dgfiaexchange (dgfiaexchange) wrote in dgficexchange,

A Singular Love, Which Is Far From Common. For semper-x-eadem Chapter 1

For semper_x_eadem
A Singular Love, Which Is Far From Common.
Rating: Extremely Naughty, very muchly so. You have been warned.
Possible Spoilers/Warnings: None. Well, I guess there are some spoilers if you were planning to watch The Tudors and never got around to it. ;)
Author's Notes: I couldn’t have done it without Henry and Anne. History notes are at the end.
Summary: An amusement park based on the Tudor dynasty sounded like a good idea when George and Luna first proposed it to Ginny. But nobody counted on insufficient codpieces, Styrofoam beheadings, random roller coasters, and above all, Draco Malfoy…

A/N: Draco and Ginny speak the actual text of Henry VIII’s letters to Anne Boleyn, which were preserved. Her replies were not, so we don’t have any real idea of what she actually wrote back to him.

In the rules which I have made up in my own mind—um, I mean, received as a mystical message from beyond—the Malfoys have a few other houses scattered around the British Isles. One is in Kent, on the grounds of Hever Castle, and obviously exists in another dimension from the one that has the golf course. ;)

Hever Castle was Anne Boleyn’s family home. And yes, the Astor wing is now a hotel!! Just GUESS how expensive it is.

Ginny lay in bed and watched the morning sunlight stream in through the small, lead-paned window, lighting up Draco Malfoy’s hair. He was still asleep, softly breathing, his chest rising and falling with each breath. She had never told him how much she loved looking at his hair in the sunlight. In her opinion, his ego was more than healthy enough as it was. But it always seemed to glow with silver and pale gold. Sometimes, she liked to run her hands through it too, but that always woke him up.

She sat up and looked down at his sleeping face, knowing that she really should wake him. They hadn’t met here to make love, for once; they’d only had a snatched hour or so. She was visiting Luna at the old Lovegood house in Kent, helping her to straighten everything out after her father moved to a small flat in London, and one of the Malfoy houses was located close by. She and Draco met in a small cottage on the back side of the grounds of the old Hever Castle, a gatekeeper’s or hunter’s lodge really, snug with white-plastered walls and exposed dark wooden beams.

Draco had said in low seductive tones that an hour wasn’t even enough time to get properly started. So even though she would have settled for less, she lay in his arms and talked a bit, and then he slept. She couldn’t even close her eyes. Every time she tried, she started worrying and worrying, and she couldn’t stop.

She reached out and fingered a strand of glowing pale gold, unable to resist.

His eyes opened, and his hand reached up to entwine with hers, pulling their linked fingers through his hair and down onto his chest, where he let them both rest.

“You really should get up,” she said.

“Yes, I ought to.” He didn’t make a move.

“Then why don’t you?”

One side of his mouth quirked up in a smile. “Because lying in bed with you is very nice, Ginny.”

Nice. It was a sweet word, a soft word, one that she had never thought would be associated with him. It almost felt dangerous for that very reason. Nice and Draco Malfoy just couldn’t go together, or at least, that was what she had always believed.

She had thought that their brief, frantic affair during the winter and spring after she graduated Hogwarts was a singularity of several months that could never be repeated, no more. She had resigned herself that it would be limited to sex, no matter how glorious that sex might be. She had never been quite sure who was responsible for ending it; sometimes she put all the blame on him, and then again, generally in the darkest part of the night while staring up at a ceiling, she knew that she bore much of the responsibility herself. They had been apart for half a year that had seemed more like an eternity, as far as she was concerned. When they had started their relationship again after a six month separation, their every meeting seemed made up of stolen moments, each of which might be the last. Ginny could never shake the fear that what she and Draco had now was some kind of pause in a headlong rush, a bubble of air in a welling ocean that would soon break in, smother, and overwhelm them. It wasn’t real. Couldn’t be.

“I wonder if Anne Boleyn ever really did sleep here,” she said, because it was something to say.

Draco shrugged. “It was her family’s house. I suppose she might have done.”

