DISCLAIMER: Everything except the plot is J.K. Rowling's. Incidentally, I read HP before it turned into a worldwide sensation, and I thought J.K. was a male. Took me awhile to accept that the blond woman next to all the articles about HP was J.K. herself.
A/N: Okay, that was completely pointless. This is what happens when I'm bored.
"In the arithmetic of love, two minus one equals nothing. And one plus one equals everything."
Hedwig swooped into the Great Hall, her snowy wings spread wide. She glided once around the hall before landing in front of Harry, who stroked her on the back before unknotting the parchment tied to her leg. He unrolled it, and his face paled.
“Harry, what’s wrong?” asked Hermione, alarmed. A delivery owl landed on the table, and she slipped it a Knut without bothering to look at the Daily Prophet it had delivered. She placed her hand on Harry’s arm.
Ron looked worried. “You’ve gone rather pale, mate.”
Harry wordlessly handed over the parchment. Ron read it, his eyes widening, then gave it to Hermione.
~Tonks at Mungo’s. Have reason to believe it involves ~Death Eaters. BE VERY CAREFUL.
Instantly Hermione seized the Daily Prophet. She scanned it feverishly.
Ginny, unnoticed by the trio (but one Slytherin at the far end of the Great Hall had taken unwilling note of her), appeared at the table. It was breakfast time, and she was hungry – she had spent a good part of last night thinking about Draco. And she still hadn’t come to any conclusions as to what he felt about her.
Or, for that matter, what she felt about him.
A ribbon of anxiety began working its way up her spine as soon as she saw Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The three of them looked jumpy, and their complexions were chalky. Ron and Harry were staring at a piece of parchment on the table like it was a bomb, and Hermione was rapidly turning the pages of the Daily Prophet.
“What’s wrong?” Ginny asked, walking up to them. Before they could react, she grabbed the parchment and read it.
It slid through her fingers onto the floor, and color drained from her face. “I see.”
Hermione slapped down the Daily Prophet. “Nothing in here. Whatever’s happening, it looks like the Ministry is turning a blind eye again.”
“They always do. Whatever’s happening, it can’t be good. And how can it involve Death Eaters? Voldemort is dead,” said Harry.
Hermione was the only one who didn’t flinch at the name. Sighing, she said, “Look, Ron, Ginny, you have to get over it. Voldemort’s gone.” The Weasleys flinched again, and a note of impatience entered Hermione’s voice. “That’s right, Voldemort! How are we going to go after his minions when we’re still afraid of him? Despite the fact that he’s dead!”
Ginny took a seat next to Harry, saying nothing. He took her hand and gave it a comforting squeeze.
Ron looked angry. “I hate it when you revert back into Know-It-All mode. You don’t understand, okay? We spent our whole lives hearing him referred to as You-Know-Who, and you can’t just change that.”
“Why not?” Ron repeated incredulously. “Well, for one –“
“I think,” Harry intervened, “We should forget You-Know-Who –“ Hermione rolled her eyes, and Harry shrugged diplomatically. “– and concentrate on the Death Eaters. It looks like they’re the threat now.”
“But the strange thing is, the Aurors should be more than a match for a few Death Eaters,” said Ginny slowly.
Hermione nodded. “Right. The problem isn’t the magical powers of the Death Eaters, which are probably quite impressive, though I’m sure the Aurors can handle it. The problem is that they’ve managed to hide their very existence. It's a mystery where they are, who they are, and how they get away with everything.”
The four of them fell silent, thinking it over. Harry let go of Ginny’s hand to pick up the parchment left lying on the floor. He slid it into his pocket.
“We need to talk to Professor Lupin,” said Hermione decisively.
“I should think he’d be staying at Tonks’ bedside,” Ron said.
Harry considered. “We can’t protect ourselves if we have no idea what’s happening. I have the note; I’ll take it to Professor McGonagall and ask permission from her to visit Tonks and meet with Professor Lupin."
Ron and Hermione nodded.
“What time is it?” Ron asked.
Hermione checked her watch and told him. “Come on, we’re going to be late for our first subject. Harry?”
"Go on, I'll just finish this," he said, gesturing to his plate of toast.
Ron and Hermione got up and began to leave the Great Hall, talking in low voices to each other. Harry looked after them, the barest hint of longing in his expression. Then it vanished, and he stood up, leaving the toast uneaten.
“Harry, wait.” Ginny grabbed the older Gryffindor by the arm.
He looked at her. “What is it?”
“I want to be with you when you meet Professor Lupin, okay?”
Harry hesitated, then said gently, “You have to ask Ron. You know how protective he is.”
“When he finds out it was you who let me come he won’t be too mad. You know how keen he is on getting us back together.”
