Ginny was afire. She was nervous, but Lavender kept assuring her that she looked ravishing. Yet Ginny couldn't comprehend the thrill of walking in with Draco, thirty minutes late, a fashionable entrance that will skip the hand-shaking assembly line. She turned and looked at Draco, who had his arm looped through hers, her skin prickling where he touched her. He was dressed sharp, and she had taken her old muslin dress and played around with it, turning it a shimmering blue with a translucent light blue scarf resting around her neck and shoulders.
" They'll eat me." Draco said, semi-seriously. " Just watch. The second we walk in, they'll strip me naked, tie me to a pole, and beat me with their eyes."
" Oh, come on!" Ginny shook her head, chuckling.
They pushed open the heavy doors and walked inside. Draco was right in a way. The room fell into a terrifying silence. Then – a wave of whispers, running through all the tables. Ginny smiled uncertainly and then said: " Draco, you go get us an empty table. I'll go up to Harry and Hermione and tell our congratulations."
Draco nodded and mouthed thank you.
She nodded right back and then went up to Harry and Hermione's table. They were a handsome couple, especially Hermione. She was really a pretty girl, but she rarely liked to show it off. Her beauty was like a precious gem in a way – Hermione only flashed it at special occasions. Otherwise it sat in a dark felt box, elegant and magnificent, but not intimidating. Ginny felt like an ugly duckling by her now, this beautiful wedding queen, a gorgeous bride.
" Ginny!" Hermione stood and hugged her tightly. " Oh, it's today, it's today!" She whispered into Ginny's ear.
" I know." Ginny giggled and turned to Harry. " You're taking a really great girl, Harry."
" Don't I know it?" Harry laughed and hugged her as well. " I'm glad you came." Into her ear, he asked: " What's with Draco?"
" I'm sorry if I created a hubbub." Ginny said. " I lost the invitation card – and you know how they don't let you into these restaurants without the invitation – so I had to find it."
" I'm just surprised he's your date." Hermione admitted. " No offense, but last time we talked, he was a scary, depressed creep."
" He's really quite different. We're real mates now." Ginny told her.
" Amazing." Harry shook his head. " Enjoy yourself, then. Sorry you missed the beginning."
" It's alright." Ginny replied. She handed them an envelope. " Here's a bit of a gift." She had given half of her earnings from Draco to them – she had deposited it already into their account, but she had an official card from the bank that told of her doings.
" Thank you so much." Harry and Hermione both cooed, tucking the envelope into the growing pile on the table.
There's quite a lot of money coming and going in weddings, Ginny thought. " I'll go sit with my date now. Come by our table later, he's sort of shy now."
" Alright." Hermione laughed. " Draco, shy? Can you picture it?"
Harry shrugged. " If anyone could guilt him into being good, it's Ginny."
Ginny had by now found Draco in the back of the room. He was sitting at a table where nobody else was anywhere near. He looked terrified, like a man standing before a frowning judge and disapproving jury. His expression brightened when he saw her though.
They ate the dinner and the desert, which came in many courses. Finally the dancing began. Ginny didn't even have to sit there and pray for Draco to ask her to dance. The moment the music rang, Draco stood and asked: " Want to dance?"
She was startled, to say the least. " I'm not very good."
" At least I'm good at it. I can cover for you." Draco replied, holding his hand out to her. He knew this would probably the last true night for them to have fun together. His New Year's Resolution was to split away completely. He had to get used to the idea already though.
They moved out onto the dance floor, where a few couples already began to dance. All eyes were at first on the wedding's Main Couple, but these eyes often shifted towards Draco and Ginny. Draco really was a good dancer, after all.
He whispered to her between dances: " Malfoy rule – the men must be good dancers."
Ginny replied in a grin.
They danced, twirling gently and slowly. As the third song ebbed away and the fourth was beginning, Ginny led out onto the balcony, where a few couples were wandering the garden grounds outside the restaurant already. People were kissing in the darkness of the night outside, trying to slip away in secrecy from the party, infused by the romance of the wedding.
Ginny stood outside, the snow falling crisply in her red hair. Draco looked up at the sky, seeing millions of white dots rushing towards him from a black endless stretch. He could feel them settle in his hair and eyelashes.
" What're you thinking about?" Ginny asked him.
He looked at her, surprised. " Oh, just something from when I was little."
" Tell me about it?" She pleaded.
" When I was little, I remember my first sled. I played until it was late at night, and it was snowing just like this. It was probably one of the happiest days of my life." Draco told her softly. "Weird to know that I was ever happy, isn't it?"
She nodded. " Don't get me wrong or anything, but you are pretty gloomy recently. I can't blame you though."
" You make me feel better." He told her, blinking away snowflakes from his eyes.
Ginny's cheeks warmed pleasantly. " It's really just good thoughts in the end. Optimists are always healthier, happier."
" How about people in love with optimists?" He dared.
" I guess they get some of the afterglow." She replied, staring at the falling snow. His hand was creeping up, drawing slightly around her.
" I'm sorry." He told her.
" About what?" She asked, surprised.
" I'm sorry - - just sorry." Draco said. " About anything to come. I… if anything happens, never think that I'm not your friend."
