Title: The Love We Deserve
Summary: Ginny and Draco have several encounters before they start writing each other. Falling in love is the last thing either of them expected. To quote Stephen Chbosky, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” And eventually, maybe they will.
Podfic recording available: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B2ndPS_8lR4MaU5IQmxfZlEyNmc/
It's not like it's the first time he's said something to her completely out of the blue. It's happened before, on occasion, even back at Hogwarts. It's still as disconcerting as ever to hear him giving out advice for no discernible reason, especially given who she is.
It is, however, the first piece of advice that made her heart twist. It's the first thing he's said that, she doesn't even know, makes her feel like... Some sort of precious stone?
She's had plenty of boyfriends, plenty of lovers, plenty of chances to spread her wings and damn the consequences. But she's never felt that twist in her heart over a... She doesn't even know what it was, not really.
It's all very strange.
She breaks up with her boyfriend the next day and it feels like something is starting to go right for the first time in a long time. And she doesn't dare think about why.
She thinks about why a lot.
She won’t admit the reason why to anyone. Accepting the fact that she’s doing it is something she’s barely handling herself.
She's walking down the alley between her favorite bar and the boarded up ice cream shop two blocks from her flat when it happens. It's fairly dark, but it's a nice warm night in late July. She's wearing her favourite dress and her expensive shoes and she feels beautiful and powerful, and like nothing could possibly ruin her mood.
She doesn't see the lithe little body of the stray until she trips over it and falls solidly into the hard body of another person--very male if the grunt as they collided was any indication. The stray hisses as it scampers off, but she isn't paying attention to it.
Of all the people to fall into in a dark alley, she feels it's almost cliche for it to be Draco Malfoy.
He places a hand at her elbow to help steady her as she stands upright again, and it's a weird feeling. There's no antagonism here, not anymore. She had known that from past encounters with him--especially when he was an unexpected comfort after she stormed away from her ex-boyfriend during their fight some (was it really eight?) weeks before. But this feels different, not terribly unlike the advice he'd given her. It feels special.
But it's just a hand!
"Falling for a new guy already, are you? It's been what, a few weeks?" There's a teasing note to his words, at least, she thinks there is. But she doesn't really know him, does she?
She snorts, as if there wasn't a short delay after he spoke, and replies. "Not likely." There's an unspoken thought afterward, and she barely manages to keep it in her head and not vocalized: I'm too busy tripping
"Are you headed inside?" He asks, waving his hand in the general direction of the bar.
She grins at him, "Girl's night. I don't dress up for just anyone."
He smirks, "Let me buy you a drink."
She's pretty sure it's a bad idea. He's already haunted more of her thoughts than she's comfortable with.
When he releases her arm to open the door for her, she realises that he hadn’t let her go before. He held her arm as he walked her to the door, just like a proper wizard escort. It feels so strange.
But she likes it, and she likes when he holds the door open for her too. No one had ever really treated her like that, and she never expected them to--never really wanted them to. She was fully capable of walking on her own and opening doors for herself and she always made sure everyone knew it. But he had done it anyway because it was part of who he was. She could respect that.
They walk to the bar together, settling on two stools in the middle. The bartender finishes handing another patron a tumbler of amber liquid before he turns to them.
“What’ll it be?” the man asks.
She has no idea what to order. She’s used to drinking whatever her friends put in front of her, wizarding alcohol, or the cheap wine that she wouldn’t be caught dead ordering in front of Malfoy. As if he knows what she’s thinking, he smirks at her before answering for them both. “Surprise us. Something fun.
A few minutes later, the bartender sits two glasses of bright blue alcohol in front of them.
“A couple of Blue Parrots fun enough for you?” the bartender asks.
“It’ll be an adventure. Thank you, sir.” Ginny replies, picking up her glass and taking a sip. It’s surprisingly good, though she doubts she would order it for herself normally. Malfoy raises his eyebrow at her. She grins.
“It’s not bad,” she says, taking another drink.
She stares at him with her own raised eyebrow until he picks up his own glass. He takes a long drink before gently setting the now half empty glass down.
