Chapter 18


Wriggling around until she was facing the boy holding her, Ginny looked worriedly up into the face she'd been waiting to see for two long weeks. Though the passage was dimly lit, she could see his features clearly enough. She almost wished that she couldn't. He was still holding her tightly, though now he was gripping both shoulders. He wasn't smiling, as she would have expected. Instead, his expression was unbearably smug and superior, as though he were a cat with a mouse trapped in its claws, toying with the creature. A chill crawled down her spine as she tried to step back. As his hands tightened on her arms he finally gave her a chilling ghost of a smile.

"Going somewhere, Weasley?" he asked softly.

"Draco?" she asked nervously, suddenly remembering that the train from London wouldn't arrive for another three hours.

Colin seemed to remember the same thing. Ginny heard his robe rustling as he moved quickly forward.

"Back off, mate," Colin growled. Ginny was surprised at how menacing he could sound.

"Not in this lifetime, mate!" the young man holding Ginny returned. Faster than she could imagine, the boy wrapped an arm around Ginny, pulling her tightly into his body. He whipped his wand from his pocket at the same time and was now pointing it at Colin. "If anyone backs off, it'll be you." The gray eyes shifted to Ginny's face. "You don't seem very happy to see me, Weasley. Were you expecting someone else?"

Ginny continued to stare at him, her emotions churning. How could she be sure this was really Draco? The real Draco wouldn't pull a wand on Colin when he was just trying to defend her, would he? Unfortunately he might, just because he could. Before Ginny could decide what to do, Labelle stepped in.


The Kneazle's distressed cry caught all three teens' attention. The kitten rose up on her hind legs and placed her forepaws on the blond Slytherin's knee. As they watched, Labelle meowed again and dropped to all four paws, butting the boy's leg before rubbing herself against him.

If anyone could tell whether this was really Draco or not, it was Labelle. And Labelle was definitely saying that this was indeed Draco. Ginny was almost sick with relief.

"Damn," she heard Draco mutter before he released her and dropped down the pet the kitten. "You know, that's damned inconvenient of you, Labelle," he told her gently. "Besides, it was just a little joke."

Then he stood and faced the two Gryffindors. Ginny's relief was short lived as anger replaced it. A joke, she though. She was worried sick about him and the first thing he did when he returned was to try to play a joke on her? Not just a joke, but a cruel joke that played on her worst fears! Before she could even begin to tell him off, Colin stepped in.

"Not that I don't trust Labelle," he said, eyeing the other young man and keeping his wand at the ready, "but what are you doing here? I mean, how did you get back when the train isn't here yet? And how did you find us? Not even Bl--er, we didn't tell anyone where we were going."

Those were good questions, Ginny realized. Stepping away from him, she looked at Draco and waited for his answer.

He scowled, but said, "I didn't leave on the train, now did I, Creevey? Why on earth would I come back that way?"

Flicking an imaginary speck of dirt from his robes, he continued. "As to how I found you, why don't you ask Labelle? I was just asking her if she knew where you were when she took off running. She led me here straight away. Any more questions?"

Ginny's cheeks flushed. It sounded so very reasonable, but if this really was Draco, why had he acted so cold? Why had he hauled her into a side passage instead of just waiting for them on the stairs?

His eyes met hers and Ginny stifled a gasp as she saw the anger in his gaze.

"Still don't believe me? Fine! I'll just be on my way."

He stuffed his wand into his pocket and while he didn't quite shove past her it was a close thing. Colin took a step back as he moved into the stairway, wand still ready, just in case.

Ginny's heart clenched as she watched him walk away. This should have been a happy moment, and now it was spoiled. As she wondered what to do, a thought came to her.

"Seek your mate," she whispered.

She felt the spell take effect instantly. It was similar to before, but the pull wasn't quite as strong. If she'd had any doubts about Draco's identity, though, they were quelled as the boy stalking down the stairs suddenly stumbled to a stop.

She heard his whispered curse, then he whipped around and nearly ran back up the stairs.

"Finite Incantatum!"

The counter-spell was hissed out as Draco drew to a stop directly in front of her.

"That's playing dirty, little weasel," he gritted out, clenching his hands into fists.

Ignoring his anger, Ginny cried, "I was so worried!"

