- First and foremost, a huge thanks to every single one of you out there who has given a review and helpful comment. 'Tis muchly appreciated. Thanks not only for this story, but also for all of my other one-shots and things; the reviews on those have been wonderful. I love you all.
- Next, Quidditch starts up again in this chapter. I've thrown in a bunch of names for Keepers and Chasers and people like that on the teams; if you know any better that someone who is a Chaser shouldn't be, or someone who isn't who should, just humor me. I had the names listed before OotP and am too lazy to change it right now.
- Lastly!!! Very important!!! Story sort of earns its rating in this (EXTREMELY LONG chapter. This means there may be a few weird grammatical/textual mistakes. Feel free to point it out if you should come across one) chapter. That means snogging…
Disclaimer: Oh, if Harry Potter (and co.) were mine, life would be a dream, sweetheart…
Perfecting the art of storming off after an angry tirade, or fuming in solitude, was something Ginny practiced at often.
It was useful for when Bill, the usually "cool" brother, stole her ponytail holders; for when Charlie petted her on the head and told her that she shouldn't even think about dragons for years yet; for when Percy…well, when not for Percy these days? When Fred and George teased her; and for when Ron treated her like a shoebox or an empty Chocolate Frog Wrapper.
The point was that people who knew her best knew not to interfere with the process. There was no reasoning with Ginny in less than forty-five minutes when she was in that state; so unless it was an argument that needed to be had out, she was avoided. Who'd want to spend the better part of an hour having a row?
"I thought I'd find you here," Draco spoke up. His curt footsteps halted succinctly on the stone floor, leaving a short echo.
Ginny continued to sit unmoving in her alcove, the very image of Patience on a monument…or from the harsh frown on her mouth Murder on a monument.
Draco tried to keep his breathing steady. His statement was not completely true…He'd thought that he'd find her in many places: The Quidditch pitch, the Great Hall with her friends in the Infirmary…
He'd even thought of chancing a look in the Lake. She had seemed rather shaken up, and logic would follow that if he'd driven her over the edge, she might tip herself over and in. Obviously his morbid narcissism was wrong, because while returning from the entrance doors (annoyed and out of breath) he had spotted an ill-shaped shadow twisting into the main hall from a side passage. It led to a small antechamber with a half closed door. It looked like a medium-sized linen cupboard that hadn't been used in a while. Now it was used for housing angry Gryffindor, he speculated.
The air around her was stagnant and angry, and even her hair seemed to be mussed fussily atop her head. Her arms were crossed tightly and defiantly against his intrusion, and her lips were pressed in a thin line until they were white around the edges.
A few more minutes of awkward silence passed.
"Plan on inviting me in?" Draco asked.
She said nothing. "Fine." He crossed the short distance between himself and the antechamber door, opened it wide, and stepped in. Once inside he was forced to hover over her, as there was less room than he'd anticipated. Draco pushed Ginny's legs over so that he could sit somewhat comfortably, and waited to see if she had a reaction other than huffing.
"Aren't you going to rage at me or do something exciting? Don't just sit there like a lump."
Her lips un-pursed. "My purpose in life is not to amuse you. I'm sitting in a dusty corner for a reason, you dolt, and that reason is to be alone."
"I think we need to straighten some things out. To start off, Martin didn't ask us to do the exercise so that we'd embarrass ourselves; she did it so that we'd relate to each other. You're missing the point entirely –"
"It's so fortunate that one of us understood Martin's grand vision," said Ginny sarcastically. "Or else someone might've gotten upset."
"You're acting like I killed someone…like you killed someone."
"I very nearly did," Ginny informed him shortly.
"Nearly is the key word," came her reply.
Ginny laughed humorlessly. "I see my life in stages. The first was before The Chamber; the second was The Chamber; the third was after. The third stage is still happening. That means there's still plenty of time for me to turn everything I've worked so hard for into nothing but dust. You don't think that's reason enough to worry?"
Draco took in a calming breath and held up a pale hand. He put up one finger.
"I suppose my life comes in three stages as well. There's before I was born; there's after – which is now; and then there's later on when I'm sleeping eternally at the family cemetery. But seeing as the first and last phases go far beyond my spectrum of knowledge I often allow myself the luxury of ignoring them."
Ginny's eyes darkened. "Are you making fun of me?"
"No," he said, "I'm trying to be profound but evidently failing spectacularly. I'm rubbish at making people feel better as its more fun to do the opposite, so you'll actually have to listen to me."
The redhead glared but he continued on.
"I don't think of my life in three phases at all – I see no reason to. I rather fancy rolling it all into a straight line: my present all the way to my future. Usually that's my father's doing as well…" Ginny appeared interested at that so he went on. "I've found, though, that overanalyzing every bit of tripe that pops up makes things worse for me."
"For others…" Ginny murmured letting her arms fall to her sides.
"Oh right," he said. "All of those people as well."
She shook her head. "But if I don't give second thought to what I did w-with the Chamber, then it's possible it could happen again. It's possible that I could get involved with something, anything I wasn't meant to, and…and – what is so funny?!"
Draco sobered immediately. He hadn't meant to smile at all – the topic wasn't terribly amusing.
"It's just that you keep saying, 'Oh dear me, I could kill someone!' or 'Merlin forgive me for the evil things I haven't done but could very well do at some indiscernible point in time.' Frankly, it's ridiculous."
"You'd say that, wouldn't you?" she said frostily. "You who spent years at Hogwarts pointing and laughing at everyone when you were the real joke. You who instigated fights with people and threatened them with your toughest weapons: Daddy and the Barbarians. It follows, then, that you'd spare no consideration to your effect on others."
"Someone's getting defensive," he said tightly, struggling not to lash out at the girl in front of him. Ginny opened her mouth to let loose a torrent of expletives on him, but he cut her off at the quick. "I made Potter's life hell because I hated him; I still do. I've yet to come across a moodier, more self-absorbed, freakish bastard –"
"Other than you!" Ginny indicted. "Harry has a lot to be upset about!"
"Who doesn't?!" Draco shouted back. "But he's got the backing of your ragtag family, the Mud – the Muggleborn, the foggy Headmaster. And oh, right, the entire wizarding world because no one wants to become a lousy Death Eater or be killed! Yet Specks still finds the time to complain about his sheets not being folded over correctly or the room temperature being too low."
The redhead flushed in Harry's defense. "You know that Harry's never said anything like that! He saved my life!"
Draco rolled his eyes. "And that makes how many times you've mentioned it?" he asked nastily.
"Not nearly enough if you can sit there and dare ask me why on earth it still matters! In case you bloody well forgot, he rescued me from Tom Riddle while you sulked about not being the Heir of Slytherin! And fine, at times he's surly and mean and a prat, even when we try to help him; but it's because he doesn't understand that we won't just up and leave him when things get even worse."
"That's understandable to some extent. What I don't care for is his astonishing fakeness and how the rest of you fall for it. Sure he seems all smiles and Quidditch, but it's just a front. He doesn't have the nerve to be outwardly miserable when he's feeling that way, but he could at least do better to hide the fact that he feels like shit."
"Harry knows that if any of us got an inkling he was in low spirits we'd jump at the chance to make him feel better. He doesn't want that; it makes him feel worse."
Draco looked steadily at Ginny. "Then it's your fault – you and your motley bunch – for imposing that prison of mock cheer on him. I actually feel a bit sorry for the wanker now."
Ginny looked stricken. "We care about him; we can't help but want him to be happy."
Leaning so that his back rested on the cold wall, Draco rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Happy isn't everything; and you shouldn't force him to feel something he doesn't. All of you are striving for some degree of perfection in him he doesn't have. Then later you wonder why you're all so miserable when you do the same to yourselves. The Chamber of Secrets tainted you? So what? Had it not been that it would have been something else. Do yourself a favor and stop wallowing in that muck of self-pity you Gryffindor love. I'm sure all of you believe it's noble to suffer, but come on; it's nauseating and superfluous, and you end up taking the piss out of Slytherins because we have money to find solace in. You're jealous that we can cheat past our shortcomings and not dwell on them."
Ginny's knuckles turned white as she clenched them. "Not everyone has that luxury, Draco."
"Then there's the next obvious solution Miss Pity Party: forgive yourself for it."
She laughed darkly. "That kind of thing takes time."
"Don't be lazy," he said. "It's not as if you haven't wasted years trying to do that already. By the way, pass that bit of information to Potter so he can grit his teeth at me, call me a 'poncy, smart-arsed, upstart' and be ready for our rematch."
Her guilt was not completely alleviated, but it was better for the moment. Shockingly she had Draco to thank for it – Colin wasn't half as good at pretending to be the seventh-year as she had thought. Ginny understood that her friend's advice ran along the same vein as the advice she had just gotten, but it was different coming from someone who had no obligation to her. He wasn't her best friend, but if she was not sure of his sincerity, she could be of his scathing honesty.
