- Draco Malfoy Ginny Weasley
- Drama Romance
- Multiple Eras
- Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Quidditch Through the Ages Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Published: 08/16/2002Updated: 12/01/2002Words: 98,611Chapters: 18Hits: 65,644
Sea of Waking Dreams
- Story Summary:
- Draco Malfoy has seen his share of nightmares and now, as the war with Voldemort rages around him, it takes Ginny Weasley and a ragged band of orphans to teach him what true love and loyalty really are. Draco/Ginny, and a few brief instances of m/m kissing.
- Chapter Summary:
- in which Ginny resorts to Underhanded Tactics, the children have an adventure, and Harry's Problem is finally revealed.
- Author's Note:
- Dedicated to my beta, lady_morsmordre, because I haven't dedicated anything to her in a while, and she's the best beta in the world.
Sea of Waking Dreams
By CinnamonChapter Fourteen
The next morning, Ginny hurried down the stairs for breakfast to find Ron reading the gossip section of the Daily Prophet and scowling. He looked rather pale and she sat down beside him and wrapped an arm around him.
“What’s wrong, Ron?”
He dropped the paper abruptly, so that it landed facedown. “Oh, the Prophet got its first issue out since the war disrupted everything, is all,” he said almost airily. Ginny picked the paper up and flipped it over.
“Oh, Ron,” she breathed, her eyes tearing up. On the front was a picture from the Hogwarts days of Ron, Harry, and Hermione walking over the grounds together. Hermione was standing in the middle of the group, her head tilted a little, and she was laughing. Harry and Ron were each holding some of her books for her, and both were grinning. Though the three figures moved, as all wizard pictures do, these ones did not look up or wave at the reader. They were too busy talking and laughing, and Ginny watched them for a moment, a soft pain inside, somewhere around her stomach. It had always been that way, after all. The three of them, too involved in their intense friendship to even glance up and notice who was watching. Below it was a huge headline that read ‘Love Triangle Results In Death; The Boy Who Lived Blamed.’
Ginny read it quickly and then glanced up at Ron, who was carefully studying his teacup. “It says she dumped him and he deliberately pushed her in the way of that Death Eater’s spell to save your life? That’s demented!”
“Rita Skeeter wrote it, she’s had it in for us ever since fourth year, even worse, really, when Hermione kept her in that jar for nearly a month before remembering to set her free.” He grimaced. “Then Fred came up with that spiffing idea to put her and the jar in a box and have Hermione aeroplane it to America.”
“Ron,” Ginny said gently. “You don’t think anyone will believe it, do you? It was a battle and Hermione died. There was nothing you could have done.”
“Everyone always believes what Rita Skeeter writes! Hermione wasn’t supposed to be there,” Ron hissed. “She was supposed to stay deep in the castle where it was safe.”
“You could risk your life and she couldn’t? Honestly, Ron, no one could have stopped her.”
Ron shrugged, standing up abruptly. “I’ve got to go,” he said in an angry tone. “I need to break something. I’ll see you later.” He turned to go and then paused. “Malfoy made the front cover. Me and Harry, we just made front page of the entertainment section. War ends, things start going back to normal and the most entertaining thing they can think about is lies about us? It’s quite disgusting, really.” His voice was trembling and he ran a hand through his hair.
“Go on, then,” Ginny said softly. Ron nodded once and stalked from the room. Sighing, Ginny folded the page carefully and tore out the picture, setting it aside. She thought maybe she’d give it to Ron, later. When he’d forgotten about the article. If he didn’t want the picture, she’d keep it herself.
She set the entertainment section aside and picked up the main section, where Draco was indeed on the front page. Beneath it, it read ‘Malfoy=1, Voldemort=0; THE WAR IS OVER!’, and Ginny read the article praising Draco’s victory carefully. The details were hopelessly inaccurate, but she realized then that no one had really told the entire story. She and Draco had slept for days afterwards, and the children had been too hysterical to recount it correctly.
The article read: ‘The Dark Lord has been vanquished, and with him, his right-hand man, Lucius Malfoy, by none other than Lucius’ son, Draco Malfoy, pictured above. An attack on Seandrar Castle was successfully repelled thanks to the incredible flying tactics learned on schoolyard Quidditch teams, while ground forces were defeated by troops of witches and wizards in one of the quickest, bloodiest battles since the fall of Hogwarts. However, while the inhabitants of the castle celebrated a victory, one dashing young man, who was once a Death Eater himself, was heard to shout ‘It isn’t over until my father and Voldemort are dead at my hand! As long as they’re out there, I will not rest! I know exactly where they are!’ And then, stepping over the fallen body of Harry Potter’s dead girlfriend (for more on that, see section E, page 1), Malfoy rushed out of the castle. He killed Voldemort after a vicious sword fight, in which he demonstrated a superior knowledge of arms. Following that, he quickly dispatched his father, and laid a careful trap for the remaining Death Eater officials, using as bait a voluptuous wench who happened to be in the vicinity. He shall be forever known, not as The Boy Who Lived, but The Man Who Killed Voldemort. Which is a lot better than merely living, if you ask me.’
Ginny scoffed a little. “Voluptuous?” she snorted. She tossed the paper away and grabbed a piece of toast. She had four days to discredit Fudge in the eyes of the public. Four days. And she had to use bumbling idiots like those in the newspaper to help her?
The best way to discredit the Minister, she decided finally, was to build a good image for herself. Which meant, for starters, this ‘voluptuous wench’ myth had to be dispelled.