She threw herself at him and wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. Labelle's plaintive meow seemed to mirror the girl's concern as the Kneazle started rubbing against Draco's legs once more. The young man stood there stiffly, but then released a heavy sigh and pulled her tightly against him.

They stood quietly for a few moments with Labelle's purring the only sound around.

"A-hem." Returning his wand to his pocket, Colin cleared his throat, bringing the couple back to the present.

"Not that I like to interrupt," he said in an unapologetic voice. "But, really, Malfoy, that wasn't very smart. I nearly hexed you before I realized you really were you." He paused and then smirked. "I nearly hexed you after I realized you were really you! What was that all about?"

Ginny pulled herself free from Draco's embrace and stepped back, looking at him speculatively.

"Yeah," she agreed. "You nearly scared the life out of me, what with those boys following Su and Daisy and all, and you leaving school like that. And when I saw you this morning…"

She stopped abruptly, seeing his eyes narrow.

"You what?"

Ginny flushed guiltily as both boys stared intently at her. She belatedly realized that she hadn't told Colin about Labelle's experiment this morning. And now Draco looked ready to take her head off. Before she could answer, Draco growled at her.

"Yes, I wanted to talk to you about that, little weasel."

Labelle was sitting at the couple's feet grooming herself, but at Draco's words, she jumped up and hissed. Ginny knew the Kneazle had felt Draco's agitation, and if her reaction was an indication, her boyfriend was livid.

"I was worried about you!" Ginny said defensively. "I wanted to know that you were all right, that's all!"

"Yeah?" Draco stepped closer so he was towering over the small red-head. "And did you ever stop to think that I might have been somewhere where it would have been dangerous to have your Kneazle looking in? Did you even think--"

"Here, now," Colin said, raising his hands and stepping forward. "Don't you two start that again. You're both old enough to settle your problems without shouting at one another, aren't you? If you're going to start needing a referee, I'm leaving!"

Draco glared at the younger boy and opened his mouth, but Ginny cut him off.

"Don't!" she said sharply. "Colin's right. If you're angry with me, fine. Let's talk about it, but don't say hateful things to Colin when he's trying to help."

Turning to her friend, she said, "I'm sorry, Colin. We shouldn't put you in the middle. But maybe you should give us a few minutes, right?"

Colin shrugged and made to leave, but Draco stopped him.

"Wait, Creevey. Look, I'm—it's been a long couple of weeks. I guess I'm still a little wound up."

Colin raised an eyebrow. It was probably the closest he'd ever get to an apology from the Slytherin, but he didn't require apologies. He just wanted to make sure Ginny was okay. Shrugging, he waved it away.

"I won't say I understand, but I do empathize. Don't worry about it, Malfoy. I do understand how it is when you have to sneak around to see the one you care about."

He turned back to Ginny, who had dropped to her knees to soothe the Kneazle. "When should I come back?"

Ginny straightened to answer, but Draco spoke first.

"You don't need to go anywhere, Creevey. I have to get back to Slytherin, anyway. I just wanted to see Ginny first."

Eying him suspiciously, Ginny said, "Yeah? You hurried out to find me just so you could scare me to death and then rake me over for being worried about you?"

Draco didn't answer for a few seconds, making Ginny consider his earlier words. She knew that Voldemort was reported to be very skilled at sensing others' thoughts. Not that he could actually read minds, but he seemed to know when others were not quite what they seemed. Professor Snape was one of the few who could actually fend him off mentally, but she was somehow certain that Draco hadn't yet developed the mental abilities to fight off a determined effort by the dark lord to sense what he was thinking. She hadn't thought of that when she'd had Labelle try to contact Draco. She'd only thought about her own sense of worry. Biting her lip, she wished he'd say something.

"I suppose I should be glad that you still cared, shouldn't I? I mean, you could have found some nice Brazilian boy your family would love, couldn't you?"

Ginny blinked. "You're changing the subject," she said. "You still haven't told me why you rushed out to find me just to leave again. Did you miss me at all?"

"Of course I did! But I was--"

He stopped suddenly and frowned.

"Look, angel, this isn't the place. You two go on to the library. I'll find Zabini and we'll figure something out. Then he'll come and find you, all right?"

Ginny glanced at Colin, who shrugged. The last thing Ginny wanted was a fight right here in the stairway, and she'd pretty much resigned herself to not seeing him for a few hours, anyway. What choice did she have, really?