“Well... it’s definitely not firewhiskey.” Ginny nearly chokes on her drink, laughing into her glass.
“A little too sweet for you, Malfoy?” She asks him cheekily. The wizard smirks.
“It’s different. I like to... try new things, you know.” He replies.
“Understandably. That’s how I ended up in journalism.” She takes another drink, smiling at him as he does the same.
“Ginny! We’ve got our usual table in the back!” one of her friends calls, from a few feet away.
“I’ll be right there!” She calls back, before turning back to Malfoy.
“I’ll see you around, Ginny,” is all he says when she turns back to him. She’s hesitant to break the conversation up, but he seems to be fine with it. And he called her Ginny.
“See you, Draco.” She finally says, setting her empty glass on the bar and sliding off the stool. She walks away without another word.
If she catches his eye from across the room half an hour later and stares for longer than strictly necessary, well, that’s her prerogative, isn’t it?
It's not like they're friends. They're acquaintances at best. But, her interest is definitely piqued when it comes to him now. She's knows he's still an ass (he'll never grow out of it) but she also knows he took the time to comfort her after a fight, and steadied her when she fell and he bought her a drink for no reason other than her company.
It could be a long game--get into her head and her heart so he can fuck with her or her family. It's a ploy his father probably would have tried. But she doubts it.
Because she wants it to be real. After all, he's already in her head.
She doesn't see him for awhile afterwards--well, not exactly. She's pretty sure she's seen him--on the periphery of things. But they haven't interacted. Why should they? It was one drink, and then they parted. There were no promises, no feelings ruffled, no sexy times.
Just one drink.
He's not in a good mood when she sees him again. There's a bruise already forming on the underside of his chin and his lip is split. She'd seen the guy hit him, get two swings in before the auror pulled him off.
The auror who'd been smirking the entire time.
"Hey. I saw what happened. I've got some bruise paste if you want some." She says it softly, slowly moving closer to him.
"Don't pity me, Weasley," he snarls at her, wiping the blood off his lip with the back of his hand. She blinks in surprise, before backing off. That wasn't what she meant at all.
She reaches into her pocket without looking away, her fingers wrapping around the jar of bruise removal paste she always has on hand--a side effect of being related to her brothers.
"See you around, Malfoy." She says it quietly enough that he almost doesn't notice. But he meets her gaze just in time to catch the jar with the worn label.
And then she walks away.
He's not supposed to be important.
She’s fifteen minutes late leaving for lunch, and more than ready to go home and relax with a bottle of wine or a couple shots of firewhiskey, but she has the unfortunate task of coming back to work for several hours first. It’s been a long day already, and she just wants it to be over.
When she gets back from her short lunch, there’s an unfamiliar owl perched on her desk, a small box tied to his claw. She blinks blearily for several seconds before taking it off. The owl hoots and flies off before she can even look at the box closely.
It’s a box from her brother’s shop, but the owl was definitely not one of theirs. She expects its a prank, and so sits down at her desk before even attempting to open it.
There are no fireworks or water spurts or, well, anything popping out at her. Instead, there is a brand new jar of bruise removal paste, still sealed and stamped with the date.
There’s no note, but she knows exactly what it is.
Maybe it’s not such a bad day after all.
Not just for the paste, but you know, everything.
She’s sitting down with her feet up on the table when the owl comes. She’s startled enough that she spills her wine down her front, red against the light blue of her blouse. She’s swearing heavily, pulling on the fabric and shaking it to stop the spread before it gets worse. The owl pecks on the glass of her window again and she groans and gets up to let him in.
She recognises the bird as he swoops inside, as the one who delivered the package from Draco Malfoy earlier in the day. He’s holding a letter, and doesn’t even wait for her to say or do anything else before he drops the letter at her feet and escapes.
She leaves it on the floor as she closes the window and changes her shirt, picking it up when she comes back out with the entire bottle of wine.
You don’t need to thank me for anything.
She flips the letter over several times, looking for more, but she doesn’t find anything. Just the one line.
You don’t need to thank me for anything.
Your owl spilled my wine all over my favourite blouse. Should I thank you for that?
