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.
“Hermione!” Harry’s voice whined out at the brunette who was swiftly marching towards their round table in the library. “Why don’t you just sit in one place, please?” He turned her face towards his as she sunk into the chair next to him. Firmly lodging one hand in her hair behind his head, he placed his other hand on her shoulder and pulled her closer. “See, isn’t this so much more fun than running around grabbing books?” he murmured just before his mouth descended on hers.
“Harry, please,” Hermione protested beneath his lips. “Ron’ll be here any moment, and I don’t think he’ll appreciate walking in on us like this.” She gently pushed at his chest until he finally withdrew. Harry tore his lips from hers with a cry of frustration.
“Hermione! Why would you invite Ron along to our private ‘meeting’?”
“Look Harry! This is a real meeting ok? We have a purpose here. I’m sorry if you thought I asked you to meet me just to snog the afternoon away. I’m afraid we have more important work to do.” She finished with a sniff and returned to her books in a huff.
“Yeah, we always seem to,” Harry muttered under his breath as he shifted back into his seat.
“Excuse me, Harry, what was that?”
“Nothing, Hermione,” he grumbled in response. “Nothing at all.”
“Look, Harry, I’m sorry if you think that everything will just disappear if we close our eyes and just have fun.” Hermione threw her hands in the air and continued her tirade. “The truth is, we’re in a very sticky situation, and if you can’t see that then you’re clearly not the Harry Potter I’ve grown to know. Despite how different things may feel now that we’re, well – you know – nothing has changed, Harry. We’re still the same.” She finished with a flourish and Harry slowly turned to her, leveling her with a gaze before he spoke softly.
“That’s right Hermione. We most definitely are still the same.”
Hermione’s eyes widened just barely and her breath caught in her throat. She opened her mouth and looked as though she were about to speak, but her throat seemed to close up at the last second. They were sitting and staring at each other with very different expressions when Ron’s voice cut through their thoughts,
“Well, I’m here! Looks like we can officially get this party started. That is, unless you’ve already started, if you know what I mean,” he quipped with a wiggle of his eyebrows. Then taking notice of their staring contest, he added, “Erm, have I interrupted anything?” at this, Harry tore his eyes from Hermione and stood to make his way to the bookshelves.
“Trust me, Ron,” he said as he passed his best friend, “you’ve interrupted nothing at all.”
Hermione looked up and chuckled nervously at Ron’s questioning glance, “Well, have a seat Ron. There’s a lot we need to discuss.”
Three minutes later found Ron idly twiddling his thumbs, sitting across from Hermione, who was busily taking notes out of a book.
“Look, Herm, while your idea of an important meeting may be to stare at your book for hours, I actually have a life.” At the sight of her raised eyebrow, Ron quickly added, “Okay, so maybe I don’t really have a life. But I can still think of more amusing things to do than watch you study. It’s not as though I haven’t seen you take notes before. You’re very good at it, actually. Why don’t I just leave you here to practice, then eh?” Ron made to leave, but was stopped by Hermione’s hand on his forearm.
“Not so fast, Ronald. There is an actual reason I called you here. We’ve just been waiting,” she replied, suspiciously nervous.
“Waiting for what?”
“Not what, Weasley: who. Or rather, whom.” The most unexpected voice came in answer to Ron’s question. “And the answer, of course, would be yours truly.” Ron looked as though a bludger had hit him in the stomach as Draco Malfoy sunk in to the seat next to him.
“Yes well,” Hermione cleared her throat but couldn’t seem to get the squeak out of it. “We’re actually still waiting for –”
At that exact moment, two voices cut her off in unison,
“Oh, bloody hell, no.” Ginny and Harry emerged from behind their backs and made their way around the table. Harry and Ron were busy fixing Hermione with a glare caught between confusion and astonishment. Draco’s eyes soon found Ginny’s and a slow smirk spread across his face.
“Really now, Weaslette,” he drawled out with a tilt of his head. “Don’t sound so disappointed. After all, that’s not what you said when you –”
“Malfoy!” Ginny growled out, “Watch it. Do not push me.”
“Again, not what you sounded like that other night.” Draco was prevented from elaborating when Ginny half leaped across the table and grabbed him by his Slytherin tie. She pulled him closer so the edge of the table was painfully pushing into his chest. Her eyes were narrowed under severely arched eyebrows, and her jaw was set in tight lines. Their noses were almost touching, making Draco realize that he clearly preferred hacked-off Ginny to normal Ginny any day.
“I swear to anyone who can hear this, Malfoy. You do not want to cross me. You can’t even begin to imagine the things I can do to you.” Still seething, Ginny held him firmly in place by his tie, practically forgetting the three pairs of eyes ogling them. She closed her eyes and slowly breathed in, in an attempt to calm herself. She took breath after breath; she was nearing composure, when her breath suddenly hitched. Draco had raised one hand and was gently stroking the curve of her neck. Her eyes flew open and she saw him concentrating very hard on the path his finger was making. Before she could release him, he placed his other hand firmly over hers, and lowered his voice so only she could hear it,
“Is that a promise, Weasley?” his low drawl, so close to her face, rumbled through her gaping mouth and she almost fainted from the sensation, when Ron painfully reminded her of where she was. Ginny’s shoulders were suddenly placed in a death grip and she was jerked back to her seat. Draco consequently was thrown back into his seat when Ginny’s hand released him all too forcefully. Ron then turned to Ginny and was roaring as loudly as he could while still whispering,
“What- is- the meaning- of- this! What was Malfoy talking about, ‘the other night’?”