"Fine," she finally answered. "If it's all right with Colin, we'll wait for Blaise to come and find us. I'll see you later."

It was hard to just leave him, but it seemed obvious that he didn't want to talk to her right now. Before she could take more than a step or two, Draco took her hand and pulled her back.

"And by the way, angel," he said casually, as if he were continuing a conversation, "I was miserable with missing you. Satisfied?"

Ginny wanted to smile. Hell, she wanted to cheer at his open declaration, but his careless tone irked her. Instead, she gave him a disbelieving look and pulled away.

"Really," she said dryly. "I would never have guessed. Still, it's nice to know. Well, since you're in such a hurry to be off, I'll just.—"

Her words were cut off abruptly when he yanked her close again and covered her mouth with his. It was short and abrupt and completely devastating. When he released her a few seconds later, Ginny was lightheaded and gasping for breath. She stumbled back a step and lifted a trembling hand to her lips.

"Satisfied now?" he asked with only a trace of his usual smug expression.

Still a little dazed, Ginny grinned and nodded. Now Draco smiled.

"Good!" he said. "I'll send Zabini round when we figure out where we can meet safely."

Cupping her still-flushed cheek, Draco dropped a swift kiss on her nose, nodded at Colin and then hurried down the stairs.

"Wow," Colin said finally.

"I have to agree," Ginny answered in a shaky voice. "That was…well, that was not too damned bad!"

Laughing, Colin suggested they hurry to the library. "Because if that was any indication," he added with only a hint of a leer, "Malfoy's going to be breaking speed records trying to find Blaise. We better be there when he gets there."

When Blaise finally made an appearance in the library, Ginny had finished her homework and Colin was putting away the reference books that he'd been using. Ginny had begun wandering round the shelves, looking for interesting titles and wondering if she'd happen on that damned book again. It occurred to her that although she'd picked it up twice now, she'd never looked inside. Had Draco merely transfigured the cover of the book to keep the casual observer off or had he taken the time to change part of the contents as well?

By the time she had reached the middle of the shelves, Blaise strolled into the library. From her vantage point, Ginny could watch the dangerous-looking young man without being observed herself. Several of the girls in the library began to giggle and whisper behind their hands as Blaise strolled in Colin's direction. Ginny grinned. Poor girls were doomed to disappointment, she thought to herself. She could almost understand their fascination, though.

Blaise really was rather impressive. His dark hair and penetrating eyes were the stuff of romance novels. He carried an air of danger about him that was all the more remarkable because he was seldom overtly threatening. Unlike Draco and some of the other Slytherins, Blaise hardly ever confronted the other students. Like Colin had told her once, Blaise only had to look at you a certain way and you were ready to hop to it, whatever 'it' happened to be.

As the Slytherin prefect continued to ignore the giggling girls, they finally subsided and returned to their books or homework. Ginny almost giggled herself as she saw him cast one swift, annoyed glance in their direction. The giggle turned to a small gasp when he caught sight of Colin. Colin had been shelving one of his books and came round the corner to nearly collide with Blaise. The older boy's eyes softened and his mouth spread into soft smile, even as he retreated a step and held out a hand as though to fend Colin off.

Ginny was just thinking that it must be wonderful to be so sure of the one you cared for, as Colin and Blaise were, when the Slytherin's smile disappeared. In fact, the sneer that replaced it looked so genuine that Ginny nearly jumped to Colin's defense.

"Damned clumsy Gryffindor," Blaise said, his deep voice carrying easily to where Ginny was watching. "You really should watch where you're going, Creevey. But then, I suppose you're so busy sniffing after that Weasley bint, you can't see two feet ahead of you, can you?"

Bint? Ginny thought, outraged. I'll give him 'bint' when I talk to him!

Colin, for his part, looked as though he were trying not to laugh before he, too, donned a sour expression. His voice was steady though. "Well if you weren't always sneaking about, I wouldn't have to avoid you, Zabini. Did you have something to say to me or were you just here to bother me?"

Gesturing toward the giggling girls, Colin added slyly, "Or is it that you're putting on a show for your admiring audience?"

Ginny's mouth dropped open at that and Blaise looked absolutely pole-axed. He opened his mouth only to close it again and give Colin a glare. Ginny covered her own mouth with her hand, unable to believe that sweet, mild-mannered Colin had actually rendered Blaise speechless.

