go to your room,” she said hopelessly.

Ginny didn’t smile nor say anything; instead she turned and walked up to her room. Mrs. Weasley didn’t know how to feel right now. A part of her wanted to feel sorry for Ginny, wanted to hold her in her arms and talk about all her problems. But then there was another part of her that felt angry at Ginny; angry that she didn’t tell her own family the truth, angry that she was being so stubborn. Mrs. Weasley was so absorbed in her own thoughts that she didn’t notice Mr. Weasley come up from behind.

“Where’d Ginny go?” he asked.

“Upstairs,” Mrs. Weasley said briefly. “She wasn’t feeling well.”

“Molly, she hasn’t been feeling well for a few days now. This is a time for family and love and Ginny’s sitting by herself in a room, all alone.”

“Arthur, she needs some time to get over him. I’ve talked to her.”

Mr. Weasley didn’t reply. “She’s never going to change back, is she?” he asked solemnly.

“What do you mean?”

“She’s never going to be the old Ginny again, is she? No more sneaking around the house on Christmas Eve trying to find the presents; no more teasing her brothers; no more Ginny…”

Mrs. Weasley looked away. She knew Arthur was telling the truth. No matter how much she tried to convince herself, she knew that Ginny wasn’t going to be the same.

“Mr. Weasley?” Harry asked as he came from the kitchen. “Where’s Ginny?”

“She needs some rest,” Mrs. Weasley replied quickly. “She’s still tired out from last night’s accident.”

“Right,” Harry said slowly. Mrs. Weasley noted the confusion and suspicion in his voice and knew that it would only be a matter of time before Harry found out.
***
Ginny paced her room slowly and silently. It had been days and she had still received no owl from Draco. She had sent him messages many times a day in hope that he would reply to anyone of them but nothing had arrived. She peered out her window in hopes of spotting a distant owl soaring towards her with a message of hope; a message that said that Draco was coming to get her. But as Ginny scanned the broad winter sky, all she saw were long clouds floating majestically along the horizon, shining against the sun.

Ginny closed her eyes and summoned Faellia, her faithful house elf. The tiny creature was holding a scrubbing brush and a bottle of soap when she popped into Ginny’s room, still dazed.

“Mistress wanted to see Faellia?” she asked in her usual high voice.

Ginny nodded silently. “There…there wasn’t any mail at the house, was there?”

Faellia looked around the room. She pondered something for a minute and Ginny saw a weird look come upon her face. Finally, Faellia shook her head. “No mail.”

Ginny sat down on her bed and let a few tears fall out of her dark eyes. “I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything, right?”

“What does Mistress mean?” Faellia asked.

“Faellia,” Ginny said, the tears now pouring faster. “He probably never wants to see me again. I mean, I know he said we’d meet again but…he probably hates dad for what he did and…”

“Is Mistress talking about Mister Malfoy?” Faellia asked.

“How did you know his name?” Ginny asked.

“Faellia…she heard the name from Mistress when they were picking out clothes for her dinner,” the elf squeaked.

Ginny nodded. “I love him so much and I thought he loved me. But he’s sent me no messages; he hasn’t tried to contact me in any way…maybe …maybe he just got tired of me.”

“Tired of Mistress?”

“He had to put up with so much when he was here. He had to placate my family and win over my dad…and hide our relationship. Maybe he’s just enjoying the peace and rest in Italy…maybe he’s found someone else.”

Ginny’s tears were now growing in size and rate, drenching the front of her shirt. Faellia looked worried and uncomfortable. “Mistress is not to worry,” she said soothingly.

“Thank you, Faellia,” Ginny sighed. “I’m…I’m sorry for bothering you anyways. I’m coming back home right after New Year.”

Faellia nodded and disappeared with a pop, leaving Ginny all alone again.
***
“Ron, are you busy?” Harry said poking his head in Ron’s room. Ron was sitting on a soft chair, asleep with a book on his face. Harry moved in closer and read the title of the book aloud.

“Wizarding Fathers: How to create the magic between you and your child,” Harry said, waking Ron up slightly.

“Harry? What…what time is it?” Ron asked sleepily.

“It’s 9:30 in the morning, Ron, why are you sleeping?”

“Hermione’s making me read this stupid book,” Ron said grumpily.

Harry laughed as Ron scowled and sat up straight. “What’re you doing here anyways?” he asked.

“Ron, is something wrong with Ginny?” Harry asked, making Ron stare slightly outside.

“What do you mean?”

“She’s…well everyone’s been acting kind of weird ever since I got back. This hasn’t got anything to do with me, does it?”

Ron shook his head. “No, mate. It’s actually nothing so I don’t know why you’re worried.”

“Ginny seems so quiet now. Before I left, she used to yell and laugh except now she seems so…”

“Lifeless,” Ron completed Harry’s sentence sadly. “She’s just not feeling well, Harry.”

“That’s what everybody’s saying to me but…well…I don’t know…something’s not right.”

“Harry, it’s not about you and there’s nothing wrong with Ginny. Just go talk to her if you need to.”

“I tried, Ron,” Harry said. Ron felt as bad for Harry as he possibly could. Here, the saviour of the Wizarding World was pleading for the heart of a girl who stubbornly refused to forget a blood traitor.

“Trust me, Harry. Just go and talk to Ginny again and I’m sure she’ll understand whatever you have to say to her.”

Harry sighed and nodded. “I guess I’ll talk to her in the evening.”

“Yeah,” Ron said. “That’d probably be a good time since we’re all leaving anyways.”

“Leaving where?”

Ron rolled his eyes. “My Great Aunt is having a Christmas Dinner and she’s invited us all, except Ginny doesn’t really want to go so she’ll stay back. And mum reckons you’ve been travelling too much so you should stay home.”

Harry saw his window of opportunity. He fondled something in pocket that he’d been dying to give Ginny but never had the chance. Tonight was the night. Tonight was the night that Harry would tell Ginny everything.
***
Draco looked out his window. He had sent Ginny over fifteen owls and she hadn’t replied to any one of them. He’d even replied to the owls that she sent but there was no word on that either. He began to get worried that maybe she had gotten over him. Maybe her parents had convinced her to move on to someone else.

Draco took out a piece of parchment and scrawled a quick message onto it to Ginny. It’s been days since I sent you a message and there’s still been no reply. Is everything okay? Draco.

He sighed and tied it to his owl’s leg which soared elegantly in the morning sky towards the Burrow.
***
Evening had arrived so quickly that Harry didn’t even realize it. Soon, the Weasleys were all putting on their coats, getting ready to head out to dinner. All except Ginny, of course. All the women were wearing lovely dresses, even Hermione who’d managed to squeeze into a blue dress with ruffled sleeves. The men wore dark dress robes with the exception of Fred and George who chose to wear neon purple ones until Mrs. Weasley had to send them upstairs to get changed.

Soon, the Burrow was empty and Ginny sat alone in her room upstairs. She looked through the window again for any sign of an owl or a message. Draco hadn’t written to her at all nor had he replied to any of her messages. She revelled about her wonderful times with Draco that was only interrupted when Ginny heard a clinking sound downstairs.

She put her books to the side and went downstairs to see what had happened. When she arrived into the living room, what she saw was something beyond imagination.

The lights had all been dimmed and the only source of illumination was a pathway of rose shaped candles along the floor that lead to the centre of the room. The golden hue spread throughout the area was only enhanced by the shimmering sparkles that fell from the ceiling onto the ground and disappeared. Ginny walked along the pathway of candles and looked around the room, wondering how and why this had happened.

She heard a soft whisper in her ear and turned to see Harry behind her looking much more…Ginny couldn’t find the word to describe it. He looked different somehow. He seemed so much more confident and passionate than he had ever done before.

“Ginny,” Harry began. “I know I messed up whatever we had at Hogwarts, call it chemistry, a crush or friendship. I know I never should have broken up with you before I fought with Voldemort.”

“Harry…” Harry placed his fingers on Ginny’s lips and continued.

“Dumbledore always told me that the only thing that separated me from Voldemort was love and I was foolish enough to give that up when I broke up with you. Ginny, I love you.”

Ginny’s heart felt heavier than it had ever felt before. It felt as if a thousand hands were wrenching on it and pressing it down until it would finally crush.

Harry repeated his words. “Ginny, I love you-those three words have my life in them. Those three words make all the pain I’ve had to suffer away from you worthwhile.”

Ginny took a deep breathe as Harry continued. “The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart. I love you Ginny. I always have and I always will love you…no matter what. Relationships and dating are meant to help you find the only person you’ll ever love – the only person without whom you can’t live but I’ve already found her.”

Harry looked at Ginny with such passion and love that Ginny almost couldn’t bear it. “I don’t want to date you, Ginny,” he said. “I don’t want to waste another moment of my life wondering if you’re the one for me, because you are.”

He reached into his pocket and produced the most beautiful, hand-crafted diamond ring. “I had this ring made for you a long time ago,” Harry said. “I think it’s time I use it.”

To Ginny’s horror, Harry got down on one knee and held Ginny’s hand gently. “I can promise you tough times. I can promise that there will be moments when you and I might never want to talk to each other again but I can also promise you that if I don't ask you to be mine, I'll regret it for the rest of my life, because I know, in my heart, you're the only one for me. Ginevra Molly Weasley – will you marry me?”

A/N: I'm hoping for a lot of reviews for this chapter as it has a major cliffhanger and I want to know what people think about it. Do you think Ginny will say yes? or no?...Or will she just faint again? I really need to know :D


Chapter 13: Sneakings and Peekings
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Ron handed Hermione a glass of water as the two of them stood talking in Ron’s great aunt’s house. It was decorated lavishly with red and green embellishments at every corner and mistletoe over every doorway.

“What time is it, Ron?” Hermione asked as she took a sip of water. Ron checked his wrist watch.

“It’s 9:30,” Ron said. “Why?”

“It’s just that Harry and Ginny have been alone for over two hours now. Do you think Harry told her?”

Ron shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said truthfully. “He came to talk to me this morning while I was slee- reading that wonderful book you gave me.”

Hermione raised her eyebrow suspiciously. “What did he say?”

“He asked me if anything was wrong with Ginny, I told him no. I think we should just tell him about Malfoy. I don’t feel right about this.”

“Ron, I know it seems devious but it’s the only way to get Ginny and Harry together.”

“Hermione, get over here!” Athena called excitedly.

“What is it?”

“Look at these baby photos of Ron, they’re so cute!”

Ron turned bright red and ran over to Bill and Charlie who were distributing pictures of Ron in diapers. Everyone was giggling and enjoying themselves. Hermione looked over towards the window and hoped that Ginny wasn’t being too hard on Harry.
***
Harry watched silently as salty tears escaped Ginny’s eyes. He had prepared himself for crying but something about the way she was looking at him told him that there was something going on.

“Harry…” Ginny whispered slowly. “Harry…I…I don’t know what to say.”

“Say whatever’s in your heart,” Harry said softly. “Even if it’s no.”

Ginny closed her eyes and a tear fell out delicately. She remembered that gorgeous blonde hair, that flawless pale skin and those passionate grey eyes. She looked at Harry and saw something that she had never seen in Draco: vulnerability. Harry seemed so defenceless right now; his eyes were softly lingering over Ginny while emanating a sense of anxiety.

An echo flooded Ginny’s head and she drowned out her surroundings.

You can love the heart that hurts you but you can never hurt the heart that loves you. Harry loves you, don’t hurt him. Mrs. Weasley’s voice resounded loudly throughout Ginny.

Life plays cruel tricks, Ginny. One day, you’re in love and the next, you’re on the street begging. Don’t dream too big. Take what you have

Ginny felt her world collapsing around her. She recalled her empty room where there were no letters from Draco; no concerns as to whether she was okay. He could have at least written her one letter.

Ginny began to breathe deeply and grabbed onto Harry’s arm. Harry’s eyes suddenly got tense and he held onto Ginny tightly.

“Ginny, what’s wrong?” Harry asked.

“I…I’m okay…” Ginny said quietly as she tried to steady herself.

“Sit down,” Harry urged as he guided her across the room towards the sofa. She sat down and her breathes became heavier and deeper.

Harry reached for a glass of water and gave it to Ginny to drink. She placed her fingers around Harry’s and took the glass from him, allowing a momentary connection between their warm skins.

“I’m okay, Harry,” Ginny said slowly as she took steadier breathes. He placed his hand gently on hers and stroked it gently.

“You’ve had increasingly bad health ever since I returned, Ginny,” Harry noted.

“I’ve just been having…I’m okay now.”

“You haven’t been this sick since that time in my seventh year,” Harry smiled. “Remember? We spent the entire afternoon in the snow making out and we both got this nasty cold.”

Ginny laughed. “Yeah, I remember. Hermione kept stuffing soup down my throat; in fact, I think she tried to feed me some while I was sleeping.”

“What’re you talking about?”

“I don’t exactly remember but I was napping in the afternoon and I felt this odd warm feeling. Was it Hermione feeding me soup again?”

Harry blushed a little bit. “It was me,” he said quietly. “I hadn’t seen you all day and I missed you. So I came by your dormitory and you were asleep in the afternoon and I kissed you before I left.”

“I guess that’s why I felt so warm,” Ginny recalled that burst of heat that she had felt that afternoon and suddenly, everything she knew about Harry, her friend, returned to her. Those nights that they spent talking about the future, the long walks through the parks, making fun of Ron and Hermione, all came back to her memory.

Ginny smiled and intertwined her fingers with Harry’s. “Yes,” she whispered into his ears.

“Yes?”

Ginny’s whisper was so faint that Harry was almost not able to hear her. “Yes, I will marry you, Harry.”
***
Harry’s face lit up so suddenly that Ginny didn’t know what to say. His eyes widened to an extent that they looked magnified. He looked at Ginny ecstatically. “W…what did you just say?”

“I said that I will marry you,” Ginny whispered, trying her best to mask the pain that those few words brought her.

Harry took Ginny into his arms and hugged her tighter than he’d ever done before. That feeling of excitement that he always got around her returned and was going to stay forever; Ginny was going to be Mrs. Harry Potter…forever.

“I love you,” he whispered into her ear as he hugged her. “You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to say that… I love you.”

“…I know you do…” Ginny said quietly. “I know…”

Harry reached for the ring in his pocket when they broke apart and gently held Ginny’s hand in his own. He gingerly slipped the ring onto Ginny’s delicate fingers where it shimmered playfully.

“It’s beautiful,” Ginny said as she saw the ring on her hand.

“Well, you are going to be Mrs. Potter from now on,” Harry said smiling.
***
The Weasleys had now apparated near the front yard and were making their way towards the front door of the Burrow.

“Do you think Harry and Ginny made up?” Ron whispered to Hermione.

“I don’t know, but I hope they didn’t have a huge fight.”

“Ginny was always the stubborn one…do you think she told Harry about Malfoy?”

Hermione shook her head. “I doubt it.”

“I was thinking, Hermione,” Ron began. “Maybe we should check through the window or something before we enter. I mean…maybe Harry’s about to tell her and if we intrude it’ll be beyond awkward.”

“Ron, we can’t stop your entire family and make them peak through the window. Harry’s had over two and a half hours, I’m sure if he wanted to tell Ginny, he’d have done it already.”

Ron and Hermione stepped through the snow and shivered in the cold as they approached the front door. As he was walking, Ron’s shoelace got tangled in a fallen twig and he tripped hard, causing him to hit the floor.

“Bloody hell!” he yelled loudly.

“Ron, shut up!” Fred whispered.

“I broke my bloody toe!” Ron said bitterly.

“Harry and Ginny are hugging!” Athena whispered excitedly. Ron immediately forgot about his broken toe and got up and hobbled over to the window through which everyone was looking through. Indeed, Athena was right. From the window, Ron had a clear view of the Burrow’s living room and in the middle; Harry and Ginny were hugging tightly. Ron heard Hermione heave a sigh of relief and turned to his mother.

“Why are we spying on them?” Ron asked.

“Well, so we wouldn’t barge in on them!” Mrs. Weasley said. “And we obviously can’t go in now…it’d be too awkward.”

“So are we going to wait here in this ruddy weather?”

“Let’s just wait a few minutes, Ron,” Mrs. Weasley said. “We shouldn’t intrude on them.”

“Intrude on who?” came a voice from behind.

Everyone turned and saw Remus Lupin walking up towards the Weasleys.
***
Lupin was wearing a long faded brown coat with dark grey pants. His scarf was brown as well and had a few sheathed ends. His eyes were kind and warm but from his apparent shivering, it was easy to tell that his body was freezing cold.

“Remus?” Mr. Weasley said gaping. “What’re you doing here?”

“I’m spending Christmas at the Leaky Cauldron and I thought I’d just come by to see how you’re all doing.”

“It’s lovely to see you, Remus,” Mrs. Weasley said happily. “You should’ve told us that you were coming!”

“I told Harry that I might stop by but I didn’t want to trouble you too much, Molly. Anyways…why is everyone standing out here?”

Bill rolled his eyes. “Long story…mum, can we please go in?”

“Oh alright!” Mrs. Weasley said irritably. She veered her head towards the window and saw that Harry and Ginny were now sitting on the couch talking. She placed her hand on the knob and turned it slowly, allowing cold air into the warm, toasty room.
***
Harry heard the door knob click and turned towards the doorway. He and Ginny created a quick distance between themselves as the entire Weasley family piled in.

“Wow, you’re all home early,” Harry remarked, slightly disappointed.

“Early? We’ve have been gone for ze entire evening!” Fleur said tiredly.

“Err…right…” Ginny said slowly, discreetly fiddling with her finger under her sleeve. Hermione noticed that Ginny’s hand was concealed under sleeve and that she seemed a little uncomfortable.

“Why don’t we all put our coats away and I’ll make a pot of tea,” Mrs Weasley said. “Remus, you can put your coat on the couch.”

“Remus?” Harry said.

“Hello, Harry,” Lupin said as he came into view. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

“When did you get here?” Harry asked, gaping.

“I arrived a few minutes ago. I thought I’d drop by to see how you were doing and how your problem with-” Lupin eyed Ginny who sitting right beside Harry. “Anyways, I hope you all had a merry Christmas.”

“It was lovely,” Mrs. Weasley remarked. “But you should have joined us.”

“I would have loved to but my schedule is very busy. I’ve got to be leaving soon so I can only stay for a quick cup of tea.”

“That’s nonsense, Remus,” Mr. Weasley said. “You’re staying for the rest of the holidays with us. You can stay in Dra- um…the room across from Harry’s.”

Lupin noticed the uneasiness in Mr. Weasley’s voice. “Yes, please stay,” Harry urged.

“It’s very kind of you all,” Lupin began. “But I’d hate to impose-”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Remus,” Mrs. Weasley said with a tone of finality. “You’ll stay with us.”

Lupin looked dishevelled as usual and the numerous scars on his face hadn’t disappeared. His faded pants and messy hair hadn’t changed in so long but he had a deeper air of maturity as he eyed Harry and Ginny very carefully.

Everyone sat down comfortably and Ron handed Hermione a sheet of paper.

“What’s this?” Hermione asked scanning the sheet with his eyes.

“These are possible names for the baby,” Ron said. “I wrote them down this morning.”

Hermione read through the list and scoffed. “Fernanda?!” she said raising her eyebrow. “You want to name our daughter Fernanda? What is wrong with you?”

Fred and George burst out laughing. “It’s a perfectly valid name,” Ron said defensively, his ears turning red.

“Ron, sweetheart,” Mrs. Weasley began. “You know how I always support you in these things but….Fernanda? What kind of a name is that?”

