chapter seven: hogsmeade

The next few weeks passed in a flurry of rain and activity. Draco spent most of that time in the library with Pansy, Weasley, and Weasley’s tagalong friends, either completing the numerous difficult NEWT assignments given to them by their unforgiving instructors or continuing their research on Veela.

Draco read Noémie Leblanc’s memoir three times while trying to reconcile her experience with his own. So far, it was the only piece of literature about Veela that he trusted. All of the other books the group had consulted depicted Veela as mindless, vicious, manipulative nymphs. More than once, Pansy, Weasley, and Granger had closed a book in disgust, growling about misogynistic authors projecting their many ineptitudes with women onto their research about an all-female, non-human magical being. There simply weren’t enough primary sources—in the Hogwarts library, at least—written by Veela. When they were lucky, they discovered a text that was objective enough to be reliable. Though nothing they read mentioned any possibility of there existing any male Veela, full-blooded or otherwise, with the powers and abilities of the females. They continued to slog through their research in the hopes of finding an explanation for Draco’s situation.

With Quidditch starting back up again, he and Weasley moved flying practice to Sunday mornings instead, but Draco had little success in that department. He simply could not hold his Veela form long enough to make multiple attempts at hurling himself off the rocks. Draco was beginning to believe that his Veela form had a mind of its own, and it did not appreciate Draco throwing himself into danger for no reason. Some mornings it took him over half an hour to transform at all, as if the Veela was doing whatever it could to prevent Draco from going through with his foolishness.

Every time Draco voiced this opinion—as loudly as possible so she would detect his frustration—Weasley shook her head in disagreement.

“This is your doing, Malfoy. You can’t blame anyone but yourself.”

“I’m trying!” he’d return, jaw clenched in annoyance. The more time he spent with her, the more she reminded him of Pansy, particularly her disinclination to humor his complaints.

“You’re holding yourself back. You are,” she would say.

He was beginning to feel quite foolish indeed. By the end of October, Draco didn’t know why he was continuing the flying practices when each attempt was brief and met with failure. In the last two months, the only thing he had learned how to do in his Veela form was fall.

His reluctant perseverance had nothing at all to do with Weasley and the time they shared together alone. He told himself this every time she crept into his thoughts, and then he tried to banish her from them by rereading the Leblanc memoir. Unfortunately, the more he devoured the book, the more he began to accept what he was—and what Weasley was to him. Leblanc vividly and lovingly described her connection with each of her mates, including the ones she never pursued. Draco could not deny that what he felt toward Weasley was the same inexplicable bond.

On Halloween, Draco found himself trailing behind Weasley, Granger, Longbottom, and Lovegood as they all ambled down the drive toward Hogsmeade. Pansy strolled at his side, her arm looped through his to keep warm.

Weasley had adorned herself with a knitted cap topped with a yarn poof that bounced with each step. Draco’s eyes were drawn to this phenomenon until he overhead something that put an automatic sneer on his face.

Granger was gushing at Weasley, her eyes bright with animation. “They said they’ll meet us at the Three Broomsticks for lunch! Oh, it’s been years since I’ve gone this long without seeing Ron. Or Harry!” Her cheeks reddened as she tacked on the second name as an afterthought.

“Right,” Weasley said, sounding much less enthusiastic.

Lovegood stared up at an overbearing cloud in thought. “Do you think they’ll recognize us?”

“Of course they will! It’s only been two months since we saw them at the train station!”

“Excuse me,” Draco interrupted before Granger started a useless argument. “Do you mean to tell me Potter and Weasley are going to be in Hogsmeade?”

Granger glared over her shoulder and then raised her nose in the air with haughty superiority. “Yes, and we would appreciate it if you left us alone for once so we can catch up without you antagonizing them.”

She acted as though Draco’s presence within her circle of friends was unwelcome, but that didn’t stop her from poring over books about Veela in between Ancient Chaldean Numerology and A Guide to Advanced Transfiguration, Vol. II.

He looked at Pansy in the middle of rolling his eyes, but Pansy was biting her lip to keep from smiling. Over the last several weeks, they had shared loads of pointed looks at Granger’s expense, but the expression on Pansy’s face now disturbed Draco in ways he could not articulate.

“Would I ever antagonize St. Potter and the boy wonder?” Draco asked with contempt.

Weasley turned around, walking backwards to face Draco, brow raised in censure. “You know very well that you would. But we need not worry about you misbehaving today because you and Harry and Ron are not going to see each other.”

“And how do you propose we accomplish that?” asked Pansy.

