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The Unlikely Story of Him and Her by BBHP

Format: Novella
Chapters: 16
Word Count: 37,457
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Scenes of a mild sexual nature, Sensitive topic/issue/theme, Spoilers

Genres: Horror/Dark, Romance, Action/Adventure
Characters: Snape, Narcissa, Pettigrew, Voldemort, Blaise (M), Draco, Ginny, Neville
Pairings: Draco/Ginny, Harry/Ginny

First Published: 06/05/2017
Last Chapter: 04/13/2018
Last Updated: 04/13/2018

Summary:



Incredible banner and story cover by steve harrington @ TDA!

A war is raging outside -- and inside -- Hogwarts, and he is at the center of it all, with the last person he expected.


Chapter 1: The Library Incident
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 *Author's note: I do not own anything HP. There is a small reference to Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince, chapter 27, at the beginning.*

Gorgeous chapter image by callisto @ TDA!



This was ridiculous.

Voldemort already had control of Hogwarts. Snape was the newly appointed headmaster and several Death Eaters were already in position as teachers. Why did he, Draco Malfoy, have to go back?

“They need a student to listen out for any word of Potter,”
said his father.

“It’ll be good for you to keep up your studies during this...time…”
said his mother.

The reality of the situation was the Dark Lord was still angry that Draco hadn’t been the one to kill Dumbledore. He couldn’t stand the sight of Draco right now, and his parents had been able to convince the Dark Lord to remove him to Hogwarts, hoping that this would keep him safe.

Safe. The thought almost made him laugh. No one was safe.

He was sitting on his bed in the Slytherin dorms, hating everything. Everyone here hated him, and he hated them right back. Snape hated that Draco was weak. The teachers hated Draco for his part in Dumbledore’s death and the brand on his own forearm. The students hated him because, well, he was Draco Malfoy. That seemed to be enough reason for them.

He glanced at his watch, and swore to himself. His free period was over and he had less than 10 minutes to get to his next class. He pulled himself out of his self-loathing (for now) and climbed the stairs out of the dungeons.

------

He skipped dinner that evening to be alone again. Not wanting to run into any of his “friends” in the common room, he made his way to the the library. He sneaked past the librarian and passed shelves and shelves of books until he came to the thin rope that spanned the length of the entrance to the Restricted Section. With another quick look around, he ducked under the rope and slunk to a secluded corner. His corner, as he considered it. All he wanted to do was sit in his corner and get lost in any book and, most of all, be alone. But when he drew closer he stopped short. Someone was already there. A thin, red-haired girl was curled up in a ball in his corner. Her knees were drawn up to her chest and her face was buried into them. Her arms hung loosely by her ankles.

Draco arranged his features to show the hate and disdain that he was taught to feel, then spoke. “Weasel girl,” he sneered. “What are you doing here?” His voice didn’t match his face. “Disgusting, blood-traitor,” he added, trying sound threatening. “Crying over Potter, are you?”

She looked up at him with her dark eyes. “It’s Ginny,” she said lazily, tired of this argument. “My name's Ginny. And the whole blood traitor thing doesn’t really get under my skin, Malfoy.” She rolled her eyes at him and stretched. She’d obviously been sitting there a while. “I’m here because I’m here. Got a problem with that?” She raised an eyebrow.

Her tone made Malfoy even angrier. “Yes, I do,” he huffed. “This is my corner.” He could’ve slapped himself. He sounded like a toddler..

She laughed. “Your corner?” She looked around with exaggerated false curiosity. “Interesting. I don’t see your name on it,” she said in a sickly sweet voice and looked up at him innocently, twirling her ponytail with her fingers. This angered Draco even more. She was messing with him and he was letting it bother him. He put his hands up to his face, willing himself to not just kill the stupid girl right there and be done with it.

“Will you just get out of here?” he growled at her. He shoved his hands in his pockets and waited for her to move.

Ginny breathed in and bit her lip, pretending to think about it. “Hmm...no.” She grinned wickedly at him.

“Come on! Don’t you have anywhere else to be right now? Move! He knew he was being childish but for some reason he just couldn’t help it.

Make me,” she challenged. Her expression hardened and she looked straight into his eyes.

Draco snapped. He stomped up to her and grabbed her arms, trying to drag her out of the way. She cried out and kicked at him, hitting him hard and knocking him against a tall bookshelf next to them. The shelf began to sway and they both froze, staring at it in horror.

The next few moments seemed to happen in slow motion.

Draco grasped the edge of the shelf in an attempt to steady it, but somehow pulled too hard. It rocked back toward them and started to fall. Books began spilling on top of them as it plunged. Ginny couldn’t move. Not thinking, Draco seized her and hauled her toward the wall. He pressed himself against her with his hands on either side, trying to flatten themselves to the wall and be as far from the falling bookshelf as possible. Her face was tucked into his shoulder and her fists gripped his robes, pulling him to her. By some miracle the shelf fell right past them, crashing to the wall on the other side.

Draco and Ginny stayed by the wall, trying to catch their breath. He finally lifted his head and looked at her. His hands rested against the wall on either side of her. She met his eyes, trembling slightly. He’d never been so close to her. He could feel her shaky breathing against his chest. He studied her for a second. Light freckles were scattered across her flushed cheeks, less prominent than those of her brothers’. Her dark red hair was falling out of the ponytail and dust had settled in her long eyelashes. Had she always been so pretty? Draco mentally shook himself for thinking such foolish things. He dropped his hands and stepped away from her, dodging the fallen bookcase.

Ginny didn’t move. Just looked at him in wonder. “Why?” she whispered.

Why? Why what? Why’d he just save her life?

“A simple thank you would do, Weasley,” Draco said impatiently, reverting back to his nasty self. “We can’t be spilling any pure blood, even if you are a blood traitor.”

“I don’t believe that.” She shook her head.

“Do you really think--”

A voice screeched out, making them jump. “What have you done, you wretched children!?” Madam Pince had appeared out of nowhere, and looked absolutely livid.

Both Draco and Ginny ran for it, hopping over the rope barring off the Restricted Section and out of the library, not stopping until they were several corridors away from the library. They leaned against the stone wall, gasping for air. Ginny looked at him, the corners of her mouth twitching into a smile.

“What have you done, you abominable children!?” Ginny mimicked in an impressive imitation of the librarian. She began to giggle. Quietly at first, like she was trying to hold it in, and then louder. Her laugh was infectious. Draco couldn’t help himself. He joined in, laughing until his stomach hurt and his eyes watered. When their laughter died down she looked at him with the same confused, curious expression she had in the library.

“Why?” she asked again.

Draco just shrugged. “I don’t know.” He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his robes and turned his back on her, walking in the direction of the dungeons. He was about to turn the corner when he heard Ginny’s voice drift to him.

“Thanks.”

He paused before answering softly, “You’re welcome,” and kept going.

------

Why?


Draco repeated the question to himself once he got back to his dormitory. He lay in his bed with the curtains drawn, not wanting to see anyone.

Why did he save her, anyway? Surely the giant bookshelf would have crushed Ginny, either killing her or, at the very least, putting her through extreme pain. He should have wanted that, right? The only daughter of the biggest blood-traitor family, famous Harry Potter’s old flame, potentially killed. The other Death Eaters would have applauded him. But instead, he had saved her.

Why?

Draco turned over, trying to push the thoughts away from his mind. It didn’t matter, he decided. It would be forgotten. Tomorrow he would wake up and he and Ginny would go back to hating each other. There was no point in losing sleep over it. He was okay hating Ginny. That’s how he was raised, anyway.

He tossed and turned for another hour. When he finally fell asleep, instead of dreaming of Dark Marks and torture, he dreamed about soft, red hair and dark chocolate eyes.

------

*I've always been a fan of Draco/Ginny, so I thought I would try my hand at my own version of a story about them. It's planned to be a bit darker than my other stories, but since it's set during The Deathly Hallows time period, when Snape and the Death Eaters have control of the school, it seemed fitting. Leave a review to let me know what you think of it so far. And, most of all, thanks for reading :)


Chapter 2: Behind a Tapestry
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 *Author's note: I do not own anything HP. Warning: Some violence and mature situations*


Amazing image by beyond the rain @ TDA!


Draco was right. The very next day, he and Ginny went back to hating each other. She ignored him and he loudly criticized everything about her, from her freckles to her clothes. He made extra effort to humiliate her in front of everybody. He was comfortable hating her. On the outside, at least. Inside, Draco couldn’t stop thinking about her. He tried to ignore the annoying feelings that tugged at his chest every time he saw her, but it was hard. He couldn’t stop himself from glancing toward the Gryffindor table at mealtimes and finding her face in the halls between classes. She seemed so...sad. So empty. He knew she had been dating the famous Harry Potter before he fell of the face of the planet, and attributed her sadness to that. There were also rumors that her brother had a hideous disease that had disfigured his body. Not that Draco really cared about that, seeing as Ron Weasley was nearly as insufferable as Potter himself.

The weeks passed and Draco became busier with classes and the Dark Lord’s plans, pushing Ginny from his mind. The Dark Lord was furious that precious Potter couldn’t be found, even after being caught breaking into the Ministry of Magic itself a few weeks back. Every effort was being made to find him. Draco’s job was to listen for any breath, any hint of where he might be. There were still students at Hogwarts that Potter cared about and trusted. There was a chance he would reach out to one of them, and when they did, Draco would find out.

Meanwhile, life at Hogwarts was becoming unbearable. The new Dark Arts and Muggle Studies teachers, a pair of siblings assigned there by the Dark Lord himself, were using any excuse to punish students, particularly muggle-borns and half-bloods. Draco, of course, was allowed to carry on as he usually did, but the halls were unnaturally quiet between classes. No one made eye contact with him, knowing him to be one of them.

It was late one October evening, and Draco was patrolling the halls after curfew like a good little prefect. It had been weeks since he’d had a chance to really think about Ginny, and he let his thoughts wander as he mindlessly walked around the school. Suddenly he saw her. Her. He hadn’t really seen her in weeks, and now, here she was. Seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Running to him.

Running to him?

Ginny was sprinting up the corridor, away from something -- or someone -- looking over her shoulder as she ran. Her hair whipped wildly behind her. She didn’t even see Draco and nearly collided into him, but he caught her with his hands. He pushed her back, grabbing her shoulders.

“Weasley, what are you--” Draco began, but then he finally saw her face, illuminated by his own dim wandlight. She looked terrified. She was breathing hard, a combination of fear and pain and exhaustion. Her eyes were wide with fear and she was shaking. The blouse of her school uniform was torn slightly and spotted with something dark red that looked alarmingly like blood. He held his wand higher and saw the hint of a bruise blossoming across her cheek. His eyebrows shot up. “What happened to you?”

The answer came as heavy footsteps and angry voices could be heard coming towards them. The Carrows. Draco’s eyes narrowed. He knew they’d been ridiculous with their punishments, but this? She looked like she had been physically beaten.

Ginny fought against him but he held tight. “Let me go!” she hissed, still trying to get away. She winced and clenched her teeth as he held onto her. The Carrows were getting closer; their loud voices and heavy footsteps carried through the hall. She stopped struggling, letting her tense body go slack, and choked back a sob. “Please…”

Draco hesitated for a moment.

“Please,” she repeated. He looked down at her panicked face and saw that her dark eyes were bloodshot and begging.

That did it. Draco hastily dragged her to a nearby tapestry, shoving her into the secret alcove behind it. Then he darted down the hall to meet the Carrows. The brother and sister came upon him, huffing and panting.

“Where’d she go?” Amycus Carrow demanded. His sister, Alecto, stood beside him.

“Where’d who go, Professor?” Draco drawled lazily. He kept his expression bored, hiding the anxiety he felt inside.

Amycus growled with rage. “The girl!” he shouted. “The Weasley girl, where did she go?!”

Draco rolled his eyes. “I haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about, Professor,” he said, emphasizing the word again. “I’ve been patrolling these corridors all evening and haven’t even seen a ghost. And if you were wise you wouldn’t scream at me like that. Need I remind you who I am? Who my parents are?” he added threateningly.

“Your name doesn’t come with the same prestige it once did, Malfoy,” Alecto spat suddenly, but her brother held up his hand.

“Let’s go,” he growled, and they both stalked away, muttering about ‘that blood traitor’ and where she might have hidden. Draco waited until they were completely gone before running back to the tapestry that hid Ginny. With one more careful look down the hall, Draco slid behind the heavy fabric.

Ginny was sitting on the floor, curled in a ball. Her position was very similar to when Draco had first seen her in the library, so many weeks ago, but she seemed even more frail now. She was still shaking, holding back tears. Draco stood above her, wondering how the strong, fiery girl had become so...broken.

“Well, Weasley? Are you going to tell me what’s going on?” Draco asked sharply. She flinched slightly at the sound of his voice, and he silently cursed himself for speaking so harshly. She’d obviously been through hell tonight and he was only making it worse. He lowered himself to the floor and knelt in front of her. He tried again. “What happened?” His voice was softer this time, not so harsh. She looked up from her knees. Draco could see the bruise on her face had darkened over the last few minutes, and he noticed a few others on her neck. He unconsciously reached out his fingers to touch her shoulder, and she shrunk away from him. He stopped, leaving his hand suspended in the air. A tear escaped her eye and trailed across her swollen cheek, and something in Draco broke. He pulled Ginny to him, cradling her in his lap, and she let him hold her against him while she cried. They stayed that way for a bit, the only sounds being the occasional sniffle or hiccup from Ginny, or the soft shushing noises Draco made while his arms were wrapped around her shaking shoulders.

After a while, when her tears had slowed, Ginny pulled away from Draco. She kept her eyes to the floor and shifted herself out of his lap.

“They tortured me.” Her bitter voice was barely more than a whisper. “They tried beating me, and when that didn’t work they used the Cruciatus on me.”

Draco was appalled. “They wanted information.” Ginny nodded. “About Potter?” Another nod.

“But I don’t have any information to give,” she insisted fiercely. “I don't know anything!"

Her voice cracked on the last word and she massaged her throat with her hand. The bruises there were becoming more noticeable, and Draco's mouth opened in horror. They were long and thin, like someone’s fingers had been wrapped around her throat.

He felt sick.

"How did you get away?" he asked in a whisper, not able to tear his eyes away from the bruises.

“I managed to, er, kick him where it hurts--” she allowed herself a painful smile “--and was able to get away. That’s about when I ran into you.” She studied his face curiously. “Why? That’s twice now you’ve helped me. Why?”

Draco didn’t have an answer. He just shrugged lamely, running a shaking hand through his blonde hair. “I don’t know,” he whispered, mostly to himself. He realized Ginny was bracing herself against the wall, struggling to get to her feet. He quickly stood up and lifted her with him, being careful not to jostle her too much. She swayed and Draco put a hand on her waist to steady her. She winced, sucking air in through her teeth.

“I think I’ll need to see Madam Pomfrey in the morning,” she said, looking down at herself. Draco didn’t move his hand as he held onto her gingerly. They stood there awkwardly for a moment.

“Looks like you’re not as bad as you pretend to be,” Ginny whispered, breaking the silence. He looked at her and she was smiling slightly.

“But I am bad!” Draco whined childishly. What was wrong with him? Ginny giggled. She leaned toward him with a hand on his shoulder, raising herself onto her toes, and pressed her lips softly to his cheek.

“Thank you,” she breathed as she pulled away. She looked at him with shining eyes. “I guess I...I better go.”

Draco watched wordlessly as Ginny peeked her head out of the tapestry, and then hurried off into the darkness. His hand went to his cheek, touching the place where she’d kissed him. It didn’t feel like he was on fire, but he could still feel heat radiating from the spot.

You’re not as bad as you pretend to be.

No one had ever said that to him. No one had ever even hinted that there might be some actual goodness in him. And no one had ever looked at him the way Ginny did, with real gratitude and kindness and like he wasn’t just another Slytherin snake. And it felt...good. It felt good to not be seen as the bad guy, to have someone look past his name and position as a Death Eater, and just see that he was human, and that he could be good. He wanted to hold onto that feeling for as long as he possibly could.

------

*And there's chapter 2! I'm thinking of changing the title of this, but I'm having a hard time picking a new one. Leave a comment with any ideas! What do you think of Draco so far? What about Ginny? Is she too weak, or is it understandable that she'd seem so sad and frail?*


Chapter 3: Are We Friends?
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 *Author's note: I do not own anything HP*


Beautiful banner by beyond the rain @ TDA!

The next morning Draco sat at the Slytherin table, picking at his toast. Normally he wouldn’t have bothered coming up to breakfast at all, but he needed to see her, to make sure she was okay. He faced the entrance of the Great Hall, waiting to see if Ginny had indeed gone to Madam Pomfrey. Soon enough she walked in with her usual group of Gryffindors. She kept her eyes down, not participating in the conversation. She must have felt Draco’s eyes on her because she looked up suddenly, making eye contact with him. He gave her a significant look and got up from the bench.

“You haven’t even eaten!” Blaise called after him. Draco just waved him off and headed out of the Hall. He sat by a staircase, partially hidden by a statue, until he spotted Ginny leaving the Hall.

“Over here,” he hissed. She jumped in surprise, but followed him toward a secluded alcove. When she was close enough Draco took a long look at her. Her bruises were fading quickly. If he hadn’t seen them when they were fresh, he wouldn’t have even known they were there. She looked like she had slept just about as much as Draco had. Which meant, of course, not at all. Dark purple circles rimmed her usually bright eyes and she moved stiffly.

“So...how are you?” Draco asked.

“Er...wonderful?” She shifted awkwardly. I’m an idiot, Draco thought to himself.

“I mean,” he began again, “Did you make it to the Hospital Wing this morning?”

She wouldn't meet his eyes. “Oh. Yeah,” she said, lowering her voice and looking around to make sure they were alone. She played with the end of her long ponytail. “Pomfrey gave me a potion for my throat and mended my bruises and broken rib in less than--”

“Broken rib?!”

“Not so loud!” she hissed, looking around wildly.

Draco felt sick again. Hot anger spread through him as he tried not to think about how she got that broken rib. His vision went red for a moment and he closed his eyes, trying to calm himself. A hand touched his arm and he opened his eyes to see Ginny looking up at him with that same strange expression she wore when she studied him.

“It’s okay,” she insisted. “I’m fine, really. See?” She pushed on her side to show him that it didn’t hurt, and failed to hide a grimace. “Okay, so it’s still a little tender, but really, I’m fi--”

Don’t keep saying you’re fine,” Draco growled.

His tone made Ginny tense. “Why do you even care?” she challenged. She folded her arms against her chest and leaned away from him.

Draco groaned in frustration. Was she always like this? How Potter could even stand to be around her for more than five minutes at a time was beyond him. Stupid, frustrating, insane--

“I don’t have time for this,” Ginny said, interrupting his thoughts. “I’ve got to get to class because, unlike some people--” she shot him a pointed look “--I will actually be punished for being late. Again.” She pushed past him and he grabbed her hand, ignoring the light electric shock he felt when his skin touched hers.

“Just...be careful.” He looked at her intently. She looked back at him for a moment, then ripped her hand out of his.

“Whatever, Malfoy,” she said. “See you around, I guess.” She strode away from him and didn’t look back, leaving him feeling completely stupid.

------

After three interactions with Ginny, Draco decided the best thing to do was to just stay away from her. She was the most difficult, most infuriating person he’d ever come in contact with. If she got into trouble, then that was just too bad for her. He was done helping. He successfully avoided her for a full week, and he was perfectly okay with it.

Of course, that’s what he told himself. Draco would never admit it, but he actually missed Ginny. The few moments they had spent together seemed like the only bright spot in his life. She was the only person who had looked at him without hate in her eyes, even if it was only for a few minutes. He often found himself wondering how she was doing, and thinking about her dark eyes and fiery hair.

One afternoon after wandering aimlessly, trying not to think about Ginny, Draco found himself in the library. She won’t be there, he told himself as he made his way to his corner in the restricted section. Still, his heart sank just a little when he was right. The corner was empty. He huffed with disappointment as he dropped to the floor and pulled out his homework. A few minutes later he heard someone approach him.

“Hey,” said a soft voice.

Draco looked up in disbelief. Ginny was standing near him, fidgeting awkwardly.

“Hey,” he said back in what he hoped was a casual voice, mentally cursing himself when his voice cracked. He tried to keep the stupid smile from climbing his face and ended up looking like he was in pain. Ginny giggled.

“Er... Mind if I sit?” she asked. “I mean, I know this is your corner and all, but--”

“No! Sit!” Draco cried almost too desperately. He cursed himself inwardly and changed his tone. “I mean, yeah, that’s fine.”

She smiled and sat against the wall beside him. Draco didn’t know what to say. Not wanting to make himself sound even more idiotic than he felt, he kept his mouth shut. Ginny pulled out her homework as well and they worked in silence for a while. It was a comfortable silence, Draco thought. Neither felt the need to speak until Ginny suddenly looked up from her homework.

“You took History of Magic, right?” she asked hesitantly. Draco nodded and she continued. “It’s just… I’m having trouble remembering all of those Goblin rebellions. Could you…?” She held up the essay she had been writing.

“Oh. Yeah.” He took the essay from her and he quickly skimmed through it. “You mixed up Borog the Bloody and Bagor the Basher,” he said, handing it back to her. “Honestly, though, I barely scraped by in History.” He gave her a grim smile. Ginny giggled again. They spent a few minutes going over her essay and ranting about the boring class and its ghostly professor. Draco was surprised by how easy their conversation was. They were even laughing together. It was like they each forgot who the other really was, a blood traitor’s daughter and a pureblood Death Eater. She must have remembered the same time he did, because she suddenly grew quiet.

“I should go,” she said, not meeting his eyes. She piled her things into her bag as she stood. Draco stood with her.

“You don’t have to,” he mumbled. Ginny paused for a moment.

“I plan to do my homework here tomorrow, after dinner,” she said. Draco frowned. Why was she telling him this? “If you were already here,” she continued, “I wouldn’t make you leave or anything.” Draco still didn’t get it, and Ginny rolled her eyes. “I’m going to be here tomorrow,” she repeated slowly, as if she was talking to a small child. Suddenly it clicked.

“Oh!” Draco said, finally getting it. “Right. Okay.” Ginny smiled and left him. He felt stupid, but he also felt strangely excited. He was eager to spend more time with Ginny, the girl who didn’t treat him like a Death Eater.

------ 

Over the next two weeks, Draco and Ginny met “accidentally” in the library every few days. Mostly they just did their homework quietly. Ginny was very smart, and was able to help Draco on a few of his own assignments that he was struggling to finish.

One evening as they sat in silence, with nothing but the sound of quill on parchment, Ginny suddenly spoke.