“Have you ever seen her ghost at the main house?”

“No.” Draco grinned down at her, that grin of hers that she loved to see, so unlike the rather cruel smirk that was all she had ever seen of him during their shared years of Hogwarts. A real smile counterbalanced his thin mouth, bringing the lower half of his face into line with his huge eyes and high cheekbones. He leaned down and kissed the tip of her nose. “I believe she was reincarnated as someone rather feisty.”


“Really. A direct, if distant, descendant. A certain redhead I know, for instance.”

She gave him a very half-hearted shove. “You really do need to get up, Draco. You can’t be late for this.”

“All right. My mistress and friend, my heart and I surrender ourselves into your hands.”

She sat bolt upright. “Draco, we’ve been over this before; I won’t be a—“

“Hush. Henry VIII’s fourth love letter to Anne, remember?”

“Oh.” She did remember. They had read those love letters out loud to each other many times, and Ginny enjoyed the passion that smoldered between the lines, sharp and clear even after five hundred years. As long as she was able to forget that the writer had ended up beheading the reader, it was all very romantic.

She watched Draco smoothing his trousers, straightening his robe, knotting his tie. He looked at himself in the mirror, seeming to examine his face for flaws in its perfect surface.

In moments like this, she thought that he did look like a bit like the young Henry VIII. The Blacks had roots in the Tudor line; they were direct descendants of Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley’s secret child. (0) She had seen oil portraits that Muggles had never found. There was one Holbein painting done a couple of years after Henry’s coronation, when he was no older than Draco was now. He had probably been a little like Draco, she thought. A spoiled young man, indulged, much in him that was generous and good, but with a hint of the darkness that Draco had in him, too, a hint of the tyrant that Henry would later become. And breathtakingly handsome, with a strong slender body and abundant fair hair and an exquisitely chiseled face. It was a portrait from Henry’s best days, one that had survived only in the wizarding world.

Ginny switched back to the present. She wanted to ask Draco again if he really would meet her at four o’clock, after it was over, if this Wizengamot meeting really would be the short tying up of loose legal ends that he had so often assured her it would be. But Ginny would rather be chased by rabid nundus than sound like a needy, clingy woman; the gods knew that Draco had enough of those in the past.

He turned back to the bed and leaned over her, as if he had heard her speak the words.

“This won’t take more than a few hours, Ginny. ‘By absence your affeftion to us may not be lessened, for it were a great pity to increase our pain, of which absence produces enough and more than I could ever have thought could be felt.’”

“’Reminding us of a point in astronomy which is this,’” said Ginny, picking up the text of Henry’s letter. “’The longer the days are, the more distant is the sun, and nevertheless the hotter; so is it with our love, for by absence we are kept a distance from one another, and yet it retains its fervour, at least on my side. I hope the like on yours.’”

He reached down and caressed her shoulder with one hand. “’Assuring you that on my part the pain of absence is already too great for me; and when I think of the increase of that which I am forced to suffer, it would be almost intolerable, but for the firm hope I have of your unchangeable affection for me. And to remind you of this sometimes, and seeing that I cannot be personally present with you, I now send you the nearest thing I can to that, namely,
my picture set in a bracelet.”

Draco’s hand moved down her arm and her wrist, stopping at the bracelet he had given her months ago, after the furious night when they had met, fought, and parted, and then found each other again, and had come to this cottage on the grounds of Hever Castle for the first time. It was a delicate web of citrines set in white gold. At least she hoped they were really citrines. They looked suspiciously like canary yellow diamonds to her, and she really should have refused to accept them, if so. But she had let that point go after a few dizzying kisses on the most sensitive bit of her inner arm, and Draco’s explanation that they were chosen to match her eyes. There was a tiny locket set into the bottom, and it did hold his picture. She’d scoffed at him for selfishness and vanity in giving his own portrait as part of her gift, and then she had looked at it ten times a day whenever they were apart.