Tossing the half-eaten toast aside, Ginny got up and left abruptly, snatching the picture of her brother and his friends off the table.
“Underhanded tactics,” she murmured to herself, taking a deep breath. She brushed her hair back and straightened her robes (glancing down doubtfully to reassure herself that there was no way by any stretch of the imagination that she could be considered voluptuous). Then, still unsure if she had what it took to be underhanded, Ginny stepped into the office of the Daily Prophet.
It was chaos. There were owls everywhere, feathers and pieces of parchment floating through the air, scraps of parchment being thrown randomly about, people shouting, quills flying haphazardly…
She walked up to the reception desk, and the harried secretary glanced up at her. “Another tale of heroism?” she barked. “Take a number and line up over there. We’re getting so many, so many witches and wizards want their own sons, daughters, whatever to be on the front page with the story of how valiant they were. War woulda been over a lot sooner had there really been so many acts of selfless bravery goin’ on, if ya ask me.”
“Umm, no,” Ginny said carefully. She forced a smile, making sure it trembled the tiniest bit. Charisma, she reminded herself. Sway the public. “I’m not here for that. You see, my heroism tale is already on the front page.”
The secretary, who had returned to a large stack of messages that had just arrived, glanced up. “What? What do you mean? What’s your story, girl?”
Ginny took a deep breath and announced loudly, “I want to tell the story of how Draco Malfoy —” she paused “—my boyfriend, defeated Voldemort.”
There was a sudden silence, and then the secretary asked waspishly, “And how would you know, girl? What did you say your name was?”
“Ginny Weasley. And I would know because, though I’m hardly voluptuous, I was there, and I saw everything.” It was a bit of a lie, she’d been unconscious for most of it, but Draco had told her the whole story.
The secretary pressed her lips together in thought. Then, she said, “We’ve already got that story. Ran it this morning.”
“Yes,” Ginny agreed, leaning closer, “But did you get the first-hand account from the person who helped Draco pull it off? You got a few details wrong, by the way.” She smiled. “I could set the record straight. But if you’re not interested, I could take my story to Witch Weekly. I’m sure I could even convince Draco to go in and do a photo shoot for the centerfold.”
“Fine. What do you want?”
Ginny was smiling again. “A meeting with the editor. And Rita Skeeter.”
Five minutes later, she was ushered through the chaos to an office at the back, and granted both requests.
The editor, a tall, skinny wizard named Zenos, shook her hand and asked her to sit, so Ginny did. Rita was leaning against a filing cabinet, looking bored and inspecting her fingernails. Ginny didn’t look at her.
“What is it you have to tell us, Miss Weasley?” Zenos asked.
“Oh,” Ginny said with another cunning smile. “I can’t tell until I asked Rita a few important questions, but if she answers them, you can be sure that I’ll give you everything you want, Mr. Zenos, sir.”
“How can we be so sure your story’s worth it?” Rita snapped. “I mean, a waifish, red-haired girl walks in and pretends to be Draco Malfoy’s girlfriend? You don’t seem the type.”
Ginny just lifted one eyebrow imperiously, a move she’d watched Narcissa make countless times in her short stay at the manor, and it was Zenos who broke the tense silence. “There’s no harm in the girl asking some questions,” he said smoothly. “What would they be in reference to? And should Rita answer them, you would give us an exclusive?”
“Oh, yes, provided you agree to a few terms, I would most happily tell you what really happened. This is a newspaper that prides itself on printing only the truest, most accurate pieces, as I have found in the past.” She smiled again, though this time it was cold. “And as such, Rita would of course have to keep her magical quill to herself.”
“Of course,” Zenos said with a greasy smile. “Please, ask your questions.”
Ginny pulled out the newspaper clipping. “You recognize this picture, of course?”
Rita glanced at it and nodded with a sour grimace. “Granger, Potter, and Weasley.” She glanced up. “Your brother?”
Ginny nodded once. “Should I agree to give you a first-hand view of what really happened the night Voldemort died, you’d have to issue a public apology for the filthy lies you told about Hermione Granger’s death in today’s newspaper.”
“They weren’t lies.” Rita snapped. “I have a respectable source who told me that was exactly what happened.”
“Which source is this, then?”
“Lavender Brown. She was there.”
“She wasn’t, she was cowering in the divination wing with all the other seers,” Ginny snapped. “They were lies. Hermione Granger’s death was a tragic loss to the wizarding world. She was one of the cleverest witches ever to attend Hogwarts. If you do not swear to write a sincere apology for these lies and treat her with the respect she deserves, I won’t tell you a thing. She died a hero, after having saved Harry’s life at perilous risk to her own, journeying into the Hogwarts ruins to rescue the one thing that would save him. She is mourned by the Weasleys and the Malfoys, both of whom are severely disappointed that the Prophet would have dared write such an insensitive piece about her.”
“It will be done,” said Zenos quickly. Apparently she had convinced him that she was legitimate, Zenos was willing to do anything to get an exclusive with her.
“And this picture, I assume it was a picture you’ve got on file? As it is from Hogwarts, I mean.”
Rita nodded; she was scowling.
“Can I have them all? I think Harry and Ron would like to have them.”
Zenos agreed, and Ginny sat back, relieved. “All right. I will tell Rita then, in private,” she said.
“Private? But the whole world will know of it soon enough,” Zenos argued. “And besides, we have better reporters than Rita.”
Rita had once been the best reporter on the staff, until she had gone missing for months following the incident with the Triwizard tournament. She had never been able to explain her absence, as that would have meant confessing that she was an unregistered animagus, and accordingly, had been demoted to the gossip column.