“Malfoy, are we friends?” she asked, uncertainty in her voice. Draco looked up. Ginny looked nervous, her eyebrows furrowed delicately. Draco took a minute to respond.

“Yeah, I think we are,” he said finally, and Ginny's face broke into a smile.

“I thought so,” she said, and went back to her homework.

Draco couldn’t stop grinning. He had a friend. A real friend, who willingly spent her time with him, for no other reason than that she wanted to. Not a Death Eater or someone his parents forced him to spend time with.

They became more comfortable with each other after that. Ginny let herself sit closer to Draco, and he let himself laugh more. They talked about their days. Sometimes they would talk about school or their friends. Draco was very careful not to mention anything about Potter. Ginny seemed to tense up whenever the conversation began to steer that way, so he tried to avoid it. He knew Ginny didn’t know where Potter was, and truthfully, he didn’t want to know either. As much as Draco hated Potter, he actually wanted him to succeed. If Potter could get rid of the Dark Lord, Draco would be free. Free from being a Death Eater, free from his father, free to be friends with whomever he wanted. Even Ginny.

In the back of his mind, Draco knew how dangerous it was for him to friends with Ginny. If anyone caught them… He couldn’t let himself think about it. No one went into that corner of the library, and they were careful to be just as nasty and spiteful toward each other as they used to be. It became a game, making up insults and laughing about it later on. As far as Draco knew, no one could tell that anything was different.

But everything was different.

Draco found himself thinking of Ginny more and more. She laughed with him and teased him, but she was kind to him. It wasn’t just that, though. As Draco spent more time with her, he had more opportunities to look at her. He always knew she was attractive -- every boy in the castle had noticed Ginny Weasley. But he began to notice the little things about her... The way her eyebrows knit when she was worried about something, or struggling with a difficult assignment; how her dark red hair, usually tied up in a ponytail, swayed back and forth as she walked; how her face lit up when she saw him, almost like he was the first good thing she’d seen all day.

------

*I've been lucky enough to find the queue with an unnaturally short wait lately, and have been able to get these chapters up pretty fast. I'm almost out of pre-written chapters, though, so it might slow down a bit.

Anyway, please leave a review to let me know what you think, or if you have any questions. This story starts during Autumn of Draco's seventh year, so there will be a few events throughout that line up with the timing of Deathly Hallows.

Is Draco's character believable? Would Ginny let herself be friends with a Death Eater?


Chapter 4: Summoned
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 *Author's note: I do not own anything HP. There are a few very slight references to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, chapters 14 & 15.*

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Can you even believe how amazing this CI is!? a little life. @ TDA, you are a rockstar.

It was on a weekend, late in the evening, when it happened. Draco had been expecting it, of course, but it didn’t make it any easier. He was on his way to meet Ginny in the library when a white-hot pain shot through his arm.

The Mark.

“Not now,” Draco whined to himself as he pulled back his sleeve. The brand had darkened to an inky black, and the snake almost seemed to move under his skin. He knew what it meant. He was being summoned, for the first time since he’d been back at Hogwarts.

If Draco had learned anything since becoming a Death Eater, it was that when the Dark Lord called, you were to immediately Apparate to his side. Waiting even a few minutes to do so would risk provoking the Dark Lord’s wrath, and that could be deadly. Especially for Draco, who was already out of favor.

He looked over his shoulder uneasily. Snape had gone over this with Draco earlier in the year; when the Death Eaters were summoned, Snape would meet Draco in the Entry Hall. They would quickly make their way off school grounds together before Apparating to the Dark Lord. Snape always did insist on treating Draco like a child. A stab of annoyance went through him. He was seventeen years old, for Merlin’s sake. Old enough to be going places on his own.

The burning from the Mark was getting stronger. Draco glanced back again. He was so close to the library. It was just at the end of the corridor. Surely he’d have time to get there and back to the Entry Hall in time? He knew Ginny was already there; she had left the Great Hall a good fifteen minutes before him. The thought of standing her up made his stomach hurt. Taking a great breath, he made his decision. He was about to bolt when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“I’ve been looking for you, Draco,” came the impatient voice of Professor Snape. “We’ve been invited.”

Draco sighed, hating the reverent tone which Snape always used when speaking of the Dark Lord.

“I’m coming,” he answered dully. Snape released him. Draco could hear Snape’s retreating footsteps echoing on the stone floor. He was about to follow when a flash of red caught his eye. Ginny was hovering by the library doors, half-hidden. With concern in her eyes, she tilted her head with an unspoken question. Draco gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head. Ginny’s eyes narrowed, but she nodded back, then headed into the library without a backwards glance.

Draco’s heart sank. Hating himself, he followed Snape through the castle and out the doors.

------

The meeting was long and boring, as usual. Draco’s parents each greeted him with the same formality as they did all the other 'guests' gathered in their home, either too preoccupied or too afraid to show any real emotion towards their son. A Mudblood was bound in the corner, crying softly, but Draco kept his eyes trained on the table. One Death Eater -- Draco didn’t see who -- tremblingly asked the Dark Lord how his recent trip abroad* had gone -- as if the Dark Lord had merely gone on holiday. Draco nearly scoffed and rolled his eyes with derision, but caught himself before he made any sound. The comment earned the Death Eater a hissed threat from the Dark Lord himself.

A few tasks were assigned to various Death Eaters, and a few more were followed up on. The Dark Lord seemed pleased with how things were progressing, even if Potter hadn’t yet been found. More Dementors were being stationed in varying towns and villages along the countryside*, a new tactic of the Dark Lord’s, which would spread even more fear and uncertainty throughout the country.

The whole thing ended with an overly-dramatic but quick killing of the Mudblood with a flash of green light. Nagini, the Dark Lord's giant snake, then slithered over to the fallen body. Draco closed his eyes for that part, gripping the edges of his chair until his knuckles turned white and fighting down a wave of nausea.

The only thing really out of the ordinary was that Draco thought he could feel someone’s eyes on him through almost the entire meeting. Once or twice he dared look up, but everyone’s eyes were on the Dark Lord. The fear in their faces was poorly hidden beneath a reverent facade, but the look of pure ardor and intensity on one woman’s face made Draco’s stomach turn. He would never understand how Aunt Bellatrix could be so enamored, so devoted to the Dark Lord. Bellatrix was so obvious about it, too, ignoring her husband beside her and gazing longingly at the Dark Lord as he spoke.

It was a relief when the meeting was finally over, and Professor Snape had safely escorted Draco back to the castle. Snape left Draco in the Entrance Hall, gliding up the steps to his office without another word. It was quite late, and the castle halls were deserted. Draco sighed unhappily, feeling very anxious about the conversation with Ginny he was bound to have in the near future. He made his way down to the Dungeons, and climbed into bed with his clothes still on.

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Draco expected Ginny to avoid him after that, for a few days, at least. He thought he’d have time to sort out what he was going to say to her once she did confront him. Unfortunately for him, Ginny wasn’t exactly the type to sidestep confrontation. Very early the next morning, as Draco was wandering castle in an attempt to avoid talking to anybody, an arm shot out of seemingly nowhere and yanked him behind a tapestry. Draco yelped in surprise and tripped over his own feet, landing on the floor in a heap, and swore loudly.

“Silencio!” cried a familiar voice from the darkness.

No more sound escaped Draco. A cloud of dust had risen after he fell, and he sneezed noiselessly. As his eyes adjusted to the dimness, Ginny’s face came into focus. She looked so fierce that Draco actually crawled away from her. She rolled her eyes and stuck out a hand to help him up. Draco just gaped up at her.

“Oh, come on,” Ginny muttered, mostly to herself. She grabbed a fistful of Draco’s robes and dragged him to his feet with surprising strength. “Now,” she said, “I’m going to un-Silence you, but you have to promise not to cause another racket.”

Draco nodded, still slightly shaken.

“All right,” she said, and lifted the Charm. Draco breathed an audible sigh of relief, glancing warily at his surroundings. He realized they were in the same little alcove that he had hidden Ginny in weeks ago, when the Carrows were after her.

“Did you have to ambush me like that?” Draco snapped, keeping his voice low. “Honestly, Weasley, I could have cursed you!”

Ginny snorted derisively. “Yeah, okay,” she said a smirk. “You keep telling yourself that. Anyway, where’d you go last night?” Her smile turned upside down and her eyebrows knit with concern.

“I think you already know the answer to that, Weasley,” Draco responded darkly.

Ginny’s eyes flashed and she made a sound like an angry cat. “Don’t give me that, Malfoy,” she hissed warningly. “Answer.”

Draco’s shoulders slumped and he stared at the dusty floor. “I was...summoned. For a meeting.” He met Ginny’s hard eyes. “With the Death Eaters.”

“And are you okay?” Ginny asked, her voice trembling.

“I’m fine,” said Draco.

“Good,” Ginny responded in a whisper, then drew back her hand, and--

SMACK.

Ginny’s open palm struck Draco’s cheek. The force knocked him back a few steps, causing him to once again lose his balance. However, before he could fall over like he did the first time, the same hand that Ginny had used to slap him now reached out to grab his own to steady him. They stayed like that for a short moment, holding hands and breathing unsteadily. Slowly, as if she wasn’t quite sure it was really what she wanted to do, Ginny pulled Draco to her and hugged him tightly. Draco’s arms seemed move of their own accord, holding her against him. He was much taller than Ginny, who barely came up to his shoulder. Her forehead rested against his chest as she clung to him. He felt her draw in a shaky breath against him. They’d never been this close before. All those times in the library they had been unconsciously careful to avoid unnecessary physical contact.

“So you’re okay,” she whispered. Draco nodded and Ginny released him. He wished she wouldn’t. “I...I don’t know how I’m supposed to be feeling right now,” she said honestly, keeping her eyes down. She leaned against the wall and slid to the floor. “I’m so angry that you have anything to do with those people. If they can even be called people.”

Draco didn’t respond. There was a pit in his stomach and his chest was tight. He lowered himself to the floor next to Ginny, careful not to touch her.

“I’m so angry,” she said again softly, almost to herself. “But I’m also relieved that you came back at all. But I feel like I shouldn’t feel relieved. I’m supposed to hate you.” She looked up at him, her eyes shining. “And in a way I do--”

Draco flinched at this. His heart sank. Of course Ginny hated him. He was a Death Eater. He was one of the ‘bad guys’. He was on the wrong side.

“--but not like that,” Ginny continued, noticing Draco’s reaction. “I hate that you’re one of them. But I don’t think I could hate you, who you really are. I don’t think I could hate you if I tried.” She ended in a whisper, so quiet that Draco had to strain his ears to hear.

Ginny rubbed her hand furiously across her eyes. “This is just so bloody confusing!” she hissed angrily, then stood up quickly. “It’s getting late. Other students will be awake by now. I’ll see you later.” She turned to go.

But Draco couldn’t let her go yet. Not like that -- not on that note. “Weasley,” he called softly after her, speaking for the first time since she had slapped him. She stopped and turned her head back towards him, so he could see her perfect profile. “I...I’m going to be in the library after dinner.”

He saw her cheek lift slightly, as if she was smiling sadly. “Okay,” was all she said before disappearing into the corridor.

Draco didn’t leave the alcove, though. He stayed for quite a while, mulling over Ginny’s words. She should hate him. It almost sounded like she wanted to hate him. But…

I don’t think I could hate you if I tried.

The words made Draco's heart swell. As much as Ginny should hate him, she didn't.

------

Finally, a new chapter! Thanks to everyone who has been keeping up with this. It's been a pretty busy time for me lately, and I'm thrilled to finally be able to update this story. Leave a review! Here are a few questions for you:

1. If you've been following the story, you'll know we're right around Chapter 14 in Deathly Hallows. Do you have an idea of what's coming next?

2. How do you feel about the way Ginny reacted? Does it seem true enough to her character?

3. Go back and look at that chapter image again. I mean SERIOUSLY I am just freaking out over here! It. is. amazing.



Chapter 5: Gryffindor's Sword
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*Author's note: I do not own anything HP. Some references to Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince, chapter 9 & 24, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, chapter 15, both by JK Rowling.* 

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Unbelievably beautiful CI by a little life. @ TDA

Draco sat in the common room late one evening, his head in his hands. He hadn’t been able to meet Ginny in the library that night, and he was mad about it. They hadn’t planned on meeting, but he had still hoped he’d be able to see her. Things had been awkward between them since that morning when she had slapped him, and they'd only met in the library once since then. Draco realised they'd been avoiding the truth of their situations -- a Death Eater and a Blood Traitor -- and everything had been brought to the forefront of their minds since then.

It had been a particularly busy week for Draco, with yet another meeting with at the Manor, and he had slept right through dinner. By the time he woke up around nine o’clock that evening, he knew Ginny would be long gone. He sat by the fire, snapping at Goyle for daring to breathe near him.

“What’s got you, mate?” said a voice behind him. Draco looked up, prepared to tell off the poor idiot who interrupted his thoughts, and saw Blaise standing over him.

“Not now,” he grumbled. Blaise, unlike Crabbe and Goyle, had been the least irritating of the Slytherins in his year.

“Come on,” Blaise jeered cheerfully, falling into the sofa beside Draco. “Don’t you want to hear the latest?” He looked like Christmas had come early. Draco ignored him. He didn’t really care what was going on at school, though he was supposed to act otherwise. “Some kids tried to break into Snape’s office,” said Blaise. “I guess most of them got detention with Hagrid, but then the Carrows caught a girl actually holding Gryffindor’s sword.”*

This caught Draco’s interest. He sat up straighter. “Who was it?” he asked, dreading the answer. “Who stole the sword?”

“You’ll believe this -- It was that Weasley girl!” He laughed incredulously. “I’d be surprised if she was still alive. You never know, those Carrows might actually kill her this time, even if they have been warned not to spill any pure blood.”

This time.

“What do you mean, this time?” Draco asked, trying to keep his voice steady.

Blaise shrugged. “She’s been in detention with them just about every other night,” he explained, apparently surprised that Draco hadn’t heard this. “Either from breaking curfew or mouthing off in class. That Longbottom kid does it, too. There have been a few times when they’ve just put her to work, but sometimes they use the Cruciatus on her like they do the Mudbloods, trying to teach her a lesson.” He frowned slightly. “I don’t really think it’s right, using an Unforgivable on a student, especially a Pureblood, but -- hey, where are you going?”

“Prefect’s duties,” Draco mumbled as he jumped to his feet. As soon as he was out of the Common Room, he started to run. Cold fear seized his heart as he bolted up the stairs, out of the dungeons. The castle was dark and empty. No one was out after dark anymore, it seemed. He slowed his steps and walked quietly through the halls, heart pounding, listening hard.

It was a full twenty minutes later when finally he heard it. He was on the sixth floor, walking down a corridor, and heard a noise. It was very quiet, so quiet, in fact, that if he hadn’t been listening for it he would have missed it. A hiss of pain; restrained, laboured breathing. Draco held his wandlight higher. He turned a corner and saw the hem of a robe poking out from behind a suit of armour.

“Weasley?” he called softly.

He heard a sharp intake of breath.

“Malfoy,” came a faint whisper. “Is that you?”

“It’s me.”

He drew closer and peered around the suit of armour. Ginny was curled up in a ball again, her arms wrapped around herself. Her body shook violently. She looked up at him and he gasped. Her face was bruised and bloody. Blood was matted in her hair. The rest of her was covered by her bulky school robes, but he could only assume she looked just as bad under there.

“I’ll take you to the Hospital Wing,” he offered quickly as he tried to look away from Ginny's beaten face, but she shook her head, wincing as she did so.

“Madam Pomfrey’s been forbidden to heal students who were...in detention…” She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. Draco watched her, feeling helpless.

“What can I do?” he begged. “You need help.”

“Seventh floor.” She opened her eyes again. They looked slightly out of focus. “I was on my way, but--”

“Room of Requirement?” Draco asked. She nodded. Of course. Why hadn’t he thought of that? He practically lived up there last year. “Here, I’ll carry you.” He got closer and Ginny recoiled from him. “Hey, it’s okay,” he said softly. He put his hands up and approached slowly, like he would a scared animal. “I’m not going to hurt you.” Her eyes met his and she nodded warily. One arm wrapped around her shoulders and the other went under her knees. She groaned as he lifted her carefully.

“It hurts,” she whimpered. Her eyelids began to droop and her breathing became shallow.

“Stay with me, Weasley,” Draco said as he walked quickly toward the stairs. “Hey, come on, keep those eyes open. Weasley!”

Her body went limp in his arms. He panicked. Was she dying? He held her tighter and hurried up the stairs. At last he found the tapestry with the ugly, dancing trolls. He rushed up to the wall where he knew the door would appear. “Help!” he shouted at it. Immediately, as if sensing his urgency, a small, wooden door appeared and swung open on its own. He stumbled in, trying to catch his breath.

The room looked like a smaller version of the Hospital Wing, but cozier. A small fireplace contained a happily crackling fire. A bed with white linens was in one corner, with some chairs and a short table beside it. On top of the table sat an empty basin. Draco gingerly set Ginny onto the bed, making sure her head was supported by the pillow. He looked down at his hands and saw blood on them. His stomach turned and he shut his eyes, trying to slow down his heartbeat. He had to focus. He opened his eyes and looked again around the room, trying to find something that could help him. A small cabinet stood on the other side of the bed, and Draco opened it to find it was stocked with healing potions, washcloths, bandages, and crisp hospital gowns. He knew he would have to find Ginny’s wounds first, and clean them, before he could give her any of the potions. He grabbed a few washcloths and a bottle of Dittany and went back to Ginny.

He sat in one of the chairs next to her and pointed his wand into the empty basin, casting a silent Aguamenti charm. Water flowed from the tip of his wand and into the basin. He dipped a washcloth into the water and began to wipe the blood from Ginny’s face and hair. A long gash was along her hairline, and Draco dropped a few beads of the Dittany onto it. The cut closed up quickly, leaving a pink scar.

Ginny began to stir.

“Careful, Ginny,” Draco said gently. He’d never called her by her first name before, and she opened her eyes at the sound of it. “I need you to take your robes off. Can you help me?” She bit her lip but nodded. Draco helped her sit up and slid the robe off her shoulders, and gasped. The back of Ginny’s blouse torn in several places and soaked with her blood. He bit back another wave a nausea. “You’ll need to lie on your stomach,” he said in a shaky voice.

“I know,” Ginny said. Of course she knew. She sounded so defeated, he thought, as she turned over. She winced as she laid back down, but otherwise didn’t make any other indication of how much pain she was in. Draco pulled the robe off of her completely and began cutting her blouse off with some scissors he found in the cupboard. Her bra was barely hanging on by a thread. In the back of his mind he wondered if Ginny felt uncomfortable with him seeing her near-bare back, but he forgot about that when he pulled the bloody fabric away. Five long lashes crossed her skin, still oozing.

“You were whipped?” Draco asked in horror.

“No,” Ginny answered weakly. “No, it was some sort of spell.” Draco felt guilt seep through him. He knew what spell it was. The Death Eaters had modified Snape’s Sectumsempra curse to do less damage, but still be just as painful, allowing them to drag out the torture. He didn’t ask any more questions as he began to wash the blood from her back. Ginny hissed through her teeth as the cloth brushed her cuts. Draco tried to work quickly, knowing he needed to close up the wounds, but he didn’t know how. When *Potter had hit him with Sectumsempra the previous year, Snape had needed to magically heal the wounds. He dropped some Dittany across the lashes and they stopped bleeding, but they wouldn’t close completely. If Ginny moved at all they would start bleeding again. He cursed the Death Eaters silently -- of course they would think up the terrible spell but not teach the counter-curse.

Draco looked around desperately for something that might help him. As if answering his unasked question, a book was lying on the side table, as if it had always been there. It was an *old Potions book, tattered and falling apart, and vaguely familiar to Draco, but he didn’t have time to dwell on it. He flipped through the pages, scanning quickly until he saw, scrawled into a corner in neat handwriting, the spell he was looking for. Sectumsempra -- for enemies*. He continued to search and finally found what he hoped would help, scrawled into a corner of a page. Pulling out his wand, he began to quietly chant the latin words, just as Snape had done for him last year, and watched in amazement as the cuts slowly began to close. Ginny let out an audible sigh of relief. Within minutes the lashes had scabbed over. It would definitely leave a scar -- Draco's work wasn't the neatest -- but he didn’t want to tell her that now.

“Is your front okay?” he asked.

“I...I think something’s broken…” Her face was buried in a pillow and her voice was muffled, but Draco could tell she felt awkward. He certainly did.

“Here,” he said, reaching into the cabinet and pulling out one of the hospital gowns. “Put this over you. Just let me know when you’re covered.” He turned around and waited. He heard the springs on the bed creak slightly. Ginny gasped faintly as she moved and it was hard for Draco to not run and help her, even though he knew she probably would smack him if he did.

“Okay, I’m good,” Ginny called softly. Draco turned back toward her. She was sitting up on the bed, leaning on her arms. The hospital gown covered her, tying at her sides. Her face was deathly pale. “Could I have some water?” she asked, looking up at him. Draco conjured up a goblet and filled it with water from his wand, pushing it toward her. She drank gratefully.

“You ready?” he asked. She nodded and shifted the hospital gown to reveal her side. A dark bruise was developing across her left ribcage. Draco’s stomach clenched and he swallowed loudly. Raising his wand, he muttered “Episkey!” and heard a faint snapping sound as Ginny gasped. He gingerly felt across Ginny’s ribs and felt confident that they’d healed correctly. “I think they’re good now,” he said, pulling his fingers away from her skin. “You’ll want to check with Madam Pomfrey anyway, though. I’m not an expert Healer or anything.”

“It’ll have to do,” Ginny said. “Pomfrey’s not allowed to do anything, remember?” She pulled the fabric down to cover herself. Draco tried not to notice the faint blush spreading on her pale cheeks, and busied himself by digging through the cabinet once more. He pulled out a small vial filled with a deep blue-colored potion, and a large beaker containing a brothy, yellowish fluid.

“Here,” Draco said, sitting again next to Ginny. “This--” he held up the small bottle “is a Dreamless Sleep and Pain Relief potion, and this--” he lifted up the beaker“--is Murtlap Essence, which should help the cuts on your back even more.” He Vanished the blood-tinged water from the basin and poured in the Murtlap Essence. “Drink the pain potion, then turn over and I’ll put the Murtlap on your back.”

Ginny looked hesitant at first, but reached out to take the potion from him. Their fingers brushed as he handed it to her, and he felt his skin tingle where she had touched him.

“How much am I supposed to drink?” Ginny asked, reading the label for any sort of instructions. Draco shrugged.

“Maybe just try a gulp or two at first, and see how it goes. I don’t know how powerful it is and I don’t want to knock you out for a week.” He gave her a half grin and was rewarded with a weak smile in return.

