A/N: I can't believe it's been like 3 years since my last update. I am ashamed! I would give the normal excuses, busy, crazy life, etc. But honestly, there's no excuse for this sort of abandonment and I apologize. My fanfics have not been my priority lately, but I'm hoping to be a little more faithful this year in order to finally finish this story. Hopefully, I still have some readers! XOXO.
Dawn's first mission the following morning was to visit Ginny. She figured if she snuck down before breakfast she might be able to avoid detection by Madam Pomphrey. She was careful not to wake her roommates, and managed to slip out of the common room and down to the hospital wing before anyone else had stirred for the morning. Feeling proud of herself, Dawn prepared to skip into the hospital with a smile and wake her friend, but upon reaching the door, she paused.
Oh my god. Her heart beat faster as she tried to reconcile what she could see through the window in the door. For a moment she thought she was still asleep and dreaming, but knowing that was impossible, she had to accept reality. She remained frozen in place, unsure of how to continue for a few moments. Then realizing she couldn't go in, not now, she retreated quietly until she was down the corridor and then ran the entire way back to the Gryffindor tower, deciding to return to bed and tell nobody of her morning excursion.
The sharp pain in her wrist first woke Ginny that morning. Keeping her eyes shut, she breathed deeply, trying to work through the pain. When the fierce aching in her head started to subside to a dull throbbing, she opened her eyes, squinting against the early morning sun streaming through the high windows in the hospital room. She blinked, yawned, and slowly looked around, feeling an unexpected sense of loneliness at having spent the night there by herself. And then, looking to her right, she realized she wasn't alone at all.
"Bloody hell." She tried to move her arm to hit him, but the pain forced her to remain still. "Draco. Wake up!" When he didn't stir, she repeated herself more loudly, but being cautious not to attract the attention of Madam Pomphrey who never seemed to be very far away. "Draco."
He grunted and slowly lifted his head up from where it had been resting on the side of her bed. He yawned and stretched in his chair, craning his neck from side to side.
"What the hell are you doing here? I thought you were going to leave."
He glanced around at the empty room and then back at Ginny. "I was going to," he said. "I really meant to, but you were in so much pain, and you seemed so alone…"
"So you just decided to spend the night?"
"No. That was unintentional. I didn't mean to fall asleep."
"If someone had seen…"
He shook his head. "It's still early. I doubt anyone's even up yet."
"You have to go now," she said.
"Ginny, please don't be upset with me about this. It's not my fault." He stood.
"Why did you come down here at all last night?" she asked.
"I thought we went over all that. I wanted to apologize."
"Draco, stop," she said, sighing in frustration.
He hesitated. "What's wrong?"
"I can't stand the confusion anymore. Your inconsistencies are driving me crazy," she said. She noticed a dark ring around his left eye and knew instantly that he had gotten it the night before when he had helped Connor save her.
"I'm sorry," he said. And she knew that he meant it, which only irritated her more.
Despite her frustration, she knew she needed to be honest with him in a way she hadn't been, possibly ever. "I'm not mad at you," she said.
He frowned, quizzically.
"I know it might seem like it, since I yell a lot," she said. "But I'm not mad. I don't need you to keep apologizing to me."
"I just want to understand where you're coming from," she said. "I want you to be honest with me when I ask you why you're nice to me, and why you care that I was injured last night, and why you risked your own reputation with your family in order to help me."
"That's a lot of questions," he said. He took his seat again. "Can we start simpler?"
"Fine. Why did you come see me last night after the fight?" She asked.
He ran a hand through his blonde hair, and Ginny realized how shaggy it was when he didn't have it perfectly styled like usual. She had never seen it this way, and she also realized that she liked it; he looked good. She blinked quickly and tried to ignore how attractive he was when he just woke up.
"I was concerned," he said.
"Why?" She asked.
"Because I knew that you had been hurt, and I just wanted to make sure you were going to be all right," he said. "I obviously couldn't come earlier when all your mates were in here, so I waited until you were alone." He took a quick breath. "I was sorry for the part that I had played in detaining you last night, and I wanted to apologize for deceiving you."
"I appreciate that," she said; she surprised herself by not at all doubting his sincerity. "So why do you care that I was hurt?" she asked.
