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.
Author's Note: I guess you'll have to consider this an AU, cuz there are certain elements i just couldn't incorporate from teh fifth or sixth book without entirely changing the story as it started before the fifth book came out.
Harry felt himself sliding lower into his chair, silently cringing at the incessant sound of chalk scraping against chalkboard. He had been sitting and listening to Professor Snape drone on about the hypnotic qualities of salamander eyes for what seemed like years. His legs were aching to feel the blood coursing through them again; his muscles were dying to be flexed; his lungs were crying out to be chilled by the brisk autumn air. Hermione looked over at Harry through the corner of her eye, and jabbed him with the end of her quill.
"Harry!" she whispered without taking her eyes off Snape's back. "Sit up, come on, we don't want to lose anymore points today." Hermione nodded her head towards Neville, who was sitting in the corner with his hand bandaged up. The frightened Gryffindor had made the mistake of running into a cart on his way in, afraid that he'd be late. Instead, he ended up knocking over a vile of newt's blood and costing Gryffindor thirty points.
"Unh, Hermione..." Harry slowly dragged his lifeless form up to a sitting position and poised his quill over his paper. Staring at the paper, he willed the lines of ink on the page to form into something coherent. "I don't think I can do this anymore," he whispered back to Hermione, eyes wide and fixated on a single point on the page.
"Oh, Harry, don't be so melodramatic. We only have twenty minutes left." Hermione was smiling despite herself.
"Oh, okay then." Harry visibly relaxed and grinned broadly at her. "That just makes everything better: knowing that we only have twenty more minutes of this mind-bending Hell. After all, I was beginning to think that all semblance of conscious life was going to die inside of me if I had to spend twenty-ONE more minutes plummeting towards my doom in this class. But since it's only twenty minutes, I'll be just fine."
"Why don't you just seal your lips shut, and pretend to pay attention?" Hermione stated while giggling behind her hand and playfully punched Harry in the arm.
"Hmm, I could seal my lips shut..." he then cut a sideways glance at her and quirked an eyebrow. "Or you could seal them for me..."
"Eep!" Hermione squealed, and suddenly felt everyone's eyes on her.
"Miss Granger." The chalk had ceased its rhythmic movements against the board and Snape turned slowly around to fix a severely annoyed expression on the Head Girl's face. "Is there something that amuses you?"
"Oh, no Professor!" her voice had risen an octave and she was nervously fiddling with her quill. "I was just so excited to see you writing that next section about famous potions that use salamander eyes. Thought it would be helpful in our next essay..." she trailed off when Professor Snape's expression turned to that of boredom and he returned to the chalkboard.
Harry was violently shaking with laughter next to her and she had to hit the back of his head to get him to calm down. The blush tainting her cheeks was just starting to fade when Snape called for the end of the class. Harry, Ron and Hermione were making their way out the door, when someone's drawl interrupted them,
"Oy, Granger!" Hermione turned her head slightly to see Draco Malfoy leaning across the table behind her. "If you're aspiring to be an animagus, you might not want to practice turning into a mouse in the middle of Potions. In fact, you might even consider turning into a rabbit, what with those teeth and everything."
"Hey!" Ron appeared next to Hermione and easily towered over Draco. "Hermione hasn't had buck teeth since our fourth year!" his face immediately turned a shade of red when he realized what he said and saw Draco's eyebrows shoot to his hairline. Hermione groaned, throwing Ron a weary glance, and he mouthed an apology.
"Right, then Weasley. Thanks for clearing that up, mate." Draco smirked dangerously at the three friends before brushing past them and out the door towards the Great Hall.
Harry sighed and pulled the two of them along with him out the door and to the Great Hall. They passed Ginny on the way, and she joined them. Harry and Ron walked ahead, animatedly planning the "mysterious" and simultaneous death of Draco Malfoy and Professor Snape. The girls followed in silence, each too far lost in their own thoughts to engage in senseless conversation. Ron paused to pick up his bag that he had dropped when a Hufflepuff went running after his homework that had turned into a canary, grumbling something about Fred and George. Harry took the opportunity to turn and flash Hermione a wink and smile. Out of the corner of her eye, Ginny could see Hermione nervously smile back and shuffle her feet a little before all four of them continued down the hall. When Harry and Ron returned to their conversation, Ginny turned to Hermione with a pointed glance.
"Hermione, is there something you want to tell me about you and Harry?" Ginny's question caught Hermione off guard, and it took her a moment to respond.
"Ginny, is there something you want to tell me about you and Draco?"
Ginny tensed and straightened her back before responding,
"Fair enough," she said with a cold look in her eye, but the corners of her mouth were threatening to curve into a smile.
The four of them walked into the Great Hall and took their usual seats at Gryffindor Table next to Dean, Seamus, Lavendar and Parvati. As Ginny reached to her right for some potatoes, she turned her head and smiled a hello at Seamus. After she had served herself, she paused, then snapped her head to the right and gawked at Seamus's face, screaming,
"Oh, you've got to be kidding me! What bugger gave you that??" Seamus groaned in response as the entire Great Hall turned to look at him and the great black eye marring his face.
"Gee thanks, Gin. So much for keeping a low profile, eh?" Seamus murmured to her, all the while with a lopsided grin creeping across his face.