“I wish I could,” Ginny said, her eyes darkening. “Sleep, and just forget everything. Though it'd be twice as painful to deal with once I woke up.” Draco wanted to reach out to her, to comfort her, but held back. He watched as she took a quick swig from the vial and made a face. “It’s disgusting,” she complained, but immediately her eyelids began to droop.

“Hang on. We’ve got to turn you over before you pass out.”

Ginny nodded sleepily and let Draco help her turn onto her stomach. He pulled the blanket up to her waist, and opened the back of the hospital gown. Some of the cuts had been pulled open slightly, and a few tiny drops of blood welled along the lines. After thoroughly soaking a clean towel in the Murtlap Essence, he lay the dripping fabric across Ginny’s back, making sure every cut was covered.

Ginny instantly relaxed. “Mmm,” she mumbled. “That feels good.”

“Good,” Draco replied gently. “Let yourself sleep.” He stood up to stretch, when suddenly her small hand reached out and grabbed his. Looking down, he saw she had turned slightly so she could see him.

“You’ll stay with me?” she whispered in a wavering voice. Her eyes were pleading and scared. Draco knelt next to her, clutching her hand firmly.

“I’ll stay with you,” he promised. “Always.”

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I realise Ginny's punishment in the book was just referenced as "doing detention with Hagrid" (HPDH, chapter 15), but if the Carrows had caught up to Ginny before Snape did, I really think Snape would have had to let her get punished.

Here are a few more questions for you:

1- After reading the last chapter, did you guess what was coming in this chapter?

2- What do you think of Draco coming to Ginny's rescue -- AGAIN? She's quite the damsel in distress lately. I don't want her to be, though. I want her to be the same strong, fiery Ginny, but her spirit beaten down a bit after her experiences during Voldemort's reign.

3- Who is your favorite character/characters out of all the HP books? Mine are the Weasley twins (who, unfortunately, won't make much of an appearance in this story). I wish I could have known them!


Chapter 6: Thoughts Aren't Safe
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*Author's note: I don't own anything HP. Some references to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, chapter 34, and Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince, chapters 24 & 27 (references are marked with an asterisk)*

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Amazing chapter image by a little life. @ TDA. I am so blown away by how incredible this is!

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“You’ll stay with me?” she whispered in a wavering voice. Her eyes were pleading and scared. Draco knelt next to her, clutching her hand firmly.

“I’ll stay with you,” he promised. “Always.”


Draco stayed like that, kneeling on the floor next to Ginny, unaware of the aching in his knees, until he was sure she was fast asleep. Once she was, he carefully pulled his hand out of hers and went to stoke the fire. The events of that evening had exhausted him. As he prodded the flames he felt his eyelids grow heavy. Adrenaline had been pumping through him as he worked over Ginny’s injuries, and now that things had -- for now -- calmed down, he felt completely drained. All he wanted to do was sleep. When he was confident the fire wouldn’t die on them, he leaned against the side of Ginny’s bed and let his eyes close. Just a few minutes, he thought. He’d let himself rest, for just a bit, and then he would check on Ginny again.

Some time later he was roused by the feeling of soft fingers brushing across his forehead. He opened his eyes and saw Ginny looking embarrassed.

“Sorry,” she mumbled as she whipped her hand back. Her voice sounded hoarse and gravelly. “I didn’t mean to wake you. Your hair fell into your face.”

Draco smiled as he watched her cheeks tinge pink under the bruises. “S’okay,” he said through a yawn. “It felt nice.” He pulled himself into the chair by the bed, rubbing sleep out of his eyes. “How are you feeling?”

Ginny shrugged slightly, and winced. “Like I was hit by the Hogwarts Express.” The swelling on her face had already gone down a bit, and the cut along her hairline had healed up nicely. Draco doubted there would even be a scar, which was more than he could say about the lashes on Ginny’s back. Those stripes would never completely fade, much like the pale scars on his own body from when Potter had hit him with Sectumsempra*.

Ginny seemed to be thinking along the same lines, because after a moment’s hesitation she asked in a whisper, “Will the scars ever go away?” Tears pooled in her eyes and she rubbed at them self-consciously. “I’m not vain, or anything, I just…” She took a shuddering breath and looked at Draco expectantly. “Will they?”

Draco knew Ginny wasn’t vain, but he did know how it felt to suddenly have ugly scars marring one’s perfect body. His hand rubbed his chest unconsciously. He used to be quite proud of his own perfect, alabaster skin, until that last duel with Potter. Dark curses left a mark, and his scars were just as prominent now as the day he’d got them.

Avoiding the question, he responded with one that had been eating at him since he had first found Ginny in the hallway. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked. It came out more sharply than he had intended. Ginny flinched slightly as Draco’s temper flared. “We saw each other almost every day for weeks, and not once did you mention that you were being tortured on a regular basis! You’re lucky you’re not dead, or insane! Honestly, Weasley, have you no idea what they’re capable of?”

“I’ll bet you do,” Ginny spat, reaching for Draco’s arm. She jerked it towards her and ripped back his sleeve to show the Dark Mark burned into his skin. “You know exactly what they’re capable of.” Her voice cold and merciless. The tears in her eyes were gone, replaced with anger.

Draco ran his free hand over his face. His temper was rising and it was hard to control it. He took a shuddering breath and pinched his eyes shut, letting Ginny keep hold of his arm. “I’m not like them,” he whispered. “I’m not--”

“Aren’t you?” Ginny challenged. “You have the same Mark as they do. You were with them when they killed Dumbledore*. You tried to kill him. My brother got half his face ripped off because of you! You’ve pledged yourself to them. You’re on their side--”

“I didn’t have a choice!” Draco exploded.

“There’s always a choice!”

“Not in this situation!” He was now shaking with unsuppressed rage, with himself, with her relentless questions, with the whole situation. “It was either kill or be killed! I took the only choice I had! I’m just trying to survive here!” He was ranting now, desperate for her to understand, and Ginny sat back wide-eyed as Draco jumped to his feet and paced in front of the hospital bed. “Try to imagine, Weasley, try to think about what you would do in my shoes. You’ve been raised in this insane life, this terrifying life of death and hate and darkness, and there’s no way out. You just keep getting deeper and deeper into it without truly realising what it all means. And then, one day, *your dad messes up, and you get punished for it. You’re forced to act on and partake in everything you thought you believed in. You’re actually called up to fight for your cause. You’re forced into an awful situation because it’s either agree or watch as they torture, perhaps kill, anyone you were weak enough to care about. So you do it, even though you’re not sure if you believe in it anymore, not sure you believe in anything anymore, and you’re just trying to survive. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to survive. I’m just trying to make it through alive.”

He paused, drawing ragged breaths.

“We’re all trying to make it through alive,” Ginny said quietly. “But don’t you think it matters how we make it through? With them, it’ll never end. You’ll never make it through. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. It’ll be death and destruction always, for the rest of your life. Hate. Chaos. I don’t want that kind of world.”

Draco didn’t know what to say. He didn’t reply for a while, too lost in what Ginny had said. He’d never thought of it that way. He’d never thought about life after the war, what would happen when -- if -- it all finally ended.

He reached for the Dreamless Sleep potion and shoved the vial into her hand.

“Here,” he said, trying to keep the emotion out of his voice. “You should be sleeping. Your body needs to rest.”

Ginny glared at him before tipping the rest of the potion into her mouth, swallowing loudly.

“You’re not leaving, are you?” she asked hesitantly. “I know we fought, but--”

“I’m not leaving. I promised.”

Ginny smiled timidly before settling back into the mattress. “Thanks, Ma-” She paused. “Thanks, Draco.”

Despite their argument, and despite his anger and slight embarrassment over telling Ginny things he’d never spoken aloud before, his face broke into a smile.

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Draco let Ginny sleep as long as he could. When the hour hand on his wristwatch neared the number six, though, he knew they both had to get back to their Common Rooms. They couldn't risk getting caught. He roused Ginny gently and helped her pull her tattered school robe over her hospital gown.

“That’ll have to do,” she said, looking disgustedly at the holes and faint bloodstains on her robes. “At least Gryffindor tower is close.”

They parted ways outside of the Room of Requirement. Ginny squeezed his hand and whispered a quick “thanks”, looking at him with the curious expression she usually used on him. Draco left first, scouting out the corridor to make sure Ginny could make it back to Gryffindor tower unseen. When he got back to his room he collapsed into his four-poster bed. The snores of Crabbe and Goyle drowned out any other sound, and he was, for once, grateful. It was a weekend, and he let himself sleep until Blaise shook him awake.

“It’s almost dinner time. Where were you last night?” he asked quietly, even though the rest of their dorm mates were out.

Draco took his time stretching and yawning before answering. “Doesn’t matter,” he drawled sleepily.

Blaise’s face darkened. “I hope you know what you’re doing, Draco,” he warned. Draco blinked, keeping his face carefully blank. “You know what I’m talking about. The Weasley girl didn’t show up at breakfast either,” he pressed.

Draco’s eyes widened slightly, and it was enough of a confirmation to Blaise.

“I knew it,” Blaise whispered. “Draco, you can’t--”

But Draco shook him off, standing quickly. “I’m hungry,” he mumbled quietly. “I’m going to dinner.” He left the dormitory quickly, taking the steps two at a time out of the dungeons.

Blaise knew.

Or, at the very least, he suspected. How Blaise knew, Draco wasn’t sure. They’d been so careful! Every time he’d met up with Ginny, they’d taken every precaution to make sure no one could ever suspect them.

Suspect you of what, though? A voice in the back of his head prodded. You haven’t actually done anything. There’s nothing to accuse you of except doing homework in the same place as another student...right?

He thought a moment, pausing on the staircase out of the dungeons. That sounded about right. Besides helping Ginny those two times, he wasn’t actually guilty of anything. He hadn’t done anything wrong, except think about Ginny, and--

His heart almost stopped. He’d thought about Ginny. That was the problem. No thought, however fleeting, no emotion was safe from the Dark Lord, the greatest Legilimens that ever lived. He could read minds.

Forgetting his hunger, Draco all but ran past the Great Hall and up to the headmaster’s office. The stone gargoyle in front of the entrance seemed to leer at him coldly. Draco had been up to Snape’s office before, however, usually Snape was with him at the time. The stone gargoyle would always leap to the side as the headmaster approached it. But this time, Snape wasn’t in sight -- probably still at dinner, Draco realised.

“Er...can I go up?” he asked uncertainly. The gargoyle didn’t budge. Draco growled in frustration. “Come on, you great ugly hunk of rock!” he shouted, punching it with his fist. The only thing he accomplished was splitting his knuckles open on the solid statue. Blood trickled from the cuts and Draco sighed in defeat. If he couldn’t go up, then he would just have to wait. He dropped to the floor, leaning against the wall, and held his fist in his hand as he waited for Snape to return.

------

He didn’t have to wait long.

Thankfully, Snape returned from dinner early. Draco leapt to his feet as the headmaster approached.

“Sir!” Draco gasped, ignoring the throbbing pain in his knuckles. “I--”

“Malfoy, what on earth have you done to your hand?” Snape snapped. He noticed a spatter of blood on the wing of the stone gargoyle, which had already jumped aside. “Five points from Slytherin. Come up to my office immediately so we can get you cleaned up.” He roughly pushed Draco towards the staircase, not speaking again until the door to his office was safely shut.

“Now,” said Snape curtly. “You should know better than to try to discuss something with me out in the open corridors, Malfoy. What is it?”

Draco hesitated. Now that he was here, he wasn’t sure what to say. Asking for help meant having to explain why he was asking for help. He took a moment to think of how to phrase his question without bringing up suspicion.

“I...I need…”

“Spit it out, boy,” said Snape impatiently. “I don’t have all evening.”

“Canyouteachmeocclumency?” The words tumbled out of Draco’s mouth too quickly, as if he wanted to get them out before he could change his mind. He closed his eyes and took a breath before repeating himself slowly. “I would like to learn O-Occlumency...sir.”

An unpleasant smile grew on Snape’s pallid face. “I see,” he said quietly. “And, may I ask, why this sudden interest in shielding your mind?”

Draco paled. He had hoped, in vain, he realised, that Snape wouldn’t ask.

“What is it that you might need to conceal?” Snape asked, seemingly to himself. “Are you protecting yourself? Or, perhaps, are you protecting someone...else?”

“Just a...s-sudden fancy...Professor…” Draco stammered, knowing full well that Snape knew he was lying.

“I see.” Snape repeated as he sneered down his hook nose. He pulled out his wand and tapped it softly on the desk, and a folder full of parchment appeared. Snape opened it and took his time looking through it, leafing through each page with a look of distaste. “Well, Draco,” he said finally. “It says here that your grades have been suffering as of late. Your last Potions score was abysmal. Dreadful, Draco, really. I expected better of you.” His voice was cold. He folded his hands on the desk and leaned forward slightly, lowering his voice. “As your Headmaster, I cannot let your grades suffer so..." He took a breath, then looked Draco in the eye. "If anyone asks, tell them I am helping you with...Remedial Potions..."

------

Okay, thank you to everyone who read and reviewed my last chapter! Seriously, my heart does a little happy dance when I read your sweet words of praise and encouragement. You guys rock! And a huge thank you to a little life. at TDA, who created the chapter images for Summoned, Gryffindor's Sword, and this chapter, Thoughts Aren't Safe.

Here's a few thoughts and questions for you now...

1. Draco wants to learn Occlumency! Any predictions on how this will go?

2. This chapter is set in the beginning of November during Deathly Hallows. Any guesses on what's coming next? I'm trying to keep the story moving, but not too quickly. There's so much that happens in the book over the next few months.

3. Which is your favorite Harry Potter book and why?


Chapter 7: Remedial Potions
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*Author's note: I do not own anything HP

The references to Occlumency are from HPHBP chapter 24. Some of the information is changed or paraphrased slightly, as this is an entirely different scenario, but the main points come straight from the book.*

------


Beautiful CI by beyond the rain @ TDA! 


Professor Snape told Draco to meet him in his office the following Monday evening. Draco still could hardly believe that Snape had even agreed to this, but all the same showed up five minutes early, eager to get started. Another meeting with the Dark Lord was bound to be happening soon, and Draco wanted to be prepared. He couldn’t risk the Dark Lord finding out about his friendship with Ginny. The Dark Lord would stop at nothing to control people, and he was not above using an innocent girl to control Draco.

And it would work, Draco thought with a sudden realisation. If the Dark Lord threatened Ginny, Draco knew he would do anything to keep her safe. Of that much, Draco was acutely aware.

“Now,” Snape began, after both of them had taken a seat. “This office is one of the only completely secure places at Hogwarts. Anything that is discussed in this room will not be discussed anywhere else, with anyone else. Is that clear?”

Draco nodded eagerly, wondering in the back of his mind where the other ‘secure’ places might be.

“I believe we should begin with going over some of the theory behind Occlumency, before delving into the actual practice.” Snape cleared his throat. “The first thing you must understand is that the mind is not as a book. One’s thoughts do not come written on flat parchment with words and pictures. The mind is more complex than that. Like the Earth itself, the mind is like a globe, full of layers and colors, with peaks and valleys, deep oceans of emotion, and thoughts on every different level.

I assume this enthusiasm for learning Occlumency is not just a sudden fancy. You have something to hide...” He paused and Draco paled slightly. “There is nothing wrong with wanting to protect your innermost thoughts and secrets, Draco, as long as you are successful at it. By mastering Occlumency, you will be able to shut down those thoughts and emotions, thereby turning your thoughts into lies. Almost as if you are locking them away into a hidden compartment in a suitcase. Does this make sense?”

Draco nodded again, this time with less certainty.

Snape continued. “Be warned that attempting to lie to the Dark Lord could have deadly results.” His black eyes bore into Draco’s, and Draco shrank slightly. “Whatever secrets you have, whatever you are trying to hide, must be worth your life. Is it?”

Draco didn’t even need to think about it. “Yes."

“Then let’s begin.” Snape raised his wand. “I will seek a memory, and you must try to change it. Distort it to reveal only what you wish. You must try to lie to me.”

“But how--” Draco started, but Snape ignored him.

“Legilimens!”

Draco felt as if he was reliving his childhood at top speed. Images raced through his mind too quickly for him to focus on them. He could feel Snape prodding uncomfortably at different memories. It was an odd, uncomfortable sensation. Draco tried to concentrate . . .

He was four, watching his parents argue loudly over something he didn’t understand. Why couldn’t he keep the kitten he had found by the river? . . . He was seven, and a squat, withered-looking witch in an apron -- his nanny -- was calling his name while Draco, giggling, hid in a tree . . . He was bouncing with excitement, about to rip open his Hogwarts letter when his father plucked it out of his hands and read it for him -- Draco didn’t even get to see it . . . The memories came faster now . . . He was twelve and shaking with fear because something was creeping through the castle petrifying students, although he hid his fear under arrogance and spite . . . He was holding his stinging face after Granger had hit him . . . He was laughing in the Restricted Section with--

No, thought Draco, pushing back. Not that, not there... The memory changed slightly, and although bright laughter could still be heard, it was distorted, as if it were underwater. Draco was now sitting alone in the library with just his homework . . .

As quickly as it began, it stopped. Snape’s office swam into focus. The back of Draco’s head was prickling uncomfortably. He dropped his head into his hands and massaged his the back of his neck while Snape stood over him with a curious expression on his face. It almost looked like pride.

“I am surprised, Draco,” said Snape after a moment. Draco looked up at him, the room still spinning slightly. “You took a while to gain control. But I am very surprised that you were able to push back. Others have not been as successful on their first time,” he sneered. “Next time, don’t be so obvious about what you’re hiding. You must have your thoughts already altered before I even seek them. Changing them right as I reach for them signals to me that you are hiding something. The Legilimens will try even harder to break through.”

“You could have told me that before you went digging through my brain,” Draco snapped, annoyed at the oncoming headache and his Professor.

“I believed you would be capable of pushing back when you needed to, and I was correct,” said Snape candidly. “Now, clear your mind. We will try again.”

------

Draco left the Headmaster’s office some time later feeling as if he’d just played in an excruciatingly long Quidditch match. Which, of course, couldn’t be the case, as Quidditch had been cancelled at the start of term. It was late, almost curfew, but he headed for the library anyway. After his stressful evening, trying to block Snape from accessing his memories, he just wanted to see her, if just for a minute...

He ducked under the rope that was strung across the entrance to the Restricted Section and quietly sneaked to his corner. Their corner, as he’d come to think of it. A familiar redhead looked up at him from her spot on the floor and Draco’s face broke into a grin.

“Hi,” said Ginny breathlessly. She smiled awkwardly and her cheeks were pink.

“Hi,” answered Draco. He sunk to the floor beside her. Any trace of his headache had mysteriously vanished at the sight of her.

“Where’ve you been?” Ginny asked, fidgeting with her quill. “It’s almost curfew. I was worried about you.” She tilted her head questioningly and her long hair spilled over her shoulder.

Draco’s heart thumped loudly in his chest as he looked her over. The bruises on Ginny’s face had faded nicely. They were almost unnoticeable, and her split lip had healed completely. She was beautiful. Draco just gazed at her. He wondered how the lashes on her back were healing, and remembered the feeling of her fingers running through his hair. He wanted to feel that again, he wanted to--

“Draco?”

“What?” He snapped out of his thoughts quickly, remembering Ginny had been speaking to him.

She blushed again. “Nothing. I asked where you’ve been, but you don’t have to answer, of course. I mean--”

“No, it’s fine,” said Draco quickly. “I was just, er, I was in...Remedial Potions.”

“Oh.” Ginny’s eyebrows raised intuitively, but the knowing expression was wiped from her face so quickly Draco thought he must have imagined it. “Interesting. I didn’t know Slughorn did Remedial Potions for seventh years,” she said carefully.

“He doesn’t, at least not that I know of,” Draco explained. “Professor Snape thought it’d be best if he tutored me himself.”

Ginny’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully as she took this in, but then her mood shifted and she smiled brightly.

“Okay. I think it’s good to keep your marks up, even during troubled times. Speaking of time, what time is it now?” she asked, changing the subject. Without waiting for an answer, she twisted Draco’s arm towards her so she could see the face of his watch. He rolled his eyes, secretly thrilled that she felt comfortable enough with him to do that. Ginny’s smile faded slightly as she read the time. “Listen, I’ve got to go soon -- don’t want another detention --” An angry growl escaped Draco. Ginny gave him a humorless smile and continued, stumbling over her words. “Anyway, I -- I’m glad you came here. I wanted to talk to you, to thank you...again, and...” She paused uncomfortably, biting her lip and wringing her hands. “I just -- I don’t understand -- I mean -- it’s not --”

“Don’t worry, it’s fine,” said Draco.

Ginny shook her head. “It’s not, though. It’s not fine. I mean, I really appreciate it, of course, although I’m sure I could have managed, but I just don’t understand why you’re so nice to me, when--”

“You’re sure you could have managed, really? Come off it. And didn’t we already establish this, Ginny?” Draco grinned at her. He loved that they were suddenly on first-name terms despite the events that led to it. “I’m not as bad as I pretend to be, remember?”

“But you are bad!” she whined in a poor imitation of him, but then became more serious. “Really, though, isn’t it dangerous for us -- I mean, for you, a-and for me--”

“Listen,” Draco interrupted. “It’s fine, really. No one knows that we’re friends--” Ginny’s eyes flicked away and back to him quickly “--and no one’s going to find out. I’m making sure of it.”

Ginny hesitated for a moment, clearly wanting to say more. She didn’t, but instead sighed and leaned her head against him. Draco carefully wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her closer to him.

“Aren’t you worried?” she asked. “About what could happen to you, if someone finds out--”

“You’re nutters, you know that?” Draco felt almost giddy. He relished the feeling of being so close to Ginny. “You’re the one who gets tortured, yet you’re worried for me.”

Ginny laughed. “Well, I can’t help it. You’re like my knight in shining armor,” she teased. “I don’t particularly like being saved, but if I had to be, I’m glad it was you.” She turned to smirk at him. Draco held her gaze for a moment, when suddenly Ginny’s smile slid off her face. She pushed away from him and stood up quickly. “I should go,” she said, grabbing her bag off the floor.

Draco scrambled to his feet. “Wait,” he said, reaching for her. “Did I do something wrong?”

Ginny let him take her hand, but wouldn’t face him. “No, I just -- I need to get back before curfew.” Her hand tightened in his for a second, then she pulled away. “I’ll see you later.”

Draco watched her go, feeling angry with himself. He’d messed up somehow. He shouldn’t have held Ginny like that, shouldn’t have gotten so close. He felt like he shouldn’t have even gone to the library at all, but he had to know how she was doing, he had to see her…

A sharp pain went through Draco’s head. The exhaustion from practicing Occlumency with Snape came back to him full-force. He waited a few minutes to give Ginny a decent head start, and then headed back to his own Common Room.

