She groaned. Ron was pounding up the stairs to the girl’s dormitories at a furious pace, bellowing her name as he went along. There was no use in hiding from him, they were brother and sister and eventually would have to see each other again. Stupid arse wouldn’t even let her bathe in peace.
“I’m in the bath, Ron.”
Stomp, stomp, stomp, slam! Ron stood in the doorway, red-faced and brandishing a magazine, not noticing that she was in a state of undress. Fortunately for her, bubbles were covering the most important parts.
“Can I help you?” Ginny asked acidly.
“Sweet Merlin, cover yourself!” Ron raced over with a towel and attempted to wrap it around her shoulders.
She batted it away with one hand. “Why bother, everyone’s seen me in less than this already.”
If it were possible, Ron’s face turned a more violent shade of purple and a vein throbbed on his neck in an interesting manner. He indicated the magazine by a shake of his hand.
“Care to explain this to me?”
“Not really, but since I know you won’t let me finish my bath until I do . . .” Ginny tossed her head to the side, bubbles half-covering her face. “Colin needed nude studies to complete his portfolio for art school. So I helped him out. I didn’t know that someone stole the pictures last week.”
“That’s just what he told you.”
“No,” Ginny disagreed vehemently. “You don’t even know him. Colin would never do that to me. Besides, the pictures of Padma and Parvati aren’t in there." She pointed at the magazine with a dripping finger. “So this was done to get me personally.”
Ron’s eyes widened. “Padma and Parvati posed for him too? I’m gonna kill the poncy little—”
Ginny’s eyes flashed in anger. “Don’t you dare call him that!”
Ron was quiet for a moment, breathing deeply of the steamy air through his nose. Something in his expression broke and he started forward. “Gin, whoever did this is going to pay. If you say that Colin didn’t do this, then I believe you. But I’m still going to have a talk with him. I don’t want to know what you and he are on about, and I don’t—”
“He’s gay, Ron,” Ginny cut him off wearily. “He is nothing but my very best friend.”
Ron’s eyes grew even larger. “He’s gay? But all of those girls that he’s been with . . .”
“He says it is pretty common behaviour before someone realises they like people of the same gender. I’ve done a lot of research and have tried to be there for him the best I could. Don’t you dare go and open your mouth now.”
“I won’t, I promise. But if he didn’t—” Ron’s face flushed an even deeper shade of red. “Malfoy,” he ground out.
Ginny rolled her eyes. “You always go back to him when something goes wrong. How on earth would he know about, much less be able to steal, Colin’s pictures?”
Ron’s hands wrung themselves over and over before fisting and dropping to his sides. “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.”
“Then by all means, find out if you can. But can I please finish my bath?” The bubbles were starting to disappear and soon there would be nothing left to cover her naughty bits but the clear water. Ron nodded, deep in contemplation, and closed the door, leaving Ginny to her thoughts.
The next day, Ginny ventured out into the hallways with her head held high. She had taken extra care with her appearance that morning. Liberally covering her face with Lockhart’s Fabulous Freckle Fader and applying the small amount of paint charms she used with special precision. It wouldn’t do for her to look as if all of the gossip was affecting her sleep, which it was.
All talk stopped as she passed by and it took every ounce of courage and control to keep walking and ignore the stares. It had taken almost five years and Colin’s gentle insistence for her to gain the self-assurance she had now; it would not be ruined because of some stupid photographs. The Potions classroom was just a little further, if she could just sit down and get lost in her textbook . . .
“Mmmn, Weasley. Loved the one of you and the Patil girls draped over that sofa like the tarts you are. Now I’ll have something to bait my mastiffs into mating with at home.” The words were spoken softly into her ear and she stopped. The warm breath of the speaker was still moist on her neck. He was the one who stole the photographs! Ron had been right all along, but how had it been done?
Ginny turned round quickly as Draco was straightening up, grinning with sharp, white teeth. “You stole Colin’s pictures!”
This accusation received nothing but a haughty smirk in return. Ginny looked up and realised that her head only reached just above chest height on the arrogant beast. But her arms were at exactly the right level . . .
“At least you won’t be mating anymore.” She had the satisfaction of watching the puzzlement shift his features before pulling back her fist to slam into his crotch. The boy crumpled and almost fell on top of her before she regained the good sense to step back.
He lay there, holding his goods, face purple. “You’ll pay for that, you little bitch.”
Ginny had to admire the fact that his words weren’t squeaky like Ron’s had been when she’d done the same thing to him last year, but were instead a breathy hiss. People gathered in a ring, watching as Draco writhed on the floor in agony. She glanced around, thankful that Ron wasn’t nearby to ‘protect’ her from Malfoy’s wrath. Besides, it wasn’t as if he was going to be able to move anytime soon. She smiled sweetly down at him and blew a mocking kiss.
