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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.

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