------

Do you know where the other 'secure' places are in Hogwarts?
How do you think Draco will do with more Occlumency lessons? 
What do you think Ginny's thinking and feeling?






Chapter 8: A Forgotten Memory
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*Author's note: I don't own anything HP. There are a few references to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 28.*






incredible image by adrift @ TDA!

Draco winced and absentmindedly rubbed the back of his head, which had been prickling uncomfortably after practicing Occlumency with Snape so often. It had only been a few weeks, but Draco was already almost completely able to block out Professor Snape. The only thing he still struggled with was blocking him out in time. As much as he tried, he just could not change the memories before Snape sought them. It made Draco feel weak, like he wasn’t good enough. That, combined with the headaches that inevitably followed, had made him, if possible, even more testy than usual. He tried to hide it when he was around Ginny, but every so often he would feel a sharp and sudden pang through his skull.

“You okay?” asked Ginny from beside him, pulling Draco out of his thoughts.

“What? Oh, yeah. I’m fine,” Draco assured her. He glanced around him, making sure they were actually alone in their corner of the Restricted Section. “Listen, can’t we do this in the Room of Requirement?” he asked, gesturing to his homework. “The light in here is terrible, and I’m sick of sitting on the floor. Certain, er, parts of me have gone numb.”

Ginny rolled her eyes at him. “Well, I’m sorry if doing homework with me is so boring. Why don’t I just--”

“I know you’re just as uncomfortable as I am sitting here. I’ve seen you shifting and trying to stretch your legs without me noticing.”

She flushed slightly, but didn’t look up from her Charms essay. “For your information, I’m quite content sitting here. If it'll make you feel better, I can conjure up some cushions for us.”

“Come on, Ginny,” he urged. “Just think of it, comfortable chairs, tables to work on, better light. This corner isn’t exactly lit for writing, is it?”

Ginny shook her head. “No,” she said evenly. “I would prefer to stay here.”

“Why?” he pressed. “I can even get some food from the kitchens, and--”

“I said no, Draco!” Ginny snapped. She set her quill down and took a deep breath, rubbing her eyes.

Draco was taken aback by her outburst. “What aren’t you telling me?”

“It’s nothing, I -- I just would prefer to stay here, I told you,” she replied quickly. “What if someone saw us? Besides, someone might already be in there, and--”

“Someone’s using the Room of Requirement? Who? How do you know?”

“No one! I don’t know! I just said someone could be in there.” Ginny looked anxious now, her eyes darting away and back to him.

“What aren’t you telling me?” Draco asked again. Something wasn’t adding up.

Ginny folded her arms defensively. “What aren’t you telling me?” she countered. “Tell me, how’s your head?”

“What?” Draco hadn’t expected her to turn this around on him. “What are you talking--?”

“Oh, I’m not stupid, Draco. I see you rubbing your head, like you’ve got a migraine coming on. You’re sullen and impatient and snappish. And always after your lessons with Professor Snape. I wonder why that is,” she said sardonically. “Is Remedial Potions too much for you?”

Draco’s mouth dropped open. What did she know? How did she know? His eyes narrowed accusingly. “What are you talking about?” he questioned.

Before Ginny could reply, footsteps could be heard coming towards them. Ginny’s expression changed from annoyed to worried in an instant.

“Malfoy, are you back here -- oh.” Blaise Zabini turned the corner and stopped abruptly. Draco realised how it looked. He and Ginny, red-faced, somehow on their feet during their argument, standing less than a foot apart.

Ginny was the first to move. In a swift motion she swept her things off the floor and shoved past Draco and Blaise. “Out of my way, Malfoy,” she hissed, hitting him hard in the stomach with her bag as she passed. Draco grunted in pain as the heavy bag collided with him. She didn’t have to hit him that hard.

“Don’t touch me, blood traitor,” he sneered weakly, half-hearted and too late. Ginny probably didn’t even hear him.

Blaise stood there with a bemused expression. “Er...so that’s still going on, is it?” he asked conversationally.

Draco sighed. “There’s nothing going on, Blaise,” he said, shuffling his homework into his own bag.

“Right, and I’m Dumbledore.” Blaise gave a harsh laugh. “Do you guys always fight like that?” He leaned against the wall with a smug smile on his face.

Draco bristled. “We weren’t fighting, we were just -- Is there a reason you came back here? Other than to interrogate me on things which are none of your business?”

A very Slytherin smirk played across Blaise’s features. “Just looking out for you, mate. Don’t worry, I know you’ve got your reasons. Has she told you where Potter is yet? Or,” his smile grew wider, “are you using her for something else?”

Draco stiffened. It took him a moment to clear his mind of the sudden rage that flew through him at that comment. Convince him, he told himself. “Yeah,” he said once he was sure his voice wouldn’t shake. “Yeah, I’m trying to get information on Potter. Girls can be so easy once they think someone likes them.”

“Nice.” Blaise grinned approvingly. “Wonder why no one else has thought of trying to weasel information out of the little weasel.”

Draco nodded. “Just...just don’t tell anyone, yeah? In case it doesn’t work, you know, I’m not exactly following orders here...”

“Of course. Wouldn’t want them getting the wrong idea. Even if the idea is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard of. A Death Eater and a blood traitor…” He trailed off. “Anyway, ol’ Snapey’s looking for you. Something about an extra lesson of Remedial Potions. I almost laughed in his face. Remedial Potions, you? You’re the best in our year.”

Draco’s mood darkened. Two lessons in as many days? Was this Snape’s way of telling Draco that he really wasn’t good enough? He sighed. “Thanks, mate.”

“See you. And Draco?” Blaise caught Draco’s arm before he could leave. “Make sure you’re only trying to get information. I’m not stupid.” The easy grin was replaced with something more sinister. Draco’s eyes hardened as jerked himself away from Blaise. He gave his friend one last measuring look before heading off toward the Headmaster’s office.

------

“Clear your mind, Draco,” hissed Professor Snape, obviously losing patience.

“I’m trying,” Draco insisted, but Snape’s face twisted into an ugly scowl.

“If you were standing in front of the Dark Lord right now, you’d be dead!” Snape barked.

“If you’d give me just a minute to catch my breath--”

“No!” Snape pushed away from his desk and began pacing the floor behind it. “There will be no time to prepare, or catch your breath, if the Dark Lord decides to pry information from you. It could, and will, happen at any moment. It could happen while you’re sleeping.” Draco’s eyes widened in shock. He hadn’t realised it would be so easy. Snape continued, almost ranting now. “He is the most accomplished Legilimens in centuries, possibly even in history. An attempt to hide something from him is to sign one’s own death sentence. You must be completely prepared and aware that at any moment, if you falter, you will die. You have to be willing to accept that, Draco.” Snape stopped pacing and stared hard at Draco. “That is why I cannot give you a minute to ‘catch your breath’. Perhaps you are not suited for this.”

Draco shrank into his chair. He felt so small, so stupid. So incapable. He felt the same way at home, every time his father berated him for something that wasn’t quite up to the ‘Malfoy name’.

So he did what he always did. He agreed. He agreed and he gave up. What was the use, anyway? He wasn’t good enough.

“Yes, sir,” Draco said, standing slowly. “I’ll just...go.”

“Go?” Snape gave a short, uncharacteristic laugh. “Whatever for? This just means you have to try harder.”

Draco’s head lifted. “What?”

But Snape just raised his wand. “Legilimens!”

The memories sprang to Draco’s mind, but this time he felt almost ready. Somehow, out of nowhere, the tiniest flicker of determination had taken hold of him.

He was eleven and buying his wand from Ollivander’s, the one time his parents couldn’t choose for him. He lifted the short wand above his head and swished it downward, setting out a stream of -- Draco concentrated harder -- gold sparks? Not the green his parents had been expecting. His mother clapped happily, but Lucius scoffed and turned away. . . He was about to shoot a jinx at Potter when he suddenly felt his body shrink and contort into a -- his mind stuttered for a fraction of a second -- a thin, white...fox? The fox darted forward and viciously bit Potter’s leg, drawing blood. . . He was fifteen, standing in the doorway of Snape’s old office in the dungeons, and laughing at Potter’s embarrassment over having to take Remedial Po--

“Wait, what?” They’d been pulled from the memory so quickly that Draco hardly had time to register what he’d seen.

“Really Draco, if you’re going to change your memories, at least change them to something believable,” Snape huffed.

“But Potter--”

“--Was a terrible student,” Snape finished for him, eyes blazing. “Honestly, gold sparks, Draco, no one would believe that for a second. And everyone heard about your ferret incident, no use changing that...”

“But Professor--”

Snape rounded on him. “I think this concludes our lesson for the evening. Clearly you’re overexerting yourself. The continuous delving into one’s mind can be exhausting on those who are less practised. Good night.”

Draco sighed with annoyance, recognising the dismissal. “Right. Thank you, Professor.” He stood and left the office without another word.

The door swung shut behind him with a click. The cold corridors were empty, the lamps bathing the stone with a warm glow. Draco was left alone with his thoughts as he walked slowly towards the Slytherin common room, thinking back on the memory from two years ago that he had quite forgotten until tonight...

Students were crowding the entrance to the bathroom, trying to get a better look at the student who had just been pulled from the toilet.

“Mister Malfoy,” called a fluttery voice. A toad-faced woman poked her head out of the bathroom, her eyes searching over the students. “Ah, there you are.” Professor Umbridge waved him over. “You will inform your Head of House immediately that we have found Montague. Professor Snape should be in his office. Tell him we are attempting to extricate the student from the toilet and will need his assistance.” She sighed with exasperation and ducked back into the bathroom, snapping at the students trying to get a glimpse of the excitement.

Draco wanted to laugh. Stupid Montague. He was so thick -- how could someone get themselves stuck in a toilet, of all things? This was Hogwarts, he supposed, so anything was possible, but still… Draco took his time getting to the dungeons, and carefully arranged his features to look worried for his fellow student before he threw open the door to Snape’s office.

*“Professor Snape -- oh, sorry,” he said. Snape was standing across from Potter with his wand lifted, like he was about to curse him. He raised his eyebrows in surprise as Snape lowered his wand slightly.

“It’s all right, Draco. Potter is here for a little Remedial Potions.” He looked at Draco expectantly.

Unable to suppress his glee, Draco barely choked back a snicker. “Sorry, sir,” he apologised, trying to actually look apologetic. It was difficult. “Professor Umbridge needs your help. They’ve found Montague, sir, jammed inside a toilet on the fourth floor.”

“How on earth did he get in there?” Snape asked harshly.

“I’m not sure,” Draco shrugged. *“He’s a bit confused…” He trailed off, waiting.

Snape snapped at Potter that they would reschedule their lesson for another evening, then swept out of the room. Draco hung back a moment, taking wicked delight in Potter’s discomfort. This was so much better than finding Montague stuffed into a toilet. Potter glared back, his face burning with embarrassment. *“Remedial Potions?” Draco whispered under his breath, his own face shining with excitement. Then he closed the door and followed Snape upstairs.


Remedial Potions. That’s what Snape had called it. Was it really Remedial Potions? Or, like himself, had Potter been trying to learn something much more difficult? Draco thought back again. He couldn’t remember seeing a cauldron or ingredients in front of them, just Snape’s wand, held high, like he was about to cast a spell. Now that he thought about it, it really did look like Snape was about to use something on Potter. He had even held his wand in the same way he had earlier with Draco.

His train of thought jumped from that memory to what Ginny had said out of anger to him a few short hours ago.

“Is Remedial Potions too much for you?”

Draco stopped on the stone steps leading down to the dungeons, leaning against the wall. If Potter had been taking Occlumency lessons from Snape, then surely Ginny would have known about it. Not only was Potter practically part of the Weasley family from what he’d heard, but Ginny and Potter had dated last year, they were practically inseparable…

Draco pushed down the cold feeling he got when he thought about Potter being with Ginny and focused on the issue in front of him. Ginny knew. Why hadn’t she said anything? And why had Potter even been taking Occlumency with Snape? Whose side was he on, anyway? Draco had heard something about Potter’s so-called “connection” with the Dark Lord after listening in on so many meetings with the Death Eaters, but the Dark Lord had been very quiet about that since the fight at the Ministry that had ended with Draco’s father going to Azkaban.

Everything was suddenly much more complicated, it seemed. Ginny, their friendship, Snape, his reasons for helping Draco, his reasons for helping Potter...

His mind was in overdrive, analysing everything far too deeply. The last thing Draco wanted to do now was go back to his dormitory and risk having to talk with Blaise, or worse, Crabbe or Goyle, whose conversations consisted primarily of grunts and speculation on which pudding would be served with dinner. That would surely push him over the edge of insanity.

Draco turned around quickly, heading back up the stairs. With a quick look around to make sure he wasn’t going to get caught by a teacher or Filch, he jogged up to the seventh floor. He’d stay in the Room of Requirement tonight. Even if Ginny had been serious about someone using the Room of Requirement, surely at this time of night it would be vacant…

Once he had reached the ugly tapestry of the dancing trolls, he paced back and forth in front of the opposite wall. I need somewhere to stay, I need a place to sleep, to be away from them, he repeated in his mind, thinking of the idiots in Slytherin who he couldn’t stand to be around tonight -- or ever, if he really thought about it. I need a place to sleep, I need a place to...a place to hide…a place to hide, where they can't find me...

As soon as he thought the last part, a wooden door appeared, like those that lead to broom cupboards and storage closets. His shoulders sagged with relief -- it seemed the Room was not in use tonight. He’d have to remember to tease Ginny about it later, that she was wrong after all her arguing from earlier. He cast a final look around before reaching for the doorknob, but just as he turned it, a familiar redhead pushed through the other side of the door.

“What in Merlin's name -- Draco?

------

I'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions on this! This chapter took a bit for me to really figure out the details, so I hope it all worked.

-What is your favourite book outside of the HP series? I'm looking for something new to read.

-If you went to Hogwarts, which class would be your favourite? Mine would probably be Charms. Not only because of the fact that it's taught by tiny Flitwick, who might be my favourite professor from the books, but also because I think Charms are the most useful, as in that they'd be used the most often. Defense would probably be next, though.


Chapter 9: Falling Out
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 Author's note: I do not own anything HP. There are a few references to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, chapter 28 (marked with asterisk).






Chapter image by the talented steve harrington @ TDA!




“What in Merlin’s name do you think you’re doing?” Ginny hissed. She’d all but dragged Draco away from the Room of Requirement, the door of which had dissolved back into the solid stone wall, and shoved him roughly into an actual storage closet.

Draco was still speechless. On top of every revelation that had been weighing on him that evening, Ginny was the one using the Room of Requirement. Why hadn’t she just told him? He couldn’t decide if he was angry about it or not. It wasn’t like they were in a relationship, or even that good of friends. They didn’t have an understanding between them where they felt the need to confide in one another on things like this.

Ginny began ranting, covering her face with shaking hands.

“I mean, besides the fact that you shouldn’t even have been able to access the room to begin with -- we’ve been so careful -- and you could have ruined everything, not only for you and I, but for them--”

“Ginny,” Draco began, but she didn’t listen.

“And what if they’d seen you, what then? What if someone else saw, honestly, the damage you could have caused -- and I told you not to go up to the Room of Requirement, do you ever listen--”

Ginny,” Draco repeated, a bit louder.

“On top of everything, not this, I mean, I can’t even -- you shouldn’t have been able to find the Room, I don’t understand, we were so specific, it really shouldn’t have worked for you, and--”

Ginny!” Draco took her by the shoulders, forcing her to look at him.

What!?” Her face was flushed and her chest heaved, trying to catch her breath after her tirade. The intense look on her face made Draco take a step back, upsetting a broom that had been leaning against the wall. It clattered to the ground. Ginny jumped at the sound and jerked herself away from him sharply. Draco let his hands fall to his sides.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

The question hung in the air between them for a moment. Ginny just stared at him, trying to work out how to answer. The crazed look quickly transformed into blatant fear.

“A-about the Room?” Ginny asked, shaking her head desperately. “Well, I couldn’t, I mean, you’re--and they--and I--”

“No,” Draco cut in. He rubbed a hand across his face impatiently. “Honestly, that’s the last thing I’m going to think about right now. Why didn’t you tell me that you knew? About the Occlumency, with Professor Snape. You knew. I know you knew, and you just -- just let me think I was alone in this, that I had to keep it secret from you. And I hated it, I hated keeping a secret like that from you. You’re the reason I’m even doing it, and you acted like it was nothing. You teased me about it…” He trailed off lamely, going a little pink around the ears as he realised once again how pathetically childish he sounded.

Understanding washed over Ginny’s face. She sighed, leaning against the wall. “How’d you find out?”

Draco recounted his memory of happening upon Snape and Potter in their lesson *two years ago, trying very hard to refer to Potter as him instead of using his actual name.

“Snape called it Remedial Potions,” he said. “I’d forgotten all about it until he happened to pull it from my memories in tonight’s lesson.”

Ginny nodded slowly. “No one was supposed to know. That’s why they called it that. But Harry and Snape don’t get along too well, if you hadn’t noticed.” A soft giggle bubbled out of her. “They stopped after only a few lessons. I think something happened, but we never found out exactly what. It wasn’t working for Harry, anyway.”

At the mention of Potter’s name, Draco’s eyes snapped to Ginny’s. She looked a little embarrassed. A sad smile played on her lips.

“I’m sorry, Draco,” Ginny continued, sounding truly sincere. “I just...I feel like we’ve had this unspoken agreement, to not mention him. It’s not like I wanted to randomly bring up my boyfriend in our conversations.” She shrugged uncomfortably.

Draco’s expression hardened.

“Boyfriend,” he repeated, staring at a spot on the wall behind her. The word left a bitter taste in his mouth. Ginny made it sound like they were still a they, like she and Potter still had some sort of an understanding. Draco felt like an idiot. All that time spent with Ginny, falling for her, hoping that maybe, just maybe, she might have feelings for him, too. Feeling like he actually had a chance... “Right. I hadn’t realised you two were still…” He trailed off, letting her get the idea.

“Oh…” Ginny blushed crimson. “I suppose we’re not. Not exactly. We sort of broke up before he left, but I--I told him I’d wait...”

“Well. That’s nice,” Draco said in a hollow voice. There was an odd rushing in his ears as he processed this.

“Draco. Come on,” Ginny said.

“How lovely for you two. Really. I mean, I’m over here trying to learn how to hide you from my memories, hide how I feel about you, so I can protect you.” He finally looked at her. “Because I do. Feel something, that is.”

There. He said it. There was no going back now.

Ginny shook her head. “Don’t, Draco. We can’t. I mean, of course I--” She stopped suddenly, lowering her eyes to her worn shoes. “It’s just, Harry is always going to be there.”

“But he’s not here, Ginny,” Draco said, rather aggressively. “You don’t know how long he’s going to be gone or when he’s coming back -- or even if he’s coming back --” Ginny looked at him sharply then, but Draco continued before she could get a word in. “But I’m here. I’m here.” He stepped closer to her, letting his hands move of their own accord and rest lightly on her forearms. “I’m here and I -- I care about you. And I know you feel something, too.”

Ginny began shaking her head, her red hair vibrant even in the dim light.

“Draco, stop. Please, I can’t deal with this right now--”

“Tell me I’m wrong,” Draco pressed, leaning down to her eye level so she had to look at him. “Tell me I’ve made it all up, that I’m imagining things.”

It was silent for a moment while he waited for Ginny to answer. She seemed to be fighting some sort of inner battle. She chewed on her lip before speaking.

“I can’t.”

The words seemed to push the air out of his lungs. All traces of uncertainty were cleared from Ginny’s face. She looked him straight in the eye, not wavering.

Draco’s shoulders slumped. He had been so hopeful, so sure that part of her felt the same way. He hated himself just then. Hated himself for admitting his feelings, for even feeling this way in the first place.

“I understand,” he said, moving past her, his face burning with shame. He had to get out of there, away from her. He couldn’t breathe.

“Draco, please, don’t go.” Ginny clasped his arm. Draco paused. “Please, can we talk about this--”

“Talk about what?” he asked, rounding on her. His pride and temper flared, and he could feel his face forming into his trademark Malfoy sneer, reverting back to his nasty old self. “I don’t need your pity,” he spat. Ginny recoiled from him as he stared at her with such unveiled contempt. With that he wrenched the door open and left her there, refusing to look back at her.

------

The days passed slowly, and Draco avoided Ginny like Dragon Pox. There were a few times, in the Great Hall or between classes, where he could tell she was trying to catch his eye, but he stubbornly stared past her. Eventually Ginny stopped trying. Draco tried not to let that bother him. If only he’d kept it to himself, then things would still be normal. He’d be meeting Ginny in the Library after dinner, instead of worrying about his upcoming Occlumency lesson.

The only upside to avoiding Ginny was that the Occlumency lessons had improved significantly since he had stopped seeing her. As he wasn’t needing to hide any new interactions, he could focus solely on hiding the memories he had already been working on. That in and of itself was quite easy. However, the better he got at suppressing those old memories, the more he could feel that he was slipping away from himself, in a sense. Somehow, in their limited time together, Draco felt that Ginny was already a part of him, a part of who he was. She had lit something in his soul that changed him -- not only his opinions and beliefs, but also how he treated other people, and how he felt about himself. He didn’t like trying to hide that part of himself, trying to act like he hadn’t been affected or changed for the better. The result of it all was that he felt increasingly empty, and more lonely than he had felt even before Ginny had came into his life.

At least Draco hadn’t been summoned to any more meetings at the Manor. He wasn’t sure he could handle practising Occlumency while also being forced to torture whatever poor soul happened to be on the menu that evening. Although he wished he knew what they were up to, what could be next. He knew things hadn’t just stopped since the last meeting he had attended. The Dark Lord was always planning something...

------

It was very late when he left yet another lesson with Professor Snape. The old Potions professor had become more aggressive in pushing Draco to master Occlumency, and it was their third lesson that week. Draco mused absently how much he had improved, and how bitter he was about it. It seemed like ages since he had last spoken to Ginny, and after being forced to relive some of his worst memories that evening (the horror of being forced to use the Cruciatus Curse again and again on his father’s old friends -- men who had helped raise Draco -- and seeing the Muggle Studies professor drop dead onto his dining room table made him shudder as he walked) all he wanted was to sit near her for a moment. To talk about something other than how many Muggleborns or blood-traitors Nott had bullied that day, or where he thought Crabbe and Goyle were disappearing to nightly, or why Blaise thought it was probably a good thing Draco’s little “side mission with the pretty blood-traitor” hadn’t worked out. Draco wanted to be with someone who he actually cared about, and who cared about him too, at least in her own way.