“It’s been fun, Malfoy. Remind me to—ahhh!” The world tumbled end over end as Draco grabbed her ankle and dragged her onto the floor, the back of her head clunking painfully on the hard, stone floor.
His face was pressed close as he whispered almost into her mouth. “You aren’t going anywhere, Weasley.”
Draco sat up and flipped her body over his lap. Ginny thrashed wildly about and she could feel him grunt as he struggled to hold her down. She could just see as he raised his large, long fingered hand and paddled her thoroughly on the bottom like a small child. The fact that he had just been embarrassed was nothing to the ridicule she would garner from this. More ridicule, blast him. Malfoy soon pushed her off of him and stood up, watching as she rubbed her backside fiercely.
“Now hurry along, little girl. Maybe next time you’ll remember that you shouldn’t try to run with the big boys.”
Ginny glared up at him from her position on the floor and watched as he swept out of the dungeons toward wherever he had been going in the first place. The crowds soon dispersed, guffawing and shaking their heads. Not only had she hit her head and been spanked like a two year-old in front of her peers, but now Ginny was late for her Potions exam.
It had been a long day and Draco sighed wearily as he flopped down on the green leather sofa in the empty Slytherin common room. The hard-won clarity of the morning had been reduced so far that it took every ounce of control he had not to break into tears. So it stood to reason that he didn’t want to deal with Pansy tonight when she slithered down the stairs.
“Oh Dray-co! You look so worn out! Let me kiss you all better.” She sat down on his lap, uninvited, and tried to kiss him on the lips. Draco allowed a hiss of pain escape and shoved her off onto the floor.
“Get off me, woman!” He rubbed at his crotch slightly and winced.
“Poor Dray-co, are you still hurting?”
“What do you think, you twat?” he ground out.
She tilted her head to the side, allowing hands to support her weight on the cold stone floor. “You must be really angry at Potter to have sold those pictures to Playwizard. When that little weasel tells him it was you, he’ll have your rocks on a stick.”
Draco shoved a hand through his hair, disrupting its usual coiffed perfection. “You think I don’t know that?”
“Then why did you tell her?” she persisted.
“I didn’t tell her outright. I just wanted a good laugh was all.”
Pansy narrowed her eyes and took in his form. “You‘ve been acting odd lately. What happened to you?”
“Nothing’s happened to me. I’ve just been tired is all.”
“Mmn-hmmn. It isn’t like you to give away the game before you’re ready to do so.”
Draco grunted in response and ignored Pansy, staring into the fire.
“You know,” she murmured, touching a hand to his thigh and slipping it further up. “I think I know just what you need.”
“Not tonight, Pansy. I‘m weary.”
“You don’t have to do anything but sit there.”
“I said not tonight!” he snapped. Pansy leaned back, her face openly fearful.
“You are different, Draco.” She actually forgot to say his name in an affected way, eyes widening. “Crabbe and Goyle say that you won’t let them walk with you anymore and you actually received house points for saving that chit’s life!”
“Crabbe and Goyle irritate me even more than you do. And as for the Weasley girl, do you really think I wouldn’t have been punished if I just pushed her off of my broom?”
“W-well . . .” she floundered, her fingers twisting in the rug under her hand.
“Exactly. Now if you don’t mind, I was busy before you came in flouting your non-existent charms.”
Pansy jumped to her feet, facial flesh quivering with rage. “I’m never sleeping with you again, Draco Malfoy. Never!”
“Next time you make a threat, Pansy darling, take away something other than that over-used little quim of yours. Because frankly, I was starting to lose interest anyway.”
“I hate you!” Pansy shouted, tears streaming down her flushed cheeks as she ran up the stairs to the girl‘s dormitories.
“Ah well, nice to see I still haven’t lost my touch,” Draco whispered to himself, absorbed once more by the green flames of the fireplace.
“You punched Malfoy in the rocks? Are you mad?”
Ginny sighed, trust Ron to overreact. “What did you expect me to do after what he said to me?”
“You should have come and found me instead of clocking him like that. You were asking for trouble.”
“Well, I found it apparently. Anyway, it doesn’t matter, what’s done is done. And I‘m perfectly capable of defending myself, thanks much.”
“Do you realise that you’ve practically started a war? Malfoy will never leave us alone now. After what Dumbledore said—”
“Have you already forgotten that he was the one who sold those pictures of me?”
“Malfoy is the one who started this, not me.”
“But Gin, nothing!” she snapped fiercely. “I’m not a little girl anymore, Ron.”
“You certainly are little! Malfoy is at least three inches taller than me and I’m six-foot! I don’t care how well you think you can defend yourself, you are still too small to be running around pounding people in the goods. You’re lucky that all he did was spank you.”
“It was enough,” Ginny admitted, ruefully rubbing her bottom. “He has hands like an iron skillet.”
Ron shook his head. “I’m going to go have a talk with Harry, if he’ll listen. We have to be prepared for what Malfoy might do next, and what I‘m going to do to Malfoy.”
