Disclaimer: Canon characters do not belong to me.
Chapter Nine – Twilight Hymn
After two solid weeks of studying, worrying, and barely sleeping, Ginny’s mental state was becoming slightly imbalanced. Where before she had been singing and joyous, she had now taken to working through meals to get her homework done and hardly taking a second away from work – and even that wasn’t enough to finish the many assignments and essays. Late at night, Ginny would try to sleep, but her mind was engaged in considering the offer from Ron and Harry. They had been Owling her in turns asking if she’d made her decision yet, and Charlie, too, had been pestering her for an answer.
So it really came as no surprise when Ginny destroyed a potion in Advanced Potions class.
The explosion was quite deafening, but it was nothing compared to the heavy silence that choked the air as Professor Snape stalked deliberately slowly up to her station. “Detention Miss Weasley,” was all he said, but it may as well have been a death threat from the way Ginny reacted. She burst into hysterical tears and ran from the room, straight up into the Tower. She dove onto her bed and buried herself in her comforter.
Twenty minutes later, Jordi ran into the room. “Ginny? Are you okay?”
Muffled sobs issued from beneath the blanket in answer.
“Ginny, really, it’s not so bad. It’s just a detention,” Jordi said, taking a tentative seat on the edge of the bed.
Ginny peeled back the covers, sat up, and glared daggers at Jordi. “It is not just a detention, Jordi! It is everything happening all at the same time. How can I possibly be expected to make all these decisions, while studying for N.E.W.Ts, captaining Quidditch and practicing my music?”
“I understand that you have a lot on your plate right now – we’re all feeling the pressure, Gin.”
“Ugh, I know. You must think I’m selfish. Well, maybe I am!”
“You aren’t selfish,” Jordi said, sliding further onto the bed. “Have you talked to your mum?”
“I – what?” Ginny furrowed her brow.
“Your mum. Have you talked to her about America?”
“No…no I haven’t! Aw, Jordi, what would I possibly do without you?”
“Spontaneously combust, I’d imagine – rather like that potion,” Jordi said, grinning wickedly.
“That was a pretty terrific blast, wasn’t it?” Ginny said, shaking her head a little.
“I’ll say. You should have seen the look on Snape’s face when you ran out of there.”
Ginny groaned and fell back on her pillows. “Detention with Snape – I’ve never had a detention with Snape before.”
“It won’t be so bad; Snape doesn’t oversee his own detentions anymore.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “All right, then, detention with Filch. I guess I can handle that. Well, I guess we’d better get going to dinner. A last meal!” she finished dramatically, dragging herself out of bed.
“Detention with Filch indeed,” Jordi muttered under breath.
Ginny steeled her resolve in front of Snape’s classroom door. Snape had sent her a note at dinner, telling her to be at his classroom at 8. Doesn’t oversee his own detentions my foot, she thought. She sighed and pushed on the classroom door. It was empty, so Ginny sat down at the first station to wait.
Five minutes passed…then ten more with no sign of Snape. Ginny sighed dramatically. Just then the door to the classroom opened again, and in walked Draco.
“Can’t put a simple potion together, Ginny?” he drawled, staring pointedly at her.
Ginny stifled a shiver from his intense gaze. “Waste of time, potion-making…a singer doesn’t exactly need to be making potions,” she retorted.
He laughed and walked up to her station. He placed his hands on the table, leaning over her. “So you fancy yourself a singer now?”
“I am one. I’m going to – I’m going to be one…someday,” she said defiantly. “I – wow – I just decided that, right now.”
“Glad I could be of some help,” he answered. He walked up to Snape’s desk and removed a piece of parchment from it. “Okay, so Severus wants you to re-make the potion and then write an essay explaining what you did wrong.”
Ginny frowned. “And I assume I’m not going to get any credit for this?”
“Of course not.”
Ginny shook her head. “Great, just bloody great. I don’t even know what I’m doing! That’s part of why I messed up the potion in the first place.”
Draco walked over to the supply cabinet and removed the various ingredients she would need. He placed them at her station, as she got up to find a spare cauldron. “Only part?” he asked, when she had sat down again. He pulled up a stool to sit in front of her.