Ron rolled his eyes. “Fine! Cross it off the list!”

“I take it that the arrival of the baby is being expected with anticipation,” Lupin said smiling.

“We can’t wait!” Mrs. Weasley squealed in excitement.

“When’s the baby due?”

“In a few weeks actually,” Athena said eagerly.

“My first grandchild,” Mrs. Weasley said dreamily. “Oh good heavens, Remus, you’re out of tea. Ginny dear, can you pass the tea pot?”

Ginny had been dreaming away silently as she sat beside Harry. “W…What?” She said, snapping back to reality.

“Pass the tea pot, dear,” Mrs. Weasley repeated.

“Oh, right,” Ginny said as she reached for the tea pot. Subconsciously, she took out both of her hands from under her sleeve and reached for the flower teapot across the table. However, a moment too late, she realized what she had done as the large ring on her finger shimmered under the bright light and drew in gasps from all the Weasleys and everyone around her.


Chapter 14: Pain and Love
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Ginny looked at herself in the mirror and tried to smile. A wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of someone’s life and yet…Ginny knew that something was not right. She looked beautiful, as everyone had popped in to tell her. Her wedding dress was pure white with pearls embellishing the design. Her delicate feet were hidden under her long train while her soft features were covered by a thin, net veil.

She turned her head right and left to try and examine herself at a different angle but it made no difference. She knew, in her heart, that the problem was not the bride…it was the groom. Harry was someone for whom she cared dearly but it was Draco to whom she wanted to walk down the aisle.

Suddenly the door creaked open and Mr. Weasley came in, wearing dark dress robes with a silver broche glimmering magnificently on his chest. He stopped for a second to admire his only daughter and then smiled warmly.

“You look lovely, dear,” he said kindly.

Ginny weakly smiled and fiddled around with her dress to avoid eye contact. Mr. Weasley walked over to his daughter and put his arm on her shoulder. “You’re doing the right thing,” he whispered.

Ginny nodded, as silent tears began to pour down her cheek and trickle to her neck. “You may not think so now,” Mr. Weasley continued. “But someday you’ll realize it and then you’ll be the happiest girl in the world.”

All of a sudden, without warning, Ginny turned around and hugged her father tightly. She sobbed uncontrollably on his shoulder while he gently stroked her hair. “I’m an awful person,” Ginny sobbed. “My entire life has been nothing more than…it’s been meaningless. I hurt the entire family and I hurt Harry.”

Mr. Weasley shook his head. “You’re not an awful person, honey. What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us is nothing compared to what lies within us. You cared enough about us and Harry to marry him. You’re a very brave and very kind girl.”

“Arthur!” Mrs. Weasley’s voice came from outside. “The priest is here!”

Mr. Weasley kissed his daughter on the forehead before leaving the room to greet the priest. Ginny turned back to the mirror and wiped her face with a towel. This was it. This was the day she would become Mrs. Harry Potter.
***
“Ron!” Hermione bellowed as she walked up from behind him.

“What is it?”

“Have you got the seating plan for the wedding?”

“No, I left it in Harry’s room an hour ago.”

“Go get it then, I need it as soon as possible.”

“Alright,” Ron mumbled. “And can you please tell Harry to get out of the bathroom…he’s been in there for an hour.”

“What?” Hermione said softly.

“Tell him to get out of the bathroom,” Ron repeated.

“There’s no one in the bathroom.”

Ron began to sweat a little. “Stop kidding around. He went in there about fifty minutes ago.”

“I was in there five minutes ago. Trust me, he’s not there.”

“Bloody Hell! The wedding is in five hours!” Ron cursed. “Where is he?”
***
Harry slowly paced around the corners of Ginny’s apartment. He took short, weak steps and took his time to glance around. He’d left the wedding without telling anyone. He had bought a gorgeous little house for himself and Ginny, very close to the Burrow. He’d wanted to surprise Ginny with it but he needed to move her things into the house as well. That’s why he’d come here.

He waved his wand quickly and all the clothes came rushing out of the closet and packed themselves neatly into boxes. Now he had to pack all the breakable things. He searched the house for Faellia, who wasn’t there. Harry guessed she was at the wedding as well.

He placed some glass ornaments and trinkets in a separate box. He searched around the apartment and when he was sure he had taken everything, he tried to remember where Ginny had hidden the spare key to her apartment. He wasn’t too sure but he knew it was either taped in the fireplace or hidden under a floorboard. He took his first guess with the fireplace. He placed his hands up the dusty chimney and felt the key. However, he also felt something else up there. Without warning, a huge stack of letters fell down from the chimney and covered the floor.
***
“Bill, have you seen Harry anywhere?” Ron asked.

Bill shook his head. “But I do remember him talking to Charlie about something about an hour and a half ago.”

Ron nodded and rushed to find Charlie. “Charlie!” he bellowed.

“For Christ’s sake, Ron,” Charlie said. “I’m right here, what is it?”

“What was Harry talking to you about at 9:30?”

Charlie furrowed his brow and tried to remember. “Oh, he wanted to know where he could find a key to Ginny’s apartment.”

“What?”

“Yeah, I told him that his best bet was to get it from Mum and Dad’s room.”

“Oh okay,” Ron said, sounding very relieved. “I’ll see you later.”

“Where’re you going?” Charlie asked.

“To Ginny’s apartment,” Ron bellowed from the fireplace into which he threw a handful of floo powder and disappeared into the green flames.
***
Ron bumped his head against Ginny’s fireplace as he fell into her living room.

“Bloody-” He rubbed his head gently and stood up; dusting whatever remained of the floo powder off of him. “Harry?” Ron called out as he walked around the living room.

He walked into Ginny’s room which was empty at first sight but upon closer examination, Ron discovered a figure hunched over on the bed. “Harry!” He said relieved. “What on earth are you doing here?”

But Harry didn’t respond. Ron repeated his question but got no answer. He noticed that there was pieces of parchment sprawled across the floor. “What’s all that?” he asked Harry.

Harry looked up. “They’re letters,” Harry began, “to your sister.”

“Bloody Hell, Harry. We’re all worried sick about you over there and you’re here reading letters?”

Harry didn’t say anything. Ron sighed and went over to Harry, kneeling down to pick up the letters. “Put these letters back quickly. We have to head home soon, you need to get ready.” Suddenly, he stopped short. One of the letters caught Ron’s eyes and he didn’t need to read the entire thing to understand what was going on. The first three words on the parchment explained everything: I love you. Ron dropped the letters and stood up.

“Harry…” he began. “It’s…”

“Why didn’t anybody tell me about this?” Harry said, each word protruding with anger.

“Harry, it’s nothing, I swear. It was just some stupid-”

“Nothing?” Harry bellowed. “How can this be nothing?! There’s 25 letters in here Ron! Each one says the same thing.”

“Just let me explain, Harry…”

“Alright, explain,” Harry said slowly, beads of sweat running across his forehead, his eyes red with anger.

“Malfoy and Ginny…when you left for Azkaban, they began to see each other,” Ron spoke quickly, as if speaking fast would get rid of the pain that it caused him. “None of us knew about it. When we did find out, dad forbade him from ever seeing Ginny again. It meant nothing.”

“She loves him, Ron!” Harry bellowed. “She loves him and he bloody loves her! Where did I come into this?”

“She agreed to marry you, Harry!” Ron said, trying to calm his friend down.

“Out of pity!” Harry yelled, his eyes forming tears. “My entire life…Ron, my entire life has been one trial after another. I don’t want to do this anymore. I trusted you. You hid something…this huge…from me and let me make a total fool out of myself.”

“You’re not a fool! She’s marrying you because she cares about you!”

“But she doesn’t love me! I don’t want a marriage based on compromise! How can I wake up each morning and know that she was dreaming about someone else? How can I kiss her knowing that she is picturing someone else? I love her.” Harry fell onto his knees.

“I…I know you do. Mate, trust me. It hurt me every second to keep this from you. Harry, you don’t know what happened to Ginny after Malfoy left. She wouldn’t eat anything; she wouldn’t sleep or even talk to anyone. She needs somebody to be with her, somebody to care for her and she’ll forget about Malfoy.”

Harry got up and stared at his best friend in the eyes. “Promise me that.”

Ron looked away. How could he promise such a lie to Harry? Suddenly, a loud thump came from outside and they both heard Hermione’s voice call out. “Ron? Harry?” She marched into the bedroom with an angry look upon her face. “I can’t believe you two! It’s such an impo-”

She stopped short too when she saw what was happening around her. Ron and Harry were both red in the face with sweat glistening against the lights. There were letters sprawled all over the floor. “What…what’s going on?” She said softly. She looked at Ron who nodded slowly. “Harry, she made a mistake,” Hermione began. But Harry didn’t listen to her.

He shoved past both of them and stormed out of the room, and into the fireplace which engulfed him in its green flames.

“How did he find out?” Hermione asked Ron.

“He saw these letters from Malfoy to Ginny,” Ron gestured at the letters on the floor.

“He wrote her letters?” Hermione asked, surprised.

Ron nodded. “Apparently so. And they’re pretty recent as well.”

“Wait…wait a minute…” Hermione said. “Ginny told me that she thought Malfoy didn’t love her. If he sent her all these letters telling her he loved her then…oh my!” Hermione gasped.

“What?” Ron asked.

“We’ve got to get back home!” She said quickly.

“Wait,” Ron said. “Why?”

“Ron, Ginny never got these letters! If she finds out that Draco sent her letters…that means somebody has been hiding them. And now Harry’s going to confront her…we’ve got to get back home!”
***

[b]a/n: please forgive the late update and I know there are grammatical and spelling errors but my beta is on hiatus and I really wanted to get this chapter up. If you could kindly point out any errors in your reviews, I will happily change them :)

Chapter 15: Interruptions and Disturbances
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Ginny sat idly in her room watching the clock tick as it neared that hour, the hour which would change her life forever.

“Ginny?”

Ginny turned and saw Athena at the door with two cups in her hand. Ginny nodded, indicating that Athena could enter and took one of the cups as Athena sat down beside her.

“Ginny, can I talk to you?” Athena asked.

“Sure,” Ginny said. “What do you want to talk about?”

“Well, I have this friend…you don’t know her,” Athena began. “This very sweet and very kind boy is head over heels in love with her and asked her to marry him.”

Ginny didn’t look at Athena but kept staring at the sky. “That sounds wonderful,” she said.

“It is, but there’s a slight problem. You see, my friend was in love with this other boy whom she hated before and her family wouldn’t allow her to see him. After he left, she agreed to marry the kind boy.”

“Well, that was nice of her.”

“But you see, I can tell that she’s still in love with the other boy. If she’s still in love with him, why would she agree to marry this boy?”

Ginny turned and glanced at her clever friend. She looked sad and defeated as she shrugged and spoke. “I don’t know why she agreed. Maybe the boy she loves never wrote to her after he left. Maybe she thought that the kind boy was her friend and didn’t want to hurt him the way she was hurt.”

“I don’t know about you but I think that’s a pretty bad reason to get married,” Athena said slowly, examining Ginny. “Love should be the only reason one should get married and she doesn’t love him.”

“Don’t worry, Athena,” Ginny said. “She’ll learn to love him.”

Athena looked sadly at Ginny. This wasn’t the spirited, loud, playful friend she’d always had. “Athena, I want you to make a promise to your friend. Promise her that no matter what you won’t tell her fiancé the truth about whom she really loves or who she really is.”

“That wouldn’t make me a very good friend, Ginny. To let her ruin her own life and of the boy who loves her.”

“She needs this, Athena,” Ginny said adamantly, her eyes were beginning to water.

Athena smiled softly. “Alright, I’ll promise her. But she needs to start acting happy about the wedding, lest her fiancé get suspicious.”

Ginny smiled sadly. “Happiness will return eventually, Athena. She knows how much her fiancé loves her and in time, she will learn to love him back.”

Athena got up and began to leave the room as Ginny called to her. “Athena, thank you…for everything.”

Athena gave Ginny a hug before leaving the room. She smiled at Ginny’s courage to do something this hard but she hoped that it would not backfire. She wished very much that Ginny and Harry would live happily and that Draco Malfoy would be out of their lives forever.
***

Molly and Arthur Weasley sat in the living room of their house, reminiscing about the thousands of memories they had formed while raising their seven children. Today, their last child was going to get married and their house would be lonely once again, apart from the occasional family gatherings. There were four hours until guests would start gathering and the family was taking a light rest after the exhausting few hours of preparation.

All of a sudden, the sweet silence was interrupted by the fireplace which erupted in green flames and spat out a tall figure.

“Harry!” Mrs. Weasley said brightly but drew back when she saw the expression on his face. He didn’t give the Weasleys a second glance, but instead stormed upstairs into Ginny’s room.

“What just happened?” Mr. Weasley asked puzzled. But before Mrs. Weasley could answer, the fireplace erupted again and Ron and Hermione fell out.

“Mum!” Ron gasped. “Where’s Harry?”

“He went upstairs, why? What’s wrong?” Mrs. Weasley replied. Ron didn’t answer her but instead took Hermione’s arm and ran upstairs.
***
Ginny twirled her engagement ring on her finger nervously. Four hours until the big day and she wasn’t sure what was happening. All of a sudden, her door opened and Harry walked in.

Ginny quickly wiped away her tears and stood up. “Harry! You’re not supposed to see me before the wedding!”

Harry shut the door behind him, and turned to Ginny and looked at her. “Why did you lie to me Ginny?” he said softly, his voice was not angry anymore, but instead contained more pain than Ginny could feel.

“What…what are you talking about?”

“Why did you agree to marry me?”

“I agreed because I lo-”

Harry burst. “Don’t you dare say that! No more lies!”

Ginny was afraid now. She knew that what she’d feared most had happened. “Harry, please let me explain.”

“I don’t need an explanation,” Harry said. “I don’t need you to tell me that it was nothing what happened between you and Draco. I don’t need you to tell me that it meant nothing. It bloody well meant enough for him to write to you three times a day!”

Ginny fell silent and felt the ground beneath her feet collapse. “W…what?”

Just then Ron and Hermione burst in. “Harry! You didn’t tell Ginny…? Did you?” But Hermione turned and saw the look of shock upon Ginny’s face and knew. Harry had told her. Without realising it, Harry had awakened every ounce of love in Ginny and things were about to get worse.

“Tell her what?” Harry asked.

Ron went over and hugged his sister while Hermione looked at the both of them sadly. “What letters?” Ginny said softly.

“There were about two dozen letters from Draco at your apartment. They were hidden under the chimney but Harry accidentally found them.”

Ginny breathed slowly. “From…D…Draco?”

Ron saw Harry and knew that with every second, his heart was being twisted and sucked out of every joy. “I didn’t get any letters,” Ginny said. “There must be some mistake.”

Hermione shook her head. “They were there. How could not have seen them?”

“I haven’t been at my apartment all season. The only person there was Fa-” Ginny stopped short. Her eyes were wide with shock and she steadied herself by placing a hand on her bed. “Faellia!” She commanded. “Come here!”

Mrs. Weasley burst into the room with a worried look on her face. “What in the world is going on here? There’s been yelling and shouting coming from this room for so long!”

“Mum, please,” Ron said, trying to get his mother to understand.

Just then, Faellia popped into the room with a dark expression on her face. “Yes…mistress?” she said timidly.

“Faellia, is there something…” Hermione began but was cut off by Ginny.

“Why didn’t I get these?” Ginny said tightly, holding up the letters in her hand.

Faellia looked away. “Faellia! Look at me! Why…why didn’t I get these letters?”

“Mistress, you has to understand. Faellia did not want to do this.”

“What do you mean?”

“She…she wanted to give you these letters for so long.”

“Did somebody put you up to this?” Ginny asked.

Faellia looked away. “Faellia cannot say anything.”

“Faellia! I am your mistress! I order you to tell me!”

Faellia still didn’t respond. “Who told you to hide those letters from me?”

“I did,” came a voice from the back,

Everyone turned around to see Charlie standing in the back, his eyes full of fear and regret.

“Charlie, why…? Why would you do something like that?” Ron asked.

“I…I don’t know exactly how it happened. I didn’t mean for these letters to get hidden from you.”

“What’re you talking about?”

“The night Draco left; an owl came to the house but crashed into my room. I read the letter and it was for Ginny. It said that Draco…wanted to see her and that he still loved her. I knew how angry mum and dad were so I hid it as far away from here as I could; I knew Ginny wouldn’t be back at her house for a while.”

“This…this is madness!”

“Then one by one, all these other letters kept coming. So, I kept hiding them again and again. Then finally, the letters began to arrive only at Ginny’s place. So I ordered Faellia to hide them from you.”

“Why would Faellia obey you?” Hermione asked. “She’s Ginny’s house elf.”

“I gave her to Ginny. I am her master first and foremost, then Ginny. Ginny,” Charlie said with regret overwhelming his voice. “I…I am…so sorry.”

“You had no right to do that,” Ginny said, red in the face. “You had no right to hide those letters from me!”

Ginny’s voice began to rise. “I can’t believe you Charlie! I trusted you so much and…and you do this?!”

“Ginny, control yourself!” Ron urged.

“I won’t shut up! This…this entire family is against me!” She yelled, her eyes turning red with tears.

“Ginny!” Harry said tightly. “He did what he thought was best.”

“Just say out of this Harry. This has nothing to do with you!”

Harry burst out. “Nothing to do with me? It has every bloody thing to do with me! We are supposed to get married in four hours and I find out you…you just pitied me this whole time!”

“You think I chose for this to happen? Do you think I wanted to lead you on while the man I love went further and further away from me?!”

“Ron…” Hermione’s whisper came from the back into Ron’s ears. However, with all the yelling, no one except Ron was able to hear her. “Listen…” she said.

“Hermione, please,” Ron said. “We need to sort this out. We’ll talk later.”

“Ron, please...” she urged but Ron didn’t listen.

Ginny’s voice was cracking now. “My life had been perfect a few weeks ago! Just a few weeks ago I was…I was so happy. This marriage,” she began,” our marriage is just a compromise! There is no love, no compassion and no foundation in this relationship! It’s just pity.”

Harry fell silent. Ginny’s words pierced his heart slowly and painfully as they echoed throughout his mind. He looked away as Ginny realized the extent of what she had said. She placed a hand over her mouth in shock as she realized that what she had said was not only cruel but wretched. She opened her mouth to say something but was distracted by a yell from Ron.

“Hermione!” he shouted as he got to the floor just in time to catch his wife fainting. Hermione collapsed in Ron’s hands. Ginny stood in shock as she watched Harry run over to his best friend. Hermione was drenched in sweat, her breath was short and her skin was pale.

“What’s happening to her?” Ron asked.

“Take her to St. Mungo’s!”

“She can’t apparate in this condition,” Ron gasped.

“Get to St. Mungo’s yourself Ron,” Harry said his eyes full of fear. “Go and talk to the healers there and I’ll get a car from the Ministry of Magic to get Hermione to St. Mungo’s. They’re much faster.”

Ginny stood in silent fear as she watched Harry dart out the door to contact the Ministry and then turned to see her best friend, white in the skin and lying on the floor.

A/N: Once again, my beta is on hiatus so I'd love it if you could point out any mistakes so I can correct them! ^_^ Hope you enjoy this chapter! Please leave a review!


