DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Chapter 4

First and Second-year students lazily filed out of the library, completely satisfied with their attempts at being studious on this fine Saturday morning. The echoes of footsteps in the halls gradually augmented, as the older students began returning from their Hogsmeade trips. Common rooms were soon packed with excited stories of which wizard was seen with which witch at The Three Broomsticks, and which of the newest Honeydukes sweets taste the best. The chatter intensified and moved its way down the stairs and into the Great Hall, as hungry eyes and growling stomachs took their places at the House tables, eagerly awaiting lunch. It seemed all the Hogwarts students were enjoying themselves over goblets of pumpkin juice, all but five, that is. Two Gryffindors were nervously seated in their Common Room, one more was leaning against a secluded tree, her pockets weighed down, and yet another Gryffindor was cracking her knuckles and resting her quill while her former Slytherin "study partner" was stalking away to a rather important meeting.

Hermione let her eyes shut slowly and let out a deep sigh. After hours of intense research, she had come to one striking conclusion: Ginny is in serious trouble. And depending on the definition of serious, it could mean trouble for just about everyone. Ok, let's just be calm and collected about this. Hermione's hands instinctively rubbed her temples while she tried to ease her own nerves. Deciding that worrying would really get her nowhere, Hermione methodically gathered together her papers and made her way back to Gryffindor Tower. On her way she noticed a great deal of commotion coming from the direction of the Great Hall. Oh good, everyone must be at lunch. Standing before the Fat Lady, Hermione took one last chance to fill her lungs with as much air as she could, then muttered the password and settled next to Harry and across from Ron in front of the fire.

"Hermione," Ron exclaimed, "we've been waiting here forever! Would you care to fill us in on what exactly you've been doing this whole time?"

Harry slung an arm around her shoulder and looked at her expectantly.

"Well? What have you found out?"

"All right, here's the deal," Hermione shrugged away from Harry and pulled up a stool, with her back to the fire, facing the two boys. "I was thinking very seriously about what we knew and saw that day on the train. We were all sitting in the compartment, and I noticed Ginny had fallen asleep. Now, we were looking at the situation from the standpoint that Ginny might have been sleepwalking. The flaw there is that we heard her scream, and it's not as though she's ever developed any sort of pattern for sleepwalking over the past sixteen years. The other approach is that someone kidnapped her. This obviously isn't very likely, considering we were all in the compartment, and would have noticed something. Despite what we thought about Malfoy, Harry, I really don't think he had anything to do with this." She paused to take a breath, but was soon bombarded by Ron's sputtering.

"What do you mean it's not Malfoy?? How can you just rule him out like that?" Ron threw his hands up in exasperation. "Hermione, I can't believe that you, of all people, could actually be dense enough to think that Malfoy is innocent. Malfoy's never innocent. He isn't innocent of anything. Even if it has nothing to do with him, he's guilty. That's number three on the list of reasons why Malfoy shouldn't even be in existence."

"Erm, Ron?" Harry asked with a cocked eyebrow, "What exactly are numbers one and two?"

"One: Malfoy's a git. Two: He's got bloody girly hair."

"Actually, I think he's got quite nice hair." Hermione responded in with a far-away smile.

"HERMIONE!" she jumped at the response she earned from both boys.

"Never mind all that." Harry desperately shook his head of the twelve ugly mental pictures he just had involving Draco's hair. "I have to agree with Ron and say that trusting Malfoy may not be the wisest decision. Why don't you at least tell us why you think he'd be above suspicion?"

"Well," Hermione breathed in deeply as she thought this over. Instinctively, the image of Draco sitting hunched over books in the library for hours on end flew into her head. He seemed so...dedicated. There's definitely something going on with him and Ginny, but I don't think it's mind control. "Look, it's just an instinct I have, ok? We don't have to trust him by any stretch of the means, just not pin the blame on him until we have all the facts. Besides, you don't even know what he's probably not guilty of!" She finished with an exhausted look on her face, and stood up to pace as she continued.

"As I was saying, we were going about this entirely wrong. It's not a simple matter of sleepwalking, or of kidnapping. It's a combination of the two. So I went to the library and began researching sleepwalking, and I found out about dreamwalking. Basically, it's a relatively simple spell that allows you to enter someone else's dream. However, it's simple given one condition. The host, the person whose dreams you enter, must completely willingly allow you in the first time. Once the dreamwalker has access to the host's mind the first time, repeated access becomes much easier."