Ginny sighed and looked up at him, momentarily too lost in the fact that he was being extraordinarily nice to her…and was sitting extraordinarily close.
“Well?” he asked. He reached into his robe pocket and put on his glasses. He picked up Ginny’s Advanced Potions Making textbook, scanning the pages for the potion she would have to make. “Are you going to tell me, or am I going to have to hex it out of you?”
“Why do you care?” she asked, before she could stop herself.
He looked up from the book, quirking an eyebrow. “You said it yourself, Ginny, we can safely be considered friends now. Don’t friends inquire after each other?” he asked, an amused smile playing at his lips. Merlin’s beard, but this girl can be remarkably daft, he thought. Well, despite her talents, she is still a Weasley.
“Well, thank you, but I really should concentrate on this potion,” she said, awkwardly. The truth was that she wanted nothing more than to confide in Draco, but her pride kept her from doing so. He was still a Malfoy, after all. Despite the fact that he had been very encouraging, he was still Draco Malfoy.
“Suit yourself, Weasley,” he said, but his tone was teasing. “Now, do you remember where you went wrong earlier?”
“You’re going to help me?” she asked, eyes glinting mischievously. “What would your godfather say about that?”
“He’d probably say something along the lines of ‘you’re acting like that know-it-all Granger,’ and take points away from Slytherin to spite me.”
“He would never take points away from a Slytherin,” she said, giggling.
“You’re right, you’re right – he’d take them away from Gryffindor instead. Now come on, I don’t have all day to baby-sit a little girl who can’t put a potion together, regardless of how well her vocal cords work,” he said, pushing his glasses up on top of his head and pushing up the sleeves on his work robes.
“I am not a little girl – and thanks for the compliment, however backhanded it was,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“If you’re not careful, they are going to roll right out of those sockets, Ginevra.”
“What did I say about calling me Ginevra?” she warned, but her tone contained only a little menace.
“I don’t quite recall. Now, first things first, you have to cut up the Dionysus petals into 3 and one quarter centimeter pieces. Wait, do you have your dragon hide gloves? The juices, it’ll burn if you touch it.”
But, being a Weasley or not concentrating properly, Ginny did not have her dragon hide gloves. She looked up at Draco as she sliced up one of the petals, and the essence splashed onto her hands. Ginny bit down on her lower lip, hoping Draco wouldn’t notice her blunder, but her hand started to burn very painfully. She yelped and her hands started to shake.
“Damn!” Draco cursed and quickly reached for his wand. He muttered a cooling charm and then took her hand in his. He lightly stroked the inflamed area as the burn slowly cooled away. Ginny’s hands stopped shaking, but Draco did not stop his light caresses. Ginny closed her eyes for a moment to savor the experience, but they flew open again. What is the matter with me? I’m with Charlie! She lightly pulled her hand away.
“Thanks,” she said, careful not to look him directly in the eyes.
“Let’s try and reign in your natural clumsiness and get back to work, yes?” he said, quietly. “So we have the Dionysus petal pieces, which are the reacting agents, and now we need the stimulus. These unicorn horn scrapings bond with the Dionysus petals – the purity reacts with the volatile substance, diluting its potency.”
“Wait, wait, slow down – I can’t write that fast,” Ginny said, scribbling notes on a piece of parchment.
“Tsk tsk, Ginny, are you really going to copy down everything I say and turn it in as your own work?”
“I fully intend to do that, yes,” she said seriously, but her eyes were shining with mirth. Draco smiled, and then turned to the cauldron to set the water to boil. The blue flame quickly heated the water to the desired temperature. Draco put in ten millimeters of crushed doxy wings. Keeping his eyes on the cauldron, he motioned for Ginny to put in the unicorn horn scrapings, but Ginny misunderstood his wordless gesture and put in the Dionysus petals instead.
“NO!” Draco shouted. He raced around the little table and grabbed her away from the cauldron.
“What the – ?” she said. He threw her to the ground, just in time for the cauldron to explode, even worse so than it had that afternoon. The mixture splashed all over the station table.
Ginny’s eyes widened as Draco covered her head, holding her close to his chest. She was breathing heavily. He pulled away slightly, still holding her and looked directly into her eyes. He spoke, mouth just inches away from hers.
