When Ginny finally came home, she saw Narcissa was already sleeping, and Molly and Arthur were at the party. She would have a lot of explaining to do. But first she searched for Draco.
Ginny finally found him a horrible mess in his room, after many drinks, weak from his own self-mutilation from the inside. He looked up, seeing her enter the room. He had been crying. Draco had cried for her, cried after what was a long time of drought in his emotions.
" I thought I was in love with you!" He blurted out.
Her stomach fluttered. He did love me. He still loves me, maybe. Oh God, he loves me. Immediately, it was a booster shot into her arm. She said: " It's not the way you think."
" Oh, really?" He looked down at the glass in his hand. He could see his reflection in it, a sorry sight.
" Draco, listen to me. When I went to Harry, I told him I was… I was completely charmed by you. That I saw you as good, that I knew you were good." Ginny whispered. " Can't you see?"
" I don't believe you." He told her. " You're just saving face now."
" No I'm not. I told him that I saw you as someone else. I told Harry nothing of your – our – conversations, secrets. I just told him that deep inside I knew you deserved a chance."
She sat down beside him and he put his head down in her lap. He really was pretty out of it, she could see the half empty bottle of scotch lying on the floor not far from his bed. She started wiping away the tears on his cheeks and then she hugged him tightly, both of them lying together side by side, in a warm embrace.
She leaned her head towards his neck and whispered: " I love you. I'm so, so sorry."
He met her lips and they kissed passionately, finally, fully.
The next morning, Draco woke up with his head whirling and throbbing as if he had way too much to drink. He tried to concentrate as hard as he could at forgetting the previous evening. He barely knew what happened. He knew he had kissed Ginny at the end. He was doing it again – being an idiot, leading her on. He lay there and made his decision – he would do everything in his power to move away from Ginny. What Harry had told him - that was definitely a good excuse to still remain mad.
He wasn't sure why, but it wasn't what Harry said that made him mad. Perhaps three weeks ago it would have made him furious, but he had finally confronted what was more important to him – Ginny. He had confronted the most important hurdle he had to get over, as well – he had to leave Ginny, as quickly as possible. He knew that she would never understand his reasoning, she thought only with a good heart, and that was the truth to her. He saw catastrophic impacts on her life if she were to choose someone like him and not a man similar to Harry.
It was painful to admit something like that, and especially more so that his time with her was cut short like this. Yet it was the perfect opportunity to split away, using the night before as the reason. That way he could slip off without telling Ginny that he was still very much in love. Love wasn't worth ruining your partner's life over. When you knew you didn't deserve them, it was only a matter of time before you'll feel guilty for the life you brought them. It would be only a matter of time before they'll both reveal their feelings, if he were to stay.
I'm not mad. I know I'm not,he thought frantically, turning his back to the door, yanking the covers over his head. I need to do this, though.
He heard the familiar creak of the floor steps right where his doorway was. " Draco?" Ginny's frightened voice asked. " Draco, it's your mother." She was whispering and her face was pale.
Draco turned immediately. She watched as a wave of surprise cross his face. It turned into a worried, raised-eyebrows look.
" What's wrong with her?" He asked, his voice hard and strained.
" I…" She turned away, pressing her fingers to her lips in worry. " She passed away over the night. I'm sorry."
Draco jumped up in horror and fled into the hallway and straight to his mother's room. She lay on the bed with the grace on an old but strong British rose, her sunken cheeks devoid of coloring, her lips slightly roughed, as only an elegant woman would do. Her lips had been curved upwards into a smile in her last hour, she had passed quickly in her sleep. Her gray nightgown was covered with a jovial marigold-yellow quilt, a setting as warm and youthful as seeing your first sunset. Her left-hand fingers were wrapped around her wedding band, which she must have removed overnight. It had carved a sad crease in the heart of her palm.
" Mother…" he whispered, a little boy standing at her bedside again, testing the water before treading in. His voice was strangled with years of tears and unspoken words that he suddenly recollected and wished to lay down at her feet.
Dropping to one knee in front of her, he took her hand and held it. The wedding ring slid into his hand and he turned it around, examining the inscription, carved into the gold:
Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy
He slid it back onto her finger and sat back onto his heels, waves of pain rolling through him like waves, smashing against the rocks, ripping rivulets through the foamy shores and then returning into the sea, exhausted but eager to return. Such were his memories, flooding his mind now.
Ginny hovered in the doorway. " I am so sorry."