“I’ll only tell Rita,” Ginny said stubbornly, and Zenos nodded with a scowl and left the room. Rita did not even have her own office any longer and had to use his. She slid into his chair and inspected Ginny’s face carefully.
“Why me?” she said bluntly. “If your story is as good as you say it is, it’ll be the story of the century.”
Ginny leaned closer. “I chose you because I believe we have something to offer each other,” she replied softly. “There is a favor from you I would like to ask.”
Rita snorted. “You force me to apologize for slandering Granger the way she deserved and now ask favors?”
“As you said, this promises to be the story of the century. I believe if you were to cover it, it would help with your career, wouldn’t it? Isn’t that reward enough? And it’s much bigger than you think it is,” Ginny explained solemnly. “You see, it involves not only Voldemort and Lucius, but also, the Minster of Magic.”
Rita looked mildly interested. “What favor?” she asked.
Ginny grimaced a little. “I find myself needing to resort to Underhanded Tactics,” she said with a shrug. “There is no one I know of more versed in the skill than you.”
Rita smiled slowly, her eyes glittering. “And what is it, exactly, you need?”
Ginny leaned forward and quietly began to explain the whole story, and by the end of it, Rita was writing furiously, a smirk on her face.
“What are you doing?” Belle hissed. Miles ignored her and Iniko smirked a little.
“You didn’t think we’d just wait around in this stuffy room with you bossing us around, did you?” he said with a shrug. “We’re breaking out.”
Belle put her hands on her hips and glanced at the door nervously. They’d been in this room for days, with only a strange man coming by three times a day to deliver their meals and admonish them to be quiet and do their lessons, saying everything would be better soon. Of course they were all going a little mad from it. But really, breaking the window open and using a rope of bed sheets to escape?
“They’ll come after us,” Belle said uncertainly. “They’ll catch us and we’ll be punished. Besides, we can’t really escape without Axel, and he’s being kept downstairs.”
“We’ll have to leave him. He won’t care, long as they keep him fed.” Miles smiled in an adventurous sort of way. “Surely you don’t want to stay here forever?”
“I want to go back to Ginny,” Keela said solemnly. She’d developed the habit of sucking her thumb since they’d been brought there.
“She’ll come for us,” Belle snapped.
“If there is one thing I’ve learned from this,” Miles said absently as he tested the knots on the rope, “it’s that you can’t always rely on other people to rescue you. ‘Specially the adults. Sometimes they forget to come back for you.”
“So that’s it then? You’re going to run off and live on the streets of London?” she cried, growing more panicky the longer the bed sheet rope became.
“Of course not!” Miles snapped. “We’ve a better plan than that. We’re going to find Draco and Ginny.”
Iniko was nodding. “They should’ve been here by now, what if they’re in trouble again? That bad man with the sword might’ve —”
“He’s dead, Iniko. You saw him yourself.” Belle touched her forehead as if checking for a fever, a gesture of impatience she’d picked up from Ginny.
“I’m going with them,” Lucky decided suddenly. “They might need protection, after all, and I’ve got a wand.” She pulled it out of her sleeve and waved it for emphasis.
Keela instantly decided to go as well, and Belle scowled. “I suppose I’ll go too then, because somebody with half a brain has got to lead the lot of you.”
Miles was grinning and he skipped over to give her a sloppy kiss on the lips. She dodged him with a squeal, and he laughed. “C’mon, Belle,” he cried, still grinning. “All grown ups snog. It’s a rule.”
Belle glared at him. “I don’t,” she snapped. “Especially boys with pumpkin juice mustaches above their lips.”
He started scrubbing his upper lip with the back of his hand, still laughing, and Iniko pulled a butter knife out of his pocket. “I even nicked this from dinner last night to use as a weapon,” he said importantly.
“Give it here then,” Miles snapped, snatching it. He tucked it safely in his belt. “C’mon then.” He swaggered over to the window and tugged it open, glancing down at the brick wall. They were on the second floor and the wall was covered in vines. That would make it easier to climb down, at any rate, he figured. “Tie the sheets to the bed post closest to the window and hurry up,” he said impatiently. Iniko started tying it clumsily and Belle snatched it away, mumbling.
“My father was a sailor,” she said. “He taught me to tie knots when I was a little girl.”
After the sheets were secure, Miles grasped them tightly in both hands and swung out of the window. The other children clustered around, watching him descend carefully. He was only a quarter of the way down when the vines suddenly started moving, wrapping themselves around his ankles. With a muffled shout, Miles began hacking at them with his knife, slashing a few weakly. The vine pulled away, as if stunned, and Miles hurried down the remaining distance, dropping to the ground. He glanced up uncertainly at the others. “I’ll just pull the vines out,” he shouted, before tearing up most of the vines that climbed anywhere near the window. Then he motioned for the others to climb down, and watched over them as they did.
After all the children had escaped, they crept through the gate and ran down the street, entering bustling Diagon Alley.
Holding hands so as not to lose each other, they threaded their way through the crowds, trying to get as far away from the safe house as possible. They were outside Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour when they finally paused to catch their breaths, staring around, wide-eyed, at all the people. Iniko was eyeing the ice creams being eaten inside the shop, and Belle hissed, “We’ll be caught easily like this! Five runaway children without parents! We’ve got to split up, at least until it’s dark when no one will see us. I think they’ll mostly go home by then, and we can keep to the shadows. That’s what we should do, split up, hide out until dark, and then meet up somewhere.”