"You should watch out; with a speech like that someone might doubt your disdain for me."
The blond peeled his closed lids open, scoffed, and half turned away from her (which he could barely do in the small space); Ginny launched forward and put her hand over his. Its casual lightness told him that she didn't think anything of it, but the warming of his own skin made him nervous.
"I'm serious! Your sarcasm and deliberate lack of tact are quite the remedies…sort of, at least."
He knew that that was as much as he'd get in the way of thanks, although the soft pressure of her palm on his knuckles distantly made him want more than her teasing.
"Gee," said Draco sardonically, "You're making me blush."
He ducked his head in mock bashfulness so she couldn't see it was true. When Ginny removed her hand from his, he sat in uncomfortable silence watching her absorb their conversation. Then she spoke again, sounding more nervous than before.
"In The Room I said some things to you…"
"Tom Riddle was a better friend…I worship the ground he slides along…I'm evil and should be smote…"
Ginny winced a bit and nodded. "Well you have to understand that I was upset. You saw that I didn't want to talk, but you ganged up against me with Professor Martin!" Realizing that anger was not her intention she got back on track. "But…but I am sorry, you know."
Draco nodded thoughtfully and said, "As you should be."
Ginny looked at him in disbelief.
"What? You expected me to accept your tawdry little apology? With something like the Chamber of Secrets over your head, I don't see how you find the time to be affronted by my past treatment of house elves."
"I don't find it very difficult to relate to them, is how." Draco opened his mouth to comment but Ginny cut him off. "You can say something derisive about me, but it's only because you don't understand." She shifted a little and looked at him thoughtfully. "I tried to get rid of the diary, you know – I wasn't completely spineless. I tried to flush it down the toilet."
Ginny looked uncomfortable momentarily, as she realized that her confession didn't sound as awe-inspiring as it had when she was a first year. Draco noticed and tried somewhat to ease her anxiety.
"That's what we do with Dark artifacts at my house, too," he said.
A smile flashed across Ginny's face.
"I'm so sure… Anyway, all things considered, I felt rather victorious after my pitiful show of bravado. I'm sure that the house elf you tortured felt the same when drawing the bath water. But instead of just letting it be or giving him a tedious punishment you turned his self-respect against him; I remember how that felt. Add that to your incapability to take anyone's problems but your own seriously and you've got an angry Weasley hot on your tail."
"Well if I'd known that was all it took…" He received an artic glare. "Merlin above, sorry. These things just come out, you see."
"Isn't that the problem?" she pondered. "We're fair-weather friends: when things are good and fun we're perfectly fine – in our own bizarre way of course. But when things are horrible and messed up like they usually are, it's almost always the end of everything."
He pulled her scarf out of his pocket and turned it over and over in his hands. "I didn't know you couldn't handle a bit of excitement, Weasley. You think too much; look at us. Scarily enough we're just sitting here; your wand's not trained on my face and vice versa; people might even call it being chummy. I have the dubious feeling that it'll be this way for awhile."
Ginny half smiled at him and then looked at the cloth in his hands.
"I didn't mean to leave that behind," she said.
One of his eyebrows arched skeptically. "Really? So you accidentally hooked it on the doorknob when you just happened to be furious with me?"
Her smile got wider. "Actually, that part was on purpose – just to make you feel bad, you know."
"Oh, yes, of course," he said.
"But I was going to go back and get it when you and Martin left."
His eyes widened. "You scheming –"
"Scheming what?" Ginny challenged, snatching the scarf from his hands. "You wouldn't care half as much if you were really as cold as you'd like me to think."
"I'm not cold," he replied. "I'm aloof."
The Gryffindor shook her head. "Thanks for the clarification."
"Are you all right, Ginny? You're pale," Hermione asked, her quill pausing in midair.
The recipient of the query looked up from her text. "I'm fine," she answered. "Why? Do I look unwell?"
"Not on your death bed, no. Mostly tired, like you have a lot on your mind."
Ginny fingered the spine of her secondhand book leisurely. "As a matter-of-fact, I do. Nothing all that important though; certainly nothing like you must have."
A soft blush tinted the older girl's cheeks. "I don't know what you mean," she said airily, resuming her work.
"Su-ure, you don't," sang Ginny in the same tone she used when baiting Ron. Leaning forward she took Hermione's quill from between her fingers and twirled it around playfully. "Did you have fun at the Burrow this Christmas, sister of mine?"
Hermione's trademark bushy hair nodded an energetic affirmative along with the rest of her head. "I always do, and this one was actually one of the – Ginny, what did you call me?"
"Oh, I didn't mean to offend."
Hermione's eyes narrowed sternly, although the effect was somewhat undermined by the raging color on her face. "Honestly, Ginny! Ron and I aren't that serious yet!"
"Yet? So you've been thinking about it?"
"Really, Ginny!" Hermione exclaimed.
Ginny chuckled and returned the quill back to the Head Girl, who returned to her work without complaint. Ginny wordlessly rejoiced over the small victory that changes of subject wrought.
Two hours after her talk with Draco, saw the redhead in the common room. She was alone aside from Hermione, as Colin was still in the Infirmary with Lark – whom he'd implored to take pictures of his unusual features. There was nothing else to do, other than read ahead in her textbooks; the drama of the early afternoon was over and she'd had enough of the snow to last a long while.
In between reading, Ginny's thoughts centered on her treatment of Professor Martin and the hostile stance she'd taken against the woman. After leaving the old cupboard with Draco, Ginny had traversed the halls looking for the professor, but she was nowhere to be found. It was curious, Ginny thought. She never really knew where Martin went when meetings were not in session. The odd image of Professor Martin roosting in the Owlery in her Animagus form, with the rest of the messenger birds, materialized in her mind and she grinned.
Just then Ron and Harry entered; the former peering at crumpled sheets of parchment, the latter absently tousling up his messy hair even further.
"Have the two of you finally decided to get back to work?" Ginny asked. "You told Hermione you'd be back a half hour ago." She slid over to the opposite end of the sofa so that Ron could sit at the end closest to Hermione, and Harry next to Ron.
"Our meeting with McGonagall and Snape was a conspiracy," Ron grumbled. "I swear that git gets fouler during the holidays just so he can say that Christmas isn't fun. I hope he didn't get any presents."
"I can't see who'd waste money on him," said Harry, looking pinched around the mouth. "Maybe Father Christmas gave him a lump of coal just like you wanted."
"Must have been mighty a small one if he's still smarting over it. Can you believe that he got McGonagall to agree to rearrange our practice slots so that Malfoy's team could have the pitch? I booked those days! " he told his sister, seeing that Hermione was not paying much attention to him.
"You did," she agreed. "We haven't lost those two practices though, have we? Are they just at different times?"
"Well, yeah. Sure," said Ron. "But it's only because those bogey-faced Slytherins tried to pull a guilt trip on McGonagall. They said that since they've got an upcoming match to practice for along with the Gryffindor/Slytherin rematch, we owed it to them to swap. 'Especially because of that Gryffindor Chaser's folly'," he finished nasally.
Ginny was wary. "Malfoy said that?"
"Snape," Ron admitted. "But Malfoy just stood there and looked smug. Their match is on Saturday, so this week our practices have been booted to Friday night and Sunday morning."
"Sunday morning!" she exclaimed. "No one practices on Sunday mornings!"
"The Hufflepuffs do, sometimes," said Harry. "I've seen them at it."
"Will the schedule go back to normal after the Slytherin match?" asked Ginny.
"Who're they playing?"
"We should go watch," said Ron thoughtfully. "You know, size up the competition."
"You can't," Hermione interjected without looking away from her work, "You're revising Saturday. You are following the timetable, right, Ron?" Her eyes flickered upward.
"Sure," he mumbled.
"And you, Harry?"
"Obsessively," he muttered. Ginny eyed him shrewdly and saw Hermione do the same. He was in a mood and she wondered what had spurred it on. On second thought, she reckoned that he didn't really need a reason to not be in good and great spirits. Draco's message to Harry flitted through her mind.
"Malfoy told me to tell you to stop moping around the castle and get ready for the rematch," she spouted suddenly.
All three heads turned to her.
"Malfoy said what?" Ron asked.
A darker tone came to the raven-haired boy's eyes.
"I…he just told me to pass that message on to Harry."
"It's a pity that Malfoy's not a Legilimens like Voldemort," said Harry getting up. "Or else he might've told me himself." He walked up the common room stairs to the boy's dormitories and all was silent downstairs for a few moments.
"Why'd you say a thing like that for?" Ron asked his sister angrily.
Ginny's hackles rose. "Well it's not like I made it up," she snapped.