"Hey Finnigan! You walk into a door or something?? That thing's huge!" Blaise Zabini's voice, followed by Parvati's shriek and Lavendar's giggles cut through the air once again, sending the hall bursting into flames of laughter. Seamus's face was burning red, washing Ginny with guilt. She mouthed a "sorry" to him; he just nodded and squeezed her hand. Quickly looking away, and wanting to change the conversation, Ginny turned to Harry and started asking him about his plans for the upcoming holiday. Ron, however, was not so easily distracted.
"So really, Seamus," he started, with a pointed glance at Ginny, as he casually held on to her free hand and motioned for her to pass him the pepper. She simply rolled her eyes and freed her hand from Seamus's to reached across the table. "How did you get that black eye?"
"Well," Seamus shifted uncomfortable in his seat as he spoke, " I'd rather not say...I mean it is rather embarrassing."
"Oh, come now, it's only us. After all, if your housemates can't help you out, then who can?" Hermione tried encouragingly patting Seamus on the hand, and he sighed loudly before muttering something that sounded along the lines of "mad ploy." He repeated himself when he realized no one had actually heard him speak.
"What was that, mate?" Harry cut in, "Something about soy?" he asked with a bewildered look on his face.
"Ooo, I think I heard my mother mention something like that this summer!" Hermione squealed, eliciting yet another deep sigh from Seamus.
"I said, Malfoy!" he roared.
The Great Hall was plunged into silence for the second time that evening. Ginny furrowed her eyebrows and looked across the hall to see if Draco was there, only to find his eyes burning a whole into hers, that typical Malfoy smirk plastered on his face. Realization dawned in her eyes, as she thought back to her Hogsmeade trip with Seamus, and their currently rejoined hands, then thought back again to her "encounters" with Draco. She had to try hard to stifle a grin as she patted Seamus's shoulder.
"Have you seen Madame Pomfrey?" she asked awkwardly, still unable to completely drag her eyes away from across the hall.
"Well, yes, but she said that she was busy with a jelly-leg curse gone bad, so she just told me to wait it out until she was free," Seamus whimpered to Ginny, trying to ignore the rest of the student body. The drama of the evening had mostly died down by the time students filed back to their common rooms and the library to get their work done.
Ginny was settled next to Seamus in a large corner of the library attempting to do her Charms homework. Suddenly Seamus whispered something to her that made her head shoot up and stare at him wide-eyed, while he sat grinning like a mad man. Ginny opened her mouth to say something, but before she could form any sound, a third party joined their cozy corner. Both Gryffindors turned to the boy who was sitting in front of them. Ginny just cocked an eyebrow upon seeing Draco take his books out and lay them on the table. He seemed completely entranced in preparing himself to do work, oblivious to anyone else. She quickly glanced at Seamus, who seemed determined to stare daggers into Draco until he looked up. Ginny turned back to Draco and jumped suddenly when she felt someone's foot rubbing hers. She raised her shocked eyes to Draco's and almost died from holding back her laughter at the way he was determined to be oblivious.
"Malfoy!" Seamus declared in a loud whisper, clearly fed up with the situation. "Do you think maybe you can go do something productive, along the lines of trying to jam your head into a thestral's mouth?"
"Given the current status of certain situations, Finnigan," Draco paused in his drawl and finally looked up, his cool eyes meeting Seamus's blazing ones, "one would think that you would be wary of insulting me." He finished by cracking his knuckles.
"Oh that is some nerve Malfoy. You can't just sit at our table like this! Ginny and I were actually having a good time until you came traipsing along. Why would you want to sit with a bunch of Gryffindors anyway?"
"Calm down, potato boy. It is a library. I can sit basically anywhere I want to. As Head Boy, I don't recall making any rules regarding assigned seating in the library. It's shocking really, that you, as a prefect don't even know the rules of this establishment. Damned shame, Finnigan, damned shame. Don't you agree Miss Weasley?" Draco suddenly turned his cold yet amused face towards Ginny, leaving her completely flustered. Seamus scoffed and threw his hands in the air, throwing Ginny a look. She simply shrugged, and he stormed off with a grunt.
"You're welcome, by the way." Draco muttered to her as he returned to his work before him.
"You know something, Malfoy?" Ginny chuckled more to herself than him, "you're a trip."
"What, pray tell, do you mean by that?" His quill stopped just above his parchment and he raised his eyes to hers, quirking an eyebrow.
"Well, I'm just saying, there are countless tables in the library. Yet, you still come and sit at ours. Why do you insist on baiting him like that?"
"Easy answer," Draco dropped his quill and leaned forward on the table closer to her. He beckoned with his finger for her to do the same. Their foreheads barely touching, he lowered his voice, his eyes dancing with amusement, "he always bites." Ginny felt herself giggle and was about to sit back when she realized someone's hand was playing with her hair. She looked at Draco's face and saw him staring intently at one of her copper curls, studying it at different angles in the light.
"Draco," Ginny's voice was laced with something behind its sweetness, and his eyes were automatically drawn back to hers. She took one of her hands and began to toy with the rings that adorned his free hand. "Is that really the only reason?"
