Notes:  Hmmm, what can I say about it… it's a Ginny story.  Anything else you need to know? 

Disclaimer:  You think I'm JK Rowling?  Really?  Well, I'm not.  She owns the characters and setting(s), the only thing I can take credit for is this silly story ^.^

Warning:  This is *not* slash.  At all.  It's not even femslash.  So I guess the homophobic people don't have to run away after all. 

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A Shadow in the Dark

A thin black book, a diary.  Silver ink, flowing in a delicate slanting script.  A friend, someone to talk to.  Rooster feathers.  Dabbing messages onto the wall, bright glowing ink.  Eyes frozen open in silent terror.  Gleaming yellow eyes, green coils, and hissing that turned into high, mocking laughter.

Ginny snapped awake, gasping for breath.  Even now, in her 6th year, nightmares still haunted her.  At least tonight she hadn't screamed.  She pulled the covers tightly around herself, shivering.  She knew that there was no way that she was getting back to sleep now, so she quietly slipped out of bed and down to the Gryffindor common room. 

She paced restlessly for a few minutes.  Couldn't sleep, couldn't sit down, needed something to distract her from her thoughts and nightmares of twisted memories.  So she headed back up to her room and dumped her quilt on her bed.  She grabbed her wand, and then as an afterthought, a long black cloak, before creeping back downstairs and through the portrait hole. 

Wandering the halls in the middle of the night was better than the common room, at any rate.  Here Ginny had to keep an eye out for Filch and Mrs. Norris, and without the aid of an invisibility cloak to boot.  Although it was probably better to be going about with a black cloak than without one at all.  Wandering about in her long white nightgown she would probably stand out wonderfully, as well as looking like a ghost.  Well, she brushed a strand out of her eyes, a ghost with bright red hair. 

The stone floor was cold under her bare feet, and before she knew it Ginny saw a tall, familiar pair of doors in front of her.  She quietly pushed them open and slipped into the Great Hall.  She passed the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff tables and walked out to the center of the Hall before pushing back her hood and lifting her head to stare at the roof, reflecting a perfect image of the night sky.  Ginny could almost believe that real moonlight was falling softly over her.  She sighed deeply as she felt the last terror of the dream leave her. 

"Hello," Ginny almost jumped out of her skin when she heard that quiet voice.  She glanced over the Ravenclaw table to a shadowy corner where a familiar wizard was leaning against the Slytherin table. 

"What do you want, Malfoy?" she sneered, twisting his name into an insult. 

"To my understanding, the Great Hall is open to anyone." Draco answered smoothly. "Although seeing as it is after hours, you have no right to be here either, so I could pose you much the same question:  why are you here?"

Ginny paused.  Malfoy had sounded almost…interested.  It was almost odd to hear someone sound like they wanted to hear what she had to say, so her response came out a lot less poisonous sounding than she would have liked it "I couldn't sleep.  You?"

"Just plotting my next scheme against Hogwarts' Golden Boy.  Figuring out which spot would be best to sit at, so as to get a good view of the back of Potter's head."

Ginny was intrigued despite herself.  "And why exactly would you want a good view of Harry's head?"

"The better to launch tomorrow morning's oatmeal at it.  Childish, I know, but you have to admit that the oatmeal would go wonderfully with his hair."

She couldn't help a laugh.  Then she remembered whom she was talking to.  "If you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my own house." She said rather stiffly, turning to go. 

"Still dream of him?"  The former lightness in his voice had vanished, and Ginny felt suddenly scared. 

"What?  You don't know what you're talking about."  She was aware that he had silently moved around the Ravenclaw table.  He crossed to her in two swift footsteps, and she backed away from him. 

"Maybe I know more than you think.  Feels cold, doesn't it? The touch of Dark Magic.  Crawling along your skin, like it's trying to work its way to your heart.  Things like that don't just vanish overnight."  He hadn't touched her, but his eyes burned like cold fire, and Ginny could feel herself trembling.  She turned and ran from the Great Hall. 

Ginny tumbled through the portrait hole and pressed herself against the back of the picture, shaking and panting.  She slid down to sit against the wall to catch her breath; she had run all the way from the Hall.  She couldn't even say what had frightened her so much.  She would have dearly liked to blame it on Malfoy, but she knew that he hadn't done anything but talk to her.  He hadn't even said anything frightening, just… true. 

No one ever thought of Tom anymore.  He was gone, he had been for years.  Everyone forgot all about him, they seemed to think that she must have gotten over him by now.  Things like that don't just vanish overnight. 

She slowly got up and made her way back to bed. 

Draco watched her go, looking rather amused.  He shouldn't have frightened her like that, he supposed, but he couldn't help himself.  Some part of him refused to let her just walk away, undisturbed.  He hated the thought of people being indifferent towards him.  Then, as if whatever he had set out to accomplish was done, he went to the door from whence he came and back down to the dungeons. 

Ginny finally managed to fall asleep again, just to be awakened an hour later by the usual rush for the showers.  Her body complained at the lack of sleep, and she hadn't waken up early enough to get a shower and still be on time for first class, which would have to be potions that day.  She was seriously considering just going back to sleep and pretending that the morning never happened when a heavy ball of fur landed on her face. 