Not for long, though.

"The only reason I'm lowering myself to be here is to tell you that Professor Snape wants a word with you and your little girlfriend, Creevey. I gather he thinks you were cheating in class and now she's finally back, you're both going to pay for it."

He said it with such contempt and such relish that for a moment Ginny almost believed him. Before Colin could reply, the rapid-fire tapping of the librarian's shoes could be heard. The woman hurried toward the boys, her hand raised and an accusing finger pointing to each of them in turn.

"What on earth is going on," she demanded in a hushed voice. "This is a library, not a schoolyard or a pitch! You will keep your voices to an appropriate level! Is that understood? Now what was so important that you must barge into my library and begin shouting like a hooligan?"

Blaise smirked at the woman while Colin scuffed a foot. "Honestly, Madam Pince," he said quickly. "I was just minding my own business when Zabini…"

"I was merely informing Creevey that Professor Snape requires his presence," Blaise interrupted, more loudly. "At once," he added for emphasis. "He wants the Weasley girl, too, if she's here."

Madam Pince's mouth puckered as she looked from one boy to the other. Her eyes darted up a second later and homed in on Ginny where she'd been standing quietly watching.

"Very well," the woman said finally. "Miss Weasley, come here!"

She motioned imperiously and Ginny hurried over, her fascination at watching Blaise and Colin replaced by an impatience to hear what Blaise had to say.

"Apparently Professor Snape wants to see you both," Pince told them. "And Zabini, I will not have the library disrupted in this fashion again, do you understand? If the professor wishes to see a student, he should send for him in the normal manner, and you may tell him I said so!"

She fixed Ginny and Colin with a cool look. "I want no more trouble here. I will ban you from the library if this happens again."

Ginny opened her mouth to protest, but Colin took her arm and squeezed it.

"It won't, ma'am," he assured her. "As long as Zabini stays away, we'll have no problems."

Ginny's mouth snapped closed and Blaise made a small sound that could have been an indignant snort or a muffled laugh. Madam Pince nodded once and bustled away, muttering under her breath.

"Come on, Gin. Let's get out of here."

"Too right," Ginny agreed, hurrying to gather her books.

The show wasn't quite over, however. As she turned back, she was just in time to see Colin give Blaise a glare.

"Still here, Zabini? Ginny and I are perfectly capable of finding our way to Snape's office without your help."

"It's Professor Snape to you, Gryff," Blaise returned in the same tone. "And I'm sure the only thing you and Weasley are perfectly capable of is being a terrific pain in my…ah, neck."

He had glanced toward the avid faces of the watching girls and given them a swift, giggle-inducing smile before correcting his choice of words. It took all of Ginny's control not to giggle right along with them, but for a much different reason.

"Let's go, Colin," she said, pasting on her best approximation of a sneer and stepping past the tall Slytherin. "I can see that Zabini is too busy with his admirers to be doing what he's supposed to."

They headed for the library door while Blaise gave the girls a last smile and a small bow. Then he, too, exited the library.

Ginny was leaning against the wall, struggling to keep from laughing when Blaise came out. Glancing quickly around, she saw that the hallway was empty except for the three of them. Finally she let out the great bellow of laughter she'd been struggling with.

"Oh my God!" she nearly shrieked. "Is that what has Su and Daisy in fits? That was so perfect!"

Colin gave her a small, stiff smile, but Blaise looked truly perplexed. "Honestly, Weasley, I'm offended. All this distain I'm pouring over you and Creevey and you're laughing. I'm obviously losing my touch."

Ginny covered her mouth and went into another fit of laughter, pointing helplessly at Colin and then going off again.

"It seems we amuse her, Colin," Blaise said dryly, lifting an eyebrow. "And I was doing my best to be frightening and intimidating."

"Yeah, well, Gin's always been a bit odd. I considered having her committed, but she's so much fun to have around. Always good for a little comic relief."

Ginny was still trying to get her mirth under control but at that she snorted and cast a swift glare in Colin's direction. "Hmph," she sniffed. "And while you two are wasting time laughing at me, we could be heading wherever it is we're supposed to be going!"

Now Colin chuckled. "As I recall, you were the one who was holding us up! We've just been waiting for you to come back to your senses."

"I think I already pointed out that she must have taken permanent leave of them, considering who we are going to meet."