And that’s how it starts. At first, they’re just short notes between them, on a scraps of parchment. A few words, a joke, a sentence or two.
I saw you almost walk into Brown outside Fortescue's an hour ago. Did she even notice?
I overheard Padma and Parkinson discussing your “considerable assets” when I was in Gringotts today. The goblins did not look pleased with the topic of conversation.
Before long, they’re talking about random things, facts about each other that they don’t always let people in on. It’s simple, easy.
I loathe toffee. I don’t understand why anyone enjoys it.
Confession: my favourite colour is Slytherin green.
But more and more often, she finds herself writing long letters. Putting her thoughts onto parchment as they come, telling stories about growing up with her brothers and sometimes even talking about her dates as they are wonderful and as they fail and end badly.
He writes back just as much. He tells her about being an only child, about random conversations at work, about his dates and his one night stands.
Once, he spent an entire letter talking about how much he hates his father, and it bleed through his words that he wishes it were true.
She’s pretty sure they write more letters to each other in one week than they ever wrote during their years at Hogwarts.
Sometimes, the conversation is heavy. Secrets spilled out in a rush of ink smeared words and emotion. Sometimes, it is light. Teasing phrases and jokes about what their generation finds fashionable, conversation about Quidditch games and pranks they’ve witnessed.
Their on-parchment relationship just feels natural, easy. Simple.
She’s at the Burrow for Christmas. It’s late, her parents and her brothers’ children have all retired to bed.
She’s half asleep, her head on Charlie’s shoulder, when she hears about it.
“I saw Malfoy in Diagon Alley last week. He didn’t say a single word the whole time he was there.” Angelina says in an effort to foster more conversation.
“He came into the shop about six months back, you know. Didn’t talk then either. He just waltzed right in and picked up a jar of bruise paste and brought it up to buy. Ron managed to make him pay three times the price!” George laughs as he says it and it complete guts her. He paid three times the price for the stupid jar?
“How?” Percy asks, surprised. He’s not the only one who is.
“I didn’t expect him to actually pay that much. I told him it was that much because I expected him to argue. It’s Malfoy. He didn’t say a word though, didn’t even glare at me. He just paid and swept off.”
“You did it to rile him up, and you failed?” Bill asks, humour in his tone.
Ginny doesn’t speak. She’s beyond angry with her brother, at her brothers. She’s indignant on Draco’s behalf, and she wants to scream. He bought it for her. He didn’t argue or bait them, just did what he had to in order to repay a favor and they treated him like they were still sixteen year olds having a pissing contest in the snow!
She hasn’t told anyone about their letters. It’s not as if they discussed keeping it secret, or that she felt like she had to hide him away. It was more like she didn’t want to share him with anyone, to let anyone in on them.
And so, she doesn’t say anything to her brothers now, either. Guilt eats away at her, but how could she explain? She’s so angry on his behalf and yet, she can’t defend him--won’t defend him. She’s a poor excuse for a witch, for a friend.
If Charlie notices her hands fisted tightly and pressed harshly into her legs, he doesn’t comment. But he does ruffle her hair and change the subject.
He may not know what’s going on, but he’s a good brother all the same.
She manages to retreat back to her flat half an hour later, with a promise to be back for breakfast and presents. It’s nearly three in the morning, but she folds into the couch with a tumbler of firewhiskey and counts out the coins in her purse.
That’s all she writes on the envelope. She doesn’t include a letter or a note with it, but inside is the exactly triple the amount for a jar of bruise removal paste.
She’s just coming in from a night out with the girls a few days later when he finally responds. The letter isn’t in an envelope, her name is just messily scrawled on the back of it.
It’s short, and the messiness of it tells her all she needs to know about his state of mind when he wrote it. There’s none of the careful script that means he took his time, or the quick letters that end up crushed together when he’s in a hurry to tell her something.
It’s erratic and uneven and even if the parchment didn’t reek of firewhiskey, she would know he was completely pissed when he wrote it.
I meant it, you know. When you were fighting with him, and I told you that you deserved better? I meant it. I still do.