Chapter 16: Pain and Hospitals
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The hallway at St. Mungo’s was the same as every other day. Thin streams of sunlight flooded through the long, seemingly endless white hallways. There were doors of all sizes leading out of the hallway and into other rooms and departments and signs at every corner to guide people around the hospital. As usual, the hallway on fourth floor contained an array of people at every corner who were either seated or waiting in line. In the middle of the hallway, there was a large desk buried under papers and files.

Ron was sitting quietly at one end of the hallway with his face buried in his hands. It had been over 3 hours and no one had said anything to him. Harry was sitting across from his, his eyes face pale and sweaty. Hermione had been placed in the care of the Healers but no one had come out of the Emergency Ward to explain anything.

“It’ll be alright, mate,” Harry said softly.

Ron didn’t reply. It had been like this the entire time. Ginny had been sitting away on the side where she didn’t have to look straight at Harry but still comfort Ron.

“She’s very tough,” Harry continued. “She’s fought dementors, Voldemort, death eaters – a little accident like this won’t affect her.”

“I shouldn’t have waited,” Ron said softly. “She’d been telling me that she didn’t feel well but I kept saying it was because she was going to have a baby.”

“It’s not your fault,” Harry said.

“No matter what happens,” Ginny said. “We’re all here with you and for you.”

Ron nodded as tears streamed down his face. “What if she doesn’t make it?”

“Listen to me, Ron,” Harry said and waited until Ron met his eyes. “You, me and Hermione…we’re not like others…we never have been. But wherever we’ve been, whatever we’ve been through…we have never given up – and we won’t now.”

Harry tried to smile and continued. “Life’s too short, Ron. Life’s too short to spend it worrying about the future. You and I both know that Hermione’s going to be alright – and you know why? Because she has people who care for her more than anything else. And that’s what’s important – caring for someone. As long as you know there’s someone with you, you can survive anything. Harry looked out the corner of his eye at Ginny who was crying silently.

He turned away and gazed at the white wall opposite him. None of the other family members had arrived yet and all three hoped that they wouldn’t arrive anytime soon. Ron just wanted to be alone now and the last thing he needed was to be hounded to the bone by his parents and brothers. Harry and Ginny were in no mood to speak to each other or to anyone else – the wedding was off, that was for sure.

Harry, though terrified for Hermione’s life, could not help but think that this incident would allow the wedding to be cancelled without drawing attention to the real reason behind the cancellation. The press were having a field day as it is and that last thing Harry needed was the world to find out that the only woman that he had ever loved, didn’t even love him. But that must be put on hold. Hermione was sick and no one knew why or how sick she was.

He turned to Ron who seemed to be in a world of his own. His eyes were red from tears and anger and clashed against his fiery red hair. His cheeks were flushed but still so pale that Harry was afraid, Ron might faint. Before the silence in the hall could get any more deafening, a young with bright white robes emerged out of the Emergency Ward and looked around.

“Ron Weasley?” She called out.

Ron immediately jetted out of his seat with Harry and Ginny following closely behind. “That…that’s me…” he stuttered.

The witch looked at him and then back down at her form. “Hermione Granger is your…”

“Wife,” Ron completed the sentence.

“Very well,” she said professionally and held out some forms. “You’ll need to fill these in and sign them. There’s ink at the front desk…and don’t forget to make copies for the record department downstairs. Thank you.”

The witch thrust the forms into his hand and turned away. “Wait!” Ron called out. “W…what about my wife?” he asked worriedly.

“I’m sorry?” The witch said, slightly confused.

“My wife. She’s been in there for almost four hours now and no one has told me what happened to her. Is she okay?”

The witch looked away. “Mr. Weasley, we can’t let you know anything about your wife right now. The healers are doing all they can and it’s still too early to tell what condition she is in.”

The witch quickly made eye contact and then looked away again. “We’ll let you know as soon as we can.” She turned away again but this time Ron begged.

“I need to know something…anything,” he pleaded. “Please…”

She turned to look at him and then to Harry and Ginny. “It’s not good news, sir,” she said sombrely.

Ron turned away in agony and banged his fist against the wall. Ginny went over to calm him down while Harry approached the nurse. “How serious is her condition?” He whispered to her.

“Very critical…the next few hours are life threatening,” she said softly. “We can’t say for sure but there’s an internal injury.”

“Can’t you fix that? Muggle doctors can stop internal bleeding and repair these injuries…you have magic.”

The witch looked a little offended but leaned in to whisper to Harry. “The injury is small,” she said quietly. “It’s small but deadly. The bleeding has gotten to a level that it’s becoming hard to control…even with magic. Before the healers can locate the damage they need to stop the blood loss.”

“What are her chances?” Harry whispered. His voice was so low that the nurse could barely hear him.

She shook her head. “We can’t say at this point.”

“What about the baby?”

The witch shook her head again. “It’s too early…the injury is still in its preliminary stages. Like I said before, the next few hours are very critical.”

“Can they both survive?” Harry asked, indicating in his tone that it would be his last question.

She rubbed her forehead and looked at Harry sadly. “At this point,” she began. “It’s either the baby or the mother.”

Harry closed his eyes and pressed his fingers against his forehead. The nurse placed her arm on his shoulder and whispered to him, very gently. “You have to keep it together – if you lose it, then there’s no one to help him through this.” She indicated towards Ron who was red and flushed with shock. His tears had dried up but his hands had become so pale that it seemed that he would need to be hospitalized soon too.

Harry looked at Ron and nodded to the nurse. “Thank you for your help,” he said.

The nurse gave him a sympathetic smile and turned around to go back into the Emergency Ward.

Harry gathered up his strength and turned to face Ron. Whatever happened, he wasn’t planning on telling Ron what the nurse had just told him. He bent down to pick up the forms that Ron had dropped on the floor and looked at Ginny for a quick second.

“I’ll go fill these out,” he said shortly and then turned to go towards the front desk.

Ginny looked back to Ron and placed her hand on his. She compared the two and noticed how much redder hers were compared to his. The skin on his frail hands was practically transparent and yellow. The sweat forming a thick layer of gloss was clearly emphasizing his veins, making him seem weak and feeble.

She sensed however, that he wanted to be alone. She didn’t know why she sensed it but she and Ron had always had this connection since they were young. She could always tell when something was bothering him or when he wanted something…right now, she felt that he wanted to be alone – alone with his memories and thoughts.

She got up off the cold bench and bent down to kiss Ron’s cheek. “I’m going to go let Mum and Dad know we’re here.”

Ron didn’t respond but Ginny saw him blink and knew that he heard her. She walked down the hall and turned slightly to make sure that Ron was okay. She continued walking and reached a corner where a huge sign stood. FLOO NETWORK: ROOM 145. She turned the corner and arrived at Room 145. The line for a fireplace was pretty long and so Ginny sighed and then stood in the queue, waiting for her turn.

“Excuse me,” a lady from behind her said.

Ginny turned to look at the lady. “Yes?”

The woman was in her late 60s. Her hair was auburn but the grey areas were easily noticeable. She had a dark green jumper over some black pants, over which she wore a grey robe. Her spectacles were square and place slightly off her nose, giving her a very teacher look.

“Forgive me if I’m wrong, but aren’t you Ginny Weasley?”

Ginny cursed internally and tried to hide her irritation. People in here having relatives dying or critically ill and all this woman can think about is if I’m Harry Potter’s girlfriend.

“No,” Ginny said after a while. “I’m sorry but you’ve got the wrong person.”

“Oh,” the lady said shortly. “I…I could’ve sworn you were her. You see, I…I was reading Witch Weekly back in my sister’s room and there is a whole article on Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley – you know they’re getting married today?”

“Um…yes,” Ginny said quietly. “I think I heard about it.”

“Heard about it?” The woman said loudly. “Dear, this is the wedding of the Century- you need to keep up with this news.”

Ginny was beginning to get annoyed now. She gave the woman a cold stare but she didn’t seem to notice it and continued on. “The wedding of the Century,” she scoffed. “In the backyard of some dumpy house in the middle of nowhere.”

“Excuse me?” Ginny said, rather loudly.

“Well, dear, it’s just that this is Harry Potter we’re talking about. I mean, he’s the Boy who Lived and what should be the social event of the year is taking place in a terrible house without a single reporter.”

“Do you have a problem with the Weasleys?” Ginny said, trying to hide her indignation and sarcasm.

“They’re such a rowdy bunch. And they’ve driven Harry into such a private life – the public deserves to see this wedding in all its glory and here we are, desperate to get a glimpse of the groom before his big day.”

Ginny tried her best to withstand the urge to elbow this woman right in the face. The woman on the other hand, didn’t seem to notice and continued, “I personally hope that this marriage doesn’t last too long- he’s far too recognized to settle down with some red headed farm girl.”

That was the last straw. Ginny clenched her fist into her hand, trying to control her rage. Her face was red beyond compare and she was about to open her mouth very loudly to retort when she heard a loud thumb at the end of the hallway. She turned to look and saw Harry staring at her sternly. He was close by and Ginny knew he’d overheard the conversation. He ushered her to get away from there and Ginny knew that would be best. She glared at the woman one last time and stormed away.

“You shouldn’t be making a scene here,” Harry said shortly.

Ginny couldn’t believe her ears. “Why? Because you’re afraid that some reporter will print it in Witch Weekly and spoil your precious little reputation.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Harry retorted.

“As brutish as that woman was, she was right about one thing – there’s no future with the Boy who lived and a rowdy, red-headed farm girl.”

“You’re not making any sense,” Harry said. “That woman’s just ticked you off and now you’re spurring your anger on me.”

“You know what, Harry? I’ll leave your highness to his peace so he can cook up some perfectly plastic little cover story for Witch Weekly to explain what happened between us.”

“You think that’s what I’m worried about? One of my best friends is fighting between life and death a few rooms away and you think I care about Witch Weekly and all that junk.”

Ginny glared at Harry, as he continued. “In all that you’ve said, I can find one true thing. This relationship was never meant to be and probably never should have been.”

Ginny looked away with anger and turned to face the other side of the hallway. “I’m going to go pick up some medicine for Ron.”

Harry didn’t respond but instead turned the other way. He walked to a certain distance and then veered his head very slightly to watch Ginny out of the corner of his eye. It was over. The love he had waited so long for was walking away from him and would never return.



A/N: I'm SO sorry for the late update...I promise the next one will be sooner!

Chapter 17: Suffering and News
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It had been over 6 hours now. Ron was silent sitting alone in one corner of the waiting room. Ginny stood by herself near the window, staring out into blank space while Harry rested himself on a cold bench with his face buried in his hands. The three had not spoken a word since Charlie had come by to check on everybody. That had been 1 hour ago. The night was cold and the atmosphere was even colder. Charlie had stopped by to see how everyone was doing; though Ron hadn’t spoken to him, he knew that Ron was grateful that he’d held the rest of the family back at the Burrow – more people was the last thing that Ron needed right now.

Another nurse came out the Emergency Ward, but she was different than the first one. She was taller and thinner with dark hair and brown eyes. “Mr. Weasley?”

Ron shot up from his chair. “That…that’s me.”

The witch was a little taken aback by Ron’s shaken up appearance. His eyes were bloodshot and drooped low, with dark circles surround them. His pale face and pale hands clashed against his messy red hair.

“How is Hermione?” Ron asked, dreading the answer.

The witch looked down at her sheets and then marked some information down and then looked back up. “She’s going to be fine,” she smiled.

A huge sigh of relief following an expression of happiness came out of Ron. He couldn’t resist himself and hugged the nurse as tight as he could.

“Harry! She’s going to be fine! Ginny!”

Both Harry and Ginny got up and went over to share in the happiness. Ginny had a few tears of joy trickling down her cheeks and ran into her brother’s arms. Harry gave his best friend a pat on the back.

The witch smiled too. “We’re all very happy to hear that too – your wife has certainly been a hard case.”

“So…I guess you finally stopped the bleeding and fixed the internal injury,” Harry said.

“It actually wasn’t that hard after we got control of the bleeding,” the witch remarked.

“Well, that must’ve been hard. It took over 8 hours to get everything back to its normal state,” Harry said.

“8 hours? Heavens no. We had the internal injury sorted after 5 hours. But the baby’s delivery took the rest of the time. That baby was one strong little girl…she made it through well and healthy. She’s in recovery too so you can see her in a few minutes.”

Ron looked dumbfounded. “I…I beg your…what?”

“Your daughter…” the witch said, puzzled.

“I have a daughter?” Ron asked, his voice unusually high pitched and his eyes wide open.

“Yes, sir, your wife gave birth a while ago. Didn’t the nurse tell you?”

“No.” Ron said, aghast. “You mean…I’m a father?”

“Yes, you are sir,” the witch smiled. She scribbled something on her paper and gave it to Ron. “This is the room number for your wife and the number below that is your daughter’s ID number in the nursery.”

Ron still couldn’t believe anything he had heard. Harry gave his best friend a hug while Ginny kissed him on the cheek and ruffled his hair. “You’re a father, you dolt,” Harry said. “Don’t stand out here with us; go see your wife and baby!”

Ron nodded. “Come…come with me. Hermione’s on the second floor, let’s go.”

“Are you family?” the witch asked Ginny and Harry. “Right now, only family can view the patient.”

“She’s my sister, Ginny Weasley” Ron said, referring to Ginny. “She’s Hermione’s sister-in-law.”

“Oh alright then, but what about you, sir?” she asked Harry.

Harry hesitated for a moment. He looked at Ginny and then back at Ron. “No,” he said quietly. “I’m not family.”

“That’s bullocks,” Ron said. “Harry, come with us.”

“No, that’s alright. I’ll just stay out here and fill out the paperwork and everything. You should go see Hermione.”

Ron opened his mouth to say anything but Harry gave him a look with his eyes. His look clearly said that he didn’t want to argue and that he would stay outside. Ron looked at Ginny, who looked rather guilty and then turned to walk upstairs with her.

“We’ll see you soon,” he said to Harry. “And you’re the one who’s going to explain to Hermione why you weren’t there to see her.”

Harry smiled a little and nodded.
***
“Which way is Room 213?” Ron said, looking puzzled at the hospital map.

“It’s on the right, I think,” Ginny remarked.

The two turned right and the third door to the left, clearly read Room 213. The door was closed though Ron could hear voices from inside. He smiled to himself and then slowly knocked on the door.

“Come in,” a soft voice said. Ron felt a huge pain lifted off his chest when he heard Hermione’s gentle voice call him through the door. He took a deep breath and opened the door to the hospital room.

“I’ll wait out here for you,” Ginny said.

“What? No…come in with me,” Ron remarked.

“I’ll come in after a while – first I’ll let mum and dad know that everything’s alright. Just go in and see your wife, you idiot,” Ginny smiled.

Ron nodded and then turned the door knob slowly, entering the hospital room.

The room itself was well lit and the atmosphere was warm. There was only one bed in the room, a white one with a clipboard hanging off the front. Hermione was sitting on the bed with her arms in her lap and her head rested against the bed post. She was covered in a blanket and attached to a medicinal drip. She looked weak…and yet still her old self – that same flair and attitude.

“Ron!” she gasped happily.

Ron smiled at his wife and practically ran over to hug her. He kissed her gently and then hugged her once again – letting her go seemed impossible at the moment.

“How are you feeling?” he asked her.

“…much better,” Hermione smiled. “Did I scare you?”

Ron smiled. “Course not. I knew you were going to be fine – you are after all my wife.”

“Is that why your eyes are red and your skin is pale?” Hermione remarked smartly.

Ron rolled his eyes. “Can you stop being so bloody smart all the time?”

Hermione kissed him on the cheek and ruffled his hair. “I think there’s someone who wants to meet you,” she said slowly.

Hermione moved a little to the side and Ron noticed a crib right beside her. His heart began to pound wildly in his ears – this was his child…his daughter.

He looked on in pride and unbelievable happiness as Hermione reached into the crib and gently removed a bundle of clothing. She held it in her arms very carefully and Ron looked on. Inside, was the smallest and most gorgeous thing he had ever seen – his daughter. She was smaller than he would have thought but her dark eyes reflected the same passion and strength that Hermione’s did. Her cheeks and nose were both like Ron’s – pink and puffy. And, at the top of her head, there were a few strands of what was definitely gorgeous red hair, poking out. The red wasn’t as definite as Ron’s was but it was definitely the Weasley trademark mixed with a little bit of Hermione.

Ron bent down to give his daughter a kiss. Hermione held her out to Ron, who looked a little sceptical at first but gladly took his baby into his arms. He gently placed one arm under her head and the other under her back to make sure nothing would happen to her.

“We have yet to decide a name,” Ron said, smiling mischievously at Hermione.

“I believe you mean that I have yet to decide a name.”

“Come on, my names weren’t that bad.”

“Ahem? Let’s recap shall we? Cissy, Pamela, Amy, Sarah, Jenny…all awful names.”

“I have one more to give you and I promise that it doesn’t stink.”

Hermione smiled. “Really?”

“Aria,” Ron said gently.

“Aria…” Hermione repeated.

“An expressive melody,” Ron said, stating the meaning of the name.

Hermione looked down at her daughter and smiled. “I like that name.”

“So do I,” Ron said softly.
***
Harry sat in the waiting room quietly filling out numerous hospital forms. He contented himself in knowing that his best friends were going to be okay. He was revelling in his own thoughts when, all of a sudden, he heard whispers across the room.

“Is that him?”

“I think so. Go…go and talk to him.”

“Get a picture first, you idiot.”

Harry heaved an angry sigh and stood up to leave. “Excuse me, Mr. Potter!” one of the voices called out.

Harry turned to see a short, stocky man with black hair and green sunglasses. Beside her, stood the woman who had been annoying Ginny a few hours ago.

“See I told you!” the woman exclaimed. “Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley are here!”

“I heard ya the first time,” the man said, sounding excited.

“Mr. Potter! I’m Gilbert Borstort from Witch Weekly. Why was the wedding cancelled? Are you and Ms. Weasley broken up?”

“I have no comment,” Harry said sharply and continued walking.

“Please, sir! Is there someone else? Are you two going to be giving interviews?”

Harry continued to ignore him but a few more reporters apparated onto the scene. He heard one of them narrating to their scribe.

“As the day comes to an end, the wedding of the century, the Potter/Weasley wedding does not. The star couple did not go through with the ceremony and have been missing all day, only to be found right now at St. Mungo’s Hospital.”

“Mr. Potter!” Another reporter called out. “Is it true that you and Ms. Weasley are no longer marrying?”

Harry tried to block out the noises and headed out of the waiting room. “Sir!” The voices called out. “Why are you at St. Mungo’s tonight? Was there a fight?”

“Is the wedding really off?”

“Did you elope?”

“Is Ms. Weasley having a baby?”

“Is it true that Ms. Weasley was seen with another man at the Witch’s Brew a few months ago?”

Harry stopped short. He spun around, his head pounding and eyes glaring. “What rubbish is all of this?” He snapped. He knew very well that Ginny probably had been at the Witch’s Brew with Draco but he wasn’t going to let the press get a hold of that information.

“Is Ms. Weasley having an affair?”

Harry reached into his pocket. “Listen to me. All of you.” His head was pounding harder now. “I am sick of this…this invasion of my life.”

The quills were scribbling fast and Harry just couldn’t take it any more. He grabbed his wand out of his pocket and aimed it straight at the reporters.

“Expelliarmus!”