“Oh, calm down Ron. He’s just saying things to get you all riled up. You’re really just playing into his hands.” Ginny casually swatted Ron’s chest to prove her point that there was no need to be concerned. Ron turned to his friends for support, but Harry was still ogling Ginny for that spectacular dive, and Hermione was plastering a sheepish smile on.
“Really, Weasley,” Draco chuckled, as he adjusted his tie back into place. “The little brat’s right. Your brotherly concern is lost on her. Poor little Virginia’s still a virgin. Well, as far as I know at least.” Draco turned his eyes towards Ginny, as though expecting her to answer the unspoken question. His apprehension was well-hidden behind his sneer. Ginny, however, did not need to respond.
“All right, Malfoy, let’s get a few things straight.” Ron had straightened up by now and was ticking off on his fingers as he spoke, “Firstly, of course she’s a virgin. Seamus knows better than to try anything, now that Harry and I have spoken with him.” Ginny cried with shock, and turned to glare at Harry, who had the decency to look abashed. Ron continued, oblivious to her reaction, “Secondly, her name’s Ginevra; and thirdly, I don’t know why Hermione called you here, but she must have a reason. All the same, if you even think of interfering in a conversation between me and anyone in my family, I will personally rip that pointed nose off of your face.”
If Draco’s last name was not Malfoy, he would have acknowledged that he was speechless. He was, however, a Malfoy, and Malfoys are never speechless. They are tactfully silent, rule #57.
“Right then,” Hermione broke in. “Now that we’ve all got that settled, why don’t we move on to discuss this little situation of ours. I believe there are some introductions that need to be made properly.”
After a long meeting between the five of them, two conclusions were drawn: they all needed to speak to the Headmaster, and Ron is not allowed to murder Draco. Hermione carefully explained that Draco had found Ginny when she fainted, and was the one to take her to safety on more than one occasion. She also told Ron and Harry about the penseive, but quickly lied that it was her own suggestion that they work on it, and the only reason she asked Draco to work with Ginny was because he had more experience with penseives than she did. Ginny casually avoided all conversation concerning Draco and even went so far as to barely notice his presence. When all the roadblocks seemed to be smoothed out, they agreed to meet at the stairs leading up to Professor Dumbledore’s office, to ward off any unnecessary suspicion.
Ginny sighed heavily as she massaged her temples and closed her eyes on the oncoming headache. She heard Draco shuffle until he was seated next to her, his legs just barely brushing hers. She grinned behind her hands, waiting to see what he might say.
“Ginny…” he trailed off, seeming more interested in the lock of red-gold hair he was coiling around his finger. “What the dolt you seem to call your brother said back there, was he telling the truth?” his voice was so soft that Ginny almost had to lean towards him to hear. She withdrew her hands from her face and studied his expression. It was no surprise to her that despite his soft speech, his face was as hard and reserved as ever.
“Well, Draco,” she almost purred his name out. Much to her chagrin, she seemed incapable of speaking his name with the same malice she used to reserve specially for him. “I know what you’re really asking me. And yes,” she continued with a mischievous glint in her eye, “my name is Ginevra. It’s really a common misconception that Ginny stands for Virginia.” Artfully hiding her giggle, Ginny rose and patted an indignant Draco on the back before she made her way to Professor Dumbledore’s office.
A large abandoned staircase led up to a narrow hallway, punctuated by a stone gargoyle; behind the gargoyle stood a narrow shaft, whose stone steps spiraled upwards. The dusky hall was devoid of the laughter and innocent banter that filled the rest of the immaculate establishment. The only sound was that of footsteps reverberating off the illustrious marble walls, each step heavier than the last, labored by unspoken words. Five shadows deceptively danced across the floor, feigning youth and innocence. Their bodies had been nothing more than costumes for the last five years, hiding the pain and suffering behind vibrant and innocent physiques. The disguise was beginning to fade, though. Their shoulders were distinctively weighed down by the burdens of bad decisions inherited through the generations. Even their faces were weathered: jaded by the need to shed their childish garments long before their time. This was the result of growing up too fast to remember to miss those blissfully fleeting moments of na´vetÚ.
Hermione stopped in front of the gargoyle and heaved a sigh. She soon felt Harry’s shoulder brush against her left one, and heard Ron come up to stand on her right. Two more sets of footsteps paused just behind her, and Hermione knew that Ginny and Draco had joined them as well; everyone was waiting for her to say the password and lead the way to Professor Dumbledore’s office. The head girl just cocked her head to the side though, seemingly lost in thought.
“How long do you think it’ll take her before she remembers how to speak?” Draco whispered in Ginny’s ear after a few moments had passed.
Ginny stifled her laugh with a slight cough, but before she could respond, he cut her off,
“Oy Granger!” He called out as though she weren’t standing directly in front of him. Completely startled, she jumped and turned around.
“Malfoy I’m right here!”