“Remember. Four o’clock, at the Will o’the Wisp.” He kissed her on the mouth, hard. Ginny shuddered. She had never lost her desperate hunger for this man. She was afraid of her own reactions to him, sometimes. Most of the time, if the truth be known.

“Will it really work out?” she asked, after they both came up for air.

“I don’t anticipate any problems with the Wizengamot, if that’s what you mean,” he said, just a shade too casually.

That was part of what she had meant, but it was far from being all that she meant, and she knew that he knew it, too. What about us, Draco? I’m so afraid that I don’t fit into this world, your world, whether you do win the case or not. She felt instinctively that he would win the case, though, as long as nothing else went wrong. That part wasn’t what she was worried about, but she couldn’t have said, herself, what the fear really was that seemed to hang over her with an oppressive dread.

She put her fingers on his cheek, and he closed his eyes and leaned into her cupped hand briefly. It was the gesture of tenderness that had always belonged to them.

Then he was gone, and she was left sitting on the ornately carved four-poster bed, staring at its plastered wall, hung with Holbein’s original line drawing of Anne Boleyn.

As always, she suspected that the most rational thing might be for her to just cut it off, just end what was between Draco Malfoy and herself, whatever that really was. As always, she knew that she wouldn’t.

She winced as she got out of bed. Her left knee hurt and threatened to give way, as she knew that it probably always would. She’d been through three months of rehab because of a nasty knee injury, and she was starting to see the shape of what was to come, the end of any real shot at a professional Quidditch career.

She arranged her clothes and stole out the back door, meaning to leave by the footpath that wound into the woods and to an Apparition point at the edge of the grounds. Behind her, she heard a footstep. At first, she thought that it was an elf from the stables nearby. This is not good. She and Draco had already been seen together by a house-elf or two at more than one of the family estates, and he’d always insisted that his status as the Malfoy heir outweighed the need for the elves to report anything to his father, or anyone else. Ginny wasn’t so sure.
But then she realized what she would have known instinctively if she’d been raised in the Malfoy code and class. Well-trained elves didn’t make any noise at all, not even stable-elves, and those belonging to the Malfoys were the best.

She turned round, very slowly.

Lucius Malfoy smiled pleasantly down at her.

She sat stiffly at the tea table in the back parlor of the main house, clutching a cup of rapidly cooling tea. The Royal Dolton tea service was exquisite, and she had distinctly heard the silver cream pitcher sniff. If a teapot could turn up his nose at her, she was sure that she had seen that, too. Lucius Malfoy had filled ten or fifteen minutes’ conversation with observations about the weather, the gardens, and the early tea roses, and he showed no sign of coming to the point anytime soon.

Finally, she set down her teacup on the saucer. “I know you don’t like me,” she said flatly.

“I think you’re a charming girl. More sugar?”

Ginny thought that her glaring face probably looked anything but charming at that moment. “What I mean is that I know you don’t think I’m good enough for Draco.”

“I’m afraid you don’t quite understand.” Lucius dropped another lump into his own cup. “It’s not a matter of what I think. The Malfoys have a position to uphold. One not entirely of our making, perhaps, but there you are.”

“I suppose you don’t think my family’s good enough. Is that it?”

“Certain behavior patterns on your part…” Lucius looked delicately away.

“Oh. So it’s something I’ve done, or that you think I’ve done.”

“You must admit, Miss Weasley, that your multiple liaisons with all those other men before my son appeared in the picture… they wouldn’t look well,” he said, sipping at his tea.

Her mouth fell open. “That’s not true.”

“So you deny that you… ah… were involved with these men? Michael Corner… Dean Thomas… Neville Longbottom… and, of course, Harry Potter…?”
“I knew them. But not in the way that you’re trying to imply—“

“I’m afraid that there’s a certain standard required. It sounds positively Victorian, I know, but women associated with the Malfoy family have always been, shall we say, above reproach. It’s an unfortunate expectation, but there you are.”

Her hands gripped the table. “Look, if you’re trying to find out if I’m a slut, I’m not. Draco was my first, and he knows it, and it’s none of your damn business anyway!” She sat back with a red face.

