Chapter: V. Lorenzo's
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Harry/Draco (intended); others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Chapter Rating: PG-13
Chapter Warnings: None
Chapter Length: 3600
Chapter Summary: Ginny contemplates the ocean, Harry wrecks his house of cards, and Draco is shopping.
Beta: None. Read at your own risk.
Note: This is a CYOA fic styled after the 乙女ゲーム/Otome game genre. There will be a poll at the end of each chapter, and readers' majority vote will decide the POV character's actions for the following chapter.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
[Previously, Ginny decided to accept the offer on the spot.]
Ginny sat on the balcony of her new flat, her bare feet up on the railing, a mug of tea in her hands. Tea. She would need to bring some with her, enough to last until Christmas at least. The stuff that passed for tea here tasted like stale dishwater, and sugar didn't help.
Her Portkey for the Southampton-bound ship was timed for six in the evening; she still had a full day left in Salem, but she would have time to explore the place later. She didn't like to be a tourist alone, anyway, and it would be a chance to meet some of her new teammates, hopefully. Today, she would think.
The ocean glimmered through the trees across the way. If she looked northeast and developed superhuman vision, she'd be able to see Shell Cottage. Not that it'd do her any good -- it was mid-afternoon in England now, so no one would be home. Ginny felt like even a glimpse of Bill would help steady her mind. Her thoughts were like newborn spiders, skittering and aimless.
She set the tea mug down on the little glass table at her elbow and picked up her copy of the Strikers contract. She'd read it before signing, not very thoroughly, but enough to be familiar with the terms -- four years with option to extend in three, a salary much higher than Ron's or Percy's and one week off in December, plus unconditional permission to use her name and likeness in promotional material for the next ten years. She also got this place, rent-free, in the same building as the rest of her teammates. That a team could have its very own waterfront property was incomprehensible to Ginny.
Quidditch was but an afterthought in America, but Priya had explained that investing in all kinds of sports was a sort of hobby amongst the most powerful wizards here. They all competed using their teams as proxies, so every sponsor threw enormous amounts of money at the players and team management to make sure they had the best living arrangements, equipment, training facilities and so on. That kind of thing had been outlawed in wizarding Britain for decades.
Last night, Ginny had been in a semi-shocked state when Priya took her here and handed her the keys. Her new Firestorm broomstick lay on the floor of the sitting room, still wrapped and tagged, next to the bag of gear: five sets of Body-Adjusting green-and-tan uniform robes, Whisperweight limb guards, two Tyrant bat-and-Bludger sets. To think she'd own such fine equipment before she became a Harpies regular! Yet here she was, a mere permanent reserve outfitted better than most British local teams could ever hope to be.
"I am on a professional Quidditch team," Ginny whispered, tasting the words. "I am a reserve Beater for the Salem Strikers."
No matter how often she said it, it sounded like a lie, like that time her family had won the trip to Egypt. She'd expected to wake up the entire time they'd been there.
Priya had said the Strikers didn't even care about her N.E.W.T results -- America had a different examination standard, and the O.W.L .equivalency was enough for sports teams. But the Harpies would care about N.E.W.T.s, eventually, so Ginny hoped she had at least passed. Otherwise she would have to retake them again after her contract here was up, and she'd miss regular tryouts and have to skip a year...
But that was years away. She told herself to focus on what she needed to do now. Regular training was starting in a week, so she had to be back here in five days.
Five days to put her old life on hold. Five days to say good-bye.
Harry checked his watch for the third time, but it was only seven twenty. Ginny had said seven thirty. He felt like a bit of an idiot standing outside the new Italian café on Diagon Alley with this enormous bouquet hidden awkwardly behind his back, looking around every thirty seconds to make sure he could conceal it better when Ginny came into view.
He'd waited six months for this day -- "we'll talk when I'm ready," Ginny had said to him when they'd kind-of-broken up, and yesterday she'd stopped by Grimmauld Place and left a note on his bedside table.
Meet me at Lorenzo's tomorrow night at 7:30 if you can. If you can't, let me know, and just stop by my house when you're done work. Love, Ginny.
Harry had agreed to an extra week of penalty-for-drunken-misconduct duty to get tonight off work, but it would be worth it.
He cast another glance around and spotted Ginny approaching from the Gringotts side. Harry had been expecting her to come from home, which would have meant the Leaky Cauldron. He shifted the flowers, which were so heavy his arm was starting to get tired, and turned to face her.
She had cut her hair shorter since they'd last seen each other; her ponytail, which usually reached the middle of her back, curled just past her chin now. She wasn't wearing the necklace he'd given her for Christmas, and that hurt a little, but he wasn't going to complain. Not on this day.