Ginny threw Blaise a mock scowl and was about to reply to the insult when a sharp meow cause them all to look up the hallway.

Labelle was trotting toward them looking pleased with herself. Ginny noticed that there was a scrap of something in her front claws and with a small shudder realized that it looked like gray fur! Dropping to a knee, she waited for the Kneazle to reach her.

"Where've you been, love," she asked, trying to figure out if it really were fur or not. "You disappeared when we went to the library. What have you been about?"

Labelle allowed Ginny to pluck the chunk of fur from her claws, and if anything seemed proud. Ginny grimaced and looked up to the boys who were watching her closely.

"Sorry," she said quietly. "I know we have to go, but…ewww!"

She dropped the fur quickly and straightened, wiping her hands on her robe.

"Labelle, that's just disgusting! I guess you finally got that rat, though."

Colin's expression was probably mirroring Ginny's; disgusted but oddly fascinated. Blaise looked a little impatient, but also amused.

"If you're quite through, Weasley," he said loudly, startling her.

Ginny was about to ask him what he was on about when she also noticed someone coming out of the library.

"We told you, Zabini, we don't need an escort," Colin said in a bored, disinterested voice. "Of course, if it bothers you that much to walk the dungeons alone, we'll be happy to escort you."

Blaise sneered at both Gryffindors as a group of Hufflepuff girls walked by, including the Johnson girl.

"You should have Professor Snape take points from them, Zabini," she said, giving Ginny a nasty grin. "You said he wanted to see them at once and they're still hanging around the halls. Those Gryffindors think they can get by with anything."

Even Blaise looked a little surprised by the venom in the girl's voice, but he answered smoothly, "You can be sure these two will get what they deserve. Now, move, Creevey."

He reached for Colin's arm, but the younger boy yanked it away and nodded to Ginny. "Come on, Gin. There seems to be a lot of trash accumulating in the hallway."

Now it was Ginny's turn to look surprised. Colin hadn't been looking at Blaise when he made that comment; he'd been staring directly at Johnson. What has that little twit been up to these last two weeks, Ginny wondered. With a frown, Ginny hurried to Colin's side and headed for the stairway. Labelle padded along at their side while Blaise walked a few steps behind them. She could feel the other girls watching them, but when she turned to Colin, he just shook his head.

It wasn't until they were well away from the library that Blaise said, "Turn into the next corridor."

They turned and found that they were in a less used passage. It wasn't as deserted as the one with the music room, but it wasn't familiar to Ginny either. When they were well down the corridor Ginny asked, "Where are we?"

"This hallway was off limits my first year," Blaise replied. "It seems there was some hidden chamber round here that was being guarded by one of Hagrid's pets. Potter and your brother found it, but that was six years ago. No one comes here any more, so it seemed pretty safe."

"Ah," Ginny said, remembering what Ron had said about the Sorcerer's Stone and how he'd had to play chess on a giant chessboard for Harry to get through one of the rooms. There was more, Ginny knew, and she had a general idea of what they'd been through. But it had been so long ago and really, the only part Ron liked to talk about was his skill at chess.

"I heard a little about that," Colin said, looking around eagerly. "Something about some riddles or tests of some sort. Hermione was there, too, right?"

Ginny nodded while Blaise smirked. "Where else would Miss Know-It-All be? I'm certain she is the reason the other two succeeded. Can you imagine Potter and Weasley getting through tests of logic on their own?"

Stifling a giggle, Ginny swatted Blaise' arm. "That's my brother you're insulting," she reminded him.

"It isn't an insult if it is true," he replied smoothly. "And I believe we're here."

The three stood before a large wooden door. It was unremarkable; it could have led to any room in the castle. But if Blaise was correct, this door led to a room with a trapdoor in the floor, which then led to several other chambers that Ron, Harry and Hermione had had to navigate before Harry could retrieve the Sorcerer's Stone all those years ago. Though she was sure all of the traps and tests had long since been removed, she couldn't help a tiny thrill of anticipation as Blaise lifted his wand.

"Alohamora," he said and they heard the lock disengage.

Turning the heavy ring that passed for a doorknob, Blaise pushed the door open and motioned for the Gryffindors to enter.