"Good morning Crookshanks" Ginny muttered from beneath the cat. 

"Ginny, if you don't get up now you won't be on time for first class!"  Came the familiar voice of Hermione.  Another day.  One that, unfortunately, wouldn't just let her miss it. 

Somehow, Ginny managed to make it through the day.  She had spent the night doing homework half asleep until she would finally let herself tumble into bed.  Until dawn the next morning.  She didn't have to get up at dawn, of course, but Ginny found that if she didn't get enough sleep she was usually too tired to dream, and it was nice not to have to fight for a shower. 

Showered and dressed, Ginny buried herself in her Herbology textbook in a corned of the common room.  That is, until the rest of the Gryffindors got up.  Living with six brothers she didn't get much privacy, living with Gryffindors was much the same.  Soon the common room was filled with rapid finishing (or copying) of homework, fixing hair and makeup (well, Lavender and Parvati were anyways) last-minute studying, finding lost treasures (or in Neville's case, his new pet) and general getting ready for the day.  About as private as a house full of Weasley's. 

Ginny sighed.  She couldn't say what exactly was so annoying about having people around.  No, that was lying to herself, she knew exactly why she couldn't stand being in a room full of people:  it was because she felt so alone.  Seeing the other Gryffindors talking and laughing with their friends just made her more sharply aware of the fact that she had no one.  Well, her brother and Harry, but they seemed always busy with Quidditch and things, and Hermione, but she seemed always busy with her studies.  They were the famous Gryffindor trio, and as much as Ginny might like to be, she wasn't a part of them. 

It would be nice to have someone who had time for her, someone who actually listened to what she said, someone who cared.  Ginny quickly whipped the tears from her eyes before anyone could spot them, and slammed her Herbology text closed.  Unnoticed, she slipped from the Gryffindor common room, and started making her way down to the Great Hall where she could wait for breakfast in peace. 

Unbidden, Ginny's thoughts came back to her as she walked.  A friend, someone who cared, someone to talk to… like Tom.  For her first couple of weeks at Hogwarts, she had been terribly lonely.  She hadn't had any friends her age, and her older brothers had been busy with their own friends, leaving her alone.  Alone, that is, until she found the diary. 

It had been bliss!  Every time she wanted a friend, she could simply open up the diary and write to Tom.  He always listened to what she said, and wrote back.  He had made her feel so special and loved, she would have done anything for him; and did.  Ginny knew when she started strangling those roosters and dabbing messages on the walls that it was wrong, but Tom asked her to do those things, and she couldn't bear the thought of him to stop talking to her, so she did them.  By the time he asked her to start releasing his monster for him, she was entirely under his power.  It had felt terrible to know what that monster did, to know that he could kill even her brothers and classmates, and to know that she would be responsible, but she couldn't stop herself.  She couldn't even bear to tell anyone. 

Ginny had told herself at the time that she didn't want to tell anyone because she was afraid of having the diary taken away, but after she had tried to throw it away, she realized that she was just scared.  What would they do to her if she told them?  Throw her out of Hogwarts, most likely, and what would her parents have said? Ginny shuddered at the thought.  She was still partly surprised that she had gotten off with nothing, not a slap on the wrists or anything.  But they had taken away the diary. 

It hadn't been so bad at first, it was a relief, in fact, to have the weight of the dairy lifted from her shoulders.  For a few weeks, she had barely noticed that Tom was gone.  People, especially her brothers and the other Gryffindors, had been especially nice to her.  They had thought that Tom had cast a spell over her; little did they know that the only spell he cast was with kind words. 

Ginny slowly pushed open the doors to the Great Hall.  There weren't any Gryffindors in the Hall so early, but she was not as alone as she would have liked.  There was a group of Ravenclaws pouring over a book at their table, and sitting at Slytherin table, with a newspaper and a cup of coffee, was Draco Malfoy. 

If she had been asked later, Ginny would have claimed that it was temporary insanity that made her walk past the Gryffindor table, and cross the Hall to drop into a chair beside Draco.  He glanced at her over the Daily Prophet, and Ginny found herself saying the first thing that came to mind.  "Don't you ever sleep?"

"Sometimes.  You?"

"Sometimes.  So, found a good place to admire Harry from?"

"Admire? How could I admire someone with such lesser talents than myself?"

Ginny grinned, same old egotistical Malfoy.  Only, somehow, he didn't seem so annoying that morning.  She never would have thought that she could have a simple, idle conversation with him until she realized that the time had flown while she was talking to him.  It seemed like only a few minutes until people had started to flow into the Hall, reminding her sharply of which table she was sitting at. 

Draco glanced at the Gryffindor table, from where people were staring rather blatantly at Ginny, and then at the door to the dungeons from which no other Slytherins had yet emerged, but she had the feeling that she wouldn't be at all welcomed when they did.  "Farewell," he said quietly to her.  And then, almost ominously "sweet dreams." 

Ginny shivered slightly at his words, and quickly stood up and made her way back to the other side of the Great Hall.

