It had been just another day. Another pointless, meaningless day in a series of other pointless, meaningless days. One day just bled into another without anything to break the monotonous cycle. He was sitting in the back of Potions brewing an impossibly simple assignment, one that he had mastered at the age of eight with his eyes closed. He had been crossing to the store cupboard to get more rat spleen when he felt, rather than saw, the heat from the potions explosion; he was aware of a chartreuse mist lingering in the air, and heard a muttered spell from Professor Snape. Bloody hell, Longbottom, I hate you, was the last thought that went through his mind before everything went black.
It was their anniversary. Every year, she tried not to think of it, but every year she was unable to stop the thoughts from coming. She was unable to stem the tide of masochistic feelings, that she was to blame for the people that had been Petrified, that she had been the one to set a mad great bloody snake on the castle, that she was almost the vessel for the return of the Dark Lord, that she was the reason that her brother’s best friends had almost died in their second year, that she had fallen in love. Her solution, every year, was weak, and very un-Gryffindor-like. She played to the matronly side of sweet Madame Pomfrey, and every year in early June, the nurse allowed her to check in to the infirmary for a week, and let the Dreamless Sleep potion work its magic so that she didn’t have to think about what had happened in the Chamber all those years ago. She felt that if she could just rest, just sleep, go several uninterrupted days without thinking about Him, then somehow that would make it all better, and make the malicious thoughts running rampant in her mind dry up and blow away. This year, however, it wasn’t working. She had already been there for two days, and found that it was getting progressively harder, year after year, to keep everything neatly bottled up inside. She could hardly confide in anyone, either, as no one ever wanted to talk about the ‘Unpleasantness of 1993’. Quite frankly, she couldn’t blame them. She didn’t want to talk about it, really, she just somehow felt compelled to. That was the problem with this week, actually. No company. No one to talk to. One did get bored just sleeping the days away. What would help a great deal, she thought, would be if something would happen to change my life completely. For someone to notice her existence. No one had even visited this year. Ah, well. She felt it wouldn’t do to dwell on depressing things. Madam Pomfrey had just left her the potion, and she was anticipating blissful nothingness within minutes.
She had just put on clean pyjamas and crawled between the crisp starched sheets of the infirmary bed when he was brought in. For once in his life, he wasn’t sneering and sniping, he wasn’t acting smug and superior, and he looked scared; his stormy grey eyes were filled with uncertainty. Madam Pomfrey drew the curtains around his bed, and stepped over to confer with Professor Snape. She heard only snatches of their conversation, something about Neville, a potions accident, and that a heretofore unknown reaction of chemicals had done something to the new patient.
She heard the infirmary doors close, and Madam Pomfrey bustling about, helping the boy to change clothes. He hadn’t said a word, which was also uncharacteristic of him. Only after she heard Madam Pomfrey murmur soothing words and leave the floor, her office door closing behind her, only then did she risk creeping over to his bed. He was lying on his back with his head propped up against the pillows, staring up at the ceiling. She watched him for a moment, his hair mussed, his face flushed but impassive, and she thought she could catch a glimpse of the small boy he had been once. He really was handsome, she thought, when he wasn’t busy being a total arse.
“Who’s there?” he snapped.
Well, that confirmed that theory.
He spoke into the silence again. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
Ginny was shocked. She stayed silent, staring at him.
He scowled at her and sneered. “I can hear you breathing, you know. I heard you get out of bed and try to sneak over here. I’m not deaf, you know, just blinded.”
Blinded? He couldn’t see? ? Well, that might actually make talking to him more tolerable, if he didn’t know who she was.
“What happened, Malfoy?” she asked timidly.
She was surprised at how easily he was drawn into conversation. He explained to her what he knew, that Professor Snape didn’t know what Longbottom had used in his cauldron, and that the Professor had gone to try and deduce the mixture, but that it would probably wear off in a matter of days, anyway.
“Days?” Ginny asked incredulously. “Can’t they do any better than that?”
“That’s what I asked at first. But I could do with a break from the monotony of this place, actually.” His unseeing grey eyes swiveled in her direction, and he plucked nervously at the scratchy blue blanket covering his legs. “What’s your name? Do I know you?”
Ginny thought for a moment. She didn’t want to stop talking to him and she was sure that if she told him her name, she would be summarily dismissed.