It was a long room without windows, although there were depressions in the walls at regular intervals that made it look as though the windows had been sealed up at some time in the past. Torches burned brightly in the sconces, but the room was otherwise empty. Ginny sighed.

"I imagine we have to go down through there?" Colin said suddenly.

Now that Ginny looked, she noticed the trapdoor set into the floor. Labelle ran to it and nosed at it, then sat back looking bored. So it was true.

"So it would seem," Blaise answered. "Who wants to go first?"

"Is Draco already here?" Ginny asked as she stood above the trapdoor.

Blaise shrugged. "He said he had a few errands to run before he got here, but with the way you two stalled in the library, I wouldn't be surprised."

"We stalled? I like that!"

Colin shook his head and placed his hands on his hips. "We weren't the ones flirting with half the female population of Hogwarts," he declared, his voice sharp. "Honestly, it was enough to make me spew!"

"Jealous?" Blaise purred, giving Colin one of his smoldering stares. "You know you have no reason to be."

"Not bloody likely," the younger boy snapped. He looked deliberately away and added, "I just didn't want to lose my lunch."

Ginny bit her lip. She knew why Blaise had played up to the girls in the library, but while it was funny, it had made her feel a twinge of jealousy on Colin's behalf. And she could understand if Colin was angry. She'd be livid if Draco started making up to Parkinson or any other girl just to keep people from guessing his feelings for her.

She was a little worried, too. Colin was angry, but Blaise didn't seem to realize it, or if he did, he didn't care. It sounded like it might turn into a fight, and she now understood how her fighting with Draco could upset Colin so much. Before the almost-fight could progress, though, the door opened again and Draco hurried through.

After locking the door, he turned and saw the three of them staring at him. Ginny decided that Blaise and Colin looked as surprised as she felt, because Draco gave them an odd look and then shook his head.

"I thought you might have gone down there already, but it's just as well you didn't," he said as he moved to Ginny's side and took her hands. "I had to go back out for a second."

"Actually, we just got here ourselves. But we're ready now." Ginny tugged her hands away and moved to the trapdoor. Maybe if she got them moving, Colin and Blaise might get back to normal. It wasn't to be, though.

"We got a bit sidetracked while Blaise was making up to his fan club," Colin said in a snide voice Ginny had never heard him use before.

Draco's eyebrows rose at that, but Blaise just frowned at the younger boy. Ginny gave him a pleading look, and reached for the ring in the trapdoor. Colin rolled his eyes and moved to help her tug the thing open. Both Gryffindors looked into the opening before Ginny said, "I can't see anything. Hang on."

She removed her wand from her pocket and lit the tip. Leaning into the opening, she pointed her wand downward and looked around.

"The room looks empty, but it's a long jump," she said as she pulled herself into a sitting position. "Too bad we didn't bring a ladder." Looking up at the three boys watching her, she added, "Unless one of you knows a spell for this sort of occasion?"

Colin and Blaise looked at each other for a moment before Colin pointedly broke eye contact. Draco, however, moved forward and settled himself on hands and knees next to Ginny.

"We don't need a ladder, little weasel," he told her with a smile. "Just need to know how to fly."

He held his hand over the open space and said sharply, "UP!"

A second later a gleaming broom shot up and into his hand. Ginny gasped in surprise and the other two boys made approving noises.

"I put it here earlier," he said to Ginny's questioning look. "I figured it would be easier to use than a rope ladder or levitating spells. Besides, didn't Potter do something like this?"

If his voice hardened on Harry's name, Ginny ignored it. She was too busy being impressed with her boyfriend's ingenuity. The thought of using a broom hadn't even crossed her mind.

Smiling, she said, "Right then, who wants to go first?"

It only took a few moments for all of them to fly down. Ginny went first, with a nervous, wriggling Kneazle held tightly to her chest, followed by Colin and then Blaise. Draco stayed above to retrieve his broom after each of the others flew down, but in the very short time it took him to follow, Colin and Blaise were at one another again and Ginny was growing frantic.

"You know why I was talking to those silly twits," Blaise was saying now, his voice tight and low.

"Yes, of course I know why you were talking to them," Colin answered hotly. "That doesn't mean you had to enjoy it so much. And it doesn't mean I have to like it. I was ready to spew at the way that Johnson girl was practically drooling over you."

"Colin, she wasn't—" Ginny began before Colin's expression stopped her.