Harry fell backwards as the disarming charm hit him on the shoulder. There were gasps from all around. Harry felt a huge pain in his right arm and then looked up to see who had shot the spell. It was Lupin.
***

PLEASE REVIEW. I need the encouragement




Chapter 18: Travels and Decisions
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Harry was sitting quietly by himself in a small hospital ward. Lupin’s spell had caused him to fall flat on his arm, resulting in a broken elbow joint. Charlie and Bill, who had arrived with Lupin, had gotten rid of all the press while Harry was escorted up to the ward for some quick treatment. There had still been no word from Ginny, Ron or Hermione but Harry had insisted to Charlie that he didn’t want to worry them.

“Harry?”

Harry looked up and saw Lupin at the door. Against the darkness outside and the dim lighting inside, Lupin looked like a dishevelled mess (the full moon was nearing). Harry nodded, indicating that he could enter.

“I apologize for that spell, I had no idea it would hit you that hard.”

“That’s…that’s alright,” Harry said quietly. “You did the right thing. If you hadn’t stopped me, I probably would have shot down every single reporter in that bloody room.”

“Well, emotions often do get the best of us,” Remus remarked, staring out into the sky. “It is perhaps man’s worst weakness – the inability to control oneself and believe me, no one knows the torture of the loss of control better than me.”

Harry smiled very slightly. “How’s Hermione?”

“She’s doing much better,” Lupin said kindly. “Molly and Arthur are smothering her as we speak. But I’m worried about you, Harry.”

“I already told you, Remus, my arm’s going to fine. Don’t worry about it.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

Harry’s eyes immediately lost eye contact and trailed off to stare at the walls. “I don’t want to talk about it,” Harry said slowly.

“Well you’re going to have to,” Lupin said with a tone of finality. “I assume the wedding is now off?”

Harry paused and then slowly nodded. “Hermione’s incident gives us a good excuse without making a huge field day for the press.”

“What do you plan to do now?”

Harry looked up. He was expecting more direct questions relating to the wedding…not this. “Uh…I’m not sure yet. I guess I’ll just…start over.”

“Harry, this isn’t the loss of a job where you can start over and start climbing from the bottom all the way to the top. This is love…a love that you’ve desired for many years. You’re just going to let it walk away?”

“I can’t help it!” Harry exploded. “She doesn’t love me…she doesn’t even think of me in any other way than a friend. What do you want me to do? Force her down the aisle knowing that she’ll be seeing Malfoy’s face instead of mine?!”

“I know you’re mad at Ginny,” Lupin said calmly. “But I need you to understand something.”

Harry still didn’t make eye contact and reluctantly heard what Remus had to say. “Harry, it's true that Ginny has fallen in love with someone I know you, Ron, and Hermione dislike with good cause and who hasn't aided her and her family, not to mention society as a whole, remotely close to what you've done, but I'm sure that she really appreciates your heroics and courage even if she broke your heart.”

Harry didn’t say a word as Remus continued. “Her choosing another man over you does not undermine you or your character. In her eyes, I know that she still sees you as a hero and as someone she truly respects and cherishes in her life.”

“I gave her all I had,” Harry said softly. “I gave her everything that I could and it still wasn’t enough.”

“She didn’t find something more in Malfoy, Harry. She found something different and that’s something that you cannot help or change. Don’t try to hold Ginny back, but rather help her find that happiness which you had with her.”

“He…he’s in Italy, you know,” Harry said cautiously. “I had them check it out at the Ministry. He moved to Italy to care for his mother.”

“I heard. Harry, if you really believe that you’ve lost Ginny as a love then try to earn her back as a friend. Let her know that you support her going to Italy…to Malfoy.”

Harry paused for a long while. “I can do better than that,” he whispered. “I’ll take her.”

Lupin looked up immediately. “Take her? To Italy?”

“She needs to know that I’m not angry with her…you’re right.”

“That doesn’t mean that you should take her there-”

“I want to…for myself and for Ginny. Taking her there will let me be sure that she gets there safely and let her know that I’m not just letting her go but giving her up…to another man.”

“Are you sure about this?”

Harry gently nodded. “It’s the only thing I can do to fix the damage I’ve done.”

Remus smiled and put his hand on Harry’s shoulder. “If your parents were here to see this…I know they’d be proud.”

Harry grinned. “What about Sirius?”

“Well…Sirius is a different matter. He’d probably jump in anger that you didn’t punch Malfoy’s guts out and abandon him in a forest or something.”
***
“Mr. Malfoy!”

Draco poked his head out of his office and caught a handful of papers tossed into the air. “Those need to be processed as soon as possible, sir!”

Draco nodded in contempt and dragged those sheets back to his desk. He usually just laid out the papers on his desk and then revelled in the sweet memories of that lovely red head.

Still no word from Ginny.

It had been so long that Draco was now convinced that Ginny was with someone else. She had neither replied nor given him any indication that she even knew he existed anymore.

He couldn’t take the silence anymore. He dumped his papers into a drawer and walked out of his office. As he exited, he noticed a bunch of witches scrambling together and whispering something excitedly.

“Oh, hello Mr. Malfoy,” one of the witches said, blushing like a rose. The witch had short, curly blonde hair and seemed about the same age as Draco.

“Good morning, Sarah,” Draco said unenthusiastically. He continued on walking as the witches went back to whispering. He vaguely heard the words “marriage”, “baby” and “cancel” but he didn’t care.

Perhaps if he’d stayed a little longer he would have discovered the headline of the magazine that the witches were reading. Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley call off wedding due to the birth of their best friend’s baby.

***
“Ginny,” Harry said as silently as possible. It was the middle of the night and Ginny was in her room at the Burrow, sitting by herself.

“Harry?” Ginny responded, puzzled.

“I need to speak with you.”

Ginny felt a little awkward but nodded nonetheless. “Over the past few hours I’ve been…very harsh. I blamed you for everything that happened and I blamed myself for it too but I know that it’s no one’s fault.”

“Harry, it’s okay…” Ginny whispered.

“No, it’s not, Ginny. I need you to know that I’ll be there for you every step of the way, as your friend. I don’t want to end our friendship because it’s what keeps me going everyday – the thought of seeing you and talking to you about the stupidest or most random things…I don’t want to lose that.”

Ginny gently smiled while her eyes got slightly watery.

“I want you to go to Italy,” Harry said softly.

Ginny looked up immediately. “What?”

“Ron and Hermione told me how much you suffered after he left and it’s more than clear that you love him. Go to Italy and go to him…” Harry’s voice was filled with pain and anguish and yet he tried his best not to let Ginny hear any of it.

“Harry…I…I can’t go to Italy like this,” Ginny mumbled in confusion. “Do you know what the press will say if I go off by myself? You’ll be hounded to death by them.”

“Don’t worry about the press,” Harry said shortly. “I’ll take you to Italy, and they’ll just think we’re on vacation or something…” Harry paused for a second. “Unless you don’t want me to take you…”

Ginny looked up at Harry and saw his sincerity and love. She smiled very slightly and placed her hand on his, “Thank you,” she whispered.

Harry tried to smile back. “We’ll leave tomorrow morning. I can arrange a private fireplace so we’ll stay out of the public’s eye as much as possible. You may want to…to let him-” Harry stopped speaking and took a moment to gather himself. Saying Draco’s name was very hard for him, it was as if his tongue would get tied down every time he tried to say it.

“You may want to let him know that we’re…I mean you’re…coming,” Harry looked at Ginny who nodded quickly.

Harry nodded too and then tried to give Ginny one last smile before leaving the room. “Goodnight, Ginny,” he said slowly and then walked out the room. By the time Ginny turned to wish him the same, he was already gone.
***
The next morning was very tense for the whole family. Hermione was cuddling the baby in her arms with Ron by her side, as she watched Harry finish packing the last of his things.

“If you need me, just send Hedwig to find me…I’ll leave her here with you. Just don’t forget to feed her and let her out of her cage in the afternoons.”

Ron and Hermione both nodded as Harry continued. “The press is going to be hounding you guys as to where we’ve gone…just don’t tell them. Remus can handle them the best so you guys just sit tight.”

Harry looked up at his concerned friends. “What’s the matter?”

Hermione looked at Ron and gave him an encourage nod. “Are you sure about this, mate?” Ron asked worriedly.

Harry sighed. “There’s no other way,” he said softly. “She wants him and he wants her…I just need to get them together.”

“But do you really need to take her?”

“She’s my responsibility and I don’t want to abandon her. I need to make sure that she gets to him safely…it’s the only way.”

Hermione went closer to Harry and kissed him the cheek. “You’re very brave and sweet, Harry,” she said warmly. “But do you know much pain you’ll be in when you’ll be standing there…watching her go off to Malfoy?”

Harry nodded. “I also know the pain of not being able to be with the one you love. It wouldn’t be fair for Ginny to feel that as well. I know this is the right thing to do.”

Hermione smiled and slowly, Ron did so too. “Good luck,” he said and shook his friend’s hand.

“Have a safe trip,” Hermione said.

Harry nodded and looked at his watch. “We should leave now.”
***
Harry and Ginny were standing at the Central Floo Network in the Ministry of Magic. There were over a hundred different fireplaces lined up against the wall but there weren’t as many people.

“It’s the Ministry’s private network,” Harry explained. “There won’t be anyone here who doesn’t have official clearance from the Ministry.”

Ginny nodded solemnly. “Do…do you know where he’s going to meet us?” Harry asked awkwardly.

Ginny shook her head. “I…I sent him an owl but…but he hasn’t replied yet.”

Harry nodded sadly. “Let’s just…let’s just get there.”

With that, he took Ginny’s bag from her hands and placed it in a large cart standing next to him. “This goes to the Potter fireplace,” he explained to the tiny elf standing by the cart.

The elf squeaked and nodded while Harry turned back to Ginny. “You may feel a little rush in your head but don’t open your eyes.” He gestured towards the huge fireplace that stood a few feet away.

“You go first,” Harry said softly. Ginny looked a little afraid at the size of the fireplace but Harry grabbed her hand gently. “It’s not as bad as it looks.”

Ginny felt Harry’s soft touch against her fingers and almost repelled in guilt. “I’ll be right behind you,” Harry assured her. “Just don’t worry.”

Ginny tried to smile and got into the fireplace. Harry turned his head and nodded to the man operating the chimneys. “The Ministry of Magic!” The man called out. “Italy!”

With that, a huge emerald flame erupted and engulfed Ginny’s entire body. The last thing Harry saw of her was a frightened face and then she was gone.
***

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Chapter 19: Accidents and Misgivings
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“Mr. Malfoy!” The same witch with the curly blonde hair knocked on his office door and peeked inside.

“What is it?” Malfoy asked without lifting his eyes of his desk.

“Sir, there are a few messages for you-”

“We’ve already been through this! No messages. No visitors.”

“Sir, we’ve been getting quite a few owls-”

Malfoy slammed his hand on his desk. “Sarah,” he looked up with tired eyes full of anger. “Do you want to keep this job?”

The witch was slightly frightened. “Yes…yes, sir.”

“Then I suggest you do as you are told. I don’t want to hear anything from anyone. What I want is for you to send someone to the Ministry of Magic in London and get me the signed documents for Decree 23 and 54.”

“We’ve tried, sir but the fireplace between here and London is being used this morning.”

Draco looked up from his papers. “I checked the bookings last night,” he said, sounding very annoyed. “No one had booked the fireplace.”

“Apparently it was a last minute thing. Someone influential from London is coming here…I tried to find out who but they wouldn’t tell me.”

Draco rolled his eyes and wiped the sweat off his forehead. “This is just bloody brilliant. How long will clearance take for this guest from London?”

“It’s two guests, sir,” the witch said nervously, apparently waiting for a huge explosion from Draco. “The managers at the Floo Network said it’d take at least a couple of hours for both to arrive and all the papers and stuff to be taken care of.”
***
After what seemed like at least half an hour, Harry fell out of the green flames into a much brighter room. He took two deep breaths and then opened his eyes. Surrounding him were at least ten other wizards and witches, all of which were smiling very eagerly.

“Welcome to Italy, Mr. Potter!” One of them said enthusiastically and held out his hand to help Harry up.

Harry took his hand and stood up, shaking the dust off of himself. “Thank you,” he said briefly. His eyes immediately began scanning the room to see Ginny but he couldn’t find her anywhere.

“Where’s Ginny?” he asked, his voice beginning to rise.

“Don’t worry, sir,” the man said kindly. “She had a slight accident. Unfortunately, I believe she lost a bit of control during the travelling. Her leg got caught in one of the gates and she ended up bleeding a bit.”

“Is she alright?” Harry asked immediately.

The man gestured to the corner of the room where Ginny was hidden behind two or three wizards tending to her leg. She seemed to be in some pain but she looked fine. Harry heaved a sigh of relief and walked over to her immediately. “Ginny, are you alright?”

Ginny nodded. “I should’ve listened to you,” she said quietly. “I shouldn’t have opened my eyes.”

“It’s alright,” Harry said gently. He held her hand and looked at her leg. The cut wasn’t that deep but it had been slightly infected.

“It’s nothing serious,” one of the healers said. “She may have some trouble walking but other than that, there should be no problems. I’ve given her a potion to ease the pain and the wound should heal soon enough.”

“Thank you,” Harry said and smiled at the healer.
***
“Sarah!” Draco’s voice echoed throughout the empty halls and his assistant came running in through the doors.

“Yes, sir?” she said timidly.

“Well? Is the fireplace free to use now?”

Sarah bit her lip. “Not quite yet, sir. I’m terribly sorry but there was some sort of an injury with the woman and so they’re tending to her right now.”

Draco cursed under his breath. “You know what? I’m getting sick of this. Stay here at the office and I’m going to go speak with these guests who’ve decided to hold up the entire department.”

Sarah nodded quickly and submissively. “You should probably go through the front entrance, it’s closer and faster.”

Draco nodded shortly and made his way to the Central Floo Network.
***
“You’ll probably want to leave through the back entrance,” one of the Italian representatives said. “It’s the easiest route to take without attracting any attention, sir.”

Harry nodded and helped Ginny up from her seat. “Thank you for all your help,” he said kindly.

The old man gently smiled and waved to the young couple as they exited the building. Behind, an official Ministry car was waiting to escort them to their hotel. “Goodbye, Mr. Potter! Please do contact us if you need anything.”

Before he could blink, both Harry and Ginny were out of his sight. He revelled in a few brief moments at the fact that he had been in the presence of a legendary couple before a loud burst came from the front door.

“I’m getting sick of this,” Malfoy said as he burst through.

“What is it, Mr. Malfoy?” the old man sighed.

“I had this very fireplace booked for the entire morning and afternoon. When I book something, I expect it to be useable.”

“There was an unexpected guest and so we do have to accommodate them.”

Malfoy rolled his eyes. “Who?”

The old man opened his mouth but held back his words. He remembered that Harry had requested that no one be aware of their presence here in Italy. That’s the reason that both him and his fiancé were staying in a small inn, rather than a luxury hotel.

“That’s none of your business, Draco,” the man said with a tone of finality. “The fireplace has been cleared and so you can use it for whatever you need. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

Malfoy shook his head in annoyance and then agreed. “I’ll send my assistant in here,” he said briefly before departing.
***
Harry and Ginny arrived in a tiny little inn at the corner of a bustling street. After checking in, Harry grabbed both their bags and headed towards the third floor where their room was.

“I couldn’t really get us a suite,” Harry said apologetically as they climbed the stairs. “This was the only decent Wizarding inn in all of Venice that wouldn’t attract a lot of attention.”

Ginny smiled simply. “That’s fine,” she said.

The arrived at Room 309 and Ginny turned the handle to open the door. The room was much prettier than she had expected based on her tour of the inn’s lobby. Unlike the outside, the room was spotless and decorate magnificently with artwork and designs. The drapery was sophisticated and there wasn’t a single thing she could find wrong with it.

“It’s lovely,” she breathed in.

Harry smiled in agreement. “The view from the balcony is supposed to be magnificent,” he remarked. “You go on ahead and I’ll put the bags in your room.”

Ginny turned immediately. “My room?”

Harry nodded. “We only have one room. You can take it while I sleep on the couch.”

Ginny felt a huge pang of guilt hit her. “It’s alright. You can take the bedroom; I’ll be more than fine on the sofa.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Harry said. “The arrangement’s only for a few days. I’ll be returning to London then and back to the comforts of my house.”

Ginny tried to ignore the ache emanating from Harry’s voice. “You go on ahead and look at the view,” he said encouragingly.

Ginny quietly nodded and went towards two beautiful French doors that led to the balcony outside. The view that stood before her was more than breathtaking. The children playing on the street, the lush trees gently swaying in the background, the endless river that flowed through the land and the Gondolas that were travelling from one end to the other – everything looked perfect, like a painting.

“It’s beautiful,” Ginny remarked as Harry came up from behind her. “Can you believe something this simple could be this breathtaking?”

Harry looked at Ginny and smiled at the happiness radiating from her beautiful eyes. “Absolutely,” he said warmly.

Ginny looked at Harry and tried to smile cheerfully. “Thank you,” she said in a whispered voice.

Harry didn’t reply. He gazed into the evening sky and admired nature’s beautiful creations. The colours that radiated off the sky seemed to meet at one spot in the atmosphere and form a magnificent mix of beauty and simplicity.

“I’m going to go inside and rest,” Ginny said after a while.

“That’s probably a good idea,” Harry agreed. “I’ll stay out here. It’s not very often you get to see the simplicity of life like this, back in London.”

Ginny nodded sadly and made her way back to the bedroom. Her leg was still sore to the bone so she had to limp a little to make her way back as painlessly as possible. Her bedroom was as lavish as the rest of the room with maroon sheets and beige trimmings. Before she did anything, she lay herself down onto her bed and silently let some tears flow down her cheeks. What had she done to herself, Draco and Harry? She closed her eyes to dull the pain in her heart and before she knew it, she fell into a deep sleep.
***
Sarah sat at her desk and looked at the clock. 10:00 p.m.

“A new record for Mr. Malfoy,” she sighed to herself. It had been like this for so long that it seemed that Sarah would always be destined to arrive home at midnight each night.

Ever since she had been appointed as Draco’s secretary, she’d had to stay back late hours into the night to make sure that if he needed anything, he’d get it – that included coffee, papers, stationary, documents etc.

“Sarah! I need another copy of the registration papers from this morning.” Draco’s voice came from his office.

Sarah sighed to herself. “Yes, sir.”

She got up and grabbed the documents from a cabinet in the left wing of the department. She looked through them quickly to make sure that they were the right ones and headed back towards Draco’s office.

“Here they are sir,” she said, placing them on his desk. Draco nodded without even looking up and took the papers.

She sighed and headed back outside. “Such a pretty face and such a mysterious character,” she sighed to herself.

A few minutes later, Draco came out of his office with his briefcase and coat. “I’m done for tonight. You can go home now.”

She nodded. “You know, you don’t have to stay this late every night. All this work can be done tomorrow,” she tried to sound sympathetic. “I mean, I don’t mind it but wouldn’t you rather that your family…or your girlfriend could see more of you?”

Draco looked up at her and she saw extreme sadness in his eyes. “Sometimes the only way to dull the pain is with work.”

“The pain of what?” Sarah asked.

Draco sighed. He grabbed his things and headed out towards the door. “You can take the day off tomorrow. I’m only coming in until noon and then I’m taking my vacation.”

Sarah knew that he was trying to shut himself out and didn’t want to be questioned further regarding his “pain”. “How long will you be gone for?”

“A week,” he said briefly. “I’m not really going anywhere. I’ve been working here in Venice but I haven’t had the chance to see the city in all its glory yet.”

“It’s a beautiful city,” she said reminiscently. “Perhaps I could show you around sometime?” She cursed herself under her breath. What did you just do, you idiot? Did you just ask your boss out?