"What do you think Harry meant by that?" Hermione asked, ignoring the imminent row between the siblings. "Is it possible that V-Voldemort is still bothering him through their connection? He certainly hasn't said anything."
"We don't care to hear what Malfoy's got to say against Harry," Ron continued. "I told you to report back to us if he was bothering you, not if he popped out with some more slanderous crap."
"Why? Because it would ruin Harry's mood to hear about something other than Quidditch? I'm sure he's hearing worse in his own mind," Ginny shot back.
Hermione blinked very quickly. "Has Malfoy ever hinted about any goings-on with the…well, you know, the Death Eaters?" The redhead sat back very quickly. "It's just that we haven't heard much, and being that you're around him so much and all…" she rushed on. "When did you hear from Malfoy today, Ginny?"
Ginny got to her feet. "I haven't heard one single thing indicating any Death Eater activity, Hermione. I don't exactly go on about the Order."
"Why are you defending him?" asked Ron.
"I'm not!" Ginny exclaimed. "I don't know why we're even talking about Draco Malfoy. This is about Harry and about how we've been treating him."
"How does Malfoy say we've been treating him?" Ron returned.
"I…I don't know…" she stuttered. "Just, in a way that might not be exactly beneficial to someone we call our friend. Have you realized that he barely talks about anything personal with us?"
Ron went silent.
"I didn't see it either," she said. "But, well, Malfoy notices…things that we're not inclined to speak of for fear of upsetting Harry. Maybe it's good that I passed that message on to him. At least he'll see we're not treating him with kid gloves."
The two seventh-years just stared at her, and so Ginny sighed and went up the stairs to her own room, feeling their eyes on her back.
Colin watched as the girl in front of him looked him over appraisingly.
"There's no need to stare," he informed her. "I promise you that Pomfrey worked out all the kinks. It's one-hundred percent Colin Creevey sitting before you."
"I just wanted to make sure," said Ginny. "After all, you seemed hell bent on emulating Draco Malfoy just yesterday."
"Do you plan on holding that against me?"
"No, I plan on forgetting the experience as quickly as humanly possible." Ginny sidestepped a stumbling fourth or fifth year and continued talking. "But should I give you an O for effort?"
Colin grinned down at her. "Just tell me how the real Malfoy handled you."
She leaned her forearms down on a dry, cold section of stone. There weren't very many people out in the courtyard as it felt like the Arctic outside. However Colin had never let Mother Nature get to him and he fancied Ginny's company for the moment, so she obliged him. Lark had turned down their invitation to go outside for break, and was instead traipsing around with either Seamus or Dean. She'd bid Lark a goodbye and told her that if she preferred to be inside the castle and warm then it was her loss, not Ginny's.
"You probably won't believe me, but he was surprisingly civil about the whole thing – well after the initial blowout at least."
"Blowout?" asked Colin. "Sounds exciting. Did you decorate the floor with his face, then?"
"No," said Ginny. "I did one better. I hid in a dust ridden cupboard on the verge of bawling my eyes out."
"Ah, good times," said Colin dryly, looking at Ginny sideways. He didn't push that part of the conversation, as he knew that if Ginny chose to elaborate, she would.
"I know; one near breakdown and it's only Monday."
"So are you still seeing Malfoy anyway?"
Ginny took pause. "Seeing him?"
He nodded. "Yeah. You just had a session with him yesterday, are you going to be seeing him for another this afternoon?"
The redhead's shoulders sagged slowly with relief from what she'd thought Colin was insinuating. "Martin sent me an owl early this morning – you were in your photo lab when it came. My next meeting with Malfoy isn't until next week. I get the feeling Martin's nervous about seeing me again after the way I acted toward her. Her style is usually very personal and I would have expected her to cancel today's session in the same fashion."
Colin was thoughtful. "I haven't been to one of those hellish meetings, but I've seen Martin around and she doesn't strike me as prime evil, you know. Don't you think you should lay off on her now? You've treated her like Public Enemy Number Two – second only to Malfoy."
"I really think that your purpose in life is to make me remember everything that I've ever regretted doing."
"Well, they do say that there are four people in your life who'll do that to you: yourself, your best friend, your romantic interest," he waggled his eyebrows "and your mother, of course."
"Mother of course, nothing!" Ginny cried, laughing. "That sounds familiar…who told you that?"
"Your brother," Colin admitted with a sheepish smile, brushing a cowlick out of his eye.
Ginny jumped straight up. "It was Ron, wasn't it?!" She waved her hand passively. "Keep in mind that he only said that after Mum started gushing about his newfound relationship with Hermione at dinner."
Colin laughed. "And Hermione didn't rip him a new one after he told her his little proverb?"
"I'll just say that when Ron saw her enter the conversation with renewed vigor, all bright-eyed and overly enthusiastic, Harry and I thought he might explode all over the table."
"Erg. That would have been unfortunate."
"You're telling me? We've had that tablecloth in the family for ages."
Later that afternoon Ginny found herself eyeballing the Slytherin table for a chin.
A pale, pointy chin to be exact. However the only ones she could spy were too stubbly, too round, too cleft-ed and a whole other multitude of too's that clearly indicated Draco Malfoy was not in the room.
"How was break?" Lark asked from beside Ginny, searching for a sandwich she liked on the large platter. "Freezing?"
Ginny's eyes spun over to her friend's. "No. It was refreshing; I feel really alive."
"I've heard that that's one of the initial symptoms of hypothermia," Lark said informatively.
Ginny sniffed and tilted her chin. "I've heard no such thing." She crossed her arms.
Suspiciously, the dark-haired girl peered at the tips of her friend's fingers. "Ginny, they're blue!"
"Oh really, Lark, don't exaggerate! I rather think they're a soft periwinkle."
Unsurprisingly, that didn't alleviate the girl's concern. She forcibly took her friend's hands in her own and attempted to rub warmth into them. Ginny yelped and snatched them back.
"For fingers that don't have much feeling in them, you'd be surprised how much they sting when someone touches them."
"Don't be dim, Ginny!" Lark cried. Ginny tried to look affronted. "What happened to your gloves?"
"I left them in my other robes," she said defensively.
"Why haven't you gone to see Pomfrey?"
"You wouldn't believe how sick I am of that place, Lark! And if I go there she'll want to give me a full looking-over."
Lark tried another angle; she turned on Colin. "I thought you were supposed to be keeping her company, not seeing how much she could get her fingers to look like Belching Blueberry Sticks!"
"I resent that!" protested Ginny. "My fingers are not sticks. I think they're rather shapely, in fact. Just look at these nails."
"Don't look at me," Colin said. "I tried to make her go to the Infirmary but she wouldn't have any of it. Did you know, Lark that in times of opposition Ginny resembles a wild jungle cat on safari?"
"Oh, that's really quite interesting. Did you know, Colin, that right now she looks like a girl whose fingers are about to snap off?"
"Are girls like that found on safari as well?" asked Ginny.
It was Lark's turn to be stubborn. "I'll…I'll drag you there – to the Infirmary I mean, not the grasslands of Africa – if I have to."
"I'd much rather hear about your afternoon."
"I stayed in the castle," said Lark. "I spoke to a few people. We sat in the Great Hall. It was warm."
"There's no reason to be sarcastic," said Ginny. "It won't influence me whatsoever."
"I'll tell your brother that you won't be able to hold a quaffle, much less the feather of a quill without any fingers."
Five minutes later, the Great Hall doors closed behind Ginny who was grumbling about animals that got on perfectly fine without opposable thumbs.
When she reached the Infirmary, Madam Pomfrey was doling out some Pepper-Up to a troupe of younger girls whom Ginny did not know. Self-conscious due to the fact that their hair was sadly troll-like and frazzled, and that their ears were more like the steam whistle on the Hogwarts Express, the girls shuffled out plaintively.
"What may I do for you, Miss Weasley?" Pomfrey asked in a business-like manner. "Girls from all houses have been coming in here for ridiculous amounts of Pepper-Up Potion all because they choose to dress inappropriately for the weather. Witches!" she declared. "More like back-alley witches if you discern my meaning, dear."
The Mediwitch said it in such a tone that Ginny found herself nodding very rapidly, lest the woman further assume that Ginny was in need of the horrid potion as well.
"Oh, completely, Madam Pomfrey. I assure you that I wear at least five layers everyday starting in late September."
"I wasn't being funny," the older woman said doggedly. "The poor girls all want to impress the wizards, and so they strip like pixies on parade. It's really quite unheard of! And it's all that Professor Snape can do to keep up with the never ending request for Pepper-Up Potion."
Ginny was unsympathetic. "Well it is his job to make it, isn't it?" she asked tentatively.
"Of course! But I mix a fair share of it also, and you know how unpleasant Severus – well Professor Snape to you – may be. I don't suppose though, that I should speak ill of my fellow faculty member in front of a student; the Headmaster would be abhorred. State your ailment and I'll do my best to fix it up."
