Happiness is a fickle thing.
Sometimes happiness is no more than a step ahead of you; a shadow fleeting ahead of you like a winding trail you'll follow till one day, there's no more trail left to follow. You can see it there, clearly, just waiting to be caught. But you never catch it. You can never jump high enough, leap fast enough, twist and turn quickly enough on the pavement to catch it unawares. It taunts you. It beckons at you slyly, crooking its finger at you, laughing all the while becuase it knows you aren't good enough to finally pin that piece of miscreant filth to the ground and wring its bloody neck until you've squeezed every last drop from its silky cloth.
Sometimes, that true feeling of exhultation you're just dying for is already in your past. This is the shadow when you've started the long decline after the sun has risen over your head and stuck itself firmly behind you. No matter how hard you try, no matter how fast you are at dancing backwards, that darned shadow is a step ahead of you: it's like it knows. It's like the stupid, insouciant little bugger has his hands firmly on your chest and it's shoving you in the opposite direction of where you really want to be. It has you all mapped out. Happiness was in your past. You've had a glimpse, you've tasted it. You've let it slip away. Fool.
Sometimes, happiness is just too hard to outmaneuver, too hard to trick. It's too smart for you. You're always stuck in that same, hopeless rut, gasping for just one drop of the precious liquid you know will set you for life. It's like the fountain of youth. Alluring. Mouthwatering. Apparently accessible to everyone except for you.
Sometimes, Draco thought idly, his thumbs casually hooked through the loops in his extremely expensive, extremely flattering jeans, you just have to let go.
Let go? Just let all of your longings flit away, while you watch helplessly. Let Go??
Draco nodded firmly, resolutely to himself. Just let it all go; the worries, the desires that would never come to fruition, the dreams that haunt you in your sleep. Poof. Gone.
His bare chest was cold in the frigid air, blonde hairs sticking up all over his arms, bumps rising to the surface on his skin. His bare feet were nearly frozen against the cold stone of the ledge. His toes were curled over the edge, like they knew what he was about to do, and they wanted to refuse and grab hold of whatever salvation was nearest.
Let go, let go, let go. He chanted in his mind, over and over. A gust of wind blew by, almost knocking him off the edge before he was ready. He smiled to the wind, embraced it, raising his arms until they were wide, welcoming, like he was calling to a long lost lover. He threw his head back and felt the silky soft licks of his too long hair tickling his nape.
This was freedom, this. This was happiness. No shadows. The sun was hiding today. Draco didn't need the sun. He had her. He had his own sun now.
Never had he felt so warm, even though he was freezing. The rest of his clothes were somewhere, draped over a distant hedge. He could almost hear her chiming laughter over the sharp wind. He smiled again.
Her dark amber eyes, half hidden with a coy lowering of her thick lashes. Her pert little nose, sprinkled with cinnamon freckles. Her pink lips parted with surprise as he swept her into his arms.
He had never been so open with her before. He had always been so adamant about hiding their relationship. And then his father died, and that hadn't mattered anymore. Who cares who knows? He had asked her mockingly. She had smiled at him then, lighting her eyes with unrestrained joy.
He felt tingly, knowing he could make her light up like that, when Potter had never been able to. Another gust of wind nearly knocked him over.
He had almost forgotten why he was standing there, at the top of the ledge, looking over the just barely melted lake. He looked down now. It seemed as though the water was a mile away. It was too far. If he jumped, he'd-
But then he remembered. Just let it all go. Fears. Inhibitions.
He thought back to her smiling face when he'd told her what he was going to do for her. What he was going to prove.
He, Draco Malfoy, was going to jump off a cliff, for one Ginevra Weasley.
He could see the beginnings of a crowd forming along the banks of the water. Twenty or thirty people coming to see his demise.
He could almost barely hear them yelling. 'Jump! Jump already!'
He smirked. All in good time. First he had to find her.
He scanned the crowd, looking for the familiar shade of red he associated only with her. None of her brothers had hair that brilliant, that deep. Scarlet like a rose.