Draco looked a little taken aback. “I…uh…maybe some other time.”

With that, he left the office leaving Sarah feeling like a complete fool. That could not have gotten more awkward, she thought to herself.
***

Night had fallen silently over the bustling city of Venice, causing an illumination of thousands of lights all over the place. Four beautiful candles had been lit in the balcony where Harry had been standing and guided his way back to the doors that led inside.

Harry passed by Ginny’s room and saw her sprawled on the bed, still wearing her day clothes. The temperature was cold and she was huddled up, trying to warm herself. Harry smiled to himself and went inside.

He took out a blanket from the closet and spread it evenly over Ginny, ensuring that she stayed warm. He closed the windows in the room and dimmed the lights, watching her as she slept. He began to leave when Ginny started to speak.

“Don’t leave me. Stay.”

Harry turned around immediately and Ginny held onto his arm. She wasn’t completely awake but was rather talking in her sleep.

“Don’t leave me,” she said desperately.

Harry placed his hand on her arm. “Don’t worry,” he said softly. “I won’t.”

“I love you so much,” Ginny continued.

“I…I lov-” Harry began to say but was interrupted by Ginny.

“I love you, Draco.”

Harry closed his eyes to subdue the pain and hold back a few tears. He took his hand off Ginny’s arm and released her grip. He turned off the last light in the room and watched her as she called out to Draco in her sleep.


Chapter 20: Anxiety and Chances
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Ginny opened her eyes slowly to the morning light. Her leg was hurting a little bit but it wasn’t as sore as the night before.

“Harry?” she whispered slowly. There was no response.

She turned around to get out of the bed and realized that she was wearing the same clothes as last night. She got up and made her way outside, wobbling slowly and grabbing onto the wall for support.

She entered the living room to find Harry huddled under a blanket on the sofa. His legs were way too long to fit on it properly and she felt even guiltier than ever for making him sleep out here.

She turned towards the window and saw two owls sitting patiently, waiting for someone to let them in. She slowly opened the door and both owls dropped their letters, one was addressed to Ginny, the other to Harry.

She hastened to open her letter, hoping it was from Draco – it was from Hermione. Although slightly disappointed, she was still happy to hear from back home.

Dear Ginny and Harry,
Things are well here, we heard that you’ve arrived there safely. It’s very silent here since everyone’s gone back to work – except for me. Molly and Arthur spend all day with Aria and so I feel rather lonely. But that’s just as well – I’ve been able to catch up on a lot of my reading.
Anyways, Ron and I plan to move back to our house in a few days but both of your stuff is still here. Molly says you’re welcome to leave it here. Let me know. The rest is fine; Aria is making these little noises that are adorable, it’s too bad you’re missing it.
I hope you two succeed in what you went to do. Keep in touch as often as possible. See you soon.
With loving regards
Hermione


Her attention was drawn away from the letter from a slight grunt from Harry, who slowly opened his eyes.

“Hi,” Ginny said soothingly.

Harry grabbed his glasses from the side of the couch and put them on. “What’re you reading?” he asked, sleepily.

“A letter from Hermione, it’s for both of us. Oh and this letter came for you.” Ginny handed the second envelope to Harry, which he immediately opened.

Ginny watched his eyes scan the page and a few worry lines appear on his forehead. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“It’s…it’s nothing serious,” Harry said. “It’s just that finding him may be harder than I thought.”

He handed Ginny the letter which read:

Dear Mr. Potter,
I searched through the files for you and the record on Draco Malfoy has been erased. I’m guessing he doesn’t like to be disturbed at home – they have no home address or contact information. As for his work place, all it lists is ‘Ministry of Magic’. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.
Yours truly,
Ug Ynnej


Ginny felt her heart sink a little at this setback, but tried to hide her disappointment. “Don’t worry about it,” Harry said, responding to the look of concern on Ginny’s face. “We can go to the Ministry this afternoon and get all the information from there.”

Ginny smiled and nodded. I’m coming Draco, she thought to herself.
***
Draco looked at the clock. 11:30 a.m.

He sighed in relief. “Only half an hour more,” he said to himself.

He sat back down on his desk and grabbed a few papers from the nearest pile. He read through some of the documents and signed or initialled them as fast as he could.

It seemed like only a few minutes had passed when the large clock in Draco’s office struck twelve. He smiled to himself and dumped his papers into a large file under his desk.

He gathered all his stuff and made his way out when someone from the end of the hall called out to him.

“Mr. Malfoy!”

Draco turned around instantly. “What is it?”

It was a short, stout wizard with thick bottle glasses. “Sir, you still have your messages from yesterday that you haven’t picked up.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “Leave them on my desk. I’ll get to them when I get back.”

The short wizard sighed and grumbled to himself as he walked over to Malfoy’s desk and placed the letters on top of it. They were all arranged in a neat pile with the top one reading To Draco, From Ginny.
***
Ginny sat anxiously in the waiting room at the Ministry of Magic. Harry was inside speaking to someone and finding out what department Draco worked in.

She took a deep breath as Harry came outside, with a satisfied but regretful look on his face.

“He’s on the third floor,” Harry said solemnly.

Ginny tried to hide her happiness but couldn’t do a good job – her eyes gave it all away. Harry tried to give her a smile but the pain inside of him was too deep. “Let’s go,” Harry said, gesturing towards the staircase that led up to the second floor.

As they reached the hallway where Draco’s office was supposed to be, they bumped into an old stocky wizard.

“Can I help yeh two?” the man said grumpily.

“We’re looking for Draco Malfoy’s office,” Ginny said quickly. “Do you know where it is?”

The old wizard took a moment or two to think and nodded. “It’s down the hall to yer left. But yeh should probably leave your message on his assistant’s desk.”

Harry stopped at the first step he took, “I beg your pardon?”

“He ain’t there,” the man said dazedly. “He left – a few minutes ago, in fact. Too bad, eh?”

“Where’d he go?”

“Took his vacation earlier this year. He said he’d been wanting to spend some time with his family.”

Ginny felt herself getting angrier by the second. “Do you have any idea where he might be?” Ginny asked impatiently.

“He hangs out a lot at that pub down the street,” the wizard said. “I have no idea what it’s called though but it opens after 8.”

Harry placed his hands on his temple and looked at Ginny’s broken expression. “Thank you for your help,” he told the wizard, who just grunted and nodded before walking on.

“We’ll find him,” Harry reassured Ginny. “Let’s just get back to the inn, shall we?”

Ginny nodded, stifling a sigh of disappointment.
***
“Draco!”

Narcissa Malfoy smiled warmly as her son entered the living room. “I really do hope you’ve taken your vacation,” she added hopefully.

“I have,” Draco said. “We…we can go somewhere for dinner tonight.”

“Tonight?” Narcissa said.

“Yeah,” Draco said. “I really don’t feel like going to the pub. Besides, I’m sure Sarah’s going to be there.”

“Why are you trying to avoid her, Draco? You know she likes you.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “Mother, this is not Hogwarts where a girl “likes” you and then you ask her out. I don’t care if she likes me or even loves me- I don’t want to date.”

“How long has it been since you left London?” Narcissa asked, using her eyes to penetrate into Draco’s mind.

“A long time,” Draco added shortly. “But that’s not the point. I want to get over her but I can’t.”

“Maybe dinner tonight isn’t the best idea,” Narcissa said quietly. “I think you should rest.”

“I don’t feel like it,” Draco grunted. “Mother, I know I’ve been ruining your time here so I want to make it up to you. Let’s go to dinner.”

Narcissa smiled. “I’ll go get ready.”
***
As the watch on Harry’s wrist beeped 8:30 p.m., he and Ginny stepped into the tavern known as “Struong’s Pub”. The atmosphere was nothing like they had expected. Both Harry and Ginny had walked in thinking that it would be a rowdy, stuffy place with drunken men fighting all over the place. But instead, it was a very chic, sophisticated tavern with proper tables and subtle yet elegant decorations.

“Good day, sir,” a tiny witch beamed happily. “Welcome to Struong’s Pub. I’ll be your waitress tonight.”

“Actually, we’re not here to eat,” Harry started. “We’re here to find someone.”

The witch looked a little puzzled but still maintained her smile. “How can I be of help then?”

“Perhaps you know him. He’s usually a regular here…I’ve been told he comes around about every night?”

The witch nodded in understanding. “Well, there are many regulars here. Do you have a name or description?”

Harry opened his mouth to say the name but held himself back. He looked at Ginny and nodded. “Draco Malfoy,” she said quietly, leaning in so that no one would hear her.

“Oh,” the witch smiled. “You’re here for Mr. Malfoy? Well, he’s a very loyal customer here. He’s here almost every night after finishing work.”

“Is he here right now?” Ginny said, her heart pounding wildly in her ears.

“Hmm…I’m not quite sure,” the witch craned her neck and looked around the room to a booth on the corner to see if Draco was there. It was empty. “I’m afraid not,” she continued.

Ginny’s heart sank back down again. Even the witch seemed to notice this and added. “But I’m sure he’ll be back soon enough. Whenever he’s here, he always sits in that tiny booth with his friends.” She pointed to the booth in the back.

“All the way in the back?” Harry asked, puzzled. It wasn’t like Malfoy to stay out of the spotlight.

“Yes,” the witch said. “He doesn’t like to be disturbed by other people – particularly women. Well, you know how it is. He’s such a devilishly good looking guy and he’s just not interested in dating right now – if you ask me, I think he’s in love with someone.”

Harry immediately looked at Ginny who seemed as if she was trying to hold back tears. “Thank you for your help,” he said quickly.

“Won’t you be staying for dinner?”

Harry shook his head. “No, thank you.”

He walked outside with Ginny trailing only a few steps behind him. It was still a little chilly outside and so Harry wrapped his arms around himself and looked over at Ginny who was rubbing her hands against her arms to warm herself.

“Are you warm enough?” Harry asked her.

Ginny nodded. “It’s quite cold though, isn’t it?”

Harry agreed. “Ginny, I’ve been meaning to tell you something,” Harry said slowly. “If, at any point, I’ve hurt you…or offended you in any way, I’m sorry.”

Ginny was taken aback by this sudden apology. “You’ve always been good to me, Harry,” she said gently. “It’s the circumstances which have been bad.”

“Can I ask you something?”

Ginny nodded and Harry continued. “If…if this whole thing with him hadn’t happened,” he said painfully. “If it hadn’t happened, you should know that I would never have let you go.”

Ginny nodded and looked away. “I know.”

“Oye!”

Ginny and Harry both turned around immediately and saw two giant wizards standing in the darkness. They had their wands pointing at Harry and Ginny and wore insane smiles on their face.

“Both of you,” the taller one said, addressing Harry and Ginny. “Not a word from either one of you.”

Harry remained silent and watched Ginny out of the corner of his eye. She was fearful but strong. “Now both of you move into that alley on the side,” one of them hissed. “And give us everything you’ve got.”

A/N: Here's the next chapter! I hope you guys like it! Please leave a review to let me know what you think ;)


Chapter 21: Darkness and Shadows
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Harry and Ginny stood in the dark passageway behind the pub with the two wizards pointing their wands at them.

“Put down your wands!” One of them ordered.

Ginny looked at Harry fearfully, who nodded to her. They both reached for their wands and placed them cautiously on the floor, keeping a sharp eye on the thieves.

“Alright now. Hand it all over, whatever you’ve got.”

Neither Harry nor Ginny moved. “Do it!” he ordered loudly and shot three blue sparks into the air.

Harry still didn’t do anything. The wizard got angry this time and shot a spell directly at Harry’s arm. Harry cringed very slightly – the spell wasn’t a powerful one, nor was it painful. Amateurs, he thought to himself.

But Harry couldn’t disarm them nor attack them. His wand was on the floor far beyond reach and the time he would spend getting it may put Ginny into danger.

“Give it!”

Ginny reached into her coat and pulled out whatever she had – galleons, knuts, a gold chain and a watch. It wasn’t worth that much altogether but she was still very afraid.

Harry did the same. He reached into his pockets and drew out whatever remotely valuable things he had.

“Lance!” the shorter wizard hissed to his partner. “Go on and get that stuff from ‘em.”

The taller one lunged forward and grabbed the things from Ginny’s hand and stuffed them greedily in his pocket. “She ain’t got that much, Roland!” he bellowed.

“That’s all you’ve got?” Roland hissed angrily.

Ginny nodded fearfully. Lance grabbed her by the hair and pushed her against the wall. “I don’t believe that.”

Ginny cringed as Harry grabbed Lance from the back and pulled him off of her. He shoved him hard against the wall and punched him square in the face.

“Bloody-!” Lance yelled as he grabbed his bleeding mouth.

Roland held out his wand and grabbed Ginny from the hair. With his hand tight around her neck, he placed the tip of his wand to her chin.

“Don’t you dare move!” he hissed loudly. “Or I’ll blow your pretty belle’s brains out.”

Harry froze and placed his hand to stop the bleeding on the gash on his face.

“Now, we can do this the hard way or you can do the easy way. Your choice.”

Lance laughed menacingly as Roland added. “I’ll give you a hint,” he spat. “The hard way involves a lot more blood.”

Harry looked at Ginny and couldn’t bear to see those pretty eyes spill some tears. He grabbed whatever he had in his pocket and flung it onto the floor. The clinking sounds of galleons hitting the floor resounded in the lonely alley. Lance dove down immediately to grab everything and stuffed it into his shabby pockets.

“You’ve got it all now,” Harry said angrily. “Let her go.”

Lance opened his mouth to say something but was stopped by Roland. “Now wait a minute there. I’ve…I’ve heard that voice before.”

He thrust Ginny into Roland’s hands and pointed his wand towards Harry. “Lumos!” he whispered and the alley lit up with a faint blue light. He moved his wand cautiously and slowly towards Harry until the tip hit his chin.

“Well, lookie here Lance,” Roland smiled. “It’s none other than Harry Potter.”

Lance gasped. “The Harry Potter?”

Roland rolled his eyes. “Do you know of any other Harry Potter, you idiot? ‘Course it’s him.”

Harry couldn’t believe his ears. “I’ve given you everything I’ve got. Let her go.”

“You’re pretty cowardly for the saviour of the entire Wizarding World,” Lance smirked. “Aren’t you gonna fight us?”

“Do you want me to?” Harry snapped back,

“Shut up, Lance,” Roland hissed. “And Mr. Potter, as far as I see it, you’re lady hasn’t given us everything she’s got.” He pointed his wand and gestured towards Ginny’s finger where a ring glistened under the moonlight. Harry felt his hand cringe a little at the sight of the ring that he had given her on the night they got engaged.

Roland smiled at the expression on Harry’s face. “Let her go,” he told Lance, who released Ginny roughly and pushed her into Harry. Harry grabbed her immediately and held her by the waist. Ginny’s hand rested, hidden, on his shoulder, her hand in his.

“Give us your rings,” Roland said, ushering to the both the engagement rings, one on Harry’s hand and the other on Ginny’s. “Give them and we’ll let you go.”

Harry placed his finger over his ring and gently tugged it. “It won’t come off,” he said coldly.

Ginny looked up in horror at Harry’s expression. That ring had been only a few weeks old, there was no way it wouldn’t be able to come off. Yet Harry was strong and adamant – he refused to take it off.

“Give it up, Potter,” Lance hissed.

Harry released Ginny’s hand and moved in front of her. Although Ginny was mostly hidden by Harry, her eyes were still visible over his shoulder – both fearful and fiery.
***
Hermione gently rocked Aria to sleep in her crib when Ron came in from behind and slowly closed the door.

“They haven’t replied yet,” Ron said slowly. He walked up to Hermione and sat down on the bed, admiring his beautiful daughter.

“I’m sure they’re fine,” Hermione said hesitantly, looking up at Ron.

“It wouldn’t have taken them this long to find Malfoy, maybe something went wrong?”

“How do you know it wouldn’t take them long?”

“I…I don’t know. I just don’t want Harry to do anything rash.”

“Harry’s not a child anymore; you don’t need to watch his back for him.”

“I do, Hermione,” Ron said grimly. “All our lives, he’s always been there for me. Every time we fought someone to every time we had girl problems, he’s always been watching my back. I’m not going to let him down when he needs me now.”

Hermione leaned over and kissed Ron. “You’re very sweet, you know?” she said, smiling. “And if you’re that worried about Harry and Ginny, we’ll send them another owl tomorrow.”

“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea,” Ron agreed. “I do really hope that Ginny changes her mind somehow. It’s…it’s not right for her to be with a Malfoy. She should be with Harry.”

“Ron, in a perfect world, we’d all be with someone whom we love and whom our family and friends love – but it’s not a perfect world. Don’t you think that I want Harry and Ginny to be together?”

“He’s going to be crushed when he comes back, you know?”

“I know,” Hermione said sadly. “That’s when he’ll need you most…need us most.”

Hermione put her hand on Ron’s and squeezed it slightly. “I think Aria’s finally fallen asleep,” she said quietly, peeking into the crib. “I’m going to go and shower.”

Ron nodded. “I think I’ll just go to sleep. Goodnight,” he added as he kissed Hermione before she left.
***
Harry stood silently in the alley, still refusing to give up his engagement ring. The two men were getting impatient and their wands were gripped tightly in their hands while Harry’s was on the floor, alongside Ginny’s.

“Give me that ring!” Roland bellowed and lunged forward. Harry immediately punched him right in the face and pushed Ginny down to the floor. “Stay down!” he ordered her.

He grabbed his wand as quickly as he could and opened his mouth to shout a disarming spell as Ginny began to get up too.

“Sectumsempra!”

Harry felt his whole world spin around him as he saw the jet of light shoot out of one of the thieves’ wands and hit Ginny square in the chest. Huge gashes and cuts appeared over her body as she fell back to the floor, lying in a pool of blood.

“What…what did you do?” Roland asked, looking shocked at Lance. “You’ve killed her!”

“I…I didn’t mean it!” Lance shouted. “It was an accident.”

“I’m getting out of here!”

Both of them scrambled from the scene as fast as they could and never looked back. Harry dropped his wand immediately and bent down to Ginny. “Don’t…don’t worry, Ginny!” he said softly. “Just…just keep your eyes…open.”

But she didn’t. Her eyes were closed and her pulse was faint as Harry looked around desperately for help, kneeling down in the pool of blood that seemed to be getting bigger and bigger.
***

A/N: Yes, I know it's a short chapter but I needed this chapter to be only the mugging so the rest of the story could fall into place. :) I promise the next ones will be longer! Hope you enjoyed it and please review!




Chapter 22: Chances and Happenings
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A slow and distant humming voice was coming from above. It wasn’t an echo or imaginary…it was so far away but it felt so real. A sharp cold feeling was stinging the back of Ginny’s neck and she slowly opened her eyes to her surroundings.

The room she was in was bright and temperate. She knew instantly that she was in a hospital ward because of the Healer standing right above her, pressing a cold piece of ice at the back of her neck.

“She’s waking up,” the healer whispered. He wasn’t taller than Harry but he had a very strong presence in the room. His eyes were a dark shade of grey and his hair was neatly combed back and tied up.

There was a rush of footsteps and Harry appeared from right behind him. “Are…are you alright?” He spoke in barely a whisper, his voice trembling with every word.

The healer looked at the two of them and sensed some tension. “I’ll come back in a few minutes,” he said courteously and departed.

Harry hadn’t taken his eyes of Ginny and she could see that they were full of fear and regret. “I’m sorry,” he added after a while.