Ginny revealed her hands.
She felt compelled to defend herself when Pomfrey gave her a sharp look. "I promise I'm not a pixie in a back-alley…or whatever…I just forgot to get my gloves before going out this morning. I didn't even realize that they were so bad until I came back inside and the heat irritated them. I sort of hoped they'd thaw naturally…"
The matron sighed heavily and began picking up the bottle that was in her hands when Ginny had entered.
"Don't you have anything else?" the redhead asked quickly.
"Why?" asked Madam Pomfrey. "Don't think I've forgotten that you've only just finished taking your other potions from that horrid quidditch fiasco. If I mix too many substances the residual ingredients in your system might –"
"I really don't need anything fancy." I just don't need to look like an item from Filibuster's either.
"Well there is one other I could give you," Pomfrey said with great self-sacrifice.
After five minutes of tinkering in the medicine cupboard she pulled out a long tube with a very thick stopper. It held a thick, goopy, oatmeal-colored substance. Ginny fought against making a face. Madam Pomfrey took out a teaspoon and poured a bit onto it – more like a chunk of it surrounded in viscous fluid – and held it to Ginny's mouth.
After a moment's hesitation, Ginny shut her eyes tight and closed her mouth over the spoon. To her surprise it sort of melted until it was as smooth milk and ran down her throat with the vague taste of broccoli; it wasn't unpleasant, just odd.
"There's a bit of aloe extract which gives it the flora-like flavor," Pomfrey explained. Ginny nodded and thanked her virtuously, heading out before she could be summoned back for a more thorough looking over.
Closing the door behind her back, Ginny looked up the corridor back to where the Great Hall was. Then she looked the other way, wondering if she should just take the shortcut back to Gryffindor Tower; there was no point in going back to eat lunch. The potion, though not vile, had ruined her chances of finishing her soup without it tasting like something akin to raw broccoli. Remembering the savory taste of the onion soup despite the sharp pains she'd gotten from clutching a spoon Ginny tried to console herself by remembering that lunch was almost over anyway.
She decided to go the way of the shortcut, and walked down the hall at a bit of a slow pace when she saw a distant figure approaching. Normally she would have ignored the person – after all, Hogwarts was a school; of course she was going to see people coming down the hall – however she recognized the physique even from a distance, and slowed to a stop. He didn't notice that she lay ahead of him until he was only a few steps away, and with a small amount of amusement Ginny noted that he hesitated to come her way before going on.
She decided to meet him halfway.
"Were you needing something?" he asked when she was in earshot.
"No, I'm just being nosy. Why did you miss lunch?"
"Reasons," he said.
Draco hesitated for a minute before speaking and Ginny knew that he was only telling her a half-truth when he did.
"Someone wanted to see me. I went to see them. I missed lunch. I then came upon you, who continued to hold me up while I starved. When I fall into unconsciousness here at your feet, please tell someone to wave a pie under my nose. I'd like to smell food before I die."
"Don't get shirty with me just because you chose to have a clandestine affair with some witch instead of eating," Ginny advised him, affronted. "I swear, everyone's got a wand stuck up their bum today, you included."
"Thank you, Weasley. I was under the impression that you thought I had a wand shoved up my arse everyday. It's nice to know that there are some days on which I might sit on a chair, undisturbed by the nuisance of hard wood up one's rectum. Getting back on topic, though, have you ever considered that it might be your wonderful effect on people that sets them off?"
Ginny glared. "You're obviously in a hurry, Malfoy. Do run along before you faint from hunger. After all, if your head hits the floor it might knock manners into you."
She walked past him, knocking him aside roughly.
Draco looked in the direction she went off in for a long moment before continuing down the hall. Why was it that whenever Ginny Weasley was concerned, he amassed a headache the size of Madam Maxime?
He had sort of been enjoying the day, too. The weekend had gone by slowly but relaxingly, and Draco had hoped that his Monday session with Ginny would go off in the same manner.
He'd arrived at The Room on time to see not Ginny, but Professor Martin waiting for him. The woman spared no time in telling him that the sessions would be cancelled for the rest of the week in order to perform some more tests (obviously she hadn't caught the hint from her first little 'test). Ginny already knew about the cancellations, though not the reasons behind them, as Draco had been told. His test would be first; and it would be one of initiative.
He was told to invite Ginny to the Slytherin quidditch match on Saturday. Those were his only instructions, other than that he had the whole week to comply.
"And what is my punishment if I don't?" he'd asked the counselor with thinly veiled fury.
She'd only shrugged. "I'm sure you'll torture yourself enough for your, well, cowardice, without me coming up with one for you," she had said bluntly. "Well, go on, Mr. Malfoy; I'm sure you have classes to attend."
Draco had left The Room trying not to appear huffy and annoyed by the woman – it would only encourage her.
He had less than seven days to ask Ginny Weasley to support the quidditch team her House was bitterly against…and even worse; he sort of wanted her to come…
On Wednesday, Draco told himself that he wanted Ginny to be there so that he could shove his team's victory in her face when they won.
By Thursday, he'd actually wanted to know if she'd accept, and that was indeed frightening.
So on Friday, Draco had gone back to The Room looking for Martin. He was planning on telling the professor that there was no way he was inviting Ginny to a Slytherin game; she had no place there and more than that, she'd never say yes.
Twenty minutes later, he walked briskly down the corridor away from The Room, as Martin was nowhere to be found. Draco turned onto a side hall he knew led to Gryffindor Tower, and with shock, spotted Ginny further down. He'd avoided her all week just to find her at the moment he least wanted to. Life was some kind of crazy.
His heart began hammering loudly in his chest and he forced it to remain normal.
He was going to do it. He was no coward. What he was going to do was perfectly normal – although criminal by his father's standards – and there was no reason to think otherwise.
Draco watched as Ginny's step hitched mid-stride, as if she'd heard him behind her. Then she resumed, slower this time, although that was not saying much; she walked like she was in a bloody marathon.
He continued to advance leisurely behind her, pointedly admiring her swaying if not quick gait. But in the next moment she swung around, eyes peering at him blankly, then with recognition; her palm was firmly on the waistband of her skirt, he wondered if she kept her wand there. It was so close to her skin…
Draco crossed the distance between them and stood with what he hoped looked like ease, his hands in his trouser pockets.
"I need to ask you something," he said, skipping niceties. "Well, two somethings. Are you aware that you walk abnormally fast?"
The tension in Ginny's stance melted away though she was still disquieted.
"I've been told that a thousand times. Are you aware that if you needed to ask me something urgent, you should have walked faster to catch up, instead of pacing behind like a leering stalker?"
"I should have run up behind you?" he asked.
"Yes, that or called my name," she insisted. "Do you know how eerie it is to hear someone following you?"
Draco smirked. "So I take it that if I ever need you in the future, I should chase you down in the hall screaming your name?"
Ginny 'humphed' but her eyes fastened on to his. "How may I be of service, Master Malfoy?"
He waited a moment to get his bearings and decide how he would phrase the question.
"Are you aware that there's a quidditch match tomorrow?"
Ginny eyes him suspiciously. "Slytherin versus Ravenclaw? The one that led to Gryffindor practice being rescheduled? I might've heard a thing or two about it, yeah."
He licked his lips uneasily as the redhead obviously wondered where the whole 'chat' was going. "Martin's heard about it as well. I don't know how, as I've never even seen her speak to anyone other than ourselves…but that's not the point."
"And what is?" asked Ginny.
"I'm getting to that," he said shortly. "The match is tomorrow afternoon and she thought it would be nice…if you went."
Ginny blinked. "What do you mean 'went'? Like sat in the stands and supported Slytherin?"
She was silent for a full minute, though she maintained eye contact. "I mean, well, I dunno…do you think it would be…nice? I mean would it be all right with your House?"
"I don't really care what my House thinks," he said plainly.
Ginny looked away from him. "We both know that's not entirely true."
"How isn't it?" he asked.
"It just isn't," she insisted.
He found himself offended by her firm assurance that he fretted over what Slytherin thought of his every move. "Do you honestly think that I let my actions be dictated by House desires?"
"They're not just desires," Ginny said explained. "They're unspoken rules – and you believed in them once-upon-a-time, say, five minutes ago, so don't make me the goody-Gryffindor. I admit that I take those desires into consideration, myself."
Draco struggled against a growing anger with the Gryffindor. "If you thought that Martin's idea was rubbish you should have just said so."
Ginny dragged her eyes upward. "I never said the idea was rubbish!" It wasn't lost on her that he made sure to mention that the whole idea was Professor Martin's. She bit her lip as his features became guarded. "Draco…if you say there's no issue –"
"I thought I made it clear there wasn't."