“It’ll be easy enough for him to do something with Harry and Hermione fighting like they are.”
“You can’t fight with someone if you don’t acknowledge they exist,” Ron stated, his face suddenly even and vacant.
“I think Hermione went over the top. If she really wants to help Harry, she should just talk to him instead of screaming her head off and pretending he‘s not there. She’s scared of losing him and thinks that this is the best way but it’s not.”
Ron visibly flinched at her words but hung his head instead of saying anything further on the subject. “I’m going to go and talk with Harry.”
As Ron made his way out of the room, Ginny called out. “See if you can get him to talk to Hermione and I’ll see what I can do with her.”
Ron stood there, staring blankly at his sister a moment before nodding. “Yeah, you do that.”
“Hermione, you have to talk to Harry. This has been dragging out for far too long.”
The girl sniffed and tossed her long, frizzy brown curls over one shoulder. “I have nothing to say to that disgusting drunkard.”
Ginny pursed her lips and studied Hermione for a moment before speaking. “You know, it isn’t like you to pick a fight with Harry. Usually it’s Ron you’re angry with, this just doesn’t feel right to me.”
“No, Ginny,” Hermione whispered severely, turning to look her directly in the eyes. “You know what doesn’t feel right? Harry drowning his problems in a bottle instead of talking it over with Ron or I. Not only that, but when he does finally start talking about what's bothering him, he starts in on the same rubbish we’ve hashed and rehashed for years!”
“Then it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s been after him lately.”
“But I can’t live my life when Harry is always going on about You-Know-Who! It makes me wonder why I even bother studying for my N.E.W.T’s at all.”
“So that’s what has you so upset. You’re afraid that Harry’s right and he won’t be able to stop You-Know-Who from killing you.”
“Not just me, everyone. I’m afraid for everyone and I can’t— I can’t live this way. The constant fear, looking over my shoulder for You-Know-Who in every corner. It makes me wonder why I haven’t run screaming back to the Muggle world. Then Ron is always saying something about how doom and gloom Harry is and how he drowns his troubles in a few pints and a few girls down in Hogsmeade almost every weekend. I can’t bring myself to call him on it, and it isn’t even really my business what he does in Hogsmeade, but I’m worried about him. We‘re all falling apart.”
“Hermione, just go and talk things out with Harry. You’ll feel better. If You-Know-Who really is going to do something soon, then this is certainly not the time to be bickering with your friends.”
“I suppose you’re philosophy is something like ‘make the best of the time you have, eh?” Hermione queried contritely.
“Something like that.” Ginny made a shooing motion with her hands. “Now go on up there and talk to Harry and Ron, maybe this can all be worked out before Christmas hols and we can have some fun this year.”
Hermione smiled in a heartbreakingly true way and made her way out of the common room and up to the boy’s dormitories while Ginny took the opportunity to get some Potions homework done.
It was nearing midnight when Ginny put the finishing touches on the two foot Asphodel essay Snape wanted as punishment for being late to class that morning. Ginny rubbed the back of her neck and stretched, glancing up to the boy’s dormitory entrance. Things had been quiet up there for some time now and it made her curious.
She pressed the blotter firmly over her Potions essay and rolled it up. No one else was in the common room this late except for Neville who had fallen asleep over his Herbology homework on the floor in front of the fire.
Carefully, Ginny stepped over Neville and made her way upstairs to the seventh-year boy’s dorm. The door creaked as she opened it and there was mumbling from Seamus’ bed as he turned over, clutching a stuffed Quaffle to his chest and burying his face in it contentedly. Ron and Neville’s beds were empty, but Harry’s had the curtains partly drawn. Ginny lifted her hand to draw them back and smiled softly when she took in the scene before her.
Harry was on the left side, glasses halfway down his nose, his face relaxed and tranquil. Hermione laid in the middle, squished between the two boys with an arm around each of their shoulders protectively. Ron curled up into her side, resting his flushed and sticky face on top of her stomach.
Ginny sighed, feeling left out, but happy that they had all resolved the problem. Things were back to normal again. Hermione and the boys always had a closeness that became less restrained as the years passed and danger brought them nearer to each other. No matter how much Harry tried to keep them at a distance.
Most people would see their behaviour as odd or even aberrant. But this was as natural as breathing to the Trio. Trio. That is what they were, and there was no room left for a fourth to join them on the bed and make it a quartet.
Ginny pulled the quilt her mum had made for Harry the year before out of his trunk and draped it over their slumbering bodies, careful not to wake them. She gave in to her urge to smooth Ron’s hair before wandering back down the stairwell. Ginny woke Neville from his place before the fire and scooted him along to bed before going upstairs herself.
Huddled away from the creeping autumn chill by thick blankets and curtains, Ginny wished, not for the first time, that she had more friends like Hermione and Harry were to Ron.
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