If someone asked her, then and there, to define their relationship, she doesn't know what words she would choose.
"Oh, we're just friends," doesn't work. It doesn't encompass everything they are, it doesn't explain the long glances when they pass unexpectedly, or the way her skin had tingled when he held her elbow to steady her oh so long ago. It doesn't explain the rush of excited joy she gets when she gets a letter from him or when she's at the bar with the girls and out of nowhere she's given a Blue Parrot from the bartender without an explanation.
"We're dating," isn't true either. They've both been with other people in the time between now and back then, and they've never shared so much as a brief press of lips between them. They don't meet in coffee shops or sit together at Quidditch games. They don't meet deliberately at all.
She doesn't know how to define what they are, and she doesn't know if she cares.
She doesn’t bring his drunken letter up in her next letter, or the one after. She wants to talk to him about it, to discuss it with him, but she never does. It’s like the right time has passed and she missed it.
So, they continue talking like it never happened. Life, as always, goes on.
Some days, his letters are clipped and short. Some days, hers are. But they don’t stop writing each other, don’t stop sharing lingering glances when they see each other. She still gets a free bright blue drink when they’re in the same bar.
But they don’t speak aloud to each other, or meet up and talk in person.
She tries not to think about how they would be in each others company. Would they be able to carry on a conversation in person, knowing what they know about each other from their letters? Or would it be hard, because there was a detachment to it when it was written down instead of spoken--like they weren't really fostering a conversation between Ginny and Draco but between strangers?
She isn’t sure which outcome is the better one. The one where they are easy with each other, or the one that should be kept between the pages of their letters.
She’s at an outside table at a restaurant for lunch, enjoying an unseasonably warm day in March. It’s sunny and bright, and the food is delicious. She can see Draco with his current girlfriend at a table inside, and she would like to say she’s not sparing glances his direction, but it would be a lie.
The words are muffled through the glass, but she can hear his harpy screeching at him suddenly. The woman is standing with her hands pressed into the table they’d been sitting at, yelling about him being a cheating bastard.
The slap, however, surprises Ginny just as much as it appears to surprise him.
The woman storms out, her heels clicking loudly as she steps heavy-footed in her escape.
Ginny would like to pretend she had nothing to do with the woman breaking the heel on one of her incredibly expensive shoes, but that too, is a lie.
She waits for him to pay for his meal and walk out of the restaurant before she walks up to him, not wanting to rush him.
“Hey.” She says it quietly, not sure where to start. He lets out a wavering huff at her words, but she can catch the faint lift of a smile briefly on his lips.
“Hey. You saw that, did you?” His voice doesn’t crack, but she thinks that it’s a near thing. He’s visibly upset and that is definitely not a normal Malfoy trait.
“You deserve better than that, you know.” The words slip out before she can think about it, but she’s not sure that’s a bad thing. There’s a look in his eyes suddenly, and she wants desperately to know what it means.
She reaches her hand forward, as if to cup his face with it. She stops short and freezes when she notices the clock through the glass behind him. It tells her that she’s due back to work in two minutes, and it feels like some agonising sign that it isn’t the right time.
“I have to go. Now. Back to work, now.” She rambles, grabbing her jacket off the chair as she runs off.
She doesn’t look back at him, but she wants to. Oh, how she wants to.
It feels like there is a tension in the air between them now, like the moment outside the restaurant has made something tangible between them. As if acting on it could ruin the bond they’ve forged.
She doesn’t know what to do, so she stares at her blank parchment every free moment she has for days, as if willing it to write something on her behalf. To put words to this feeling, to answer her confusion without her having to think about it.
He doesn’t write her in the interim either. She doesn’t know whether to believe that it’s a good thing or not. If it has anything to do with her, or if it’s about his very public break-up.
She doesn’t know, which is the whole point in wishing something would change.
She’s sitting at her desk with a salad over her lunch break, empty parchment in front of her. She’s drafted letters to him what feels like a million times, and her rubbish bin looks more like a writer’s rubbish bin than it ever has before. She hasn’t had this much trouble saying what she needs to say in years, and she absolutely hates it.