"So what you're saying is my little sister asked someone to crawl into her head?"

"Not entirely, Ron. See, all that the host needs to do is build a level of trust. That trust can be betrayed or broken, but the spell will be just as effective as long as the host harbors thoughts of the walker. But all of that isn't exactly dangerous. I mean, any of us could enter each other's dreams, but no real harm would be done. It would be more like a game. You see, when the spell is performed, the walker simply guarantees that he or she will play some part in the dream; there is no way of telling what will happen. The dreamwalker has no more sense of consciousness or control over what happens than the actual dreamer. It would produce the same effects as whispering something in a person's ear while they're sleeping; just introduce ideas into a dream. Are you with me so far?"

Harry and Ron frowned for a moment in thought. Then they exchanged a look that meant they knew this was clearly only half of the story. Hermione waited for the two of them to nod before going on with her pacing and talking.

"Right, then. The dreamwalking can be controlled, but only in extreme circumstances. If the host has, at one point, placed complete trust in the dreamwalker, then a second spell can be conducted to allow the dreamwalker to manifest himself in the host's head."

"So this dreamwalker that Ginny has," Harry began, scratching his chin, "he somehow got to the point of total trust and was able to enter her head. And you think that once he was in there, he convinced her to go walking out of the compartment and what not."

"Actually, it may be a little more complicated than that." Hermione shifted nervously before going on. "In order for the mind-control to actually be successful, there needs to be some kind of emotion involved in addition to the trust. Depending on the strength of the emotion, the control grows proportionately. Once it reaches a high point, the manifestation can actually become physical."

"Physical? What do you mean?" Ron's nervous eyes implored her for some kind of answer that wouldn't make him feel any worse about this whole thing. He was, of course, disappointed.

"I mean, if whatever emotion Ginny's feeling towards this person is strong enough, then this person can actually physically appear. At first they will just be in their own world, but with time, and with more dreamwalking the person could come into our world." Hermione sighed at the confused expressions on their faces. "Eventually, we could have a figment of Ginny's imagination walking amongst us."

All three of them froze and sat wide-eyed, staring at the portrait hole as they saw it swing shut behind Neville's departing figure. Hermione's voice became high-pitched and she tugged on a lock of hair as she spoke.

"So, how much of all that do you think he heard?"

"Well, there's only really one way to find out." With that said, Harry marched out of the common room and followed Neville's footsteps towards the Great Hall. Hermione and Ron slumped nervously behind, and they disappeared down the staircase.

Ginny squinted slightly in the blazing sun on her way to the lake. Draco had told her to meet him there after she got back from Hogsmeade, but he wasn't anywhere to be found. So instead she took out the parcel that was weighing down her robes and set it next to her as she lounged beneath a tree. Leaning her head back against the bark, Ginny's eyes fluttered shut from the weight of far too much confusion. So much seemed to be going on in her little world, which was slightly more than boring a few months ago. To be exact, she currently had a teenage psychopath murderer in the making haunting her, the best friend of her ex-boyfriend suddenly interested in her, and she found herself dreaming about potential reenactments of her short-lived snog session with her supposed arch enemy, who had most recently vowed to save her life...again.

Ginny's thoughts involuntarily drifted back to the feel of Draco kissing her. It was so new and frightening, yet naturally refreshing at the same time. It wasn't as though she hadn't kissed boys before, but kissing Draco was like a roller coaster. She had no idea what to expect, and found herself comfortably lost in his arms. Being around him was like being with no other bloke she knew. There had been Michael Corner in fourth year, but he was more of a reason for her to get over her little crush on Harry. Ginny had held a torch for the Boy Who Lived for so long, that she needed a distraction, and the Ravenclaw proved quite adequate. Sure, she fancied Michael, but she never really invested much in him. Even whenever they kissed, it was very awkward. It seemed more of an obligation than any sort of passionate response. Ginny was almost too glad to find an excuse to be rid of him. She thought back to the end of her fourth year, when all she thought she needed was a boyfriend. There was so much fear in the world, with Voldemort on the rise again, and Ginny's nightmares plaguing her, that her newfound confidence was beginning to shake. Of course, she never let on that she was frightened. There was no way Ron would ever have let her join DA or participate in anything if he knew she might start shrinking back to the shell of a person she was in first year. So Ginny turned to the easy answer, and decided to build her confidence externally.