"Why, Ginny, what other reason could you think of for me wanting to pick on the Irish git?" he asked, feigning innocence. Ginny crossed around the table and crouched in front of him, cupping his cheek.
"Draco, is there nothing at all?" He shrugged and she leaned even closer, her breath grazing his skin. "Absolutely...nothing else?" she leaned back to lock her eyes with his, and for a moment, saw what she had been looking for, what she had been afraid was lost.
"Ginny," Draco was speaking out of the base of his throat, his voice coming out as little more than a grunt now. His breath hitched and he seemed hesitant for only a split-second before a completely new look dawned on his eyes. It was a change that would have been imperceptive to anyone but Ginny. "There is no other reason."
Ginny's hand fell abruptly to her lap and she stood up unceremoniously, turning a fraction of a second slower than she normally would have, waiting for him to grab hold of her and tell her he was teasing. Disappointed, she grabbed her books and shoved them into her bag. Draco almost crumbled under the glare she shot him before sticking her chin in the air and stalking out of the library.
"Oh Ginny," he mumbled with his elbows on the table and his head in his hands, "you don't even know the half of it..."
Seamus, Ron, Harry and Hermione were all seated at a table in the common room when the portrait hole slammed open. Before the Fat Lady could even finish complaining about rude children, someone bellowed,
"SEAMUS!" Ginny spotted him, and pointed to the spot in front of her. "Come here."
He scrambled to get out of his chair and rush to where she was standing in front of the fire. Slightly afraid of the Weasley temper, Seamus was desperately trying to think back to see if he had done anything wrong. But his thoughts were cut off when he felt his neck being yanked downwards, and a pair of lips crashing on his. Seamus's eyes widened in shock, and by the time he realized what was going on and was ready to respond to the kiss, Ginny had broken it off. She looked at him with a considerably softer expression, although it still did rival that of a charging hippogriff.
"I assume you'll take that as an answer to your question?" Ginny demanded more than actually asked. Seamus nodded violently in response and she made her way up to the girls' dormitory. He turned around to make his way back to the table, when two sets of arms pulled him down on the nearest sofa. Looking at Ron on his right and Harry on his left, Seamus realized he would be spending the better part of the night learning what and what not to do with his newly acquired girlfriend.
The next few months passed by rather well for Ginny, despite the dark glances she caught across the Great Hall, and before she knew it, it was well into December. She was sitting at the end of the row in Transfiguration a mere ten days away from the start of winter holidays when she realized with full force the true pettiness of the females at Hogwarts Academy for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Ginny was watching a small piece of parchment being passed along down the row facing her, and she simply waited for it to reach her seat. She turned her attention back to the notes in front of her, and wondered how McGonagall could not tell that her students were so obviously passing a note. It had reached the hands of Annie Marple by now, where it paused for her to furiously scrawl something on it. Perhaps she knew, and chose not to care. Either way, Ginny decided that this was very uncharacteristic behavior of her Head of House. Just as Ginny lifted her head to look to the front of the room, an oblivious Hufflepuff passed her the note after adding something to the bottom with a flourish. Ginny was about to read the parchment that had been the center of attention for so long, when she heard a chorus of gasps and squeals from all the girls. She looked around and noticed angry stares at the Hufflepuff next to her, and sheepish glances in her own direction. Ginny, now very suspicious, scanned the note quickly before reading it a second time.
Latest News! Ginny and Seamus still going strong! Who would have thought the hottest item at Hogwarts would go for the littlest Weasley: his best friend's ex! And better yet, who would have thought he'd stay with her this long? Anyway, all bets are down after today, so sign now if you want in!
The note continued on with a list of names with a number next to each name. Ginny's eyebrows shot to her hairline as she read through them in her mind, '2 months', '6 weeks', '3 days'?? Oh come on, I deserve more credit than that! She fought hard not to choke on her sugar quill when she read the last comment on the parchment, '2 hours, if that tutoring session I have with Seamus goes as planned!' Turning her head towards the girl seated next to her, Ginny couldn't help but smirk as she spoke,
"Do tell Seamus to meet me in the Common Room later this evening, would you? That is as long as we're still together by that point."
"Draco! Where are you going now?" Pansy's voice caused a hitch in Draco's step as he made his way to the portrait hole from the dormitory stairs. He turned in her direction and cocked his head to the side. Pansy tried to sidle up next to him, but Draco was quite taken aback by the way she was convulsing. "What are you thinking, little Draco?" she whispered far too close to his ear.
"Parkinson," he started before grabbing firm hold of her shoulders and pushing her grinning self a comfortable distance away from him, "first of all, I assure that in no way, am I little. Second of all, at the moment, I am heavily contemplating how much you sound like a cat that has just been kicked in the gut. Which is really quite convenient, considering how much I hate cats." With that he spun on his heel and stormed out of the Slytherin common room, aching for air to escape her vile stench that she claimed was perfume.
Draco refused to slow his pace until he neared the tree by the lake that had become the steady meeting place for him and the only reason Gryffindor House should be spared from obliteration. Ginny shivered gently in the cold and spent her time sending small pieces of bark gliding across the layer ice that now covered the lake. She spun on her heel at the sound of snow crunching and fixed Draco with a glare.
"You're late Malfoy," she ground out. "Again."