It came as quite a shock to Draco when he registered where his feet had taken him as he was lost in his thoughts. The Library doors were still open, although it was after curfew and he was sure Madam Pince had left some time ago. He chuckled softly, imagining the decrepit Librarian rushing off to meet with old Filch for a late dinner date. Shrugging to himself, he crept into the Library and closed the heavy doors behind him. If he couldn’t be with Ginny, then at least he could sit awhile in the place where some of his favourite moments with her had happened.

The lamps had long been put out, and long shadows were cast as moonlight filtered in through the windows. Draco shivered slightly. The Library was much colder than the rest of the castle. He pulled his cloak closer around him and carefully maneuvered around chairs and shelves, not wanting to make too much noise and be questioned as to why he was there so late. He finally made it back to his corner -- their corner. It looked dusty and bare, seemingly untouched since the last time he’d been there with Ginny. Draco didn’t know what he had expected to see. Ginny of course wouldn’t be idling her hours here, she was much too stubborn and probably busy with her other DA friends, as he knew she called them. Getting into all sorts of trouble. A thought stung Draco that Ginny had probably been back in detention a few times since he'd last spoken to her. At least when they were spending time together in the Library, there was less time for her to cause trouble. He sunk to the ground, suddenly panicked at the potential injuries she had most likely received at the hands of the Carrows or even the other Slytherins, and bitter that he hadn’t been able to be the one to help her through it.

Why, why had he said those things to her? He knew Ginny was Potter’s -- probably always would be. And yet Draco had to go and destroy the only good thing in his life. With all the chaos surrounding him, Ginny was the one bright spot that pulled him through it.

His head prickled uncomfortably again, an unwelcome side effect of the Occlumency. Snape had said it would go away -- eventually. Draco scrubbed at his face, trying to keep himself from screaming in frustration. His hands shook and he grabbed fistfuls of his hair, resting his head on his knees.

“All right there?”

Draco looked up so quickly the muscles in his neck spasmed. He ignored the pain, focussing instead on the vision before him. Ginny Weasley, eyes bruised and hair matted. Something that Draco was quite sure was blood had been sloshed down the front of her uniform and smeared across her face, and she was staring down at Draco with the ghost of a smirk on her face.






Finally! I was struck with inspiration and was finally able to put out a new chapter. Please tell me your thoughts, if you like it, or if I'm missing anything. I've tried to be very careful in following the actual book, so if I've missed something I'd appreciate knowing. Also, I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season! It was freezing and snowy here, and now that it's all over I'm desperately hoping Spring comes soon.


Chapter 10: Revelations
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*Author's note: I do not own anything HP*





“All right there?”

Draco just stared up at her, bewildered. He wondered in the back of his mind if he’d finally driven himself mad by thinking about her too much. Maybe what was standing before him wasn’t actually Ginny, just a mirage of some sort. He was frozen as she dropped to her knees in front of him, peering into his face with an intensity he hadn’t seen from her before.

“Hello-o,” Ginny sang, waving her hand in front of his face. “Anyone home?” She grinned.

Draco shook himself slightly. “H-hi?” he stuttered, trying to smooth down his hair after so aggressively pulling at it.

Ginny was still grinning widely -- almost madly -- in front of him. She adjusted herself so she was sitting on the floor.

“How’ve you been?” she asked cheerfully, as if they hadn’t just spent the past few weeks ignoring each other, and as if Draco hadn’t practically declared his love for her in their last interaction, and as if she wasn’t currently covered in her own blood.

Draco gaped at her. “How’ve you been? he repeated incredulously. “How’ve you-- I honestly don’t even know where to start right now--”

If it was even possible, Ginny’s grin grew even wider as she took in Draco’s spluttering. Although the smell of drying blood was making Draco nauseous, he was caught between the desire to cringe away from it, and wanting to abandon all dignity and throw himself at her. He settled on inching away from her a bit -- it wouldn’t help anything if he were to be sick all over her.

“Ginny, is that your own blood?” asked Draco.

Ginny glanced down at herself. “Ah, right,” she answered distractedly. With a quick muttered “Aguamenti!” she wet the corner of her robes, using them to scrub her face. It didn’t do much, just smeared the blood around even more. Draco rolled his eyes.

“Come here,” he said, forgetting his nausea and pulling her to him. Ignoring the swooping sensation in his stomach that came with touching her, he carefully wiped away the blood. It didn’t seem to be coming from anywhere. No cuts were visible on Ginny’s face, just inky bruises around her eyes and along her jaw. “What’d they do to you this time?”

“Just knocked me around a bit,” she replied nonchalantly, as if this were a regular occurence. With a sinking feeling Draco realised it probably was a regular occurence. Ginny was too much of a troublemaking hero for her own good, he thought.

“This looks like more than just being knocked around,” growled Draco. He finished cleaning Ginny’s face and sat back to get a good look at her. “Where’d the blood come from?”

Ginny’s grin turned wickedly triumphant as she declared, “Nosebleed Nougat.” Draco raised an eyebrow at her. “I pop one in after about ten minutes,” Ginny explained, “and usually whatever poor soul’s on detention duty figures he’s done his job well enough and let’s me off. Then as soon as I’m around the corner I take the other half of the sweet.” She paused, apparently deliberating on whether to continue. “Once I swallowed a Fainting Fancy on accident. Took over an hour for Neville to find me and shove the correct antidote down my throat.” She laughed uncomfortably.

Draco was half impressed, half horrified that she’d been in so-called detention enough times to have picked up this little trick. He shook his head at her. “Still getting into trouble, of course,” he said, but he was smiling. He couldn’t be happier at the moment. Ginny was there, with him, and all seemed to be well between them. Of course, as soon as he thought this, Ginny spoke again.

“I really am sorry, about, well, you know.” She stuck her hands in the pockets of her skirt, which must have been difficult as she was sitting down. “Things got a bit out of hand, I think, and I--”

Draco held up a hand to stop her. “Don’t be stupid,” he said, grinning at her. It was so odd to see Ginny looking sheepish like that. “I’m sorry. Can we be friends again, then?”

A relieved smile lit Ginny’s face. She all but tackled Draco in a hug, holding herself to him tightly. “I’ve missed you,” she mumbled, her voice muffled against his robes.

For a moment they sat there, just holding onto each other. Draco’s heart swelled. It would be much better to have Ginny in his life, like this, than not at all, he realised. He could be her friend.

------

Unfortunately their renewed friendship came shortly before Christmas break. In the days before they were to leave, Draco spent every possible moment with Ginny, knowing he’d face several weeks of turbulence at the Manor. He wanted to ingrain in himself how Ginny made him feel, stock up on that happiness before being plunged back into the darkness.

Things really did seem to be back to normal. Neither of them mentioned the awkwardness of the incident in the broom cupboard -- Draco wasn’t ready to revisit that, anyway. The humiliation of it hadn’t left him, rather he pushed himself to rise above it so he wouldn’t push Ginny away again. And although they’d avoided the subject so carefully -- and the subject of Potter -- he felt that it couldn’t be long before Ginny, bold as she was, would force him to talk about it as she had tried that night. Every evening he came prepared for it, but every evening Ginny talked of everything else, it seemed. From missing quidditch (“Maybe we can find a way to sneak out and play one-on-one sometime...”), to grumbling about the amount of homework Slughorn gave (“I mean, honestly, two feet on the uses of actual flobberworms!?”), to guessing what might be served for dinner the next day (“They haven’t served Shepherd’s Pie in ages, that’s all I’m saying!”), Ginny always kept their conversations light.

That wasn’t anything new, though. They always tried to stick to happier subjects, Draco thought. However, there was something, he couldn’t quite put his finger on it, that was different about Ginny’s manner. He chalked it up to residual awkwardness over their argument, and let it be.

It was one evening as they were sitting, as they so often did, in their corner of the Library, when he caught onto the subtle changes in Ginny’s behavior once again. It was hardly noticeable, but Draco prided himself on knowing Ginny well enough at this point to be able to tell when something was different. He hardly knew how to describe it. It was almost as if she was allowing herself to touch him more often -- placing a hand on his arm to get his attention, ruffling his overgrown hair, leaning her head against his shoulder as the evening grew late. Aside from the fact that the physical contact made Draco want to squeal like a silly teenage girl, it was rather confusing to him. Ginny had made it clear that they were strictly friends, but if Draco didn’t know any better, he’d say Ginny might actually be flirting with him.

He had to restrain himself from punching the air triumphantly. At least, if he was correct.

He realised he had been reading the same sentence over and over again as he was wrapped up in his thoughts. With a sigh, drawing the courage to bring up Ginny’s odd behavior, he tilted his head down to where her head was resting against him.

“Ginny,” he murmured, loathe to bring the moment to an end. “What’re you doing?”

“Hmm?” She moved away from him, quickly sitting upright again. “What do you mean?” she asked innocently, turning to him with wide eyes. Draco was tempted to roll his own. He knew when Ginny was avoiding the question.

“Nevermind,” he said coolly. They went back to working in silence, her on her  essay, and he reading the chapter on human Transfiguration that McGonagall had assigned. At least, attempting to read the chapter. Ginny was proving to be far too distracting at the moment.

Only minutes later Draco noticed it again. Ginny placed a hand on his knee gently, and asked if he’d look over her essay. He took it from her, pretending to read it. In the corner of his eye he saw Ginny leaning toward him again. This time Draco angled his body slightly away from her, so instead of resting against his shoulder as she had expected, she lost her balance and almost fell into his lap.

“Hey!” she exclaimed, righting herself. She looked furiously up at him. Draco sniggered. “What was that about?” she snapped. A blush crept across her still-bruised cheeks.

“What do you mean?” asked Draco in the same tone Ginny had used minutes before, widening his eyes in feigned innocence. Ginny huffed. “Come on, Gin,” Draco pressed. “You’ve been acting differently ever since -- you know -- and it comes off a bit confusing to me, seeing as you -- you know -- don’t feel -- er --” He was stumbling over his words like an idiot, trying to get his point across. “You’re just being different.”

Ginny sighed. “I know,” she said softly, rubbing a hand over her face. Her blush deepened. “I just -- Merlin, I don’t even know how to say this -- it’s just, you were right. That night. You were right.” She looked him in the eyes with the same intensity she had the night they decided to be friends again. Draco still couldn’t tell exactly what it meant.

He was stunned. Ginny was hardly the type of person to ever admit she was wrong, and what she was saying didn’t make any sense to him. He was right? About what? That she and Potter still had an understanding, that they were still together? Or that he was wrong in the first place, that she didn’t have any feelings for him. If that was true, why was she even bringing it up?

“I’m...confused…” he finally admitted. Ginny grinned.

“You. Were. Right.” She spoke slowly, as if she was explaining something to a small child. Draco couldn’t even register how that bothered him, as he was still focusing on his confusion. Ginny rolled her eyes dramatically. “You were right,” she repeated again, tentatively taking his hand in hers. “About everything. About Harry and about...about my-my feelings…” She hesitated. “You weren’t imagining things. I do care about you.”

The confession only stunned Draco even more.

“If you care about me, then why did you say you didn’t?” he asked, not quite understanding exactly what she was saying. “I asked you, and you said--”

“I said I couldn’t, not that I didn’t,” said Ginny cryptically.

He continued to gape at her. “Well that’s just bloody confusing, Ginny. How am I supposed to make any sense of--”

“You’re not. I’m sorry.” Ginny smiled shyly. “I mean, I am a girl. We’re not supposed to make sense, are we?”

Again the space between them was silent. Draco was trying to process this new revelation. Ginny seemed happy to let him do so. She turned back to her homework, fighting a grin, and continued writing her essay. Draco followed suit, picking his book up off the floor that he must have dropped some time during their interaction, and opened it to a random page. He read a sentence here and there, not able to concentrate. Finally it hit him.

“Wait,” he began, a smile slowly creeping onto his face. “You like me?”

Ginny burst out laughing, not looking away from her essay.

“Yes, Draco. I like you.”

“Despite everything?”

She deliberated a moment, tilting her head towards him. “Yes. I’d say because of everything, though. You are who you are, and the situation is what it is. And I like you.” She leaned forward and planted a kiss on his cheek. It seemed to warm his body all the way down to his toes. Without another word, Ginny took his hand, threaded her fingers with his, and went on with her essay.

Draco felt giddy, thrilled. He felt like he could do anything at that point -- cast the strongest Patronus, successfully hide Ginny from the Dark Lord, run a marathon. He gave her hand a squeeze and flipped to the correct page in his book.

------

Two days before Christmas Break, Draco was in the Slytherin Common Room while Blaise and Pansy gossiped like girls. A searing pain shot through his left arm. Draco jumped, knocking over Pansy in the process, and wrenched back the sleeve of his Oxford shirt. He half hoped it was just a stray spider that had made its way into his shirt, but knew he was wrong. The brand against his skin coiled sickeningly, glimmering as if it were moving. Pansy smirked proudly.

“There’s our boy,” she announced proudly through her nasally voice. “Called off to duty. Good luck, darling.” The others looked up with interest.

Blaise clapped Draco on the shoulder. “Off you go, then, I expect. Will you be back before we leave?”

Draco shrugged numbly. It was unexpected, being Summoned so abruptly. Professor Snape hadn’t mentioned anything to him, and he had no idea what this meeting would involve. He wordlessly stood up, pulling on his robes, and left the Common Room.

Professor Snape met him in the Entrance Hall.

“We must hurry,” Snape hissed, practically dragging Draco from the castle by the scruff of his robes. They made their way towards the front gates. Once they were beyond the Hogwarts boundaries, Draco prepared to Apparate, planting his heel into the ground. He was suddenly yanked to the side, beneath the coverage of the thick trees lining the path.

“What the -- you could’ve Splinched me!” Draco fussed, tugging his arm out of Snape’s grasp. He would have continued complaining if it weren’t for the look on Snape’s face.

“Quiet, boy!” Snape snapped, glancing around them anxiously. “Listen to me, Draco,” he continued, speaking hurriedly. The Dark Lord isn’t pleased with his progress thus far. The fact that the Potter boy is still in hiding vexes him greatly. He will expect information from you of what’s happening at Hogwarts. If there was ever a time to put your Occlumency to use, it will be tonight. I feel you've progressed enough in your studies to be able to protect what you need to, if you prepare yourself. But you must give him something, to protect yourself. Is that clear?”

Wide-eyed, Draco nodded. He tried to ignore the sinking feeling in his stomach and the shaking in his hands as he focused on Apparating back to the Manor. The two of them strode through the iron gates, which turned to smoke as they passed, and arrived at the front door. Draco drew his wand, tapping it once on the heavy door. The door creaked open ominously, and Snape pushed a hesitant Draco through the entry way. They paused just outside the dining room.

“Are you ready?” Snape breathed in a low whisper, almost too quiet for Draco to hear.

Draco nodded sharply, and led the way into the dimly lit room. They were the last to arrive. Snape made his way to the front of the long table, next to the Dark Lord, as Draco took his own place next to his mother. She clasped his hand silently under the table, her sharp nails practically digging into him. Her fear radiated from her, sinking into him.

As the meeting began, he sat stiffly, mentally preparing himself for what would inevitably come.

------


Chapter 11: Christmas Wishes
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Author's note: I do not own anything HP. There is a reference to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, chapter 32, as well as a reference to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, chapter 37, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, chapter 15. Each are marked with an asterisk.





The meeting went as usual, at first. They were updated on how things were moving in the Ministry, and how the Dementors had been checking through smaller cities, looking for Muggleborns in hiding. They’d found a fair few, too, but usually by the time a Death Eater or Snatcher reached them, the Dementor had sucked out their soul already. Things took a dramatic turn when suddenly the Dark Lord addressed Draco himself.

“Young Malfoy,” he began in his cold, high voice. “You’ve been placed at Hogwarts in the hopes that you might hear news of Harry Potter’s whereabouts. What news have you?”

Draco felt as if he’d been doused in ice water. He almost looked around to see if a Dementor was hiding in the dark corner of the room. Steadying himself, he stood, trying to keep his hands from shaking.

“I’ve not heard any whisper of Potter or where he and the Granger girl might be hiding,” he said levelly. He kept his eyes focused on a spot on the wall across the room.

“But surely,” the Dark Lord replied, “with the time you’ve spent there, there must be something…” He trailed off as the giant snake, Nagini, wound its way to the top of the table. The Dark Lord waited a moment, seemingly distracted as he stroked the snake’s head. “Yes, Nagini,” the Dark Lord whispered. “Soon. Draco, if you would come here.” He extended his arm to motion for Draco to stand beside where Snape was sitting.

Draco winced as his mother’s long fingernails suddenly dug painfully into his leg. He freed himself from her, inwardly cursing her for drawing more attention to them. She made herself weak by allowing herself to show her concern. The walk to the Dark Lord seemed like an eternity. Finally he stood in front of him. He marveled for a moment that he was even capable of standing before him without cowering, as so many of his father’s friends did.

Before he knew what was happening, he felt the familiar sensation of his mind opening to another’s control. Instinct told him to try to break the connection -- this intrusion was particularly vile -- but he stood patiently as the Dark Lord sifted through Draco’s thoughts. He felt he could hear the Dark Lord’s cruel voice in his ear, whispering threats and accusations.

“Where might it be hiding, Draco, that secret of yours,” the voice hissed softly. “There must be something here… Something you have missed... So careless... So...preoccupied...”

Inexplicably, the only memories the Dark Lord was able to uncover were the common musings of his so-called Slytherin friends, gossiping about those Gryffie blood-traitors and their friends, and the trouble they continued to stir up as they fought back against Snape’s regime. Draco allowed the images to come to his mind. Ginny’s freckles and fiery red hair; Longbottom and his round face; Loony Lovegood with her endless blonde hair and peculiar radish earrings, which always made her stand out. The faces of these students who were so greatly disliked by the Slytherin students swam at the front of his mind. He detached himself from any sort of feeling, whether fond or hostile, and allowed the Dark Lord to keep digging.

Without warning, the connection broke. The Dark Lord was smiling -- if it could be called that -- and lifted an arm.

“Wormtail!”

There was a scuffling at the other end of the table, and a chair fell over as a short, thick man scurried to the head of the table.

“My Lord,” Pettigrew breathed, bowing deeply. The sight of it was almost comical -- his rear end stuck out as he bent, bumping into Aunt Bella’s shoulder. Her lip curled as she recoiled in disgust. A sharp light flashed out of her wand, and Pettigrew yelped.

The Dark Lord looked at him shrewdly. “Stand up, Wormtail,” he commanded. Pettigrew righted himself quickly, his silver hand flashing as it held onto the table for support.

“That will be all, Draco,” said the Dark Lord dismissively. “Leave us. Lessons to attend, I’m sure…Severus?”

Snape rose from his chair abruptly, guiding Draco out of the room by the neck of his robes once again. The door closed firmly behind them as he turned to speak.

“Not yet,” Snape breathed, pushing Draco out the front door. Within seconds they had reached the outer gates of the Manor, and Snape turned quickly on his heel. Draco felt the familiar, uncomfortable sensation of being squeezed through a tube as he was pulled by Side-Along. The feeling let up quickly, and Draco landed sprawled in the dirt in front of the Hogwarts front gates.

Snape was swiftly walking away from him, towards the castle. Draco jumped to his feet and followed suit, not daring to speak. They finally reached the Headmaster’s Office. The stone gargoyle leapt aside and Snape strode past without pause. Draco followed him up the stairs and into the office. Once the door was shut, Snape flicked his wand, lighting a few candles, and took his seat behind the desk.

“What did he see?” demanded Snape. His hands were gripping the wooden desk in front of him.

Draco collapsed into a chair and massaged his temples. The Dark Lord was much more aggressive in Draco’s mind than Snape had ever been.

“I think it worked,” he answered, his hands over his eyes. “I let him see the DA kids, the ones that *broke into your office.” He glanced up towards the wall where the Sword of Gryffindor usually hung. The wall was bare.

“It was removed,” said Snape curtly, almost as if he’d read Draco’s thoughts. “The Dark Lord does not trust you fully. He will try to test you.”

“More than he already has?” asked Draco warily. He’d already been *tasked with assassinating Dumbledore (though that had not worked) and forced to torture and witness the torture of anyone who had displeased the Dark Lord. “I’ve already been tested. He hasn’t stopped. Not at all.” He sounded bitter. He was bitter.

Snape was still for a moment. “The Dark Lord has a talent for finding one’s weaknesses,” he explained carefully. Do you recall how he *lured Potter to the Ministry, using the guise that Potter’s beloved dog was there? I’m sure you haven’t forgotten why you agreed to your assignment last year, as well.”

Draco’s blood went cold. The only reason he felt he could actually kill Dumbledore was because his parents were threatened. Their relationship had always been strained, but they loved each other, in their own way. He knew his parents would do anything to protect him, as he would for them. And the Dark Lord had taken advantage of that love.

“Did he see anything that would put you, or anyone you care about, at risk?”

He went over again what the Dark Lord had pulled from his mind. There had been no lingering on any certain memory, except the images of the DA group. No feelings had been pulled from him.

“No,” insisted Draco. “I don’t think so. He stopped once he saw the faces of the DA.”

Snape narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. “Good.”

------

Two days later, Draco sat in a compartment with Nott, Blaise, Crabbe, Goyle, and Pansy on the Hogwarts Express as it sped across the Scottish countryside.

Draco was exhausted. He’d been up late the previous evening, meeting Snape for yet another lesson, after which he had scouted the castle to see if Ginny was still up. He hadn’t found her, and so woke up at dawn to see if he could track her down before the castle filled with students and their luggage, ready to see their families for Christmas. He had checked their usual place in the Library, but their corner was empty. With empty hope he’d gone to the Room of Requirement, wondering if there was a small chance she’d be in there, but the door wouldn’t appear for him no matter how many times he walked past it and how many different ways he thought, “I need to see Ginny.” He’d even poked his head into the broom cupboard down the corridor from the Room, where they had quarreled those weeks ago, but it too was vacant.

Now he sat, ignoring the droning conversations around him, and feeling rather disappointed and surly that he’d missed the chance to say goodbye and wish Ginny a happy holiday. Now he had to face an entire morning with a compartment full of idiots.

“What’s got your wand in a knot?” asked Blaise quietly. “Not that little side project, surely?” He chuckled at Draco's scowl.

Draco huffed. “If you think that that’s the only thing I’ve got going on right now, you’re more of a fool than I thought.” He stood up suddenly. “I’m taking a walk.”

He exited the compartment, sliding the door shut behind him to block out his friends’ jeering. With a heavy sigh, he made his way to the lavatories at the back of the train, bumping into very few people on his way. The other students tended to shun him, either because they hated him, or because they feared him. Or both. Probably both.