“Where?” Miles asked, his confidence in his own ability to escape badly shaken now that they were out and alone in a huge crowd.
Belle pointed to a narrow alleyway that was piled high with crates and boxes of garbage. “There. Miles, take Keela with you, I’ll take Lucky, Iniko, you go alone, all right? And remember, at nightfall, make your way here. Find someplace to hide, like a dark shop or an empty building or something, and whatever happens, don’t let yourself be seen. We’ll wait at the alley until midnight and if you haven’t shown up, we’ll have to leave without you, but don’t worry, we’ll come back for you, once we’ve rescued Ginny and Draco.”
“What if they don’t need to be saved?” Keela asked worriedly. “What if they don’t want us anymore?”
“Of course they want us,” Belle snapped. “Lucky, come on. Miles, keep a good watch on her.”
The children split up, threading their way through the crowd and seeking out places to hide where they were sure no one would find them. Mere moments later, Ginny walked out of the newspaper office and made her way back to the Leaky Cauldron.
It was early afternoon and she was smiling a little, a sharp, satisfied smile, as she hurried back to the inn, wondering if anyone had noticed she was gone.
Draco was waiting in the pub, and he looked livid. “Ginny!” he snapped as soon as she had walked in. “Where have you been? I woke up and you were gone, I searched everywhere!”
She slid into a chair beside him and gave him her sweetest, most soothing smile. “You’re my boyfriend, right?”
He frowned in confusion for a moment, which had been what she had intended. “Why?”
“Well, I just wanted to know that if I were to inform someone that you were my boyfriend, would you be upset?”
“Of course not. I love you.”
She smiled brightly and kissed him. “Good. Because, honestly, I’d hate for you to have a problem with that, especially now.” Before he could ask, she changed the subject. “Have you read this morning’s paper?”
He nodded grimly. “That Skeeter woman, I can’t believe she would write what she did about Potter.”
“You hate Harry.”
“Just because I hate him doesn’t mean I think he deserves to suffer.”
“Ron was pretty upset about it, have you seen him?”
Ginny hopped out of her chair. “I’d better go find him.” She affectionately stroked his hair and walked away.
“Ginny!” he called after her, exasperated. “Where were you?”
She didn’t answer, only smiled at him over her shoulder and hurried up the stairs.
Nighttime brought with it a hush over Diagon Alley. As darkness fell, the witches and wizards, out of habit burned into them by the years of war with Voldemort, sought out their homes where there had been at least the illusion of safety, and soon, only the very brave still wandered. The very brave, and the very young.
Miles was panicking. He’d been distracted by the Magical Menagerie as he and Keela snuck past, and he had stopped to look at the owls, letting go of her hand. By the time he had realized he had let go, she had wandered off, and he had spent the day searching for her. He hadn’t found her, and Belle was going to kill him.
He scurried into the alley they’d agreed to meet in, and Iniko was waiting, looking nervous. His grin was shaky when he saw Miles. “Thought I was the only one,” he said. “Where’s —”
“Don’t think I’d like to talk about it,” Miles said shortly, and Iniko grimaced.
“Belle’s gonna have your head,” he whispered.
“Have his head?” Belle asked, tugging Lucky behind her. “What’s he done now? Where’s Keela?”
Miles was scowling. “She disappeared! It wasn’t my fault!”
Belle went pale. “How long as she been missing? You stupid boy! We can’t let her wander! Where is she?”
“If I knew that, she wouldn’t be lost now, would she?” Miles mumbled.
“They’ve got people prowling about, looking for us! Nearly caught me and Lucky earlier! They’ll catch her, unless we find her first!” She was scowling. “Lucky, stay here in case she comes, don’t let her leave. We’ll split up and go in different directions, we’re bound to find her, unless she’s been caught. C’mon.”
They hurried silently out of the alley again, Lucky scowling at having been left alone and sitting on the dirty ground, leaning against a crate. It was very quiet, and in the distance, she thought she heard an owl hoot, but wasn’t sure.
Keela wasn’t lost so much as misplaced. She had wandered away from Miles because she had seen a pretty black kitten walking along the street and she loved cats. Now, as dusk fell, she stood holding the kitten, who had fallen asleep in her arms, and gazing about in a panic. She had forgotten which way the alley they’d planned to meet was, and had spent the entire day searching. Everyone had left and there were darkening shadows all around. She was terrified.
There were a few buildings that were still brightly lit and noisy, and, drawn to them, Keela slipped through a doorway into the brightest and loudest one of them all.
Witches and wizards of all sorts were clustered in a large common room, drinking, laughing, still celebrating the fall of Voldemort. There were a few wizards in the corners, glaring sullenly at the others, and a few waitresses weaving through the crowds bringing drinks. No children, however, and Keela wondered nervously if she was allowed to be there.
She ducked low, the kitten meowing in protest, and crawled into a corner, hidden behind a large potted plant. Exhausted, Keela curled up into a tiny ball and closed her eyes, deciding to sleep.
She hadn’t been there for ten minutes yet when the potted plant was kicked away and a terrible, scarred man with a wild, wandering eye glared down at her. “You’re not allowed to be here,” he rasped, and Keela jumped to her feet with a scream, clutching her kitten. She started to cry as the man shouted at her, and she was about to run when she heard a welcome and familiar voice.
“Keela?” It was Draco, and he looked shocked to see her. He easily swept her up into his arms and hugged her tightly, snapping something at the ugly man who had yelled at her, and carrying her out of the room. He took the stairs three at a time, Keela still wailing against his chest and the cat squirming madly between them. Knocking loudly at one of the doors, he whispered, “Shh, it’s all right, Keela, don’t cry. You’re safe now.”
