For now, at least. I hope my muse doesn't up and leave before I can finish this - it's gotten quite attracted to Doctor Who.
Tensions were running higher than ever now that the Christmas Holidays were over. Once again, Hogwarts was flooded with children, and Luna's absence was more painfully obvious than ever to us. The Carrows were handing out more punishments than usual, and there was talk of a mass escape from Hogwarts. Nobody took it seriously, of course, but it was comforting nonetheless.
I still saw Draco in the hallways and made sure to look away immediately or send a threatening glance his way. The Carrows may have been concentrating more on punishing students guilty only of petty crimes, but it was still risky for us to give off any semblance of a relationship.
The black cat who had saved my life visited often. When it was with me, I welcomed it and fed it scraps from the Great Hall, and when it was gone, I had no idea where it went. It had taken quite a liking to Colin Creevey, who tirelessly took pictures of it and enthused on how his mother would love it. I'd see it rubbing against his ankles on its way over to my lap, or in his arms, purring contentedly for a few minutes while he had his photo-shoot.
Dumbledore's Army was struggling. We had discovered Hermione's old stash of enchanted Galleons in the Room of Requirement and distributed them out among the remaining members, but curfew had tightened, there were more patrols, and our paint supply had been cut off. The last was an unexpected and unpleasant surprise, and we got the news that no more was coming after we finished our last packets. We still used hexes and charms for our vandalism, but, being purely magical, they were easily removed by the morning patrols before breakfast.
One memorable morning, Neville had cast a Permanent Sticking Charm on a curtain of suspended glitter I, with no other ideas, had conjured. The Carrows, half asleep from their night patrols, had walked right through it. Trailing paths of red and gold sparkles, which flashed at the most inconvenient times, they entered the Great Hall amid snickers and smirks. Even our sulky, rarely-seen headmaster deigned to lift a corner of his mouth and mutter something to Alecto, who deepened her scowl.
It became rare for Gryffindors to be seen entering the portrait hole without at least one fresh bruise. Cuts and scrapes weren't uncommon, but usually treated with more concern than a mere blackened eye. Even Hagrid, who was occasionally seen out on the grounds, wasn't immune to the Carrows' treatment, though I suspected that was really more Grawp than anything.
It was one late night that we found how much we needed to go into hiding. Neville and I were sitting by the hearth, doing homework, when the portrait hole opened and a nearly unrecognizable figure stumbled in.
We drew our wands, ready for an attack.
The figure faltered. "Stop!" it cried in an Irish accent. "It's me!"
Neville rushed forward, quill dropping from his fingers, and supported Seamus to the armchair I'd recently vacated. The flickering firelight cast shadows over his battered face and his hand was cupped under his chin to keep the blood from dripping onto the upholstery.
"Scourgify," I muttered, directing my wand at his face, and the blood disappeared, revealing the various bruises and cuts appearing in concentration there. "Seamus," I said, "What happened?"
"Wasn't nothing," he said, attempting a small grin. His lip split open and more blood spilled from his mouth.
"This isn't nothing, Seamus," Neville said, a small bottle of dittany appearing in his fingers. "Was it the Carrows?"
Seamus sighed, leaning back as I ran my wand over his bruises. "Right in one."
The bruises weren't fading. "Did they have a reason?"
"Bad day, as far as I could tell. Suddenly, bam, a Gryffindor appears, and they've got a punching bag."
Neville daubed the dittany into the cuts over Seamus's cheeks and eyes. He winced as it sizzled. When the smoke cleared, the cuts had sealed, emphasizing the purple hue of the skin behind them.
"Seamus, these bruises are beyond me. You're going to have to let them heal on their own, unless you want to visit Madam Pomfrey."
"No, Pomfrey's got enough to deal with on her own. I'll just have a few temporary battle scars, that's all."
"They won't be too temporary. If they're too deep to heal, they're going to last a while."
"It'll just add to my roughish looks. Thanks, guys, but it's time for bed."
Yawning, I agreed with him and packed up my homework. Neville did the same next to me while Seamus wearily trudged up to the dormitories.
"It's time to go, isn't?" Neville's quiet voice "We've got to leave."
I sighed. "I'll call a DA meeting tomorrow. The Room of Requirement might be just what we need."
Feeling the heavy golden coin in my pocket, I climbed the stairs up to bed.