"Hey," Ginny said, stopping a few feet from him. "Wait long?"
"Hey yourself," Harry said. "I just got here. You look beautiful."
"Huh?" Ginny frowned a bit. "Oh, you mean the hair. Yeah. Thanks."
"Not just the hair," Harry said. He wanted to just throw the bloody flowers on the ground and kiss her, but he had promised he would wait until she said it was okay. "But that too. Did you go in to see Bill?"
Ginny looked at him, and Harry nodded towards the towering wizarding bank behind her.
"Oh, no," she said, "I just had something to do at Gringotts. Bill's in Australia this month. So, um -- shall we?"
"After you," Harry said, gesturing at the door; he knew better than to open it for her. Besides, he still had flowers to hide.
Ginny walked inside, ponytail bouncing, and Harry followed her to a table by the window. It wasn't their usual table -- that was one of the booths near the back -- but he reckoned they were going to start fresh, and Ginny probably wanted to avoid the bad memories of the rows they'd had in that booth.
When Ginny was seated, Harry produced the bouquet. "For you, miss," he said, smiling.
"Oh, they're beautiful!" Ginny exclaimed, taking it from him. She closed her eyes as she sniffed the roses. "But I guess this means Ron's told you already, hasn't he? I really wish he could keep his mouth shut."
Still grinning, Harry took a seat across from her. It was a strange thing to say -- why would Ginny tell Ron she was going to take Harry back? "Ron hasn't said anything," he said. "I'm not sure why he would -- I mean--" Harry broke off, for Ginny's smile had faded.
"Harry, I-- oh, Merlin. My note -- this -- it isn't what you must be thinking. I thought the flowers were to congratulate me," she said, laying the bouquet across her lap. "This is mad awkward."
"Congratulate you?" Harry asked, blinking. "Did the N.E.W.T. results come in already, then? That was quick."
But what did Ron have to do with Ginny's N.E.W.T. results? Harry hadn't seen much of him since Monday, actually -- whenever Harry got home, Ron would already be in his bedroom, sleeping or talking to Hermione on the two-way mirror. They hadn't had lunch together once this week. Which was strange, now that he thought about it. Why did Ginny say this was awkward?
"It's not about the N.E.W.T.s," Ginny said.
"Long time no see, you two," called Lorenzo, zipping up to their table, his floating order pad scrambling to catch up to him. "The usual?"
"Yes, please," they said in unison, and Harry grinned at Ginny. She returned the smile but averted her eyes quickly.
"Harry," she said, then lifted her gaze to him and took a deep breath. "I am going to America to play Quidditch. For four years."
Harry felt like he'd been disembowelled.
He'd heard her the first time, but maybe it was just his imagination, maybe he'd somehow heard the wrong words; that happened sometimes, didn't it? People heard the wrong thing and assumed incorrectly. Maybe she'd said she was thinking about going, so this was his chance to talk her out of it--
"The Salem Strikers offered me a reserve Beater position last Friday, and I accepted. I leave tomorrow morning."
Harry struggled to find words as the horrible empty feeling in his gut took over his whole body. "But your note said-- you said we'd talk when you were ready, and I--"
"I know. Shit, I'm sorry; I wasn't even thinking about that when I wrote the note. I just... I'm really sorry, Harry. I've been so busy the past four days that I just--"
"Yeah," Harry said. "You forgot, I guess."
Was this why Ron had avoided him all week? Why Percy pretended not to notice him in the lift the other day? Why Mr Weasley hadn't stopped by Harry's desk to discuss Muggle news like he always did on Wednesdays? He felt stupid and useless -- of course, he wasn't family. Of course, he would be the last to know about what happened in the Weasley family. Even Hermione hadn't contacted him, and Harry was sure she'd known, maybe even longer than the rest of the family did.
A dull rage began to fill the emptiness inside him. Of course he'd been kept out of the loop until now. He was, after all, the overly clingy boyfriend. Wasn't that how this all started?
"You know, if I was not staying far enough away from you all this time, you could've just talked to me about it," he said. "I thought we were still friends."
Ginny looked stung. "You think I'm doing this to get away from you?"
"Why else?" Harry snapped. "No better way to make sure I'm not breathing down your neck when you least expect it, right?"
He and Ginny had had the first of their rows when she'd suggested they didn't need to see each other every day. Harry, who had fallen harder for Ginny with every hour they spent together, had taken it badly. They hadn't spoken for a week, then Harry went to the Burrow to apologise, and they'd ended up in Grimmauld Place, having make-up sex he still dreamt about. Things had been okay for a few months after that, and Harry had even agreed to see less of each other, but they'd still have the occasional argument over how much time they were spending together.
