Yes. Finally. Chapter 7. For real. Don't kill me. *cringes* I will be doing a lot more writing in the next couple of days, so... yeah. Here it is, and sorry for the delay! Props to Frockers, for being a patient person, and for her lovely beta-ing, as ever. *hugs*

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"I saw you and Malfoy going to Hogsmeade," Hermione began solemnly, and Ginny clenched her fists. She and Draco were as good as expelled.

"I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I'm probably going to snitch on you," Hermione added quietly, looking directly at the younger girl. "But I won't."

Ginny stopped in the middle of opening her mouth to protest. "You're - I'm sorry, what?" she said, blinking hard.

"I won't tell Ron," Hermione repeated. "But I do want to talk to you."

"Talk away," Ginny said, hardly believing her luck. Have to warn Draco, she thought suddenly. He shouldn't say anything.

"Well, first of all - " Hermione looked around at the nearly full common room, and sighed. "Let's go to the library. Nobody will be there, it's the first day we've had off in ages."

They hurried through the halls, hardly meeting anybody, and slipped into the library with no trouble, winding through the bookshelves. As Hermione had predicted, there was barely anybody there except a few lone studiers. Hermione led Ginny to the back of the library and perched herself on the windowsill, looking at the redhead with a touch of McGonagall-like asperity. "Ginny, what on earth were you doing out there with Malfoy?" she asked, sternly but not unkindly.

"Well... I just wanted to go to Hogsmeade," Ginny mumbled lamely, sinking into a chair. Hermione sighed. "Are you and Malfoy... you know, dating?"

"Well, not exactly." Ginny searched for the words to describe her situation. "I mean, he's not the type to 'date' someone. It's just that ever since last Valentine's Day... you remember." Hermione looked like she might laugh, but contented herself with nodding. "After that, we started to talk. He's really not that bad a guy, Hermione, he really isn't. Not once you get to know him. Ron, especially, thinks he's just plain evil, but it's so easy to get that impression if you don't know how he sees things." Ginny was now leaning forward on the edge of her chair, talking animatedly. "He's hard-working and clever and funny, but that Draco is all tangled up in the traditionalist, aristocratic, pure-blooded, stubborn Draco. It's just how he lives and how he was brought up. His father was a big part of his 'education' before he came to Hogwarts."

Ginny now didn't meet Hermione's eyes. "He believes pure-blood wizards are superior because that's how he's always seen the world. For him, it was always divided into pure-bloods and half-bloods. His family never associated with anyone who wasn't pure-blood. He says he knows that his father was mixed up, but it's still the way he was brought up, and he can't entirely change that."

Hermione clucked her tongue, and Ginny shrugged apologetically. "I didn't say he was right. I think it's an old-fashioned, stupid way to look at people. But that's just what's ingrained in him."

Ginny looked out the window, the thoughtful expression on her face thrown into sharp relief by the afternoon sun trickling through the stained glass. Her brown eyes were turned to violet by the scarlet of the Gryffindor crest, and her fiery hair was shaded a murky maroon by the green Slytherin serpent. She looked like a completely different girl. Hermione was very abruptly struck by the difference between the short, petrified-shy little girl that had gotten on the Hogwarts Express for the first time, and the woman sitting in front of her. "How things do change," Hermione thought idly.

"Well," she said, bringing herself back to the matter at hand, "what are you going to do now?"

Ginny looked wary. "Do I have to do something?"

Hermione gave her a pointed look. "Forgive me for this, but you and Malfoy are not exactly a match made in heaven according to school tradition. A Gryffindor and a Slytherin? Don't get me wrong," she added hastily, seeing Ginny's indignant look. "Maybe you have something. I'm not one to judge. But I really think you ought to either stop seeing Malfoy, or tell..." Hermione paused. "Tell Ron. Tell Harry, maybe."

"Why do people need to know? Is there some sort of contract to spending time with someone that I'm not aware of?" Ginny said, frowning.

"No, but..." Hermione hesitated. "There is Ron to consider. And your parents. And Malfoy's parents, too, frankly. If they find out the wrong way..."

"Damn." Ginny abruptly gave a deep sigh and nestled her chin in her hands. "I hadn't thought of that."

"You never do," Hermione mused.

Ginny looked sharply sideways at her. "What do you mean?"

"Er... I don't really know," Hermione said, not looking at her. "I mean... when you spend time with someone..." She stopped, searching for the best way to put it. "You never think about how something looks unless you mean to," she said finally. "You and Malfoy are a perfect example. You think of each other highly, and there's... respect there. But to everybody else, it's a giant scandal, because you're breaching unspoken rules. But you didn't mean to. Do you understand what I mean?" she said hesitantly.

Ginny watched her thoughtfully. "I think so. But if you're saying that I can't see Malfoy because - because we're different people..." She trailed off, and shook her head. "I don't see where school differences have the right to keep us from spending time together."

"They don't. You're right," Hermione conceded. "But I'm just saying... think about it. Look through someone else's perspective, if you like." She looked Ginny in the eye, and the redhead faced her squarely. "Talk to Ron."

"Fine. I'll talk to him," Ginny said after a moment. She pushed her chair back and stood up. "I should talk to Draco first, though." She hesitated, then looked at Hermione directly.

"Thanks, Hermione," she said, smiling a little. "I appreciate it."

"Sure," Hermione said, smiling back. Ginny was heading for the door when Hermione stopped her. "Ginny?"

She turned around. "Yeah?"

"Do you want me to maybe talk to Ron beforehand?" Hermione asked quietly.

Ginny stood immobile for a moment. Then, slowly, a grateful smile appeared. "Sure."

"I'll see you at dinner, then," Hermione said. Ginny turned and left.

Hermione watched her until she turned a corner, then leaned back against the window and closed her eyes.