Ginny looked up in surprise. “What for?”

“It was my fault this whole thing happened. I…I shouldn’t have taken that risk and tried to disarm those men.”

“It’s not your fault,” Ginny said quietly. She raised her hand to comfort Harry but noticed a thick white bandage on the upper half of her palm. She looked around and realized that she had been bandaged in various other places too…it all came back to her.

“Did they get the rings?” she said suddenly.

Harry looked up immediately with an expression of amazement. He hadn’t expected Ginny to ask about the rings and it seemed Ginny was surprised at herself too. “No,” he said with a hint of happiness. “They didn’t.”

Ginny held out her hand and Harry was unsure what to do. It took him a few seconds to realize that she was asking for her ring. He dove into his pockets and after fiddling for a few seconds, handed the beautiful glimmering piece of jewellery to Ginny.

Ginny admired it under the ring and slid it smoothly onto her fingers. “I never did really tell you how beautiful this was,” she said dazedly.

Harry smiled. “It didn’t take me that long to pick out. I remember how much you loved your Great Aunt Muriel’s tiara.”

Ginny examined her ring up close and gasped as Harry continued. “I had the jeweller fashion it the same way, with the emeralds and everything.”

Ginny didn’t say anything but her expression glowed with happiness and thankfulness. Her attention was only diverted when the healer came back inside and asked to speak to Harry. They spoke in a corner and as hard as the healer tried, Ginny could still hear every word they said.

“Is she going to be alright?” Harry asked.

“She’ll be fine,” the healer said. “She’s got some obvious injuries but none are life threatening.”

“Then why did you need to speak to me?”

“Mr. Potter,” the healer began uneasily. “You’ve got to pay the hospital for your –”

“Fiancée,” Harry finished the sentence for him.

“Yes, your fiancée’s treatment.”

Harry sighed. “They took all the galleons we had with us then,” he said uneasily. “I’m going to have to go back to the hotel and get the money.”

“Very well, sir,” the healer said. “She can just rest here until you return.”

Harry nodded and turned back to Ginny. “I’ll be back in an hour or so,” he told Ginny, who nodded. “Just sit tight and rest for a bit.”

She smiled encouragingly as Harry placed his hand on her shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. He bent down for a kiss but then realized what he was doing. He quickly pulled himself back up and nodded to the healer who left the room with him.
***
Ginny sat idly by herself in her room with her eyes slowly drooping as she began to feel sleepy. Her head was feeling much better and the scars on her body seemed to throb and pang much less. She turned onto her side and prepared to go to sleep for an hour until Harry got back.

However, it seemed that sleep would not be an option as the door to the room burst open and a healer with two people walked in. It was then that Ginny realized that the room she was in wasn’t a private room – two people had to share it.

She craned her neck slightly to get a better look at the people. One of them was a witch with curly blonde hair – she seemed to be the patient. The other was another witch with slightly darker and shorter hair.

The blonde did not seem to be in that much pain but the healer had to support her as she entered the room and took a seat on the bed.

“We’ll be back in a few minutes,” the darker witch told the blonde girl. “I’ll go fill out your information sheet.”

The blonde witch nodded as both the healer and her friend left. She looked up at Ginny and smiled. Ginny returned that smile and saw that the woman’s foot was bleeding.

“Are you alright?” Ginny asked out of concern.

The woman looked at her foot and laughed. “Oh don’t worry it. I always have little accidents like these. In fact, I should be asking you if you’re alright.”

“I’m okay,” Ginny responded. “These scars aren’t as bad as they look.”

“I’m Sarah Gnourt by the way,” the witch smiled. “I’d shake your hand but I’m afraid I may spill blood over the floor.”

Ginny laughed. “That’s an interesting last name by the way,” she added. “It isn’t Italian though, is it?”

“Oh heavens no,” Sarah said. “My ancestors are from all over the world. I’m guessing they just picked this name when they entered into Italy. So what’s your name?”

“I’m Ginny.”

The witch looked up. “Ginny Weasley? That’s why your look so familiar!” she said excitedly.

Ginny sighed and nodded. She hadn’t wanted to be disturbed and she realized that maybe telling the witch her name wasn’t the best idea. “Listen, Sarah,” Ginny began. “It’s not supposed to be publicized that I’m here in Italy. So if you could…just not tell anyone that’d be really appreciated.”

Sarah nodded. “Of course I won’t say anything.” She beamed but realized that she may be coming off a little strong and decided not to smile as much.

“So what do you do?” Ginny asked.

“I work at the Ministry of Magic,” Sarah responded. “I’m an assistant but my boss is on vacation right now so I guess I am too. What’re you doing all the way here in Italy?”

Ginny had dreaded that question. “I’m just here for a vacation,” she smiled. “I’ve been told by so many people that Venice is a gorgeous city.”

“Oh it is,” Sarah agreed. “Especially at this time of the year. In fact, there’s a little celebration tonight at Struong’s Pub tonight.”

Ginny immediately looked up. “Really?”

Sarah nodded excitedly. “It’s the nineteen hundredth year of Merrill and Agda’s wedding.”

“Who?”

“Merrill and Agda were two of the first wizards that arrived here in Venice two millenniums ago. Merrill was a broke, disowned wizard while Adga was a beautiful, simple girl. They met for the first time when they were children and grew up together – eventually love taking the place of friendship. But with family differences, they could not get married. It was then that they decided to elope to Venice it is said that they got married nineteen hundred years ago today at midnight, under the stars.”

Ginny couldn’t help but imagine the romance and beauty that night must have carried. “That sounds beautiful,” she breathed after a while.

“Oh it is,” Sarah agreed. “That story always cheered me up whenever I felt down. The festivities each year are also alarmingly beautiful – especially this year since it’s the 1900th anniversary.”

“At Struong’s Pub?” Ginny repeated. “Tonight?”

“Yes. It’d really be great if you could come along. It’s a couple’s thing usually so you should definitely bring Mr. Potter with you.”

“How do you know Harry’s with me?”

Sarah smiled. “I saw him in the hallway. At first I wasn’t even sure it was him but after meeting you, I know.”

Ginny smiled. “Who are you going with?”

Sarah’s smile faded a little. “Not anyone right now but I’m hoping a certain person will be there tonight. He’s a regular.”

“Well I hope he’s there for you,” Ginny said encouragingly. “I think Harry and I will be able to make it.”

At that moment, a young witch entered into the room carrying two clipboards and a large tray.

“Ms. Weasley?” she said, indicating to Ginny.

Ginny nodded. “Is Mr. Potter around?” the witch asked.

Ginny shook her head. “No, he just ran out for a few minutes. Is there something you needed?”

“I was told to give him this potion.” The witch indicated to the tray on which a small flask carried a thick pink potion.

“Potion?” Ginny asked, confused.

“It’s a Restorative Potion. He hasn’t been sleeping or eating properly for the past two days.”

Ginny sat up immediately. “Two days?!” she gasped. “How long have I been in here?”

The witch looked a little taken aback. “Two days, ma’am. You’ve been unconscious for forty five hours. Your husband’s been by your side the entire time.”

Ginny relaxed back into her pillow. She wasn’t surprised at all – that’s what Harry would have done for anybody. She knew he’d been by her side but she had no idea that it’d been two whole days.

“Are you okay, ma’am?”

“Yes, yes…” Ginny said quickly. “Thank you. You can just leave the potion on the side table and I’ll make sure he gets it when he returns.”
***
Harry heard the large clock chime nine o’clock as both he and Ginny strolled up the pathway to Struong’s Pub. The pathway was familiar and as they passed that same dark alley, Harry felt Ginny get a little closer to him.

“Are you sure he’ll be here tonight?” Harry asked.

“Who?” Ginny responded incredulously.

“Him!” Harry said, shocked.

Ginny looked taken aback. “Oh! Right!” She, too, couldn’t believe that she had asked Harry who he was talking about. She shook her head a little to get her mind cleared and looked at Harry again. “Um…I’m not really sure. It’s supposed to be a celebration so he might be.”

They both entered the packed pub and noticed how the decorations had significantly changed. There were beautiful multicoloured banners hung from all over the walls, there were little rose bushes hanging from each corner that contrasted well with the red petals on the floors.

“Welcome!” a podgy little witch exclaimed as she hobbled over to greet both Harry and Ginny. “May I take your coats?”

They both smiled and removed their coats for the witch to carry. It was then that Harry noticed what Ginny was wearing. Her outfit wasn’t a daytime casual one like the ones she had worn before – this one was a yellow pastel dress that flared ever so slightly right above her knees. There were red tassels hanging off the hem of the dress which matched the beading on the neck and sleeves. Harry immediately took his eyes off of her the moment he noticed that she saw him looking at her.

“Shall we go in?” he said, trying to hide the fact that he was blushing severely.

Ginny nodded. “It looks so beautiful tonight,” she said happily.

As they entered the main hall of the grand building, they saw what used to be dining tables had now been transformed into a large dance floor. The band at the moment was playing an upbeat song that seemed to take Ginny’s mind off of Draco.

“Ginny!”

Harry immediately turned around when he heard Ginny’s name being called. At first, he thought it him but shortly after, realized that the voice belonged to a woman. He saw a curly, blonde haired woman beaming at the both of them and making her way through the crowd to greet them.

“I’m glad you made it,” she told Ginny happily.

“I wouldn’t have missed it,” Ginny responded. “It’s such a lovely night and after you told me that story, I just couldn’t resist it.”

Sarah smiled and then looked over at Harry. “You must be Harry Potter,” she said, blushing very slightly.

“Hi,” Harry said, slightly awkwardly but equally kindly. “Nice to meet you.”

“This is Sarah,” Ginny introduced her. “We met this afternoon at the hospital.”

“I can’t believe I’m meeting you two in person!” Sarah beamed. “I know I shouldn’t sound so fan girl-ish but the moment I found out that you two were here, I just got so excited. But don’t worry, I didn’t tell anyone else.”

Harry sighed with relief as he looked onto the dance floor. “So,” Ginny continued, talking to Sarah. “Did that person you were waiting for come tonight?”

Sarah shook her head with disappointment. “Unfortunately not – but I guess there’s got to be some disadvantages to falling for your boss.”

Ginny smiled. “It’ll all work out I’m sure.”

“Thanks,” Sarah said happily. “Now, I think we’ve chatted enough. Why don’t you and Harry go and dance?”

Harry immediately looked up. “What? Oh no…I don’t really think so.”

Ginny agreed with him. “We just came to watch.”

“That’s nonsense,” Sarah said, ushering them towards the dance floor. “Go on!”

Both Harry and Ginny suspected that any more hesitation would lead to suspicion on Sarah’s part and so decided to agree with her. Harry, blushing very furiously, held out his hand and Ginny took it. Ginny couldn’t help but notice a slightly elated feeling in Harry’s eyes as they moved onto the dance floor.

At first, the dancing could not have gone more awkward. The song wasn’t a slow one and so Harry didn’t feel it necessary to place his hands on Ginny’s waist and yet Ginny couldn’t get her hands around Harry’s neck without elbowing his shoulder. However, the band soon stopped playing their upbeat song and started on a slow, very romantic one. The lights began to dim and only a slightly golden glow filled the room accompanied by the moonlight.

To Ginny’s surprise, Harry held her waist very gently with both hands while she effortlessly placed her arms around his neck. At first they were a little distant, but the crowded dance floor forced them to get closer until Ginny could practically rest her head on Harry’s shoulder. She looked up into his green eyes and realized for the first time in many years how tall he really was. He was smiling at her very sweetly and she couldn’t help but do the same.
***

We're coming close to the end! Leave a review please! Hope you all enjoyed it!



Chapter 23: Midnight and Festivals
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Ginny looked at the time and heard Harry’s watch beep 11:30 p.m. She could feel a little throbbing in her head but she hadn’t felt as happy for weeks. For the past few hours, she and Harry had danced and had probably more firewhiskeys than they should have.

Harry came up from behind Ginny and tapped her shoulder. “It’s getting really noisy in here,” he whispered to her. “And I think my head’s about to explode from that mead.”

“I agree,” Ginny said. “Let’s go outside for a few minutes.”

Harry grabbed her hand to lead her outside but immediately let go. He looked at Ginny for a few seconds, embarrassed, until she took his hand and they both went out under the moonlight stars.

The night’s beauty seemed to have emulated that of the pub in every aspect within a few hours. The moon was hidden behind a sheet of thin clouds and glowed brightly against the dark sky. The stars, as always, were twinkling merrily and filled the night with magic.

Ginny felt a twinge against her heart when she remembered staring up into the night that day Draco had left. She had promised to twist any star she may have needed to and alter fate just to meet him. She looked at Harry who seemed to have noticed this sudden realization.

“Do you want to sit down?” he asked her.

“No,” Ginny said dazedly. “Can I say something, Harry?”

“Sure – anything.”

“I miss my family.”

Harry was a little taken aback with Ginny’s words. He’d expected her to say something a bit more…relevant.

Ginny continued, “That night you proposed to me, you told me the best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart. I know what you mean now.”

“Why all of a sudden do you miss your family?” Harry asked lightly.

“I don’t know,” Ginny said. “But there’s moments when I remember Ron’s stupid comments or Mum’s fussing about everything or Dad and the twins fighting, Bill and Fleur snogging in the kitchen and Percy and Charlie talking about things that no one else really understands. I miss them.”

Harry placed his hand on top of Ginny’s and they sat down on the cold stone pavement. “Do you know what the worst way to miss someone is?”

Ginny shook her head as Harry continued. “To be sitting right next to them, and realizing you can’t have them.”

Ginny didn’t respond. She closed her eyes and let the night breeze blow through her hair. She put her arm around Harry’s and rested her head on his shoulder. She could have stayed like that forever had it not been for a loud, barging sound approaching from the distance.

Ginny opened her eyes and saw a long gondola approach them on the canal beside the pub. The gondola itself wasn’t being driven by anyone and Harry guessed that it had been enchanted. It seemed to have noticed the two of them sitting alone and approached them.

“Why is it here?” Harry asked, confused.

“It’s a celebration night. The 1900th year since two of the first wizards here eloped to marry,” Ginny explained. “It’s supposed to be a very romantic night.”

“Oh,” Harry said. “I…I think it wants us to climb aboard.”

Sure enough, the gondola had opened its little entrance and was swaying gently, indicating to Harry and Ginny to climb aboard.

Both of them looked a little confused and then Harry realized a small house elf was climbing out of the gondola to usher them.

“Come in, sir and madam,” it said happily. “Whilhop welcomes you to his gondola!”

Whilhop beamed happily at the sight of Harry and Ginny who had no choice but to climb aboard the boat. “It’s very lovely,” Ginny said sweetly. “Do you drive it?”

“No, madam,” the elf squeaked. “Whilhop must only make sure that the riders are happy. The gondola is enchanted.”

Both Harry and Ginny sat down on the ledge where a dimly lit candle followed them and settled itself on the side, flickering playfully. There was a small tug and the gondola began moving softly against the waves, swaying slightly.

“This city keeps getting prettier every time I see it,” Ginny remarked, admiring the distant colourful lights of Venice.

“I know,” Harry agreed. His head still felt a little dizzy from the drinks but he felt elated and happy to be beside Ginny right now.

At that precise moment, the clock struck midnight. Both Harry and Ginny turned to see the magnificent structure towering over the city and its chimes echoing to a distance.

“It’s said that Merrill and Agda got married at midnight, you know?” Ginny said, looking directly at Harry.

Second Chime

The little elf squeaked from his little seat. “Every hundredth year of their marriage, it is said that those who kiss before the twelfth chime at midnight have a lot of luck and love.”

Third Chime

“Really?” Harry whispered as he edged closer to Ginny. “And it’s their 1900th year, you say?”

Fourth Chime

Ginny nodded, also edging very close to Harry.

Fifth Chime

“But it only works before the twelfth chime,” Ginny repeated.

Sixth Chime

They both leaned in, very slowly and their lips almost touched when a fleeting thought shot into Harry’s head but he dismissed it. He wanted this.

Seventh Chime

Neither of them moved or said anything.

Eight Chime

Ginny whispered, “It must have been very romantic getting married under the stars like that.”

Ninth Chime

“Well love’s not all about kisses and magic,” Harry said, so softly that he could barely hear himself.

Tenth Chime

“What kind of luck do you think people who kiss at this time get?” Harry asked, this time so close that he could feel Ginny’s breath on him.

Eleventh Chime

“I guess it couldn’t hurt to find out,” Ginny murmured.

And they kissed.
***
“Didn’t you go to the festival tonight at the pub?” Narcissa Malfoy asked her son as she entered his room.

“No,” Draco said flatly. “I’m happier staying here alone.”

Narcissa sighed. It’d been so long that she wished he’d just get over her by now. “Are you feeling alright?” Narcissa asked. It was her routine to do this questioning now. She’d come every night and ask Draco if he was alright, hungry or wanted something. He’d usually say no to all those things and she’d leave.

“I’m going to go to the market tomorrow to pick up some new robes,” Narcissa told Draco.

“Alright.”

She sighed once again and left the room. Draco remained seated and continued to read the papers he was working on. Like he said to Sarah, work dulled the pain.
***
Ginny’s head was spinning very slightly from last night. She opened her eyes slowly and saw that they were back at the hotel room. She was in her bed, snugly hidden under the soft sheets.

She got up and looked around. “Harry?” she called out but he didn’t respond. Her legs were still hurting very much and the scars on her body hadn’t healed all that well. She vaguely tried to remember how they’d gotten back to the hotel but her memory failed her.

She entered the living room and saw Harry on the sofa with his head on a white pillow. He was still asleep but Ginny could tell that he’d fallen asleep pretty fast – his glasses still hung off his nose, very askew. She reached for them and tugged on them gently to remove them – folding them up very carefully and placing them by his side.

“Hi,” Harry said sort of awkwardly as he woke up.

Ginny could tell that he, like her, could remember every detail from the kiss in the gondola. “Hi,” she responded, with equal clumsiness.

“I…uh…” Harry was at a loss for words. “Did you sleep well?”

“Oh. Yeah. I slept…fine, thanks.”

“Do…do you want some breakfast or something?”

Ginny nodded. “I’ll go get changed and we can go out for breakfast.”

Harry agreed too. “Yeah…I’ll…I’ll go do that.”

As he got up, Ginny felt a rush of embarrassment flood her when she realized that Harry still had lipstick on his face. She immediately turned to make sure that Harry didn’t see her cheeks flush and rushed off to change.

After about twenty minutes, both of them met up in the living room, dressed in casual outfits. “There’s a tiny café right up the street,” Harry suggested. “It’s got good food.”

“Alright,” Ginny said as they both headed out.
***
Ginny and Harry had been sitting in that little café for over 25 minutes and not one of them had brought up the subject of last night.

They had eaten to their hearts’ content and yet neither of them chose to talk about what happened last night or what it meant.

Twiddling her thumbs idly under the table, Ginny glanced awkwardly at Harry. “Do you…do you think maybe we should write to Ron and Hermione? I reckon they’re probably worried sick since we haven’t kept in contact.”

“Yeah…” Harry said. “We’ll do that this evening. Listen, about last nig-

“Ginny!”

Both Harry and Ginny turned around immediately as a tall, thin, blonde woman came running up from behind them, calling out Ginny’s name.

Ginny’s heart skipped a beat as she saw Narcissa Malfoy beam at her, walking across the little café.

“You must be Ginny Weasley!” she said excitedly. “I remember seeing you when I was talking to Draco through your fireplace.”