She’s only got ten minutes left of her break when she gives up on trying to explain, to say what she needs. She stands with the parchment in her hands, three words scrawled on it.
We should talk.
She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She can do this. She has to do this.
When she opens her eyes, he’s standing in the doorway to the office space she shares. There’s a parchment twisted up in his hands, but he’s standing with the same confident air he’s always held.
When she meets his eyes, she knows without a doubt that it’s a mask. He looks scared.
“I wasn’t expecting you to be in. You said you’re normally on lunch now.” His voice is a little unsteady and she hates it.
“I am on lunch. I don’t always leave the building, you know. I... had a salad.”
“You hate salad. You said it was rabbit food.”
“Yeah, well, there was a lot of chicken and caesar dressing, so.”
“You have a box of chocolates in your desk, don’t you?” She looks down at her feet, unable to help the smile that stretches across her face.
“Oh, shut up.” Her smile drops when she looks up again, meeting his eyes.
"I talked to her last night. About why she thought I was cheating. She said she was tired of being second to the person I wrote letters too. I didn't even... I didn't know." Draco tells her, his hands crumpling the parchment even more.
“Know what?” She doesn’t dare think about what he means, doesn’t dare hope.
“I didn’t even know I loved you until she told me!”
“You... love me?”
“I know you don’t feel that way, I just needed to tell you why we can’t write for a while.”
"You're an idiot! I'm pretty sure I've been in love with you for months, even if I didn't realise it until she stomped all over you!" She yells at him, though he continued speaking, the words “I came here to leave you this” tumbling from his lips.
“What?” They spoke in tandem again, staring directly at each other, into each other. He broke away first.
“You deserve better than me, Ginny.”
“What does that even mean?!”
"You deserve someone who can take care of you. Someone who loves you unconditionally, who can make you laugh and make you happy!"
"And you deserve someone to take care of you, too! You deserve someone who can challenge you when you're being an idiot! You deserve to know you're important, that you're wanted. That someone trusts you! You're not a sixteen year old who really can't trust anyone anymore, and you need someone who can show you how fucking much you matter."
"You deserve so much better than me!"
"Shut up, Draco Malfoy. Shutup! I could work the rest of my life and never deserve someone who makes me feel the way you do. You treat me like I’m something special but you don’t treat me like glass. You trust me with your secrets and you’re not afraid to argue with me. When I saw the way you looked after she slapped you, I broke her bloody heels. You went to my brother’s shop and didn’t antagonise anyone and you paid three times the price for bruise paste I could have gotten for free! You deserve better than me, and I know that because you’re self-sacrificing enough to let me go. But I’m not.”
“I’m not perfect!”
“I know. You’re an ass and you have issues but you make me happy, damn it! I can’t give you up, I can’t!” She’s shaking as she yells it out, her eyes tightly closed and her hands fisted at her sides. She doesn’t see it coming.
His lips are soft as they press against hers. It’s slow and gentle and he pulls away just as she opens her eyes. She blinks at him, her eyes wet. He still looks so unsure of himself.
She reaches forward and fists her hand in the fabric of his cloak, pulling him flush against her.
“You’re not getting away that easily,” she says, kissing him. It’s frantic and hard and rough and it’s the single best kiss of her life. It’s an outpouring of all the feelings she wanted to express--to scream out--that she didn’t have words for. If he was in doubt of the depth of her feelings before, there was no way he could be now.
“I think your lunch break is over.” He tells her cheekily, breaking them apart. He’s smiling at her, wide and open.
“I think you’re right.”
“I’ll see you tonight?” He asks, taking her hand and interlacing their fingers together.
“It’s a date.” She squeezes his hand before they separate and it feels like a promise.
Briefly describe what you'd like to receive in your fic:
The tone/mood of the fic: Sparsely written & emotionally charged.
An element/line of dialogue/object you would specifically like in your fic: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” – Exact quote or thematic.
Preferred rating of the fic you want: Any
Canon or AU? Canon-ish
Deal Breakers (anything you don't want?):
Art prompt: Yes
What kind of art would you like to receive? The fire princess with her dragon