He added cream, every tiny movement of his hands the epitome of grace. Draco was like that too, she thought crazily. But it wasn’t the same. Draco’s gestures were graceful and elegant, but they weren’t sinister, and Lucius Malfoy’s were, somehow. “How very interesting, Miss Weasley,” he said.

“Did you already know that was the truth?” she asked after a pause. “Or was that the exact information that you were trying to find out all along?”

Lucius smiled in a way that she instinctively knew meant nothing good. “No, I can’t say that I knew; in fact, I had always been inclined to doubt that this was the situation vis a vis Draco and yourself. But yes, it’s quite vital that I know the facts in this matter. They make for a more serious problem than I had anticipated. You and he have bonded to a degree that I doubt either of you comprehend fully.”

She was beginning to comprehend, all right. She tightened her jaw. “Then I don’t see that there’s a problem at all. Or if there is, it’s all in your own mind, and it’s got nothing to do with us.”

“It is a bond that cannot be allowed to continue or to be made permanent. No, no—“ He gestured with his palm down when she shoved her chair back and started to get up. “I believe that you will want to hear everything that I have to say. I’ve always admired the Weasley spirit; I have no doubt that opposition would only harden your resolve—if you only had yourself to consider.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?”

Lucius leaned forward. “It means that Draco is attending the final hearing at the Wizengamot at this moment, and, as you know, the decision will be handed down within weeks.”

“I don’t see what that’s got to do with—“

“Its final outcome? My dear Miss Weasley, the fate of the Malfoy fortunes hangs by a thread. Any crucial piece of information of which the Wizengamot does not approve might represent the final snip. The Weasleys are the darlings of the wizarding world at the moment. So…” He allowed his words to train off delicately.

There was a long, awful silence, which gave Ginny plenty of time to think about the mores of the wizarding world. Among purebloods, many of them were a throwback to a much earlier age, prejudices that Muggles had largely discarded long ago. Girls were expected to be virgins when they married. True, they were now a lot more likely to bend the rules before the wedding, but there still needed to be one in the offing. Ginny was more than aware of the whispers behind her back in the Hogwarts days simply because she’d dated and kissed several boys. Even with Harry, she had done little more—when they were both at school, at least-- but her reputation was sealed in the eyes of some people. A serious sexual liaison between the offspring of feuding families opened too many cans of flobberworms to count, but it would have been a lot less problematic if Ginny had shagged her way through Hogwarts before bedding down with Draco. As it was, she had given him something that bonded them forever, whether they ever formalized that bond or not.

But pureblood wizarding society accepted these rules even as they looked uneasily back on an earlier time, when there were no wands and all magic was primal, when they worshipped the Goddess and the Year-King, and when witches had chosen their own lovers. The wizarding world had held onto this era long after Muggles had blotted out most traces of it; when this part of Malfoy Manor had been built, Ginny thought, it was far from erased. The past could never really be erased, and its echoes co-existed with the present. What it all meant in this case was that the image of virgin and whore were precariously balanced, and girls weren’t necessarily at fault if they fell all the way from one to the other.

In this situation, thought Ginny, Draco would be the one blamed. Not her. At first, anyway. She saw it now.
She’d always known this, Ginny thought drearily. Draco had tried to tell her, time and again. She’d never wanted to believe it.
“So my being associated with Draco wouldn’t help him,” said Ginny. “It would only hurt him.”
Lucius shrugged. “You’re a clever girl. I’m sure that you can imagine words poured out by the pen of, say, Rita Skeeter.”
Ginny could indeed. Sinister Malfoy Heir Seduces Sweet, Spunky Weasley Girl! Did the dashing and dastardly Draco divest Ginny Weasley of her innocence? Sources say yes. Heartbroken Harry Potter refuses comment, but the wizarding world is all agog. And in this author’s opinion, such a dirty deed could only expose all the cracks in his crucial case before the Wizengamot.

But then, too, there were those who remembered the wildly overinflated rumours from her teenage years. There would be a backlash against her before much time had passed, which would make the situation even worse for Draco—and for her own family.