"How do you know you're not early Weasley? After all, a Malfoy is never wrong."
"Oh, I'm sorry, is that another rule from your rule book? What's another one? Oh that's right, Malfoys hate cats."
Draco's head shot up at this, and he squinted his eyes a little before he shook the thought away and approached her. She rolled her eyes, beckoning him over to the rock next to the tree. Draco walked over and placed a pebble from his pocket on the rock. They both regarded the pebble for a few seconds, before Ginny spoke,
"Draco, do you think we could hurry this up a bit? It's awfully cold out here." Ginny's teeth chattered a bit as she spoke and Draco took in her appearance for the first time. She was wearing a green sweater, the white of her collared shirt barely making an appearance through her red curls. She had no cloak on.
"What's the matter, Weasley? Couldn't afford a cloak this winter?" Despite the obvious malice in his words, even Draco could not hide the faint trace of concern in his tone. Even Ginny could not fail to pick up on it.
"No, Malfoy! I forgot to grab it on my way out of the Common Room." She bit out through her grin.
"Oh, Ginny-luv! Were you really in that much of a rush to see me?"
"Mmm, don't flatter yourself Ferret boy. I was simply escaping an encounter with the rescue squad." Ginny tried to remain as nonchalant as she possibly could, given her random twitching due to the cold. Draco's smirk threatened to take over the width of his face as he walked closer to her and began trailing his hand up and down her arm.
"You know, I'm sure I could devise methods to keep you warm."
Ginny couldn't stop the giggle that escaped from her throat at the glint in his eyes. She turned her face up to his, her eyes brimming with the kind of amusement that he knew only he could draw from her. Draco moved behind her so her back was gently lined up against his chest. She could feel the warmth from his presence envelop her. He reached for his wand with his opposite hand, his arm inadvertently pulling Ginny closer to him. Rolling her eyes once again, she gently leaned her head back on his shoulder. Draco pointed his wand and muttered under his breath, returning the pebble to its original size. He then tilted his head towards her ear and rested the bridge of his nose against her jawbone. Are you ready? Ginny shook her head of the delirium his nearness was causing, and realized the voice in her head was actually Draco speaking to her.
"Yeah. Let's get this going." She took a step away from him and instantly felt the cold again. Taking out her wand, she held it to her temple and closed her eyes. Soon a filmy cloud followed the tip of her wand as she dipped it into the pensieve. Draco had insisted that in order to help her, he needed to see her visions and dreams for himself. So they had been keeping up this ritual of Ginny adding to the pensieve for the past two and a half months. That's not the only ritual we've been keeping up. Ginny smirked to herself as she felt Draco's hand "accidentally" stroke the small of her back. They had been teasing each other like this for so long, it came like second nature to Ginny. She blushed at the thought of what Harry, Hermione and Ron would say if they saw her flirting with Draco Malfoy, let alone even speaking to him. Her blush faded and she felt a knot in the pit of her stomach as she considered what Seamus would think if he ever found out. Her guilt battled hard against her fury when she remembered the real reason for even being with Seamus in the first place: Draco practically shoved me into Seamus's arms, and here he is toying with me. Ginny quickly shook her head to stop thinking in this vein, in order to avoid a confrontation with Draco.
"Ginny." Draco stood back and regarded her with his head cocked to the side. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, Malfoy," she snapped her head in his direction and fixed him with a cold glare. "Absolutely nothing. All right, I'm done." Ginny spun on her heel and stalked away from him. The sound of crunching snow behind her only made her walk faster. When Ginny had practically broken into a run, he reached out and grabbed the crook of her elbow, making her spin around and come crashing into his body. Draco artfully slipped an arm around her waist to keep her from running away.
"Look at me. Ginny," he bent his head towards hers as he spoke, "look at me."
She simply shoved her chin out at him fixed him with a stone-cold glare. Her eyes were impenetrable, creating a wall between Draco and the truth inside them. It's quite possible that I've rubbed off too much on the littlest Weasel. Shame on you, Draco, he chided himself as he chuckled under his breath.
"I don't really see what you find so amusing." Ginny's words were choppy, whether from the cold or from her anger. "Except for the fact that I'm freezing my arse off here. But a normal human being with any form of compassion probably wouldn't find that very humorous. Then again, you are Draco Malfoy, prat extraordinaire, so I suppose that's a completely valid assumption to make, then isn't it?" she finished with a flourish, tossing back the hair from her eyes.
Prat extraordinaire? Huh, what do you know, apparently it comes with a title...
"DRACO!" a mix between a shout and a whine broke him out of his thoughts, and returned his attention to the redhead before him. "In case I haven't made it painfully clear to you, I'M COLD!" Draco actually jumped at these words and almost loosened his grip on her waist before repositioning himself and wrapping his cloak around the both of them. To the untrained eye they would have seemed like two lovers, sharing the only warmth left in frigid weather.
"That better?" Draco drawled without any apparent emotion.
"If you don't mind Malfoy, I'd appreciate it if you spoke. You stopped me from leaving, apparently intent on saying something, so I sincerely hope you say it. After all, as much as I enjoy having a staring contest with you, I do have things to do."