Once he made it to the lavatory and splashed some cold water on his face, he felt marginally better. His reflection stared back at him, pale and pinched. He didn’t know why he came to the bathroom at all. It wasn’t like he had to go. He could have easily found an empty compartment, or scared some firsties out of one. More than anything he just needed a moment away from the others, away from everyone who looked at him as if he was carrying some kind of disease--

Someone tapped on the door softly, interrupting Draco’s thoughts. He pointedly ignored it, choosing to hide in the solitude of the lavatory.

The person rapped on the door again, more urgently this time. Again, Draco ignored it. There were other bathrooms. Whoever was on the other side of the door could either hold it or look elsewhere. He really couldn't care less.

It wasn’t a minute later before the person pounded on the door.

“All right, all right!” snapped Draco, wrenching the door open. A mess of long, red hair pushed him back into the lavatory, locking the door behind her.

“Merlin’s saggy pants, you’ve been in here a long time!” Ginny exclaimed, staring at Draco suspiciously. “What were you even doing in here for so long?” She gave a delicate sniff, testing the air. Apparently finding it satisfactory, she hoisted herself up to sit next to the sink.

Draco’s face heated. “I wasn’t doing anything!” he insisted, feeling rather embarrassed. “What are you doing in here, anyway? Was anyone else out in the corridor? Were you seen?”

“Of course I wasn’t seen, I’m not a complete idiot,” Ginny replied with a roll of her eyes. She gave a nervous smile. “Anyway, I wanted to wish you a happy Christmas.”

Draco couldn’t help grinning back. “I looked for you,” he said, hesitantly taking her hand in his. “I couldn’t find you.”

“I’m sorry.” It sounded like she meant it. “I tried to meet you, but -- er -- things got a bit hectic, preparing to leave--”

“It’s fine,” said Draco, still grinning. He felt himself move a bit closer to him as she held his hand.

Ginny fidgeted. “I have to get back soon. I told them I’d just me a minute. But I wanted to see you before the break.”

“It’s fine,” Draco repeated. Really, he was elated that Ginny would look for him at all, and it was worth spending a moment with Ginny. “So, er, Happy Christmas.”

“Happy Christmas,” she answered. The cheeky grin she’d worn turned into a shy smile. It was almost as if she was arguing with her own mind as she bit her lip. She didn’t seem to want to leave. He didn’t want her to leave, either.

In the back of his mind, Draco wondered if Ginny was going to kiss him. They were close -- the tiny bathroom didn’t allow for them to be more than a few inches apart. He didn’t quite know how to approach the situation. Was he supposed to wait for her to make the first move? Or should he, as the boy? Or should she, as the brave Gryffindor? Because he certainly didn’t feel very brave at the moment. He felt unbelievably awkward, like he could melt into the dingy floor beneath his feet. Of course he’d kissed a girl before, but this was different. This was Ginny. Time seemed to be suspended as he watched her own internal struggle.

“Draco,” said Ginny, cutting into his thoughts. She was finally meeting his eyes, a look of fiery determination in her own.

“Hmm?” He didn’t feel like he could form an actual word with her staring at him so intensely.

She leaning forward a bit, lightly resting a hand on his shoulder, and pulled him down to her level. Her touch made his stomach swoop. Almost painfully slowly, she gently touched her lips to his. He watched as her eyelids fluttered closed and stood, like a moron, rooted to the spot.

“Happy Christmas,” she breathed.

“Happy...Christmas…?”

The corners of Ginny’s lips crooked up, and she hesitated only a moment before kissing him again. This time Draco forced himself to get out of his own head, and to just be there with her. He responded eagerly, softly pulling her against him. The hand that was on his shoulder moved up his neck, tenderly playing with the ends of his long hair. His hands moved of their own accord, one resting on her hip, the other tanging itself in her perfect hair.

It was so surreal, kissing Ginny. He’d never felt anything like it, and at the same time, it felt so incredibly right.

She broke the kiss suddenly, seeming a bit out of breath.

“Happy New Year.”

Draco grinned back. “Happy New Year.”







They FINALLY kissed! Love it? Hate it? Too awkward? Not awkward enough? I admit I'm not exactly experienced in writing kisses.


Chapter 12: Guard Duty
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 Author's Note: I do not own anything HP. There is a reference to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, chapter 21, which has been marked with an asterisk. 






Incredible CI by flyingdove @ TDA!

It hadn’t been that long since Draco had left his compartment, but by the time he got back everyone was dozing peacefully in their seats. He was able to sit quietly for a bit, occupied by his own giddy thoughts (Ginny kissed him! She actually kissed him!) until the trolley witch rapped on the door, waking the others. After that, it was all talk and excitement again, until the train finally pulled into the station.

Students and luggage flooded out of the train. Many parents were already on the platform, waiting for their children. Draco didn’t bother looking for his own father and mother -- he’d Apparate himself back to the Manor.

He spotted Ginny closer to the front of the train, dragging her trunk behind her. She caught his eye and winked. Loony Lovegood was walking dreamily beside her. Before Draco could smirk back, he saw something advancing behind the pair that made his stomach drop.

A cloaked, masked figure, still unnoticed by the rushing crowd, was behind Ginny. Actually -- Draco looked around, panicked -- many masked figures. The platform was swarming with Death Eaters, suddenly appearing left and right.

All hell broke loose. Parents were screaming for their children, trunks were flying, and blinding lights from spells ricocheted overhead. Draco frantically tried to find Ginny again. He dropped his trunk, not caring if he found it again, and ran towards the place he’d last seen her. He couldn’t call out to her -- that would put her in even more danger. With blind panic he raced through the stampeding crowd, trying to catch a glimpse of Ginny’s bright hair.

Something hit him hard from the side, knocking him off his feet. He clutched his wand, trying to regain his balance, and pushed forward. Finally he saw her. She was still with the Lovegood girl, but something was wrong. A Death Eater had grabbed both Ginny and Lovegood around the wrists, his feet planted, ready to Apparate away. Draco discreetly pointed his wand at the Death Eater, muttering, “Relashio!”

The Death Eater was blasted away from Ginny, but still held tightly to his other hostage. Draco watched as Ginny launched herself at the Death Eater. But she only met air as the Death Eater Apparated away, taking Lovegood with him.

Ginny shrieked with fury. “Luna! No!” Her parents got to her before Draco could, dragging her from the platform. She kicked and screamed as they held her, angry tears streaming down her cheeks.

Draco felt sick. It all had happened so quickly. He wanted to run to her, to go with her, to help somehow, but even attempting to do so would put them both in danger. He just stood, helpless, as the platform emptied. The Death Eaters seemed to get what they wanted, and Disapparated quickly out of the station. A tall man in colorful robes ran to the spot where the Lovegood girl had disappeared. The man fell to his knees, sobbing openly crying for “Luna, my Luna!”

Draco turned away from the sight, sick to his stomach, and disappeared from the station with a crack.

------

He landed hard in front of the Manor. A searing pain shot through his arm, but surprisingly it was not the arm that was Marked. Draco swore as he pulled back his right sleeve, which was already soaked with blood. A large portion of his arm, muscle and all, seemed to have been hacked out of his body.

The adrenaline that had shot through his body on the platform was wearing off. Draco trembled as he hurried through the gate. The front doors opened before Draco reached them. Blood was flowing freely from his arm, and he swayed slightly on the spot as his mother pulled him into the house, ushering him up the stairs instead of into the dining room. Once he was in his own, familiar bedroom, he allowed himself to succumb to the pain and blood loss, his vision going black.

------

Light filtered through the curtains in Draco’s bedroom.  He allowed himself to wake slowly, the events of the previous day rushing back to him. A dull pain throbbed in his right arm.

He sat up in his bed, examining himself. His mother had left him in his pants, but had apparently long since Vanished the bloodied dress shirt. The wound in his arm looked about half-healed. New, pink skin covered the area. He’d have to check with his mother to see if it would leave a scar. A bit of dried blood was still on his arm.

Draco’s body protested as he pushed himself out of bed and into the shower. He knew he didn’t have much time; his mother was probably already aware he was awake, and itching to check on him.

Fully showered and dried, and dressed in a clean shirt and trousers, Draco made his way down the stairs of the Manor. His mother met him halfway.

“Darling,” she smiled as she greeted him.

“Mother. How long was I out?”

Narcissa enveloped him in an embrace, holding him close for a moment.

“Two days,” she said, sighing as he held her son. “You gave us quite a scare. But we must move quickly, son. They’re waiting for you.” A frown crossed her face. Draco didn’t need her to say it. He knew without words that his mother hated the fact that their home had been overrun by the Dark Lord and his lackeys. That it was being used in such a disgraceful way, harboring criminals and keeping helpless people in the cellar.

Draco’s shoulders slumped. He’d been hoping for at least a few days of normalcy. It was stupid to even think it. A normal, happy Christmas wasn’t possible for anyone these days. He wondered vaguely if Ginny--

He stopped himself. He couldn’t let himself think of that while he was here. Couldn't let himself think of her while he was here. It wasn’t safe.

“What do I have to do this time?” he asked his mother, trying to distract himself from the memory of Ginny’s lips that suddenly invaded his mind.

Narcissa’s face darkened. “You’ll be in the basement,” she muttered bitterly.

So Lovegood had been brought here after all. Draco should have expected it. He nodded once at his mother and continued down the stairs.

“Draco!” exclaimed Aunt Bellatrix as she swept into the Hall. The doors of the dining room swung shut behind her. “Finally! We have a special job for you, my pet.” She practically buzzed with excitement. Insane, demented woman, Draco thought. He allowed himself to be led through the Hall and down another set of stairs to the basement.

Bellatrix opened the old door, revealing the prisoners inside. The sight of Ollivander was no surprise -- the old man had been down there since the summer -- although he looked thinner and more sickly than the last time he’d seen him, but Draco wasn’t fully prepared to see the battered blonde girl sitting next to Ollivander. She looked up as the light flooded into the damp dungeon. Her long hair was tangled and dirty, and she looked as if she’d already experienced a fair bit of torture in the short amount of time she’d been down there. Thick ropes cut into her wrists, as if there was a way she could even escape from the dark room. Neither of the prisoners had their wands. There were no windows.

“Make sure they don’t die,” Bellatrix said disdainfully, as if she didn’t care if they actually did. She turned and left Draco with the prisoners.

He stood in the doorway, unsure of what to do. Interacting with the old man had been fairly easy -- Draco’s main job was to bring him upstairs for “questioning”, and carry him back down afterwards. But Lovegood couldn’t be there for interrogation. She couldn’t know anything.

Draco went through the motions of unbinding Lovegood’s hands and checking around the room for anything that could be used as a weapon. Suddenly a serene voice punctured the silence.

“Thank you for taking off the ropes.”

He turned, looking at Lovegood curiously. A grateful smile lit her face.

“Do you know why I’ve been brought here? It’s a bit damp.”

Draco shook his head, taken aback. Was she actually being polite to the person who was helping keep her locked up? Loony Lovegood must be more loony than he had originally thought.

“That’s all right,” she continued. “I’m sure I have a purpose. Could I please have some water?”

Still stunned silent, Draco nodded and left the makeshift dungeon, bolting the door behind him. A great rush of air left his lungs, as if he’d been holding his breath the whole time he’d been in there.

A few minutes later he returned, levitating a tray behind him. No one would notice a few sandwiches missing from the kitchen, and Draco knew the two prisoners would never survive without more nourishment. He placed the tray and a jug of water on the floor of the dungeon. Ollivander and Lovegood watched him. As Draco turned to leave, he heard Lovegood thank him again.

He shrugged, not knowing what to say, and again locked the door behind him, leaving the prisoners in darkness once more.

------

Draco quickly became accustomed to his responsibility of watching the prisoners. It was rather repetitive. Each morning he was to bring a meager portion of food down for them, and a small jug of water. Barely enough to keep them alive. The Dark Lord wasn’t even doing anything with them, just holding them there.

After tending to the prisoners the first day, Draco’s mother explained that Lovegood was brought there to help “persuade” Xenophilius Lovegood to support the Dark Lord. He’d get his daughter back once Potter was found. The editor of the Quibbler had immediately started printing “Undesirable No. 1” on the cover of his magazines. Draco asked what would be the fate of the Lovegoods after they caught Potter. His mother just pursed her lips, not answering. Apparently the Death Eaters didn’t intend to keep their promise to old Lovegood.

------

Christmas was a sad affair. Although the Dark Lord had been inexplicably away the last few days, the Manor was still infested with Death Eaters. There was no tree, no presents, no cheery Christmas dinner prepared by house-elves. Draco spent the day in his room, trying not to sulk. He wasn’t a child anymore -- he didn’t need those things. All the same, he avoided everyone, choosing to not even take daily rations to the prisoners in the cellar. He didn’t think he could look into their sad, sunken eyes again. It was selfish of him, he knew. At least that evening he’d be fed something, even if it wasn’t a savoury feast.

It was after dark when his mother knocked on Draco’s bedroom door, letting herself in.

“Darling,” she said gently. “Have you been down today?”

He knew she was referring to the prisoners. As cold and proud as Narcissa could be, she was still a mother with a heart. The thought of an elderly man and a child shivering and starving in the Malfoys’ basement on Christmas was apparently too much for her.

“We are not animals,” Narcissa chided.

Draco rose from his bed with a sigh. He followed his mother to the kitchen, where a small tray had already been laid out with a meager meal. Narcissa passed it to Draco, and he carried it to the cellar.

“All right, stand back,” he announced, as he always did when visiting the prisoners. He pushed the door open. The light from the hall illuminated the dank space, and Draco saw Ollivander hastily hide something in his hands. The wandmaker and Lovegood stared at Draco in dismay.

Lovegood looked back and forth between Draco and Ollivander. “Er, Draco,” she said, drawing attention to herself. “Thank you for bringing us some food. We were just discussing whether or not it’s actually Christmas.”

Draco couldn’t get used to her polite tone, no matter how many times she conversationally thanked him over the days. She should hate him.

He shrugged. “Yes, it’s Christmas,” he whispered, speaking to them for the first time since he’d been put on guard duty.

Lovegood’s pale face beamed at him. “Happy Christmas, then.”

Draco hesitated before wishing her a stuttered happy Christmas back. His eyes fell on Ollivander, who was still holding his hands behind his back.

“What have you got there?” asked Draco tiredly. He honestly didn’t care if it was a pebble or a wand. He just wanted everything to be over.

Lovegood answered for him. “It’s a nail,” she replied with a defeated sigh. She looked at the floor sadly. “Mr. Ollivander, would you hand it to me please?”

Draco stood as Ollivander passed a small object to Lovegood. She held the nail out in her hand, waiting for him to take it. In the back of his mind a voice spoke. You can help them, it said. You don’t have to be like the others. He almost ignored it, but the voice pressed again.

You’re not bad.

It sounded like Ginny.

“A pale?” Draco blurted without thinking. He knew he sounded like an idiot. “Pale? Yes. I am pale.” He spoke mechanically, blundering over his words. He didn’t know really what he was doing, but he set the tray on the ground and backed out of the cellar, ignoring the flabbergasted expressions on the prisoners faces.

Back in the safety of his bedroom, he realised what he’d done. Part of him was panicked -- what if someone found out? -- but another part of him felt oddly weightless. It was such a small act, seemingly insignificant, letting them keep a rusty, old nail. They couldn't do anything with it, surely. But somehow he felt like it would help them. Somehow it was important.

------

Christmas break was almost over. Luckily the Dark Lord had rarely been at the Manor, so everyone was able to relax a bit over the holiday. Draco had dutifully brought meals to the cellar, often sneaking more food than he was instructed to. He whined about his assignment to his parents, acting like he was above such tasks, and declaring he was being treated like a house-elf. But he was grateful the lot fell to him. Others wouldn’t be so gentle with the old man, who was looking more and more like a skeleton every day. Draco knew he couldn’t sneak enough food for Ollivander to put more meat on his bones. And Lovegood, who was one of Ginny’s best friends, was slowly losing her brightness, becoming a shadow of her once vibrant self. Draco knew she was worried for her father. “He’ll do it,” she whispered one afternoon, as Draco passed her a cake from upstairs. “I wish he was stronger, but if he finds Harry, he’ll do it…”

He’d never seen someone look so utterly defeated. Even when classmates bullied and teased Loony Lovegood she had kept her serene smile on her face, choosing to see the best in others. And yet there, in the dark, damp cellar, Lovegood still found a way to be polite to Draco. Even after he’d told her, in a rushed whisper, that her father had not only *tried to trick the Death Eaters into believing he’d caught Potter, but also tried to trade a ridiculous headdress as well as an Erumpet horn for his daughter. She had only sighed sadly and thanked Draco for his news.

“What will they do with him?” she asked in a small voice.

Draco shrugged. “Probably Azkaban. They won’t bring him here, and they won’t kill him, not yet anyway…” Lovegood nodded once, retreating back into a corner of the cellar.

Draco tried to smuggle them as much food as he could before he had to leave for Hogwarts, abandoning all sense of protecting himself. He knew he would pay dearly for it if he was found out, but some things were more important than self preservation. Ginny taught him that.
 







 


Chapter 13: Changing Sides
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 Author's Note: I do not own anything HP. There are a couple of references to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, chapter 29, which are marked with an asterisk.





Draco didn’t get to say goodbye to the prisoners in the cellar before he returned to Hogwarts. He didn’t really know why that bothered him -- it wasn’t as if he considered them friends, but he wished he had at least had one more chance to add some extra bread to their small stash of food. Ollivander had been counting the days he was in there by scratching a tally on the stone wall with the rusty nail. The image of it haunted Draco as he sat in an empty compartment, choosing solitude over seeing the other Slytherins in his year.

As students filed out of the train and into the coaches, Draco had caught a glimpse of a subdued-looking Ginny, flanked by Longbottom and Finnegan. She didn’t look up as she walked, her only real movement being waving off Finnegan as the boy tried to help her into a carriage.

Draco ached to see her, to tell her that her friend was fine, if not a little worse for wear. He longed to find comfort in her as well, after the stressful holiday he’d had, and to see how she was doing.

Over a week passed with Draco stopping by their corner in the Library nightly. Each time the space was bare, with no indication that anyone else had been there. Losing hope, he began to wonder if Ginny had regretted everything between him, or even forgotten him altogether. Perhaps she felt awkward about kissing him, or even angry that he was associated with the people who had once again hurt someone she cared about.

Almost giving up, he stepped into the library one evening, his feet guiding him to the Restricted Section out of pure habit. He stopped short when he saw a small figure sitting on the ground. She looked very much how she did when he’d first discovered her back there, all those months ago, with her knees pulled up against her chest, and her face hidden by her long hair. This time, though, Draco had an altogether different reaction. He knew by now the signs of a sad Ginny. As much as she tried to be stubborn and strong, she was still human. Without thinking he sunk to the floor beside her, and pulled her against his chest. She clung to him, breathing shakily. Draco knew she wouldn’t cry, but the silence was just as heartbreaking.

“She’s gone,” Ginny finally said in a small voice. “They took her. People are saying she’s probably in Azkaban.” Her voice was muffled against his robes. “I was right there, I could have stopped him, I could’ve--”

“Stop, Ginny,” Draco soothed. “You couldn’t have stopped them, you’d have been killed without a second thought. And she’s okay, or at least, as okay as she can be right now.”

Ginny sat up quickly, hitting Draco in the chin with the top of her head.

“Oh! Sorry!” she fussed as Draco yelped. “What do you mean? Have you seen her? Where is she?” The questions kept coming as Ginny seized Draco’s hand painfully.

“Ouch,” Draco complained, loosening her grip on him as he massaged his jaw. “She’s at the Manor. She was brought there after they took her from the platform.”

“Is she okay?”

“She’s alive,” he responded, watching Ginny’s face fall. It wasn't the answer she wanted, but it'd have to do. “I was responsible of taking care of her and--” He stopped, not sure how much information he should divulge. “And I brought her meals, made sure she was fed, that sort of thing. She won’t last forever in there, though. The others…” He trailed off, not wanting to upset Ginny any more than she already was. Ginny nodded, seeming to understand.

“She’s a prisoner of war,” she said. It sounded so dramatic but it was true.

Draco looked at the floor bitterly. “I wish I could have brought her back with me somehow.”

Ginny shook her head. “No. You would have gotten in trouble, too. It’s easier to fight back if you’re not caught.” She paused. “You are, aren’t you? Fighting back?” She looked at him doubtfully.

He thought for a moment. He was at a turning point now, he had to decide. With a jolt, he realised he had already chosen. From the moment he’d forced to torture innocent people, to watch as people he knew were mercilessly killed. From the moment he helped Ginny all those months ago, he knew he was already on her side. On their side, the good guys or whoever. Every time he hid her from the Carrows, every time he practised Occlumency to keep the Dark Lord out, every time he helped the prisoners, he was pushing himself further and further away from the evil, and towards the good.

“Of course I am,” he said with confidence. The smile that lit up Ginny’s face made him feel lighter than he had in weeks. “I’ll always be on your side, Ginny.”

She squeezed his hand. “Not my side, Draco. Our side. The Order’s side.”

“Right. I’m on their side.” And he knew he was. He knew that whatever happened, he had to do what he could to stop this war. To finally bring peace to the Wizarding world. And he would do his part, whatever it was.

Ginny suddenly changed the subject, surprising Draco. “I have something for you. A small Christmas gift,” she said nervously. Hands shaking, she pulled a thick parcel from her bag. She handed it to Draco.

Besides the excitement he felt -- Ginny was giving him a gift! -- he frowned. “I didn’t get you anything,” he said quietly.

Ginny shrugged and smirked. “I didn’t expect you to. Go on, open it, before I change my mind. I’ve been lugging it around in my bag for a week, worrying about whether to give it to you, so it’s probably a bit wrinkled...”

Draco laughed, tearing back the paper and holding up something bluish green and lumpy. It unfolded as he held it higher. “A sweater?” he asked, looking over at Ginny. A lovely blush had risen on her cheeks, giving color to her pale face.

“I made it,” she admitted. “Mum insisted on teaching me how to knit last summer, said it would be good to know how to do it the Muggle way. She was so proud when I asked her to show me how to make a sweater, if not a little confused by my choice of color. It’s not exactly Slytherin green, but...”

Draco grinned. Nobody had ever made anything for him before. He understood why Ginny had been hesitant to give it to him, though. He’d always been the proud rich boy. But this was different somehow. He quickly shrugged out of his robes and yanked the sweater over his head, pushing his arms through the sleeves. It was warm and cosy, the color perfectly contrasting his fair skin.

“I love it,” he told her, watching happily as Ginny’s face split into a relieved smile. She gave a shaky laugh.

“I’m glad,” she said, threading her fingers through his.