“That was close.”
Ginny unconsciously licked her lips. “Too close,” she whispered, huskily.
Draco leaned a little closer. He was almost brushing her lips. “You should be more careful.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, licking her lips again.
“Don’t apologize,” he replied. He closed his eyes, and Ginny thought that the world was standing still. But he simply stood up and helped her to her feet. “Let’s try again.”
Outwardly, Draco was his normal cool, collected self. But inside, his heart was beating rapidly. She had been so close and she kept licking those damned lips of hers! But she’s with that sodding Lovett and Potter had his bloody mits on her. Like he bloody well owned her!
Ginny bit down on her lower lip. “I really made a mess of things. I’m not just cut out for this potions thing. It’s just that everything is so confusing,” she said, sitting back down at a different station with a different cauldron and new ingredients.
“It isn’t that difficult, Ginny. Honestly, all you have to do is be careful,” he said, cleaning off his glasses and then putting them back on.
“I wasn’t talking about the potion exactly,” she admitted. “I – well – it’s just that Harry and Ron have asked me to go to America with them. And everyone is pestering me to answer, and all these things just keep piling up and I’m really and truly confused.” Ginny took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She found that she felt better just for having said it all. She didn’t look up at him, and began chopping up the Dionysus petals again.
Draco uncharacteristically let his emotions play freely across her face, taking advantage of the fact that she was concentrating on chopping. So that’s Potter’s plan? To take her away from here? To hide her away from the world – bury her talent in the dirt. He began angrily scraping some of the unicorn horn, but when he spoke again, his tone was even.
“Well, do you want to go?”
“Do you want to go – to America?”
“I told you I haven’t made a decision yet,” she said, putting down the knife.
He stopped scraping and looked up at her, fixing her intently with his steely gaze. “Don’t think about Potter or your brother. Don’t think about Lovett or your friends or anyone else. Think about you. Do you want to go to America?”
Ginny cast down her gaze. She hadn’t thought about that at all – she had been thinking about it in terms of everyone else. Did she want to go? A part of her did – a little part of her wanted to go with Ron, Harry and everyone else to start over. But it was only the smallest, tiniest piece of her.
“No – no, I don’t.”
“Then there is your answer.”
“Draco, it’s not as simple as all that.”
“Yes it is. You don’t want to go to America, so you aren’t going to go to America,” he said smartly, giving her a smirk.
“But what about Charlie and Harry and Hermione and everyone? And…”
“And what? Who cares about them, Ginny?”
“I do – they are my friends. But…well…wouldn’t that be selfish?” she asked softly.
“It’s not selfish to not do something that you don’t want to do.”
Ginny cocked her head. “Wait, what? You lost me,” she said, a giggle escaping.
“What, are you slow? It’s not selfish if you don’t want to do something so you decide not to do it.”
“I guess that makes some sort of twisted sense,” she answered, considering him carefully. “All right, so it isn’t selfish, but it still doesn’t answer the whole question.”
“And what might that be?” he asked, raising an eyebrow with that self-satisfied smirk still playing at his lips.
“The whole question is ‘why can’t I get this bloody potion to work’ Draco.”
He laughed and picked up the unicorn horn again. “It’s because you’re a Weasley. I don’t think a Weasley has ever passed Advanced Potions…much less anything else,” he said, baiting her.
“I’ll have you know that Percy got top marks in all his N.E.W.Ts and Bill…” She trailed off, not wanting to bring up Bill.
“And Bill…” Draco pressed.
“Never mind,” she said, picking up her knife and finishing the Dionysus petals. “So I’m guessing I put the unicorn horn first? It was the doxy wings combined with the Dionysus petals that made the cauldron explode.”
“What’s wrong?” he asked, a bit unsure why he wanted to press the matter so much. Maybe it’s that you don’t want to see her hurting?
“Bill’s dead, no use in dredging up the past just to placate you,” she said, rather bluntly.
“Oh,” Draco replied. “Well, then, yes I had put the doxy wings in and the combination of the two volatile substances caused it to explode. We need the purifying power of the unicorn horn to dilute the mixture before we add the Dionysus. You getting all this?” he asked, trying to lighten the mood again.