“Well, I wasn’t so sure about that. I thought you’d taken a mental trip to the loo or something,” Draco responded with a sneer. “But don’t worry, I know what you were thinking, and yes, it is true. I would look rather fetching in nothing but a pair of quidditch boots, sprawled across silk sheets. Even so, like I said before, you really need to stop fantasizing about me this way. Potter’ll get his panties in a twist.”
“MALFOY!” a scandalized Hermione and an enraged Ron and Harry shouted in unison.
“I’ll have you know,” Harry ground out, “I do NOT wear panties!”
“And I was most definitely not thinking of anything of the sort!” Hermione squealed with a furious blush decorating her cheeks. “I was simply trying to collect my thoughts for what we’re going to have to say to Dumbledore.”
With that she turned and spoke the password to the gargoyle before anyone could say anything more. As soon as Harry and Draco stepped onto the spiraling stairs behind her, Ginny quickly snapped out of the reverie she seemed to be in and jumped up behind Draco. Ron followed, but tapped Ginny’s shoulder and inquired,
“Is everything all right? What were you thinking about back there?”
“Oh, nothing…just quidditch,” she replied with a slight blush. Upon hearing this, Draco suddenly had a coughing fit, earning him and Ginny a skeptical look from Ron. However, before he could say anything, Dumbledore had called them in, and all five students filed into his office.
“Ah, Miss Granger, Mr. Potter, Mr. Malfoy, Miss Weasley, and Mr. Weasley.” Dumbledore’s voice hushed any unspoken words and drove away any stray thoughts. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your company today?”
“Hypnosis! With SNAPE? I still can’t believe it,” Ron cried out, as he rolled the lemon drop to the other side of his mouth.
“Ronald!” he was stopped from any further rants by Hermione slamming her hand flat on the Gryffindor table. “No matter how many times you say it, it won’t change the matter! And will you PLEASE spit out that insufferable candy before you douse us all with your spit!”
Ron looked from her indignant face to Harry’s sitting across from him with an innocent shrug of his shoulders. “What’s with her?” he asked quietly, “and what’s wrong with the lemon drop? Dumbledore offered them to us, after all.”
Harry shook his head and smiled at his best friend as he reached for a second helping of potatoes.
“You know, she does have a point, Ron,” Ginny started from his right. “After all, I’m the one that has to go into hypnosis.”
“I know, Gin, but who’s to say he won’t try to hypnotize you into losing Gryffindor all our points?”
“Look, I know he’s Snape, and I know he’s a git, but you heard Dumbledore. The only way to prevent another mental assault by Riddle is through a very complex form of hypnosis, which only Snape can administer. You know that he’s been exposed to all kinds of Dark Arts, and he’s really the only expert on the concitatus spell. So really, Ron, it’s not as though we have a choice.” Ginny sighed, and noting Ron’s dejected face, added, “Besides, I have to have a trusted witness present, remember? So it’s not like Snape can try to pull anything.” Although I’m not sure Gryffindor will benefit much, considering who I want to be my witness…
“Yeah, you do have a point, Gin. So when do these sessions start again?”
“Honestly, Ron, do you not pay any attention?” Hermione cut in, “Snape wants to start as soon as the holidays begin, so there won’t be any classes, and no one will interfere.”
“Oh and one more thing, big brother,” Ginny giggled as she stepped out from behind the bench, “Hermione’s right. You are spitting like a madman with that candy in your mouth.” Ignoring her brother’s comments about her being a traitor, she traipsed out of the Great Hall.
“That girl seems less and less like a Weasley every day. I mean, next thing you know, she’s going to tell me she fancies Malfoy.”
“Seamus!” Ginny gasped. “We’re in the library. I really don’t think Madame Pince would approve of that kind of behavior.”
“Oh, Gin-gin,” Seamus sighed in response, while his hand started at her knee and slowly trailed up her thigh. “You know that I can’t control myself when I’m this close to you. It’s really your own fault for sitting next to me.” Leaning in for a kiss, Seamus was so focused on the smile Ginny was trying to hide that he didn’t notice a third person join them. Ginny, however, was expecting the familiar interruption, and was only surprised it hadn’t come sooner.
“You know you may be solving your own problem,” Draco cut in, twirling his wand. He found that annoying Seamus was his newest yet most favored pastime. “If you keep breathing on her like that with your potato breath, I’m sure she’d be more than glad to move.”
“He doesn’t have potato breath.” Ginny murmured, lodging one hand behind Seamus’ head. “In fact, it’s rather sweet.” She pulled him slowly closer before their lips finally met. Seamus remained in shock for the first few seconds, as his instinctive reaction at the sight of Malfoy would have been to pull away. However, all his surprise quickly left him and he took advantage of the situation. Shifting himself to wrap his arms around Ginny’s back, he gently pressed against her lips until they parted. Out of the corner of her eye, Ginny could see a Malfoy in rage, but only smirked. She let out a lilting moan that began in the back of her throat and shocked both boys at the table. Pulling back, she plastered a dreamy look on her face, and then turned away from Seamus’ pleasantly surprised expression. She then tilted her head at Draco and raised an eyebrow.
“All right, Weasley, enough games. I’ll be waiting outside.” Draco ground the words out and stalked out of the library with clenched fists. Ginny watched him leave with a small smile on her face.