"She was, Gin, and it wasn't the first time," he informed her stonily.

"I don't enjoy her ogling either, Colin," Blaise snapped. "I feel as though I need to shower after I've been near her. It's rather disgusting."

"Yeah, I've noticed how much it really bothers you," Colin declared. "Especially when you wink and smirk and smile at her. God, it makes me sick."

Ginny glanced at Draco, who was now just standing there, holding his broom loosely, a shocked expression on his face.

"What the hell are you two on about?" he said suddenly. He motioned toward Ginny with his free hand and said, "Have you forgotten that the stupid, pointless argument department happens to be ours?"

Before Ginny could reply, Colin turned abruptly to him. "Stupid? Right, Malfoy, thanks so much for pointing out to me how stupid and pointless Gryffindors are to you Slytherins. I'd forgotten for a while."

With that, he stomped over to Draco and made a grab for the broom. "Obviously I'm not needed here, so I'll just leave!"

Ginny was astounded to say the least. She moved to stop her friend, and Labelle even ran over to stand in front of Colin, but Blaise was there first, grabbing Colin's arm and yanking him around.

"Leave off, Za—'

Before Colin could finish his sentence, Blaise yanked him into his arms and covered his mouth with his own.

Ginny stumbled to a stop, her heart pounding at the sight of her best friend being ruthlessly kissed into submission. She should protest, she knew, but she couldn't seem to stop staring. Colin struggled at first, but soon he was clutching at Blaise and kissing him back.

Ginny's cheeks grew hot and she quickly averted her gaze, embarrassed. She looked over at Draco in time to see his lip curl in distaste before he, too, looked away. Ginny's eyes dropped to the Kneazle, the only one in the room who seemed to be unaffected by Blaise and Colin's embrace.

When she glanced up again, she saw that Draco was staring intently at her. As their eyes met, he grinned hugely. He moved quietly to her side and drew her a short way away.

"Now why didn't I ever think of that?" he asked softly.

He moved closer, lowering his face to hers, but Ginny stepped back. Obviously confused, he asked, "What?"

"I don't understand," she whispered. "I thought you approved of them, but just now you looked…I don't know. Disgusted?"

Draco glanced swiftly to where Colin and Blaise still stood, although now they were talking quietly.

He grimaced and shrugged. "I do approve, angel. I honestly do. It's just that seeing them…I mean, really seeing them like that…it's just so weird, don't you think?"

Ginny, too, looked at the couple. But while she'd found the sight a little disturbing, she knew she hadn't been disturbed in the same way Draco had been. Embarrassing as it was to admit, she had found it to be exciting in a way.

As though sensing this, Draco said, "Well, I guess it might be different for you. Imagine if it was your two girlfriends wrapped around each other like clinging vines…how would you feel about that?"

Before she could prevent it, the image of Su and Daisy in a heated embrace flitted through Ginny's mind. She felt her own lip curl in distaste just before a great wave of shame washed over her. What a hypocrite she was!

"C'mon, angel, don't worry about it. It's a natural reaction to something you've been taught to think of as abnormal, right? Trust me, any straight guy would get off on the idea of two girls together, but two boys?"

He shrugged again, then pulled Ginny into his arms. "I think they've sorted out their problems for now, so I think we can go on. Besides, I wanted to show you around down here."

Ginny looked toward the other couple again and saw that Draco was right. They were still talking quietly, Blaise' arm protectively around Colin's shoulder and their heads bent together. Labelle was obviously giving her approval since she was winding her way around their ankles, rubbing against them and purring, which she wouldn't be doing if the two boys were still arguing. She smiled.

"Well, since they've got things straightened out, I think it's time we did, too. It seems you were ready to draw and quarter me for worrying about you?"

Deciding to take a page from Blaise' book, Ginny snuggled into Draco's arms and slid a hand up around the back of his neck. She tugged his face to hers, stopping a hair's breadth from his lips.

"So, Draco, I'm ready. Yell, rant, rave…whatever you want."

His eyes widened at her tactics, before narrowing dangerously. She didn't appear to be scared, however.

"Evil, little weasel. Pure evil," he accused, tightening his arms around her.

Ginny couldn't help chuckling softly. They could argue later, she figured. Right now, she just wanted to kiss him.

"Wicked," she corrected. "I told you, there's a difference."

Then she tugged him the rest of the way.