"I don't like seeing you hurt," he said, very quickly, and a little quietly. He stared at her bandaged wrists and felt an urge to reach out and touch her hand. "How bad is it?" he asked.
"You can see for yourself," she said.
"I know, I can see the bandages and the bruises," he agreed, glancing briefly at her swollen lip and the dark bruising on her right cheekbone and eye. "But how else did they hurt you?"
"There are some more bruises that aren't as visible," she said.
He hesitated. "Can I see?"
She frowned for a moment, as much as she could without causing her eye any unnecessary pain.
"I'm sorry, that was…forward…"
Without answering, Ginny folded down the blankets that covered her and lifted her shirt to show the dark bruises on her stomach and ribs. She saw shock and anger flash into Draco's bright eyes.
"Madam Pomphrey says I have two broken ribs. There is some bruising on my arms and legs too, but you don't need to see that," she said. She started to pull her shirt back into place, but he reached out suddenly and brushed his fingers gently against the large dark bruise to the left of her belly button. Her body trembled unintentionally and she sucked in a breath.
"I'm sorry, did that hurt?" He pulled back.
She watched him carefully and saw the pain in his eyes. She shook her head. "No," she said. "It surprised me is all." She folded her shirt back down to cover her stomach.
"If I had known what they were going to do…" he said. "How they would hurt you…" He shook his head. "I never would have…" He sighed and pulled the blankets up around her waist. She almost smiled at how gently he placed them over her lap.
"Wouldn't you have been in a lot of trouble if you had disobeyed their orders?" she asked.
"They would have hurt you instead of me," she said.
"It would have been worth it," he said, almost immediately.
She felt her cheeks growing warm and once again started feeling frustrated and confused by his attitude towards her. A part of her, deep down, the part that held onto the Malfoy-Weasley feud, wanted to hate him for being so terribly confusing. But another part of her, a new part that she didn't quite understand yet, wanted to smile when he said kind things like that, and also wanted to feel his hand against her skin again.
The sunbeams were stretching farther across her bed now from the windows high on the wall, and they knew it was getting late in the morning—late enough for others to be waking up and coming to see her.
He glanced towards the door and she followed his gaze.
"You don't have to stay with me, you know," she said. "It was thoughtful of you to stay last night, but you don't have any reason to stay now. Your roommates will be waking up soon, and they'll wonder where you are."
He nodded and shifted in his seat, but he didn't stand.
"Can I ask one more question?" she asked.
"You can ask me anything," he said.
"Last night, before everything happened, when we were alone in the room of requirement…you said some things about me…"
He waited silently.
"About how I make you feel…" she said.
"You didn't finish what you had been saying, and I don't even know you if you meant any of it or not, or if you were just talking to keep me distracted…"
"I meant it," he said. "I know I was deceiving you by keeping you there, but I wasn't making anything up about what I said."
"So, you don't hate me," she said, remembering the things he had said.
He shook his head. "Do you still hate me?" he asked.
She shook her head.
He smiled, and she realized it was the first time she had truly seen him smile.
"Can I maybe stop ignoring you when we cross paths now?" He asked.
She nodded. "But you really should go now, I think."
He stood without arguing and prepared to leave. "Can I come back again tonight to check on you?"
"If you want to," she said.
"I'll see you tonight then," he said. "Feel better soon, okay?" He touched her cheek briefly, but she again tensed and he pulled away quickly and left.
Once he had left, she had to take a few long deep breaths to calm herself.
By the time Angel found Buffy the next morning in the dungeons, she had already released a round of anger on the newly re-chained vampire. Drusilla's lip was split down the middle, her cheekbone was edged in the early formations of a dark bruise, and her right eye was pink and puffy from swelling.
"Buffy!" Angel called to her from the doorway, but she only punched the female vampire again. "Buffy, stop."
She ignored him.
Finally, he left his post at the steps and moved over to her in a couple swift steps. He pulled her away from Drusilla, ignoring her grunts of protests.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
She glared and stared at the ground.
"Buffy, this isn't like you," he said.
"She could have been killed," she muttered, stiffly.
"Ginny," she said. "She could have been killed, and I wasn't there to help her. I left her alone and vulnerable, she wasn't ready to defend herself."