“I don’t get it, Gin. I mean, you’ve explained to me that Snape gave you some demented Potions project that you had to complete over the winter holidays. And you’ve also explained that Malfoy has to escort you, because Snape is an untrusting git. But I mean, it’s been days, and Malfoy still makes a habit of interrupting us. I’m beginning to think he’s doing it on purpose.”
“Seamus! Don’t be silly. After all, what would Malfoy gain by interrupting us, hm?” Ginny didn’t let him respond before she got out of her seat. “All right, I’ll meet you at dinner? Bye!” she chirped and nearly ran out of the library suddenly desperate to get away from Seamus. She burst through the door so quickly that she almost ran past Draco. She quickly whipped around and saw him approaching her. Bracing herself for some kind of verbal attack, she was astonished to see Draco walk right by her without a second glance.
“Coming Weasley?” he called over his shoulder. “Snape isn’t exactly partial to tardiness.”
Ginny hurried her footsteps to catch up with him. Walking beside Draco, she took many covert glances at him, trying to discern his disposition. His face was set in cool lines, his eyes trained ahead of him. Ginny would have paid an arm and a leg to know what was on his mind right now. They were nearing the Potions classroom when he finally spoke.
“Nice little display you put on back there.” Looks like I get to keep my limbs. "I found it rather amusing."
"Are you sure about that Draco?" Ginny replied without missing a beat. "You seemed to put on your own little display too. I wasn't aware Malfoys were allowed to throw tantrums."
"I think we can both agree that the tantrums are reserved for your brother."
"Oh really? Is that the case? I distinctly recall seeing you in the hospital wing after getting in a rather debilitating brawl with said brother. Looks like you two have more in common than you think." Ginny tossed a curl behind her shoulder and flounced off in the direction of her next hypnosis lesson. She didn't get very far when Draco reached out a hand and lodged it in the crook of her elbow, effectively stopping her. When she turned her head to face him, he had fixed her with a sneer.
"I'll have you know, my name will not be associated with Weasley. And you would do best not to make that mistake again."
"Can't associate with a Weasley, Draco? What do I look like?" His grip faltered at her words, and she took the opportunity to withdraw her hand from his grip. "See? We're back in the same place, with the same unanswered question. What are we doing here, Draco Malfoy? Why can't you let go of me? I don't get it...What's holding you here?" Ginny set her face in hard lines and looked him square in the eyes. Seeing nothing, she shook her head slowly and asked just below her breath, "Is anything even holding you here?"
Draco felt Ginny's shoulder brush against him as she walked by, and that became his breaking point. His frozen exterior fell around him. His shoulders stooped and he hung his head. Suddenly Draco needed to reach for the wall to hold himself up. He turned to look at the door Ginny had just walked through, hearing her words reverberating in his head. "More than you know, Ginny," he responded to himself. "More than you know."
Three Gryffindors were huddled around a library table, their only companion an overwhelming pile of books.
"It says here that concitatus is an ancient spell often used in dark arts." Ron paused to swallow the chocolate frog he'd been chewing. His book was propped up against his feet and his feet were propped up on the table. "'The fact that it must be at least partially mutual lends to its power, making the magic more vital and useful in various kinds of spells.' Huh, so basically since Ginny unknowingly gave in to Riddle's power over her psyche, and let the spell fester for so many years, it's just amplified into this super powerful spell." He stopped when he saw Harry and Hermione staring at him across the table, their jaws hanging down in shock. "What??"
Harry leaned over to Hermione, "Did Ron just use psyche, fester, and amplified in the same sentence?" he confirmed.
"Oh you heard it too? Thank goodness, I thought I was subconsciously translating him into more elevated language again."
"Hey!" Ron cut in, "I can speak well too, you know! I'll have you know that there are people who appreciate someone who knows how to manipulate language."
"Ohh I get it!" the confusion in Harry's face melted into a good-natured smile. "You're trying to change your talk for a girl"
Hermione squealed and clapped her hands, while the two of them looked expectantly at Ron.
"How are you so sure it's for a girl? Maybe I just find it childish and beneath me to speak as though I don't know how." Studying the expressions of his friends, he quickly added, "All right, it's for a girl. But this isn't just any girl. This one appreciates the finer aspects of life. She's a Ravenclaw, of course."
"Of course," Harry nodded him on.
"Well anyway, I was walking Ginny back from Charms one day, since I was in that hall. So when I went to go meet her, she was talking to this- this goddess!" Ron acquired a dreamy look on his face as he continued to describe his mystery goddess. "She had the most beautiful black hair. Not quite all black, slightly brown in just the right light. Her eyes are deep and shaped like perfect almonds. Her beautiful olive skin: flawless. She has a perfectly sloped nose, leading to the most devastating smile ever. And when she moves, her perfect slim figure radiates with all kinds of feminine...perfection."
"Harry, I think he's gone nutters." Hermione muttered at the sight of a completely smitten Ron.
"Yeah, either that, or he's turned into a puff." Harry replied, equally flabbergasted.
Ron seemed to come out of his daze and glared at the two of them.
"Go ahead and make fun. But you should see her; then you'd know what I'm talking about." Ron snapped.
"All right, Ron," Hermione chuckled and reached over to pat his hand. "Well, do you at least know her name?"