“Oh, no. It’s too much fun. I think you should just guess,” she said giggling.
“Oh, that’s nice. Taking advantage of the poor blind man.” He looked stricken.
Her face fell immediately. “No,” she began, “I didn’t mean…”
“Only joking,” he reassured her, chuckling.
“I didn’t know you had a sense of humor,” she replied, grinning.
“I drag it out on occasion. What house are you in?”
She sat down by his bed. “That, Malfoy, would be telling.”
He smiled slightly. “So you’re saying if I knew which house you were in, I’d automatically be able to guess who you are?”
She laughed wryly. “No, probably not. People tend to overlook me.”
He frowned. “Shame. Well, taking advantage of a fellow student’s weaknesses would be a Slytherin trait, but as I don’t immediately recognize your voice, and you aren’t stealthy enough by half to be in my house, that lets that out, eh?"
“I suppose that’s a safe bet,” she agreed.
“So not Slytherin,” he continued. “And I’m thinking a Ravenclaw would be smart enough to stay away from the evil Draco Malfoy . . . so that leaves Gryffindor or Hufflepuff. Either of which has their drawbacks.”
“Give it up, Malfoy. You’ll never guess.”
“You must have no concept of how persistent I can be.” He continued badgering her. “What year are you in?”
That’s harmless, she thought. “I’m a year younger than you.”
“Hmmm. Favorite class?”
She smiled. This would throw him off. “Potions.”
“So you’re good at potions, eh? Me, too. Professor Snape doesn’t bother you?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “He doesn’t hate me as much as he does my – er, other people.”
“So he leaves you alone. You must be good if you’re associated with people he can’t stand.”
He frowned. “What’s your least favorite class?”
“Care of Magical Creatures.”
She snorted. “Do you have to ask?”
He raised an eyebrow. “I know why I hate it. Why do you?”
“Well, I love Hagrid, really, but I think all the monsters he has us gallivanting about with are ghastly.”
He shuddered. “The Skrewts.”
“Mmmm. Chocolate. Rather fond of Chocolate Frogs, actually. I always get some for Christmas,” she replied.
“Do you keep the cards?”
“No, I only have two. The ones my – erm, someone I know needs to complete his collection.”
“Evil. Withholding like that,” he commented.
“No, not evil. Perhaps a bit wicked, now you mention it. But it’s fair, trust me.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” He tapped his fingers against the bedspread. “I’m getting close.”
“No, you’re not.”
“What do you look like?”
“Please. Total giveaway.”
“What if you get released before I do and I never find out who you are?”
“You’d live, Malfoy.”
“Your voice sounds vaguely familiar, now. Have we spoken before?”
She winced. “Erm, well, a couple of times.”
“So we’ve flirted?”
A burst of laughter escaped before she could stop it. “No, no. Not exactly.”
He cocked his head to the side. “I don’t understand. You think flirting with me is funny?”
Her mouth opened, and no sound came out. How did she reply to that? She thought carefully, and then answered. “Yes, funny ‘strange’, though, not funny ‘ha - ha.’ I think we’ve drifted into another world, actually, since we’re having this conversation at all.”
He nodded gravely. “So you wouldn’t have anything to do with me outside of a little pity in the Hospital Wing?”
Creases marred her forehead as she answered. “I think it would be the other way round, actually, Malfoy.”
Suddenly, Ginny was tired of the game. She looked at the goblet of potion on the table next to her bed, and found that it was looking better and better.
“Listen, Malfoy, I have to take my potion now, so that will put me out of commission for a couple of hours,” she said, and rising from her chair, she began crossing the room.
“When you wake up, can we continue the guessing game?” he asked.
She found herself frowning. She really liked this side of Malfoy, and it hurt her to think that when their “game” was over that he would go back to being cruel and cold. “Do you really want to?”
“Well, I don’t have anything else to do,” he said petulantly. “What are you in here for, anyway?”
“Oh, you know, just the typical stuff. I have dragon pox, and a werewolf bite. Be here all week.”
“Horribly amusing,” he returned. “What’s really wrong?”
“Not much,” she answered. “Maybe you can figure that out as well, later on.”
He nodded in her direction. “Right. Well, see you in the morning. Figuratively speaking, of course.”
She giggled as she climbed into her bed. “You’re handling this awfully well, aren’t you?”
He shrugged. “It’s temporary, right? And it’ll break up the week.”