There. She was standing ankle deep in the water, smiling sunnily up at him. She thought all of this was silly. She'd told him he needn't bother. She knew he loved him.
But, he'd seen Potter's disbelieving face when he'd announced his plan. He'd seen the doubt written there plainly.
When had a Malfoy ever done something so rash? So outrageously radical?
Well, Draco thought, none of the other Malfoys had ever fallen in love. So there weren't many reference points to fall back on.
Finally, the cloud opened a sliver behind him. He had a shadow in front of him.
Draco backed up ten paces. He looked at the edge, and then backed up ten more. He could no longer see her. He couldn't see the crowd. But he had his shadow in front of him, mocking him.
You won't do it, it told him smugly. You can't catch me.
Draco, never one to back down from a challenge, barked one short laugh. And then his legs were pumping. His arms were slicing the air. He reached the point where he could see the crowd now.
Through the adrenaline, he could almost hear them cheer.
Three more steps.
His toes gripped the very edge again, and suddenly the ground was gone. He was airborne. He was flying. He spread his arms agian, slapping his palms together and pointing them above his head. He was an arrow. He was fast. He was amazing.
Time slowed. Water glimmered below him. The frothy white waves lapped the beach. He somehow found Ginny again, and caught her eye. He could hear the gasps of the crowd. Potter couldn't do this. He probably couldn't even swim.
It wasn't until he hit the water, that finally, Draco remembered that he couldn't either.
Perhaps the haze of love does something to you. Perhaps it twisted a few of the more crucial wires that remind you of the details you would usually never forget. Like old hidden memories. Dark secrets. The inability to tread water.
The icy fluid tore around him, filling everything with a pressure that wouldn't go away. He opened his eyes after seconds of mind boggling dizziness. Above him was only darkness. The quiver of a scared fish. Below him, somewhere between his knees, there was the light of day, glimmering with serene ripples and flickering sunlight.
Belatedly, Draco thought with great relish that he had beat his shadow. He'd caught him. So there.
With less elation Draco realized that he was going in the opposite direction of the light. He was heading into the bottomless darkness, full of slimy sea grass and unclean fish. And the squid.
He batted the water from him awkwardly, trying to remember how one was supposed to propel themselves. He twisted, trying to face the elusive light. Every time he twisted he went further in the wrong direction. He tried to jerk his legs towards the darkness and reorient himself but that only resulted in an uncomfortable amount of water swooshing through his nose.
He didn't know how long he'd been down there, struggling. His breath was reaching its end. His lungs were starting to choke him. His throat felt like it was collapsing with the pressure of the water, and no matter how hard he kicked, no matter how hard he fought, he sunk further and further from the surface. He closed his eyes in defeat.
Perhaps this was why Malfoys didn't fall in love. Perhaps the emotion didn't work with the Malfoy psyche. He would have to- He was the last Malfoy. If he died, that would be it for the family name. There would be no son to warn. No grandchildren to chuckle with over his really, really dumb idea to go cliff jumping. He frowned. He hadn't thought of that.
Love was definitely something he would have to reconsider in the next life.
He had just given up when a very large fish broke through the light, swimming towards him with ferocity. As it neared, he realized that his fish was not, in fact, a fish, but a very fetching woman in only her knickers. If this was heaven, perhaps dying wouldn't be such a hardship afterall. Of course, he would miss Ginny dreadfully, but-
His fish in fetching knickers had precisely the same hair color has his Ginny. And the same eyes. And the same mouth, and-.
Ginny? He mouthed incredulously. She growled at him, and Draco noted with interest that she sounded very different in Heaven. Perhaps the angels should work on their impersonations.
He tried to wave, but she seized his hand, and tugged, hard. His arm very nearly left his socket and his nose received another dose of fresh water. Heaven wasn't allowed to be uncomfortable, he would have to write an angry letter about this. That was just unfair. As if dying wasn't hard enough...