"Well, I didn't get a chance to overhear that part, but I do know that she's friends with Ginny. And they were making plans to study. Turns out Ginny's ahead of her class in Charms, and has offered to tutor." The typical Weasley pride was now etched on Ron's face when he spoke of his sister.
"Then I guess you have you work cut out for you, eh mate? Just turn up the brotherly love, and boom! You're in good with the Ravenclaw." Harry chimed in, nibbling on his sugar quill.
"How right you are, Harry. Speaking of which, my darling sister's boots were looking a little shabby this morning. I guess that buffing spell I learned will come in handy after all. So long, you two." Ron picked up his book entitled, The Essential Chores Chorus: spells to make your life easyand headed back to Gryffindor Tower.
"Now, please try to focus on the goal." Snape persuaded when he saw Ginny shaking. She was lying on a cot conjured up by the Potions professor. "Tell me what you can see now."
"I'm in the Chamber now." Ginny's voice sounded pained and far away. "I can see him growing stronger in front of me. He's coming to life, and I'm bringing him back."
"Good, now is he saying anything to you?"
"I- I can't hear. I - oh! It's too loud! I can't--" her voice shook and she shielded her already closed eyes. "Ah! Get out of my head!" Ginny let out an anguished cry, screwing her face up in fear.
Draco, concealed in the shadows of the far corner of the room, snapped his head towards Professor Snape. His eyebrows were drawn together, and he stared at the professor with a panicked expression.
"All right, Weasley. That's enough for today." Snape flicked his wand and Ginny's face relaxed. It was another few seconds before she completely broke out of her trance. Draco was leaning against the wall with his arms tensely crossed across his chest as he watched her attempt to sit up straight. Ginny took the proffered arm from Snape and pulled herself completely upright on the cot. She leaned her elbows on her knees and pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes. In the back of her over-exhausted mind she registered hearing Draco's slow and deliberate footsteps in her direction, and Snape's swift steps around his table to his seat.
"Are you quite all right, Weasley?" Snape called out. Without looking up to see her nod, he continued, "In that case, is there anything I should know?"
Ginny's head snapped up at this.
"What's that, Professor?" she asked in a timid voice with wide eyes.
"I was just curious, Ms. Weasley, as to whether or not there were any developments or changes in your situation." He was now skeptically scrutinizing the worried lines on her face. "It has been rather long since you had an episode, has it not? Is there anything unusual that you noticed that should be brought to my attention?"
Ginny chewed the inside of her mouth in thought. "Well, Professor, I actually haven't had another spell since the night I was in the Hospital Wing. And, um -" she paused in consideration of what had happened that night. I didn't really hear his voice, right? That was just in my head. It had to be. There's no way. The only reason I haven't had another episode is because of the hypnosis...right?
"Ms. Weasley?" Snape's demanding voice cut in. He was standing with his hands braced against the desk, wearing a dubious face. Ginny stared at him open-mouthed, suddenly at a loss for words.
"Ginny?" her head snapped to the left at the touch of Draco's hand on her shoulder. "If there's anything that seems out of the ordinary to you, you should say so now, before this gets any worse than it already is." His voice was gruff, but oddly soft. Ginny cocked her head and looked into Draco's eyes, suddenly seeing what she'd been hoping for.
"No, there's nothing I need to share." She replied quietly. Draco held her gaze for a few moments longer before removing his hand from her shoulder. He turned towards Snape and nodded, who responded with his own nod. The professor resumed his seat and work, letting Draco and Ginny make their way to the door.
"Oh, Mr. Malfoy. Would you come here a moment, there is something I would like to discuss." Snape called out just before they reached the door.
"Right, Professor." Draco turned to give Ginny a look that meant for her not to go far, and then shut the door and went back into the classroom. Perching on the edge of a desk directly in front of Snape's desk, he stretched his lean legs out in front of him. They were casually crossed at the ankles, and he began to lackadaisically inspect his well-manicured nails. "Was there something you needed?" Draco drawled out.
"As you must already realize, I attended Hogwarts as a student in your mother's class." Snape was staring hard at the boy's face, as though willing him to react. He was sourly disappointed. Draco simply crossed his arms across his chest and raised an eyebrow.
"With all due respect, Professor, is there some significance to this clearly obvious statement?"
"I do not know nor do I care how much of your parents' lives is privy to you. Neither is it my place to reveal any lingering or long-lasting tales of Hogwarts from a generation long ago. I do, however, strongly believe that you should realize that all matters are not as they seem. Many times, Draco, a person's actions are wrought by the consequences they may face, or may not face, whatever the case may be. You should know that despite how lives turn out, and despite how bleak the future might seem, there is always the matter of choice. Every decision worth making is carefully deliberated, and a choice is made. No matter how difficult the decision, there is always a choice. No one can force will upon another. Even the Imperius curse can be fought off by an able mind. Do you see what I'm trying to say to you, Mr. Malfoy?"
"Actually," Draco began hesitantly. Looking down at his feet, he rubbed the back of his head. "No, Professor, I'm afraid I don't quite see where you're leading with this. You're making enough sense, but I don't see what this has to do with anything."