Seamus's bruises had worsened overnight. One eye was swollen shut, the other surrounded by purple. Both cheekbones were spread with black and several large dark blue spots had appeared along his cheeks and jaw.
There were whispers in the Great Hall upon his arrival. The smug looks upon the Carrows' faces could hardly be missed. Overall, though, I thought, it shouldn't have been that surprising. Gryffindors came into breakfast with bruises more often than any other house. Seamus's were just a little worse than anyone had seen before.
At the DA meeting that evening in the Room of Requirement, I saw more bruises in one room than I'd ever wished to see. Before starting the meeting, Neville began a queue in front of him and everyone took turns with the dittany.
When the cuts, at least, and the minor bruises were gone, I began the meeting.
"You guys probably noticed that Luna's not here."
There were mutters of assent.
"We think she's been taken by the Death Eaters."
"Was anyone sitting with her on the train from Hogwarts during the holidays?"
Cho Chang raised her hand. "She was sitting with me," Cho said, quietly. "I went to get a drink and she was gone when I came back. I just figured that she went to see another compartment."
"She's gone, though." Neville spoke up. "We don't know where. There's a chance she's in Azkaban."
"Neville and I have been thinking," I began, "It's time to get out of here." I nodded at Seamus. "It's getting worse, the beatings. We could set up right here."
A voice came from the small crowd. "What, live in the Room of Requirement?"
"Why not?" another returned. "It'll expand with people, and give us places to train and live and sleep."
"Exactly," I said. "Shall we have a vote?"
"All who support the idea of living in the Room of Requirement until the end of term, raise your hand."
Every single hand in the room went up.
Neville laughed nervously. "That's settled, then. Let's start moving in this week. Get into groups, everyone. Every day, a new group will move in. We'll be done by Friday."
The students shuffled around, getting into randomized groups. All houses, all years. When the commotion settled down, there were four relatively equal clusters in the room.
"Seamus," I called, "What group are you in?"
"Here," he said, raising his hand.
"Right," I said. "Seamus's group will go first. You all need to collect your things and get them here without being seen by dinner tomorrow. Make sure everyone, personally, is here, let's say, an hour before all are also in charge of creating the room. I'll leave that up to whoever gets here first.
"Next," I said, "Cho, what group are you in?"
Her hand popped up from Seamus's group. "Here."
"Okay, never mind. Er…Michael?"
Michael Corner, now about as tall as Ron when I'd last seen him, raised his hand. His group was the largest by far. "You lot will go on Wednesday. You have between dawn and supper to get your things to the room. After supper, you've got get yourselves in the room an hour before curfew. I don't want them to have any excuses to delay you.
"Now, Ernie? Ernie MacMillan?"
"That's me," Ernie said. I hadn't spoken to him since the Death Eaters had attacked last year.
"Ernie, your group will go on Thursday. You've got the same rules. Dawn to supper to get your things, and be here with an hour to go before curfew. Also," I said, once again addressing the entire room, "If someone doesn't make it, their group is responsible for helping them in as little time past those times as possible."
Ernie nodded and I turned to the last group. It was the smallest. "Susan," I said, recognizing the Wizengamot member's niece, "Neville and I will be with your group. The same rules apply to us. Minute the sun comes up, it's free reign. Patrols will shrink after dawn and we'll have a better chance at getting here all together."
I turned back to Seamus's group. "Seamus, I need you to find out whoever gets to the room first and what words they used to get in. Once you find it, send it out to the Galleons. You must all use the same words, otherwise the room will be different."
Seamus nodded and I turned back to them as a whole. "You guys must not be seen. The Carrows and Snape will notice us disappearing, but if we can hold their suspicion down as much as possible, the interrogations will be kept to a minimum."
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Neville's expression of realization. Yes, I'd placed us in the last group so that we would be able to draw the attention away from the others who remained.
"Good luck. Seamus and you lot, I'm expecting to see most of you sick out of classes tomorrow."
They grinned at the prospect of missing classes this early in the week. Several jealous looks were cast their way.
I checked my watch. "All right, you lot, its time to leave. Remember, dawn to supper, be here anywhere from then to an hour before curfew. Also, if there are any troubles, use the Galleons or, if it's really an emergency, sent a Patronus."
We filed out of the room. The door disappeared as I shut it, and I hoped that it would be willing to let us in again tomorrow.