The door opened and Ginny was there, her mouth falling open. “Keela!” she cried, pulling the little girl into her arms. Draco followed her into the room, closing the door behind them, and Ginny conjured up some hot chocolate for the girl, cradling her in her arms until she was quiet.
“What are you doing here, Keela?” she asked gently.
Keela sniffled. “We thought you weren’t coming,” she said. “Miles said maybe you didn’t come because you were hurt and we had to rescue you, so we escaped.”
Ginny looked stricken and Draco winced. “No, that wasn’t it at all, we’re working at getting you free,” she told Keela. “I swear, we are. We’d never leave you there!”
“That’s what Belle said, but we didn’t believe her because she’s going mental.” Keela shrugged sleepily. “I found a cat.”
“He’s very cute,” Ginny said, petting the kitten. “But what do you mean, Belle’s going mental?”
“Bad dreams. She talks. Screams about secrets and tests. Screams something awful. Always wakes me up.” Keela yawned, snuggling into Ginny’s arms.
Ginny looked worried but didn’t speak for a moment, and Draco asked, “Where are the others, Keela? Do you know?”
“We were supposed to meet in a dark alley. By the ice cream store, when it got dark. Don’t send me away, please don’t send me away, I want to stay with you.” She started to cry again, and Ginny’s stricken eyes met Draco’s.
“Of course you can stay here, at least for tonight,” Ginny said instinctively. “Draco will go and get the others, won’t you, Draco?”
He nodded and left the room quickly.
He’d been to Diagon Alley so many times that he knew his way around almost as well as he knew the manor, so he quickly made his way to the alley across from the ice cream shop, his wand in his hand in case anyone in the shadows threatened.
At first, he was worried that the alley was empty and the children hadn’t made it at all, or had already left. Then, from the shadows, Lucky called, “Draco?”
He saw her then, sitting in the dirt in the darkest part of the alley, and he grinned at her, crouching down and opening his arms wide. “Come here!” he called, and laughing, she flew into his arms, hugging him tightly. He lifted her up and kissed the top of her head. “Where are the others?”
“Went to find Keela. She’s lost.”
“We’ve already found her, Ginny’s got her safe. She told us where to find the rest of you.”
“They said they’d come back.”
“Then we’ll have to wait.” He sat down where she had been sitting, leaning against the same crate, with her snuggled happily against his chest. A few minutes later, Iniko wandered back, scowling a little. When he saw Draco, he beamed.
“I knew you’d come for us!”
“Of course I would,” Draco said easily. “We’d never forget about you. We’ve been working hard to get you back.”
Iniko nodded. “Now you won’t have to, because we snuck out.”
Draco smiled gently at the boy. “It’s not as simple as that, but I promise, we won’t let them have you.”
Miles returned soon after that, and Belle was last, looking stricken, until she saw Draco. Then she started to cry and confessed that Keela was lost and it was all her fault.
“Was not,” Miles told her awkwardly. “You told me to watch her.”
Draco stood up, still holding Lucky. “It doesn’t matter, I found her, she’s all right. I’ve come to collect you all and bring you to where we’re staying, but you can’t let anyone see you, all right? Promise?”
Miles smirked with the cockiness of half a day’s life on the streets. “Yeah.”
Draco nodded and glanced out of the small alley. He couldn’t see anyone, which didn’t mean they weren’t skulking in the shadows, and he grimaced. “We’ll have to go fast. Are you ready?”
They all nodded and Draco took the lead, holding Lucky with one hand and his wand in the other. They moved quickly down the alley without anyone calling out to stop him and demand he return the orphans to the safe home. Ten minutes later, he was taking them into the Leaky Cauldron through the back and up the stairs.
He knocked on Ginny’s door, and when she opened it, she threw herself into his arms and kissed him. “Thank you,” she whispered, tears shining in her eyes.
Miles nudged Belle. “I told you all grown ups snog.”
Ginny herded the children into her room where Keela was already sitting, drinking hot chocolate. Keela beamed at them. “I found Draco,” she said smugly.
The children all accepted hot chocolate that Ginny conjured up for them and crawled onto the bed, now that they were safe and found, content to exchange stories of their wild adventures in Diagon Alley.
Ginny grabbed Draco’s hand and slipped out into the hall with him. “We can leave,” she whispered. Her whole body was shaking. “We can just slip away tonight and go where no one would find us.”
Draco shook his head gently. “We can’t, Ginny, it’s not as easy as that. They’ll hunt for us and our families would suffer. We’ll do it legally, like you said. Then they’ll be ours forever.”
She nodded, leaning her head against his shoulder and taking a shaking breath. “But can we keep them? Just for tonight? I’ve missed them so badly.”
He wrapped his arms around her and stroked her hair. “Yeah. They can stay here tonight, they’ve got to go back tomorrow. No one can know they ever came to us, it would destroy our case if we were thought to have helped them escape.”
“I know.” She smiled at him, blinking back tears. “And we’ll win, so it’s all right. We’ll see them again in a few days.”
He kissed her lingeringly and whispered, “C’mon, I bet they’re dying to tell us the story of how they escaped.”
She laughed and let him pull her back into the room. They both got on her bed and all the children crowded around, talking excitedly all at once until the whole story was told, with many exaggerations from Miles, and then the children, exhausted, all fell asleep.
