A/N: I really like this chapter. I wish I could have made it longer, but since I've already written the entire story, there's only so much I could do. Oh, well. It turned out pretty nicely anyway, in my opinion.
Disclaimer: You know the drill. Despite my most ardent wishes, I still don't own any single bit of this aside from the plot.
“I wish they would let us go to Hogsmeade,” Ginny was saying. “There’s nothing to do on a Saturday except study.”
Neville nodded in agreement. They were sitting in the Gryffindor common room, going over their homework assignments. “Tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day, you know,” he said, glancing at her out of the corner of his eye.
Ginny was a bit surprised at that. “Well, yes.” She looked at him questioningly.
He sighed. “Neither of us has a date. Everyone is going to be with someone special. Except us.”
Ginny blushed. She hadn’t told anyone about Draco yet, and the only time they’d been seen together was that time they’d gone into the Great Hall together, so it wasn’t as if anyone could have figured it out, especially with their denials and explanations.
They hadn’t actually made any plans for the holiday, but she hoped they would do something. She had sent an order by owl to buy a gift for him. Right now, a brand new pair of Quidditch gloves were hidden in her trunk waiting to be given to him. They had cost her a good portion of her saved money and she was very excited about them.
Neville continued, “We’ll be stuck doing the usual stuff.” He glanced down at his hands nervously. “Er… Ginny? Would you like to… er… hang out with me tomorrow?”
“Oh, Neville,” Ginny sighed.
He cut her off. “I know you and Harry were going out and you only broke up because of You-Know-Who so it won’t be anything really serious, but I just thought that you might want to hang out because we won’t have anything else to do. As a friend. I mean, you don’t have to. I just wondered.”
Ginny put her hand on his arm. “Neville…” She paused. How am I going to explain this to him? “I kind of have plans,” she said slowly. I’m sorry.”
Neville seemed to relax as he said, “Okay. That’s fine.” He closed his book. “I was just curious.”
Ginny stood up and stretched. “I’m going to take these back to the library,” she told him, pointing towards her pile of Transfiguration books.
Neville nodded absently, picking out another book from his own stack.
Ginny smiled fondly at the top of his head. He’d always been such a good friend to her. In her third year, he’d asked her to the Yule Ball because she’d desperately wanted to go and no one else would ask her.
Leaning down, she gave him a friendly kiss on the cheek. “Thank you, Neville,” she said. “You’re a great friend.”
Neville gave her a shy grin as she gathered up her books. “It’s nothing.”
As she left the common room, Ginny wondered where Draco was. He hadn’t been in the Great Hall for breakfast, nor had he been anywhere else. He’s probably sleeping in, enjoying a lazy morning, she told herself.
In the library, Ginny put away her books and greeted a couple of friends. They talked for a few minutes, mainly about extravagant plans for the upcoming holiday, then Ginny waved good-bye and made a hurried escape. She didn’t know what she was going to do next, but she definitely didn’t want to sit with a bunch of giggly girls and pretend to be enjoying herself.
Once she left the library, holding her wand just in case, she stopped. After a moment’s thought, she headed back to Gryffindor Tower. At least there she wouldn’t be alone. Maybe she could challenge someone to a game of wizard’s chess. She’d become really good, what with playing with Ron while he was still around.
About halfway there, Ginny finally saw Draco. He was several feet ahead of her, walking slowly, as if deep in thought. She walked faster and called, “Draco!” She caught up and slipped her hand into his, intending to pull him into a nearby classroom, but he gave a slight yelp and jerked it away.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. She tried to look into his eyes, but he turned his head away from her.
“Nothing,” he told her shortly. Draco tucked his hands under his arms, unwilling to let her see them.
Ginny refused to be put off that easily, however, and pulled him to a stop in the hallway. She gently grabbed his arm and took his hand back out.
Draco clenched his fist and tried to pull away again. His hand throbbed beneath his fingers, but he didn’t want to let go.
Ginny held him firmly and said, “Draco. Let me see.” She prised his fingers up easily a she wasn’t holding them very tightly. She gasped when she saw his palm.
In the center was a blackened, burned-looking circle surrounded by a red ring. Little red streaks extended outward towards his wrist and fingers. Ginny looked up at Draco in horror.
“Bloody hell, Draco!” she exclaimed. “What happened?”
Draco looked around cautiously, then pulled Ginny into the nearest room, closing the door behind them. She pulled his hand closer to her as he set a locking charm and reached to touch the wound, but hesitated, settling for gently cupping his hand. It looked awfully painful and she didn’t want to accidentally make it worse.
Draco settled himself stiffly in a chair and sighed. Ginny sat next to him and urged, “Please tell me. What happened to your hand?”
Slowly he told her of his visit to his father. A couple of times, Ginny had to give him some encouragement. When he reached the part where Lucius attacked him, she gasped and tears filled her eyes. “How could he do that?” she asked. She shook her head incredulously.
Draco snorted. “My father has no qualms about using such methods to get what he wants. He certainly wouldn’t hesitate to kill me if I displeased him.”
“That’s awful,” Ginny murmured. “Does it still hurt?” She ran her fingers along the back of the hand she was still holding.
Draco shrugged. “Not too bad. Mostly it just throbs.”
Ginny leaned forward and, as gently as she could, laid a kiss against his palm. “I wish I could make it better.”
“You just did,” he replied. Draco lifted his uninjured hand and stroked her cheek, smirking as she leaned into his touch. “Just having you here makes it hurt less.”
Ginny smiled. “That’s really sweet, Draco. I never thought I’d hear you say something so sensitive.”
“Me neither. But it’s true. I really do feel better.”
Ginny moved to kiss his cheek, but he turned his head and captured her lips with his. His hand cupped the back of her neck and pulled her closer. Ginny grinned and happily accepted this change.
They pulled apart and stared at each other for a minute. Ginny thought to herself that if someone had told her last year that she would be in love with Draco Malfoy, she would have suggested mental care. She inwardly shook her head at how things had worked out.
Aloud she said, “This is too dangerous. You shouldn’t go back to your father anymore if he’s going to be doing this.”
“Worried about me?” Draco asked huskily.
“It’s just that… this time it was just a curse. What if next time…” she paused and dropped her voice to a whisper. “What if next time he kills you?”
Draco sighed. “I hope it doesn’t come to that. But if I don’t go back he certainly will kill me. It wouldn’t be too hard for him to manage, either. The Floo Network is being monitored by the Death Eaters and they wouldn’t mind him coming here to Hogwarts.
"Besides, I have to do this. I have to keep putting them on the wrong path. If I don't do it, they'll get someone else; someone on their side. Then they'd be getting the right information and the school would be in danger.”
Ginny fell silent, then she stood and pulled him up with her. “Come on, little ferret. I’ll take you to Madam Pomfrey.”
Draco grinned at the nickname and allowed her to lead him out of the room and towards one of their secret passageways. “I really don’t want to go.”
“Don’t worry. She’ll know what to do.”
Madam Pomfrey ended up just wrapping his hand in a length of gauze, making his whole arm feel weighted down. She told him that it would heal by itself in a couple of days and until then to keep it bandaged and avoid using it as much as he could.
When Draco and Ginny prepared to go their separate ways again, he asked her to meet him in the kitchens after lunch the next day for Valentine’s Day. Ginny happily agreed and left, giving him a quick peck on the cheek.
A/N: Yeah... I told you it was short. But you liked it anyway, right? I'm really anxious to 'hear' your thoughts. Just right down there. See the box? Looks kind of empty doesn't it? Thank you to all of my reviewers! You guys are super special! Loves!
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