"Fine. Then do you want me to go?" she burst out.
"No. You. Do you want me to go to your match? I've never really supported any other team except Ravenclaw, and that was when I went out with Michael Corner…" Draco went a bit stiff. "But if you say that you want me to go I think…I suppose it'd be fine."
The blond took in a steadying breath. "It doesn't matter what I want. I didn't even think about what I want – this is about Professor Martin and these sessions. I'm just a messenger."
But before Ginny could come up with a suitable reply he had walked off in front of her, not even bothering to hear if she had accepted.
Draco swooped listlessly through the air, searching lazily for the snitch.
The game had only started ten minutes earlier and Slytherin needed to be up at least sixty points before he captured the flighty golden ball if they wanted to have a good standing in the Quidditch Cup race. Kyla Jordan's spunky voice filled the crisp air, carrying well because of the small amount of wind. Draco wondered if her Gryffindor cousin had given her tips over the holiday, as on the whole, her commentary was bolder and more reminiscent of Lee's – meaning she was less complementary of Slytherin than ever.
The pitch was suffused with hints of great fervor growing around the Slytherin versus Gryffindor rematch. Usually it came down to those two teams for the Cup, but Ravenclaw was undaunted by the odds. As it stood, Gryffindor and Slytherin were at the bottom of the Quidditch barrel because they were missing a whole game's worth of points. Ravenclaw was at the top and was very determined to stay there.
Draco was determined to laugh in their faces when they didn't.
Wild cheering from the Slytherin stands drew his attention to the Ravenclaw goal posts where their Keeper was shooting dark looks at Ardin Crawe. As she flew by Draco, she smiled predatorily and he inclined his head at her to acknowledge her goal.
"Keep it up," he ordered before she was out of earshot.
"Yes, captain," she said sardonically, not bothering to look back.
"And the score is 10 zero in favor of Slytherin; goal scored by Ardin Crawe!" said Kyla, enervating the crowd once more. Pleased, Draco scanned the audience and assessed the situation. As usual, there was a low Gryffindor count present, but he'd assumed that Potter and the gang would be coming. Obviously Weasley's cockiness about the state of the Gryffindor team allowed him to miss a prime opportunity to spot a few new strategies Draco had come up with; of course he'd saved the better ones for the rematch, though.
Indifferently, Draco also searched for a smaller Weasley. It was not hard for him to see that she was not there, as she rather stood out. He idly searched the other teams' sections in the event that Ginny had chosen to sit with a friend from another House. She hadn't.
He shrugged off her absence and went back to looking at the opposition's Seeker. Cho Chang had taught her replacement to follow her old game tactics, and Draco could see that the fifth-year was trailing him in an affectation of nonchalance. Whenever Draco made the slightest move, the girl tailed him closely. Deciding to mess with her head a bit, Draco flew in a tight circle and then pointed his broom at a sharp angle toward the ground. True to form, the Ravenclaw Seeker snapped to attention and zipped eagerly behind him.
"And Malfoy spots the Snitch a mere twenty minutes into the game! We all thought he'd know better than to end it with such a small lead, but that's a Slytherin for you!
"Carpenter is hot on Malfoy's tail! Malfoy goes even steeper! Carpenter is practically breathing down Malfoy's back! Circe's pigs, what's this?! Carpenter's breathing in dirt! Yes, folks! Slytherin Seeker Draco Malfoy executed a neat Wronski Feint, which Shade Carpenter, Ravenclaw Seeker, fell for. So much for the reputed Ravenclaw brain power!"
There were various protests from the blue and gray side demanding that Kyla "shut her trap", and "keep her bias against Slytherin only, if she knew what was good for her".
"Some people just can't stand honest reporting," she said aside to McGonagall who told her to tone down the slurs.
The Ravenclaw Seeker got up a tad shakily, but dusted herself off and hopped back on her broom. In all the madness, Slytherin was able to secure another goal and Draco swooped over his team's box so that he could receive their fanatic acknowledgement of his successful diversion. Smiling wickedly, his attention was diverted when he saw a still figure watching him from the entrance onto the pitch.
It was Ginny.
Professor Martin was standing next to her, and when the older woman saw Draco eyeing them, she tapped Ginny's arm lightly and pointed at him. Ginny somewhat smiled at him and waved quickly. Martin smiled like a cat and led Ginny to the teacher's box.
"Get a move on, Malfoy! This isn't a bloody relaxation class!" Ardin shouted at him.
He turned his head to snap at her, but ducked when Millicent's bat swung viciously in the space where his head just was. He would have torn her apart had he not seen the Ravenclaw Beater a few feet away from him tip his bat in salutation and zip off. Draco nodded at Millicent and put his head back in the game, only sparing Ginny one more fleeting look.
Forty-five minutes later saw to it that Ravenclaw was in the lead, but only by one goal. Draco kept his team's energy up in the most effective way he could: insulting them.
"It looks like that half-breed gamekeeper is playing Chaser for us under disguise!" He shouted at Dominic Hooper. "Either that or someone transfigured a vat of cement in your likeness. One way or another, if you and Higgins don't start playing a real Quidditch game, this team is going to have two new reserve Chasers!"
Hooper adopted a stony look and snatched the quaffle from one of the Ravenclaw Chasers in what was a near foul. Gertrude Higgins flew parallel to him, and when one of the opposing team's Beaters flagged him down, Hooper tossed the quaffle over to Higgins, who launched it forward to Ardin Crawe, who was waiting patiently by Ravenclaw's goal posts. The Ravenclaw Keeper struggled to defend all the hoops, but to no avail – Ardin slammed it through a small opening in the middle one with her broom.
"And the score is tied!" Kyla declared.
"Better," said Draco to his players. "If you know what's good for you, you'll keep it up."
He turned his attention to the area around to where the teachers were sitting. He was just looking for the snitch, he told himself. He saw Ginny on her feet, clapping briefly before she sat down again. When he caught her eye she saluted him with a grin; he turned away, feeling heat creeping up his neck.
Suddenly there was a flash at the corner of his vision. Across the field he saw the other Seeker was oblivious to the tiny golden ball swerving madly in the air.
The snitch was easy pickings. Draco bore down on it as it struggled to keep ahead of him. The other Seeker snapped to attention and tried to make up for the loss of time. Draco could feel the wind rushing around him, the sound of Kyla's commentary was a mere blur and the feet upon the stands created a dull roar in the back of his mind. There was only a consistent flashing of gold before him. Just a bit more…
And then it was his.
Everything was clear and coherent again. Draco threw his hand in the air and jumped off of his broom. He had only been a short distance above the ground anyway.
He felt the arms of his teammates trying to lift him up and away to the party that would commence as soon as they retuned to the common room, but he was looking for someone. Through the haze of draping forest green sleeves and broomsticks, Draco thought that he might have spotted a wispy flash of red standing further back in the field. And were those dark eyes watching him?
But Nathaniel Crawe's euphoric pull along with the rest of the team's dragged him away.
He probably wouldn't see her again until Monday, he thought, wondering if she would take his silent departure as ingratitude…
Most likely not, Draco told himself firmly. It wasn't as if he could have thanked her in front of everyone anyway. There was time enough for a proper thank-you yet, and he would make sure she got it.
Several hours later, freshly showered and pleasantly buzzing on butterbeer that his head of house had provided for all, Draco sauntered easily through the corridors. His steps were quiet although it was a while yet before curfew. The Slytherin Quidditch team had neglected to go to dinner, choosing instead to order food up to the common room via house elf, so there was no need for him to go to the Great Hall.
Instead he found himself venturing into the part of the castle where he'd exchanged Christmas gifts with his partner-in-slander. It was dark and he barely recognized his surroundings. Maybe it would seem more familiar if there was an elusive sprig of mistletoe floating above his head…
Draco heard quick footsteps coming toward him from around the corner and he turned to see who it was. That strange warmth that he had been feeling for some time crept up like tipsiness on a New Year's party but he put it off to the butterbeer. Just as he'd put it off as potent heating charms during dinner when he'd thought of seeing her at the game. At other times he was able to write it off as winter fever, or wearing too many layers, and he thanked the gods that he was so idiosyncratic or he might've run out of excuses. He would have been forced to really define what the spiking of his temperature was; what made his palms sweat despite the fact that the Quidditch match was ages ago. What made his skin itch pleasantly and caused him to breathe faster…
But it was just the draftiness of the castle. Or the natural chill of the night. Or a ghoul passing by.
"Hello," Ginny greeted with a light smile, her hands shoved in the pockets of her robes. She was wearing casual clothes underneath the shabby black material and Draco thought that he spied dark Muggle jeans with a strange green jumper. It had an asymmetrical zipper and collar that was somewhat obstructed from view by the buttons high on her collarbone and a hood that gathered at the nape of her neck.