Weasley gestured between the three of them, her eyes lingering on the way Pansy clung to Draco. “Because you two and I are not going to meet Harry and Ron at the Three Broomsticks for lunch. We are going to go elsewhere.”

“What?” Granger said, drawing back in disbelief. “What do you mean you’re not meeting Harry and Ron? You’re not returning Harry’s letters, and now—”

“Leave it alone, Hermione,” Weasley interrupted, her face splotching with color.

“But you don’t even want to see your own brother? I don’t understand.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Weasley picked up her pace to put distance between herself and the group. Before Draco could pull away, Pansy had already dropped his arm in anticipation of him following her.

“If you want to gloat about something, I suggest you turn right back around,” Weasley said over her shoulder.

Draco swallowed the words that had been on the tip of his tongue and said instead, “Gloating was the last thing on my mind.”

She slowed down enough for him to fall into step beside her and regarded him coolly. “You are an awful liar, you know?”

“It’s not a lie!”

She shook her head. “I know you heard what Hermione said about not answering Harry’s letters. You’re dying to know why I don’t want to meet him. You can’t tell me you’re not giddy about it!”

“Fine,” Draco capitulated reluctantly. “You’re right. I’m delighted to hear that you and Potter are on the outs, and I want to know everything about why.”

“An explanation—if I decide to give you one—is just going to have to wait,” she said, her frown deepening into a scowl.

“Why’s that?”

She nodded, gesturing to the road ahead of them. At the entrance to the village, a crush of people surrounded none other than Ron Weasley and Harry Potter. It seemed as if Potter and Weasley had arrived early.

“They haven’t spotted us yet. We could make a dash for the forest.”

That brought a smile to her lips, a quick quirk that she smothered almost instantly. “No. I’m afraid we’re going to have to face them.”

“Wonderful.” Draco wasn’t sure if he meant it with sincerity or sarcasm.

Ron noticed their approach first. He smiled widely as he rushed along his group of friends and admirers with a mock conspiratorial, “Sorry, mates. You know how it is with girlfriends and sisters. Can’t keep them waiting!”

Dean and Seamus, Dennis Creevey, and various other Gryffindor students scattered at Ron’s announcement with good natured smiles and promises to meet for a drink in the Three Broomsticks later.

Ginny rolled her eyes and threw her arms around her brother. “As if you aren’t the one anxious to see us. Or at least Hermione.”

Ron’s ears burned red. “Anxious? Me? I’ve got nerves of steel!”

“After what we’ve been through, he should,” Harry said.

Suddenly he was right beside Ginny as she pulled away from Ron, and she hesitated for a moment before hugging him as well.

“Are you getting my letters?” he asked quietly into her ear.

She squeezed him a little harder and nodded against his shoulder.

As he withdrew from the embrace, he continued to keep his voice low. “You’re avoiding me, then.”

His green eyes pierced straight through her. Ginny hadn’t been able to hold his gaze since the end of the war. Both of them had changed. Harry used to wear his emotions on his sleeve, openly, proudly. Now he kept them all bottled in his eyes. He looked at everyone with an intensity that stole her breath.

When they’d finally been alone again after the Battle of Hogwarts, she had seen all of his hope for their future in his eyes. Back then she’d been stunned by how strongly he felt for her. As they’d picked up where they’d left off prior to Dumbledore’s funeral, she began to realize that they couldn’t continue what they’d had in the same way. The hope she’d witnessed in the depths of his gaze began to feel like a goal she could never help him achieve. She had felt too much pressure to be his happy ending, especially when she was struggling with her own happiness.

Now, she tried never to make eye contact.

“We should talk,” she said. “Later.”

Harry nodded in understanding. Hermione, Neville, and Luna had reached them by now, so he turned to greet them.

“What are you staring at?” Ron’s voice carried over the sounds of the happy reunion as he noticed Malfoy and Parkinson lingering a few feet away.

“Not your ugly mug if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Don’t you have someone else to torment?”

Ginny stepped in and placed a hand on Ron’s arm before he got any ideas about drawing his wand. “Ron, it’s all right. They’re with us.”

Ron stared at her hard. “What do you mean ‘they’re with us’?”

“They’re our friends!” Luna said brightly.

“Ginny….” Ron said as he reached for her, undoubtedly to pull her away for a private discussion.

But Ginny was not in the mood to explain, and she would not reveal Malfoy’s secret. Neither Luna nor Neville knew about Malfoy’s Veela form, and they had accepted Malfoy and Parkinson’s presence in their group with little more than a sage nod and a raised eyebrow. Ron would just have to do the same.