He turned to look at her, eyes stricken with grief. " We'll have to arrange funeral services. I'll have to give up my apartment funds."
Ginny sighed. " I suppose you have no way out than to take Harry's apartment."
Draco shook his head. " I suppose life's really screwed me now." He stood, walked past Ginny, and into Lucius's room.
Lucius turned his bleary eyes and stared blankly at his son. Not even a tiny fragment of recollection came up from his brain, the neurons that used to spark instant recognition of business partners he only met once now so dulled that he couldn't tell apart his son from the red-headed nurse.
Draco sat down at his father's bed, feeling pained. " I put it off too long, Dad. So I'll just say it now, before it's too late."
Lucius sighed softly, as if he understood the severity of the situation.
" I love you, Dad." He whispered.
The silence in the room was so intimidating for a moment that even Lucius grew restless, instinctively letting out a low, garbled murmur. Draco took in a sharp breath and continued: "Mother's dead."
He waited for some sort of sign that Lucius understood what he was saying. Lucius's face was utterly blank though.
" Damn it, Dad!" He cried out, blinking back tears. " God-fucking-damn it!" He put his head down on the covers and sobbed, feeling his tears ready to come out for all the times he felt so overcome with frustration, for all the times he wished Lucius were dead instead of suffering endlessly. He felt like an orphan anyhow.
He felt the hair on his head shift as Lucius raised his hand and slowly ran it across the crown of Draco's head. Draco looked up, his heart squeezing at the small act. It was a sure sign that someone out there was listening to what he hoped for.
He stood up and left the room, passing his mother's room, and he stopped at Ginny's.
She was sitting on the bed, her eyes swollen and red from tears as well. " I sent an owl for my dad. He'll be here right away." Ginny said.
" Thank you." He replied tensely.
They stared at each other. She could already see by now that he saw the previous night, their emotional outbursts, as a drunk mistake. As long as she could believe that, it would be easier for her to accept that maybe her feelings were more infatuation than true love. He had to somehow hasten the splitting away though. He knew that he wouldn't be able to see her so upset over him for long.
All he wished to do was hold her hand and tell her not to weep, but he couldn't bring himself to do it, he couldn't bring himself into tugging on the string between them, when he knew it had to be loosened. He suddenly had a lot of restraint to deal with.
Draco packed his bags slowly, staring at all the items he put into the suitcase. Shirt after shirt, all bland and gray, and then a flash of color and spice as his wedding suit appeared in it. He thought about everything that had happened over the past two days.
Narcissa was buried. Not too many Malfoys showed up. Draco hadn't been too close with his family, and most of them had died young anyhow. There was an old woman there that said she was Narcissa's mother. Draco had never met his grandmother, and he felt odd speaking to her. His grandmother told him that Narcissa had left with Lucius and she hadn't seen her daughter since then either, until the owls notified her. When Narcissa's casket had been lowered into the ground, the snow slowly edging away and turning into rain, Narcissa's mother had dropped a single red rose into the grave.
The rain pattered at the casket like knives, slicing through the air with a vicious racket. Draco had felt faint as series of memories flashed through his mind, his art teacher's funeral, now his mother. How many more people would he bury before he'd be lucky enough to pass away? His fingers shook and he closed his eyes, unable to watch the casket disappear forever. Mother, he thought painfully. And he hadn't even spoken with her more than twice a day, saying good morning and good night.
Draco continued packing, slowly filling her suitcase.
They had put Lucius into a nursing home. Draco wouldn't be able to care for him, for he would be at work. Thankfully, the nursing home was a walk away from Harry's loft. Draco had begrudgingly taken it, feeling like a charity case. Harry had said that staying after hours a few days would be enough.
Harry, who had always had happy endings. He was married, and just last night she announced she was pregnant from an early test with her wand. Right on the wedding night, she had gone with child. Harry was drunk with joy at the office; perhaps that's why he gave Draco the loft for free.
Harry, always victorious in the end. Ginny would at least be happy in the end. He knew she'd be sad for now, they were both in love with each other, but it was embarrassing and unspoken of. She had all the right to find herself a rich, smart man that would read poetry with her by the fire. Draco could barely provide money, and he knew that her family would probably outcast her and him. That would destroy Ginny's joy.
Draco closed the suitcase, sighing sadly.