Ginny couldn’t believe her eyes. “You’re Draco’s mother, right?” she said, still adjusting to the shock.

“Oh I can’t believe out of all these places I’ve found you!”

“You…you were looking for me?”

“Oh Draco will be so glad to see you. He’s…he’s been like a soulless body these past few weeks but now…oh I’m so glad you’re here!”

Narcissa could not contain her happiness and excitement. “I…I was at the market nearby shopping for some robes and then one of my friends came out and started telling me that she thought she saw Ginny Weasley and Harry Potter in here…and I knew that it was meant to be!”

“Is…is Draco here?” Ginny said, her voice cracking as she tried to withhold tears.

“No, he isn’t,” Narcissa responded. “But he’ll be home this evening. I’ll give you my address – he’s going to by dying to see you. But…but I won’t tell him you’re coming. It’ll be a surprise!”

A few tears escaped Ginny’s eyes as Narcissa scribbled her address on a piece of paper, frantically. “Be there at around 7:30,” she said excitedly, though it was obvious that she too was holding back a few tears. “I’ll see you tonight!”

Ginny nodded, unable to say anything. She glanced down at the paper crumbling in her hand and read the address a few times. Narcissa left the café with tears of happiness as Ginny turned back to sit down at her table.

She looked at Harry.

“He lives out in the rural part of the city,” Ginny said chokingly.

Harry nodded without saying a word. He wasn’t even looking at Ginny but rather looking down at his hands under the table. “I’m…I’m going to take a walk,” Harry said quickly. “I’ll be back soon and then…then we- I mean you- can go.”

“Harry, I’m reall-”

“I’ll see you this evening,” Harry said, placing a few galleons on the table and walking out with his hands in his pockets.
***
Ginny looked at herself in the mirror and couldn’t help but feel reminiscent of her wedding day. That day, she had stood in front of a very similar mirror as she was about to walk to Harry. Now, she stood on the eve of the moment that she would walk to Draco. Her hair was let loose, just like Draco liked it. Her outfit was nothing too fancy but she had chosen to wear a summer dress instead of her usual jeans and t-shirt. Her eyes were glittering against the setting sun and twitched every few seconds when she heard something that may have been Harry.

It had been a good eight hours since Harry had left the café and he hadn’t returned yet. Ginny’s eyes wandered over to her right hand where her engagement ring sat peacefully, the diamond on top twinkling playfully as if teasing her and daring her to take it off.

Ginny sighed deeply. Within a few hours, she would no longer be the future Mrs. Harry Potter - but then again she never really had been. She had never really felt for Harry what she had ever felt for Draco and her heart weighed heavily on the guilt set on it.

Then last night came crashing back into her memory. The kiss, the sweet flirtatious conversations –

Ginny’s train of thought was broken by a creak in the door which turned out to be Harry entering. He took a few seconds to take in what Ginny was wearing and then weakly smiled back at her. The attempt, Ginny thought, had been so feeble that it in fact made her feel even worse than she had before.

“We should probably get going,” Harry said immediately, giving Ginny no time to say anything.

“Already?”

“It’s almost 7 o’clock,” Harry noted. “We’ll probably take at least twenty minutes to get here giving us ten minutes to…you’ll get there ten minutes early.”

Ginny nodded immediately and gave herself a quick once before turning back to Harry. “Do I look okay?”

Harry looked at her for a few seconds. “Yes.”
***

We're getting closer to the end!

Chapter 24: Pleas and Worries
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“Hermione, it’s been days since we’ve heard from them,” Ron said. “I’m kind of getting worried.”

“Worried?” Hermione scoffed. “Ron, I’ve been worried sick too! This…this is getting really out of hand. Harry should have been back so many days ago.”

“You don’t think something happened to them, do you?”

“Don’t say things like that!”

Ron took Aria from her crib and began to sway her gently in his arms. “I really think we ought to have gone with Harry. He’s going to be in a fragile state when they find Malfoy.”

“He wouldn’t have wanted us to come with him,” Hermione remarked.

At that moment, Charlie and Athena entered the room with a quick knock on the door. “Listen, Hermione,” Charlie whispered. “Have you heard from Ginny yet?”

It seemed that any mention of Ginny and Harry in the household brought about tension and a certain level of anxiety. Any and all conversations regarding them were done in private.

“No,” Hermione said. “Ron and I were just discussing the same thing.”

“I just really wish they’d write,” Charlie thought aloud while Athena reached over and took Aria into her own arms, cuddling her.

“She’s really quite beautiful,” Athena said, referring to Aria. “Her hair always reminds me of Ron.” She then turned to Charlie and spoke. “I don’t think you should worry about Ginny or Harry, they’re adults and they can handle themselves.”

“It’s…” Charlie began. “It’s just that I feel so guilty for hiding those letters from Ginny. Maybe if I hadn’t then this whole fiasco with Harry wouldn’t have happened.”

“That’s not true at all,” Bill interjected. He’d arrived into the room silently and looked equally concerned as the others.

“Bill’s right,” Hermione agreed. “Think about it, Charlie. If Ginny had gotten those letters she would have run off to Draco, leaving Harry and all of us here with nothing but confusion and anger.”

“Harry got the chance to tell Ginny how he felt and now…he’ll be able to get over her,” Ron added.

“You did what you thought was right,” Athena said, giving Charlie a peck on the cheek as Fred and George entered the room.

“But so many people have been hurt,” Charlie responded with bitterness. “Harry, especially, who’s already been through so much had to endure this. Mum and Dad are also being very…well we all know how tense the situation is downstairs.”

“Well, you can never have love without pain,” Ron mused. “And don’t worry about Mum and Dad; there’s only so long they can wait before they’ll make amends with each other and Ginny and live happily ever after.”

“But it’s going to be with a Malfoy,” Fred said irritably. “Can you imagine my nieces and nephews having blonde hair? It just wouldn’t be the same.”

Bill scoffed slightly and Fred immediately turned to him. “Well you’re kids will be like…part veela, part werewolf – it’s already so weird that it doesn’t really matter.”

“I personally think that parents should never care who their children end up with – as long as they are happy,” Hermione said. “I mean, that’s how my parents saw it when I told them I was marrying a wizard.”

“Wait,” Ron said immediately. “You’re parents had a problem with you marrying me?”

“No,” Hermione said, a bit too quickly.

“They did, didn’t they?”

“No – well, I mean…they weren’t exactly sure what to think when you waltzed into our house with fifteen other people and you were so unaccustomed to muggle lifestyle that it was a bit awkward.”

Ron looked confused and angry. “Awkward?” he asked.

“Well – they got over that and now they’re very fond of you.”

“Fond?” Ron said clumsily, turning red. “How is it that my parents love you while your parents are fond of me?”

At that moment, Aria began to cry in Athena’s arms. “Look what you did, you git,” George said, taking the baby into his own hands.

“Can we please stop arguing about this?” Hermione asked gloomily. “It’s done and over with.”

“That’s a good idea, Hermione,” Bill agreed. “The problem right now is Ginny and Harry. Does anyone have any idea what’s happened to them? It’s like they’ve disappeared.”

“Knowing Harry, I bet he just didn’t want to have all of us crowding around him after Ginny and Malfoy got together,” Fred thought aloud. “Maybe we should just respect his decision…I mean, if he doesn’t want us to contact him then we shouldn’t.”

“That does sound like something Harry would do,” Ron said. “But it’d make me feel a whole lot better if we knew where he was.”

“I agree with Ron,” Athena said quickly. “What if someone happened to them? It’d be much better if we just…knew…where they were.”

“I’ll think of something,” Hermione said in hushed tones. “But I personally do agree with Fred and at the same time, I know how vulnerable Harry can get when he’s in that kind of a state. Maybe only one of us should go.”

Everyone looked at Ron at the same time. “Alright,” he said as a matter-of-factly. “I’ll go and find him.”

“Thank you,” Hermione beamed, kissing Ron.
***
Harry and Ginny stood outside Malfoy Manor with 10 minutes to spare before they were expected. The sun was slowly setting on the horizon, filling the large garden with a golden hue.

“I guess we’re finally here,” Ginny said looking around the courtyard. “It’s a huge manor, isn’t it?”

But she could tell from Harry’s expression that it was the last thing he cared about. Ginny had the feeling that he wanted to say something ever since they’d began approaching the manor.

“I guess this is really goodbye,” Harry said sadly.

“I need to say something before…before you leave,” Ginny began sombrely. “I’ve wanted to say it for a very long time.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Harry cut her off.

“What?”

“It doesn’t matter what you have to say. Whatever happened the past, whatever mistakes we both made – it’s over.”

“Harry, I-”

“Why do you want to spend our last few minutes alone talking about the painful things that happened?”

“I want to fix whatever I did or at least acknowledge that I’m sorry about it.”

“I know you’re sorry and I accept it. There’s nothing more to do – only time can heal the wounds of the past.”

Ginny turned towards Harry and looked at him with a piercing gaze, trying to comprehend his complex emotions.

“It’s almost night time,” Ginny remarked.

“Did you know that it was exactly one month ago this night that I proposed to you?”

Ginny immediately looked up towards Harry and saw the lines of anguish etched in his face. “I didn’t know,” Ginny said quietly. “It feels more like years than a month.”

“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” Harry asked, trying to lighten the atmosphere.

“I don’t know.”

“Well it feels like less than a month to me,” Harry acknowledged. “Seems only a few hours ago that I had gotten down on one knee and given you that ring.”

Ginny’s eyes flickered over the glimmering ring beautifully dressed on her finger. She held back a few tears and reached for her hand. “I’ve been meaning to give this back to you for a long time now,” Ginny said as she removed the ring off of her finger.

“It’s yours,” Harry said. “Keep it.”

Ginny looked confused. “What?”

“Keep the ring – if not as a symbol of love then as a symbol of friendship.”

“I…I can’t, Harry,” Ginny said dazedly. “It doesn’t rightfully belong to me. It belongs on the fingers of the one girl with whom you’ll spend the rest of your life with.”

“It belongs to you.”

“Thank you,” Ginny whispered into Harry’s ears. “For everything.”

Harry’s watch beeped slightly as it indicated half an hour past 7:00 p.m. They both turned their heads to see Narcissa Malfoy gracefully walking towards the main gates with her face bearing a huge smile.

Harry turned to Ginny and took her arm. He then reached over and kissed her cheek very gently, sending chills down Ginny’s spine. “Thank you for our time together,” he said slowly, whispering into her ear. “Draco’s a lucky guy.”

Ginny opened her mouth to say something but the loud sound of the cast iron gates creaking open distracted her. Narcissa Malfoy approached Ginny with her eyes dancing with happiness. “I’m so glad you’re here!” she beamed. “Draco’s upstairs in his room and he has no idea you’re here – I wanted it to be a surprise.”

Ginny gave a weak nod. “Come on, dear!” Narcissa took Ginny’s hand and smiled briefly at Harry as she led Ginny into the Manor. Ginny turned her head jerkily to see Harry getting smaller into the distance until the cast iron gates shut with a loud noise and he was nothing more than a memory in her head.
***
Harry walked alone the deserted pathway back to the inn. His feet were the only things guiding him as his mind had wandered away to another world. Hermione had warned him that the pain of saying goodbye to Ginny would have been too much but he hadn’t listened. And yet, as he walked away from her, each step seemed to drain a little life out of him.

He approached the entrance to the inn where a tiny little wizard held the door open for him. “Good day, sir!” he greeted but Harry didn’t respond.

He made his way up the stairs to his room. It was pretty late at night and so his footsteps echoed loudly throughout the empty corridors. As he approached his door, he noticed a figure resting on the floor, against it.

“Ron?” he asked. Ron was sitting with his back to the door and his head leaned back while he slept.

Ron grunted a little and opened his eyes slightly. “Harry!” he said happily.

“What’re you doing here?”

“You haven’t written to us for so long; we were all getting really worried about you.”

Harry felt a little guilty about disregarding everyone back in London and apologized to Ron. “Sorry,” he said sombrely. “I was just preoccupied.”

Ron got up off the ground and Harry opened the door to the suite. “It’s a really nice place,” Ron remarked but noticed that Harry didn’t really care. He had thrown himself down on the couch and buried his face in his hands.

“She left, didn’t she?”

Harry looked up and nodded very slightly. “Right in front of my eyes.”

“I’m sorry, mate,” Ron said slowly.

“I…I just didn’t think she’d leave,” Harry whispered.

“What do you mean?” Ron asked. “That’s why you brought her here.”

“I know, but…but I just never imagined what it would be like to watch her go knowing I’ll never see her as the same person.”

Ron put his hand on Harry’s shoulder and sat down beside him. “You did what was best for her, mate. It was very noble – all of us think so.”

“I’m sick of being noble,” Harry said. “I want to be selfish for once – I want to do something that would benefit me rather than everyone else.”

“You wouldn’t have let Ginny marry you,” Ron said calmly. “No matter how selfish you’d want to be, you would never force her to be with you knowing that she loves someone else – you can’t help it Harry, you could never be selfish.”

Harry sighed. “I’ll get us something to eat from downstairs,” Ron said slowly. “It’s been a long night.”

Harry didn’t stop Ron from going downstairs to get something to eat – he needed some time alone.

He twirled the engagement ring around his finger and watched its glimmer fade and then resurface under the light. His mind was telling him to remove the ring while his heart insisted that he keep it on – for the first time, Harry was going to listen to his mind and not his heart.

He removed the ring and placed it beside him.
***

I know it was cruel of me to prolong Draco and Ginny's meeting :P But next chapter... I PROMISE. :D:D And all you diehard draco/ginny and harry/ginny fans out there, next chapter, it all falls into place! three more chapters left!


Chapter 25: The Meeting.
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Ginny stood in front of the door that would, in a few seconds, lead her to Draco. Her brown eyes were sharply focused on the traditional oak door with brass handles and innate carvings. There was a strong smell of pineapple coming from the hall and Ginny almost smiled, realizing that it was Draco who usually smelt like that.

She raised her hand heavily and knocked on the door twice; the first time was faint and dull but the second resounded much louder.

“Come in.”

Ginny felt her ankles weaken at the sound of Draco’s voice. She took a deep breath and turned the brass handles. Slowly, a tiny creak was audible as the door swung open and Ginny stood face to face with him.

Ultimately, the entire moment it took for Draco to realize who was standing there, allowed Ginny to realize one thing – he still loved her. Draco was sitting at his desk when she had come in but now he was standing tall and looking as handsome as ever against the sunset visible through the window. Neither of them said a word for a few seconds until Draco, it seemed, got accustomed to the fact that he wasn’t actually hallucinating.

“Ginny…” he breathed in softly. His voice was warm and tender and Ginny could see that he was almost withholding tears.

“I don’t believe this…” he continued. “How…wh…are you really here?”

Ginny nodded deferentially as Draco walked over to her. “I knew you’d come,” he told her happily. “I told every single person that we’d be together.” He grabbed her into an embrace, his head resting on her shoulder.

A few tears escaped Ginny’s eyes. “Here I am,” she said soulfully as he let go.

“You have no….no idea how much I’ve missed you. Every day without you has been a knife in my chest.”

“I missed you too.”

“I…I just can’t believe you’re really here! I…I was just thinking about you and then…you knocked-”

“You’re still so surprised that I came,” Ginny remarked softly.

“I...I just didn’t think that after those possibly hundred owls I sent you with no reply, that you’d want to see me again.”

Ginny’s mind swept her back to the memory of Charlie hiding those letters. “I never got those letters” Ginny whispered, “until a few days ago.”

“You know what?” Draco said. “It doesn’t matter. You’re here…with me. After all this pain and anguish – it was worth waiting for this moment.”

“You really believe so?”

“Absolutely. I would have gone through years of that much pain to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Ginny tried to smile back but felt weak. She’d wanted to ask Draco a question for a very long time and before she could stop herself, she blurted it out.

“Why didn’t you ever come find me?” she asked him. At first, he was very taken aback but then his expression softened.

“I gave your father my word that I wouldn’t come back for you,” he said. “I still believe what I said to you that day I left – your parents want what’s best for you. I knew that if they didn’t approve of us then you wouldn’t have been happy.”

“They still aren’t exactly jumping for joy,” Ginny said, more to herself than to Draco.

“But they’ve gotten over it,” he added. “The fact that you’re here means that we can be together and that’s all that matters right now.”

Draco moved in closer and held Ginny’s hand as he sat her down beside him on his bed. “What’s wrong?” he asked her after a while. She looked a little weak and pale.

“It’s…it’s nothing,” Ginny said timidly. “I’m just overwhelmed right now – so much has happened.”

“What’s happened?”

Ginny looked at Draco and saw from his grey eyes that he had no idea what had happened in the last month or so. She smiled faintly and placed her hand on Draco’s a hand. “A lot of heartbreak,” she responded.

“Well, no more of that,” Draco said adamantly. “We’re here together and it will take more than a stupid letter to keep us apart.”

“I thought it was very brave what you did to Scrimgeour,” Ginny said sincerely to Draco. “I never told you that but I always believed it.”

“You didn’t have to,” Draco said gently. “Some things do not need words to be expressed – like that night we went flying on my broomstick.”

Ginny’s memory railed back to that beautiful, clear night when she and Draco had flown all over the city on his broomstick. The stars, the moon, the wind had all seemed to share in their joy and accommodated them in every possible way.

“What do you mean?” Ginny asked.

“We didn’t speak to each other most of that night and we probably ended up saying more than many people do on twenty dates.”

Ginny laughed slightly. “It was a very beautiful night, I remember.”

“Its beauty was nothing compared to you. You’re still as beautiful as you were the day I came to your house.”

“You’re just flattering me,” Ginny responded. “I’m not the same as I was.”

Draco looked into Ginny’s eyes and took a step forward. His excited grey eyes met her tired brown ones and he held her hand. “You do seem different,” he noted. “Not physically I mean- but…there’s just something about you.”

“What is it?”

“I…I can’t really tell,” Draco said faintly. “You just…you just look tired and older in some sense.”

Ginny broke the eye contact in fear that Draco would be able to figure some other things about her which she didn’t want him to.

“Well, times change people,” Ginny added.

Draco shook his head. “It’s never the times that change the people- it’s always the circumstances.”

“You know how it’s been with us,” Ginny said quietly. “We’ve had nothing but bad circumstances.”

Draco laughed a little. “True but that’s over with – we’re done talking about the past. Now all I care about is the present- and the future.”

“The past shouldn’t be dismissed so soon,” Ginny corrected. “It’s the past that makes us who we are in the present and in the future.”

“You have become more mature,” Draco agreed.

Ginny smiled very slightly. “That’s what everyone’s been saying; especially when I told them that I was coming here.”

“Did you come here all by yourself?”

Ginny paused a moment and then looked back up to those grey eyes to which she could never lie. “Does it matter how I got here?”

Draco smiled and shook his head. “Nothing matters expect the fact that you’re here…with me.”

Draco leaned in closer to Ginny and kissed her. The kiss was probably the coldest thing he had ever experienced in his life – not a drop of emotion or passion. Before they broke apart, tears began to run down Ginny’s eyes.

“Wh…what’s wrong?” Draco mumbled, his mind confused and dazed. “That was…look at me for a second.”

Ginny didn’t respond but kept silently crying. “Ginny, look at me.”

Draco placed his hand under Ginny’s chin and lifted it up so that his eyes met hers. The lack of emotion and the pure pain in her eyes told him everything.

“You…y…you don’t love me?” Draco breathed in. “There’s nothing but…there’s nothing in your eyes.”

