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References to HPHBP, chapter 24

 

She’s fine, Draco told himself for what seemed the hundredth time. She’s fine, she knows what she’s doing. You told her about the Healing spell…

 

Vulnera Sanetur had been the words Snape had chanted while waving his wand over Draco’s lifeless body after *Potter had attacked him the previous year. He could only hope that it would work for whatever stupid curse Pansy had used against Ginny.

 

He was pacing in his dormitory. Everyone else was still at dinner, but Draco knew he wouldn’t be able to stomach any food. Ginny had been attacked, right in front of him, and he just stood there like some idiot spectator. He didn’t do anything about it, just watched, frozen, as Pansy literally ripped into Ginny. Of course, Ginny held her own just fine -- he doubted even Madam Pomfrey would be able to fully correct Pansy’s broken nose -- but it was humiliating for Draco to know he had the chance to defend his girl and he didn’t do anything.

 

It was for the best, Draco told himself. Pansy couldn’t find out about him and Ginny -- no one could find out. It was bad enough that Ginny reacted when she did, giving Pansy -- and everyone, really -- any reason to suspect anything was going on between him and Ginny. The thought made his chest grow tight with anxiety and he came to a crushing realisation: He couldn’t see Ginny anymore.

 

It was the only sure way to keep her safe. Not just from Pansy -- he was quite sure Ginny would destroy Pansy if she came near her again -- but from any chance that rumours of him and Ginny could reach The Dark Lord or any of his minions. They would jump at the opportunity to exploit their relationship for gain, to control Draco, Ginny’s family, even Potter would do anything to protect Ginny. It’s why Potter broke up with Ginny in the first place, Draco remembered.

 

The resolution made Draco’s stomach turn. He left the dormitory quickly, forgoing his robes. There were still blood stains on his white uniform button-up but he couldn’t care less at the moment. He needed to see Ginny.

 

Knowing that Madame Pomfrey had already healed Pansy (the girl had been moaning in her own dormitory ever since), Draco felt somewhat safe checking into the Hospital Wing to see if Ginny had been brought there. Surely Longbottom, of all people, wouldn’t be able to fully heal Ginny’s injuries. Especially after the curse Pansy had thrust her way… Hopefully Longbottom had had the sense to take Ginny to the Hospital Wing instead of going it alone.

 

Draco’s hopes were confirmed when he peeked around the corner to see both Longbottom and Finnegan outside the Hospital Wing, standing with their arms folded like some sort of guards. Rolling his eyes in annoyance, Draco shot a couple of well-aimed, nonverbal Confundus charms at the pair. The boys almost immediately blundered away from the entrance to the Hospital Wing and disappeared in the opposite direction.

 

Carefully slipping into the Hospital Wing, Draco leapt behind one of the curtains that surrounded a hospital bed when he heard Madame Pomfrey leave her office. The old woman bustled past, not seeing Draco, and he almost sighed with relief. Once again, he almost risked everything. He crouched down by the bed and peeked under the curtain. Madame Pomfrey was standing in front of another hospital bed, handing a potion to a very battered Ginny. The curse had been worse than Draco had initially thought. Ginny was in her undershirt, and from behind the curtain Draco could see bruises and gouges peppered across her body. The injuries already looked a few days old, but Draco knew that was only because either Longbottom or Pomfrey had already healed them as much as possible.

 

Stupid Pansy, Draco thought bitterly. The Gouging spell wasn’t made for use on humans. He highly doubted if the scars would ever fully fade, much like the Sectumsempra scars Ginny had across her back. Maybe, over time, they’d blend with the freckles on Ginny’s skin, but until then she would have even more silver-white scars marring her body.

 

Madame Pomfrey headed back to her office, firmly shutting the door behind her. Draco stayed hidden, watching Ginny finish off the potion with a look of distaste. The elixir must have had some sort of sleeping additive, and Ginny’s eyes slid shut after a few moments, her body relaxing into the crisp white sheets.

 

Draco sat back against the wall. He’d let Ginny sleep, but he wouldn’t leave the Hospital Wing until he’d spoken to her. As he waited for time to pass, he desperately racked his brain for any other solution -- anything except cutting ties between him and Ginny. She was too important, he realised, too special to him. He couldn’t risk something like that happening again. If something happened to her… His stomach turned at the thought and he shook the thoughts from his head.