The Potions professor looked at his student's confused face and sighed. Making his way around the desk he stood in front of Draco and made to pass him, but stopped to place a hand on his shoulder. Looking past Draco rather than at him, he spoke,
"What I'm trying to say to you is that life is constantly testing us and the strength of our deepest emotions. Even though it may be easy to admit defeat, claiming that your fate is a direct consequence of someone else's actions, this is not the road taken by true men. No matter what cards you are dealt, there is always a choice. You can choose to play the high card, and suffer the pain of being trumped, or you can choose to avoid that pain by playing the lower, more subservient card. Then again, you have a deck full of cards to choose from." Snape deliberately turned to look Draco in the face before adding, "Do not believe that the power to make a decision is taken out of your hands. It never can be." With that, he removed his hand from Draco's shoulder and stalked out of the classroom in the direction of his office.
Draco stared after the billowing robes, part of him wondering if there was more to the professor than he let on, part of him wondering whether or not his mind had fabricated the entire exchange.
Ron was settling into a chair in the Common Room, having polished or shined most of Ginny's boots, jewelry and essentially everything in her possession capable of being polished or shined. He reclined with his hands folded behind his head, heaving a sigh. Slowly closing his eyes, Ron let his mind wander, focusing on any and all images that passed behind his lids. At first they were of quidditch, and of his tumultuous climb to his position as captain. He had spent every waking moment practicing and perfecting his keeper skills after his fifth year. By the time he reached Seventh Year status, the name Weasley truly had become royalty on the quidditch field.
Breathing in deeply, Ron let the next image float by. He was standing with his sister, amicably arguing over a box of Every Flavor Beans. The two ended by sharing a hug that soon turned into Ginny putting him in a headlock. Ron chuckled under his breath, and suddenly the image changed. Ron looked up at the girl's face; it was no longer Ginny. She was not holding him in a headlock either, but rather a haphazard embrace. Ron shifted his arms around her and she further buried her face in the crook of his neck. He found that he enjoyed the smell of her chestnut hair. And even though it was big enough to cover half his face, he could think of nowhere else he'd rather be. Ron's eyes flew open, and he again found himself in the Common Room. He resolutely came to the conclusion that a distraction was what he needed. A distraction would prevent him from doing anything decidedly daft. Getting up to go for a walk, Ron passed the pair of newly buffed boots that belonged to his sister. A distraction is just what I shall have.
"There's just one thing I don't understand about your puppy - er - boyfriend, Weasley." Draco corrected himself when Ginny's arm flew into his stomach. "He always seems to get so uptight whenever I'm around. In fact, I find it quite amusing."
"Yes, Draco, I'm well aware of how you get you giggles. But how is that hard to understand?" She half-turned as she opened the door and sighed at the sight of his well-placed smirk. The two of them were going for a walk to let Ginny cool off from the hypnosis session.
"I'm not finished; that's not what surprises me. And besides, I don't giggle." Draco snapped at her, setting his first boot onto the snow-covered ground. "What makes me wonder is how you managed to convince him to have me take you to Snape every day like this. I would think he'd be having an Irish fit by now. You must have made up some killer lie for him not to care."
"I didn't lie to him. I simply stated that there was a special project I needed to do with Snape, and you needed to escort me. I couldn't help it if he made the assumption that I was being punished, and that your service was provided because Snape didn't trust me."
"Ah, very sneaky, Gin darling. I must say as a Slytherin I am most proud of you."
"Hmm, I can't decide if that's a good thing or bad thing," Ginny shot back with a smile.
"So, you needed me there to escort you? What's that all about?" Draco swiftly changed topics with the quirk of an eyebrow.
"Oh, come off it, Draco. You know that I have to have someone I trust there with me. Someone that can provide me comfort and stability while the spell racks my brain for evidence of Tom Riddle. This whole thing isn't exactly pleasant for me. I end up delving into memories I'd rather leave alone. I'm digging up events and actions I thought I could finally leave behind. All so Snape can hear all about it. Snape! Of all people! I have to reveal the darkest and most shameful parts of my life to a Potions professor who hates my guts. Even if he is the only one who can find this seed-thingy, it doesn't make it any easier. I think it's pretty clear that I feel physically weak after one of those sessions," Ginny went on, indicating her hand that was resting on Draco's arm for sustenance. "Just imagine how I'd be if you weren't there."
"But Ginny," he argued, ducking his head away from her. "It's not as though I do anything at those meetings. I just stand in the corner and watch you. How is that even helpful?"
"Draco, your presence alone means so much. I don't think you'll understand this but," Ginny's voice softened considerably and her steps slowed down. "just having you around makes me stronger. And I don't just mean during hypnosis."
Draco stopped walking and slowly turned his head to Ginny. He grazed a finger along her jaw before hooking it under her chin. He raised her head till their eyes met.
"What makes you think I won't understand?" his voice sounded gruff to her, and she had to fight the temptation to close her eyes and melt.
"You never let it show. Everything's some big hidden secret for you. You're constantly jerking me around, Draco, with those eyes. One second I feel like they're on fire, but before I can look twice you've closed off again." Ginny breathed in, gaining the strength to go on. Seeing the determined look in her eye, Draco dropped his hand from her face. "See? There you go again, with your stony expression. What are you so afraid of, Draco? Why can't you admit what's right in front of your face? I know you can feel it. I see it inside you. You feel it just as much as I do. You have no idea how powerful this can be if you just admit it."