Dean had always been there to talk to her and give her help when she needed it. With Dean, Ginny actually felt like she was in her first real relationship. All the typical elements were there: the fluttery feeling in her stomach when he brushed past her arm, the goofy grins they exchanged, the repeated attempts to escape from Ron's maniacal scrutiny. All the same, something hadn't felt right. When he kissed her for the first time, Ginny was caught off guards, but welcomed the surprise, as she was very much used to Michael's sloppy off-centered attempts. Dean's kisses were always so comfortable, reminding Ginny that she had both feet firmly planted on the ground. It was as though he was her anchor, pulling her down out of the clouds she so often found herself in. But after a few months, Ginny realized she much preferred the clouds. So her fully developed sense of independence brought her here, to this tree, daydreaming about her "experience" with the opposite sex. Letting out a sigh, she shifted to smooth the back of her robes against the rough texture of the tree.

But what am I going to do about Seamus? A voice in the back of her head relentlessly refused to let her simply sit and enjoy the cool autumn afternoon. Ginny picked up a reddened leaf next to her and began to poke at it thoughtfully. Their morning in Hogsmeade was fun, but it seemed interrupted. Ginny simply couldn't concentrate on the poor boy that was with her, her thoughts constantly drifting to a more enigmatic blond she knew. She had an idea, though, that Seamus was trying to build himself up to a point where he would ask her out, and they would be an item. Normally, Ginny would have been far too impatient with his feeble attempts, and would have made the first move. But this time she felt much more comfortable with the procrastination. She rather preferred to let Seamus dawdle in his yet-to-be-fully-realized masculinity while she straightened out the rest of her crazy life. And it was a crazy life indeed, complete with unprecedented feelings toward a Slytherin, of all people.

For the life of her, Ginny couldn't figure out what exactly she felt for Draco. There wasn't exactly a friendship between the two of them: she could barely stand him on most occasions. Still, she couldn't completely hate him, because she had had a glimpse of whoever it was that he kept hidden under that cold exterior, whether he had wanted her to or not. Ginny knew that there was more to Draco than he let on. He had a story to tell, an entirely different life that thrived behind his eyes, that he opened up only for a few brief moments. Ginny ached to know this Draco better, to figure out what exactly makes him tick, but at the same time, the closer she got to him, the more she found out about him, and the more she wished she hadn't. Over half of her confusion right now was because of Draco, and Ginny would be more than happy to be completely free of it all.

Suddenly a gust of wind picked up around her, and she could feel wisps of her hair flying into her face. Ginny opened her eyes and looked up to see the billowing wind lift the idle leaves, and they floated to life, swirling around and around. As if to complete the picturesque scene, there stood Draco, in the center of everything, stony expression and all. Ginny jumped a little at the sight of him. Bugger, it's as though he just shows up every time I think about him. You'd think he was telepathic... His robes were fluttering behind him and his hair was falling in his face. The sun shining in just the right angle behind him created a sparkling halo around his eyes.

"Oh, hullo," she managed in a meek voice after a few moments of gawking "I didn't see you there."

Draco simply smirked and sauntered over towards her, instantly breaking the ephemeral image of her Slytherin angel.

"Harry!" Ron panted behind him, "slow down! We'll get to him soon enough, but I think we should really figure out what we're going to say before we get there."

"Ron's got a point, Harry." Hermione paused to clutch a stitch at her side. I've really got to get in shape. "We're not going to accomplish much of anything unless we have a plan of action. First we need to figure out whether or not we want Neville in on this in the first place."

Harry shot her a look of disbelief at this. He exchanged a look with Ron and they wordlessly agreed that Neville would be the last person they wanted to include on their mission to rescue Ginny from stalkers.

"Oh, come on, you lot." Hermione walked up to them and lowered her voice as she spoke. "You must remember how hard it was to stop him from coming with us to the Ministry two years ago. What makes you think it'll be any easier to cut him out of something that he wants to be a part of now?"

"Hmm, you have a point, Hermione. After all, if my sister is involved, he'll definitely want a hand in helping her." Ron's calm expression earned two looks of utter incredulity from his best friends. "What??" he shifted and felt his face turn red. "Look, I may be a tad overprotective, but I'm not an idiot. I can tell when a bloke fancies my sister."

"Right, Ron," Hermione sniffed, "because you were only the last to know about her last two boyfriends. What you mean to say is that you can tell when a bloke that you approve of fancies your sister."

"All right, you lot." Harry cut in, "I think we're getting a bit off topic. How are we going to deal with this Neville situation?"

