The days were passing too quickly; Draco had been searching for any way to prevent the Death Eaters from abducting Ginny, but his panic kept him from finding any solutions. It was crippling him -- he could barely eat or sleep, and he’d completely given up on his homework. The teachers didn’t dare call him out on that, though, and for once Draco was grateful of his untouchable status.
Ginny had noticed Draco’s stress, but every time she asked about it he just gave her the excuse that he was worried about going home for the Easter holidays. It was partly true -- Draco would give just about anything to not be stuck in that cold, dark manor ever again. The only comfort he had was that his mother would be there. She, at least, would keep some of the madness under control. Especially if the Dark Lord was still away. The other Death Eaters were manageable, but the Dark Lord was unbearable.
Although he knew Ginny didn’t believe him when he made excuses for his odd behaviour, she didn’t press him. It was rather unlike Ginny to let things go like that, but Draco suspected she was just as anxious as he was. They had all but abandoned trying to learn new defensive magic, choosing instead to hide in their corner of the Library and just be together. It was almost as if they thought that by pretending it all didn’t exist, it would actually all go away.
But when Draco was apart from Ginny, it all came rushing back to him. The Easter Holidays grew closer, and Draco was so overwhelmed by anxiety that he almost wondered if a Dementor was lurking somewhere in his dormitory -- that would at least explain the paralising fear he felt whenever he tried to come up with a way to keep Ginny safe.
It wasn’t until the night before Easter holidays when he had a sudden idea. It would be dangerous, of course, and would ignite such anger throughout the halls of Hogwarts -- Ginny was something of a hero to the students by now -- that Draco would be subjected to the worst kinds of retribution. But for Ginny, it would be worth it.
Despite this new obstacle, however, Draco had finally figured out how to successfully change his memories, hiding the real ones away from anyone who might attack his mind. It had come to him quite out of the blue, and the answer was so simple he could have laughed. Instead of trying to hide the memories behind mental walls or trying to block a Legilimens from finding them, he hid them in plain sight -- in his blood. Figuratively, of course, but Draco was slightly curious if the memories would seep out of him if someone were to cut him open. Hopefully not, he thought, considering what the Death Eaters were capable of doing. But burying the thoughts into his veins, coursing through his body, made him hope that no one would try to look there. After all, memories were supposed to be in one’s brain, not their blood. And that was something Draco could count on the Dark Lord believing.
Draco didn’t see Ginny in the morning before the train left. His luggage had been packed the night before by one of the House Elves, and Draco sat stoically on the seat in his usual compartment, his face impassive. The other Slytherin boys in his year had asked him why he didn’t just Apparate home from Hogsmeade, but Draco had just shrugged and said he liked the time to think. It was a believable enough excuse -- they were all taking the train as well.
Professor Snape had called Draco to his office the previous evening after dinner. He had explained the plan to take Ginny, that a few Death Eaters would be waiting at the station, just like last time. It should be a quick thing; Draco was to subdue “the Weasley girl” shortly before the train came into the station, and hold her with the Carrows until the train had emptied. Then, with the Death Eaters waiting at the station, they’d Apparate her to the Manor.
Professor Snape had his nose wrinkled with disgust as they discussed it all. More than once Draco had heard him mutter something along the lines of “imbeciles” or “the best they could come up with”.
Everything was in place. Draco had been up since early in the morning getting everything ready to go along with the plan. The train filled up quickly. Blaise and the others found their way to Draco’s compartment -- excluding Pansy, who still refused to look at Draco -- and they settled in for the long trip. Draco sat quietly, going over his plan in his head. Several times Blaise tried to convince Draco to join in the conversation or in a game of Exploding Snap, but the efforts were half-hearted. He knew Blaise sensed something was amiss, and Draco wished he could tell his friend everything.
When the train was drawing close to London, Draco stood up suddenly. The others looked at him curiously -- not for the first time -- and Draco merely touched his left forearm and muttered, “an errand.” The curious expressions morphed into understanding, and they went back to their conversation. Only Blaise looked at him with narrowed eyes, as if he somehow knew something was amiss.