Draco realized finally that she was towing him. He then realized, always the intelligent one, that the least he could do was help, if he wanted his eternity long stay to be a good one. He kicked his legs experimentally. Interesting. He almost crashed straight into her bum. He grinned wickedly. He tried it again, and like magic, his other hand than the one she held in a death grip found the soft flesh of her thigh. She jerked and glared back at him. Her foot almost met his nose.
The light was coming faster now. He could see blurred and muted shapes above the surface. Ginny-Angel's face met the surface and broke through, turning the peaceful waves into a frenzy of bubbles and ripples. A second later, his own face broke the surface.
The very first thing he noticed about heaven was that it was very, very cold. Cool wind licked his cheeks, burning them. His hair dripped into his eyes, and he let go of her hand to wipe it from his face. Instantly, he was underwater again. She shoved her hand under his upper arm and hauled him back. He choked and spluttered, but let her drag him, too exhausted to help any more.
She towed him for a good five minutes, grunting angrily the entire way, occasionally slapping his head to jerk him back awake when he drifted.
Finally, she let him go. He sunk, predictably, but after only a second, his bum hit hard, sandy ground. He bunched his fingers in it. It felt real. He opened his eyes agan and watched as, when he dropped it, the sand floated softly back to the bottom. He gathered his feet under him and pushed with all his might to the surface, which, regrettably for his certainly powerful display, was but a few inches from his head.
He shot through the surface and completely shocked himself when he came back down to rest his feet on the bottom, and the water came up only to his waistline. He gazed wonderingly all around. He saw the massive cliff he had jumped from behind the dark wet hair of Ginny-Angel, and-
She was yelling at him. Screaming really. He hadn't noticed. He looked at her then, and realized she was bright red and gesticulating wildly.
"What?" he asked stupidly.
She called him several unflattering names.
"You could have DIED, Draco! What were you thinking?" she put her hands on her hips.
Her very sexy, very unclothed hips.
He forced himself to concentrate.
"But I didn't," he pointed out.
"Because I saved you!"
"My God, Draco, I- I can't even-."
She looked at him in the eye, and he noticed for the first time that she looked afraid.
"What if I hadn't saved you?" she whispered.
"How did you possibly forget such a thing. Seriously."
"Men do crazy things whilst in love."
"Ginny, perhaps all I need is a good teacher."
"A swim instructor?"
"Yes, and I know just the one."
He stepped closer to her, wrapping his long fingers around her upper arms, staring her down.
"You, Ginevra." he whispered.
She swallowed and looked up at him, a good head taller that her.
"M-me?" she stammered.
He bent his head down, and murmered, "yes," just before his lips met hers.
"Alright." she said finally, breaking the kiss. She reached for his hand and pulling away enough that they could walk without tumbling back into the water. "It's okay, Draco." She said as they left the water, a few moments later. "You aren't the only person in the world who doesn't know how to swim." She glanced at him, "Though few of them are as stupid and dense as you are."
"I don't care about anyone else. I care about you." he smiled at her. "Unless," he added, "it's Potter. I won't have him beat me at anything." He squeezed her hand and kept walking, but she had stopped dead. She looked at him with such confusion he felt the need to clarify.
"Potter can't swim either, so-"
"Oh God. You did this all to beat Harry?" her eyebrows rose to epic heights. And then she started to laugh. Really laugh. She laughed so hard that Draco began to worry. Great heaving gasps, wracking, choking. She fell to her knees, and Draco could swear that he could even see tears masquerading as water droplets below her eyes. He stood straight, growing a little bit miffed.
"It's not that funny," he said stiffly.
Finally, she recovered herself.
"But Draco, didn't you know?" she coughed out between futher fits of mirth, "Harry's become a lifeguard. He finished his training last summer."
Draco's face froze.
"He's reached the highest level you can in swimming. He's like, the Dumbledore of Wizards. The Ministry of magic! He's like, like the Squid of the lake!" she searched for more.
"I get the point." Draco bit out.
All at once, he could again see half of his shadow, squarely in front of him, laughing almost as hard as Ginny.