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Behind the Tapestry by gidge_8
Story Notes:
Not sure the violence is all that graphic but I'm just being safe with the warnings. The story does take place during the battle but it's kind of important to the plot. The aforementioned violence happens in the first few paragraphs, and after that there's nothing to worry about.
Chapter 1 by gidge_8
Ginny Weasley walked quickly but cautiously through the halls of Hogwarts, adrenaline pumping through her veins. For the moment, she was alone, but she knew that would soon change and the thought made her heart pound harder with anticipation.

Only a few hours ago, Harry Potter had returned to Hogwarts and, now, the greatest battle in Wizarding history was underway. Ginny was determined to be a part of it. With all her heart, she wanted to contribute. She wanted to help her family and friends defeat Voldemort, despite the fact that her parents had ordered her to stay safely inside the Room of Requirement.

She hadn't stayed. As soon as the opportunity came, she left the Room, and began working her way toward the front of the castle. In an effort to avoid any teachers or family who might stop her in her quest, she had taken one of the longer, less used routes and found herself following a long, lonely corridor toward her destination.

A crash came from the far end of the corridor. The sound of stone shattering came from around the corner ahead, followed by shouts of curses, indicating that a duel was in progress. Almost eagerly, her attention riveted toward the noise and she quickened her pace, wondering if she might have the opportunity to finally join the battle.

She was still quite far from the end of the corridor when she saw one of the duelers as he backed into her line of sight, his opponent still hidden around the sharp bend. She recognized the man as a friend of her father's, but that was all she had time to process before he was struck by a flash of green. His body jerked as the light engulfed him and he began to tremble uncontrollably. She was close enough to see his eyes widen in terror as he realized what was happening to him. A ragged scream of sheer pain seemed to rip from his throat. He continued to scream, the sound sending shudders through Ginny's chest as she watched his body begin to tear itself apart. Slowly, agonizingly, he was ripped and torn to bloody pieces right before her eyes. The sight was gory beyond her wildest imagination.

The sound of the scream echoed down the hallway long after there was nothing left of the man but scattered scraps of flesh and bone and blood.

Her body froze in shock, her mind almost refusing to process what had happened right in front of her.
The man's attacker was still unseen, but she caught the sound of footsteps and voices as they neared the corner. "I want to check the classrooms," a harsh voice said, his tone casual, as if ripping a person to shreds was nothing unusual for him.

Carrow. She recognized the voice as belonging to Amycus Carrow.

"Good enough," another voice said, a female, which Ginny identified as Carrow's sister, Alecto. "I've seen a few of the miscreants hanging around the sixth floor. We can work our way in that direction."

She wanted to turn and run. She was there to fight, but something about seeing a body torn apart before her eyes seemed to inhibit her ability to move. Her feet remained frozen in place, her eyes wide. The corridor was long and barren, giving her no place to hide. There were no columns or statues or suits of armor that seemed to occupy almost every other section of the school. Instead, only a few tattered old tapestries lined the walls. In a moment, the two Death Eaters would turn the corner and see her. Yes, she'd come to fight, but she wasn't sure that she was ready to face two opponents at once and she certainly wasn't ready to defend against something like the spell she'd just witnessed.

In desperation, she lookAnd, worse, she looked around frantically and realized that the long hallway made it impossible to run because she'd most certainly be seen and likely hit in the back with a curse.

Before she could think any further about the gravity of her situation, an arm seemed to reach out of nowhere and wrapped around her waist. She opened her mouth in preparation for an involuntary scream but a second hand clamped firmly over her mouth, effectively preventing any noise from escaping. A split-second later, she was yanked behind a tapestry into a small alcove with such speed that she felt a bit like a rag doll.

Not that screaming was a good idea at the moment. Her shock had left her breathless, and by the time she recovered enough to suck in enough air to accomplish the task, she had managed conclude that screaming for help with two Carrows only yards away was beyond ludicrous.

Her captor held her close, almost protectively, but she quickly realized it was by necessity. The space they were in was small, barely enough for one to hide and, with the sound of the Carrows coming closer, she pressed herself more firmly into the body of the boy who held her.

