The sound of a heavy bag hitting the floor of the hallway woke her with a start, red hair flying as her head jerked up. Reaching up to rub at her now sore neck, Ginny attempted to send the blond a glare, but her exhausted state left the expression rather weak, a fact that did not escape his notice.
“Shouldn’t you have left by now?” Draco asked with the slightest hint of concern as he met brown eyes framed by an impressive set of blue-tinged bags.
She nodded her head slowly in response as she yawned, though that soon turned into a groan as she caught sight of the hand of her watch pointing to ‘time for bed’. Work was certainly going to be fun tomorrow, she thought as she pulled herself to her feet and reached wearily for her bag. “I just sat down for a breather after practice. Guess I fell asleep.”
A single blond brow rose in what she had come to recognize as his ‘no, really?’ look.
She shrugged half-heartedly before hoisting her bag of gear onto her shoulder with another groan, eliciting a heavy sigh and roll of the eyes from her teammate who cast a weightless charm on the bag with a pointed look at its owner.
“Oh, right. Thanks.”
Draco let out another sigh and fell into step with her as she walked from the locker room area out onto the field. “You’re not going to be any use to anyone if you keep this up, you know.”
“What exactly is that supposed to mean?” she questioned in a tired voice.
“It means,” he said, reaching out to pull her to a stop in front of him, “that you need to stop trying to do everything at once. You can’t work full time at the factory and still be a full member of the team. It may have worked in the off-season, but our first game is in less than a month. You need to be able to give your all to this now.”
This time it was Ginny who sighed. “I know, I was just hoping to work through at least most of the pre-season, get some more money saved up before I had to quit.”
If she hadn’t been so tired, she would have found the understanding expression on his face a little surprising, despite all she had learned about her former childhood enemy. “Well, I really don’t think that’s going to be possible, at least not without wearing yourself into the ground.”
“You’re right,” the redhead admitted resignedly. “I’ll talk to my boss in the morning, give him my notice.”
Draco nodded approvingly. “While you’re at it, you might want to give your landlord notice too.”
Her shoulders slumped at the reminder. “I know. I can’t very well stay in employee housing when I’m no longer an employee, and I certainly don’t want to move back into the public housing I was in when I first moved there. But how the hell am I supposed to find an apartment I can afford around here? I don’t even know where to start looking.”
The Malfoy heir chuckled. “How easily we forget.”
Ginny tossed him a glare, slightly more effective than her first attempt. “I’m too tired to play games, Drake, just get to the point.”
In the months she had spent training with him and the rest of her new team, Ginny Weasley had gotten to know the new and improved version of the blond, even adopting the shortened version of his that name the Dragons’ used, but she was still surprised by his next words.
“I do live around here, you know, it’s only logical that I help you find yourself a place.”
She stared with sleep-deprived eyes for several seconds. “You’re going to help me apartment hunt?”
“Sure,” he said with a shrug. “If I leave you to do it on your own you’ll end up in some slum and I’ll have to listen to you complain about it for the next year.” He ruined the selfish tone with a wink at her before mounting his broom.
“We’ll go after practice Saturday. Until then, get some sleep.”
Shaking her head at his parting words, she mounted and took off herself, heading back home, trying her best not to think of what was sure to be a very long search for her new housing.
That Saturday saw a much less extensive and much more enjoyable excursion than she’d expected, however, as the man she’d thought she’d gotten to know surprised her yet again with his knowledge of the Death Drop real estate market. Somehow anticipating everything she’d want in a residence, Draco steered her in all the right directions, until by only six o’clock that night, they had found a place that met their approval.
“How is it that you know all the right things to ask when inspecting a rental?” a bemused and more than slightly impressed redhead asked her companion as they left the apartment manager’s office after signing her brand new lease.
He tried to shrug off the question, but a pleading repeat of her inquiry and a playful punch in the arm had him glancing down with an almost embarrassed look on his face as he answered. “Guess I learned the hard way when I first got here.”
Brown eyes regarded him intently for several moments before she turned her attention back to the sidewalk in front of them and continued towards the restaurant they had already decided to try for dinner. Silence hung between them until he finally turned to her with a partly puzzled, partly expectant expression as they took their seats in a secluded booth.
“You’re really not going to ask?”
Not even pretending not to know what he was talking about, Ginny shrugged and began looking over her menu. “I’m not going to push. I figure if you want me to know how and when you got here, you’ll tell me.”
The response threw him for a minute, showing that he wasn’t the only one still capable of being surprised, even after the months they had spent training, and yes, even becoming friends. It took him the duration of the ordering process and salad course to absorb what she’d said and come to a decision.
“Dumbledore was my assignment.” The blunt words and their sudden delivery momentarily caught the former Gryffindor off guard and she flinched ever-so-slightly. Draco missed the reaction, his silver orbs focused firmly on the table in front of him, letting him continue undeterred. “And under threat of my family’s death, I tried to carry it out.”
Since the first time she’d seen him, in the bar the night of her twenty-first birthday, she had wondered what had happened after that fateful night at Hogwarts. Having been still trying to forget her own experiences in and after the war, however, she’d chosen not to dwell on what she didn’t know. It had been only too easy to continue on such a course after she’d started training with him, especially after she’d begun getting to know him.
The now tanned blond had seemed almost nothing like the boy she’d gone to school with, and she’d been content to separate the two in her mind. Not only had the distinction made it easier for her to become friends with her teammate, but it had also made it easier for her to forget all the things he could have done those years ago. She was half-tempted to stop him now, to leave it all unsaid and remain happy in her ignorance, but the same friendship that made her want to stop him, made her need to let him speak.