He had gone through thousands of different ideas and plans in his mind overnight. Suddenly, an idea struck him. It was a guilty idea, but he let himself accept it. He thought about it, and put aside all other ideas. He was suddenly overcome with his love for Ginny, overcome with the losses he'd gone through. He knew he wouldn't survive if Ginny wouldn't be there to help him out of his pain.
So he acted on his last plan. He went to the painting of Ginny and added something, something crucial and prized to it. Then he laid it onto her desk and waited all day.
By evening, he had gotten no reply from her at all. In fact, she seemed to avoid him, blushing when he exchanged glanced with her. Finally, around ten at night, he walked into the kitchen downstairs and said:
" I'm leaving, then."
" No!" Ginny exclaimed. " You can't!"
" But… you rejected me."
" No I didn't…" She said, then suddenly looked upset. " Oh, Draco, I thought you had gotten over that. I told you, it's just… I can't believe I did what I did, and…"
" Oh." He said, uncomfortably. " So then… no?"
" No to what?" Ron asked from the kitchen table.
" I don't know." Ginny said to Ron quickly. " Draco, you have to stay. Ron, tell him to stay."
" He's a man of independence." Ron said softly. " He has the right to go out there and do what he has to do." Ron wanted Draco to leave, and as promptly as possible. It was obvious that Ron didn't exactly adore the Malfoy. Despite that Ron sympathized with the sudden death of Narcissa, and even more so now that Draco had the burden of caring for Lucius and a new household all on his shoulders. Yet there was only so far he could go before he'd cross the line into hurting his own family to help others. Ginny needed to be saved.
" I can't believe you're not on my side with this." Ginny told Ron angrily. She sighed and then shook her head, tears in her eyes. " I thought we were friends, Draco. I thought you'd be able to get past that."
" We are." Draco said hastily. " It's alright about… about the other thing. We can still be friends, maybe talk once in a while by owl."
" If you leave now, Arthur would probably make sure to keep you away." Ginny replied. "You promised me you'd…"
" I promised I'd try, and I did." Draco said. " And I'm tired of it."
She hugged him. " I'll miss you then."
He could feel her heart beating through her shirt rapidly. He whispered into her ear: "Thank you for everything. I'm sorry it had to end this way."
She shrugged him away, crossing her arms. " If you're not mad, then I don't see what you're trying to do, just leaving like this. I thought you cared about my feelings!"
He couldn't answer, didn't even know how to.
" I thought you'd try for more than a day or two! I thought I was important - - that, that my friendship was important to you. I guess you're going to go to your little apartment and have a good laugh?" Ginny exploded.
" I'm sorry." He said lamely. " You wouldn't understand."
" I suppose I should have known that it would be like this."
" I have to go." Draco said hurriedly. " You could have stopped me, but you clearly told me that your answer was no."
" No to what, I'm asking you again?" She exclaimed.
" Stop it with the whole show before your brother. I'm sorry I ever even asked you about it, I don't know what I was thinking." Draco looked away, also looking betrayed inside.
Ginny shook her head. Draco was mumbling nonsensically. What did she say no to? What did he ask her?
" What about the painting?" She asked.
" Keep it." Draco said darkly.
Ginny felt betrayed. He didn't even want a visual reminder of her. He simply wanted nothing of her left in his life, not even a painting to remember her by. He had really and truly just stopped their friendship like a chess game. She didn't think anyone human would be able to do something so cruel. Now she doubted if he ever thought of her as a friend. Ron's words about how Draco could be just toying with her rang through her ears and she wiped an angry tear off her cheek.
Draco shook his head. " Good bye." He walked out the kitchen doorway.
Ginny watched him walk off until she couldn't see him through the curtains of white snow. That's when it hit her, he was finally gone. No kiss to say goodbye. He was still so stiff and embarrassed about how she had sort of taken advantage of him when he was drunk. She had confessed her love to him, and he probably just went along with it because he felt bad for her, because he was drunk and angry and his mind was a haze. He never repeated it when he was sober, it had to be drunken mutterings.
Ginny went into her room, deciding to cut her hair. It was an impulsive decision, but suddenly just standing there in the doorway with it billowing about was enough to drive her mad with fury. She wanted it gone. The waist long curls had to be gone. She couldn't look in the mirror and think that Draco had loved them, painted them so clearly.
She reached for the scissors from the top drawer of her desk and then she saw the painting. Suddenly she realized what Draco had been going on about, and she realized that she had a very damaging misunderstanding with him, after all.
For on the painting he had drawn an engagement ring on her finger, and on it he had written the word Please.