Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me.

Chapter Twenty One

We're almost at the castle, I noted with not a small amount of trepidation. I hadn't immediately been whisked away to their secret love chamber; in fact, rather anticlimactically, we had first needed to sort out all the clothes I was buying, since Pansy and Theo had mysteriously disappeared and left us to tell the saleswomen how things would be divided. Half had gone to the Nott account, while the other half had gone to the Parkinson account.

Blaise had murmured into my hair something like, "Serves them right…" when Draco told the woman whose accounts the clothes would be paid with. The woman didn't even comment on this, which alarmed me at first. If Draco and Blaise could charge things to Pansy and Theodore's accounts without them being present, who was to say that someone else wouldn't do that?

That thought distracted me much for the walk out of Hogsmeade and back to Hogwarts. My first conclusion was that they had known that Draco, Blaise, Pansy, and Theodore were all friends, so maybe the accounts were interchangeable, too. But that still rang false with me; couldn't someone just Polyjuice themselves into one of them and go and charge everything to their account? But I realized that must have been wrong, too; after all, there weren't hundreds of Draco Malfoys running around or anything. I shuddered at the thought of there being more than one Draco out of habit, and felt Blaise chuckle beside me.

"What's got your face scrunched up like that?" he whispered into my ear, and I flushed.

"I'm thinking, you twat," I snapped back, hitting him lightly.

"Isn't that a bit hard for you?" Draco drawled from my other side. They both had an arm wrapped around my waist, but Blaise was pressed considerably closer to me than Draco was. I ignored the tiny part of me that was hurt from this revelation.

"Not as hard as it is for you," I whipped out, and Blaise chuckled again.

"What's got you all wound up?" he questioned. It wasn't as if I was actually upset about the Gladrags thing or anything; it was just annoying me that I couldn't figure out how the store could allow them to do that.

"Well, back at Gladrags I was wondering how they could let you two charge the clothes to Pansy and Theo's accounts. I mean, wouldn't that be in violation of some kind of security measure? They'd have loads of people just waltzing in and charging things to other people's accounts. And I considered the fact that they've probably seen the four of you together, but wouldn't Polyjuice solve that problem? Someone could just slip some hair or something into a Polyjuice, toss it back, and then waltz in and declare themselves the heir to the Malfoy fortune and buy whatever they want. And then—" Blaise's chuckling broke me off mid-explanation, and I sank into a sullen silence.

"Love, you're over thinking things," he told me, with a gentle tug on my hair. "See this lovely piece of rock?" he asked, showing me his left hand. On his pinky finger was a seemingly simple ring that I initially took for being something that had been gifted to him. I took his hand, and on closer inspection discovered that a tiny little coat of arms was carved onto the surface of the black stone, and on the four cardinal points of the coat of arms there were two tiny green stones, and two clear stones.

I figured that since it was his signet ring, the two green stones would be emeralds, while the two clear stones were most likely diamonds.

"Oh," I muttered, dropping his hand dejectedly. The truth of the matter was much less magnificent than I had hoped; it would have been more fun if Gladrags had some kind of high-tech identity checking spell or something.

"Cheer up. We're almost there," Draco said, nudging me in the side with his elbow. I looked up and realized that we were about to walk up the steps and into Hogwarts. Instead of being happier at this prospect, what my musings had blocked out during the walk all rushed back with a vengeance. Reluctantly, I allowed myself to be pulled forward, my mind racing around in circles.

Truth was, it was easy to get caught up in the moment like I had at Gladrags. So soon after tasting them, I was ready to go to the ends of the earth just to do it again. But now, after their drugging lips had left mine, I wasn't sure if I was ready for this. I stayed quiet as we walked through the halls, a tight knot of uneasiness growing larger as we got closer and closer to Draco's Head Boy room. Their arms that had seemed so comforting on the way here, grounding me to earth, now seemed to tighten and cage me, reminding me with a sickening lurch of the way Harry used to hold me.

I knew it was irrational to think that. For one, they were only barely holding on to me; I could have slipped out of their grips any second. But it did nothing to ease the panic that was creeping up on me steadily as I stood before the portrait, waiting for it to swing open and admit us into Draco's room.

It swung open ominously, and I didn't bother to wait and see if they were talking to me.

"Bathroom!" I cried a bit hysterically, shooting out of their arms and trying to make it seem as if I wasn't sprinting for the security of the marbled room. "Be out in a moment!"

I slammed the door shut. For extra security, I cast Colloportus, my wand shaking in my grip. I looked down at the short piece of hazel wood and it fell from my numbed fingers, dropping to the floor with a sharp noise.