" What do you mean?" Ginny was worried now. " My family won't throw you out, if that's what you mean! And I won't let them keep me away from you!"
" Ginny." He breathed out. It was painful. He struggled. " I…"
She pressed her face into the sleeve of his coat. " I know you never say much about anything of the sort, but I believe you care about me as a friend enough to fight the system too. Friends aren't supposed to… to just split away. Not because of something as silly as this."
Draco said nothing, discouraged suddenly.
" We'll be friends, promise me. Friends above all. Soul mates even?" Ginny suggested.
" Soul mates." He whispered hoarsely. " We're nothing like each other."
" It's more like - - I don't know. We just know each other so well, don't we? More than most other friends know about us." Ginny told him.
He nodded finally. " I guess."
" So you promise?"
He let out a quick breath, like that quick exhale just before letting loose painful tears. Of course, he didn't have much time or patience for tears. Instead, he just felt pained inside. " It's hard to promise." He told her.
" Why?" She asked. " Why's it so difficult?"
Draco looked into her eyes. Her eyes were so open, so honest. Let's be friends, she begged. Then Ron's voice, saying threatening things, things that killed Draco inside – you're bullying your way into her heart.
He immediately shook his head and stepped away from her, moving his fingers up over to his heart momentarily, then he ran his hand through his hair. " You know how sometimes you just have a little string connecting you to someone else?"
" Yes." Ginny answered.
" I promise because of that. No matter how far apart we'll be, it's gonna be there. A string, alright?" He told her. It felt safe enough to say. It wasn't a soul bond, not something so dangerous, something that jumped into border-line love. He couldn't admit to something like that, no matter what the truth would be.
" Alright." She said, grinning. " Alright, a string."
" Let's get inside, it's cold." He told her.
Harry and Hermione moved towards Draco and Ginny's table near the end of the affair. There was something pained about Draco, as if he were hurting. Ginny seemed happy enough, but you could tell there was something a bit awry with her temperament too. There was a sad vibe in her voice as she said: " Oh, hi, Newly Weds!"
Hermione grinned happily, then looked at Draco nervously. " You… you like the wedding?"
He looked up nervously. " Yes." He replied gently.
Hermione raised her eyebrows. " You look sad."
" It's alright - -" Harry said quickly, hoping to stop Hermione before she tempts Draco into some sort of angry outburst.
" Don't worry about me." Draco said testily, then smiled. " Any kids in mind?"
Hermione grinned, genuinely pleased about how civil he was being. " We'd like two."
" Hmm." Draco's pleasant, civil questions that were expected of him had now run out.
" Ginny's really been a good friend to you." Harry said, suddenly.
" Hmm?" Draco murmured murkily, raising his voice higher at the end in question.
" Of course." Harry looked at Ginny.
Ginny motioned to him in a cutting motion at the throat, as in, Kill the conversation.
Harry continued, not catching what she was trying to say: " She's really been taking care of you, from the very beginning."
" What do you mean?" Draco asked, nervously.
" She'd come and talk to me, tell me everything, the whole issue."
" What?" Draco blanched.
" I guess I learned we're not so different after all. We both feel we lost different father figures in our lives." Harry said thoughtfully. " Ginny begged me, talked me into raising your pay, giving you a chance."
" So I … it was a pity job?" Draco's voice was rising. He looked at Ginny, feeling bursts of outrage. " So all the things I told you, everything, all the trust I had in you - - you just ran and told Potter! And for what? An exchange job – I have my job, you have YOUR job, right?"
" Draco, no, wait…" Ginny said, quickly.
He cut her off: " Just so Potter could always keep tabs at me, always a step ahead, always watching me, even in my own home! And he pities me?" Draco stood, giving Harry an absolutely furious look, then looking at Ginny in utter heartbreak. " I…" He shook his head and stood and walked in a dignified way towards the doorway.
Ginny raced after him but Hermione held her back. Hermione gave Harry a worried expression. "Harry! Good intentions always fail, don't they?"
Ginny's chin quivered. "God, he… he's furious."
" Oh, Ginny, don't worry. He'll get over it." Hermione said, quickly.
" No he won't. I've never seen him forgive any grudges." Ginny replied.
Harry wiped his hands over his face nervously. " Jeez! I'm… I'm sorry."
Ginny burst into tears. " I hurt him! I can't believe it… he never did anything to hurt me, not purposely, but I just - - I just…" She was sobbing.
Hermione hugged her.
" I ruined your wedding too. I'm so sorry…" Ginny blubbered, her cheeks wet with tears.
" Listen to me." Hermione said softly. " Love conquers all."
" He doesn't love me." She whimpered. " I'm so stupid, just a stupid crush of mine. I can't believe I was being so obvious out on the balcony, too! No wonder he was so miserable."
Harry sighed. " Here, Lavender's over there. She'll take you to the bathroom to freshen up. Hermione, let's try to occupy the guests. Stop them from talking."
So they worked, Harry and Hermione, always heroes, always trying to patch things up, but Ginny felt as if she herself had ended up slitting the string between her and Draco, something she thought he'd eventually do.