"You didn't know about the attack," he said. "You couldn't have known."
"I haven't trained her well enough," Buffy said. "She thought she could handle herself, but she was wrong. She could have died. She almost did."
"That wasn't your fault," he said. "There were too many of them."
"What kind of teacher am I, if I can't teach her how to fight a couple vampires?"
"Buffy, she's fine," he said. "Have you gone to see her? She's going to be fine."
"She could have died," she said again.
Angel frowned. He knew Buffy cared about Ginny and her fate, but this was a little excessive, even for her. He didn't understand the slayer's inability to accept it for what it was—an unfortunately timed accident that couldn't have been predicted or avoided.
Drusilla was smiling, despite the blood seeping from her cracked lip. She clearly enjoyed the breakdown the slayer was performing.
"Come on," Angel said, taking hold of Buffy's arm firmly. "We're getting out of here." He glowered at Drusilla, and she blew him a kiss.
Buffy let Angel lead her from the dungeons and all the way up to her bedroom, where he guided her gently to the bed. Buffy nearly collapsed when she reached the bed. She sank into the quilt and lay down, curling up into a ball. Angel stood above her, beside the bed, watching her in confusion.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
She didn't answer.
"This wasn't your fault," he told her again. "Ginny's too ambitious for her own good, you know that."
"I'd like to be alone," Buffy said.
Angel wanted to protest. He wanted to lie beside her and hold her and make her happy again, but instead he nodded silently and left her the way she had asked.
After fleeing from the hospital that morning, Dawn had sought refuge back in her common room. She wasn't ready to see anyone because she wasn't sure what she would say. For a minute she wondered if she had seen wrong, maybe she had imagined the wrong person sitting beside Ginny's hospital bed, because what she thought she had seen didn't make any sense. What could Draco Malfoy possibly be doing there with Ginny? Then for a minute she wondered if she shouldn't have left. She thought that maybe Draco was there for an evil purpose and Ginny was in trouble, but he hadn't looked very evil at the time.
By the time Hermione and Deena joined her in the common room, Dawn still hadn't decided whether or not she would ask Ginny about it, or whether or not she would tell anyone else. She didn't want to make anyone worried by overreacting. And she really didn't know what it meant, after all. Maybe Connor had sent him there to check up on Ginny…though even as she thought it, Dawn knew that didn't make any sense. When Hermione asked her why she'd left the room so early, Dawn made up an excuse of having more homework to finish before class.
"Should we go see Ginny before breakfast?" Deena asked.
"Yes!" Hermione said. "I'm sure she's lonely after spending the night there by herself."
Dawn wasn't so sure.
"Should we tell the guys, or just go on ahead?" Deena asked.
"Let's go on ahead," Hermione said. "They're always so slow in the mornings."
Dawn didn't have a logical reason to argue with her friends' desire to visit Ginny, so she gathered up her bag and followed them out of the common room and down to the hospital wing. As they neared the door, she wondered if Ginny would be alone or not, but was relieved to see that Draco had at least gone when they arrived.
"Oh good you're awake!" Hermione said as she rushed to Ginny's bedside.
The redhead smiled as her friends approached.
"I didn't expect to see anyone this early," Ginny said.
Dawn tried not to let herself react to what Ginny said. She had to wonder if the redhead would mention Draco's visit, but she sort of doubted it.
"How are you feeling?" Deena asked.
"Pretty sore," she said. "But I'm sure I'll heal soon enough."
"I can't believe you tried to take on all those death eaters by yourself!" Hermione said. "What were you thinking?"
"I wasn't really," Ginny said. "I just knew I had to do something."
"You could have been killed," Hermione said.
"But I wasn't," Ginny said. "I'm fine. See?" She held out her arms as though to prove a point, but this only made Hermione frown harder.
"You do not look fine," she said.
"Well, thank goodness your boyfriend likes to play the hero," Ginny said. "He really helped me out."
"Connor told me that he thought he was too late when he got there. You were unconscious and he wasn't sure if you would make it or not," Hermione said.