"Okay, Weasley. Here's the deal. I don't understand what you're so upset about. One second we're taking care of the penseive, the next second you're stalking off. So what's got your knickers in a twist?"
"My knickers, mind you, are just fine, not that they're any of your business," she added at the sight of his grinning face. "Oh sod off, why don't you! You know exactly what's bothering me!"
"Well, of course I do! I just thought that maybe for five minutes you could actually grow up and be bothered by something that matters!" Draco would have regretted the words the moment they left his mouth, but he was, after all, a Malfoy, and Malfoys do not regret.
" 'Something that matters?' I see. You'd rather I be bothered by something that matters, since this obviously doesn't matter. Of course, what was I thinking?" Ginny tried to stalk off while she still felt like she had some dignity left, but Draco's iron grip on her back prevented her from moving at all.
"Ginny, can you please just calm down for a second and let me explain? Gods, you Weasleys! Look, I didn't mean that wanting to be together doesn't matter. I just meant don't get all riled up over something you can't help. You're with the Irish git now, and aside from his incessant drooling over you, one would think you'd be happy with an Irish puppy."
"You know the only reason I'm with him is because you pushed me away!"
"Well yeah, so maybe I did!"
"Then what are we doing here? I mean, come on, Draco! There's only so much of this - this, whatever it is between us, that you can blame on you wanting to do one last heroic deed." Ginny's hands flailed in the air as she continued without pausing for breath, "What are we, Draco? Merlin knows we're not friends, yet we trust each other. And I can't stand you any more than you can stand me, but we're still here. We both know that there's something between us, there's just no sense in denying it. And if you say that there are complicated reasons for why we can't be together, then what the hell are we doing?" Ginny had calmed down considerably by now. She breathed deeply and raised a hand to stroke his cheek. Lifting her other hand, she held his head before hers and the ghost of a smile traced her lips as she spoke on slowly. "Draco, you said you didn't want me. So if you don't want me, why can't you walk away?"
They stood like that for what seemed like ages. The wind chilled their bones, but neither of them would have known if Hogwarts was consumed by a blizzard right before their eyes.
"Ginny," he whispered with the most passion she had heard from his lips. Ginny started at the voice that sounded so unusual coming from him, but she knew it would subside the moment he spoke again. "What makes you think I can't walk away?"
Ginny smirked at him and dropped her hands from his face.
"Prove it," she challenged him and took three steps back. Standing with her hands clasped behind her back, Ginny quirked a defiant eyebrow at Draco. "You and I both know you've had plenty of opportunities to leave. If you think you can just turn your back on me, then go ahead. Go on, Draco," she gestured at the castle entrance. "Turn around, and don't come back."
Draco sauntered over to where she was standing with a smirk on her face. He didn't stop until she could hear the sound of his breath. He bent his head low towards hers. Ginny's breath became shallow and she tilted her head slightly to make room for his kiss. The closer he drew, the more she trembled from anticipation. Her eyes slowly lidded and her lips pouted a little more than usual. Draco was so close that even he was sure he'd kiss her when he finally spoke, "Watch me." With that he whirled on his heel and stalked away from her disappearing around the corner.
Ginny stood rooted to the ground, unsure of what had just happened. Was this the end of everything? No more meetings? No more help? So she was all alone. Well actually, she wasn't alone at all. She still had Ron, Harry, and Hermione. And Seamus; yes, Seamus, her boyfriend.
Oh right, she had him too.
Ginny, it's been a long time since I've seen you.
Tom walked around her to the front. He stood facing her, and she could see the light surrounding him slowly fading. Ginny looked around and noticed that she could see everything clearly. There was no blinding light; this visit was different from all his others.
"Tom?" her voice came out soft, between a whisper and a plea. "What's happening?"
What's happening? His laughter rang out around her. You've done it, Ginny darling. I knew I could count on you.
"What? What have I done?" her voice was nearly a shout by now. "I haven't done anything!"
Oh, but that's exactly my point, my sweet. I knew you wanted me around. Deep inside you've always wanted me back. Well, your curiosity has paid off.
As he spoke, he moved closer to her and she slowly backed away. His halo was almost completely faded, and Ginny noticed that he never seemed realer.
I've come back, "Ginny."
Ginny jumped at the sound of his voice.
"Thank you, Ginny. I owe it all to you." Tom drawled out with a glint in his eye. Before she could say anything, the world distinctly blurred and he disappeared into thin air.
"Right. Your welcome." Ginny whimpered before she swayed on the spot and fell to the ground.
"Get out of the way, will you??" Ron roared at the First Years that simply refused to move fast enough. He was practically picking them up and throwing them aside as he tore down the hall towards the Hospital Wing.
"RONALD WEASLEY!" Herimone shrieked behind him. "I am just as worried about Ginny as you are! But that is no reason to go around harassing people. I'm going to have to take some action as Head - oof! - Girl! Ron!" she paused to clutch her stomach, "That is the third First Year you have thrown at me. Do not make me take action on my own...best....FRIEND!" She ground out the words as she dove at his ankles and made him skid to a stop. Harry and Seamus jogged up to the pair of them lying on the ground. Seamus stood with his hands on his knees, clearly winded while Harry helped Hermione and Ron up.