Ron rubbed the back of his neck, then voiced his thoughts,

"Well, we've established that we can't cut him out entirely. But at the same time, I don't want him getting too involved in all this. It does feel rather personal, and if what Hermione said about this dream fellow coming to life is true, then I definitely think we should keep this as secret as possible."

"So why don't we just tell him that there's nothing more we can do about it, and we'll talk to Ginny and hope she can stop it herself. We can't let on that we actually plan on investigating further. What do you say Hermione?"

"Sounds like a plan. But before we say anything, we should find out exactly how much he knows. We might not have any explaining to do at all." Hermione finished hopefully, but knew that this was just wishful thinking. She breathed in and went into the Great Hall, praying that Neville was the only one who had overheard them.

They walked through the double doors, and found all the House tables packed with hungry students. Ron led the way over to Gryffindor table, and they seated themselves in their usual seats, except Ron had a space next to him where Ginny usually sat. Before he had a chance to ask where she was, Hermione had already approached Neville with a hushed voice.

"Neville?" she ventured. "Did you have fun at Hogsmeade today?"

"Didn't go." He got out between mouthfuls. "Had to finish that Snape essay." Ron winced at the thought of his own unfinished essay on the effects of newt's tail on outward appearances.

"Oh, I didn't go either! I don't think I saw you in the library though, were you studying in the common room?"

"Stop playing games Hermione." Neville put down his fork and looked her square in the eye. "You lot know very well that I heard everything you said. I also know why you're here, talking to me. But I think you should understand that I fully intend on being a part of whatever it is that you're doing about this. I care about Ginny too, you know. And seeing her hurt is the last thing I want. As scary as the thought of what happened on the train is, it's scarier that something worse could happen to her. So I'm helping, whether you like it or not."

Harry's eyebrows shot into his forehead upon hearing Neville speak so fiercely.

"You know, Neville," he began, leaning across Hermione, "we really appreciate the consideration you're showing. It's very clear that we can trust you to help us out in whatever we do, but that's just it. There's nothing that we're doing right now. See, you left before Hermione could tell us that there's really no way to stop this at all. All it takes is the own will of Ginny herself to stop this. So thanks for the offer of help, and we definitely would include you, if there was something to include you in." Harry finished with a guilty smile, and Ron nodded in the seat across of him.

"Well, I guess so." Neville muttered skeptically before getting up. "Hey, you can't blame me for trying!" And he ran off, claiming he had to fix his Potions homework, leaving behind Harry, Ron, and Hermione to stare after him thinking that was far too easy.

"So, um, Hermione?" Ron broke the silence after a few forkfuls. "I know you told us what's happening to Ginny back there, but I can't help but feel like you got cut off. I mean, is there more?"

Hermione looked up from her plate and set her fork down, her mouth drawn into a determined line across her face.

"There's more."

Draco seized the package sitting next to Ginny and began rummaging through it. Shivers were shooting up her spine at the feel of Draco's hand brushing against hers.

"Dried forget-me-nots, newt scales, rosemary roots...it's all here." Draco's voice taking inventory cut right through her thoughts. "Good little Weasel."

"What did you need all that for anyway?" she snapped, still a little miffed that she had to spend all her money on some whim of Draco's.

"Whoa, slow down before you bite my head off. All of that shopping, after all, is only for you. Here," Draco then reached into his pocket and withdrew some knuts, which he threw into her lap. "I obviously couldn't pay you before, given your psychotic brother."

Ginny fingered the coins in her lap and felt her face turning a slight shade of red.

"Sorry," she mumbled, "but what exactly do you mean, they're for me? What are you going to do with ingredients?"

"Fear not, Ginny dearest, you'll find out soon enough." Draco's eyes were boring into her, and he suddenly turned them away, towards the sun. "I went to the library today. Found some things out I think you should know."

"Oh, you mean you figured out what's going on? So I don't just have some psychotic disease?"

"No, you definitely have a disease. But there's essentially nothing I can do to change the fact that your name is Weasley."

"Draco." Ginny ground out between her teeth, before letting out a sigh. "Would it honestly kill you to set aside the sarcastic glib for all of five minutes?"

"No, I suppose it wouldn't. But then again, why risk it?" Draco turned to meet her eyes, strands of blond falling across his forehead. A deadly smirk was playing at his lips as he moved to lean his elbow on the tree above Ginny's head.