Draco made his way down the empty corridor. It was strangely quiet in the hallway of the train, probably because the Carrows had been prowling the aisles, and he was actually grateful for it. Less distractions, fewer people to get in the way. It seemed to take an eternity to get to where he knew Ginny would be sitting with her own friends. He fixed his expression into an unpleasant sneer before throwing open the compartment door.
Four Gryffindors looked up at him wearily. Draco noted that Longbottom seemed to be missing, but he didn’t have the time or the care to dwell on that.
“Weasley,” he said disdainfully. “Professor Carrow’s asking for you.” He let his lips curl into a malicious little smirk.
Finnegan’s face twisted with fury. “She’s not going anywhere with you--”
“Stop, Seamus,” Ginny interrupted, placing a hand on Finnegan’s arm gently. “No use in more people getting punished.”
It looked like Finnegan was barely restraining himself, and the other two Gryffindors whom Draco didn’t recognise were staring fearfully up at Draco. As Ginny turned away from her friends, Draco caught the sparkle of amusement in her eye, but he kept his sneer in place.
“Let’s go,” he said, yanking her roughly out of the compartment. Finnegan let out an outraged growl before Draco shut the door in his face.
“Make a fuss,” Draco hissed in her ear, praying she’d understand. If this was going to work at all, he needed her to look like she was fighting back. It took only a moment for Ginny to catch on, her eyes going wide with fear and comprehension. She gave a sharp nod, then took a deep breath and screamed.
The sound ripped through the quiet train. Students peeked out of doorways, frightened and curious about the sudden noise. Draco gripped Ginny’s arm and ruthlessly dragged her down the corridor. She fought back hard, thrashing and screeching. With a sickening jolt Draco realised this must have been what she looked like when in detention with the Carrows. He pushed the thought down and focussed on her, twisting her arms behind her so she couldn’t reach her wand.
Her screams and threats and curses gained the attention of almost everyone on the train. In the corner of his eye, Draco saw Finnegan bolting down the corridor, but a well-aimed Trip Jinx left him sprawled on the floor. Ginny threw back her head, colliding painfully with Draco’s face, and he paused to give her a harsh shake. She went limp for a moment, allowing him to haul her further down the train, before fighting back with even more energy than before.
The train began to slow -- they had reached the station. Somehow Draco managed to pull Ginny into a compartment in which he had had the foresight to set off a dungbomb before the train had left, guaranteeing it would be empty for the trip.
As soon as the compartment door was shut, complete with a Silencing Charm and Colloportus, Ginny’s charade was dropped. She clung to Draco, shaking as he held her tightly.
“You did good,” he breathed into her hair, trying to keep his voice steady. “You did perfectly.”
She didn’t let go of him. “How long do we have?” she whispered. They both felt the need to be as quiet as possible, despite the Silencing Charm and commotion in the corridor. Already Finnegan was pounding on the door, trying to break through.
“Five minutes, maybe more. It depends on how long it takes for the students to leave the train.”
They held onto each other, not speaking. A sharp cry of pain followed by a heavy thud was heard outside the compartment. It seemed one of the Carrows had removed Finnegan. Time was running out.
“Listen, Gin,” Draco started, grabbing her face and pressing his forehead against hers. “You can’t come back.”
“You can’t go home.”
“I know. Sorry about your face.”
Adrenaline was still coursing through Draco’s body, but he was sure he had a nasty bruise forming from where Ginny had bashed him with her head. He gave her a wry smile.
Ginny grinned at him, then kissed him.
“I love you,” he whispered in between kisses, feeling his heart jump as he said the words.
“I know.” Her voice cracked. “I--”
She was cut off by voices from the other side of the door. Draco wasted no time -- he blasted the compartment window open, shielding Ginny from the glass. With a quick movement, he reached under the seat, pulling out a battered old school broom that he’d nicked from the Quidditch supply shed early that morning. He thrust it into Ginny’s waiting hands.
“Wait--” He stopped her before she could take off. “You’ve got to knock me out.” He handed her his wand.
Ginny scoffed and took a step away from him. “That’s a bit dramatic, don’t you think?”