"Well one thing's for sure," Ron grumbled as he stood up and regarded his Gryffindor teammates, "Quidditch conditioning seriously needs to be taken up a notch or two." Turning his attention to Hermione, he added, "Okay, I'm sorry all right? Let's go...at a moderately accelerated pace."
Harry, Hermione and Seamus had to jog to keep up with Ron's "speedwalking" the rest of the way. The students seemed to part before them like the Red Sea, clutching their belongings and valuable body parts.
"You know, he looks kind of comical, walking like that." Seamus murmured to Harry, watching Ron's arms pump back and forth so fast he thought they would fly out of their sockets at any second. Hermione was giggling at the way his backside twisted so fiercely to keep up with his legs. Ron apparently did not pay much attention to where he was going, and slammed into the door of the Hospital Wing, landing soundly on his back. Harry and Seamus bent over him while Hermione walked in with a huff that sounded suspiciously like "I told you to slow down."
Hermione herself slowed down when she passed through the waiting area and peered in at the beds. She froze at the door and was suddenly very grateful that the boys were not directly behind her.
Draco was holding Ginny's head up, propping her pillows against the headboard. He gently let it back down and began adjusting her blankets. His eyes were completely unreadable. His actions were so tender and affectionate that Hermione was shocked to see no apparent expression of any sort on his face. His eyes were cold as ice, oddly resembling those of a statue. Yet at the same time his movements were so smooth and fluid, she could have mistaken him for an angel. She stood rooted in the doorway, unable to tear her eyes away from the scene in front of her. One of her best friends lay unconscious in a hospital bed. One of the worst people she knew stood guard by the bed like a veritable ice angel.
Ginny stirred and saw Draco moving his hand towards her face. Despite her readiness to deny everything, she knew exactly where she was and why she was there. She smiled and spoke softly in a raspy voice,
"Told you, you couldn't walk away."
Draco's hand stopped in mid-air. For the second time that day his face revealed a hint of the emotions he was feeling. In one fraction of a second, tenderness, panic and fury crossed his eyes. She's right. I can't walk away. His feet seemed unable to move, despite how much he willed them to take him away from her side forever. He got into this deal with a promise to help her, saying it was for the greater good: for his own good. In truth he was slowly killing himself with his mock-heroic deeds. His entire world had changed in one day. One chance encounter had sealed his fate to the hands of a mere curse. A few words, well-placed syllables, had determined the course of his actions for the rest of his life. She was like poison to him. She was poison disguised in the sweetest honey. He could easily drown in that honey, get caught up in her breath. Then the poison would show its true nature and burn his insides. Damn you, father. He watched the way her chest rose and fell sweetly beneath the sheets. Her cheeks were tear-stained and he wanted to sweep the earth clean of anyone that had dared to bring wetness to her eyes. All the pain she was feeling, the torture that he was suffering, the pain he would eventually bring her was all due to one man.
"Damn you father." His voice came out soft and inaudible, but to him his words seemed to echo of the walls of the silent hall. They kept ringing in his ears, the deafening noise threatening to drive him to insanity. He shook his head and wondered how Ginny could have slept through the din. Breaking out of his reverie, Draco snatched his hand away from its fixated position and stormed around the bed, intending to leave before he lost control of his limbs again. At the same moment Hermione took a few steps forward, and the sound of her boots clicking on the floor stopped Draco dead in his tracks. He fixed his impassive glare on her and suddenly the snowstorm outside seemed warm and inviting. He paused one more second, and she made to speak, but he left before she could. Hermione watched Ginny as she listened to Draco's retreating steps. Thinking Ginny to still be out cold, she was about to retrace her steps. She turned back towards Ginny quickly to see her shoulders sag considerably with relief.
Hermione passed Ron, Harry and Seamus on her way out the door. She held up a hand to stop them,
"Not now. She needs her rest."
"Hey Draco," Blaise Zabini called, "up for a game of Wizarding Chess?"
"In a minute Zabini. Something I have to take care of." Draco walked past the boy and past the entrance to his common room. He seemed to be casually walking down the hall, but each of his steps was carefully calculated. His muscles were stiff and set on guard for any potential attack. His head was locked into position facing forward, but his eyes saw nearly everything, and his ears were perked to the consistent shuffling noise behind him. He saw the empty classroom coming up on his right. He passed it and counted four and a half seconds before abruptly turning around, trapping his follower in the doorway. Pressing his forearm up against the follower's neck, he slammed the offender against the wall and kicked the door shut with his foot. Catching his breath, Draco lit his wand and shone the light on the perpetrator's face.
"Yes, me," Hermione sighed frustratedly. "Do you mind getting your arm away from my neck? I'd like to be able to feel my throat again."
Draco backed up and kept his wand trained on her, ready to flick out a curse at any moment. He angled his head back and narrowed his eyes at Hermione.
"Why are you following me?"
"Well, if you had let me catch up with you, I would have told you that I wanted to talk to you about something. But, no, instead you had to go and play secret agent man," Hermione huffed while straightening her robes.
Draco smirked at her comment and drawled out, "Well, Granger, I knew you had fantasies about me, but I had no idea they involved secret agent men. And when you have these 'daydreams,' tell me, where exactly do you fit in? The helpless girl held victim at the hands of an evil man, who just can't seem to keep her hands off me?"