Lucius smiled at her. “Think about what I’ve said, Miss Weasley.”

She shoved her chair back, upsetting the tea, feeling the hot liquid drip down the cheap fabric of her trousers.

Ginny was at the Will o’ the Wisp in London at four o’clock. Draco was not. She stayed for over an hour, until the happy hour crowd really began to straggle in, and then went out and searched the streets. She couldn’t find him.

Her owls went unanswered.

She called Blaise Zabini, knowing that he now had a Muggle cell phone. He claimed that he hadn’t heard from Draco in weeks. It was always hard to be sure if Blaise was telling the truth, but in this instance, she thought that he was. He sounded too brassed off at Draco himself to lie convincingly.

She drove up the back way to Hever Castle in Kent in a Muggle car, so that the spells wouldn’t be alerted to her presence. She sat just outside a rusty back gate for a long time, listening to the ticking of the engine, wondering if the car really was the reason why none of the hexes had risen against her. Maybe not. It might well be that the land itself recognized what she had given to Draco, and what they had given to each other. Or at least, she’d thought that the gift had been mutual.

After a while, she drove away.

Ginny went back to her flat in London. She watched at the window for the Malfoy eagle owl for a few days, and then she retreated to the couch and ate chocolate, refusing to see anyone. Dr. Mopesy’s Magical Chocolate—Better than Prozac did not do the trick, so she started on Hershey’s Special Dark.

Luna arrived on the fourth day and gave her a stern talking-to about the prevalence of Woebegone Wopsillers in cheap candy bars. Then she opened a box of Bonnat Chuao Village Dark that she had brought, and she held a crying Ginny for several hours as they ate a pound of chocolate between them.

Things were better after that. Or maybe not better, exactly, but Ginny firmly decided that she wasn’t going to allow a nasty pretentious lying uncaring incapable-of-real-love prig like Draco Malfoy to destroy her life. She vacillated between this thought and the opinion that she had nobly sacrificed their love for his sake, which was always a little more cheering. Then she would remember all of the returned owls she’d sent to him, and many more chocolate bars were required.

George began to carry the brand, and they sold well, but Ginny could see that Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes was a doomed cause overall. Fred had been the idea generator, the brilliant sun around which George had revolved, and by this point, the remaining twin had lost all faith in himself.

She and Luna found him barricaded in his flat after a few weeks, staring at old pictures of Fred. Ginny snatched one of them out of his hand.

“You’ve got to stop this, George,” she said without preamble. “It’s not what Fred would want you to do, and you know it.”

“Oi! I’ve been stuck on this broom for days now because he keeps wanting to relive the last big Quidditch match,” the photo-Fred mouthed at her. “Everyone else is feasting at the Great Hall. Tell him to get the hell off that couch and let me go.”

Ginny tried to never interact with the people in wizarding photographs, not Fred, not old snaps of Harry from when she had thought she loved him, not Dennis Creevey, who had been her friend along with Colin. It pulled so hard at her heart that she knew she’d never be able to do anything besides look back, if she let herself. She nodded, and then she touched the photo with a single finger, because she couldn’t help it.

“Ah,” said Fred. “The touch of the living. It’s not a good idea, Gin. But I never had a chance to say goodbye.”

She nodded, deciding not to speak.

“By the way, Gin. Make it up with Malfoy,” said Fred.

What?” she demanded.

“You heard me.” He gave her a cheeky grin. “Couldn’t stand the little f… ah, ferret when I was alive, but you get a lot more perspective in the afterlife, believe me.”

“Hmmph.” She put the picture face down on the side table and turned back to George. Luna was shaking her finger in his face and saying something about Melancholia Mimsworts, and Ginny hoped that neither one of them had heard the conversation at all.

“The shop’s a failure,” groaned George. “I’ve let everybody down. I’ve—“

“That’s it,” said Ginny. “There’s no more whining allowed. And don’t think that I don’t want to start in.” She dropped to the couch.