"Feel what, Weasley?" Draco tried to snap at her, but his voice sounded strangled.
Ginny took a step closer to him, bringing their bodies just to the brink of touching. She slipped a hand inside his cloak and brushed her fingers down his arm.
"Feel alive. It happens to me every time you come near. When our skin touches," she paused to rub her whole palm down his forearm, "it's as though I'm on fire. I'm suddenly aware of all my senses." Ginny slipped her hand into his and brushed her thumb across his knuckles. "Tell me, Draco. What do you feel right now?"
Despite a voice at the back of his head that told him to run, Draco stared at Ginny, trying to find the best way to answer her. He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply when he felt her move even closer to him. Their bodies were lined up and she was nuzzling the skin just below the side of his chin with her nose. Swallowing hard, Draco opened his mouth and forced sound to come out.
"I can hear myself breathe."
"Go on," Ginny urged, trailing her other hand up his arm to rest on his shoulder.
"My pulse feels so strong. I think I'm swimming." Draco felt her laugh softly against his skin and opened his eyes. He held up his hands and looked down at them.
"What is it?" she whispered.
"My hands. I can feel them." Draco raised his gaze to meet Ginny's. "It's almost as though I never noticed they were there before. How is it you can do this to me?"
"Do you really need to ask?" Ginny's left hand slowly moved to the back of his neck, while her right settled just above his elbow. Draco moved his arms to rest on her back. He slowly brought them towards each other, drawing her in closer. He began to lower his head towards her, but stopped.
"I didn't ask for this, you know?" Draco murmured to her with half-lidded eyes.
"No one ever does." She breathed, tilting her head upwards.
Draco's head was drawn to hers like a magnet. All of a sudden Snape's words came floating into his train of thought. Play the high card. Get trumped, feel the pain. It's worth it, just look at her face. Play the high card. Play the high card. He chanted to himself, slowly coming closer and closer to kissing the youngest Weasley. Ginny pulled herself closer and he tightened his embrace. Standing on her toes, she closed her eyes and murmured, her lips barely touching his,
"What high card?"
Draco's mind snapped back to reality. Was I speaking out loud? The image in front of him instantly changed. Instead of some missing link in his search for perfection, he saw a girl. An innocent girl, willing to offer herself to him. He could give in to the temptation his body was responding to, but where would that take him? He would only end up hurting this bundle in his arms. She would watch him suffer and would, in turn, suffer herself. All that pain, just to satisfy themselves now. No matter how right it felt, no matter how complete his life seemed with her wrapped in his arms, he would not give in to weakness. Draco pulled her against him and kissed her forehead.
"I have to go. Same time tomorrow." He muttered before detangling himself from her. Without looking back, Draco swiftly walked towards the castle. When he was out of sight, Ginny seemed to step out of her trance. Letting out a cry of frustration she buried her hands in her hair, and drew in a shaky breath. For some reason, even breathing was a taxing exercise.
"Camena, this is Seamus, and this is Draco. Guys, meet Camena." Ginny introduced, "Seamus is my boyfriend and Draco is - well, at the moment, he's just annoying."
"Hullo. Nice to meet you two." Camena shook hands with both Seamus and Draco. "Ginny's helping me in Charms. I'm not exactly a stellar student, and I need her to tutor me." The Ravenclaw ran a hand through her nearly black hair and offered them a devastating smile. She was nervously seated next to Ginny, with Seamus and Draco across from the two of them.
"Malfoy," Seamus grumbled quietly when Ginny and Camena had begun to work on their Charms assignment. "I don't see what you're doing here. Ginny's already been to her torture session with Snape today. You can leave."
"Finnegan, my lad," Draco smirked back at him, "I am not studying here for any sort of duty. I simply take great pleasure in watching your face contort like an angry leprechaun."
"Do you think you boys can cut the malarkey for maybe five minutes?" Ginny cut in before Seamus could. "Some of us are trying to get some actual work done in the library, of all places."
"Malarkey, Gin?" Draco mocked with disbelief. "You sound like my Aunt Agnes."
"Draco, I would be willing to lay money that you don't have an Aunt Agnes."
"Maybe not; but if I did, I can guarantee she'd have at least five rather large broomsticks shoved up her arse. That's the only way anyone would be prompted to say malarkey."
Ginny simply rolled her eyes at his glib, but Camena burst into peals of laughter. At Madame Pince's reprimanding glare, she quieted down, but didn't fail to tell Draco just how hilarious she found him. Ginny and Draco's eyebrows shot to their hairline, and they exchanged a look. Draco regarded Camena with an amused expression, while Ginny's was much more guarded. No one seemed to notice Seamus, however, who was rubbing his chin with a suspiciously Slytherin glint in his eyes.
Breakfast the following morning brought with it a slew of owls dropping letters and packages across the hall. Hermione's copy of the Daily Prophet landed in front of her, nearly missing her plateful of eggs. She picked it up and read the headline on the front page: Wizarding Holiday Brings Sales to a Record High.
"What holiday?" she muttered to herself. Pushing aside her breakfast, she made room to set the paper down in front of her and read the accompanying article.
"What was that Hermione?" Harry asked from her right. He passed the jar of pumpkin juice across to Ginny's outstretched hand.
"Something interesting in the paper today?" Ginny piped up, filling her own then Ron's goblet.
