The next morning, Ginny was pleased to see that all the wines and gins and tonics stood in their rightful place, sealed and untouched. Draco hadn't been hitting the drink overnight, then. She woke up extra early again, before anyone else in the house, since she wanted to sneak out and catch Harry before he went to work. She had some things to discuss with him.
The clock on the wall read 3:45, so Ginny had some time. The clock itself was interesting, for it had a pair of eyes growing from it, and the eyes were blinking sleepily. Each time the eyes closed fully, it would maneuver the seconds hand counterclockwise until his eyes opened again. Therefore the clock was a good ten minutes off each morning, but the Malfoys didn't bother themselves in buying new ones.
Draco seemed to have some sort of natural clock built into him, and he would wake up six in the morning on the dot each day, never a minute late, other than purposely. Ginny was starting to wonder if perhaps Draco was trying to be obnoxious to Harry on purpose, to push Harry over that line of simple verbal contact between them. Draco needed to get his frustrations out in some way, and he did it physically.
The clock's eyes drooped to tiny slits again and the second hand fidgeted nervously, waiting to spin around. Ginny stopped staring at it and decided to put her creativity to a test by writing a reply to Lavender. It was about time – Lavender was probably sure that the Malfoys had poisoned her by now.
I'm glad you like your job with Trelawney. You really did fancy that class, didn't you? I guess it's about time I wrote to you about what it's like here. Sorry if the letter's going to be sort of boring, I really tend to go off on abstracts sometimes.
Have you ever really wondered what Malfoy was thinking? I mean, I know, he was always a stupid perverted baby. He was always such a loser in school too, the way he made such a big deal about being bitten by Buckbeak, or even when he made fun of everyone, as if he was some sort of Greek god or something.
Anyway, he's been sort of talking to me lately. I can't say we've had heart-to-heart talks yet, I think he's really locked up in himself. Like that shy boy that you once dated, remember him? It's as if he's got a lot to say but something or someone is holding him back. He's not so stupid as I thought, I can't talk deeply into it since it's sort of confidential, but he did do some pretty okay things other than the Dark Arts when he wasn't in school.
Sometimes I think maybe his parents were too hard on him. I bet you're thinking he was the most privileged kid ever, but I don't mean in a money sort of way. I mean it in a psychological way. If he was raised by other people he'd probably been my friend. Maybe we would have even dated, he's pretty nice looking, don't you think? I can't believe I just wrote that. But since his parents raised him to be a snot, that's what he was. And the whole Dark Arts thing, that's probably his parents too. Not that I'm DEFENDING him! He should have known better anyway, right…?
Besides he had to have a tutor over the summer. OVER THE SUMMER! Can you believe how awful that would be? He liked it though, from what I'm getting. I mean, he was Head Boy and a perfect, mostly through Snape's pushing, but he also has some brains, right?
I can't believe I filled the entire parchment about Malfoy. He's just on my mind right now. It's so early in the morning and so gray and cold in here, it's hard to think of anything else. Hey, did you ever have a snowglobe? I had one from Harry, I got it on Christmas my fifth year. I found it a few weeks ago and it was all covered in dust and it was really gray and rough around the edges. Then I wiped the dust off and you could see the sparkles again. Maybe that's what Malfoy's like. Maybe he just has a lot of gray stuff around him, but the sparkles are still inside, somewhere.
Okay, no more Draco. I have some space left, so I'm going to tell you what it's like working here. I don't think being a nurse is too difficult, except for the part where I have to keep tending to Lucius in the night. It's something awful, the rumors were true, he's really completely paralyzed, and crazy to boot. I wonder sometimes if he's really alive, even. I wonder if he knows whether he is alive or in hell already.
Narcissa comes and goes, she's sort of a hypochondriac, I think. She drinks a lot of sleeping potions and is conked out most of the day. Draco's sort of dodging her at home, he doesn't want to start a row. She's a bit iffy about his drinking and then he's a bit iffy about her sleeping tonics. He's really very compliant to his parents though, it's odd. Wait, no more Draco. Seems like I'm telling myself more than you.
Then there's also small things, but creepy things. For instance, the windows open randomly all through the day. I don't know what's wrong with them. Oh I'm out of room GOODBYE HUGS AND KISSES, GINNY
Ginny stared at her letter, proof-reading it, found little to no errors, and then handed it to the Malfoy's owl. She didn't have an owl of her own, she never brought it with her when she came to live at the Malfoy Mansion. The Malfoy's owl was always handy around the kitchen or outside, only leaving periodically to catch something to eat. Otherwise it slept.