Ginny didn’t respond as Draco continued. “All that fire and excitement from your eyes is…gone,” he said, sounding shocked and pained.

“You said it yourself,” Ginny said finally. “People change.”

“I…I don’t understand.”

“Draco,” Ginny said gently. “I crossed…” she stifled a sob and continued. “When I left London, I had every intention of finding you because I loved you. I would have crossed the seven seas for you then, but now…these seven steps between us- I can’t cross these seven steps between us.”

Draco stood up but didn’t say anything.

“You taught me how to love,” she said slowly. “You taught me the joys of love and the romance and the flirting but-”

“But what?”

“But it was someone else who taught me how to abide by love.”

Draco looked back at Ginny who unclenched the fist in her hand. Sitting in the middle of her hand was a tiny, intricately carved diamond ring with emeralds encrusted around it.

“I’m engaged.”

Draco took a deep breath but didn’t take his eyes off the ring. Ginny continued.

“He taught me that love was not all about late night romances and dates and fun – it’s about the promises you make and how you follow through with them. It’s about ensuring your partner’s happiness even if it means compensating yours – it’s about understanding that love is not all about fun but a responsibility.”

Draco couldn’t take the news and leaned back against the wall, his eyes watering slowly. “Promises?” he said in a barely audible tone.

“He promised me all the happiness in the world and when he found out about you, he brought me here himself.”

“So you didn’t come alone?”

Ginny shook her head slowly. “He was with me every step of the way and now I need to be with him every step of the way. Draco…I need to go back.”
***
Ron re-entered the room with cartons of food practically falling out of his hands.

“Harry?” he called.

Harry came out of the room with his suitcases packed and his forehead sweating. Ron looked at him with a confused expression.

“Why are you packed?” he asked incredulously.

“I’m done here.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that I’ve finished what I came here to do. Now I just want to go back and spend some time at home and with you guys. I’m done with this city.”

“Well, lucky for you I didn’t bring anything.” Ron held up a tiny plastic bag stuffed with clothes. “Let’s go, mate.”

Ron took a second and looked at Harry carefully. “But you know what this means right?” he asked Harry.

“What?”

“Once you leave…you’re not coming back and she isn’t leaving.”

Harry sighed and nodded. “I know.”

“This is it, mate,” Ron said as he pat Harry on the back. “Let’s go home.”
***
Draco opened his eyes and saw the pleading, red-headed he was in love with, telling him that she wanted to go with someone else.

“Why did you come here then if you knew you wanted to go back to him?” Draco asked, his voice fluctuating.

“You’re an important person in my life, Draco,” Ginny said softly. “I wouldn’t have left you here without telling you anything. I need your permission to go.”

“What?”

“You showed me the best time of my life when we were together and I owe it to you and to our love that you allow me to go. I don’t want to run away from you.”

Draco looked at the sincerity in Ginny’s watering eyes and gave her a weak smile. “Go,” he said gently. “You have my permission.”

Ginny’s face broke out into the biggest smile he’d ever seen as she walked over to him and kissed him on the cheek. The tears were still present but the mood in the room had changed.

“This guy’s really lucky,” Draco said gently.

“Do you want to know who he is?”

Draco smiled amiably and then shook his head. “No.”

Ginny looked confused but didn’t question Draco further. “Promise me you’ll be okay,” she said. “Please, Draco.”

Draco didn’t say anything to her but instead resorted to looking out the window. He reached his hand into his pocket and drew out a beautiful necklace that Ginny instantly recognized.

“Do you remember that I gave this to you the night of the Ministry Ball?” Draco asked.

Ginny felt tears coming on again and nodded. “When you were leaving, I told you to give this to me when we met again.”

Draco held it out for Ginny to take but she just looked at it. “It’s not mine,” she said softly. She slowly began to approach Draco and put her hand on his cheeks.

“You will always be a part of me,” she whispered. “But I can never accept something filled with love that I don’t deserve. You will give this to the woman you fall in love with and marry – a woman deserving of you.”

“I found such a woman,” Draco said sadly looking at Ginny. “But she just wanted to leave.”

“She has to leave,” Ginny corrected. With that, she gave Draco’s shoulder a slight squeeze and headed out the door. Draco didn’t look at her but the clanking of a brass handle told him that she’d left.
***

Two more chapters!


EDIT: Alright guys, I'm going to lay this out straight. This was my first story on HPFF and I do hold it close to my heart. It was always meant to be H/G and if you don't like that, get over it. I dont need you all to be telling me that what I did was wrong, becuase it wasn't. All you d/g fans out there, there's a reason Harry's on the banner and there's a reason my story summary says "love triangle".
Please. It's just a story. It's almost over and I just want this to be done. If you are going to stop reading becuase it's now H/G, that's fine. You're missing out on two more chapters so it doesn't really matter and I dont need you to be telling me that you've stopped reading. Sorry if I seem snappy but I honestly love all my readers/reviewers and for you guys to get annoyed at me for writing this how I wanted it, well, that's just dumb.







Chapter 26: For What I Once Was
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The doorman stared up at the dark sky that had swept over Venice, indicating night time. He looked at his watch and realized it was only another twenty minutes until his shift was over. His mind was preoccupied with his big family dinner tonight – his wife and mother were going to be in the same room and that never ended well…no matter what.

However, his train of thought was cut short by a patter of steps not far from the entrance to the inn. A young red-headed girl was running towards him, her red hair flying in the night breeze.

“May I help you miss?” the man said politely.

“I…I need to...go to my room,” she said quickly.

“Your room?” he asked. It took him a second or two before he realized that he knew this girl. She was the one always with the tall man with glasses.

“I’m sorry miss,” the doorman said. “But didn’t you check out an hour ago?”

“Check out?”

“Yes, that young man with you left the keys at the front desk. I walked him to the car myself.”

“He left?” the girl said sadly.

“I’m afraid so, Miss. Were you meant to be with him?”

The girl looked like she was withholding tears but nodded. “Yes.”

“Well, there’s only one way out of Venice at this time – floo networks.”

The girl nodded and her distracted expression told the doorman that she already knew that. “Do you have any information when his fireplace will be leaving?” she asked.

“Afraid not, I’m just the doorman. Maybe if you hurried, you could get there on time.”

The girl nodded. “Can you get me a car to the Ministry?” she asked.

“Of course!”

The doorman held up two fingers and a flying car emerged from within the clouds and landed smoothly on the road a few seconds later.

“To the Ministry!” the doorman said, holding the door open.
***
“Sir, your fireplace isn’t going to be in service for another hour, so you’ll have to wait.”

Harry rolled his eyes while Ron began to speak. “This is a private fireplace and you guys still can’t help but screw up.”

“Ron, calm down.”

“I won’t, Harry. Hermione’s probably waiting for us, worried sick, and this nutter has nothing to say for it except ‘the fireplace isn’t working’.”

“We do sincerely offer our humblest apologies because this fireplace is also used by many officials here- we can’t help it if we have technical errors.”

“We understand,” Harry said patiently. “An hour more, you say?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Very well,” he told the Ministry Official. “We’ll be outside.”

Harry and Ron both exited the room where Ron grunted loudly. “I’m going to go get something to eat,” he told Harry. “Want anything?”

Harry shook his head. “I’ll just wait here.”

Harry sat idly waiting in the long deserted corridor thinking about the one person he shouldn’t have been thinking of. His mind trailed back to that night before they met Narcissa Malfoy when they had kissed and he couldn’t get his mind off of it. He tried to block out the pain that he had felt when he saw her walking towards Malfoy Manor but something in his head just made those images of her fading away keep coming back.

His attention was briefly broken by the sound of rain. The pitter-patter of drops against the windows didn’t preoccupy him long enough and he went back to thinking of her.
His thoughts became so deep that he could even hear her footsteps receding as she walked into Malfoy’s house– only…in his thoughts, the footsteps were approaching and…she was calling his name.

Harry immediately opened his eyes and saw a tiny figure emerging from the other end of the unusually long corridor. The figure’s red hair was wet from the rain and her dress has been soaked as well. The clanking of her shoes against the ground echoed throughout the hallway.

It seemed when they were both ten feet apart, they each realized who the other was. Harry stood at one end, his eyes fixed upon the sight in front of him while Ginny stood on the other side, equally stationary.

The each took one step at a time until they stood barely three inches apart. Harry opened his mouth to say something but before he could utter a word, Ginny held up both her hands.

Her hands were made into fists and she held them up in front of Harry.

“Pick one,” she said softly.

Harry was unsure of what to do. “Just pick one,” Ginny insisted again. Both her fists were clenched so Harry couldn’t see what was in either of them.

Harry shut his eyes and picked Ginny’s left hand, without a valid reason. He slowly opened his eyes to see a blank expression on Ginny’s face. She turned her hand over and unclenched her fist – sitting in the middle of her palm was the engagement ring. Her other hand carried nothing in it but Harry didn’t care.

A huge smile broke out over Ginny’s face and she threw herself into his arms. “I couldn’t go,” she said amidst tears. “I couldn’t leave you.”

Harry didn’t respond but instead kissed Ginny - taking her by surprise. His mind floated back to when he was in his sixth year and they’d carelessly spend hours by the lake or on the grounds where neither school nor anyone else mattered. Today he felt that same way – he didn’t care who saw him or what they thought, all that mattered was Ginny. It seemed like they had kissed an entire day before they broke apart and Harry couldn’t help but smile.

“Can I say something?” he asked, his eyes getting watery.

Ginny nodded. “Yeah.”

“Every fibre in me was hoping that you’d come back.”

“Can I say something?” Ginny said.

Harry nodded. “Yeah.”

“Every fibre in me was hoping you’d say that.” Ginny smiled and held up the diamond ring in her hand. “Would you like to do the honours?”

Harry grinned as he took the ring and put it on Ginny’s finger, sliding it smoothly over her soft skin where it sat, shimmering in the light.

“Did I mention I’m going to kiss you now?” Harry asked Ginny.

He kissed Ginny again – this time harder until they had drowned out their surroundings and were engulfed in a world of their own.

“I love you,” Harry said gently.

For the first time, Ginny replied. “I love you too.”
***
Narcissa Malfoy entered her son’s room where darkness had engulfed anything and everything in sight. At the corner, under the moonlight, Draco sat with his eyes closed and his head against the wall.

“Draco?” Narcissa whispered gently.

“She left,” Draco replied in a hushed tone. “She left.”

“I’m sorry. I know how much you love her.”

“She was engaged, you know,” Draco said in a painful voice. “Her fiancé brought her here because he thought being with me would make her happier.”

“That was very nice of Harry,” Narcissa said slowly. She bent down and looked at Draco’s pale face, gently stroking his hair.

Draco opened his eyes and couldn’t help but smile. “Harry?”

“I saw him outside with Ginny. You didn’t know?”

Draco shook his head. “Better him than anyone else, I suppose.”

“Sweetheart,” Narcissa said kindly as she bent down to look Draco in the eyes. “You have experienced something that I didn’t feel until you were born – love. You have had the chance to feel what every poet, writer and artist in the city tries to explain. The greatest feeling in the world is to love and be loved.”

“And the worst feeling is to lose love.”

Narcissa kissed her son on the head and put her hand on his shoulder. “You’re a strong kid,” she said lovingly. “In time, you’ll find your place in life.”

Draco smiled weakly and looked out the window. “I will - but not in this city,” he said. “I want to go back to London – I want to go back home.”

Narcissa smiled. “Me too.”
***
Harry held up Ginny’s arm to the light where the tiny jewels on her ring were in better view.

“I think we should have gotten you a bigger ring,” Harry said thoughtfully.

“Any bigger and it’d probably have to weigh more than my fingers,” Ginny mused. “Besides, I love this ring.”

“Really?” Harry asked.

“Of course, and it’s not only because it’s my engagement ring.”

“What other reason could there be?”

“Well, you know my Great Aunt Muriel, right?”

Harry nodded. “Yeah.”

“Well that tiara that is so popular within our family wasn’t hers to begin with – it’s been passed down from generations of Weasleys.”

“Oh,” Harry said. “I just thought…I thought it was made for your aunt.”

Ginny shook her head. “It was passed down on the day of the wedding,” Ginny said. “It’s supposed to bring luck and probably hundreds of children. But when Great Aunt Muriel died, she didn’t tell anyone where she’d kept the tiara.”

“Sounds like her,” Harry mused.

“I always had this feeling that if I had it with me, I may have a better life and now, this ring that you gave me – I can’t thank you enough for it.”

“We don’t need little pieces of jewellery to make a marriage work – we need love which we have plenty of.”

Harry leaned over and kissed Ginny. “Speaking of love,” he added. “I have a question to ask you.”

Ginny looked surprised. “What?”

Harry held Ginny’s hand and got down on one knee, this time with valour and ultimate contentment. “Ginny, will you marry me?”

Ginny looked utterly confused. “Harry, I…I already agreed a month ago.”

“Yes, but for the wrong reasons. And since then, well…I’m pretty sure our engagement’s been called off since then. So, what’d you say? Marry me?”

Ginny smiled and kissed him hard and passionately. When they broke apart, Harry grinned with a mischievous look on his face. “Does that mean yes?”

“I think so.”

“HARRY!”

Both Harry and Ginny turned to see a very flustered and confused Ron staring at them with two jars of pumpkin juice.

“W…what?” he mumbled. “Ginny? I thought- I thought…”

Ginny couldn’t help but laugh at Ron’s stupefied look. “Slight change in plans, Ron,” she mused.

“But…how did you get back? What…what happened?”

“Ron, relax,” Harry said. “It’s alright now – everything’s fine.”

“So does this mean that you two are…you know…?” Ron stuttered.

Ginny held up her ring. “As far as I know, yes.”

Ron roared with happiness and took Ginny into his arms. “I knew you’d make the right decision soon enough.”

“Ron, you’re killing me,” Ginny said lightly as Ron crushed her with his firm grip.

“I can’t believe it!” Ron said, practically yelling. “I’m going to be a brother-in-law!”

“Yes we’re all very happy for you,” Ginny said.

Harry couldn’t help but laughing. “So this is what I’m marrying into, eh?” he mused.

“No,” Ginny said. “This is what I’m marrying out of!”

“Alright, we should get going since the fireplace is going to be ready any second.”

“Ron,” Harry began. “You go in there first. I…I need to be alone with Ginny for a second.”

“Alright,” Ron said. He didn’t even make the slightest attempt to try and figure out what Harry was doing. He smiled at Ginny and winked at Harry before he grabbed his stuff and headed for the fireplace.

“What is it?” Ginny said after Ron had left.

Harry had a very grim expression on his face but broke out into a smile. “Nothing,” he joked. “I just wanted to kiss you again.”

And so he did.
***



Watch out for the epilogue coming soon!


Chapter 27: Epilogue.
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Five years later.

“Daddy?”

“Yes.”

“I’m nervous.”

“Don’t be.”

“What if I mess up?”

“You won’t.”

“But what if I do?”

“You won’t, trust me.”

“Uncle Fred said I might.”

“How can anyone mess up walking down the aisle with a pair of rings in his hand?”

“Uncle Fred said I might trip.”

“Well you won’t – Uncle Fred’s being silly.”

“Can you do it?”

“Me?”

“Yes.”

“I wouldn’t be as good as you.”

“I’m only four.”

“Yes, well I’m very old.”

“Can Aria do it?”

“She’s already a flower girl.”

“Can Uncle Ron do it?”

“He’s helping Aunt Hermione right now.”

“Why?”

“Because she’s going to have a baby soon and she needs some help walking down the stairs.”

“They already have a baby.”

“Yes, well…they can have two.”

“Daddy?”

“Yes.”

“Where do babies come from?”

“Alright I think that’s enough, Julian.”

“Harry!”

Harry’s conversation was broken by Ginny’s voice calling him through the door. “Is Julian ready?”

Harry looked over at his nervous three year old son and shook his head. “I don’t think so. He wants Aria to do it.”

“Well she can’t,” Ginny said through the door. “Hold on, I’m coming in.”

Ginny entered the room, wearing a beautiful green satin dress. Harry didn’t even have time to admire it as he heard his watch beep 6:00 p.m.

“Julian, it is 6 o’clock and the wedding’s about to begin. Please be mummy’s brave boy,” Ginny said kindly.

“Why can’t anyone else do it?”

“Because you’re special,” Harry said. “Uncle Charlie picked you out of everybody to be his ring bearer.”

“I’m only three years old,” Julian said, fluttering his eyelashes over his infamous puppy dog eyes.

“Alright,” Harry said. “I’ll make you a deal. You do this for mummy and daddy and we’ll let you sleep over with Grandma.”

“Really?”

“Of course, but only if you be a brave boy and walk down the aisle,” Harry said.

“And remember,” Ginny interjected. “Grandma’s made her special pumpkin cookies tonight.”

“Okay! I’ll do it!” Julian said happily. “Go tell Grandma!”

“I will,” Ginny said. “But go with daddy first and wash your face.”

Harry grabbed Julian and lifted him up, carrying him against his shoulder. “Give mommy a kiss,” Ginny said as Julian pecked her cheek. “I’ll see you outside in a few minutes.”

Ginny smiled as Harry and Julian left the room. She could feel the butterflies in her stomach as the hour neared. Soon, Charlie would be married too and that would only leave Fred and George as the bachelors in the family. Percy’s wedding a year ago had left the twins singled out in a family of married kids. The sound of the guests outside brought Ginny out of her reminiscence and reminded her why she had really come in here.

Mrs. Weasley had told Ginny that a letter had arrived for her and that she’d put it in this room. Ginny scanned the room quickly but couldn’t see the letter and so resorted to searching the drawers and cupboards. Finally, at the foot of one of the table lamps, she found the beige envelope addressed to her.

Ginny placed her fingers over the writing and the familiar scripture told her exactly who it was from. She couldn’t help but feel a little nervous as she opened it. The envelope had been gently sealed and took little to no effort to pry open. As Ginny reached in and drew out the parchment, she saw that it wasn’t a letter but instead, a photograph. In the photo, a couple stood waving in front of a large, grand mansion. Both the man and woman had blonde hair but the woman’s was curly compared to the man’s straight hair. Ginny immediately recognized the girl beside Draco – it was the girl from the hospital, Sarah.

A lone tear escaped Ginny’s eyes as she saw the glitter of a familiar necklace around her neck. At the back of the photograph, a tiny inscription had been written in Draco’s handwriting. Ginny smiled as she held the photo in her hand. Then, gently placing it back in the envelope she turned to see Harry coming in.

“Julian’s with Ron and Hermione right –” Harry stopped when he saw Ginny’s watery eyes. “Are you alright?”

Ginny nodded and smiled. Harry looked a little hesitant at first but then grinned too. Then, walking towards Ginny, he held out his hand.

“Mrs. Potter,” he said. “Shall we?”

Ginny looked at Harry and took his hand. “I thought you’d never ask. Did I mention you look extremely attractive today?”

“No, but I’m glad that you did,” Harry replied. “Did I mention that you look beautiful, as always?”

“Yes, but one more time won’t hurt.”

Harry spun Ginny around and kissed her before they headed outside to the wedding. “You look beautiful, as always.”

As they left, the inscription behind the photograph still stuck out of the envelope, sitting under the sunlight. In Draco’s handwriting, a few simple words had made Ginny feel so much better.

I promised you I’d be okay. See?

----------------

Alright! The story is now officially finished. I'd like to thank all my readers who continued to read but a special mention to my reviewers who were very very very nice and always encouraged me to write more :)




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