George and Luna exchanged glances. Ginny knew that they both had to be aware of the doctor’s final verdict. No more Quidditch for her—ever.

“And as long as we’re on the subject of horrible failures, which we seem to be,” said Luna, “the Quibbler’s about to fold.”

“Is there any more chocolate?” asked George.

About a pound and a half later, the future looked brighter. The three of them lay on the living room rug and began discussing ideas, the first of which involved buying George a vacuum cleaner. After that, various projects were proposed.

“A magical pet shop,” suggested Luna.

“No,” said George. “I don’t even like Kneazles.”

“That’s right out, then,” said Ginny. “A miniature golf course?”

George grimaced. “Don’t you think those are rather creepy? I saw one once that was filled with strange miniature Ferris wheels manned by house-elves who’d escaped from evil wizarding households. Malfoy elves mostly, come to think of it.”

“Oh, don’t!” exclaimed Ginny involuntarily.

More glances were exchanged between Luna and George. Ginny wasn’t sure how much they’d known about what had happened between her and Draco. She’d once overheard Ron, Charlie, and Percy discussing methods of trapping Draco inside of a kettle and keeping him there for an indefinite length of time through the use of Confinement spells. Ron had rejected the idea as too complicated and had cast his vote for a simple Rusty Razor hex. Charlie preferred a plan involving hungry dragons and a corral into which they would be driven prior to dropping Draco inside with no means of escape. Ginny hadn’t wanted to listen to any more after that. But she’d never heard anything along those lines from George.

“There’s another idea, you know,” said Luna. “Speaking of Ferris wheels. Although I’m not saying there would actually be one. They wouldn’t be very historically accurate.”

Ginny had long since figured out that what-the-hell-are-you-talking about type questions weren’t very helpful when dealing with Luna. She waited patiently for the rest.

“Tudorland,” said Luna.

“Tudors and Ferris wheels,” said George. “There’s something I’m not quite grasping yet.”

“Dad has a lease on some land in Kent, and he’s never been able to figure out what to do with it,” said Luna, with a patient air. “That’s where Tudorland will be.”

“An amusement park,” said Ginny. She sat up. “It could work. It really could.”

A current of excitement started to run through the room as the three of them discussed plans. George would provide funding from the sale of WWW, Luna would contribute the space and any other assistance she could provide, and Ginny would handle artistic design and write scripts. Together, they would coordinate other creative aspects, and George thought that they could call Colin Creevey in as business manager. Ginny was thrilled. She realized that George needed a project like this desperately, she herself might mope around for months or even years without it, and Luna seemed deeply involved already. She watched her brother and her friend press their heads together, dishwater blonde and dark red, and she tried to hide a secret smile. She’d be willing to bet that something would develop there.

But when she first started creating the drawings for the different sets, she found that they all came out looking like the Tudor cottage on the grounds of Hever Castle. She scowled, erased the pages vigorously, and began again, wishing that memories could be deleted as easily as penciled lines.

A month after the plans began, Ginny was out with Luna at the Will o’ the Wisp, a place she would rather not have gone at all. But then she had despised her own cowardice, and they went. She sat at the table while Luna had disappeared to the bathroom. She saw a tall man with ashy-silver hair standing on the other side of the bar, dressed in expensive Muggle clothing, which he wore like an elegant second skin. His head was bent. Draco looked up, and his eyes met Ginny’s shocked ones on the way. He stared at her for what seemed like an eternity.

But eternity clearly had an end, because before she could properly realize what was happening, he was somehow standing next to her.

Her hands cried out to touch him. She sat on them.

“Weasley,” he finally said.

“Oh. So it’s Weasley now, is it?”

Draco shook his head, not in negation, she thought, but more as if he were trying to clear it and failing completely.

“Tell me what I ought to call you, then,” he said at last.

“If you don’t remember,” she said icily, “then I’m not going to be the one to tell you.”

A thin woman with a long, horse-like face walked across the room. Ginny recognized Astoria Greengrass. She said something or other in a whiny whisper, leaning towards Draco, trying to cling to his arm.