Yes, it was a boy. She could tell that much by the feeling of his body against hers. He smelled of smoke and dust but, at the moment, it was comforting. He was something real, his presence clearly telling her that she wasn't alone.

His grip tightened as the Carrows neared the spot where they hid, their voices harsh and bitter. "Was hoping to find one of the red headed ones," Amycus said. "They said the girl might have come down this way. If you find the her, keep her alive. I owe her for some of the mischief she's caused all year."

Ginny tensed and she felt the arm around her tighten further. The hand over her mouth had moved sometime since she'd been captured and it was now lightly gripping her shoulder. She clutched her wand, praying that neither she nor her companion had done anything to draw attention to themselves.
The woman cackled wickedly. "Oh, my poor brother. You've had to contain yourself all year. I never guessed you fancied the little blood traitor. Isn't she too young for you?"

He laughed in response. "She's old enough."

The evil siblings paused almost directly in front of the tapestry.

"If I find her, I promise to keep her alive for you, but remember, we need to use any that we find as bait first. I can't promise she'll stay undamaged."

She started to tremble. Carrow wanted her. They were looking for her. Carrow said he wanted to capture her and his tone implied that her fate would be horrible at best. The arms holding her squeezed her gently, whether to comfort her or to simply remind her to remain silent, she wasn't sure, but she clung to the feeling of those arms because they were the only thing keeping her from panic.

The Carrows paused at the spot for only a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity. Both of the teens in the alcove standing completely still, afraid to move, afraid to breathe.

Then, mercifully, the voices began to fade as they moved off. Ginny and her companion released their breath simultaneously in a joint sigh. Under any other circumstances, it might have been humorous.
She turned toward her companion, his arms still around her, although in a loose hold now that the danger had passed. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath in an attempt to calm herself, then rested her head on his chest and reached her arms around him. She didn't know who he was but, at this moment, he was the most comforting thing in the world.

"Thank you," she said, her voice coming out tired and just a bit ragged. "If you hadn't..."
He stiffened and likely would have pulled away if there was so much as a centimeter of extra room to allow such an action.

"I was only protecting myself. If they found you right in front of this alcove, likely they would have found me as well," he responded, his voice rough.

She knew that voice and tensed. Slowly withdrawing her arms, she opened her eyes and slowly looked up, taking note of the once fine clothing of her companion, now torn and singed in places.

Taking in the pale skin, the full lips and the delicate cheekbones, she almost fearfully focused on the pale grey eyes. His once perfectly kept hair was now falling over his forehead, softening his features, if only slightly. She might have thought it was her worst nightmare. She'd escaped the Carrows only to find herself with someone she considered to be nearly as horrible: Draco Malfoy.

"Oh!" was all that came out of her mouth.

He smirked, although the expression held a hint of humor instead of its usual malice. "Surprise," he said.

Her first reaction was to try to back away, to escape from the alcove, but his arms were still wrapped firmly around her waist, keeping her contained in the small space with him. The panic that she'd barely suppressed only minutes earlier had returned and she felt horribly trapped.

She opened her mouth and drew in a deep breath, preparing to scream, and his eyes widened in fear as he realized what she was about to do. Before she could release the screech that would alert everyone on that end of the castle about their location, likely including the Carrows, he did the only thing he could. He covered her mouth with his own.

Shocked, she kept her eyes open wide as his lips met hers. It was hardly romantic in any sense of the word, but the action certainly took away her motivation to scream. In fact, the absolute absurdity of the moment left her feeling disturbingly curious. His kiss wasn't gentle, but somehow that didn't matter. Just as the feeling of his arms around her had comforted her earlier, the feeling of the kiss was something that grounded her and quelled the feeling of panic.

She allowed him to continue the kiss for several seconds, his arms roughly pulling her even closer in the cramped space. When he finally pulled away, he looked angry.

"I'm not going to hurt you, you idiot," he said, his familiar sneer coming to his face, although his dirty and disheveled appearance made him seem less threatening than usual. Of course, she insisted to herself, the kiss had little to do with her interpretation of his looks.