This was a part of his past, a part of the young man in front of her, who was she to force that part of him into hiding for her own comfort? He was her friend, and if he was going to remain so in the true sense of the word, she needed to hear what he had to say, so Ginny sat back, listened, and watched the struggle of old pain filter across his face as he spoke.
“Much to his,” the venom in that single word left no doubt who he was referring to, “disappointment, when it came right down to it, I couldn’t make myself say the words. I had him, right in front of me, weak and vulnerable, and I couldn’t say the two words that would have saved my parents.”
Stormy grey eyes snapped up to capture her brown orbs. “He killed them both, before Snape and I even got back to the hideout.”
The youngest Weasley swallowed hard at the memory of Ron’s reaction when they’d learned Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy had been found dead. He didn’t seem to notice, just continued in a monotone that nearly sent shivers down her spine, but still she sat there, letting him unload the past uninterrupted.
“I lost it when I found the bodies. I’m not sure how long I screamed, but by the time I stopped my voice was hoarse.” He held his features tightly neutral. “Pansy found me right after I got there. She helped me calm down.”
The blond shook his head, as if finding some perverse humor in the next words. “I think I might have actually gone after him in those first few minutes if she hadn’t talked me out of getting myself killed.”
The painfully amused light in his eyes changed then, the young man lost in the memory. “We talked for hours that night while I waited for him to send for me, talked about how it had all gone wrong, how we managed to let our fathers rope us in to such insanity. I guess it was a good thing he was insane too ‘cause we were left alone for the whole night. Probably some sick punishment for me, making me sit there, with my parents, just waiting.”
Steely grey darkened with something like regret as he met her eyes a second time. “I tried to get her to come with me when we realized I wouldn’t be summoned until the morning. I tried. But her mother was just as trapped as we were, and she wouldn’t leave her.”
He swallowed visibly, and fell silent as the waiter delivered their entrees. She was afraid he wouldn’t go on when he remained quite for several moments, needing now to hear the rest, but eventually, after an absent bite of his dinner, he continued.
“There was too much of a chance I’d be found in Europe, so I came to the States. Things hadn’t reached this far across the pond back then, but I wasn’t sure how long that would last so I made my way out here and holed up in the most discreet places I could find.” He found the energy to flash a bemused smile at that, reminding her of his earlier comment about making mistakes renting a place. She returned the smile with only slightly stiff lips before he took another bite of his food and kept talking.
“Eventually I got a little more confident and started looking for a job, since what funds I’d managed to take with me were getting pretty low. The first few places I worked just barely let me scrape by, but after a while I ended up at a second-rate apothecary’s. Snape’s lessons served me well, and by the end of my second year here I was doing pretty good for myself. Good enough that I could keep up on my training in my free time. That’s when I tried out for the Dragons. They pay a lot better than Virgilen, but I never would have gotten this far if he hadn’t given me a shot. I didn’t have any references, of course, couldn’t even put down where I went to school for fear of being tracked down, but he let me interview anyway and I owe him for that, though he’d never admit it. The stubborn old man still insists I bring in more business than he’s had in years. He even gives me the best hours.”
“You still work there?” she asked around a bite of stew, focusing on the part of his story that didn’t require time to digest.
Draco nodded and ate more of his fettuccini, relaxing almost imperceptivity at her casual tone. “In the off-season. Quidditch only allows me to put so much away, and quite frankly, my tastes are still a little too refined for that.”
The superior air he adopted with his last statement reminded her of the boy he’d been, but the teasing glint in his previously pain-filled eyes was proof of the man he’d become. She’d heard his secrets, the shadows of his past, but they hadn’t changed how she saw him, aside from perhaps fostering a subtle sense of camaraderie in their different, but similar losses. Shaking off the somber musings, she watched him wrinkle his nose dramatically.
“If it wasn’t for Virgilen I dare say I would forever be running out of hair products.” He flipped the shoulder-length white-blond strands over his shoulder in what she assumed was his attempt at a magnanimous manner.
Her laughter dispensed the last of the lingering tension and they finished the rest of their meal in comfortable silence. Beneath the quiet, however, there still lingered a detail she had often considered telling him but always felt too presumptuous in saying. Now, though, she knew he would want, or at least, need, to hear, so after leaving the restaurant, Ginny spoke up, placing one hand on his arm.
“A Pensieve arrived at the Ministry, I guess it would have been a month after you left England. Harry and Mad-Eye Moody were the only ones that ever saw it, but it convinced Harry to have you taken off the wanted lists.” He froze, turning slowly to face her as grey narrowed slightly in thought before meeting brown. The intensity of his gaze was intimidating at such close range, but she continued all the same. “From what you’ve said, the only memory it could have held that would have had that effect was-”
He cut her off with, the steely look falling away to be replaced by a sadly affectionate smile. “Pansy’s.”
She nodded silently and squeezed his arm lightly before matching his wistful tone with a soft declaration of her own. “She was a good friend.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, raising his free hand to cover hers on his arm, a strangely contemplative look in his eyes as he studied her face. “She was.”
The air around them hung heavily for several moments before lifting as the Draco Malfoy and Ginny Weasley smiled at each other and headed down the sidewalk; shifting their grip without thought, the two friends made their way through the city with hands linked tightly between them.
End Part Four
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