 

He’d never cared so much for someone before. The love he felt for Ginny--

 

Wait. Love?

 

It was the first time the thought had crossed his mind, and his face warmed as he realised that it was true. He was unquestioningly in love with Ginny Weasley.

 

He breathed a quiet laugh at his own stupidity. How had he let himself do such a thing?! He had quite literally fallen for the enemy, and although he considered himself on her side now (on their side) he was quickly overwhelmed by the danger of it. That, combined with the jarring awareness that his Mark hadn’t burned in weeks, had Draco on the floor trying to suppress a full-blown panic attack. He took deep breaths, trying not to draw attention to his hiding place, and managed to calm himself a little.

 

He pulled the curtain aside a bit to peek into the Hospital Wing. The lamps had been doused sometime during Draco’s minor panic attack, and the only light came from the moon, filtering through the long drapes by the windows.

 

More time must have passed than Draco thought. There was no light coming from the crack under Madame Pomfrey’s office door, confirming that she had long since gone to bed.

 

Draco stepped out from his hiding place and made his way to Ginny’s bed, closing the curtains around it. He sat down gingerly, not wanting to wake her, but Ginny reacted immediately, pulling her wand out from beneath her pillow and aiming it right between Draco’s wide eyes. Frozen, Draco just sat there staring cross-eyed at the tip of the wand. It was stupid of him to sneak up on her like that.

 

As Ginny recognised Draco, the corners of her lips turned upward, and she lowered her wand.

 

“Hey, stranger,” she croaked, coughing a bit. Dropping her wand on the table next to her, she reached for a glass of water and took a sip. “You come here often?”

 

Draco shook his head in disbelief at how nonchalant Ginny could be about her situation. The hospital sheets still covered most of her, but he could see in the moonlight the new scars across one shoulder. Lost for words, he took her hand as he tried to figure out how to say what he needed to.

 

“You could have died,” he finally whispered. “Because of me. Pansy sensed there was something...between us...and she took it and ran with it.”

 

Ginny’s eyes hardened. Somehow she sensed what was on Draco’s mind, and she obviously didn’t like it one bit.

 

“I know what you’re going to say,” she said in a strong voice, all playfulness gone. “And I don’t care.”

 

“Ginny--”

 

“No.” She tightened her grip on his hand as he tried to pull away. “You’re not going to be noble or self sacrificing. I’ve had quite enough of that.”

 

Realising what she implying, Draco stiffened. Perhaps he was a bit like Potter after all, even if the thought disgusted him.

 

“But Ginny,” he argued, pinching the bridge of his nose with his free hand. “To keep you safe--”

 

“I’m not safe either way! I am so sick of people deciding things for me,” she snapped. “Haven’t I told you? I’m not some -- some damsel in distress. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, and I know the risks involved. I’m not going to let you run away from me because of some threat. And either way I’m in danger; are you going to take away what little happiness I have?” Her voice softened and she pulled him closer to her. “I… I’m not going to be left behind again,” she whispered as she buried her face in Draco’s chest.

 

Draco held her, his resolve breaking. Ginny was right -- it was dangerous either way, so wouldn’t it be better if they fought through it together?

 

“Fine,” Draco sighed, breathing in Ginny’s flowery scent. “You’re right. I just feel so weak. So helpless.”

 

With a small growl of frustration, Ginny pushed away from him. “Draco Malfoy, you are anything but weak. Never say that.” Her eyes were hard and Draco could tell this was one of the many things that she was passionate about. It made his heart swell in his chest almost painfully.

 

He kissed her lightly on the lips before taking her arm, holding it out to inspect the damage. Knowing what he was trying to do, Ginny pulled back slightly and tugged the bedsheets over herself again.

 

“Come on, Gin,” he begged quietly.