I stared at my hand in shock for a few moments, trying to comprehend that the shakiness was actually coming from me. I glanced at the mirror on my right, nearly dropping to the ground at the pale face that greeted me before I realized that it was my own face.

Stop it, Ginny, I chided myself angrily, taking a step closer to the mirror so I could see myself more clearly. There's no reason to be so jumpy. But there was. My mind was leaping to thoughts all over the place, steadily avoiding confronting the one thing that needed to be confronted, the one thing that was causing me so much stress: the two boys that were waiting for me in the other room.

I shuddered delicately, pushing that from my mind and focusing on something else. That something else happened to be my reflection, and I couldn't help but see my lips twist into a haunted smirk. I was paler than usual and the green light made me seem as if I was going to puke. Internally inspecting the coiled knot in my stomach, I deduced that I wasn't that far off.

My classy and expensive clothes looked good on me—but they still looked like they didn't belong. Not on me, Ginny Weasley. I didn't deserve such rich clothes.

I tore the scarf from my neck, catching it on my hair and unexpectedly wringing tears from my eyes as I jerked it off, my fingers fumbling for the buttons on the jacket, shedding it just as easily and throwing it with as much violence as I could muster towards the tub. One of my boots was off and I was throwing my fingerless gloves away when I slowed my movements, staring at my pale face in the mirror.

I was breathing heavily after struggling with my clothes, and closed my eyes, taking a moment to calm down. This whole situation was wreaking havoc on my already confused mind. In the little over two weeks with Draco, Blaise, Pansy, and Theodore, I had gained a tenuous grasp on my sanity again. Now, though, it had deteriorated in the blink of an eye, all at the impending threat of Draco and Blaise.

I sighed. I knew what was wrong with me. Potter still hung over my head like some kind of psychotic rain cloud. Yet knowing something and doing something about it were different things; I didn't know where to start. I opened my eyes again, scrutinizing the bedraggled figure in the mirror. First things first: was I really planning on engaging on sexual relations with two people at once?

Put like that, in the barest terms possible, I could just hear my mother's scandalized tones. The first battle that I was fighting was between my moral side and my hedonistic side. Should I do the good, honorable Gryffindor thing, and stay monogamous? Or do what felt good, meaning Draco and Blaise?

I sighed, scrubbing a hand over my eyes wearily. Talking with Pansy about abandoning sixteen years of morality was easier when not actually faced with the prospect of fully abandoning it. I wanted to do it, but I could still feel my guts twisting—past the giant knot of fear, that is—with the shame of it.

I scoffed at myself. Hell, I hadn't even done anything except snog them, and I was already acting like I had condemned myself to an eternity of suffering! I rolled my eyes at the absurdity of it. Okay, realistically. Where did following the rules get you? I questioned myself sensibly. When a brief flash of Potter's sneering face shot through my mind like a curse, I quickly pushed it aside. So, that's where they got you. Come on, Ginny. Live a little!

With my internal pep talk done, I decided to toss my mother's morality and monogamy and even my figurative maidenhood, in one sense. If I felt guilty about it afterward…well, then I'd just cross that bridge when I got there.

I finished taking off the glove and my boot, before looking at my pale green face again. If I was going to make it a habit of being in their bathroom, I was going to have to get them to change the color of the light. It did not flatter my skin tone in any way…

Frowning at myself, I tried to decide how I should go about doing this. I suddenly crouched on the floor, reaching for my wand. I stood back up, waving my wand in an all-too-familiar gesture. My face was instantly covered in the thick make-up that Harry had liked. Maybe that would make them happy, too, since Harry was very insistent that I use the make-up every time I went to see him.

Staring at myself in the mirror, I was ashamed at what I saw: a scared little girl trying to dress up and be a big girl. The clothes fit well enough, tailored to me by Pansy's wand work, but the overall image was one of an outsider trying to fit in. I looked away. I might not be able to fool myself, but perhaps it was enough to fool Draco and Blaise into wanting me as much as I wanted them.

I placed my wand by the sink. I wouldn't need it, would I? I took the remaining steps to the door, and stopped, breathing deeply, the knot of tension in my stomach churning tightly. You can do this, I soothed myself. Just reach for the doorknob, twist it, open the door…

Coaching myself thus, I was able to tentatively open the door and step out, my bowed head inspecting the carpet before me. I closed the door with a click, but didn't hear any other sounds.

"Ginevra, are you—" At the sound of my name, I looked up, and Blaise stopped talking with a strangled sound. He was sitting on the couch, and Draco was nowhere in sight. Blaise, however…

"What's wrong?" I asked, immediately on the defensive when I saw the way his hands were convulsively tightening around the armrest.