"You...you...you kissed me!" was the only response that came from her.

She processed the absurdity of her statement. A man had been blasted to bits in front of her, Carrow was looking for her and threatening to take her as some sort of prize, but the single most shocking thing in her thoughts at the moment was the fact that Draco Malfoy, the boy who defined the word "git" at Hogwarts, had just locked lips with her.

"I had both arms around you. It was the only thing I could do to keep you from calling the Carrows right back here," he said in a harsh whisper. "Now keep your voice down or you'll get us both killed."
Dumbstruck, she stared at him. He did indeed still have both arms wrapped around her in the snug little alcove. He finally maneuvered slightly so he could release her, moving the hand nearest the opening to shift the edge of the tapestry aside enough to peer out, although his other arm remained firmly trapped, wrapped around her waist.

"They seem to be gone but I'd rather stay here a bit longer to be sure," he whispered.

She nodded, replaying Carrow's words in her mind. The very idea of being captured by that horrible man made bile rise up in her throat. For the first time since she'd snuck into the castle, hoping to join the battle with her family, she doubted her decision. She looked up again at Draco as he continued to peer out past the tapestry into the empty hallway. The light caught him, outlining his profile and highlighting his hair in an almost angelic way. He was... attractive. In that moment, he was a hero who had rescued her and was continuing to protect her. It was confusing.

"Why would they want to kill you? Aren't you one of them?" she asked, forcing her voice to remain low.

He looked back at her, his expression showing irritation. He glanced down the corridor again, seeming satisfied that it was empty before answering. "I've nearly been killed twice by them," he said. By "them" she assumed he meant Death Eaters. "They probably know I tried to keep Crabbe from killing Potter."

"You..." she paused, the words catching in her throat. "You tried to protect Harry?"

"Don't remind me."

The smile that came to her face was probably idiotic, she realized. She couldn't help herself. The thought of Draco actually helping Harry was inconceivable. Part of her started to wonder if she was possibly dreaming, because the events of the last few minutes seemed completely unrealistic.
"Wipe that stupid grin off your face, Weaselette," he said irritably. "All I got to thank for it was getting punched in the mouth by your idiotic brother."

He turned his head and the dim light from the hallway lit the side of his face. She could see swelling along his left jaw and the beginnings of a bruise. She reached up to touch the spot tenderly. He flinched, despite the fact that she barely brushed the affected area.

"Ouch! Do you feel some need to torture me?"

"No!" she whispered back, her face scrunching in irritation. "I was just trying to help."

"You can help by keeping quiet. I intend to stay right here until this thing is over and it appears that you are going to stay with me, since I don't want you to bring back a pack of angry Weasleys to curse me for attacking you or some such rot."

If there was any room, she might have crossed her arms or stomped her foot to show how annoyed she was at his remark but, unfortunately, she remained pressed up against him, with his one arm still around her. It was far too intimate of a position for such a conversation.

"I would not bring anyone back to attack you, you ferrety git," she snarled back. "And I can't believe you are such a coward that you just want to stay here and hide!"

He looked offended. "What do you expect? I don't particularly care to die for either side, since both sides seem more then willing to curse me at the moment and, in case you haven't noticed, I don't even have a wand to defend myself right now."

She blinked. No wonder he'd had both hands free. He wasn't holding a wand, which was highly unusual considering that curses were flying around every corner.

"I have a wand."

"So I noticed, which gives me another reason to keep you here. At least it gives us a chance."

"I do not want to spend the night crammed into this spot with you, Malfoy. I came here to fight."

He looked at her as if she'd gone mad. "Fight? Like you did when you saw the Carrows coming around the corner? If I hadn't pulled you in here, you'd be dead, or worse than dead by now."

She looked at him with indignation. "I was shocked. I'd never seen someone murdered before," she said, although the memory came to her mind again. She felt sick at the thought. In fact, the vision swam before her eyes despite her best efforts to suppress it.

"Weasley, you're turning green," he said, worry evident in his expression.