 

Ginny sighed in defeat. She rose from the bed gingerly and turned, letting her hospital gown fall off her shoulders a bit to display her injuries. Silvery scars dotted her freckled skin. Madame Pomfrey had obviously done as well as she could. But seeing Ginny injured -- again -- brought back the familiar nausea in Draco’s stomach. His fingers skimmed over the still-healing holes that Pansy had put there. He’d been right; the gouging spell was much more destructive on humans than on inanimate objects. The skin where the spell had ripped through Ginny was puckered and red, still not fully healed even after Madame Pomfrey’s excellent spellwork.

 

How many more scars would Ginny receive before the war ended? Even in the moonlight Draco could still see thin, silvery-white stripes across Ginny’s back, remnants of the whipping she’d received at the beginning of the year. His stomach turned as he remembered seeing them fresh across her back.

 

“Pomfery saw those, too,” said Ginny quietly, as if reading Draco’s mind. She stood with her back to him still, as Draco ran his fingers lightly across the new scars on her back. “She agreed that there wasn’t anything she could do for it, just let it continue to heal on its own. Eventually they’ll fade a bit more, but never fully.”

 

“I’m sorry,” whispered Draco, feeling as if it were all his fault.

 

With a quick movement, Ginny secured the robe over her again, and turned back to Draco.

 

“Stop it, Draco,” she growled. “You didn’t do this to me. I’m not so naive as to think I would have gotten out of this war completely unscathed. This is minor compared to others’. Besides, they’re battle scars. They show that I’ve been doing something in this war. I’m not ashamed of them.”

 

She stood proudly with her hands on her hips, her hospital gown hanging off one shoulder. Draco smiled at her, all fire and spirit, before tugging her back into his arms.

 

“Fine,” he said. “But this will be the last of them, if I have any say in it.”

 

------

 

Draco had stayed with Ginny as long as he possibly could, snuggled next to her on the small hospital bed. They didn’t talk much, only little thoughts here and there, softly dozing together. It wasn’t until the earliest hours of the morning, when the first rays of sunlight peeked over the mountain tops, that he finally kissed her forehead and quietly slipped out of the Hospital Wing.

 

Although he was completely exhausted, he couldn’t help but think it was one of the best nights of his life. He’d spent hours with Ginny. He fell into his own four-poster bed smiling at the memory of Ginny’s soft snores. When he’d teased her about it, she’d only huffed and whispered that she did not snore, thank you very much, and nuzzled closer to him.

 

A few hours later Draco woke with a jolt. Someone was shaking him roughly. He groggily opened his eyes to see Crabbe standing over him, pale in the greenish glow that lit the Slytherin dorms.

 

“Sorry,” he mumbled as Draco sat up. “It’s the Headmaster, he’s asking for you.”

 

Blinking stupidly, Draco tried to think of why Snape would suddenly request his presence. Fear suddenly gripped him as he wondered if his Mark had burned -- if he’d been Summoned -- and he’d actually slept through it.

 

He leapt out of bed and rushed to change into a clean shirt. Grabbing his wand, he nodded a quick thanks to Crabbe and sprinted out the door.

 

Once in Snape’s office, Draco squirmed in his seat, watching the Headmaster pace in front of him.

 

“There’s been another meeting,” Snape finally announced, pausing his steps.

 

Draco was confused. The thought returned that maybe he’d slept through it all. He opened his mouth to voice this, but Snape continued speaking.

 

“It wasn’t official -- the Dark Lord has not been back to the Manor in weeks. But the others are getting restless. It seems they finally realised the Lovegood plan was never going to be successful.” He paused to roll his eyes in disdain. “They want someone else. Someone closer to Potter.”

 

It took a moment for Draco to fully grasp what Professor Snape was saying. He couldn’t be talking about--about--

 

Without warning, Draco’s mind was suddenly invaded. He struggled to quickly create false walls where his thoughts of Ginny were hidden. Almost as quickly as it began, it stopped, with Snape towering over Draco menacingly.

 

“What the hell, Professor?!” Draco yelled, jumping to his feet.

 

“Just checking,” said Snape, his expression lethal. “I do believe you know of whom I am referring, whether or not I can prove it. And I could prove it. You’re remarkably unguarded, Draco.”

 

Draco didn’t move, seething in his chair. They couldn’t take Ginny. He couldn’t wrap his mind around what Snape was saying. All through this, he knew Ginny wasn’t completely safe. But he always assumed it would be his association with Ginny, not Potter’s. Panic percolated uncomfortably in his stomach as it all set in.