“I thought you said I couldn’t copy you,” she answered, biting down on her lower lip.
“That would hardly be very Slytherin of me,” he said haughtily, handing her the quill. “Although I suppose a noble Gryffindor like you wouldn’t dream of cheating.”
“Oi, I know when to take help if it’s offered – even if it is a dishonest form.”
“I’ll make a Slytherin out of you yet, Weasley.”
“Because that is exactly my goal in life, Malfoy, to become a Slytherin just like you,” she said, sarcastically.
Draco laughed and measured out the crushed doxy wings and put them into the new cauldron. “Now the horn scrapings,” he said.
Ginny reached over the table to empty in the scrapings, brushing Draco’s arm as she did so. She could almost swear she felt him shiver when she touched him, but from his unchanged appearance, perhaps she hadn’t. She gathered up the sliced petals making sure that she didn’t touch the juices and dumped them into the cauldron. They both leaned over to watch the potion form.
“Look, there, do you see how the petals seek out the scrapings? They are attracted by their very opposite nature. See how they bond like that?” Draco explained, eyes fixed on the swirl of colors beneath him.
Ginny was transfixed by the display – it really was quite stunning to watch. The petals and scrapings danced together in the water, colors issuing from their wake until they fused together and became still, melting into the potion. Eventually all the pieces were paired together and sank into the mixture. The potion was a murky brown color, belying the beautiful swirls from before.
“What happened?” Ginny asked, breathlessly.
“We need to add the final ingredient,” he answered quietly. He picked up a vial of clear liquid. “These are phoenix tears to seal the bond forever. Two drops – no more.”
Ginny took the vial and carefully let two drops fall into the potion. For a moment nothing happened, and then a beautiful note trilled in the air – phoenix song – and the potion changed from the hideous brown color to a dazzling gold. Ginny let out a gasp when she heard the music. Instinctively, she grabbed Draco’s hand until the song died away.
“That was amazing!” she cried, letting go Draco’s hand and picking up an empty vial to put a sample in. “Thank you so much for your help. I don’t think I could have done it without you.”
“I’m sure you could have. It really isn’t that complicated. You just needed to concentrate,” he answered, starting to clear the materials away. He paused and looked at his watch. “Wow – it’s almost midnight.”
“It’s okay; this was probably the best detention I’ve ever had. You can be an awful lot of fun when you loosen up,” she said, shyly.
Draco smiled genuinely at her. He walked around the table and helped her down from the stool. When he had set her down, she stepped quickly, but her foot got tangled in her robe and she started to fall. He caught her effortlessly.
“You really are a clumsy little thing,” he said. He was awfully close to her again, his arm wrapped securely around her back, and the other supporting her head. He was holding her in a dip.
“It’s in the genes,” she whispered. He set her right again, but she didn’t let him go.
“Wait,” she gasped out.
“Thank you…for everything,” she said quietly. The world was losing focus around her; all she could see were his pale grey eyes, boring into her. She leaned closer, her minding screaming at her to stop, but she ignored it completely. This would be right, it had to be right.
Their lips had touched only slightly, but the sensation was instantaneous. Ginny felt tingles running up and down her spine. She moved closer, effectively deepening the kiss. She felt Draco’s arms wrap around her and she got up on tiptoe to try to reach better. He got the hint and picked her up – she was so light! – her feet dangling a few inches from the ground. Gods, but it was perfect.
Draco had just barely parted her lips with his tongue, when alarm surged through her body. Oh gods, what am I doing? She went slack and Draco set her down on the floor.
She was breathing heavily and couldn’t speak. She was relieved when Draco spoke first.
“I’m sorry,” he said. It was so simple and so achingly real that Ginny almost wanted to kiss him again just to make that tone in his voice disappear.
”It was my fault, Draco,” she said softly. “I shouldn’t have – I mean, I didn’t mean to.”
He wouldn’t look at her. “You should go, I’ll finish cleaning this up.”
“But, what about--”
“I’ll see you tomorrow in the Room of Requirement,” he said, voice suddenly businesslike. “Is 7:30 all right?”
Ginny looked away. “7:30 is fine,” she answered, tone matching his. She knew she could trust his discretion, and so she just left the room, ignoring the twinges of pain in her heart.
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