------

It was getting more and more difficult to find time to spend with Ginny. The older students seemed to have come back from their holidays with renewed confidence, and the younger students soon caught on. Students were refusing to go to classes, or openingly mouthing off to teachers. Someone -- Draco was sure it was one of the DA group -- had vandalised the halls, and things like Dumbledore’s Army and Moldy Voldy covered the stone walls. Every upper-classman who wasn’t a Slytherin was punished. Some students who were obviously not involved were just given lines, but others, including Ginny, were disciplined much more harshly. There were many nights when Draco had to stand by as students -- some as young as fourth years -- were Crucio-ed or beaten. *Crabbe and Goyle were enthralled by this, volunteering themselves to help the Carrows in the abuse.

The uprising had provoked the staff (namely, Professor Snape and the Carrows) to place Dementors around the perimeter of Hogwarts. As if the students weren’t somber enough, a cold mist had settled over the grounds. Students were terrified to leave the castle, going so far as to refuse to even walk out to the Greenhouses for Herbology. Professor Sprout pushed for her classes to be able to be held in the Great Hall, and brought a few harmless plants indoors for them to study.

The moments Draco and Ginny were able to steal away from the madness were just as intense. Ginny had more injuries that needed attention, and refused to go to the Room of Requirement. She wouldn’t tell Draco why, though. He let it go, choosing instead to learn healing spells and how to make potions that would help with the bruising and scars. He wasn’t sure why they hadn’t learned those already -- surely healing spells would be more useful later in life than Divination.

Ginny had laughed when Draco mentioned this, her breath catching as he tended to another broken rib.

Through the limited time they spent together, they were only able to steal a kiss here and there. Draco didn’t mind -- he was more focused on keeping Ginny safe and happy, and working to keep the younger students out of harm’s way, than worrying about his physical attraction to her. But hidden in a concealed alcove, with Ginny’s shirt pulled up to just under her bra so Draco could check for more broken ribs, it was hard to ignore. His fingers lingered on her skin, feeling goosebumps creep up under his fingers. A small shiver went through her, and she caught his hand in hers.

“Draco,” she said unsteadily. “You’re making it very difficult for me to breathe right now.”

Draco grinned. “Sorry,” he said, pulling her shirt back down. “I think you’re good.”

“Thank you.” She didn’t let go of his hand, instead pulling him closer. He let her, leaning in until her lips were on his. It felt like fire was coursing through his body. He gingerly wrapped an arm around her waist, knowing she was still sore, and she shifted into his lap. They finally broke apart for air, each breathing heavily.

Draco grinned at her. Her hair was messy and her cheeks were flushed. “You’re welcome,” he said, softly kissing her again. He stood up, lifting her with him. “We should get back.”

Ginny fake-pouted, earning a deep laugh from Draco.

“Come on,” he laughed, pulling at her hand. Checking the corridor, Ginny trotted off. Draco followed after a few minutes. Their secret friendship was dangerous enough, but hiding their secret relationship or romance, or whatever it was, was eating away at him. If they were caught, the consequences could be fatal to them both.

Since the meeting before Christmas, Professor Snape had decided Draco was good enough at Occlumency to continue on his own, saying that he was far too busy to continue their lessons, and Draco was desperate to become better at it. Not only did he need to hide his feelings and memories of Ginny, he also had to find a way to conceal the fact that, no matter the cost, he had switched sides.

No one knew except him and Ginny, of course, although Draco had been doing what he could to prevent the younger students from being tortured at the hands of older students. He frequently interrupted Defense Against the Dark Arts classes, which was now just *Dark Arts, to tell the so-called professor that there was trouble in another classroom. Once Carrow was in the classroom, Draco shot a quick Confundus charm at him, causing the teacher to wander around the castle for a bit. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to keep many students from further abuse.

------

February came upon them without fanfare. Draco could tell Ginny was almost making herself sick with worry, not only for her friend, but everything going on inside and outside the castle, and he let himself be her distraction. Whether by tugging at her hair and cracking jokes (which was so very unlike him, and made Ginny laugh even harder), or by stealing a kiss when she least expected it, it seemed to be helping, if only a little. But many evenings, when they had managed to sneak away to the Library together, Ginny merely held Draco’s hand tightly, trying very hard not to show her fear.

Despite the grim atmosphere in the castle, students were buzzing with excitement about the upcoming Valentine’s holiday. The Death Eaters could stamp out hope and happiness, but as much as they tried, they couldn’t stop love. During Draco’s evening prefect rounds he noticed more and more young couples tucked away in secluded corners. He made sure to act perfectly vile as he pulled blushing couples out of broom cupboards, when in reality he was shocked by how the thought of people still finding love in these dark days made him smile. It must be because of Ginny, he thought. The old Draco would have been sickened by all the displays of affection that seemed to follow him everywhere. And yet, part of him was a little bitter, knowing that he and Ginny would never be able to be one of those couples. They’d never be able to walk hand-in-hand to classes, or risk being caught in a broom cupboard. It was dangerous enough to be meeting in the Library as often as they had, although lately they’d been missing each other, making Draco feel sulky and cross.

It seemed even Longbottom and Finnegan were spending more time with Ginny than Draco. They seemed to be attached to her hip, following wherever she went like human guard dogs. And although he knew Ginny hated it (“I mean, I’m pretty positive that I’m capable of getting to and from class on my own, it’s like Dean all over again...”), and he knew they were just friends  Draco couldn’t help the sensation of jealousy that bubbled up within him. They got to touch her, they got to spend time with her without being confined in a dusty, forgotten corner of the Library. Part of him wondered if Ginny wished she was dating one of them instead of Draco (not that they were dating, Draco reminded himself, he didn’t really know what exactly they were).

As Valentine’s Day grew closer, Draco grew more flustered, which was a new feeling for him. He didn’t know if Ginny expected him to give her chocolates or something, or if doing so would just make her feel uncomfortable. Giving him a Christmas present was one thing, but somehow a Valentine’s gift seemed much more significant. More intimate.

He tried not to worry about it as he walked to the Library a few days before Valentine’s Day. He’d slipped out of the dungeons easily, as everyone else was distracted with homework and studying for exams (why they thought exams were still important was beyond Draco), and met Ginny in their corner. He wondered vaguely why they’d been able to go so long without getting caught there, aside from the one time when Blaise had found them, but all thoughts of this vanished as Draco saw Ginny sitting happily on the floor, her homework spread in front of her. She looked up with a smile on her face.

“Hi,” she greeted as Draco relaxed beside her.

“Fancy meeting you here. What are you working on?” he asked, pulling the rolls of parchment towards him.

Ginny shrugged. “Some load of dung from Muggle Studies.” She rolled her eyes. “I can’t even believe the stuff they come up with -- going on about how Muggles are like animals, needing to be penned and fed at intervals, and not necessary for the continuation of human race. It’s sick.” She threw her quill at the ground angrily. “They’re still human, they’re still people. And half the kids in my class have some Muggle relation or another. It’s awful.”

Draco watched her. Although he agreed with her, he’d been taught that philosophy his whole life -- that Muggles were stupid, worthless creatures that were so far below wizards. And although he no longer supported the Dark Lord’s ideals, it was still difficult for Draco to wrap his head around how different the world was than he thought.

“Have--” he paused, wondering how to word this thoughts. “Have you spent much time with Muggles?”

Ginny fixed him with a curious stare. “Of course. Not too much, but yes. Hermione’s parents are Muggles, as I’m sure you remember, and they’re lovely. We’ve met them multiple times. And Dad is obsessed with Muggle objects and culture, so we’ve all sort of grown up learning about them in a different way than what’s been taught here. Especially now,” she said bitterly, still bothered about the coursework. “Haven’t you?” she asked.

Draco shook his head. “No. I’ve never been around them except at King’s Cross, and even then there was little to no interaction. Other than that, there was never any reason to be around them. When we went places, we always Flooed or Father would take me by Side-Along.”

Ginny gaped at him. It made Draco feel self conscious, like he was ignorant about something.

“Please don’t look at me like that,” he grumbled, pulling his own homework out of his bag.

“I-I’m sorry,” Ginny stuttered, rearranging her features. “It’s just, how did you live like that? Did you never go anywhere?”

Draco made a face reminiscent of his trademark sneer. “Of course we did,” he said, wishing he hadn’t even brought it up in the first place. “We just stayed with our own kind.”

With a glance at Ginny’s face, he realised he’d said the wrong thing.

“Our own kind?” she repeated  incredulously. “Bloody -- our own kind? Draco, they are our own kind! They’re people, they’re human beings, just like us. They feel, they bleed, they love, they fear. Just because they have different abilities than us, it doesn’t make them any less!” She stood up suddenly, furiously cramming her books back into her bag. “I can’t even be around you right now.”

Without another word, Ginny swept out of the Library, leaving Draco behind feeling utterly worthless.
 







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Chapter 14: Valentine's Day
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Author's note: I do not own anything HP. Also, the names of the text books are completely made-up.




It was official. Ginny was angry.

She hadn’t spoken to him in days, had not even made eye contact, since she had stormed out of the Library. Meanwhile, Draco was nearly tearing his hair out with frustration. It was wrong of him, he realised, but he hadn’t meant it like that. Of course he knew that Muggles weren’t so very different. But it was just how he had been raised. And just because he suddenly was against the Dark Lord, against the “Magic is Might” administration, didn’t mean years of prejudice would be erased overnight. He was still working on it. Retraining his way of thinking wasn’t something that could be done in an instant, and he wished Ginny had stayed a moment longer so he could have explained that much.

Valentine’s Day was drawing closer, and it became clear to Draco that he needn’t have worried so much about whether ot not to get Ginny a gift. She wouldn’t even look his way. Still, on the morning of the fourteenth, he scribbled a hasty apology on a scrap of parchment and raced up the steps to the Owlery. Instead of using his own sleek owl, he’d have to use one of the school’s barn owls. As he tried to coax one down, he wondered if this was even wise, contacting Ginny like this. He made sure there was nothing in his short note that could be traced back to him -- going so far as so change his handwriting so that it wasn’t remotely like his own. He didn’t even sign it, hoping that Ginny would know who it was from. Perhaps he was being overly cautious, but he couldn't risk anyone finding out about Ginny. It was for her own safety.

He tied the letter onto an owl that had been tempted down by Draco’s offering of biscuits, whispering to it that he didn’t need any reply. The bird flew out the window. Draco hurried back down the stairs, taking care not to slip on the icy steps, and made it to the Great Hall before many other students were there. Professor McGonagall looked down at him from her seat at the head table, raising an eyebrow as Draco shuffled to his seat at the end of the Slytherin table. He picked at a muffin, not really paying any attention, just waiting to see any sign of Ginny.

Other students filed into the Great Hall. Draco caught snippets of conversations here and there, some excitedly pointing out how the pancakes were shaped like hearts, or that the usual white tablecloths had been replaced with a frilly, lace pattern. For Draco, he couldn’t care less. The minutes dragged on, and there was still no sign of Ginny. Once the tables had been cleared and he was the last student remaining in the Great Hall, Draco finally gave up hope. Ginny wasn’t coming.

------

Draco sulked on his four-poster until well into the afternoon. He snapped angrily at anyone for even coming into the dormitory, and otherwise ignored everyone entirely. He had a sick feeling in his stomach, and visions of Ginny enjoying a romantic lunch with Finnegan -- or worse, Longbottom -- invaded his mind. Or an awful idea that Ginny had finally come to her senses and realised she didn’t want anything to do with Draco and his Purist way of thinking. Because really, how could she care for a monster like him?

Finally, when he felt he couldn’t take another moment in his own head, he stormed out of the dormitory. He didn’t quite know where he was going until he felt the cold wind on his face. A thick fog had settled on the grounds, and it seemed the sun couldn’t break through the mist that accompanied the dementors. Though the creatures were still held to the outer gates, he could feel the chill seep into him as he walked down to the Quidditch pitch.

Looking up at the stands, he flopped to the ground. He missed Quidditch. He really was quite good (just as good as Potter, he thought sourly), and for even this to be taken away from the school, after everything, seemed all the more barbaric. Hogwarts was no better than Azkaban at this point. Dementors guarding the perimeter and exits, daily tortures being administered, mistreatment of nearly everyone who was captive there. Thinking back on his father’s descriptions of Azkaban, Draco realised that what was happening at Hogwarts was perhaps even worse. These were innocent children, and they were facing hardships even worse than what his father had faced during his brief stay in the wizard prison.

He shivered slightly, gradually feeling the effects of some Dementors which had approached the edge of the pitch. They’d been commanded to not come any closer to the castle than that, but the Dark Lord, much like the Ministry, didn’t seem to understand that Dementors could not be controlled. They seemed to feed on Draco’s distress -- Ginny, the war, everything. A cold sweat broke across Draco’s body, and he was suddenly filled with panic.

Without warning, the Dementors advanced upon him, pushing past through whatever meager enchantments had been placed around the school grounds. Draco scrambled to his feet, pulling his wand out of his robes as he saw the billowing black creatures come closer. He’d never actually produced a Patronus -- his Aunt Bellatrix, during her tutoring, had deemed it unnecessary -- so Draco would have to run for it. His legs grew heavy as the Dementors closed in.

“No!” he cried, staggering as he fought to get back to the castle. Sparks shot out of his wand, causing the Dementors to falter for a fraction of a second. They recovered quickly, though, and caught up to Draco easily.

He fell to the ground painfully, rolling over to see his attackers. They hovered above him, almost jubilant that they had so easily trapped their prey. The darkest memories surfaced, worse and more painful than when Snape had been sifting through his mind. Draco thought he might drown in them. He was close to giving up, just letting the Dementors do what they wished with him, just letting them end it. Suddenly something bright caught Draco’s eye, and he automatically turned to see the glow. Something large was galloping towards them -- or, it seemed, towards the Dementors -- and Draco pressed himself flat against the ground, pinching his eyes shut in fear. Within seconds the cold despair that permeated his body evaporated. He gasped for air, realising he hadn’t breathed since the Dementors first set upon him, and opened one eye cautiously.

Without warning, something tumbled on top of him, knocking what little air Draco had out of him. His vision was obscured by a mass of red hair which fell over him.

He breathed a sigh of relief, instinctively wrapping his arms around the body that clung to him, inhaling the familiar scent.

“Ginny,” he groaned after a few minutes, still barely able to speak. “How’d you find me?”

She tried to move off him but Draco held tight.

“I saw you leave the castle,” she explained in a shaky whisper. “Took a minute to lose Seamus, but I think I did okay -- he probably thinks I’m insane for taking off like that. But I didn’t think I’d make it in time. I thought you were...” She broke off quickly, her voice thick with emotion.

“Another minute and I would have been.”

He relaxed his grip on her, allowing her to sit up, but immediately pulled her back down to him, kissing her hard, not caring that they were out in the open, or that he almost had his soul pried from his body. She kissed him back, clinging to him almost painfully.

Sense came back to him full-force and he pulled away from her quickly. He swore, realising his mistake, and stood, dragging Ginny to her feet with him.

“We have to go,” said Draco, anxiety flooding through him. They raced back into the castle hand-in-hand, separating in the Entrance Hall. Ginny headed for the stairs that led to Gryffindor Tower, and he turned towards the stone steps to the Dungeons.

“Hey, Draco?” Ginny’s voice called out in a whisper. He turned in time to catch a Chocolate Frog that she had tossed to him.

“Happy bloody Valentine’s Day,” she said with a half-smile and a wink, and hurried up the stairs two at a time. Draco almost laughed, and watched her for a moment before continuing down to the Dungeons.

He turned the corner to the entrance of the dungeon, and stopped short. Blaise was leaning against the stone wall that concealed the Common Room, his arms folded in front of him, and an amused expression on his face. His slanted eyes grew thinner as he watched Draco approach.

“You’ll never believe what I just saw,” Blaise said, his smile growing wider.

------

After dragging Draco into the dormitory and placing a Silencing charm on the door, Blaise finally spoke.

“Why didn’t you just tell me?”

The question caught Draco off-guard. He’d expected more of a reproach, more hostility.

“Wait, you’re not, er, going to tell me how wrong I am and how dangerous it is and go off about how she’s a blood traitor and everything?” A memory surfaced of Blaise voicing his opinions about Ginny the previous year.

“I wouldn’t touch a filthy little blood traitor like her whatever she looked like.”*

Blaise gave a grim smile. “No. I mean, yes it is wrong, but only because it’s dangerous. For both of you. But everything else -- I’m not a Death Eater, and I’ve never done more than make a few snide comments about blood traitors or Muggleborns. I don’t really care either way. I was just trying to protect myself.” He shrugged.

Draco could have laughed. “Just like a true Slytherin,” he said. He dropped to his bed with relief. Blaise stayed where he was by the door.

“But I wish you’d told me,” Blaise went on. “I’m not exactly friends with that lot out there, but I feel like we’ve tolerated each other pretty okay this year. And it would have helped me know why I’ve been covering for you all year, every time you’ve disappeared.”

“I’m sorry,” said Draco. He meant it. It would have been nice to have someone to share the secret with, even if it did endanger more people. “You won’t tell anyone, will you? If anyone finds out--”

Blaise waved him off. “‘Course not. But you’d better watch out for Pansy. Reckon she’ll claw the girl’s eyes out if she finds out.”

Draco couldn’t suppress a grin at the image of Pansy trying to go up against Ginny. The pug-faced girl wouldn’t stand a chance. “Trust me, Ginny can handle Pansy, I’m sure. And thanks, mate. Really.”

With a nod, Blaise left the room. Draco collapsed into his bed, exhaustion finally overcoming him. The thought of someone else knowing his secret made him uneasy, but he couldn’t ignore the feeling of relief that coursed through him. He was safe, Ginny was safe, and it seemed Blaise wasn’t about to turn him in.

------

Draco slept for the rest of the day. The energy had been completely drained from him after the Dementors, and he woke the next morning feeling tired and sore, and slightly sticky after having fallen asleep still covered in sweat. He dragged himself out of bed and into the bathroom for a quick shower. The hot water seemed to help, at least with the stickiness, and Draco arrived in the Great Hall in time for lunch. He automatically scanned the Hall for Ginny, but she was not there.

The frilly table linens had been replaced with their usual plain white ones, and Draco couldn’t care less. This Valentine’s Day had been the worst he’d ever experienced, with his over-analysing his relationship with Ginny combined with being attacked by a few wayward Dementors, and he was glad it was over. Blaise gave him a nod as he walked up to the Slytherin table, and Draco dropped onto the bench beside him, tucking into a ham sandwich as fast as he could.

A few minutes later, as Draco was inhaling another sandwich, Blaise’s elbow dug into his side.

“What’s your hurry, Malfoy?” asked Blaise lazily, though his eyes shone with suppressed humor. It was clear he knew exactly why Draco was so eager to get out of the Hall.

Draco swallowed loudly before answering. “Er, homework?”

“Don’t you have better things to do than homework, Draco?” said a nasally voice across from him. Pansy leaned over the table, her cleavage nearly spilling out of her blouse. Draco looked away in disgust.

“I’m not going to turn out like Crabbe just because there’s a war going on,” he said spitefully. “No offense, Crabbe,” he added, nodding at the thick boy a few places down the bench. Crabbe just stared back, his cheeks full of food, not realising he’d just been insulted. Draco watched him for a moment. A few crumbs dropped out of Crabbe’s mouth as he slowly registered what Draco had said.

“...All right, I’m leaving,” said Draco, pushing away from the table.

“Have fun studying,” hummed Blaise with a conspiratorial wink. “Pansy, darling, help me with something in the Common Room?” He successfully directed Pansy’s attention away from Draco, allowing him a safe exit.

Draco hurried to the library, wishing he’d thought to grab a mint before seeing Ginny. He briefly considered running back to his dormitory for some, but remembered Pansy and Blaise were already on their way to the Common Room. He shrugged, staying on his course to the library.

Ginny was waiting for him when he arrived, her eyes shining with excitement. Books were piled around her and she was grinning wildly.

“Hello there,” she said breathlessly, giving him a quick kiss as Draco settled next to her. Draco started, still not used to the affection. “I’ve had an idea, tell me what you think.”

With that, she started handing him different books that she’d gathered. Draco glanced at the covers as Ginny passed them to him. Practical Defensive Magic at an Advanced Level, Vile Hexes for the Clever and Vexed, and Darker Forces: A Continued Guide to Self-Protection were among the many.

“I realise you’re already studying up on Healing magic, but I think it’d benefit us both to go over Defensive magic, too, as well as some lesser-known, but still useful Charms. What do you think?”

Draco eyed her skeptically. “How’re we going to teach ourselves this stuff?” he asked, gesturing to the piles of books.

A faint blush appeared under Ginny’s freckles. “Well,” she began carefully, “I already know quite a bit of it. Ha-- er, my friends and I learned a bunch the year that foul Umbridge woman taught Defense.”

Realising what Ginny meant, Draco just nodded to show his understanding. He hated when they had to bring up Potter. Even though he recognised that Potter was a large part of Ginny’s life, and that there were still unresolved feelings there, he couldn’t help the jealousy that bubbled in his stomach. Ignoring it, he focussed on what Ginny was telling him.

“I just think that we should do whatever we can to help us survive this…” she trailed off, tilting her head in question. “Are you listening?”

Draco nodded again. “I’m listening. And I think it’s brilliant.” He gave her a grim smile. “It’s slightly embarrassing that you’re going to teach me, but in return I’ll teach you a bit about the Dark Arts.”

Ginny’s eyes widened and her mouth dropped open in an ‘O’ shape.

“Not like that!” Draco hurried to correct himself. “More like, what you can really expect from them. Maybe it’ll be enough to keep you alive, and you can pass along the information to your family or whoever in the Order…”

A crazed smile grew on Ginny’s face. “Draco Malfoy, the spy. Who woud’ve thought?”

Draco just huffed and shrugged his shoulders, turning his attention to the books, but Ginny put a hand on his cheek, redirecting his gaze back to her.

“I mean it, Draco,” she whispered. “What you’re doing -- it’s so incredibly dangerous and unbelievably brave. You’re amazing, you know that?”

He didn’t quite know how to answer, but he didn’t have to. Ginny pressed her lips to his with such a fierceness yet so much tenderness that he thought his heart would break out of his chest. Savouring the feeling, Draco held her close to him. Ginny broke off too soon, turning to dig through the books.

“Let’s start with this on. Disillusionment Charms… I know you’re due to start studying that soon but it wouldn’t hurt to go over the theory of it.”

The work was exhausting, but made easier by the fact that he was working with Ginny. She forced him to study the theory -- even the history -- of the Charms they wanted to learn, mentioning a friend who had suggested that it would help with the actual wandwork. Draco rolled his eyes at that, knowing full well it was Granger who’d be so obsessive over studying. They continued well into the evening, and when they heard Madam Pince’s faint announcement from the front of the Library that it was almost curfew, Draco pulled at Ginny’s hand in a silent plea for her to wait.