He nodded his head amiably in greeting and made a show of inspecting her clothing. "You're wearing my colors. I thought you were against supporting Slytherin," he stated archly.
"I wasn't supporting Slytherin – not directly," she rejoined. "I…well I was supporting you. And if a byproduct of that action meant cheering on the old green and silver, well…" she shrugged "I am but a twig in a fast moving stream, unable to prevent that turn of events."
He found himself smiling wryly at her take on the matter. "Nice way to put it."
"Why, thank you." She rocked back-and-forth on her feet. "Besides, I thought I should show more support than clapping with the rest of the crowd so that no one would notice me. But I don't own a Slytherin scarf or anything like that –"
"You do," Draco interrupted. "I gave you one. And am I not the very essence of Slytherin House?"
"That's true," she agreed. "But I finally had to put it in the wash; it was getting dirty and I didn't want it to be stained. All the same I think I was passable enough for a temporary supporter. Did I do you any good?"
"Maybe," he said slowly. "I'm not exactly sure. I was a bit distracted by this lovely girl in the stands…garish red hair, wicked brown eyes…I think she was sitting a few seats away from you, actually. Do you know h –?"
Ginny smacked Draco on the arm and he held up his hands in defense. "You prat! You bet I know her!" she attested, trying hard not to laugh. "And she's not interested in you at all!"
"Oh?" asked the blond. "So she's got someone other than me?"
Ginny crossed her arms and half-turned away. "Well, I've heard rumors."
"All right then. Tell your friend that I propose we start some rumors of our own." said Draco, enjoying the flush of Ginny's skin that was almost hidden in the dim lighting.
"I'll do my best to relay the message," she said. Her eyes were lit up and he swallowed absentmindedly. Ginny was fidgeting with a loose thread and he was grateful that he was not the only one experiencing a bit of restiveness.
"I suppose all of this chit-chat has been leading up to my main point. It's to say 'thank you'," he admitted finally. Ginny opened her mouth but he plowed on before she could object. "And I know that you feel you were under orders from Professor Martin, but it was still very… You didn't have to – I don't know if I would have."
"It was nothing, stop gushing," she said with a smirk. "I actually considered sitting with Slytherin very briefly, but then I came to my senses and sat with Professor Martin who offered to let me sit in the faculty section. Unfortunately it was next to the Ravenclaw fan box." Draco wondered if her sensitivity about that was due to the bloke she'd mentioned last time, Michael Corner. "The upside though, was that no one thought it strange for me to watch a Slytherin match. Ravenclaws are surprisingly impartial concerning House Rivalry as long as no one blatantly disputes their achievements." She shook her head at that as if it were something she'd thought on a lot, once.
Then there was more fidgeting. "I, er, waited for you afterward, but I realized that there must have been a follow-up party. All the same I'd really wanted to catch you…" she murmured.
"Why?" Draco asked. Ginny looked up, startled that he'd heard the end of her sentence. "I was only in my quidditch uniform, most likely sweaty and –" Ginny's face was heating up and she was very obviously embarrassed. Her shoulders were high in the air as she shoved her fists in her thin pockets as deep down as they would go. It caused an angular effect where her hair swung forward, casting shadow on her features. An idea clicked in Draco's mind.
"You wanted to ogle me, didn't you?" he shot at her loudly, his amused voice echoing down the hall.
Ginny's head shot up even further and she stared at him, face burning. Then her chin jutted out defiantly. "I can't say that if you gave me the opportunity to do so I'd refuse." Draco eyebrows nearly disappeared, they went up so far. "Then again I'd not say no to any bloke who offered me a peep at him in his quidditch kit."
The Seeker tried to shake off the comment. "Go and lump me in with the rest of them, then."
Ginny chuckled and ran a pale hand though her hair. "Oh, all right then, you're a fair flier, Malfoy. I might even venture to say great."
"Compared to Longbottom…?" he inquired.
"Compared to anyone," Ginny said straightforwardly. "Maybe even Harry, so stop fishing for compliments."
Draco smirked, satisfied. "Okay."
He waited a beat and then stepped forward with his own hands in their pockets, though much more at ease.
"I…just seeing you there… Honestly, you know what I mean, Weasley."
"Of course," said Ginny swiftly. "Because you're being so articulate about it and all."
Draco slowly closed the gap between their bodies and put a slightly cold hand to Ginny's neck, whereupon he began straightening her hood and collar out although she shivered at the contact.
"Sorry," he apologized quietly. "I just have this thing where I constantly do the opposite of what I really want…"
Ginny did a quick mental summation. The opposite of dressing was undres – oh…ohh…
"What about, er, thanking me?" she whispered.
There was a definite tilt in the corner of his mouth and he bent low that it was right by her lips. "No, no, I wanted that. Just like this…"
He kissed her cheek softly, holding her to him from under her shoulder blades so that she was compelled to hold him around the waist. He trailed his lips over to hers and held them there innocently. In a moment he increased the pressure and so Ginny angled her face so that she could get better access. Encouraged, he parted his mouth at the same time she did and –
"Is that you, Ginny?!"
The voice hit cold and sobering like snow that Ron threw at the back of her head. The effect hit Draco simultaneously and they both went still as a board in each other's arms. Ginny could hear a low hissing coming from between Draco's lips and she realized after a split second that he was swearing violently. Her eyes met his and she frowned.
"Really, though, if it's you, Ginny, can you answer me?" There was a nervous chuckle. "I wouldn't want to, er, break anything up if you're not my sister."
"Dammit," she muttered. Growling deep in her throat she turned around carefully so that most of Draco was indiscernible from behind her, his arms remained around her waist. "Ron, what of it if I am your sister?"
He continued walking forward. "You needn't be so snappish that's what," he said, signaling vaguely behind him. "She's here! I've found her!" A few more indistinct bodies appeared from all the way down the hall. Ginny eventually made them out to be Harry, Hermione, and Colin and she nearly popped a blood vessel.
The four began heading for but her hand shot out.
"Stop! Er, stop right there!" she ordered.
"What now?" Draco demanded from just above her forehead, his head still slightly stooped.
"I don't know!" she whispered.
"Come on, Ginny!" Ron complained. "Hermione's given us an hour or so to look over the plays for our practice tomorrow morning. We've been looking everywhere for you. What've you been doing?"
Draco snorted softly. "As if it weren't obvious enough…"
"Do shut up," Ginny ordered.
"What?!" asked Ron, forced to raise his voice due to the distance.
"Nothing!" she began walking backward hoping that the cover of shadow could hide Draco until her brother and friends turned and walked away. Draco seemed to go along with it, too, until he suddenly stopped, causing her to be jostled from behind; he still held her tightly.
"There's a torch," he muttered.
Ginny understood; they'd see him if he stepped into the light. She vowed vengeance on her brother.
"Who's that bloke behind you?" rang Ron's voice. "He looks familiar."
"Yeah!" Colin piped up, coming forward once more.
"Stay right, there, Colin!" Ginny said. "I'm coming! He's, er, no one." Draco squeezed her waist and she squirmed in his hold.
"No one, eh?"
"You'd bloody well better behave yourself, Malfoy, or neither of us is going to get out of this unscathed. I swear I'll take you down with me."
"That's what I've been trying to get you to do!"
"Oh, way to romance me!"
"What is romance if not being plastered against my body while your brother tries to hold conversation at the same time?"
"What are you saying, Ginny?!" Ron shouted. "Really, come on, now. You can bring your, er, man with you if you need to – he's in Gryffindor, right?"
"No, Ron! He in Ravenclaw!" she laughed with what she hoped was candidness. "Don't be silly, you're embarrassing him. He's a covert Gryffindor fan and was just giving me his condolences because Slytherin won."
"I just found out myself," called Ron from down the hall. "And that's why we've got to go over our formations! Well, we can once you get rid of the Ravenclaw."
"Don't be rude!" Ginny heard Hermione say sharply. "He's obviously very shy…" She turned in their direction and squinted very hard, trying to make out some of his features. "If you don't mind me asking, what is your name?"
"You're not going to get that it out of him!" Ginny filled in. "Like you said, he's very shy, aren't you, Muffleldkmkmuck Budnum?"
She skewed the end of her sentence purposefully so that her four friends up ahead would remain in the dark – literally and figuratively. "But we were just finishing our conversation." She turned to Draco Muffleldkmkmuck Budnum. "Weren't we?"
Draco nodded overeagerly with a wide grin that only she could see and Ginny glared at him fiercely.
"All right then," shouted, Ron, trading wary looks with Harry who seemed less gloomy when there was a prospect of flying. Ginny wasn't worried, though; Ron was probably only concerned that the 'Ravenclaw' was a spy sent to beguile Ginny in order to coerce secrets from her. She was made more uneasy by Colin – or rather Colin's silence. "Once you wrap up with er, Maddlezuntick, meet Harry and me in the common room. The whole team is going to be there."