Ginny sat leaning against Draco with Keela in her lap and Belle pressed against her side, for a long time, stroking the children’s hair and studying their faces in the firelight before she was finally able to sleep.
Percy offered to lead the children back to the safe house the next morning, after Ginny promised that she’d be able to take them home in a few days.
“Good,” Miles said with a scowl. “No one’s come to see us, no one’s been in the room except us and the creepy man who never talks and brings food. I’ll go nuts if I have to stay in that room much longer.”
“Only because Belle refuses to snog you,” Iniko said with a scowl. Then Percy, warning Ginny to stay out of sight so no one would think she had anything to do with the children’s escape, herded them away. She watched worriedly as he led them through the crowds. Then, her shoulders slumped, she walked back into the pub, not even noticing that all the people there having breakfast were giving her the strangest looks.
Draco was sitting with Fred, George, and Charlie with a vaguely stunned look on his face, staring at that morning’s issue of the Daily Prophet. She slid into a chair beside Charlie and started playing with a piece of toast.
“Ginny,” Draco said slowly. “What the hell is this?” He tossed the newspaper to the table and she glanced at it before realization made her eyes widen.
“Where did they get that?” she whispered, trying not to laugh. She was blushing a little. On the front cover of the newspaper was a huge picture of her and Draco, both of whom seemed more intent on snogging than anything else.
“It’s not the picture I’m worried about,” he scowled. “The story, where did they get the story?”
She read the headline below the picture. ‘Saves The Day And Gets The Girl: The Real Story Behind Draco Malfoy’s Heroic Defeat Of He-Who-Can-Now-Be-Named’. Ginny pressed her lips together and glanced up at him nervously. “Are you mad?”
He looked exasperated. “I’d just like to know what’s going on!”
She sighed. “I had to offer Rita Skeeter something in order to get her to help us,” she said. “So I told her what really happened. I figured people needed to know the truth rather than that inaccurate version of in yesterday’s paper, anyway.”
“Ginny, have you read the article? It’s disgustingly sugar-coated.”
Fred and George had snatched the paper now and were snickering at the picture, while Charlie just looked furious. “Spiffing picture,” Fred said, smirking.
Ginny ignored him. “Draco… The goblins said sway public opinion. This is the best way to do it. It’s like a fairy tale, and fairy tales never end up with children being memory charmed to forget everything! They end with happily ever after.”
“The story,” he claimed in a tight voice, “says that we are ‘star-crossed lovers brought together in a fiery passion in the throes of war’.”
Fred and George were howling with laughter by now and Charlie, evidently disgusted, stalked away from the table. Ginny cleared her throat delicately and quickly scanned the article. Her face was very pink when she finished. “Oh,” she said, licking her lip nervously. “They might have exaggerated that a bit.”
“A bit? They make it sound like I took time out of my busy schedule of making love to you to run off and try to save Hermione, whom they claim was an ‘upstanding and very brilliant witch who was involved in a pure, undying love affair with Harry Potter’, and while I was gone, you were spirited off by the ‘lecherous Lord Voldemort’, who wanted you for his ‘slave of love and other unmentionable things’, and I swept in, saved your life and the lives of the orphaned children.”
“Busy schedule of making love, you say?” George asked, fighting to keep a straight face. “Very noble of you to disrupt that, Malfoy.”
Ginny shot him a dark look. “That wasn’t — we didn’t… Oh, bloody hell. Draco, I didn’t say half of that stuff, honestly. Rita Skeeter did the story, and she’s rather annoyed at me, she probably did it to get revenge or something. But it doesn’t matter, it works in our favor, everyone loves torrid love affairs. It’ll get public sympathy, especially after they read the article on the Minister’s attempts to take the children from us. It’s on page two, but Rita promised to research more dirt on him today and write an article for the front page for tomorrow’s issue. The goblins said to expose him without mercy and I thought Rita Skeeter was the perfect person to help.” She studied his face worriedly. He had closed off his expression, and she took his hands. “Draco, you’re not angry that I told them that you loved me, are you?”
He shot her an irritated look. “Of course not. It’s just… they make everything sound so simple and dirty all at the same time. It wasn’t like that.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
He sighed and forced a tiny smile. “You’re right though, I suppose this will help draw attention to the case.” He snatched the paper back from Fred, who was watching Ginny and Draco snog on the front page and comparing kissing tactics with George. Flipping to page two, Draco read the article on the hearing.
“‘The Ministry of Magic, in a bold, unprecedented move, has removed six war orphans from the care of Draco Malfoy, hero of the war, and Ginny Weasley, his lover.’” Draco coughed delicately and continued reading. “‘Even following his tremendous defeat of The Dark Lord, apparently Fudge, Minister of Magic, does not trust Malfoy to care for the children. “It’s just terrible,” Weasley said in an interview yesterday. “We love those children like our own and we told them we’d take care of them. They cried when they were taken away, and Draco is just horribly upset! He cries himself to sleep nearly every night’ —’”
“I do not!” he cried. “Cry myself to sleep at night, that’s ridiculous. Malfoys don’t cry.”
“Exactly,” Ginny said soothingly. “That’s why it’ll shock people. It’s for the children, Draco.”
He sighed, though he was still scowling. “I suppose it’s all right then,” he grumbled. He finished the article quickly. It hinted at corruption in the ministry, quoting various Unnamed Sources saying that Fudge had remained hidden deep in the castle for the entire siege and that no one had really seen him doing anything during the entire war. All in all, Draco decided with a reluctant grin, they had come out as the poor, unfortunate souls who had lost their dear children, and Fudge had come out as the blind, heartless man responsible for making a Malfoy cry. It wasn’t so bad.