She watched the owl fly out the window and far into the clouds in the sky. She sighed, stretched, and then took out her Floo Powder. It was time to bide hello to Harry. She only hoped she didn't catch him doing anything compromising or embarrassing by popping out of his chimney.
Ginny wiped the soot off from her eyelids. There was a brief moment where all she saw was a cloud of gray and black dust, then the room came into focus. She had seen Harry's apartment before. Now she grinned widely, seeing the huge poster hanging on the wall, with Harry and Hermione dancing together merrily. She had surely reached the right house.
" What's going on in there?" Harry marched into the room, buttoning his shirt. He had a tie draped over one of his shoulders. There was a tiny piece of paper towel stuck to his throat, held down with a small bead of blood.
" Oh, Harry!" Ginny exclaimed, creating a clamor as she climbed out of the chimney, her high-heeled, knee-high boots first, then her yellow-tinted jeans, slightly marred with gray soot. "I'm so sorry, I'm here early, aren't I?"
" Four thirty in the morning." Harry squinted at her. He wasn't wearing his glasses. He really did have fairly thick eyelashes, for a boy. They created a black furry fan around his eyes. His glasses helped soften the look though, most of the time. " What happened? Did someone die?" Harry almost sounded hopeful for a second.
" No, nothing like that." Ginny mumbled, feeling her face flush in humility. " I really was hoping to catch you before work."
" Well, top of the morning to you, too." Harry said, smiling crookedly. He was now working on the tie, which had a pretty stubborn, unforgiving knot in it.
" I'm here to talk to you about Draco. I need a serious conference. Treat me as if I were a client, okay?" Ginny pleaded.
Harry shook his head. " Ginny, you know that Malfoy would rather have his fingernails pulled off than asked for help! He's a real bast…"
" Harry…!" She scolded.
" … I'm only being honest with you." His tie was in place, so now his hands were unoccupied. Harry's hands reached up instinctively to twiddle at his glasses, but only caught tufts of hair that spilled over his ears. It was a habit Harry had, when he was nervous – he liked to fidget around with his hands. " Here, come into the kitchen." He offered.
Ginny walked into the kitchen, where everything seemed to signal that Harry was a bachelor, from the messy cutting board, still littered with tomato slices from the night before, to the sink of unwashed dishes, to the unfortunate pinstripe suit teetering from a hanger on the doorknob.
Harry got his glasses back and he immediately yanked them onto his nose. " Alright, I'll be straight-forward, since I wouldn't lie to you. Plus I don't really have time to come up with a lie." He smiled at his own joke.
Ginny grinned in appreciation. " Please?"
" The Head of the Ministry is going to have four strokes in a row if he sees the complaints I have on Draco. He's going to lose his job for sure, the moment the Head gets to read my File of Complaints." Harry's eyes hid behind his eyelashes again, trying to avoid the look of concern on Ginny's face.
" Lots of them. A huge stack of papers."
" Oh, can't you delay this report? I promise you, I think Draco is not a lost cause. He seems so kind sometimes, so…"
" … Human?" Harry guessed.
Ginny blushed. " He was always human."
Harry looked frustrated. He pressed his finger into the stick of melting butter on the table, then drew it out again, staring at it, not really comprehending his own actions. The hole in the butter needed a second one, of course, so he added it in. " Is it humanity, to never forgive, Ginny? To always sow seeds of hate and reap the misfortune that comes in? Or is that already death?"
She was frowning. " He is not dead. God, Harry, he's not dead inside. I feel it from him, it's like this flame…"
" A flame? From Draco?" Harry sketched in a pair frown-lips underneath the two eyes he made in the utter. " He's grayer and drier than ashes by now." Harry sighed. " Don't you get yourself into trouble, Ginny." He was giving her a knowing look.
" Trouble, Harry?" She sputtered. Harry was actually accusing her of trying to get into a relationship with Draco! Couldn't a girl look out for another person without being accused of something like that?
She burst his suspicions, though. " I just want to help the Malfoys. I promise, he will pull his act together. Just give him time. I know they'd never ask for help, they'd rather starve in that mansion of theirs. Oh, Harry, please?"
" Hell, I'll try my best."
