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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.







 

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