Ginny struggled to feel the strength in her legs, and pushed herself up against the tree, her head now resting in the crook of his elbow. She cocked an eyebrow at him and let out a mischievous grin. Trailing a finger across his chest, she leaned closer to him.

"Are you sure," she whispered, "there's absolutely no way," she could hear his breath get ragged now, "you could change my last name?" It was as though a flint had just been struck in his eyes, threatening to burst in flames, before he stiffened like a bored and turned to stone once again.

"Right, so what I was saying." Draco quickly crossed to the other side of the tree and sat down with his back to it, presumably to avoid any sight of Ginny, who was by now desperately fighting the urge to double over in laughter. "You might want to pay attention to this, it's a little complicated, but I think your feeble mind can pick it up if you try."

Ginny rolled her eyes and sat back down, deciding to filter out his snide remarks.

"Okay, I'm ready."

"Good," and Draco began. "Before I get into all the gory details, what exactly do you know about dream walking?"

"Well, I know that it involves a simple Somnius spell, but won't work unless there's some establishment of trust. Also, neither the dreamer nor the one doing the walking can actually control what happens during the dream." Ginny finished hastily. "Why? Is that what's going on with me?"

"Close, but it's a little more complicated than just that. There's actually a second spell involved: the Concitatius spell."

"Concitatius...isn't that used for some kind of mind control?" Ginny cut in.

"Well, I'm impressed, you're not quite as feeble as I thought." Clearing his throat, Draco went on. "There's two main parts involved in the Concitatius. First, the dream walker, in your case, Tom Riddle, needs to plant some sort of spark in the dreamer, you. In order for it to carry any potency, however, you have to accept it. Acceptance comes from trust, and some sort of heightened emotion. As long as the dream walker elicits a combination of the two, he's good to go. Then, the next time you sleep, wham bam thank you ma'am, the spark activates itself."

"Wham bam thank you ma'am?? Hermione, I can't believe you just said that."

"Oh, Ron," Hermione dismissed him with a wave of her hand. "Please, try to keep your jaw from sweeping the floor. I do believe there are more important issues at hand, hmm?"

"Wait, so about this spark..."

"Right. It had to have been a long-term thing for it to have escalated to the point where Ginny's at right now. So that means it involves some serious magic. You see, anyone really can create a spark, but the effectiveness it has depends on the strength of the magic. And the strength of the magic depends on the strength of the wizard, or witch, as the case may be."

"But that means my sister's got some really experienced wizard for a stalker." Ron's eyes darkened a shade as he internalized Hermione's words. "That doesn't even make any sense, though! What kind of company has Ginny been keeping??"

"Look, Ron," Hermione sighed again before speaking. "I don't know much more than you about who Ginny spends time with, but I do know that if she was spending time with potentially dangerous people, she would have the sense to stay away. I also know that the kind of seriousness Ginny's situation has reached depends on an intense combination of trust and emotion, or memory. Basically, whatever Ginny feels for this stalker is enough to consume her, and he's just feeding off of it."

Ginny banged the back of her head lightly against the tree.

"Well, isn't this just great. Once again, it all boils down to the fact that I'm too much of a trusting git. One stupid little mistake, picking up that sodding diary is never going to just leave me alone, is it?" she let out a frustrated sigh before speaking again. "All right, fine. Go on."

"Yeah, right, then." Draco was fiddling with the edge of his robes. He turned his head to the side and suddenly felt the energy drain from him. It's just the stupid spell that's got you like this...she's just another girl, no big deal! "Right. So..."

"Erm, Draco?" Ginny's voice snapped him back into reality. She had walked around the tree and was now crouching in front of him. "You've been sitting like that for a minute straight. And you've done nothing but ramble on. Is something bothering you? I mean, I thought I was supposed to be the psycho in this group," she finished with a smirk.

"No, nothing's bothering me. I was just collecting my thoughts." He looked as if he were considering something very seriously, then spoke, "actually, something is bothering me, Weasel. Is your hair naturally that wild, or do you just keep it that way so you don't entirely blend into the background?"

Ginny sighed, and thought with resignation, At least he's back to his normal self now.

"Well, actually Malfoy, I'm sure you'd love to know that my hair isn't the only part of me that's naturally wild..."

"Sit down, Weasley, let's finish this before people start to notice me associating with the riffraff." He chose to ignore the devilish laugh threatening to escape her lips. "As I was saying, this spark induces fear. Immense fear. Our good friend, Mr. Riddle, feeds off that fear, and slowly becomes real. I'm sure you have some experience with a materializing Tom Riddle, what with your first year and all..." he trailed off and dragged his eyes up to hers.