 

“What do I do?” he begged in a whisper.

 

Snape regarded him for a moment, staring down his hook nose.

 

“You do nothing.” Before Draco could respond, Snape continued. “There’s nothing to be done. You say nothing, you do nothing. If anyone discovers this plan, it’ll be our heads. Do you understand?”

 

Draco glared at Snape. He waited to reply until his mental walls were carefully built, sturdy and impenetrable.

 

“Yes, sir,” he said clearly. “I understand perfectly.”

 

------

 

“Draco, you’re cutting off my circulation.” Ginny snatched her hand away, wiggling and stretching her fingers.

 

“Sorry,” Draco mumbled, trying to smile back at her. “I hadn’t realised I was holding on so tightly.”

 

They were back in the Library, hidden in their corner. Ginny had been going through the books on defensive magic, scanning the pages for something that sounded like it might be useful. Draco sat beside her, with his own book on his lap, but only pretended to be reading. A moment before, he’d been lost in thought, holding onto Ginny’s hand like a lifeline.

 

Ginny sighed and closed her book.

 

“I don’t think I’ll find anything useful in this,” she said with distaste. “Most of it’s rubbish, anyway.” She rubbed her eyes, glancing at Draco’s watch. It was, once again, getting late. It seemed the only time they were able to meet was near curfew, and by then Draco had been so anxious about getting Ginny back in time that they’d accomplished almost nothing. She pulled Draco’s book from his lap, flipping through the pages so quickly Draco doubted she was actually reading anything.

 

Over a week had passed since Snape informed Draco of the Death Eaters’ plans to abduct Ginny. He had barely slept since then, his mind coming up with all the horrid things they’d do to her if they managed to get her. At the very least, it would make Lovegood’s experience seem like a vacation. He knew the Death Eaters wouldn’t try anything until the Easter Holidays; kidnapping a child from Hogwarts would send the rest of the wizarding population into a full-on rebellion. Ignoring the needling thought of maybe that’s what we need, Draco focused back on Ginny, who had just violently thrown the book to the side and grabbed another.

 

Her injuries that Pansy had inflicted had healed quite nicely. Ginny usually kept her collar buttoned, but in the solitude of their corner she had undone the first few and discarded her robes. Silvery scars crept up above the edge of her blouse. The sight made Draco feel queasy, remembering Ginny covered in blood. If only he’d done something -- anything.

 

He didn’t let his gaze linger; he knew she hated the stripes that cut through her freckles, though she pretended not to care. Ginny noticed his staring anyway, and absentmindedly brought her hand up to her neck, covering the skin.

 

“You’re blaming yourself again,” she whispered.

 

“No,” Draco shook his head. “Just wishing I’d acted sooner.”

 

Ginny’s lips quirked into a wry grin and she looked up at him. “That’s the same thing, you know.”

 

He didn’t respond, instead pulling her to him. He held her close, fearing that it might be the last time he had a chance.

 

“I wish this was all over,” Ginny sighed, settling into his arms. “School, the war…”

 

“Us?” Draco asked carefully. The subject of their future was one that they had avoided, partly because it was awkward and partly because they weren’t sure they’d be able to have one, if the war continued on its current path.

 

Ginny chuckled softly. Her breath tickled Draco’s neck.

 

“Not us. Never us.”

 

Draco didn’t dare believe that. In the back of his mind he knew, if Potter ever came back for her, there’d be no contest. Remembering Ginny’s words from weeks ago -- “Harry is always going to be there.” -- he wouldn’t even let himself hope that she’d choose himself over the Chosen Boy. The Chosen Boy. How fitting, he thought to himself, holding onto Ginny a bit tighter.

 

She pulled back from him a bit, looking him in the eye.

 

“You don’t believe me?” she challenged.

 

Instead of answering, he pulled her back to him, kissing her hard. She responded immediately, twisting in his lap so she could run her hands through his hair. He wanted so savor this, her, for as long as he could, knowing it would all inevitably end.

 

Especially when she discovered the Death Eaters’ plans for her, and that Draco knew about them all along.

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