Ginny dodged Ron and Harry both by looping her arm through Malfoy’s and pulling him into the village with her, Parkinson followingly closely. Behind them, Hermione was whispering in agitated tones, no doubt providing some sort of explanation to appease Ron.

The lot of them walked down the main street, going from shop to shop to see what kinds of goods were for sale now that the end of the war had brought visitors back to the village. Ginny stayed close to Malfoy and Parkinson while the rest of the group hung back, nearby but separate from them.

Malfoy and Parkinson were surprisingly good company. Their commentary at each shop window had Ginny laughing as she hadn’t laughed in ages.

Ginny wasn’t sure if she was imagining Harry staring at her in speculation or if he was actually doing it, but several times throughout the morning the skin between her shoulder blades tingled uncomfortably.

“What do you say? Shall we have lunch at Madam Puddifoot’s?” Parkinson asked just as Ginny’s stomach grumbled in retaliation against its involuntary hunger strike.

Malfoy sneered. “Only if you like heart-shaped confetti in your tea.”

“How do you know about the confetti, Malfoy?” Harry asked with a small smile as he passed them to glance at the Honeydukes window display. “Visit Madam Puddifoot’s often, do you?”

In a reaction Ginny never expected, Malfoy’s cheeks flushed. He shot a quick look at Parkinson that captured Ginny’s notice before turning his head away.

Had Parkinson and Malfoy frequented Madam Puddifoot’s together? The image of the two of them canoodling over tea in a lurid and public location did not match the idea she had of them. Now that the thought of them behaving like a couple had entered her mind, she couldn’t dispel it. She was suddenly having flashbacks of the past couple months—of Malfoy and Parkinson going everywhere together (except Malfoy’s flying practices; he endured those with Ginny alone)—of both of them joining Ginny and Hermione’s research crusade and ingratiating themselves with Ginny and Hermione’s friends—of the casual ways they touched each other and the private looks they shared.

What if Parkinson was one of Malfoy’s mates? What if they had already chosen to be with each other?

The conclusion did not sit well with Ginny. There was something wrong about it, even though, now that she was looking at them as a pair—truly looking at them—they made complete sense as a couple.

Malfoy and Harry had continued talking while Ginny had gotten lost in her thoughts, but they were behaving so there was no need for her to worry about her sudden bout of negligence.

“I really could use some lunch,” she said, her voice sounding odd even to her own ears.

“Are you all right?” Harry asked, automatically reaching for Ginny to touch her in comfort.

She sidestepped him. “Yes. I’m just starving. Didn’t eat much for breakfast in anticipation of pub food. You know the Hogsmeade weekend excitement.”

“Sure,” Harry agreed, looking like he didn’t agree at all.

Both Malfoy and Parkinson were eyeing her. Ginny didn’t want to answer any more questions, and she needed to get out from under their stares, so she headed toward the Three Broomsticks without waiting for the rest of the group.

Unfortunately, a commotion in front of the pub prevented them from going in. Seamus and Dean stood in the road in front of the door. Dean had an exasperated look on his face, and his hands were raised defensively toward Seamus, who swerved on his feet. They were having an argument.

“Come on, you’ve had enough,” Dean said firmly.

“You don’t tell me when I’ve had enough!” Seamus shot back. Now Ginny noticed a tankard in Seamus’s fist, the contents of which spilled onto the ground as he stumbled in his attempts to avoid Dean.

“He’s drunk,” Ron said. The rest of the group had caught up with Ginny and had created a small crowd around Dean and Seamus.

“He’s always drunk,” Hermione said disdainfully. “I don’t know how many times I’ve found him passed out on the floor in the Gryffindor common room.”

This was news to Ginny. She’d never seen Seamus behave this way before.

“We should stop him,” Harry said. Before anyone could discourage him, he was already approaching the scene, his hands raised to copy Dean’s calming fashion.

It took Harry, Ron, and Neville to convince Seamus to give up the tankard and go back to the castle with Dean—after taking a long, circuitous route on foot in the hopes he’d sober up before arriving.

“What a sad man,” Luna said upon Seamus and Dean’s departure.

Ginny agreed. She didn’t have to wonder what had happened to Seamus to turn him into such a mess. The war had ended mere months ago, and they were all trapped on a battleground, forced to live and study among constant reminders of what they had endured. Where was the justice for the lives lost? For Colin Creevey and Lavender Brown? For Tonks and Remus? For the people the war had left behind to try to pick up the pieces of the devastation Voldemort and the Death Eaters had wrought?