“Gin, we don’t have time to argue about this -- you’ve just got to do it -- with my wand.” Draco figured the easiest way to make it all look real was if Ginny actually fought back, overpowered him, and succeeded. He’d made sure to prevent her from drawing her own wand as he dragged her down the train, and the Death Eaters knew that the only way she’d escape was if Draco was somehow incapacitated.
She rolled her eyes. “I’ll do you one better,” she said, smirking at him in the way he loved so much.
“Wait, just a second --” Draco held up a hand. Closing his eyes, he quickly but efficiently tucked away that final memory of Ginny, replacing it with what he’d want the Dark Lord to see if he tried. With a deep breath, he opened his eyes.
The last thing he saw was Ginny’s fist.
Screams reverberated through the darkness. It took him a moment to realise they were his own. Pain flooded his body, over and over again, setting his nerves on fire, before finally relenting long enough for him to catch his breath.
Suddenly Draco felt someone searching through his brain, roughly and without care. Memories of school and homework and Blaise were skimmed and quickly pushed aside. The Legilimens dug deeper, combing through with purpose. He saw himself boarding the Hogwarts Express, levitating his trunk into the compartment, sitting sullenly as his the others in his year joined him, standing abruptly as he realised it was time to put their plan into motion.
He saw himself dragging a kicking and screaming Weasley down the train, pausing when the girl head-butted him in the face. He saw her somehow overpowering him -- it wasn’t quite clear how, he must have slipped or something -- then the memory went black, accompanied with the faint pain he must have felt when the Weasley girl hit him.
The pressure on his mind ended. Draco opened his eyes a crack to see his Aunt Bellatrix standing over him, her face wild with anger. The Carrow siblings stood near her, laughing cruelly at the sight of Draco on the polished floors. Turning his head, Draco saw his mother, pale and shaking. She wasn’t looking at her son, but instead at her own sister. Narcissa’s eyes were full of such raw fury that Draco had to close his own at the sight of it. He’d never seen his mother look that way.
Aunt Bellatrix was speaking in a sharp voice. “-- cannot believe you let her go! You idiotic, stupid, pathetic --”
Draco tuned her out, just feeling grateful that his aunt had stopped pointing her wand at him. It had been quite a while since he’d suffered the Cruciatus Curse, but one never forgot how it felt. His aunt must have been particularly emotional and irate, as this was one of the more painful she’d inflicted on him.
His thoughts were broken by a sudden kick to his ribs, knocking the air out of him. His eyes flew open to see Aunt Bellatrix striding out of the room, followed by the Carrows who didn’t spare Draco another glance. As soon as they were out of the room, his mother flew to his side, kneeling above him.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, her eyes shining. “I’m sorry--”
Draco shook his head slightly. “You couldn’t have stopped her,” he said, struggling to get to a sitting position. There was something sticky on his face. He wiped at it with his fingers, which came away slightly red. “Did she draw blood?” he asked, his heart pounding.
His mother shook her head. “Your nose was bleeding when they found you. You were conscious, but -- the girl got away.
A few bits and pieces from that afternoon were coming back to him. That Weasley girl had actually hit him. He wondered if she’d broken his nose.
“I fixed any damage she might have caused,” said Narcissa, knowing what her son was thinking. “I just didn’t have time to clean you up before they--” Her voice broke and the fury returned to her expression. “How she dare -- my child -- my son --” She continued muttering as she helped Draco to his feet. With her hand she brushed away Draco’s shaggy hair to inspect his face.
“The girl left quite a mark,” she said, running her fingers carefully across a painful bruise on Draco’s cheek. Draco glowered.
“She head-butted me, Mother. And then knocked me out. Without magic, like some insane Muggle. Don’t look so proud of your gender,” he said bitterly as he started up the stairs towards his bedroom. His mother followed close behind, seemingly unwilling to let her son out of her sight just yet.
Once the door was closed, she held Draco close. He let himself relax in his mothers arms.
“I’m sorry,” she repeated, ignoring Draco’s reassurances that he knew it wasn’t her fault. “It is my fault -- I got you into this awful mess. Just wait until your father hears about this.”
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