She fought the feeling of sickness, closing her eyes tightly, trying to distract the memory with other thoughts.

He wrapped his other arm around her, rubbing her back, his actions not entirely comforting, but more out of fear that she might actually wretch all over the both of them. "Don't get sick on me, Weaselette. I'm not good at cleaning charms."

She dropped her head onto his shoulder and nodded, knowing that she needed to control herself. He was right. She'd thought she was ready for this, but the reality of war was too much. She wondered how many other horrors awaited beyond this corridor. She wasn't certain she wouldn't freeze again if she was startled with something like that at the wrong moment. She'd come to fight, not get herself killed. If anything, hiding in the alcove might give her time to compose herself a bit before attempting to join the battle again.

"You've never encountered anything like that before, have you," he said.

She shook her head, keeping her face hidden the comfort of his shoulder as she answered, "I had no idea anyone could do that. It was horrible. That was Mr. Thornton. He was a friend of my father's."

"If the Dark Lord wins, you'll need to get used to it."

She processed his words, then pulled her head up to look him fully in the eyes. "You've seen that before?"

He didn't answer for a long moment, looking more than a little uncomfortable. "Let's hope he doesn't win, yeah?"

It didn't directly answer her question, but she understood his meaning clearly enough. He'd seen things like that before. "Yeah,"she agreed. Then, she wrapped her arms around him, noticing that he didn't flinch away from her. She started to chuckle quietly.

"Something funny?" he asked, with a hint of sarcasm.

"A Weasley and a Malfoy just agreed on something. I'm not sure that's ever happened before."

He gave a half smile. "Let's not get used to it, shall we?"

She nodded, but they continued to keep their arms wrapped around each other for a long time in silent comfort, saying nothing. Occasionally, sounds would come from the corridor: a person running, a curse, a crash. Each time they would cling to each other, Ginny's wand ready to cast a protection spell or hex. When the area fell silent, Draco would carefully lift the edge of the tapestry to verify that the area was clear.

Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, silence fell. The booming voice of Voldemort echoed through the halls declaring a truce and the unlikely pair looked intently at each other, silently questioning if it might be time to leave the safety of their hideaway. But neither moved from their position. Instead, they remained hidden, still holding each other. They were safe there and both were reluctant to leave.

Draco chose to break the somewhat awkward moment by speaking first. "It's been fun, Weaselette."

"I think, after all that, you can call me Ginny, Draco," she said, her voice tired but with the tiniest glimmer of humor.

"All right, Ginny," he replied, his tone mildly teasing.

The humor helped. It alleviated the tension both from the battle and from the awkward companionship that they shared.

"Thank you," she replied quietly. "Although, I have to say that I've had much better first dates than this."

He gave a look of mock indignation. "You called that a date? Wow, Weaselette, I knew your standards were low, but even I couldn't imagine it could be that bad."

She pulled one hand free and gave him a light slap on his chest. He'd insulted her, just in the same manner he'd done to her for years, but his tone lacked the bite. In fact, it was almost funny. She guessed that being crammed next to each other for a couple of hours had forced both of them to change their attitude. "I can't believe you said that."

He smiled. A genuine smile and, in that moment, she thought he was handsome. They'd developed some sort of strange friendship in their time together. They'd survived. Together. Somehow, it created a bond between them.

"Just to keep this clear, I only kissed you to keep you quiet."

She looked at him for a moment, as if contemplating a response, then stood up on tiptoes and kissed him. A light quick, kiss, but a kiss nonetheless, half expecting him to pull away or make a rude comment, but he didn't. She pulled away and lifted her chin. "Snogging was involved, Malf... I mean, Draco, therefore, it's a date."

"Oh, and don't forget the murder and the mayhem," he replied with a hint of sarcasm.

He spoke casually, only continuing the vein of conversation. In fact, she was quite certain that his intention had been to be humorous but the words reminded her vividly of why they were there. Her face fell, all traces of humor gone. "I better go find my family and let them know I'm here and I'm all right."