"It's just—" he attempted to begin, before trailing off to a stop. Alarmed, I was torn between returning to the bathroom and walking closer to find out what was going on.

And then, something suspiciously like a giggle slipped out his lips, followed by a brief silence. Confused, I knew I was frowning, but Blaise evidently couldn't help himself and started laughing.

I hadn't seen him laugh so carelessly before, so happily, but I still was wounded that he was laughing at me, instead of with me or at someone else. Peals of laughter were leaving his lips, as if he'd just seen the funniest thing in the world, while I stood there uncertainly. Making up my mind, I headed for the door.

"I'll just go," I said quickly, trying not to run. It was so stupid to think that they wanted me for who I was, and not just another piece of ass.

If I thought about it, I knew that was wrong. But all I could concentrate on was getting out of the room before Blaise stopped laughing and realized I was making a break for it; stopped laughing and tried to stop me and use other methods to make me stay—

The hand tightened around my wrist, stopping me in place.

"Don't go," he was saying, the laughter gone. I tugged on my wrist futilely, trying to escape his grip, but it was too tight and too constricting and I couldn't get free—

I spun around, swinging with my left hand, my weaker hand, but still strong enough to do damage if I tightened my hand into a fist with my thumb on the outside, just like Charlie had taught me to do. It was stopped inches away from colliding with his face, and now both of my hands were trapped in his.

I couldn't breathe. It was too close to being with Harry, too close and too soon and now he would hurt me, beat me, do everything that Harry had done but even worse, since he was Slytherin and he had saved me from Harry so he would want payment—

Suddenly, I was pressed into his chest, his fingers running soothing patterns through my hair while he held on to me tightly, preventing movement but not hurting me, either. It took me a few moments to realize that he wasn't planning on hurting me, and slowly, I released the tension in my limbs, sinking into his embrace limply. He was murmuring in Italian, the musical quality of the words sounding much like a delicate song. I knew they probably made no sense whatsoever, but they helped.

Slowly, gradually, I returned the embrace, clinging to him tightly as if he was the last thing that anchored me to sanity. That probably wasn't too far off from the truth, either.

The tears stopped digging gouges into the caked on make-up a few minutes later, and he pulled back to survey my face. I was snuffling, attempting to bring back all the snot that had leaked its way out of my nose and onto the rest of my face. I attempted to hide my face on his shirt, knowing that I probably looked like I had just dipped my face in five different kinds of liquid, but he held me back, an odd smile on his face as he surveyed my ruined appearance.

"Silly girl," he murmured just loud enough for me to hear. "This isn't necessary," he said, bringing a finger up to trace the make-up. When he brought it away, it was as if he had just dipped his finger in a vat of clay. Grimacing, he took me by the hand and led me into the bathroom, thankfully making no comment to the scattered clothing. Guiltily, I strategically stepped on one of the buttons off of the coat that I had accidentally torn. He didn't really need to see that.

That was a worthless gesture, though, since he picked me up underneath my armpits like a little kid and placed me on the counter, my feet dangling over the edge and not reaching the ground. I scowled at him as he serenely dipped a towel into the sink, wetting it, before turning back to me.

"Close your eyes," he said firmly. With a final tear-streaked scowl, I complied. "Now, we're going to have to talk about this whether you want to or not," he warned.

"Where's Draco?" I interrupted, deciding that I didn't really want to.

"Talking to Pansy and Theodore," he said just as quickly, before returning to the subject as if I hadn't even spoken. "We're willing to take this slow, Ginevra. Really slow. You have to understand that it's you that's going to be determining our pace. So if you're not ready, we won't pressure you into doing something you're uncomfortable with."

"But I am ready," I insisted, opening one eye as he rubbed at the other with the towel. "I've just got these stupid reasons my head keeps coming up with as to why I shouldn't do anything with you two." He chuckled.

"They're not stupid, love. They're probably all quite reasonable reasons, as reasons tend to be." I made a scoffing sound, since I couldn't very well roll my eyes. "But you have to understand that we know that you aren't going to be as willing to jump into bed with us as we would be in your situation."

"I do understand that, and it's wrong. I'm completely willing to do it—only when I'm not thinking about it," I explained, trying my best to ignore the swipes at my face the soft towel was making. It was quite distracting. "It's only when I stop and think about it that I actually come up with reasons as to why I shouldn't be doing it." He sighed dramatically.