"Just give me a quarter of an hour!" Ginny shouted back, as her best friend, her brother and his friends turned back around the corner.
A quick five minutes saw to it that Draco was sent off safely in the opposite direction of the Gryffindor crew, bidding Ginny goodbye in the same uncommunicative tone that he had greeted her with. With no more proffered kisses, Ginny made it just in time to catch the beginning of Ron's tirade,
"I see before me a team that is motivated – at least when harassed – and one that is dedicated to winning. I see a talented team that will overcome Slytherin's feeble lead on the House Cup. But I also see that we will overcome that and smash their ratty little faces in the mud, because I. See. All!"
The rest of the weekend had passed very quickly for Ginny.
Practice Sunday morning had gone off without a hitch despite Ron's multiple assurances that there was no possible way on earth for the team to learn the glorious plays he had come up with by their next game. At least not unless they gave up their free time and after-meal times to practice. That option was shut down with several stony glares. However, by the end of practice, they had successfully pulled off two plays and had started on a third.
Those were the least of Ginny's worries.
Matters concerning Draco had stagnated throughout the weekend, as she had not seen hide or hair of him all of Sunday. For that she was somewhat grateful. Along with Quidditch, Ron had been babbling nonstop about Ginny's Ravenclaw admirer despite her assurances that it was a one-time only occurrence. That had only made it worse. Colin had informed her that Ron wanted him to look out for Ginny a bit – only for short while! – Just to make sure that her head stayed in the game and away from "unsavory male groupies". Privately and a bit guiltily, Ginny thought Draco a savory enough person on the whole…
Ron had spent a lot of time thinking on what it meant to have Ginny as a Chaser – Chasers were always targets for unwelcome sexual advances, he'd surmised. And he had no intention of letting any sister of his fall prey to their deceit.
Besides, Muptlefudnick or whatever his name was, had seemed too shy for Ginny; he'd not addressed anyone at all, save that really odd, twisted sort of nodding. It was all very strange.
It was rather strange for Ginny, too. Her dreams raged with the most unlikely of scenarios – all of them included Draco. There was Draco with his shirt off. There was Draco with his belt being loosened by her frantic fingers. There was Draco on top of her. And all of fantasies – er, dreams – ended with someone walking in and interrupting them! Lark asking her a question about Charms. Hermione offering to tutor her for the NEWTs. Colin wanting to take pictures. Ron wanting to discuss strategy. Professor Martin asking her to bear her effing soul. Dumbledore smiling knowingly and offering sodding lemon drops.
Dobby delivering tea…
It was taking such a toll on her to the point where she was afraid to play the whole sexual attraction game with Draco, lest someone horrid like her mother or Lucius Malfoy catch them! Not that her mother was horrid…not that Lucius Malfoy wasn't…
The trump card of it all was that evidently, Draco wasn't seeing it that way. He was taking every opportunity he could to corner her, or brush up against her, or look at her insinuatingly. She'd never been so hot and bothered in her life, except for when she went to visit Bill in Egypt and the twins kept trying to bury her underwear in the sand.
"You know," said Draco, interrupting the quiet of the room, "from this position if I turned my head I could see up your skirt."
Ginny was sitting cross-legged on the couch she favored so much with her shoes by the door. Earlier, her robes had been thrown on the arm of the sofa as she tried to get comfortable, and Draco had decided to sit cross-legged on the floor just under her. Although she'd assured herself that her skirt was draped over the edges of her knees, effectively cutting off any knicker-peeking activity, her doubts were still there. And Draco had just voiced them.
Ginny nodded with interest. "From this position, I could snap your neck if you did."
Draco winced and kept his head forward. "Interesting."
"I like to think so."
After a few more minutes he rubbed his eyes and moved his head from side to side on Ginny's calves.
"Stop that," Ginny ordered firmly, smacking his scalp with the quill. "It itches." That was a lie if ever there was one. It was actually quite nice. But it was also too nice for her tastes.
"No," he said, and continued to move his head around.
"Are you hard of hearing?" Ginny asked losing patience.
Mouth pressed into a thin line Ginny smacked him a hard one on the head once more and Draco yelped with pain. He reflexively grabbed Ginny's wrist and the quill fell from her hand into his lap.
"I warned you," she said firmly, easing her hand out of his grip and reaching for the quill, her face now beside his. She stopped when she saw his surprised face: she was reaching between his legs.
Ginny left the quill in its new home and snatched her hand away. "Shut up."
He chuckled deeply. "Trying to get the snake?"
Ginny sniffed. "Seemed more like a tadpole to me."
He smirked meaningfully into her eyes. . She could see the specks of blue in his they were so close.
"Ginny?" he asked.
"Yes?" she questioned. She never figured that he was the kind of boy to ask for kisses.
He licked his lips. "May I…may I…look up your skirt?"
Ginny's eyebrows shot up into her hairline and she roughly shoved Draco forward so that his head almost hit the table.
"So it's Weasley, now, eh?" she asked furiously, getting a fresh quill from her rucksack on the cushion behind her. "You're sick, you know."
"All right, sorry," said Draco, snickering. He didn't look apologetic in the least and once more to lean his head on Ginny's legs. She pushed him forward.
After several failed attempts he quit. "You know, this fun game was actually a pretense to my asking for a massage."
Ginny gave him a long look and laughed. "No!"
He frowned. "Why not?"
"Why should I?"
"Why shouldn't you?"
"Well, because I said no!" she sputtered.
Draco's frown deepened and he shifted unconsciously on the carpeted floor. When Ginny had reached down for her quill she didn't realize it, but she had brushed his inner thigh. The blond's awareness of her had come back full-force, and he remembered their interruption two nights before. Actually, he had spent most of the weekend thinking about it, knowing that Ginny was eager to finish but would never initiate.
So he thought of a massage. It was innocent enough, right? He would get to feel her hands rubbing deeply into his shoulders and his neck; her hair would form a curtain around their faces; the valley down the opening of her shirt would be available for….
"Absolutely not," Ginny finished.
"I'm not going to say please."
"It wouldn't have mattered if you did."
"I'm really tense…"
"Hop off a cliff, free-falling is relaxing. Muggles do it all the time."
"Do I look like a blooming Muggle to you? Everyone knows they're off their rockers anyway." Ginny went on writing. "Look, you don't have a reason not to; you didn't even consider it fully."
"Let's pretend then that 'no' can be both a reason and an answer. Shall we put it into a sentence, then? Why won't I do your back? The reason is: because I said 'no'. So it follows that my answer is…?"
"Is it because I make you uncomfortable? It's rather hard to turn down the sex waves, you know. You just try regulating your alluringness for hours on end; it gives you knots in the shoulders."
"Come on, Malfoy, I'll give you three guesses," Ginny insisted, ignoring his comment. "Here's a hint: the answer is 'no'."
He was silent for a long two minutes in which Ginny shot amused glances at him – none of which he missed.
"You're taking peeks at me, don't think I can't tell."
"I never said I was trying to hide it," said Ginny.
"So you're over your shyness now, and you'll give me a rub?" His face was the image of reason, free from all traces of sexual allusion.
"What part of 'no' don't you understand?" Ginny asked exasperatedly.
Draco appeared thoughtful. "The part where the 'n' meets the 'o' to form a word meaning that I don't get what I want."
A smile curved along Ginny's lips and she tried to cover it with her Transfiguration textbook. Taking that as a good sign, Draco pulled the book from her fingers and threw it across the room near the door.
Insulted, Ginny got up from the sofa and went after it. "Don't chuck my things around like they're rubbish!" she yelled, picking the offended object up and dusting it off exaggeratedly, fixing an imaginary dent. He walked over to Ginny and took her by the hand.
"I'm sorry, dear. I forgot that you pay so very much for your beloved second-hand books."
"Well, you'd do well to remember it next time." She set it down on the desk, studiously ignoring the fact that he was pulling her closer.
"I apologize," he repeated.
"You're absolutely demented and you're going to do something insolent in the future, so save your sorries."
"I might have to use one very soon."
Ginny licked her lips. "Because you're a sick-minded individual or because your hand's creeping up my back?"
He grinned crookedly. "Oh, you're right. Two more, then."
Oh god he was right there…
"Look, Draco. Colin said that Ron said…that he's letting Colin keep tabs…keep tabs on me…" It was very difficult to speak when one's skin was being stroked.
"Ahh, now I understand…but this is all I wanted you to do," he whispered against her lips so seductively that she felt faint. "And what Colin can't see won't make me hurt him, will it?"
"Don't threaten my friends…" she told him closing her eyes right before their noses brushed. She could feel something smooth and moist against her bottom lip as Draco's tongue slid over it. A soft nip made her eyes flutter back open.