“D’you mind terribly if I keep that picture?” Fred asked, grinning. “You’re a marvelous kisser, Malfoy, and I’d like to study it and see if I can’t show Lavender a few things when I see her again.”
“You most certainly can’t,” Ginny snapped suddenly. “You know, she’s responsible for that horrible article yesterday about Hermione.”
Fred looked startled. “Honestly, Ginny, you can’t be serious. Lavender wouldn’t —”
“The only reason I haven’t gone to find her and slap her for what she’s done to Harry and Ron is that I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt because I know what Rita Skeeter’s like. But really, Fred, I’m not impressed with her at the moment.”
“I’ll talk to her,” Fred promised. “Honestly, Lavender would never purposely hurt anyone.”
“Besides,” Draco drawled. “If you need tips on how to snog, ask Ron, he’s better at it than I am.” He picked up the newspaper and rolled it up, leaving his chair. “C’mon, Ginny, we’ve got to get our arguments in order for the hearing.”
She laughed at Fred and George’s faces and whispered, “Is that ever going to get old for you?”
Draco grinned. “Honestly. Highlight of my life, I shall remember it forever. It was, after all, the first time a Weasley ever kissed me.”
Ginny suddenly looked stricken. “He wasn’t better at it than me, was he?”
Looking thoughtful as they walked up the stairs, Draco said, “Well, he did seem to have more practice than you did, really.”
Ginny stopped abruptly. “Well why don’t you go to him next time the urge comes upon you to pull someone into a broom closet?” she snapped.
He laughed and kissed her suddenly, pressing her against the wall in the stairwell. He kissed her thoroughly, only stopping when Charlie, who’d been on his way down the stairs, cleared his throat pointedly. Even then, he lingered, ignoring Charlie and bending to whisper in her ear. “Honestly, Ginny, you make it too easy. I didn’t go back to him for more, did I?”
Ginny turned a little pink, smiled distractedly at Charlie, who was waiting furiously for them to break apart, and grabbed Draco’s hand, pulling him behind her as she dashed up the remaining stairs and into her room. Draco was laughing as she kicked the door shut.
They didn’t get all that much work done on the hearing preparations, and didn’t leave her room for hours.
Seandrar Castle was quickly emptying as people went back to their lives to pick up the pieces and start to put them back together again. Harry had nothing to go back to, nothing to pick up. His life had been destroyed so utterly that there was nothing left.
It was quiet since the Weasleys had left a few days before. They had been worried about him, of course, and Ron had wanted to stay, but Ginny had needed their help and they had all left. Harry was glad, he needed to think, to sort out what to do with himself now that Hermione was gone and Voldemort was dead.
There really wasn’t all that much to think about.
He was sitting on the northern wall of the castle, black waves crashing far below, salty breeze in his wild black hair. His feet were dangling over the edge and he took a certain amount of thrill in the knowledge that a slight shift of muscle would send him falling to his death on the rocks below. It made his breathing quicken and his heart rate speed up.
He heard someone exit the turret and step onto the parapet but did not turn around, assuming it was Dumbledore, who had often turned up in the strangest places to coax him off high walls or ask him gently if he could please return the cutlery he hadn’t been aware he had taken to the kitchen. It wasn’t him, however, and when the warm, husky voice spoke behind him, he was startled, and almost fell because of it. A strong hand on his shoulder kept him steady.
“Harry, you all right?” It was Oliver Wood, and Harry scowled.
“I’m fine, what does it look like?”
“It looks like you’re about to fall off a very high wall, actually. Get off there, I wanted to ask you something.”
Grudgingly, Harry climbed off the wall, and only then noticed that Oliver was holding two broomsticks, both Firebolts, one of them Harry’s own. “What?”
“Wanted to know if you wanted to go flying with me.”
Harry’s first instinct was to refuse, but Oliver thrust the broom into his hand and jerked his head, smiling grimly, and Harry knew he had no choice. He climbed back onto the wall, and this time, Oliver came with him, both mounting their brooms and then Oliver glanced at him.
“On the count of three. Ready?”
And Harry, that strange adrenaline pumping through him once more, nodded.
Oliver counted, and they jumped, diving straight down towards the rocks, holding tightly to their brooms. Harry closed his eyes and felt the cold wind whipping his face, dragging salty tears out of his stinging eyes. Oliver screamed with mad laughter beside him as they plummeted straight downwards, a dangerous game of chicken that Harry knew he’d win if it came right down to it, because he had nothing to lose.
At the last possible second, they both pulled out and sped out to sea, so low to the water that the foaming crests of the waves touched Harry’s face and left marks on his glasses. He reached down, his hand dragging in the frigid water, and closed his eyes, the sudden urge to cry overwhelming him, but he held it back. Jerking his broom up, he soared high again, nearly straight up, wanting the roaring of the wind in his ears to drown out all of the memories screaming in his head of the things he should have done, the things he should have said. When he got as high as he dared, he stood up, balancing carefully on his broom. He could distantly see Seandrar Castle and the cliffs, but the sea was a huge, shimmering blackness below, Oliver on his own broom, craning his neck and watching worriedly.
Harry smiled recklessly and dove, falling forever, his clothes whipping his skin as he did, the roaring of the wind drowning out any memories he had until all that existed was his body, falling down towards the endless black sea. He let out a triumphant scream as he fell, and when he hit, his entire body went numb from the pain and shock of it. For a few moments, he contemplated just letting himself sink, but Oliver was waiting and he finally broke to the surface, tossing his hair out of his face. It was cold, but he relished the feeling, and he’d lost his glasses somewhere in the water.