“Right. Goodnight Malfoy,” she said and she downed the potion in two gulps. “Ugh. Awful stuff.”
“Goodnight,” he returned.
Ginny was vaguely aware of someone moaning in pain. She couldn’t for the life of her remember where she was, and the thick fog penetrating her consciousness wasn’t allowing her to open her eyes properly. She reached out to feel beside her and her hand rested on the bedside table of her hospital cot. She felt the metal and inhaled the scent of whatever cleanser Madame Pomfrey had the house elves use to clean the floor and immediately got her bearings. She sat up and threw her legs over the side of the bed, rubbing her eyes with her fists. Damn Dreamless Sleep potion. Worse than Firewhisky.
She finally forced her eyes to open and eased out of her bed, carefully making her way over to the only other occupant of the ward, where all the noise was coming from.
“Malfoy. Malfoy, wake up.”
Even in the moonlight, she could see that his face looked terrified and flushed. He continued thrashing about and shouting until she shook him bodily from sleep.
“Malfoy! Quit it! Wake up!”
He sat up abruptly and directly went into a panic.
“What the hell? Where’s my wand? Who are you? Where am I? Why is it dark?"
Merlin, thought Ginny. Where the hell was Madam Pomfrey? All Ginny wanted to do was go back to sleep. She looked back at the nurse’s office door. Totally black. And Ginny wasn’t about to walk all the way over to the nurse’s private quarters in her condition. She’d probably fall asleep on the way, standing up.
Perhaps she could comfort the boy. He was certainly panicked.
“Malfoy. Malfoy, hey. Quiet down, now,” she said in her best soothing, maternal voice. “You’re in the hospital wing, in the infirmary,” she yawned. “I don’t know where your wand is, and there’s another little verse that goes along with that. I don’t care. You probably provoked Neville one time too many and he decided to sabotage his potions assignment today into making you blind.” Ginny sat down in the chair beside his bed. “Does that about cover it?”
He nodded his head and sat, silent for a moment, as if he was trying to separate reality from his dream. He smiled a little, and relaxed a bit. “Yeah, that about covers it. With the exception of your identity.”
She nodded sleepily. “Right.” She laid her head down on the edge of his pillow. “Girl’s got to have a little mystery. Were you having a nightmare?” she asked softly.
“No, just the same dream I always have,” he replied.
“Must have been terrible,” she mumbled. “You were shouting.”
“Yeah, well, it’s worse when you have to be awakened by Crabbe or Goyle. It was much nicer having you do it.”
“Oh, thanks. Least I could do.” She raised her head a bit and tried to clear it by giving it a little shake. “Ah. I have got to get back in bed. That potion is dynamite. Ought to sell it on the black market.” She rose unsteadily, but he managed to reach out and grab her hand.
“Stay with me.”
She sighed deeply, and in her semi-drugged state decided that crawling under the covers with him was indeed better than going all the way back to her bed. Besides, she couldn’t fight the potion anymore.
“Mmm kay. No funny business, Malfoy. Heard rumors. Sex God. Not my knickers.”
She felt him put his arm around her and she was immediately grateful for how warm he was, and in her semi-conscious state, she was vaguely aware that she could smell his soap and a faint trace of cologne as she put her hand under her chin and turned to face him. “Night.”
Her breathing evened out, and he was left with a sleeping girl in his bed.
This was a first.
The sleeping part. Not the girl.
He was wide awake, listening to her breathe. Merlin, how he wanted to look at her. She was small, hardly took up any of the bed, and she fit in the crook of his arm very nicely.
He knew who she was.
Or, at least he thought he did. She thought she was being very evasive and clever, but the things she said still gave it away. A sixth year who people overlooked, that he’d evidently spoken to in anger. She loved Hagrid. Her looks would be a total giveaway. And just now she’d called Longbottom by his given name. She was a Gryffindor, certainly. And if people overlooked her, it must be because of the people she was around. And in Gryffindor, Potter got the most attention, and this obviously wasn’t Granger, so it would have to be Weasley’s sister. Ginny.
Yes, he knew exactly who she was. Ever since she’d cursed him in his fifth year, he’d watched her, been fascinated, actually. He brought his hand up to touch her face. He let his fingers trail over the soft skin of her cheek, and her small nose, and then her lips. He ran his finger through her hair. It was heavy, and slightly wavy. She sighed and snuggled closer to him.