His smile disappeared also. "Yeah," he agreed sadly. "I think I'll just stay here for a bit longer."

She looked at him sternly. "No. I want you to come back with me. At least so that my family knows that you didn't fight."

The expression on his face was doubtful. He didn't respond, so she continued to try to persuade him. "They'll help look out for you."

He shook his head. "The battle's not over. You heard Voldemort's little speech. It's only a temporary truce until someone surrenders your darling Potter," he said, spitting the word Potter out in the same manner he always had. "In the end, I'll be worse off if I give more evidence that I favored your lot."

She was disappointed, although she once again began to wonder why he might have protected the boy he had despised so very much. Somehow, she had hoped that maybe, just maybe, he might have changed. Maybe he had, but he certainly wasn't ready for the world to know. The thought softened her response. "I don't want to leave you here alone."

His lips lifted in a sarcastic half smile. "Then don't. We're comfortable enough here."

She gave him a sour look, suspecting that he was actually afraid of her leaving him but he was unwilling to admit. He had been hiding in an alcove, after all, for some time before she had entered that particular hallway.

"I have no wand. I'm worse than useless out there," he said, interpreting her look. "Besides, if Voldemort wins, I could say you were my prisoner. It may help us both. I can try to keep you from Carrow."

She shuddered, remembering the professor's words as he'd walked past, and she once again became aware of Draco's comforting arms wrapped around her. For all their talk, they remained in the small alcove, still holding each other. He was likely the last person that she might have ever imagined drawing comfort from, and she was certain that he probably thought the same, but she became fully aware of the fact that she rather enjoyed their closeness.

"I'll stay with you then," she finally said. "But, can we please get out of here? I want to find out what is going on."

He paused for a long moment, as if considering the idea. Finally, he nodded and once again peered outside, albeit more cautiously than before. "It's clear," he said. "If it gets rough again, or if we get separated, we can try to meet back here, yeah?"

"Yeah," she agreed.

He released her but took her hand, pulling her into the cold hallway, choosing to move away from the remains of Mr. Thornton. Ginny kept her eyes shut tightly until they were away from the carnage. They agreed to head toward the Great Hall, hopefully to watch for activity from a secluded location, but the journey took a long time due to the need to find alternative paths around damaged sections of the castle.

"We're clear," he reported after guiding her around three more bodies lying in their path. She sighed in relief, grateful for his help.

They stopped, and she looked up to see the most massive display of damage they'd encountered yet. The wall facing the front of the courtyard of the castle had been blasted away, leaving the moving staircase facing only open air, and giving them a clear view of the activity that was taking place below. Their attention was drawn to a group that was leaving the woods, one of them appeared to be Hagrid, and people were clearing a path for them to come forward.

"Something's happening," Ginny stated flatly, captivated by the sight. They both paused, safe from their parapet, at least for the moment.

As the group neared, it became obvious that Hagrid was in tears. She had the sinking feeling that what was about to happen was not good. She clutched her companion's hand a little more tightly and he squeezed back. She looked down at their hands, distracted from the scene outside by the disturbing thought that they'd been holding hands since they left their alcove. That small but highly unlikely action left her thinking that perhaps everything that was happening was possibly some bizarre nightmare.

The scene that played out before them was surreal. Hagrid in tears, Harry Potter dead, Voldemort gloating, Neville rising like a knight of old to slay Voldemort's snake...

"This isn't happening..." she muttered.

Draco remained speechless. "I can't believe I'm admiring Longbottom right now. Never knew he had it in him."

She looked back at him incredulously.

He pointed emphatically in the general direction of the dead snake. "You don't know what I've seen that snake do!"

She ignored the remark, filing it away for a later conversation, perhaps, then turned back to the scene. She couldn't help but begin to cheer, along with much of the onlooking crowd below. "Harry's alive!"

The crowd was moving into the Great Hall as mayhem seemed to break loose. This time, she grabbed Draco's hand, tugging him with her. He gave a moment of resistance and then followed willingly. "I just hope Potter doesn't do something stupid. I'd prefer not to have to implement plan B."