She didn't see him for the rest of that day, aside from briefly at meals, in which he didn't even look at her.  Which was just fine with her, she told herself.  She didn't need him around!  He was being confusingly nice to her, and he'd already proven that he could thoroughly scare her.  "Stupid git," she muttered at her Transfigurations homework, "I certainly shouldn't be surprised that he knows about Dark Magic."  She should just stay away from him. 

That night she couldn't sleep at all.  She just kept hearing in her head those same worrying words… sweet dreams… sweet dreams… What did he even mean by that?  If he meant to keep her from sleeping at all, it had certainly worked.  Frustrated, she threw back the covers and slid out of bed.  She looked around, everyone else was fast asleep. 

A walk around the school probably wouldn't help her sleep, but at least it might chase those words out of her head.  Not even bothering to take a cloak to cover her white nightgown, Ginny crept past the Fat Lady and out into the halls.  And was only partially surprised when she heard a soft voice behind her say

"Don't scream."  So apparently he didn't ever sleep. 

She flinched, but managed not to jump (or scream), and continued walking.  At this point, she was quite aware of the fact that she had also forgot to bring her wand, and couldn't even hex him.  Well fine then, she couldn't very well stop him from walking beside her, but that didn't mean that she had to talk to him. 

Which seemed fine by him.  And though she wouldn't admit it to herself, the dark shadow moving beside her was rather comforting, just a quiet reminder that she wasn't walking the halls alone.  They both walked in near silence for a while, until suddenly Draco froze.  Ginny froze as well, straining her ears to listen, and she heard dim footsteps.  No one who shouldn't have been in the halls would be walking with such carelessly loud steps; it had to be Filch. 

Ginny glanced around, nothing but a hallway.  No convenient classrooms or storage rooms to hide in, and if they ran now they would certainly be heard.  The next moment, she had been pulled into a shadowy alcove, along with a rusty suit of armor, and a velvety black shadow. 

"You would be wearing white," Draco hissed, and the next thing she knew she was enveloped in the warm black folds of a cloak.  He nudged her up against the wall, in the darkest part of the alcove, pulled the hood over the silvery white of his hair and bent his dark head near hers to hide the brightness of her hair and face from the hall. 

The footsteps grew louder, and closer.  They could hear the footsteps right outside the alcove!  Ginny could hear her own heart drumming in her ears, and for a moment she was certain that Filch would hear.  But the steps just walked on past, and slowly faded away. 

It was then that Ginny was aware of how close to Draco she had gotten.  He had a hand behind her shoulders, holding the ends of his cloak around her.  Her hands had crept about his neck, and she could feel the silky fabric of his shirt under her fingertips.  She could feel his breath, warm on her neck, stirring her hair.  Ginny had expected his touch to be cold, and to feel of evil magic and dark places, but it was just warm, and the black material about her was wonderfully soft.  She couldn't see a thing in the darkness of the alcove, but his face must have been very close to hers, as she could feel the gentle touch of his hair on her cheek.  Without thinking she closed her eyes and bent her head towards that touch until she felt his cheek on her own. 

"Ginny," he said quietly into her hair, sharply reminding her of who she was standing so close to.  She quickly pulled away from him, and was keenly aware of the loss of his warmth and closeness, feeling instead the cold stone of the wall behind her.  He stepped back out of the alcove and pushed the hood back from his face, which remained in shadow.  Then he undid the cloak and passed it to her.  "Here, you'll want something to hide behind in case you run into Filch again on your way back."  Then he was gone, his black clothes blending perfectly with the shadows, unlike her own. 

Ginny glanced at the cloak in her hands: black of course, and very finely made.  She wrapped it around herself and felt the soft folds of cloth cover her once again.  It was still warm from his body, and smelled like him, of night air and mystery, and faintly of mint. 

Then her mind started working again. 

She realized, with a start, that Draco hadn't pushed her away after Filch was gone.  He had waited for her to pull away before stepping out of the alcove.  How entirely un-Malfoy-ish.  And even more surprising was that he had bothered to hide her at all.  He could have quite easily melted into the shadow, leaving her entirely vulnerable to view. 

And he had said her name.  Not Weasley, but Ginny.  Was she on a first name basis with a Slytherin?  Her tired mind didn't even want to think about that.  She blinked sleepily, realized that she was still standing dumbly in the middle of the hall, and then she slowly made her way back up to her room, where she fell onto her bed and promptly fell asleep. 

Draco slipped into the shadows away from her, but didn't go far.  He stood in the shadow of a large statue of a gryphon and watched her, illuminated by moonlight and looking rather confused.  Then she pulled his cloak around her and slowly started walking towards Gryffindor tower, and he made his way back to the dungeons. 

He sprawled across his bed, and tried not to remember how it had felt to have her pressed up against him, to have her heartbeat fluttering so close to his.  It reminded him of the birds that his father used to keep to practice spells on, small fragile creatures with terrified eyes and heartbeats drumming against his fingers, right before he killed them. 

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And that's it for now.  There might be more later.  If you would like to see more of this story, a review might help ^.~