Well, this certainly would break the monotony, anyway.
He sighed and closed his eyes. Hopefully it would take Professor Snape a few days to figure out how to reverse his condition. He gave a slight smile. Maybe with her here, he wouldn’t have the dreams. He tightened his hold on her and drifted off to sleep.
Ginny awoke with a start. The sun was creeping through the curtains of the infirmary, sending brilliant fingers of light across the room. She raised her head and found she was nose to nose with Draco Malfoy, who was, blessedly, still asleep.
What have I done? What have I done? What have I done?
She very gently eased out from under his arm, and got back in her own bed just as the nurse bustled into the room.
“Miss Weasley. You look rested.”
Ginny smiled. Yes, she did feel good, had slept well, despite being nestled up against her family’s mortal enemy for most of the night. “Yes, Madam Pomfrey.”
“Madam? I think I’m feeling better. Do you mind if I go back to classes early this year?”
The matron smiled warmly at her. “Yes, Miss Weasley, I think that’s a fine idea. Just have some breakfast and let me give you one last check, and then I’ll release you.”
Ginny shook her head. “No, please, ma’am. I’d really like to have breakfast with my friends. May I go now? I’ll come back this afternoon for an evaluation after classes.”
“Very well, Miss Weasley. Four o’clock.”
“Yes, Madam Pomfrey.”
Ginny dressed swiftly and sprinted from the infirmary. Oh, bloody hell. At least she’d escaped before anyone saw or knew what had happened. Especially Malfoy. She didn’t want him to have that kind of ammunition against her. She almost wished things could be different with him… he was pleasant, really. But she dismissed the thought from her mind. Wishing didn’t make things so. She knew that from experience.
She came back to the infirmary at four o’clock, exhausted. She probably should have stayed another day, just to get the after effects of the potion out of her system. She knocked on Madam Pomfrey’s office door, and got no response. She peeked in the door to the hospital wing, and didn’t see anyone, so she walked in. After she was in the room, the curtains around Malfoy’s bed were thrown open, and she saw Snape, Madam Pomfrey, and Malfoy looking at her.
Oh, gods, they were all looking at her.
Malfoy was looking right at her.
He could see.
Madam Pomfrey broke the silence. “Good. Miss Weasley, come into my office.”
Ginny gratefully followed the older witch into her office and spent the next forty-five minutes getting poked and prodded, and after much fussing about from the nurse, was dismissed only after she promised to come back if she felt even a little off. When she left, the infirmary was empty, and she felt a little pang of some unnamed emotion that he wasn’t there, that she would never get to talk to him again like she had last night, and would certainly never get to be in his arms again. She decided to skip dinner, thinking that the quiet of her dormitory would be better than the hustle and bustle of the castle.
The next morning, after a restless sleep, she walked down the steps to the Great Hall, thinking that breakfast might improve her mood, because it certainly wasn’t going to be the pile of homework she had yet to do. When she rounded the last corner before going into the Hall, she stopped short and her breath caught in her throat. He was there, leaning up against the wall, with his arms crossed against his chest, staring off into the distance. She forced herself to keep moving, focusing her eyes straight ahead and telling herself to breathe normally.
She had almost reached him, and was relieved that he hadn’t made any disparaging comments about her hair or robes. She looked up briefly and he was looking straight at her. Again.
Oh, Gods. Did he know? Had he figured it out?
She continued to walk into the Great Hall and got all the way to her seat before she let out the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. She sat down and was picking at her breakfast when she realized that she’d gotten post. An owl was indignantly holding out his leg to her and had dropped a parcel beside her plate. She untied the scroll from the bird and he flew off, unceremoniously. She looked around. No one was looking at her. Malfoy was talking to Zabini and eating his breakfast. As usual, no one at her table had noticed she’d received anything.
She unrolled the parchment.
Happy (early) Christmas, DM
She unwrapped the parcel to find two dozen Chocolate Frogs.
Her hand flew to her mouth.
She looked up and across the hall, and at the Slytherin table, Draco Malfoy was looking directly at her.
And then he winked.
She flushed scarlet, and mouthed, Thank you.
He nodded and smiled slightly, and went back to his breakfast.
Ginny smiled to herself. She thought that even if he hadn’t changed her life completely, at least he had noticed her. And that, she found, felt very nice indeed.
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