"Hopefully not bad news. The last thing we need now is another thing to worry about with the upcoming quidditch match." Ron called out rather anxiously between bites.
"Well," Hermione began without looking up from the paper. "It says there's a wizarding holiday coming up. Well, not really a holiday per se. 'Tutelae's Night comes once every seven years, determined by a certain alignment of stars. The more superstitious wizards and witches take this day to celebrate all their loved ones. It is believed that those bonds recognized on Tutelae's Night are infused with divine power.' Oh what a bunch of crock. People will find any reason to invent some holiday just to make money. Honestly - and how pathetic is it for companies to exploit a person's love just to make money off of unnecessary gifts. You shouldn't need some silly holiday that comes once every seven years to show your love. What civilized person would do that?" Hermione sniffed and shoved the paper away from her. She grabbed her plate and began shoveling food into her mouth, grumbling under her breath.
Harry smiled at her and was just about to speak when he was interrupted by a voice behind him.
"Actually, Tutelae's Night wasn't invented by anyone. The stars really do come together in just the right way every seven years, Tutelae blesses all the lovers who wait for her." Luna Lovegood popped up behind Harry and Hermione with a dreamy expression on her face.
"Luna!" Ginny exclaimed, not noticing her friend sidle up. "Does your dad know something about this Tortellini star thing?"
"Tutelae's Night." Luna corrected.
"So wait a bloody second here," Ron cut in, holding his fork up with a piece of fruit still speared on it. "This Tutelae actually does something? It's not just the name of the bloke who discovered this star pattern?"
"Well, it was a woman who discovered the pattern, Ron." The elusive Ravenclaw replied without missing a beat. "And yes, Tutelae watches down on everyone. Then, every seven years, she comes down to empower whoever reminds her of her own love."
"Hold on, Luna," Ginny spoke up, "you completely lost me. 'Her own love?' Do you know the story behind this Tutelae lady?"
"I suppose I could tell you if you really wanted me to." Luna squeezed her way between Harry and Hermione. She casually reached for Ron's toast, bringing forth an indignant cry from him. Without looking away from the toast, she countered, "You weren't going to finish it anyway." Ron sputtered angrily as he watched Luna break of little bits of his toast and pop them into her mouth.
"Please, Luna," Harry chimed in with Ginny. "I think we'd like to know what this is all about."
"Well, here's the story." She put down the piece of toast and folded her arms on the table in front her. "Once upon a time, there used to be many kingdoms. Each kingdom would be ruled independently, and the world of magic lived very close to the Muggle world. Well there was once a king who was growing very old. His son, the prince, needed to take the throne very soon. One day the prince went riding into the forest. He went very far and soon his horse grew tired. The forest around him became dark, and the prince knew he had to get out soon. There was no telling what kind of creatures roam around in thick forests at night." Ron, Harry and Hermione shared a glance before Luna continued. "He was wandering through the forest when he came across a little clearing. Stepping into the clearing, he saw a little hut and a well. The prince went closer, and saw a beautiful young girl. The girl's name was Tutelae.
"Tutelae told the prince that he could stay here for the night. She would feed him and bathe his horse while he rested, then her brother would take him back to his kingdom in the morning. The prince was extremely grateful, and agreed to spend the night. While they were making preparations for the night, the prince learned that Tutelae was a village girl living with her two brothers. Her father had passed away, and they made a very small income by selling their harvest to neighboring kingdoms. Over the course of the night, the prince fell deeply in love with the beautiful Tutelae. When he confessed his love to her, she admitted that she felt the same way, but there was no way they could be together. Their stations in life were too different. The prince then left for his kingdom with a very heavy heart.
"Soon afterwards, the prince's father passed away, and he was crowned King. He married the princess from a neighboring kingdom for political reasons. His new queen was a witch, as was Tutelae. The queen, however, was not a nice woman. She was very possessive of her king, and often hexed any woman who looked at him twice. So seven years passed since the king last saw Tutelae, but he never forgot her. Then one day, he was hunting in the forest and strayed from his group of courtiers. All of a sudden he found himself near a clearing. He instantly recognized Tutelae's hut, and ran to her. The king and Tutelae were both still in love, and decided to start meeting regularly. The queen soon found out about their affair, though, and threw Tutelae into the sky. She was caught in a constellation of stars. When the king found out, he cried and cried over the loss of his Tutelae.
"That night though, she came to him. The king dreamt that Tutelae had come to visit him, and told him that their love was eternal. It would never die, and neither would she. Since it had taken him seven years to find her after he first left her, she promised that she would come to him after seven years. So every seventh year since the queen threw her in the sky, Tutelae came to watch over the king and bless him with ultimate power. When he died, she vowed to protect all eternal lovers. So she returns every seven years to offer the greatest power to soul mates across the world." Luna finished her tale, the dreamy expression never leaving her face. When she was done, however, she didn't wait to hear any kind of response before she extracted herself from the table and walked out of the Great Hall. The four Gryffindors were staring at the spot she just left wearing very thoughtful expressions.
"It might not be true," Hermione voiced, "but it's still kind of sad." Ginny and Harry silently agreed with her.
"All I have to say is," Ron grunted, glaring at the table in front of the previously occupied seat, "she didn't finish my toast either."
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