Ginny felt her heart jump a little. She hadn't actually realized how close she had come to not surviving the night before. She honestly didn't remember much of the fight itself. She remembered running from Draco and finding Drusilla and her team of evil beings leaving the dungeons, and she remembered pulling her wand, but after that it was all a blur. Hearing Hermione's testimony from Connor, however, made Ginny a little relieved she couldn't remember more.
"Well, be sure to thank him again for me, okay?" Ginny said.
"You're being awfully quiet," Ginny said, glancing at Dawn.
Dawn hesitated. "I don't like seeing you hurt, is all," she said. "Hermione's right—you could have died."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence," Ginny said, even though she knew her friends were right. She had been rash in thinking she could defend herself against such a large group of vampires and death eaters. It had been a bold and reckless mood that would have cost her life if Draco hadn't stepped up to help her out.
"Slayers are supposed to be smart," Dawn said. "That wasn't smart last night."
"I don't need a lecture from you," Ginny said. "I'm sure I'll get one from Buffy later."
Dawn nodded. "I'm glad you're all right," she said. " When we heard what had happened…" she shook her head. "I was very scared."
The other two girls nodded their agreement.
"We should probably go to breakfast," Deena said after a moment of silence all around the group. "Would you like us to bring you something?"
"Madam Pomphrey will take care of me, I'm sure," Ginny said. "But thank you. And thank you for stopping by, it was nice to have some company."
Dawn again felt an urge to comment, but refrained. The girls waved and left Ginny alone, heading down to breakfast to find their boyfriends and grab some food before first period.
When they reached the hall for breakfast, they found the boys deep in discussion with Ron doing most of the talking.
Dawn slid in beside Harry, and he instantly turned his attention away from his best friend to kiss his girlfriend. Deena took her seat on Ron's free side and tried to take a kiss from him, but he was still talking and did not seem interested in his girlfriend at the moment.
"But I mean seriously," he said. "How could no one have told me? She's my sister for Merlin's sake!"
Hermione sat across from the four of them, instantly wishing she could sit with Connor, as she often did when forced to watch her coupled friends cuddle during meal times. She tried to focus on what Ron was saying though and ignore the distance between herself and the Slytherin table at the moment.
"Told you what?" she asked.
"About Ginny," he said. "About what she is!" he glared at Dawn as though she was solely responsible.
"It wasn't my place to tell you," Dawn said. "If Ginny had wanted you to know, then she could have told you herself."
"Well, someone should have told me," he insisted. "Clearly this job or whatever is dangerous. She should not be doing it."
"It's not a job," Dawn said. "It's a calling. It's her duty. And I think when you give her a chance to explain, you'll understand that she likes it and it's what she wants."
"She could have been killed," he said.
"But she wasn't," Hermione said, though even she sounded a little less confident than usual when she and Dawn discussed these things.
"Being a slayer is dangerous," Dawn agreed. "But it's important, and it's not like just anybody can do it. Your sister is very special, and sometimes being special has a price." She felt Harry's hand twitch slightly beneath her grasp. She squeezed it reassuringly, and he smiled at her.
"Is she going to be okay?" Ron asked, suddenly sounding a little less angry and a little more concerned.
"Of course," Dawn told him. "She's a slayer. She's tough."
"Okay," Ron sighed. "But just promise me you won't keep things from me anymore. I want to be part of the group!"
Dawn and Deena exchanged smiles and they both responded affirmatively to Ron.
"We promise to make sure you're always part of the group," Deena said. She kissed his cheek.
"There's Connor!" Hermione smiled and waved as her boyfriend crossed the Great Hall towards the door.
Harry and Ron grunted. Connor was walking with Draco. Dawn couldn't help staring as they passed close to the table. She could only think of what she had seen earlier that morning in the hospital room. He glanced her way briefly, when Connor said something, probably regarding his girlfriend, and Dawn noticed that he had a dark bruise around his left eye. She wondered how he had received it, and let herself hope that maybe Ginny had done it, but for some reason she felt certain that wasn't the fact.
"We should get to class," Hermione said.
Everyone knew she was only thinking of how to sneak in some boyfriend time before class started, but they all nodded and hurried to finish their breakfast.
Dawn, however, wasn't thinking about class. She had decided that she needed to stop speculating and go talk to Ginny to set things straight.