They were sitting together in front of the fireplace again. The room had begun to be their little place for discussions, usually ranging on various topics, trying to avoid any pressing issues. They discussed world events, politics, and eventually the topic ran into friends and friendships.
" I always had Crabbe and Goyle." Draco told Ginny.
" I always loved all my friends, still do." Ginny said. " Did you cherish them?"
Draco rolled his eyes. " Cherish them? As if they're fragile roses, or something!" He thought hard. " They kept an eye on me, I kept an eye on them. They were my body guards, the guys that always stood up for my opinions. In exchange, their family had some pretty nice connections through me and my father."
" Do you still talk with them?"
" By letter. They're professional bodyguards now, for some big-time business guy, he bought a chain store recently." Draco looked away from the fire momentarily to exchange glances with Ginny. " They were meant for it."
" Would you like to see my room?"
" What?" Draco sat up straight. This would be a totally new atmosphere, a place where the original comfort of the fireplace was gone.
" I just want to show you some things I got from my friends." Ginny explained, feeling her ears turning hot, and she prayed that he didn't notice. She didn't quite know why she cared, but she knew she did, from the thud of her heart.
" Ah." He got up, shrugging. " I haven't anything else to do, I suppose."
He followed her this time, as she led him through the house. It made her think of her first time in their mansion, and how he had showed her around briefly before shutting her into her room. " Here." She opened the door and let him go in first, then she followed.
Draco sat down on the bed, carefully avoiding the colorful quilt and opting to sit on the folded gray blanket that was at the foot of the bed. It was the original bed covering. Ginny got onto her knees and dug into the shelves of her bureau. She shuffled through nightgowns and slips and then pulled out a music box.
" There we go!" She shuffled towards the bed and sat down beside him, opening the music box. Inside, a svelte black cat spun around on a pedestal. Then, it turned to face Draco's direction, meowed, and blinked it's green eyes. Slowly it spun to a stop and the pedestal raised, revealing a small compartment.
" It's from Lavender." Draco noted, seeing Ginny and Lavender's names etched in gold letter inside the red velvet lining of the box.
" Yep." Ginny said, then closed the box.
" I never thought you and her would be friends, you know."
" You can expect the greatest kinship from the most unlikely people." Ginny said, finally.
He laughed for the first time in a long time, as Ginny popped open the box again. This time, the cat spun around and did the can-can. Something malfunctioned and the cat suddenly stopped, it's legs in midair, and yowled angrily before freezing completely. " Oh, man!" Ginny exclaimed, and tapped at it. It came alive again, and closed on it's own accord.
She began to laugh too, then, and they both laughed, unsure why. She turned to look at him and saw that he was watching her intently. More though, he was observing her hair, which was down again. " Would you like to pose for a painting again?" He asked, finally.
" I thought you retired your acrylics."
" When I look at you, I only see color, though. Do you know what I mean?"
Ginny nodded slowly.
" If I were to paint you black and white, it wouldn't be… you."
" I'm flattered, actually…"
" Don't be too full of yourself, or I'll draw you with a pompous look on your face." Draco smirked.
" You wouldn't!"
" I really could. Paint you like one of those Malfoy heirs in the hallway."
" Ah, the ancestors were alright, though. All the Malfoys had a good head on their shoulders and a nose for business. My father's words." Draco told her.
" Would you describe yourself that way?" Ginny inquired.
" Well, ah… if you were to paint yourself a color, what color would you be?" Ginny intoned, smiling.
" Gray." Draco looked terribly solemn, then laughed again. " And red pepper inside."
" And me? What color am I?"
" Yellower than marigold hearts, with orange strokes. A real firecracker."
Ginny touched her hair.
" No, no, so much more than your hair. You made your room come alive with color just by being in it." He pointed around her room. " Look at all this. It was so old and gray, now it looks like a country cabin. It's… aglow."
" I suppose I could make your room like that. Would you like me to snazz it up?"
Draco stared at her, his eyebrows raising. Ginny worried she might have insulted him, but instead he told her: " On my paycheck? I can barely afford the dust bunnies under my bed."
She looked pleased, because it was surely a step if he could refer to himself and his financial situation with a smile, instead of in a negative way.
" There's a solution to everything." Ginny pointed out.
" If you say Potter, I'll force-feed your yellow scarf to you!" Draco warned.
" No, no!" She laughed. " The solution is positive thought."
He shook his head again. " You're so full of crap you might just be on to something."