“You know,” Ginny said, swallowing thickly, “I’m actually not that hungry. I think I’ll head back up to the castle.”

“You’re leaving?” Ron asked.

Hermione glared at her, her look an admonishment for abandoning their guests, particularly Harry.

“I’m not feeling well suddenly. Maybe I’ll pop into the infirmary.”

“I’ll walk with you,” said predictable, noble Harry. “I wanted to say hello to Professor McGonagall anyway.”

Ginny couldn’t meet Harry’s gaze. She knew what she would find there, and she couldn’t bear his disappointment, whether that disappointment was caused by her impending absence or the lie he had detected. Either way, she had let him down, and even though she did not want to be romantically involved with him anymore, he was still her friend. Hurting him was the last thing she meant to do.

“No, please, stay. Catch up with Hermione and Neville and Luna. If you come by the castle later, come find me. We can… have that talk.”

He nodded, but there was a grimace on his face. Ginny turned to avoid it and departed at once, before Hermione or anyone else could attempt to stop her.

Malfoy joined her just as she reached the road that led back to Hogwarts. She heard his footsteps first, and she clenched her fists at the thought that someone had come after her.

But when he caught up and she saw his gray eyes looking down at her with an impassive expression, her heart leapt. She looked behind him, but Parkinson had not come with him. She arched an eyebrow in question.

Malfoy shrugged. “You’re the only one I can tolerate from that lot. Did you really think I’d have lunch with Potter and your brother voluntarily?”

Ginny’s lips twitched. “Parkinson?”

“She decided to stay behind for some reason.”

Ginny couldn’t decipher a note of any particular emotion in his response, and that made her break out in a full smile.

She refused to analyze why Parkinson’s absence—and Malfoy’s indifference to it—pleased her so.

Author notes:

I'm sorry for the wait in between updates. This story is complete, so my intention was to post chapters once a week-ish until all of the chapters were up. But I go through these stages with my more serious stories, the ones that are less fluffy and humorous, where I love them while I'm writing them and then hate them when they're finished. It's hard for me to post updates when I don't want to look at the story, let alone reread the chapter for typos or spend an hour of my life copying and pasting it onto different websites. But I really enjoyed rereading this chapter, and now I remember how much I like the next one, too. I like the writing, I like the interactions, I like that I can see why I added certain things to the chapter, the decisions I made to hopefully push the plot and romance along. It's so easy to become discouraged and hate on your creative work. I wish I was better about appreciating my own effort and not letting the flaws I see blind me to the strengths of my writing.

Anyway, all this to say, I've made it a goal in 2020 to start writing an original novel. I'm trying to let my idea percolate enough to feel like a good one, especially since I don't know the characters as well as I do Draco and Ginny. But my delay in starting is also caused by my perceived commitments to my fan fic. Once those commitments have been completed, then I'll feel like I can devote all of my not-writing guilt to a novel rather than splitting it between fan fic and original fiction. ;)

This also means that I don't plan to start any new stories or finish most of my WIPs. I'll finish posting Learning to Fall; I'll post my exchange fic from last year, memento tempus vincit omnia; I'll finish writing The Dating Charade; but besides maybe the odd Tumblr drabble or one-shot, I don't intend to write any new multi-chapter fan fics.

I may very well change my mind. But knowing me and how seldom I write now, I'm honestly looking forward to freeing myself from feeling guilty about not finishing stories. And, to be honest, JKR's bad opinions has tainted my twenty-two-year love for the Harry Potter series. I wish I didn't feel this way, especially since I haven't listened to anything she's said outside of canon in 13 years. I will always love Draco and Ginny despite her, and this community will always be the most special community I've ever had the pleasure to be a part of.

Maybe this sounds like I'm leaving, haha. But I'm not going away! You can still find me on Tumblr, the DG Forum occasionally, and Twitter (ask me for my Twitter handle if you'd like; I don't use the idreamofdraco Twitter account anymore). I'm just going to stop writing and let that be okay. Maybe I'll be inspired again in the future. We'll see.

If you've read this far, thank you so much for being a part of the community I love so much. Whether you read and comment, read and don't comment, whether you've written a story I've read, or written at all. Whether you've been shipping Draco and Ginny for 15 years or just discovered it. Whether you're active or lurking. What makes the Draco and Ginny fandom such a wonderful place to exist in is all of you.

Alright. That's all the melodrama for now. See you in 7-10 days for chapter 8. Only two more chapters to go! :)

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