"I don't even know what to say to that," Ginny said, jolting Harry out of his thoughts. "Are you serious, or do you need a minute to think about what you're saying?"
"Yeah, I'm an idiot who never thinks about what I'm saying; why do you sound so surprised?" Harry bit out. Bloody fucking hell, this was not the conversation they were supposed to be having tonight.
"No one called you an idiot," Ginny said sharply. "Are you going to cause a scene again?"
"Why, will you be embarrassed and leave again? Put yourself in my place for a minute, all right?"
She sighed. "You're right. I'm not saying you're wrong to get angry, Harry. I did handle this whole thing badly, and--"
"Is that what we are to you now? 'This whole thing'? That's just fucking great."
"Harry, please. Please calm down."
But Harry didn't know how to calm down. Ever since their rows had started, he pretty much lived in fear of Ginny leaving him, and now that it was actually happening -- no more temporary break-up, no more 'we'll talk when I'm ready', just 'I'm going to America for four years' -- he didn't know how to deal with it.
The temporary break-up had been completely his fault.
One day Harry had spotted Dean Thomas in Ottery St. Catchpole during a routine Death Eater sighting investigation. It had unsettled him, and that had been the first time he used Auror Office resources to investigate private matters: it turned out that Dean and Ginny had been writing to each other. Harry had gone nova and accused her of cheating on him. He'd thought it was obvious -- her desire for more time apart when they'd been practically inseparable at Hogwarts, her lack of patience with him, the way she sometimes wasn't home when she should have been. He still winced when he thought about some of the words he'd flung at her that night.
It had turned out that Dean had just been supplying Ginny with inside information on the Holyhead Harpies -- his step-aunt was on the team. Harry hadn't known even how to apologise, though he'd tried and tried. But Ginny had said their relationship had become poisonous and they needed to take a break. And at that point, even Harry had to acknowledge that his feelings for Ginny had become too possessive to be healthy.
Lorenzo returned with their cakes and cappuccinos, depositing them without a word. This was where Harry and Ginny always came to row and to make up in those last few months before the temporary break-up; Lorenzo knew when to leave them alone. They were never loud or disruptive, after all.
"I don't know what to tell you," Harry breathed, staring at the foam on his cappuccino. Lorenzo had not drawn a cocoa-powder heart in it, thank God.
Whenever they would fight before, he'd always been the one at fault, always -- and he knew he'd always deserved to be told off for it. But now -- now, he hadn't even done anything wrong. He'd apologised, backed off, given her all the space she'd wanted. But she was leaving him anyway.
"You could say you're happy for me," Ginny said, picking up her cup. "Everyone else did."
Harry stared at her for a moment, and then felt like a complete arsehole. She'd said she was going to play for the Strikers -- the Salem Strikers were a new all-woman team, just what Ginny had wished for. It was an incredible opportunity for someone who'd never played professionally before, and it would help Ginny's career immensely. It was almost a dream come true for her -- after all, once her contract was up, she'd be a shoo-in for the Harpies.
Yet Harry had been focussing so much on their relationship that he didn't even...
"I am happy for you," he said, looking at her directly. "I really am."
Ginny took a leisurely sip of her fancy coffee. "Thanks, Harry. I hear the 'but' though, so maybe you should try that again."
Harry shook his head. "I won't try it again, because the 'but' will still be there."
"D'you still remember how jealous I was over you going to Ravenclaw Tower with Cho Chang, back in the Room of Requirement?"
"Yeah," Harry said, wondering what Ginny was getting at. He'd been so happy to see Ginny get jealous over him that night -- would that he could see it happen again now. "So?"
"The war might've ended differently because of me thinking about my feelings instead of thinking about what you needed to do. We were lucky that it didn't, but it could have."
"But it didn't," Harry muttered. "What are you trying to say?"
"I'm trying to say I understand how you feel," Ginny said. "But that doesn't mean I think you're right to feel that way."
"I can't bloody help how I feel, can I?"
Ginny sighed. They sat in silence for a while, and Harry picked at his cake, his appetite long gone.
"Let's try this again," Ginny said finally. "I'm going to America for four years, and I think we should break up. I don't want us to--"
"Right," Harry interrupted. "I've been waiting for you to be ready to talk, and now that you are, you're ditching me."
"I'm not ditching you," Ginny said sharply. "I just don't think it makes any sense for us to be together if we're not going to be together."