"Do you ever tire of your glib, Malfoy? Because let me tell you, the rest of us humans definitely have." Hermione fixed him with a glare and crossed her arms across her chest.
"Oh, Granger," Draco chuckled to himself and walked past her to take a seat in the professor's chair. He cut her a sideways glance as he added, "you will never know all the things I don't tire of." He laughed louder when he noticed her blush and saw her scurry to the middle of the classroom and take a seat at a desk.
"Stupid little git. I should have let Ron kill you when I could have." She mumbled under her breath.
"What was that Miss Granger?" Draco called out cupping the back of his ear. "I'm sorry, you're going to have to speak up in my class." He wore an obnoxiously playful grin, but Hermione was again amazed to see that it stopped before it reached his eyes.
"Malfoy - "
"Hmm...let's see, who shall I call on? Which student has their hand raised?"
Hermione shot her hand in the air and growled out,
"MALFOY! Stop being a git and let me talk to you about something!"
"Yes, Granger, maybe I should just listen to you talk. After all, that's exactly what I want to be doing right now." Draco's grin fell and his face reassumed its stony position and he moved to get up and leave.
"It's about Ginny." Hermione's exasperated voice stopped him in his tracks, and he wanted to kick himself for even stopping.
"All right, Granger, out with it. What do you want?"
"I know that you know about everything that's going on with her." Draco's head shot up and he wondered if Ginny had told her and her friends about him. Then he considered whether or not that should matter to him. "Look, I'm not stupid, okay? I know where she goes every day, and I just hope you know how to take care of a pensieve."
"Shut it Granger. You're not the only one with half a brain." Draco went back to picking at his robes rather than looking at Hermoine's scrutinizing face.
"Ron and Harry don't know anything about your involvement in all this. It's just me, but I don't know much either. All I know is that you're helping her, and it seems to be comforting her. Don't get me wrong Malfoy," Hermione got up and started to wander around the room as she continued, "I still hate your guts, and think you're a phenomenal waste of time and energy. But for some reason, Ginny seems to enjoy your company," Draco tried not to wince at those words, "so I suppose I'll keep Harry and Ron from killing you for the time being."
"Well, hot damn, Granger! Aren't you just a precious little bugger?" Draco exclaimed with a look of mock adoration on his face. He dropped the grin and fixed her with a venomous glare, "If that's all, then I'll just be taking my leave of you now."
"Not so fast, Malfoy. I want to know what your motive is."
"Motive? What makes you think I have an ulterior motive?" Draco's face remained frozen to inspection.
"Well, it's not everyday that you see someone go out of their way to help the sister of one of their worst enemies."
"What makes you think it has anything to do with brother Weasel?" he caught his own mistake right as he said the words.
"My point exactly. So you admit there's some underlying reason to all this. I know it specifically has to do with Ginny, so spill the beans Malfoy. And you better give me a reasonable answer. Don't make me get Ron and Harry so mad that you'll be drinking pumpkin juice through a tube." Hermione crossed to stand in front of him, determined to notice that change in his face that she saw earlier.
"Oh dear, I seem to be quaking in my boots." Draco said as monotone as he could. "Leave the threats to the Slytherins, Mudblood. Besides, how is this any of your business?"
"Malfoy, can't you just realize for one second that we don't have to be on opposite sides? Yes, your father is a disgusting Death Eater, but when you had me in a choke hold back there, I didn't happen to notice any marks on your arm. Now call me crazy, but I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that you get the mark on your sixteenth birthday. So for some godforsaken reason you're not a minion of Vo - Voldemort. I want to make sure you and Ginny realize what you're dealing with here, so please. Just tell me what's going on. Maybe we can both help her; it'd be so much easier if we worked together." Hermione took a deep breath and considered what she had just said. She took a few steps back and seemed to be a little nauseated, "Oh, Merlin, I can't believe I just asked Malfoy to work together."
Draco laughed softly under his breath and hung his head. He looked back up at her and she could clearly see the signs of weariness written on his face.
"Trust me, Granger, what you just asked me to do pales in comparison to what I'm about to do. Keep in mind, the only reason I'm actually telling you any of this is because I think Ginny's welfare actually depends on it. So don't go breaking up with Potter over this. I'm not reciprocating your perverted little sexual fantasies."
"I don't ha - " Hermione stopped mid-sentence and just shook her head, grateful that he was actually talking.
"You're right, I'm not a Death Eater. I also have no intentions of becoming one. Don't even think of asking me why, because if you do, I will be tempted to kill you, Dark Mark or not. My father asked me on my sixteenth birthday to join Voldemort's army, and I told him he was insane. He, in turn, told me I would suffer pain beyond all reason, and of all kinds. He said I would wish I had never been born, just to avoid the intense amounts of pain I would feel in all ways possible. Well, not in so many words, of course."
"Of coure," Hermione nodded and urged him on.
"When I first heard that I prepared myself for the Cruciatus, of course. But then he picked up his wand and uttered the strangest words I've ever heard. I can't even remember them; I was too busy planning my funeral. Well, anyway, I didn't die, as you can see. I had to ask my mother later what the curse meant. Essentially, it prevents me from ever being happy. I'm supposed to fall in love with a girl - "
"So that's where Ginny comes in," Hermione cut in, more to herself.
