“I’ve been thinking a lot lately,” Ron admitted. Harry knew this was his cue to give Ron and Grace some space. Once the door closed, Ron took Grace’s hands in his own. “I’m sorry.”
Surprised of his confession, Grace stuttered, “F-for what?”
“Everything. How I treated you…what I did…” His face became flush, “I missed you so much…”
“I did too.”
Ron glanced up, “No. Your disappearance left me absolutely insane. Sure your parents explained why you had to hide, but I didn’t know it back then. I was just so stuck on getting over you. But I’m not.”
Slowly, Grace unraveled her hands, “Ron, I don’t think we are meant to be together.” She gazed into his sad eyes, “Over the years, it seemed like we were. But you need to find someone where, without them, you can still be yourself. Someone who you don’t need to rely on as much.”
The man cupped her face with his palm, “I agree. Thank you, for saying that.”
Grace smiled and relished the feeling of his hands holding her one last time. There was a knock at the door. Harry called from the other side, “Can we come in?”
“Yes!” Ron called from Grace’s bedside.
Blaise peeked his head in, “Hey sorella…” he paused, as her smile grew wide. He finished, “…sis.”
Draco walked back into Hogwarts’ halls with a different expression stamped on his features. It was almost, thoughtful. The man was still getting over the fact that the woman he had grown so accustomed to, was really Hermione Jean Granger. She had grown up with him, experienced every prank, torture, curse he threw at her, and above all hated him for it. Yet, she somehow accepted him for all he had done, from the war and so forth, and eventually developed feelings for him. And in the last couple of days, he had thrown it all away.
The prefect made his rounds around the west side of the castle. How could she forgive him? Even from the start? He had done his fair share of antics, especially towards her, and still she grew attached. Was it possible that the ever smart, Hermione Granger, was stupid enough to fall for a guy like him? Draco halted in front of a stone archway and gazed up at the full moon. The winter breezed tickled his nose and brushed against his cheeks in a comforting ‘hello’. He had seen an image so similar to the one before him and instantly remembered. The night Grace was hexed and he had guided her back to the commons. He recalled the feeling of her leaning in his arms and the way his cloak fit effortlessly around her body. The sinking feeling in his stomach when he saw her actual tears for the first time and the anger coursing through him, all became apparent. Chills ran up Draco’s body as he realized that the full moon didn’t make him think of home, but of that beautiful burgundy-haired girl.
Mr. Zabini stormed pass his two children and slammed a doorway shut.
“Is something wrong?” Grace asked, gladly taking the hot chocolate from a house-elf.
“He just finished talking to the ministry.”
Blaise took a sip from his mug, “About Parkinson.”
“Pansy? Is she going to Azkaban?” His twin questioned with concern.
“She has to. She used an Unforgivable.”
Grace choked, “She really does hate me, doesn’t she?”
“Oh she thinks you’re just cheeky.” Blaise quickly corrected his statement when he saw his sister’s deathly glare, “She does. Sorry.”
“Is every pureblood family like that?” Grace sat back.
“Well look at it this way, we have secretly devised a plan to keep your identity hidden, set up magical barriers around our own home, sent you away to keep our family safe, and received protection by the Ministry. So yes.” Blaise looked down into his mug, “The Parkinsons have resented Potter ever since he received his many admission letters; muggle-borns… generations before that. I think what got her going was the fact that someone she had been raised to hate ended up being on the opposite end of the scale. She always criticized you for your brains you know.”
“So I’ve heard.”
“Don’t take it so hard, many people love you.” Blaise said as he took another sip.
Grace looked off into the distance, “Does Draco hate me too?”
Blaise coughed, “I don’t know.”
It was finals week and the Zabinis entered back on school grounds for the first time since the incident. News spread quickly throughout the school, so when Grace walked into the hall, swarms of Gryffindors and the majority of the school, came to greet her. It took effort for the siblings to finally reach their exam room and once they finished (Grace first of course), the two set out for the front of the castle to wish their friends a good holiday.
Ginny waved over the Italian, “Grace!” She hugged the girl, “You look fetching in your true colors.”
The woman had dressed in her traditional Gryffindor uniform and she couldn’t feel any less comfortable. “Thank you. Have a great break and Happy Christmas!” Snow began to pile on their shoulders.
“You mean you’re not coming home with us?”
“Yeah, mum would really want to see you now.” Ron added as they caught up with each other.
Grace shrugged, “It’s technically my first Christmas with my family, I really shouldn’t miss it. You are all welcome to stop by before the holidays of course!”
“Just make sure to owl us first, so we can bring down the barriers.” Blaise said as he draped an arm around his sister.
“Sure thing.” Ginny said. “Mum has to make you a new jumper this year,” She turned her head to look at Blaise, “and that includes you.” The Slytherin gulped.
“We’ve got to go, or we’ll miss the train!” Harry yelled as he picked up Ginny’s luggage, “See you soon, Happy Christmas!” He kissed Grace on the cheek and shook Blaise’s hand. The rest of the Gryffindors followed suit.
After all the goodbyes, Blaise took Grace’s hand, “We would normally use the carriages, but mum says floo is quicker.” With a nod of the head, the two of them began to make their way indoors.
Blaise was abnormally stressed for the time being and he made sure neither he nor Grace had any contact with a Slytherin, even a harmless first year. For the past several days the Zabini family had been receiving hate mail from their fellow allies and news reporters swarmed their front yard. The chaos had begun. Blaise swiftly guided his sister through the sea of students when Grace gave a sudden halt.
Grace stopped when she saw a flash of platinum blonde hair in the crowd. He was bundled in that same dark woven cloak and a surprisingly trendy Ushanka. The tip of his nose was tinted red as well as his lips, and the snowy atmosphere made his pale skin seem even more rare. “Draco?”
Hearing his name among the students, the blonde shifted his view. A few yards away, that beautiful burgundy-haired girl that he had been dreaming of, was across from him.
The both of them stood frozen as the amount of students began to diminish, and soon none were left.
Blaise guided his sister towards the man and stood behind her. Out of all Slytherins, this one was okay.
“Zabini. Grange-…uhh…Zabini.” Draco greeted.
“Malfoy.” Blaise responded.
Grace said no words and stared at Draco as if it was the first time she saw him.
Blaise tried to decrease the awkwardness of the situation. “Er…what are you doing for the holidays?”
“Staying here actually.”
“At Hogwarts?” Grace finally added, realizing she was being a tad creepy.
“You can spend the holidays with us if you like,” Blaise reasoned.
“That won’t be necessary.” His answer was terse.
“Well, you are always welcome to our home.” Grace smiled.
“I’ll be fine. Enjoy your holiday.”
“You as well, Malfoy.” Blaise yanked his twin towards the doors.
Once he made sure the Zabinis were inside, Draco picked up his bags from behind the stairwell and walked towards his awaiting carriage.