I had to let Draco know where we were going. For all he would know, the Carrows were kidnapping blood traitors and half-bloods and non-Slytherin students in general.
I found my opportunity a few days later. The number of DA students still in classes was dwindling, and even Binns had taken notice of the lack of kids. The Carrows, still fuming, it seemed, from the glitter incident, were increasing beatings, and every day seemed to be an Unforgivable practice day. I kept it in my mind, though, that in two days, we'd all be in the Room of Requirement.
During lunch, I received a message on my Galleon. "No food," Seamus said.
"No food?" I sent back.
"RoR doesn't give food."
"Cho says Gamp's Law of Transfig? She just remembered."
I tried to refrain from swearing. Of course! The room wouldn't supply food for us because of the first exception of Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration – food.
"The kitchens, then." I sent.
"Will hold us for a bit. Can't keep sneaking out, though," came his reply. Another message appeared immediately after. "Need to figure something else out when you come."
"Will do. Have to go now."
The familiar black cat had appeared at my feet after socializing momentarily with Colin. It nudged me, and I rose to follow it.
I followed the cat up several flights of stairs until I reached the old corridor in which Ron claimed to have seen a giant three headed dog named Fluffy. It was still hardly used, though the dog had left years ago.
I caught the barest flash of white before two arms reached out and pulled me against a warm, hard body. I almost screamed before a hand clamped over my mouth. Turning around, I saw Draco in the dim light. His hand withdrew from my mouth as I relaxed, his thumb brushing over my lower lip.
Quickly, I stretched up on my toes and kissed him. He responded, spinning to press me against the wall, mouth moving to open mine. My arms wound around his neck and his hands set on my waist, holding tight.
We slowed down, and he leisurely sucked my lower lip into his mouth. I felt the slight pressure of his teeth and pulled away, sighing happily. He moved down to my neck, nuzzling softly, leaving tingles where he touched me.
"Draco," I breathed, "Stop."
I didn't mean it, and he knew. His hands wandered down to my hips and he pulled me against him.
"Draco," I said, with more resolve. "We can do this later."
He didn't stop. He moved back up to my face, smiled roguishly, and attacked my mouth again. "I missed you," he growled against my lips. "I haven't been able to touch you for a month and a half. There is no reason to delay this any further."
I groaned and pulled away. "No, Draco, later. Ten minutes, I promise. I need to talk to you."
"We're already talking too much for my liking," he said, his mouth drifting over my eyelids.
I grasped his head and pulled him away. "I'm leaving."
He shook his head out of my grasp, but didn't return to his previous activity, to my reluctant disappointment. "I figured as much. This has something to do with the fact that Dean Thomas, Cho Chang, Seamus Finnigan, Michael Corner, Zachariah Smith, and Hannah Abbott are all out of classes today, doesn't it?"
"The beatings are getting worse, Draco. Seamus could barely see yesterday, his eyes were so bruised."
"What about you?" His silver eyes were suddenly flooded with worry.
"I'm okay. I've only had a few hits. Others haven't been so lucky."
He disregarded my comment and his eyes filled with rage. "Only a few hits? Ginny, love, the fact that they're touching you at all makes me want to kill them. If they're hitting you…" His eyes closed, and when they reopened, I shivered at the cold fury there. "I swear, I will rip them limb from limb."
"Draco, wait. Wait until you can justify it. If you do anything to them, you'll be thrown in Azkaban so fast you won't be able to call the father card. At the very least, you'll be sent back to the Manor, and then where would that leave us."
"If there's a fight, and there will be," Draco said, kissing the top of my head, "I'm going to take that opportunity. I won't let you stop me."
"Stop you? I'd take that opportunity right now if I could. I'll be helping you the entire time."
"When are you going?"
"End of the week."
"Will I see you?"
I shook my head. "Not unless it's an accident. I don't know if we'll be able to arrange anything, either."
Draco kissed me, slow and sweet, and I almost melted.
"I guess we'll have to get our fill now." His mouth parted from mine.
I hated the air that filled the gap between us.
"Do you agree?"
I hated it.
I pulled him back down to me and our lips met again. We both missed the rest of lunch.
hey, what did you guys think? I tried to keep it going as much as possible...a little bit of plotting, a little bit of romance. review, please. please. please.