“You’re more than welcome to him, Greengrass,” Ginny said icily.

Astoria yanked him to the bar and pulled his head down, and he allowed her to kiss him. Ginny considered striding across the room and throwing a full glass of Zinfandel in his face. But what was the point? At least now she knew, she told herself again and again. Draco had seen her, he hadn’t reacted in the slightest, unless you counted that strange game he’d been playing, and he was clearly with Astoria now. She would at least keep a scrap of dignity by not running after him.

The next day, Ron showed up in Ginny’s flat while she was poring over plans on a drawing table. He picked her up and whirled her around in a circle just as he’d used to do when they were children, an enormous smile on his face.

“Gin, this is brilliant.” He paged through the drawings with more enthusiasm than art appreciation, in Ginny’s opinion, but it was still welcome. “Much better than Quidditch.”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “You’re laying it on a bit thick, don’t you think?”

Ron looked up, his face unexpectedly serious for a moment. “No, I don’t think I am. Don’t get me wrong, you would have been a great professional Chaser. But there’s so much more that you can do, Gin. Like this.” He traced a finger above a sketch of a Tudor costume with billowing sleeves, a jeweled kirtle, and an embroidered bodice. “And you’ve got a brain for business, too. I don’t know if you ever would have used it.”

“Does that mean you’re going to use it now?” asked Colin, staggering in with a load of ledgers and quills, which he dumped onto the table. “Because somebody around here has to. I can’t do it all, you know, and George and Luna have been talking to elf-builders all day.”

“In a minute, Colly,” said Ginny, gathering up the sketches. Ron gave her business manager a nod. He’d looked at Colin gimlet-eyed the first couple of times he’d seen the younger man with Ginny after Hogwarts, but had eventually figured out that he was bent as a used paper clip and his sister’s extremely platonic friend.

“’Lo, Ron,” said Colin, busily opening an enormous book, its pages covered in red ink scrawls. “Good to see you, as always. And…” He glanced up, over Ginny’s shoulder. There was something about the look in his round brown eyes that told Ginny what—no, who—he saw just then, although she wasn’t at all sure why it was so telling.

She turned round. “Hello, Harry,” she said.

The faintest possible guilty look on Ron’s face told her everything. He’d been making reunion attempts for months on end. But she didn’t mind seeing Harry now. It wasn’t that she really wanted to, but then, she couldn’t really say that she wanted much of anything besides working on Tudorland. On the whole, she didn’t care. No; she revised her opinion when he stepped forward. She wanted to care about Harry Potter and the fact that he was standing in her flat, but she couldn’t.

On the other hand, she supposed that it would be very ungracious to tell him to go away.

“Hello, Ginny,” he said. “I heard that you might need some help.”

The old irritation flitted across her mind again at the implication that there was something, anything, that she couldn’t handle on her own. But he was sincere, as always, and the truth was that they did need all the help they could get with the entire project.

“Yes,” she said, and they all sat down and began to talk. She tried to ignore the satisfied smile on Ron’s face.

A week or so later, she was walking down a street near her flat with Harry, George, and Luna the next day, talking animatedly about plans for costumes. They turned a corner, and she saw Draco Malfoy coming out of a jewelry shop. Buying something for Astoria, I’m sure! she thought. George and Luna stopped to look at something in the window; they were considerably behind her and Harry by now, and she was pretty sure that they hadn’t seen Dr-- Malfoy, she meant. She cleared her throat ostentatiously as she and Harry walked by the door where he’d exited. Draco stiffened and gave her the strangest look she had ever seen on his face, as if he couldn’t quite remember who she was, or who she ought to be in relation to himself. She looked back at him, her face cold and set.

It took only a moment, and Ginny was never sure, then or ever, if Harry had really caught all of it. But he tightened his hold on her arm and hurried her down the street. He kept holding her, and she saw a trace of the sweet smile on his face that had been the first thing she noticed about him. She began to realize how unfair she was probably being to him, but there was also an undercurrent of dread in that feeling.

Oh, what does it matter anyway!

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