"Yeah," she searched Draco's eyes relentlessly; she could have sworn she saw something that looked apologetic. "I have a little experience there."

"Well, this manifestation only lasts as long as the subordination lasts. Meaning, as long as you give into it. The only way to stop him from becoming real is to snap yourself out of it."

"But what if she doesn't snap out of it?" Harry was rubbing a hole into his chin, and it was severely red by the time Hermione pulled his hand away.

"Well, it does become increasingly hard to wake up, and the walker becomes stronger and realer each time it happens." Hermione couldn't force herself to meet Ron's eyes as she spoke, afraid of what she'd see.

"So, is there any way to end it for good?" Ron was gripping his fork so tightly that his knuckles were turning white. Hermione reached out with her other hand and placed it on top of his. The three of them sat there looking very solemn, Hermione trying to pour all her strength into her two favorite boys.

"We have to find out what the spark is first. After all, it could cover anything, from a memory, to a feeling, to even just a thought. Then we have to remove it. Don't even bother asking me how, because I have no clue." She added quickly, guessing their next question.

"Who?" Harry squeaked out, then cleared his throat and tried his best to sound strong. "Any of you have any idea of who this stalker man could be?"

"Hmm, I'm not too sure." Ron's eyebrows were drawn close together and a little crease appeared on his chin. "Although, I did visit her in the Hospital Wing once when she was still asleep, and she was muttering something about someone named Tom - wait, you don't think...?"

Three nervous gulps and a few hopeless sighs later, the three friends dragged themselves out of the Great Hall and up to Gryffindor Tower.

Ginny was sitting back on her heels now, trying to take in everything she had just heard.

"Wow, so you found all that in the library?"

"Oh, that reminds me, Gin, you - " he paused mid-sentence at the peculiar look on her face. "What?"

"It's just," she took a moment to look at the perplexed face he was giving her, then let out a little giggle. "Nothing, don't worry about it."

"Riiiight." Draco stood and started brushing off his robes. "Well, I just wanted to warn you that the Mudblood - "

"Don't call her that." Ginny ground out while clenching her fists.

"Yeah, sure." Draco waved his hand to dismiss her, and nearly knocked her nose off. "She was researching your little condition, so to speak, today too. Don't ask. Just be ready for a Gryffindor lecture from your obnoxious little friends when you get back."

Ginny had taken a sudden interest in the grass at her feet. Sitting cross-legged, she was splitting a blade of grass in half with the most pensive look on her face.

"Draco, I was thinking about before. You know what happened in the Hospital Wing? Well, I - " she looked up to see his reaction, only to find herself staring at empty space. "How do you manage to do that? Just move around, and not have anyone notice." With a frustrated sigh she pushed herself up and made her way back towards the castle.

Ginny didn't get very far before bumping into Neville just inside the main doors. She gave him a polite hello, and asked about Hogsmeade, but before she could even make out his answer he was running off again.

"Oh, Ginny?" Neville stopped a little ways away from her, and turned to face her.

"Erm, yes, Neville?"

"Well, I just - " he was turning red all of a sudden. "I wanted you to, er, ah, know that, well, I think you're very strong!" Blurting out the last part, he turned and bolted down towards the library, where Ginny presumed he was going to work on Potions. She shuddered when she thought of her own Potions homework left undone.

With a shrug Ginny continued towards the stairs when she saw someone walking swiftly towards the dungeons. Narrowing her eyes to mere slits, Ginny walked catlike behind him, before pouncing and pulling him into an empty classroom.

"WHAT THE - " Draco flailed his arms as he landed on his back. Reclining on his elbows, he rubbed the sore spot on the small of his back and stared up at Ginny in astonishment.

"Hello, Malfoy. Didn't mean to shock you there, but I've got a few things I'd like to straighten out with you. You've had your turn to do the talking, and now it's mine. So you better be ready to listen, and listen good."

"You know, Weasley, I have been pulled into an empty classroom before. But it's usually not for talking." Draco cocked his head to one side and smirked up at her. "Usually, it entails a rather excited female accosting me and snogging me senseless. You wouldn't have anything like that in mind, now would you?"

Ginny stared at his feigned innocence for a few seconds before complying with his request. Draco fell back partially with shock and partially from having a sixteen-year-old girl pounce on him. When she finally pulled up he was, for the first time, speechless.