"No one's coming, Ginny," he said.
Ginny nodded. The door was locked. They were alone.
She slid her arms around his neck and reconnected eagerly. There were no more small kisses on the cheek or at the corners of the mouth; those were preliminary niceties, and Ginny would be damned if she would wait go through those again. Instead the two picked up right where they had left off on Saturday night.
Draco gripped Ginny's hips reflexively when her tongue flicked against his and searched for somewhere to sit. The closest seat available was Professor Martin's chair, so he collapsed on top of it, taking Ginny with him. The chair tipped forward then back as she straddled him; it finally came to rest on its hind legs, the post of the chair against the crème walls.
It definitely wasn't stable as they rocked slowly against each other, not really minding the fact that they were smushing weeks of pent up frustration into a few measly minutes and what that might lead to. Adrenaline shot up Ginny's spine as she absently thought of the precariousness of their position – the chair could crash down at any moment. The students in The Room below would put their hands over their hearts and sigh with melancholy. "Those two finally did each other in," they would say. If only they knew the half of it.
Ginny broke away from Draco's lips, struggling to catch her breath.
"Are…are you all right?" he barely managed to ask.
She nodded quickly, her eyes half-closed as his hand stroked up and down her thigh, going higher each time until it disappeared under her skirt and went to the waistband where she sometimes kept her wand. Molly Weasley got her daughter's uniforms secondhand, and the older skirts didn't have pockets like the newer ones. When Ginny wasn't using her wand she sometimes kept it in the loose space between the top of the skirt and her hip although her mother chastised her for it. Ginny realized that Draco obviously favored that spot; he was being awfully kind to it.
"Oh gods, yes. Yes I think so," she breathed.
"You think?" he questioned teasingly, enjoying the deep pinkness of her cheeks.
Ginny almost tipped the chair over on purpose. It would serve him right to land smack dab on his head for all of his bloody arrogance.
Luckily for Draco, though, Ginny allowed herself to be pulled back against him whereupon he kissed her hard and unflinchingly. All that Ginny could remember for a several minutes or so was that she couldn't remember anything; that blank phase was only broken when Draco switched to her neck and his shallow breathing reached her ears.
Dumbledore's beard! She thought. Why on earth did mothers not warn their daughters that the evil ones were so revoltingly tempting?! It seemed a very stupid thing to her that all the good men out there were probably not half as talented at such matters as Draco.
She was lucky.
"Oh…" she moaned.
Yes, very lucky.
Those good men were not as equipped to enter the world and inappropriately seduce girls without the kind of, er, charms that Draco possessed. She felt awfully sorry for all the normal girls out there who did not have a Draco Malfoy to…reconcile their differences with, or talk to. And boy was Draco a good…talker. He was practically motivationally speaking to her body!
As their kiss deepened once more Ginny pressed herself against the Slytherin Seeker and he moved his hand to grip her bottom. After a minute, though, he went still rather suddenly.
The chair wobbled dubiously.
"If…if we continue along this way I'll owe you another apology," he said against her ear once more, half amused, half excited. Ginny opened her eyes and considered his statement. She peeked down as their joined middle and then back up to where his eyebrow was arched in entertainment.
"Couldn't take my word for it?" He took hold of Ginny's waist and swung the chair forward so that it was back on all four legs. Taking one last peek at him Ginny flushed lightly and shifted around so that she was sitting normally on his lap – or at least as normal as it was for her to sit on Draco Malfoy's lap at all.
As she glossed over the finer parts of the end of their afternoon, she felt Draco's lips beginning to wander down the back of her neck once more and decided that sitting on a surface other than Slytherin skin might be a good idea.
"Suit yourself," said Draco, when Ginny sat across from him on the polished wood surface of Martin's table. He opted to lean back in the rickety chair to watch the redhead in front of him with curious eyes (and profound satisfaction). He waited until his breathing was even once more to speak again.
"I think one of us should fix this miserable thing," he stated simply. "A simple Strengthening Charm would do."
Despite herself Ginny grinned, proud that only the tips of her ears were still pink.
"That should teach your berk of a best friend to keep tabs on you – sexual repression only leads to madness." This time she kicked him in the shin.
They reclined in suspended silence for a while, a maelstrom of thoughts going through each of their minds while they grew tardier for class. The matter of lateness seemed rather trivial after such mind-boggling progress. The prospect of speaking normally was quite a challenge for Ginny, so she attempted to speak with him in a noncommittal code.
"My scarf should be back from the laundry tomorrow. I might wear it," she said.
It seems overwhelmingly stupid to me that after all of…this, we won't even be able to speak to one other tomorrow since its Tuesday.
Draco shrugged. "Wear if you want – don't put it to waste. I didn't buy it for you to warm the hooks of your armoire with."
I'm forced to admit that I agree – I wouldn't mind being this productive everyday. All the same, if you wear the scarf I'll be able to imagine what you'd look like in only that scarf. Also, I could get a better mental picture of the kinds of things we could do with a scarf and a private room with a locked door.
"I'll do what I want with my hooks, thanks very much," said Ginny. Keep your mind out of the gutter you!
"All my gold will down the drain just because you're not used to such finery." No thank you, I rather enjoy lounging in my lasciviousness on occasion.
"Pompous arse…" Ginny muttered. Oversexed hound…
"Ah, touché," said Draco with a smirk. Just be lucky I'm not pawing under your skirt right now.
"I always regret trying to engage in sensible conversation with you." Would you shut your trap for a kiss?
"Don't ask questions that are fairly obvious, Weasel." You should have been back here ten seconds ago. You're lucky I only –
"How's that for obvious?" Ahem. Wasn't that better than spouting off lewd come ons?
"I might actually concede to you being far more alluring than I, Wheezy-girl." I'm not sure; try again.
I most definitely concede.
Eyes closed, body humming, Ginny smiled against Draco's parted mouth when he paused for breath. He tried not to do the same.
End of the chapter!
"Other than you!" accused Ginny. "Harry has a lot to be upset about!" That line was partly inspired by Cassandra Claire's, A Lot to be Upset About. It is one of my favorite one-shots of all time though it's not posted at It contains D/G goodness and ANGRY!Harry (who actually steals the show in my opinion), so check it out.. Anyway, here are the:
potatomaker I love long reviews! Especially when they're as specific as yours was, so thanks very, very much. I really didn't want them to be all over each other (until this chapter, at least, lol) and I'm glad you agreed. It would have been weird to me for them to burst out in amorous rhapsody just because they haven't seen each other in a few weeks. Thanks again. dejena Sorry! This one should make you feel a little better…muahaha Audrey Ahh! I'm actually blushing! Thank you so much. Um, you can sign up for author alerts and that should notify you. I think I sent you an email saying that, actually…but I'm not sure it got sent because my emails kind of weird. Sorry the chapter took so long! chicklepea Am I allowed to come back from the fairyland? I've updated!! FickleFickleMuse I'm glad you liked it. I understand about the slow progress, though, and I considered having them admit whatever feelings they're getting, but it sounded weird and felt too early for me. I promise it's coming up though. Honest! Thanks for reviewing. Katie Richards Thanks! I hope you get the email…er, actually, you must have if you're reading this. Don't mind my slowness, it's half past two. xxbabysparklesxx Thankee! Wander Aimlessly Is this long enough for you?? Lmao, this is actually criminally long for me. I hope it didn't drag on. Thanks for reviewing. montequilladecacahuate I really aim to have the next chapter up faster. And since I'm on break now, it should be up much quicker than this one. But onto more important things, I must agree…I do love a yummy Draco… redhaired Are you really? Redhaired, I mean? I love that color. Thanks! kittybro Unfortunately, this didn't come soon, per se, but here it is nonetheless! rachel Thanks! Dweeb I know! I'll be sad when this draws to a close, but I've got a few of the ending scenes configured already. I guess I've taken long enough, though, hahaha. But WHY am I talking about it ending? That's not happening for a bit yet. Thanks always for your reviews! shelly2 Thank you!!!!! Isadora You made me smile abnormally largely. Thanks a bunch. Stormy Nights Wooh, nice name. Here's more. LovingFanFics Wow. That is definitely a great compliment, and hopefully we'll get to see D and G's real 'mother' at work when Book 6 comes out. (Hopefully very, very soon) mell8 Thanks a lot! intoxicatedapple Loving your name, thanks for reviewing! Lirie Halliwell I kind of like that one myself, thanks sooooo much for reviewing!
All right. Sorry if your response sort of tapered off, especially the one's at the end. I'm running out of steam. And now I'm sending it out to all of you…Thanks again in general to all of you. Please keep the comments, suggestions, and love coming! Oh, and if I don't update before then, Happy Holidays to you all!!
- - Femme