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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.


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