"Look here, Malfoy," Ginny was sitting atop his stomach, and jabbed a finger in his chest. "I will not be toyed with. Is that understood? I have more strange men messing with my head than I want to deal with right now. And you better not be one of them!" She sighed and ran a hand through her hair. The next time she spoke, her voice was much softer, "I'm not really sure I understand what's going on here. I mean, one second, I'm hating your guts; the next second, I have you to thank for the reason I'm alive. And while I'd like to think that there's some ulterior motive or reason for why you seem to be shedding your evil persona, for the life of me, Malfoy, I can't figure it out. You have been driving me insane ever since that night you found me in the alley. And frankly, I'm tired of trying to figure it out. So I'm ready to just forget all that. Because the way I see it, who cares why any of this is happening; it is, and that's really all that any of us can say about it. So why not just throw caution to the wind and just...Bugger, I've completely forgotten what I'm even saying." Ginny wore a pathetic smile on her face, and sat back a little. Draco was trying to ignore what her shift in weight was doing to him and closed his eyes to regain his voice.

"Why don't you try again? I'm sure it'll come to you." He suggested in a gruff voice.

"I think what I'm saying, Draco, is that neither of us can just sit here and deny that there's something going on here. So we might as well acknowledge it, and see where it takes us. I mean, after all, how bad can it be? Granted, I'm a Weasley; you're a Malfoy; I'm supposed to hate you, and all that. But, really, isn't that getting a little bit tired? You're obviously not the spawn of Satan or something, so - " she didn't have the chance to finish that sentence before Draco cut her off the only way he knew how.

"Wha - what was that?" Ginny sputtered breathlessly.

"Well, you know, I am a teenage boy." He toyed with one of her curls and slowly pulled her back down above him as he spoke. "I am only able to ignore my raging hormones for so long."

He moved his hand behind her head, and quieted her giggling once again. Ginny leaned in and deepened the kiss, moving her leg between his. Draco groaned at the contact and shifted so she was on her back, and he was half laying on her. Ginny's head was swimming and she was crying out for air; when she broke away, he moved his lips to her jaw line, and trailed kisses down to her throat. Her hands were tangling in his hair, and he could feel her gentle sighs against his chest. Draco raised his hand to stroke her stomach, and began to trace patterns there. Gently pulling on his hair, Ginny raised his head and lifted her lips to his once more. The kiss grew more passionate, and Ginny could feel Draco trembling against her. His chest grew tight, and his head began searing with pain. Within an instant he wrenched himself out of her grasp, curling up on the floor. He let out a cry of anguish, and grasped his head in pain.

"Draco? Draco, what's wrong?" A faint voice was entering his thoughts. He looked up to see a blurry face bent over him, red hair spilling around her. He vaguely remembered something about her. She reached her hand out and touched his face. The feel of her warm hand on his cool skin jolted him back into consciousness. Still gripping his head, he sat up, only to hear the ominous mewing of a cat.

"Mrs. Norris!" he heard the girl shriek.

"Ginny." Draco clutched the pain in his chest and forced the words out. "Go. Just...leave - "

"But, Draco, you're in pain. If I just go get Madame Pomfrey, then - "

"Go, Ginny!"

"But, Draco - "

"NOW! Don't be daft, Weasley." His face took on a sudden coldness and his eyes closed off to any inspection of hers. "I'm sodding Head Boy. I can get out of it, now bugger off before Filch catches you!"

Ginny jumped at his roaring voice and scrambled out of the room, nearly tripping over Mrs. Norris.

"Ginny," Hermione spoke soothingly and reached out to touch the other girl's hand. "Why didn't you tell us what was going on?"

"That's right, Gin. You know Harry and I, your BROTHER, would have liked to hear this story from YOU and not from Hermione, who had to research it! Honestly, sometimes I wonder where your loyalties are!" Ron was pacing back and forth across the floor of Hermione's Head Girl room, throwing his arms in the air.

Ginny's head shot up at these words.

"What are you implying by that, RON?"

"Whoa! Let's just everyone calm down, OK?" Harry decided to jump in from his perch on Hermione's desk when he could sense the conversation taking an ugly turn. The three seventh-years had just let Ginny in on the "secret" of what's been ailing her for the past month. Ginny was seated on Hermione's bed, and the older girl was leaning against the bedpost. Harry moved over to them and put his arm around Hermione's middle.