Ginny’s grip tightened on Harry’s arm, and for a moment their eyes met, green and brown, a world of history passing between them. A history of passion and jealousy and laughter and tenderness, but no regret. Bloody hell, they'd loved each other so much. But it was clear, too, that it was over.
Finally, Harry nodded. “You can come.”
Ginny smiled. “Thanks.”
And with that they parted ways.
Danaya watched Shadow writhe on the floor for a few agonizing moments, then she grabbed Dark Moon’s arm. “Stop! Stop it!”
Dark Moon shook her off. “He made a mistake, Danaya. He has to pay.” Beside him, Bitter Wand looked coldly at the figure on the floor and nodded.
“There are only five of us,” Danaya said desperately, rushing to place herself between Shadow and Dark Moon. “If we cannot trust one another, we will never be able to avenge ourselves.”
“He betrayed our trust by failing to kill Tonks!” spat out Bitter Wand.
“She’s nearly dead! The medics say she will probably die,” Danaya shouted back.
"Probably is not good enough -"
Howling Night spoke up, interrupting Bitter Wind. “If one of us makes a mistake, I do not like to think that we will be tortured as a punishment.”
Bitter Wand said, “Then we cannot make mistakes.”
“We already fear getting discovered. If we also fear each other, we will make even more mistakes. We will fall apart.”
Danaya dropped to her knees beside Shadow, who was trying to get up. He struggled to speak, but she shushed him.
Dark Moon’s eyes flickered to Bitter Wand, then to Howling Night. “Very well. We shall not use the Cruciatus Curse on each other.” He turned his gaze on Shadow. “And I trust that there will be no more mistakes.”
Shadow nodded and finally, with Danaya’s help, managed to stand.
Howling Night watched Shadow. “What did Tonks mean when she said, ‘I know who you are?’”
“It means she recognized me from elsewhere.”
“As a Death Eater?”
Shadow stiffened. “What do you mean?”
“If she remembered you from one of your exploits as a Death Eater, then why did she lower her wand?"
“What does it matter?” said Shadow sharply. “It was that hesitation which let me attack her.”
“It was her words which suddenly made you desperate to silence her.”
“Enough,” said Dark Moon irritably. “Howling Night, do not invent conspiracies where there are none. You said yourself we must not splinter as a group.”
Howling Night fell silent.
“Danaya.” There was a wealth of warning in Dark Moon’s voice.
Danaya looked at him.
“Do not ever again interfere with my actions.”
She lowered her head. “Yes, Dark Moon.”
Draco leaned against the wall, cloaked in shadow. It was the darkest part of the corridor, but he knew the Gryffindor sixth years had Potions next, in the dungeons. (With the Slytherin sixth years, actually, which was how he knew, from the complaints in the Slytherin common room every night.) His eyes glinting with a predatory anticipation, he waited.
Harry emerged from the Great Hall. Without pausing, he went in the direction Ron and Hermione had gone. Draco paid him no attention.
A moment later, Ginny appeared in his vision. She was leaving the Great Hall for classes. She passed by without noticing him, looking preoccupied. And Draco made his move, like lightning, his arm lashing out at a blurring speed.
Ginny gasped at the sudden hard grip on her wrist. “Draco!” Instantly she realized her mistake. “I mean – Malfoy –“
His grip tightened until it was just short of painful. “Can’t take it back, Ginny.” He put a deliberate emphasis on the name, and she winced. He gave her a dark look. “It’s certainly a delight to know that our relationship has progressed to the point where we can call each other by our first names.”
Ginny tried to pry his hand loose, but to no avail. “We have no relationship, Malfoy,” she hissed.
"Don't we?" His smile was humorless, and Ginny flinched.
“Why are you so mad?” she asked, trying to break free. But he was too strong.
An image of Ginny clutching onto Harry’s arm materialized, their eyes intense as they gazed at each other. Draco had been leaving the Great Hall when he saw that touching scene, and he wished he hadn't. Did they still care for each other? He thought they had broken up, but... Grimly, he banished the picture from his head. “I’m not mad," he told Ginny.
“Could have fooled –“
Draco lowered his head and kissed her. Hard. Without hesitation she kissed him back, and he smiled against her lips. He curved on hand around the back of her head, reveling in the silkiness of her flaming hair on his skin.
Finally Ginny drew back, looking dazed. “I’m going to be late for class,” she breathed. It was completely out of context, and she looked like she was searching for something more to say.
“I just wanted to thank you for letting me win the match with the Hufflepuffs,” Draco said softly, and smiled when he saw her get even more confused. Good. He was still holding her. Reluctantly, he let go.
“You’re going to be late,” he warned.
Ginny stared at him, then turned and fairly ran away.
A/N: I updated within the month! Bwahahahahahahaha! Please review...
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