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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.

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