“Can you meet me in the broom closet up there?” he asked, knowing Ginny would know which closet he was thinking of.

She nodded, then disappeared down the hall. Draco took a different route to the seventh floor, dodging under a tapestry a few times to avoid anyone he knew. With a quick glance around to make sure he wouldn’t be seen, he slid into the broom closet. He shut the door tightly behind him, leaning against it to ensure no one would interrupt them. Ginny was leaning against the opposite wall, an impish smile playing on her lips.

“If someone had told me last year that I’d be in a broom cupboard with Draco Malfoy, of all people, I’d have said--”

“Ginny, I-- I’m sorry. For what I said a few days ago, about the Muggles. I didn’t mean it, really, it’s just--”

“I understand,” she said, taking his hand in hers and giving it a reassuring squeeze. “I shouldn’t have reacted like that -- I was stressed. With everything going on, and Luna, and -- I should have been more understanding. I’m sorry.”

Relief flooded into Draco. He felt like a giant weight had been lifted off his shoulders, and he gathered Ginny into his arms.

“I really care about you,” he murmured into her hair. The red locks tickled his face. “I just -- I don’t want you to hate me for who I was.”

“I care about you, too,” said Ginny, pulling away from him. “I know that’s not who you are anymore. And don’t worry -- you’re not getting rid of me that easily.” The playful smile returned. Draco could almost read her thoughts, and spoke quickly, trying to suppress his own grin.

“Ginny, I know we’re in a broom closet, but--”

“But what?” she asked coyly, her eyebrow raised. Laughing, Draco hugged her again.

“But it’s almost curfew, and that’s not why I wanted you to meet me here, and I want you to know that I really respect you and--”

Ginny laughed with him. “I’m aware of each of those things,” she said, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him closer. “And I don’t really care.” She leaned forward, waiting for him to meet her halfway.

“I don’t want you to get in trouble…”

His voice wavered, and Ginny’s lips quirked upward, knowing she had already won. She kissed him gently, smiling against his mouth.

“You won’t,” she whispered. Draco breathed a soft chuckle before letting himself get lost in Ginny.




Chapter 15: The Patronus and the Fight
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 Author's note: I do not own anything HP. 

This story is a featured story for February 2018 on HPFF, and I couldn't be more excited or honored! Thank you to everyone who has supported me and this story, and who have stuck with it.




“Wait.”

Ginny pulled away suddenly, breathing hard. Her hands were tangled in Draco’s shaggy blonde hair. One leg was hitched around Draco’s hip. He had her pressed against the door of the broom closet and began trailing soft kisses along Ginny’s jaw.

“What is it?” he asked, pausing to meet her eyes.

Ginny reached for Draco’s arm, squinting at his gold watch. After a moment she sighed.

“I’ve got to go,” she said softly. She gave him an apologetic smile. “I promised them I’d be there tonight…”

Draco didn’t need further explanation. They’d silently agreed that Ginny wouldn’t give him any specifics. There was no telling if or when the Dark Lord would attempt to explore Draco’s mind again, and the risk was still there. Ginny was less worried about herself than “them”, as she had put it, but Draco’s fear for Ginny’s safety squashed his curiosity.

He reluctantly loosened his grip on her, smoothing down her messy hair. He’d done quite a number on it.

Ginny sensed his thoughts and laughed. “Don’t bother,” she said, pulling it out of the ponytail.

Draco watched her for a moment, drinking in the sight of her. In the faded light he could barely make out her lips, swollen from kissing, and her disheveled appearance. Her blouse was twisted around her small waist. Draco imagined he looked similar, and adjusted his own robes self-consciously.

Ginny ran a hand through Draco’s hair. “I like your hair like this,” she breathed, giving him one last kiss. Her fingers lingered at the nape of Draco’s neck, playing with the ends of his hair before she pulled away again.

“Be careful, Ginny,” Draco begged. He knew Ginny wasn’t going to listen, she was too fierce, too determined. But he had to be confident that, whatever it was that she was getting up to, she’d take care of herself.

She smiled at him. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I’m just staying in the Room of Requirement tonight. Nothing dangerous. No one can get in.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “Except me, apparently,” he drawled.

“I’ve got some theories on that, but I’m still don’t quite understand. We were so specific…” She trailed off, her eyebrows knitting in frustration as she looked blankly at the wall behind Draco. With a shake of her head, she looked back at him. “I’ll go first.”

He nodded and stepped away from the door. Ginny stepped out, glanced around her, and tip-toed down the hall. The lamps were barely burning, and Draco had to squint his eyes to follow Ginny’s movements. She paced back and forth in front of a bare stretch of wall, pausing when a nondescript wooden door appeared in the stone wall. With one hand on the door handle she looked back at Draco. The door was pulled open from the other side, and Ginny quickly slipped inside.

Draco waited a minute before leaving the broom closet. As he passed the wall where he knew the Room of Requirement was, he pressed his ear against the stone for a moment. It was silent. Feeling like an idiot, he rolled his eyes at himself and continued down the hall toward the staircase.

------

For some idiotic reason, the teachers were still preparing students for end-of-year exams. Draco’s already-full schedule became more intense with more homework than he’d ever been given thus far at Hogwarts. Combined with Defense practice with Ginny, Draco barely had a free moment.

Ginny had been surprised at how quickly Draco learned the new Charms and Defense spells they’d been working on. Draco tried not to bristle at her astonishment, and grit his teeth every time she clapped her hands in joy. They’d found a dusty, forgotten classroom on the top floor, near the Divination tower. No one ever went up there, and they felt quite safe to speak and practice. So far they’d only tried a few new things, such as practising disarming and Stunning, and Ginny wanted to try Patronus Charms soon.

“What if I can’t produce one?” asked Draco gloomily when Ginny had brought it up.

“Well, you’ll never do it with that attitude,” scolded Ginny, but she was hiding a grin. “It’s intimidating at first, of course, but once you get the hang of it, it comes quite easily.”

Draco mulled over this for a moment before asking what Ginny’s Patronus was.

“A horse,” she said simply. “A mare. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” She sighed, apparently lost in the memory.

Draco huffed. “I’m sure it was easy for you,” he said. “With The Amazing Chosen Boy Who Did Everything teaching you.”

Ginny’s eyes flashed dangerously.

“It’s not about who is teaching you, or who is learning,” she snapped. “It’s about actually being willing to try and have hope that you’ll succeed. That’s what it comes down to -- hope.”

Draco had to admit, she knew what she was talking about. Despite being so sour about the whole thing, Ginny stuck with him, helping him find on a happy memory. Draco focussed on his memories with Giny, because those were the obvious choice, and tried three, seven, twelve times...

“I can’t do it,” Draco announced sorely after his fifteenth attempt. He hated himself for not being able to do one thing, and that Ginny was already so good at it. “Let’s just move on.”

Ginny shook her head. “You’re not trying hard enough--”

“I’m trying plenty hard!” Draco growled, folding his arms in front of him defensively.

“Not hard enough then! What memory are you thinking of, anyway?”

Draco’s irritation melted into shyness. “Er…” He paused, his face flushing embarrassingly. The truth was he had been thinking of their time alone in the train lavatory before Christmas Break. “Er… When you kissed me on the train?”

Ginny grinned at him. “Nice.” She pulled him down by the front of his robes and kissed him gently. “But it’s not good enough. Think, Draco. Take a moment and think,” she said, stepping away from him. With a quick motion she slid against the wall and sank to the floor, looking up at him.

Draco thought hard for a few minutes. Really, the happiest memories he could think of at the moment were all about Ginny. Closing his eyes, he remembered what it was like falling for her. The trust she put in him and the faith she seemed to have in him, even from the beginning. He thought about how it felt kissing her, holding her, and how much better his life was just because she was in it.

An ugly thought entered his mind then, and he unwillingly imagined what life would be like without Ginny -- not just now, but after. After Hogwarts, after the Dark Lord…and not just Ginny, but his mother and father, Blaise, everyone he’d ever bothered to care about.

A determination he’d never felt rose in his chest, and he raised his wand.

“Expecto Patronum!”

Silver mist flowed out of his wand. It was weak, but it was there. Not wanting to lose it, he concentrated harder on what he was feeling, and almost shouted the incantation.

“Expecto...Patronum!”

The mist began to take shape, forming itself into an unexpectedly large creature that bounded out of Draco's wand, taking off in flight. In less than a second the figure had dissolved, but Draco pumped his fist in triumph.

“Yes!” he whooped, about ready to jump up and down with excitement. “Yes! I did it! I did it. Ginny, did you see it?”

He turned to look at her and caught sight of her surprised face. Her mouth was hanging open, slowly forming into a grin.

“What was that?” she asked excitedly.

Draco shrugged. “Not sure,” he replied. “Should I try again?”

Ginny nodded emphatically. Draco raised his wand again, focussed, and shouted, “Expecto Patronum!”

Somehow he knew he’d it would be easier this time, but it still caught him off guard when, once again, the massive figure charged out the tip of his wand. The brightness of it blinded Draco for a moment, but he held his ground. After his eyes had adjusted, the silver vapour had transformed into a giant Hippogriff, standing proudly in front of Draco. It was so real, so lifelike that Draco almost shrunk away from it. Previous experience with such a creature had ended in pain and embarrassment. He chanced a glance at Ginny and she was watching in awe. The Hippogriff spread its wings and flapped impatiently. The sudden movement broke Draco’s concentration, and the Hippogriff evaporated.

Speechless, Draco sank to the floor beside Ginny.

“Wow,” was all he could say. Ginny took his hand and they both stared at the spot where the Hippogriff had vanished. The brightness had been so vivid that every time Draco blinked, he could still see the silhouette of the creature imprinted against his eyelids.  

“It makes sense,” said Ginny after a few minutes. “Hippogriffs are strong, powerful...proud…” She nudged Draco playfully.

“What were you thinking about anyway?” she asked.

Draco didn’t respond at first, trying to figure out how to put it into words. Ginny’s face colored slightly and she fiddled with the hem of her robes.

“You don’t have to tell me if it’s personal…”

“No, it’s fine,” said Draco, giving her hand a squeeze. “It’s difficult to describe, is all. I thought about you, of course.” Ginny bit her lip to hide her pleased smile and leaned her head against Draco’s shoulder. “I thought about what the world would be like if the Dark Lord wins.”

“That doesn’t seem very happy.” said Ginny, frowning slightly.

“I suppose it’s not,” Draco agreed. “But that wasn’t really it.” He struggled to explain. “It’s like...I imagined what it would be like if all the light in my life had gone out of the world, and I was determined to prevent that from happening…to be able to imagine a better life, a better world…” He stuttered over the words. “Am I making any sense?”

Ginny was staring at him with such an expression of awe that Draco almost felt uncomfortable.

“That’s called hope, Draco.”

------

Draco and Ginny continued to meet sporadically in the empty classroom over the following weeks. Draco was becoming quite good at mastering his Patronus, although Ginny warned him it’d be more difficult when actually facing a real Dementor.

“I wish we could just go out by the gates and practice,” Ginny had mused, laughing at Draco’s horrified expression at the thought of it.

With exams drawing closer every day, the homework was piling up. Draco couldn’t care less -- he didn’t give a flying newt’s eye if he passed or failed at this point. It wasn’t like it mattered, and there were bigger things to be worrying about. But the other students were feeling the pressure of the upcoming exams, particularly the other Seventh Years. The older Slytherins were becoming even more snappish and domineering than usual, taking out their stress on Muggleborns and Half-Bloods. Arguments between classmates were erupting too often, and the teachers had begun to escort their students to their next class instead of sending them on their way in an effort to keep the peace. The Carrow siblings were still over punishments, and thrived on the animosity between Houses and students.

One terrible afternoon Draco was walking with his Slytherin classmates out of Charms, listening to Pansy and Blaise bicker about the amount of studying and homework they’d been assigned. The extensive essays would undoubtedly carry over into the Easter Break that was coming up, but Draco was lost in thoughts about Hippogriffs and Dementors.

“I’m just saying, Pans, it’s a bit of a given--”

“And I’m just saying that the teachers ought to let up on us a little. I mean, we’re Purebloods for Merlin’s sake, and that awful Half-breed should treat us with the respect we deserve!”

“He’s just doing his job--”

“Blaise, it’s no use arguing with her,” Draco drawled, just wanting them to shut up already. He immediately regretted getting involved as Pansy rounded on him.

“What’s that supposed to mean!?” she snapped.

Sighing, Draco ignored her and kept walking. If he could only get through the day, and then he could meet with Ginny after dinner…

They turned a corner, running straight into another group of students. Draco’s stomach dropped when he saw that it was Ginny, for once not accompanied by her "bodyguards", as Draco called them. Distracted, Pansy redirected her temper onto a new victim. One of her favourite hobbies was bullying others in an attempt to make her feel better about herself. With Pansy already on edge, Ginny couldn’t have picked a worse time to walk down that corridor.

Weasley,” she sneered, her thin lips curling into a smile. She stepped in front of Ginny, blocking her path. The other girls stepped back warily. Draco watched the scene play out through wide eyes, not wanting to do anything rash. A quick glance at Blaise beside him proved he was feeling much the same shock at the situation.

“The Chosen Boy’s little girlfriend,” she purred, her voice sickly sweet. “Tell me, darling, does your heart just ache because your lover’s not here anymore?”

Ginny rolled her eyes slightly, but didn’t respond. She tried to shove past Pansy but the pug-faced girl blocked her way again.

“I wonder how he’s keeping warm at night,” Pansy continued, refusing to give up her fun. “He’s got that Granger girl with him, I’m assuming? I wouldn’t worry too much about it, though.” She stopped right in front of Ginny and patted her shoulder condecendingly, and leaned in. “He’ll be dead soon.”

To anyone else it would seem that Ginny was wholly unaffected by Pansy’s words, but Draco saw the tightening of Ginny’s jaw, watched her fingers twitch. Stay calm, Ginny, he pleaded silently. Don’t let her get to you… Don’t let her win…

“Come on, Pansy, leave it, I’m hungry,” drawled Draco, trying his best to sound bored instead of the panic he was feeling. One wrong move and everything would be ruined.

Any remaining students in the corridor spread out, pressing themselves against the walls. This had been a long time coming. Pansy had been on the warpath for weeks, her frustration and stress building up to this breaking point, and it was no secret that Pansy hated Ginny, for whatever reason.

Ginny’s silence only irritated Pansy further. Her eyes narrowed as she stepped closer to Ginny, lowering her voice.

“Just you wait, Blood-Traitor,” she seethed. “Your time is up. After all this, there won’t be a Pure-Blood in Britain who will touch you, except to use you to help replenish the Wizarding population.”

Although Ginny held her head high, Draco could sense her composure breaking. Ginny was not a patient person, and wouldn’t tolerate Pansy breathing in her face for long. And then, almost involuntarily, Ginny’s eyes flit towards Draco. It happened so quickly that Draco almost thought he imagined it. Time stood still for a moment as an unsettling grin spread on Pansy’s lips.

“Fine,” she said, too calmly. “We’re done here.” She stepped away from Ginny suddenly.

“Draco, love. Let’s skip dinner,” said Pansy seductively, wrapping her arm around Draco’s waist and threading her fingers through his belt under his robes. Her eyes never left Ginny’s, taunting her, bating her. Somehow that one look gave Pansy reason to suspect something. Draco stood frozen, watching as time seemed to slow down.

It had the desired effect. In the time it took Pansy to exhale, Ginny had curled her fingers into a fist and took a swing at Pansy. The blow hit -- right into the side of Pansy’s bosom.

Draco’s mouth dropped open as Pansy shrieked and doubled over, clutching her chest. She reached for her wand, but not quickly enough. Another punch was thrown, this time hitting its mark. Pansy’s already-squashed nose crunched sickeningly as Ginny’s first plunged into it. Draco and Blaise shared a horrified and awed glance, still rooted to the spot, as Ginny threw another punch, hitting Pansy’s jaw. By then, Pansy had begun to fight back. She shoved Ginny hard, sending her to the ground. Before Ginny could pull herself to her feet, Pansy had her wand out, blood streaming down her face, and sent a Jelly-legs Jinx at her.

Ginny collapsed again, but quickly rolled to the side to dodge what looked like the Furnunculus Jinx. She managed to dig her wand out of her pocket and pointed it at Pansy.

“Flipendo!” Ginny yelled.

Pansy’s arms flailed as she went careening backwards. One of her arms smacked Draco in the face, breaking him out of his trance. He lunged towards Ginny but Blaise held him back, whispering warnings.

Ginny cast a Shield Charm as lightning shot out of Pansy’s wand. The spell ricocheted towards the wall, narrowly missing the students who had paused to watch the spectacle. Another bolt of lightning was hurled towards Ginny, this time cutting through her Shield. Pansy flicked her wand again, not speaking, and a thick blindfold appeared over Ginny’s eyes. Ginny clawed at the cloth desperately.

“Defodio!” hissed Pansy.

Ginny dove out of the way, avoiding the full force of the curse. A scream of pain escaped her as the spell ripped through the side of her body. Blood began to seep through her robes, dripping down the tip of her wand. She successfully pulled off the blindfold and hurled herself at Pansy with a scream of fury. Not even bothering magic, she grabbed Pansy’s arm and twisted until Pansy cried out and dropped her wand. Ginny pinned Pansy to the ground, her fists laying into every inch of Pansy that she could reach.

Draco finally broke away from Blaise.

“Weasley, enough!” he yelled and yanked Ginny off the ground. Pansy rolled over, moaning.

“Filthy...blood-traitor…” She spat blood out of her mouth, but laughed viciously. “I’ll kill you for this.”

“Pansy, you’re insane,” he growled, hauling her to her feet. His fingers closed around the back of Ginny’s robes. It looked like he was holding her away from Pansy, when really he was holding Ginny upright. Blood flowed down her arm, soaking her sleeves. Her face was deathly white. She stuffed her hand into a pocket of her robes, muttering under her breath.

“All right, show’s over! Off to dinner!” shouted Blaise, ushering the shocked students out of the corridor. “Pans, come on, Hospital Wing.” He lifted Pansy into his arms and she fainted dramatically. Blaise rolled his eyes. “Are you going to be okay with that one?” His voice was rough but his eyes were full of concern.

Not trusting his voice, Draco just nodded. He cleared his throat. “Yeah, not sure what I’m going to do with her…” He trailed off as his voice lost strength. She was so pale. Her whole body trembled with the effort to stay standing as blood continued to soak her robes.

Blaise took off with Pansy towards the Hospital Wing. Without warning, Ginny’s knees buckled, sending them both to the ground.

“You’ve got to go,” Ginny said, barely more than a whisper. “I’ll be fine, I’ve called Neville, he’ll patch me up.”

“You called Longbottom?” he asked incredulously, but he couldn’t think of that now. He shook his head to clear his thoughts. “Whatever. Gin, listen, it’s Vulnera Sanetur, it’ll close the wounds. Vulnera Sanetur, do you understand?”

She nodded almost imperceptibly before shoving him away from her. “Get away from me!” she snarled. There were still a few students lingering in the corridor. Although Draco understood that it was all for show, it still hurt that he couldn’t stay with her, couldn’t help.

A pair of hands grabbed him suddenly and threw him to the side. Longbottom and Finnegan had materialized out of seemingly nowhere. Longbottom lifted Ginny into his arms with such an ease that Draco was shocked -- he hadn’t expected the round-faced boy to have such strength.

Finnegan stepped in front of Draco, blocking his view. “What’d you do to her?” he accused in his Irish accent. Draco just shook his head.

“Pansy.”

Finnegan looked at him skeptically before nodding and following Longbottom towards the stairs. With a sigh of relief, Draco realised they were taking Ginny to the Room of Requirement. As much as he hated that he couldn’t be the one to help her himself, he was glad that at least someone was able to. He turned away quickly, darting into a nearby bathroom to wash Ginny’s blood off his hands. They shook as he rinsed them, the water turning pink in the basin.







 


Chapter 16: PLEASE READ
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Hi all,

I'm sure by now you all have seen the latest news, that HPFF is shutting down. I'm so, so sad to have to say goodbye to this site. I feel like I just found this amazing place with people like me, and I'm not ready for it to all end. To all of my readers, thank you for sticking with me! Becoming a Trusted Author and a Featured Story on HPFF was so incredible and exciting and I couldn't have done it without you all. I love all of your reviews and comments and compliments. You are all so wonderful!

My stories can be found on HPFT archives under the same penname, BBHP. I'm also on the HPFT forums as bahneebee.

I promise I haven't given up on Draco and Ginny here, and their story isn't over! Life has been so crazy over here, and I'm hoping to get back to writing soon.

Love you all,

BBHP

Here is a sneak peek at the next chapter...with a little reference to HP and the Half-blood Prince, chapter 24






She’s fine, Draco told himself for what seemed the hundredth time. She’s fine, she knows what she’s doing. You told her about the Healing spell…

Vulnera Sanetur had been the words Snape had chanted while waving his wand over Draco’s lifeless body after Potter had attacked him the previous year. He could only hope that it would work for whatever stupid curse Pansy had used against Ginny.

He was pacing in his dormitory. Everyone else was still at dinner, but Draco knew he wouldn’t be able to stomach any food. Ginny had been attacked, right in front of him, and he just stood there like some idiot spectator. He didn’t do anything about it, just watched, frozen, as Pansy literally ripped into Ginny. Of course, Ginny held her own just fine -- he doubted even Madam Pomfrey would be able to fully correct Pansy’s broken nose -- but it was humiliating for Draco to know he had the chance to defend his girl and he didn’t do anything.

It was for the best, Draco told himself. Pansy couldn’t find out about him and Ginny -- no one could find out. It was bad enough that Ginny reacted when she did, giving Pansy -- and everyone, really -- any reason to suspect anything was going on between him and Ginny. The thought made his chest grow tight with anxiety and he came to a crushing realisation: He couldn’t see Ginny anymore.

 It was the only sure way to keep her safe. Not just from Pansy -- he was quite sure Ginny would destroy Pansy if she came near her again, and Pansy probably knew it -- but from any chance that rumours of him and Ginny could reach The Dark Lord or any of his minions. They would jump at the opportunity to exploit their relationship for gain, to control Draco, Ginny’s family, even Potter would do anything to protect Ginny. It’s why Potter broke up with Ginny in the first place, Draco remembered.

The resolution made Draco’s stomach turn. He left the dormitory quickly, forgoing his robes. There were still blood stains on his white uniform button-up but he couldn’t care less at the moment. He needed to see Ginny.
 

.......to be continued (elsewhere, sadly).....


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