"Clever girl, you are. Only problem is, whenever I get close to her, I get this searing pain that starts in my gut. If I'm still - well, close - to her, then the pain consumes me. If it happens enough times, I eventually lose all ability to communicate. I won't die of course, I'll just be forced to stand back and watch the love of my life from a distance. So there's the physical pain. Then there's the emotional pain of having to watch myself hurt her, not to mention the agony of not being able to go near the one person that could potentially shed some light on my life." He finished with a flourish. "And there you have it Granger, my ulterior motive."
For the first time since she could remember, Hermione was struck completely speechless. No reproachful statements, no insightful comments. All she could do was stare at the floor, too afraid to look him in the eye. After what felt like hours, she finally spoke,
"But I don't understand how you know it's Ginny. You said you can't be close to Ginny, but I saw you in the Hospital Wing. You were standing right there, and nothing seemed to happen to you."
"Ah, yes, well," Draco coughed quietly. Hermione had to do a double take before she could completely register that Draco Malfoy was actually nervous. "You see, when I said close, I meant intimately close. As in, intimately close, Granger." Draco added at her slightly perplexed face.
She gasped after a few seconds and looked violated,
"You mean you and Ginny? You two - well, I had a suspicion that something, but I mean...Oh Ginny!" Hermione buried her head in her hands and slouched her shoulders slightly. She didn't look up until she heard Draco snickering.
"Save the poor violated girl act for Potter. Have no fear, we didn't do the dirty, so you can uncover your virgin ears. Little Gin-Gin can still wear white to our wedding." Draco was lazily twirling his wand when Hermione's head shot straight up.
"What did you just say?"
"I said she's still a virgin. You know, wearing white to her wedding? Keep up Granger." He shook his head as he slowly walked towards the door. Hermione followed him to the door, but paused before she left.
"Malfoy, how did your mother know what curse your father put on you?" she asked more high-pitched than she would have hoped.
"He put the same curse on her. That's why they stayed together."
"So your father chose who would be the object of your love??"
"I'm as lost as you are, Granger." Draco responded under his breath before moving out the door and down the hall.
"Malfoy, wait! Is it reversible?" Hermione called out after him, but he didn't stop walking until he reached the Slytherin portrait hole and disappeared inside.
Ginny was staring at her feet as she walked down the stairs and continued around corner after corner. From the intent way she was watching them she could see each foot move almost of its own accord, as though they had taken this path so many times they didn't need for her to remember the steps. It didn't matter that she had never made this trip before. Madame Pomfrey had let her leave the Hospital Wing hours earlier, and she had been tossing and turning in bed before she decided to get out. Ginny came to an abrupt stop to brush a stray pebble off her bare foot. In her desperate need for air she had scrambled out of bed and forgotten to put on her boots. Having removed the offending pebble, Ginny tiptoed past Filch, who was bending over Mrs. Norris. Despite her rush, she didn't seem to forget to "borrow" Harry's invisibility cloak. Her feet finally stopped in front of her destination. Ginny cocked her head at the portrait hole, momentarily forgetting that she had overheard the password from a couple of careless Slytherins. Muttering the words, she gingerly entered the common room and looked around. She let out a thankful breath that it was empty. Ginny straightened her back and walked on without hesitation to the door she knew she was looking for. She carefully opened the door and stepped inside. Taking a moment to look around the Head Boy's room, Ginny noticed that it was roughly the same size as Hermione's, only a little larger. A fireplace was lit in the middle of the far wall, with a door at the corner. The loo, maybe? Ginny turned her attentions to the wall on her left, closest to her. There was a desk pushed up against it, littered with papers. She moved closer and noticed that even though there were countless papers lying around, they were all sitting in perfect right angles. So I guess he has more in common with Hermione than he thinks... spinning around under the veil of the cloak, Ginny took slow steps towards the bed. She watched him sleep with a smile on her face. The last time we were here you had the injuries, and I came with the questions. Now I'm the one who's hurt, and I know you want answers. Ginny lifted her hand to bring it to his cheek, but she moved far too slow. She gasped out loud when he held her hand. She stared into his now open eyes as he gently pulled the cloak off from around her.
"So you heard me?" she whispered into the night.
He nodded as he brought her hand down and pressed his lips to it.
"How'd you know it was me? And not someone dangerous?" she asked as he scooted over under the covers and pulled her down next to him. He turned on his right to face her and pulled her close. Burying his face in her hair, he breathed in deeply before whispering against the curve of her neck,
"I can smell you a mile away, Weasley."
"Oh," Ginny murmured, settling back into his arms, "I'll be sure to change shampoos." She felt Draco smirk against her skin and he lifted his head to kiss her ear before whispering into it,
"I never said I didn't like it," he replied. Smiling to herself, Ginny took a deep breath in and out.
"So I'm assuming this means that I can stay with you tonight?" she murmured already falling asleep.
Draco kissed the top of her head and pulled the covers around them, enveloping them in warmth she thought she'd never find. For the first time in months, Draco and Ginny fell asleep instantly, and slept soundly all night.
Leave a Review