“All right, Harry?” Oliver called. Harry’s broom still hovered high above.
“Yeah! Try it!” Harry shouted.
Oliver, though he looked reluctant, did, and he screamed all the way down, landing a short distance away and surfacing nearby. “Shit!” he cried, but he was grinning like a madman. “Harry, it’s freezing!”
Harry grinned. “I know,” he said, teeth clattering. “But it’s nice, isn’t it?”
Oliver had swum closer, inspecting Harry’s face carefully. “Lovely,” he said, distractedly. “Where are your glasses?”
“Lost ‘em in the water,” Harry admitted with an easy shrug.
Oliver pulled his wand out of his pocket. “Accio glasses,” he mumbled, and Harry’s glasses popped into his hand. He unfolded them and slipped them onto Harry’s face in an oddly tender gesture.
“Thanks,” Harry whispered, wondering why he had lowered his voice.
“No problem,” Oliver replied awkwardly. He put his wand away and there was silence for a little while, both of them lost in thought and treading water. Oliver was just about to suggest they get out of the water when a huge wave swamped them both, dragging him under.
He was lost in a maze of swirling blackness for a few moments, and he was choking and gasping when he finally surfaced. He couldn’t see Harry anywhere and, panicking, he dove back under, his eyes stinging from the salt. He felt Harry’s robes and grabbed them, jerking upwards quickly, tugging Harry to the surface.
Harry was coughing, his face very pale, and Oliver held him up, pushing his streaming hair out of his face. “All right?” he kept asking, though Harry didn’t have the breath to reply. He’d lost his glasses again, and Oliver summoned them back with a slight smile, once again putting them on for him. Harry’s hands were on Oliver’s shoulders, holding on for support while he fought to clear his lungs, and he finally stopped coughing, breathing deeply. He was resting his head exhaustedly on Oliver’s shoulder, nearly pushing Oliver under with his dead weight, but Oliver didn’t mind kicking twice as hard as normal to stay afloat.
Harry lifted his head and accidentally bumped into Oliver’s snapping his jaw shut hard against his lower lip. Oliver yelped, bringing one hand up to his bleeding lip, and grimacing.
“Oh, Oliver! I’m so sorry!” Harry cried, pushing Oliver’s hand away. He inspected Oliver’s swelling lip in silence.
“It’s all right, Harry,” Oliver said a little nervously. Harry’s eyes had darkened strangely as he studied Oliver’s mouth. “I—”
He never got to finish. Harry closed the slight distance between them, sealing his lips very hesitantly across Oliver’s. His eyes fluttered shut and he swam a little closer, his legs brushing Oliver’s.
Oliver was afraid to breathe too heavily, for fear that it would startle Harry and make him stop. He brought one hand up nervously to rest on Harry’s shoulder, very lightly, tilting his head nearly imperceptibly so that Harry could press closer.
Harry pulled away very suddenly and with a gasp, his eyes flying wide. “Oh shit,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to, I—”
“— Shouldn’t have kissed you like that, I didn’t even mean to, I —”
“— Am so sorry. You don’t —”
Fighting a rather amused smile, Oliver finally shut him up by lifting one freezing hand up to his face, cupping his cheek and stroking softly. Harry stopped talking with a squeak, his eyes so wide and shining that Oliver could see himself reflected in them. Oliver took a deep breath, hoping to calm the shaking in his hands, and failing that, hopping desperately that Harry would take it for shivering from cold. He didn’t feel cold any longer, which was the problem.
“It’s all right,” he said firmly, a second before kissing Harry, a great deal more confidently than he felt, and a great deal more thoroughly than Harry had kissed him. He stroked gently with his tongue until Harry relaxed a little, and then started sucking lightly on his lower lip, his one hand still resting on the side of Harry’s face. Harry opened his mouth the tiniest bit after a rather breathless moan, and Oliver smiled a bit as he slipped his tongue inside. Harry tasted of sea salt and butterscotch and Oliver wanted to drown in it, which was actually quite possible considering the fact that the kiss seemed to be making him forget to tread water and Harry was pretty much holding him up now. His hands were firmly wrapped around Oliver’s arms, holding his head above water.
When they broke apart a short while later, Oliver felt rather dizzy, and Harry was smiling faintly. “What was that?” he asked shakily.
“Rather random, wasn’t it?” Oliver agreed.
Harry closed his eyes for a moment and then opened them, brilliant green meeting Oliver’s brown. “No. No, it wasn’t,” he whispered. A thousand questions he’d been too terrified too face suddenly pounded their way into his brain, whispering the answers he’d been to scared to understand. But this wasn’t scary, was it? This wasn’t Malfoy, with his sarcastic smiles and his haunted eyes. This was Oliver. He knew Oliver, trusted Oliver, maybe Oliver could help him define exactly what it was about himself that hadn’t let him love Hermione the way he should have. Because for all that his mind told him that what he had just done was Wrong, some other part of him was whispering that it was Right, and Harry just didn’t know which one was stronger any longer.
“We should go,” Oliver said suddenly, awkwardly. He pulled away, and Harry let him. He needed to think.
Oliver summoned their brooms and Harry pulled himself out of the water and onto his. They flew back to the castle together in silence, both of them lost deep in thought, strange realizations struggling to make themselves known, that both were a little hesitant to voice.