"Why don't we get engaged? Wouldn't that count as together?" Harry asked.
"I don't think that's a good idea," Ginny said, frowning down at her cake. "Not with how things have been going. I love you, Harry--"
"And I love you. Isn't that enough?"
"No. I've loved you for years, but I don't know if I want to marry you."
Harry felt hollow again. "I said engaged, not married," he said, fighting to keep calm. "We could always break off the engagement if things don't work out when you come back."
"Why?" Ginny asked. "What's the point of getting engaged if we're not sure about getting married?"
"You're the one who's not sure," Harry said. "So don't say 'we'."
He knew how bitter his tone sounded, but he didn't care. She wasn't going to listen to him anyway. Why did he even suggest getting engaged? It wouldn't make a difference; Ginny would still go to America and they still wouldn't see each other for years.
"That's not fair, Harry."
"I know. Maybe you're right, Ginny -- maybe I just don't really trust you, like you said back then. And that's never been your fault."
"They do say absence makes the heart grow fonder," Ginny said. "Maybe in four years, I'll come back here and demand a ring from you or else."
"They also say 'out of sight, out of mind'," Harry countered. The idea of Ginny coming back to demand he marry her made him feel absurdly happy, but how long would that last? He looked at her, his chest tight, his throat dry. "If we're going to break up for real, we'd best make it clean. Otherwise I'll just spend the next four years like I spent the last six months, and I don't want that. If we're breaking up, let's break up and move on. Both of us."
Ginny's face darkened, but she muttered, "Right. You did always want a family, and I can't ask you to wait for me."
"You could ask me that," Harry countered. "And I would wait. But nothing would change while you were gone. We'd be stuck with the problems we have now. You said it yourself, didn't you? You don't know if I'm the one you want to marry."
"I didn't say it quite like that, but yeah, you're right."
They looked at each other for a full minute, and then they both looked away at the same time.
It was done.
Harry called Lorenzo over and paid him. They left as they'd come, Ginny in front, but this time she was the one carrying the flowers. The bouquet hung from her grip like a burden, and Harry fought tears as he remembered how excited he'd been when he'd bought it.
"Well, I'm off," Ginny said when they were outside. "Thank you for the flowers; they're lovely. And thanks for everything."
She held out her free hand, but Harry hugged her tightly, wanting to pull her right into his heart.
"Don't go," he choked. "Please."
Ginny's hand pushed against his chest, and she sniffed. "I'm sorry."
In the end, Harry had watched Ginny walk away, cradling the bouquet, her shoulders stiff. She had long disappeared from view, but Harry still stood next to the café's sandwich board, stunned, not yet ready to believe what had happened.
He began to walk down the street, aimlessly, just wanting to get away from Lorenzo's, away from the afterimage of Ginny's retreating back burned into his retinas, though he couldn't shake the warmth of her from his arms. He passed Gringotts, and that reminded him of her, too -- what had been the "business" she'd mentioned? Instructions for her future pay deposits, probably. She was a professional Quidditch player now, and from what Harry knew of American sponsorship systems, a well-paid player.
Most shops had already closed for the night; Diagon Alley may have been in the heart of 20th century London, but it had its own beat. But Magical Menagerie was still open, and Harry started as he saw two familiar faces through the shop window: Draco Malfoy and Blaise Zabini. Malfoy was holding a tiny puppy and obviously asking the unhappily cooperative-looking shopkeeper questions.
Harry surprised enough that Malfoy had actually ventured out in public, but what the hell was he doing with a small animal? Didn't he have enough house-elves to torture? It pissed Harry off to see Malfoy smiling so fucking happily. What right did this Death Eater brat have to be here, to shop amongst honest wizards and witches, to smile like he wasn't part of the fucking problem?
With an even greater start, Harry realised he was spoiling for a fight. His tears had dried, but he still felt wound-up, blood pounding in his temples, hands clenching into fists as he walked. He was profoundly unhappy, and he wanted nothing more than to go into the shop and make Malfoy's smile disappear. If anyone didn't deserve to be happy, it was Malfoy.
It wasn't illegal for Malfoy to be here, though; Harry had no authority, and if he picked a fight here, he might even be suspended from his job, seeing as he was already on penalty duty.
The funny thing was, Harry didn't think he gave a shit.
...go into the shop and pick a fight.
...wait for Malfoy to come out before picking a fight, to avoid involving the shopkeeper.
...harass Malfoy a little, but don't start a fight.
...just walk away.
...investigate the shrubbery.
[IV. Afterthoughts | ToC | VI. Artie]