"Plan B? What's plan A?" she asked as she hurried toward the hall.

"Plan B is where I have to try to convince someone that you're my prisoner and, since you are the only one of us with a wand, I'm not betting it wouldn't be very believable. Plan A is where Potter just wins and you tell everyone how I saved your sorry arse from Carrow."

She stopped, stared at him for a moment and just shook her head. Then, she continued her run to the hall and paused in the doorway to watch as Harry and Voldemort stood on the stage in an almost theatrical display.

She felt the boy next to her tense in fear when Harry stated that Draco's wand held the power to defeat Voldemort. "He'll be easily dealt with," Voldemort announced, effectively stating that Draco was as good as dead if Voldemort won.

She clutched his hand, both in comfort and in fear, knowing that Plan B wasn't going to help either of them.

Then, they watched as Voldemort dropped dead as a result of his own spell.

"That's my bloody wand! Potter's got my wand!" Draco shouted, almost in her ear. She might have turned to smack him, but in that moment, all hell broke loose. They became separated shortly after.
Hours later, or so it seemed, the battle was over. Ginny located her parents and found her brother lying among the dead. Devastated, she sobbed on her mother's shoulder but that small comfort was cut short by the overwhelming need to help the injured.

She moved mechanically, trying to focus on each living person in front of her instead of her grief every time news of another death reached her. Eventually, the healers arrived to relieve her of her duty and she was left with only exhaustion and hunger.

She saw him when she finally was able to sit with her family, feeling the safety of her mother's arm around her. He was off to the side with his parents, looking uncomfortable and isolated. His mother had helped Harry. He had helped her. She thought about how silly it had sounded a few hours ago, but she couldn't help but think that it was time to implement Plan A. The thought almost made her smile. With all the horror, all the sadness, and all the grief that had occurred on this day, there was good that had come. Voldemort was defeated, Harry had won, and Draco Malfoy had proven that there is hope that people can change for the better.

"Mum, I'd like for you to come with me for a moment," she said hopefully.

Her mother lifted tired eyes to measure her daughter's request. "What is it, dear?" her mother responded, a tinge of concern in her voice.

"Don't worry, Mum. It's nothing bad. I'd like to introduce you to the boy who saved me during the battle."

Yes, she'd told her parents about the incident with Carrow. They hadn't been pleased that she'd ignored their wishes by coming to the school, knowing about the danger, but they seemed appeased by the fact that she hadn't been alone during the battle. Her mother looked at her sternly. "If you'd stayed at home, you wouldn't have needed help."

"Mum, please, what's done is done. He pulled me into hiding just as the Carrows came around the bend. I'd like for you to get to know him."

Her mother's flash of irritation that Ginny hadn't followed orders faded. "I do owe this boy a debt of gratitude, I suppose, for keeping you safe for most of this."

Ginny nodded and stood, a small smile coming to her lips as her mother slowly moved to follow. They where exhausted, but it was the best time to take care of this matter, while people were tired of fighting.
Approaching the table, Ginny saw the older Malfoys tense with trepidation. She felt her mother's pace also slow, but Ginny continued to walk with determination. The last person to look up was Draco. She caught a moment of surprise on his face, then a small smirk appeared on his lips.

"Ginevra," he said, almost formally, standing up as she approached, a glint of smile reaching his eyes. His welcoming reaction gave her courage to continue.

Slowly, his father also rose and inclined his head in greeting as the two women approached. Molly sucked in her breath. Draco's mother, alternatively, appeared to be only calm and curious by the exchange.

"Draco," Ginny responded, ignoring the discomfort exhibited by both her mother and his father.
He reached out his hand and she took it. He seemed to welcome her arrival. Apparently, their tentative friendship, or whatever it was, had not ended with the battle.

Yes, she thought. They were friends now. It was a strange friendship, both new and slightly awkward, but a friendship nonetheless. She'd found a boy worth saving and she found herself drawn to him. In that moment, she made the decision to continue this relationship, or whatever it was, if only to see how it might progress. Awkward or not, her actions felt right as her fingers were enveloped in his larger hand.