"Thinking does tend to muck things up a bit, doesn't it?" he said rather tragically. The wet towel stopped its ministrations, and was quickly replaced by a dry towel that dabbed off all the wet remains. When he was done, he tugged me off the counter, my eyes automatically opening. Spinning me around, he wrapped his arms around me, resting his head on top of mine and watching our reflections watch us in the mirror.

My face was clean once again, if a bit pink looking. The hair around my face was wet, giving it an odd appearance, but I decided that frankly, I couldn't really look any worse than I had before, so anything was an improvement. Blaise looked perfect as usual, if you ignored the slightly pinker left check that was a direct result of my earlier slap. He really was tall.

"Listen, Ginevra. We're not trying to pressure you or anything. Potter deserves to die for what he did for you—honestly, that much make-up before a shag? Tsk, tsk." I elbowed him, my lips twitching into a smile at his humor.

"Thanks, Blaise," I murmured softly. He released me, reaching for my hand and pulling me towards the door again. I was beginning to feel like some kind of pet that he could drag wherever he wanted. He stopped me in the doorway, making me stumble into him. He leaned down dangerously close, making my heart beat in an entirely different way than it had earlier.

"No problem, la mia pulce piccolo," he murmured lightly, eyes dancing. I could only guess that whatever he had just called me was something degrading in a way, but at the same time staying just sweet enough for him. I frowned at him, and he tapped me on the tip of my nose, grinning as he pulled me forward again. ((my tiny flea))

When I saw he was heading for the bed, I was a bit more apprehensive than I had been before. Luckily, all he seemed to want to do was snuggle; like a large redheaded teddy bear, he practically threw me onto the bed before pouncing on me with barely a second in which we weren't touching. I was stiff for a few seconds, before relaxing gradually when all he did was rest his head on my stomach.

Unconsciously, I dropped a hand to his head, stroking the silky strands. His hair is so long, I mused, my thoughts refusing to reach for anything deeper than simple observations. I frowned at a lock of the inky blackness, mentally comparing it to the length of my hair. Definitely longer, I concluded unhappily. Beautiful as it was, it was just another bit of conservative wisdom my mother had imparted on me: the girl was supposed to have longer hair than the boy.

Pouting, I dropped it, refusing to look back at his hair. Blaise chucked, and I could feel the vibrations through my body. They touched things dangerously close to where his head was located, and I couldn't help but curl my fingers into the sheets, my voice hitching.

"Don't do that," I commanded, a little unnerved to discover that my voice had suddenly dropped a few octaves.

"Do what?" he practically purred. I sat up on my forearms in order to see his head over my moderately sized assets, and discovered him peering up at me with a dark look in his eye. He curled his arms around me, ticking my sides as they reached higher and higher. I giggled, causing his head to bounce up lightly as my stomach muscles flexed. At this ungainly move, I felt another wave of giggles sweeping over me, causing it to happen again and again. He scowled at me, drawing himself up my body.

"Not funny," he murmured, looking down at me. My giggling ceased, stopping in favor of looking into his eyes. Blue eyes. Cerulean eyes. They were lighter than people gave him credit for; Theo was the deranged, cheerful Slytherin, not Blaise. But they certainly were lighter, even if now they were darkening with something that I recognized easily. I stopped thinking of his eyes at all when his lips dropped to mine, effectively silencing my rampant thoughts.

Thinking was overrated, anyway.


A/N: I apologize for the lateness. Life caught up, and let me tell you, that was a bitch. Thankfully, though, I know where the next chapter is going (I originally had twenty one/two as one chapter), so it should be up sooner.

Sadly, I didn't have time to do review replies right now--I figured you guys would rather have this up first. I put off two essays to write this, so I'm behind, but I will get to the replies ASAP. Melissa, wonderful beta that she is, took a page from my book and did the same with her essay, deciding that betaing this was more important. Or procrastinating.

Everyone thank her! She has been invaluable to this story from about chapter fourteen and forward (I have no idea how I functioned before she deigned to be my beta) as well as any other writing I've thrown at her.

Ginny's hazel wand is taken from JKR saying that the wand woods correspond with the Celtic tree lore relating to their birth months. (www(dot)dutchie(dot)org/Tracy/tree(dot)html, if you're interested, and Ginny's birthday is August 11 (from HP Lexicon))

The 500th reviewer prize has been captured by Imperial Princess! Now, don't be upset; review, and tell me why you are upset, or rant about how you're more dedicated (which is probably true, since this is the first time she's read it, lolz) and deserve it more, or whatever. Besides, I'm (possibly) planning on doing another milestone review prize, depending on the success of this one. So, continue to review!

...besides, the fabled steamy scene will definitely happen next chapter, so tell me to hurry the hell up!

Roma