"I think what Ron is trying to say," Harry began, turning to Ginny. "Is that he wishes you would confide in him."

"That has nothing to do with what I'm trying to say! Why were you walking around with Malfoy this morning?"

"Merlin, Ron! When are you going to realize that my business is MY business! Besides, you really have nothing to worry about; I'm not exactly the worst judge of character, you know."

"Really? You're a good judge of character?" Ron stopped his pacing to stare at his sister in disbelief. "Hmm...let's analyze why we're in this mess in the first place."

"Now Ron - " Hermione cut in.

"Ronald Weasley. I can't believe you would even say that." Ginny stood up as tall as she could, and almost reached her brother's height. She approached him menacingly, and looked him squarely in the face. All of a sudden, whatever retort she had come up with, she lost. Ginny knew that saying anything right now would just start an argument with Ron, and she didn't want to provoke herself to the point where she'd just blow up and tell the three of them to mind their own sodding business. It's okay; just pretend to be sorry. No big deal...you act all the time. After all, you might need them later.

"Oh, Gin," Hermione moved away from Harry and put an arm on her shoulder. "We're not trying to make you feel pressured or anything; we just love you that's all. And we're worried."

"I know, Hermione." Ginny turned around and put on her best puppy-dog face. "I'm sorry, I should have come to you in the first place." She then made her way over to the bed and sat down, only to be bombarded by questions about Tom Riddle.

"Why would he do this?"

"How long has this been going on?"

"What does he do or say to you?"

"Did he say anything about Harry?"

Ginny quietly dealt with all this, and politely denied that she had any recollection of anything. About an hour later, the storm had died down and the four of them were simply looking around the room at each other. Harry finally broke the silence, standing, and reaching for Hermione's hand:

"Well, Gin, is there anything else you want to tell us?"

Ginny looked hard into his face, wondering if she should tell them about Draco. She searched his eyes, the way she so often searched Draco's, and found her answer.

"No, Harry. There's really nothing else I want to tell you." With that, she got up and walked out the door.

Once outside, Ginny took her hand from her pocket and unclenched it. She looked down and saw the nail marks left on her palm, and sighed to herself. The price I pay for strong will. Something was still bothering her, though; when she looked into Harry's eyes, she saw a dullness she couldn't deny. Harry's green eyes shone with concern, but Ginny knew there was more. She knew that despite how much he cared for her, Harry would always place Ron and Hermione first. She knew that he loved them unconditionally, and she knew that he wasn't selfish. But she also knew that he was only human. He was in this to make sure that Tom didn't come out and endanger the lives of his loved ones. Of course he still cared if Ginny was hurt or not, but she couldn't deny the fact that deep down, Harry's main objective was protecting Ron and Hermione.

"He's only human." She sighed to herself and went upstairs to an early bed, after a long and tiresome day.

"Of course it's true! Would I lie to you??" Pansy's voice cut through the common room like nails on a chalkboard. Draco swore he wouldn't be able to hear a worse noise for the rest of his life, only to be proven wrong seconds later by Millicent Bulstrode's shrieking laughter.

"Bugger, you'd think they let the banshees loose in here or something." Draco muttered across the Wizarding Chess board to Blaise Zabini, who simply chuckled in response. They both held their temples as Millicent spoke up again.

"So, you're telling me that the Weasley girl is going with Finnigan??"

"Well," Pansy paused to flip her hair to one side, and casually wink at Draco. "I don't know about them going together, but I do know that he was all over her today at Hogsmeade. If you ask me, it's quite a good match. Irish trash and...well, trash." The two girls erupted in cacophonic laughter once again.

"Honestly, Draco," Blaise asked as he considered his next move, "what is with those two?" He looked up, waiting to hear some snide remark, only to find the seat opposite him quite empty.

Seamus was making his way back to Gryffindor Tower from the Prefect's bathroom, smiling to himself about the day he just had.

Draco was fuming down the hall towards Gryffindor Tower from the dungeons, grumbling about the day he just had.

"Hey Finnigan!" the blond Slytherin called out.

Seamus turned around to find Draco approaching him rather purposefully. He opened his mouth to reply, when all of a sudden he was cut off by the fist that came slamming into his eye.

Draco turned and made his way back to the dungeons, smirking about the sudden turn his day had just taken.

Seamus continued down towards Gryffindor Tower, grumbling about the sudden turn his day had just taken.
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