"I'd like to thank you for your help. I'd also like for you to meet my mother." She turned toward her still stunned mother. "Mum, I'd like to introduce you to Draco Malfoy, the boy who I told you about earlier. If Draco hadn't pulled me into hiding, I'm not sure what the Carrows might have done to me."

She'd given her mother an abbreviated story earlier, not mentioning Draco's name. Her mother had been distraught with the loss of Fred and so many friends that Ginny had felt it was important to let the older woman know that she'd spent the worst of the battle in hiding and relatively safe. She still wasn't exactly proud of her cowardice, but looking at the handsome blond boy in front of her, she had little doubt that she'd made the right decision.

Her mother attempted to smile politely at the boy, although her eyes moved to frequently give suspicious glances to his father. Fortunately, Narcissa interrupted. "So, you are the young lady that Draco has spoken of so highly. I'm most grateful that the two of you were looking out for each other." Narcissa then raised an eyebrow and glanced at the joined hands of the two teenagers.

Lucius gave a momentary look of confusion in the direction of his wife. Apparently, he had not yet been informed of the whole story but Ginny didn't care. She found herself looking down and blushing as she released Draco's hand. He merely grinned at her discomfort.

"Well, I...uh... he...uh..."

"My wand was destroyed early in the battle, Mother," Draco explained. "Ginevra was merely being a proper Gryffindor by refusing to leave me without any way to defend myself."

Narcissa looked at her son sceptically. "Well, then there's reason for all of us to be thankful," Narcissa stated, her tone polite and almost warm, a hint of affection toward her son. Ginny looked into the older woman's ice blue eyes and smiled gratefully.

Molly, however, was still slightly shocked by the odd situation. "I'm glad this is all settled, then. Draco, thank you for your help," she said bluntly, obviously uncomfortable to be near the family, but feeling it necessary to extend the proper courtesy to her daughter's rescuer. "Ginny, let's go find your father. I'd like to get everyone home soon. We need to make arrangements..." but she failed to complete the sentence because her voice broke with emotion. The loss of Fred was still not quite real, and the reminder brought a fresh wave of grief.

Ginny turned to Draco to explain, her eyes springing with fresh tears. "My brother, Fred..."
His gaze softened immediately, and he once again took her hand.

"I'm so very sorry, Mrs. Weasley," Narcissa said, her voice sincere. Ginny turned to see her mother, with tear-filled eyes, nodding to accept Narcissa's condolences. The elegant blond witch seemed genuine in her attempt to comfort Ginny's mother.

Ginny began to wipe her eyes with her free hand, but didn't get the chance. Draco had produced a handkerchief that he handed to her. She took the item and sniffed into it gratefully. "Thank you," she said, attempting to give the item back, "But we'd better go now. Mum's right. We need to get home."

"Keep it," he said. "You can return it when we see each other again."

She felt more than saw Lucius stiffen at the remark, and the glint of mischief in Draco's eyes made it quite clear that he was well aware of the fact that he was tormenting his father. It made her want to laugh despite her tears. It was a strange, horrible mix of emotions but she was learning that war and grief seemed to have that effect on her.

"Then it's a date," she replied softly, recalling the odd joke they'd shared while in the alcove.

He merely smiled and nodded. "Yes, I believe it will be." She looked up into his eyes and saw that he was looking at her intently. He was also clearly referring to their private joke and the meaning behind the words sent a small shiver down her spine. She nodded dumbly, then turned to his parents, bidding them a soft goodbye.

Releasing the boy's warm hand as she turned to leave somehow felt wrong. She immediately missed the contact.

As she and her mother returned to their table, Ginny looked back one last time to see Draco Malfoy staring back at her as if he didn't want to see her leave, and she had to admit that a part of her didn't want to go. She felt the burden of grief settle heavily in her chest. The next few days were going to be unbearably difficult, but she clutched the handkerchief in her hand tightly. It represented hope for tomorrow. Hope and a promise that, despite the tragedy and pain of today, there was good in the future and she found herself looking forward to it.


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