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Crossing into Chaos by Emeral_eyes
Chapter 15 : Chapter 13: The Return of the Status Quo
 
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Chapter 13: The Return of the Status Quo


Ginny shifted in her sleep, rolling to her side and sliding her arm under the pillow to support her head. The ache in her stiff hands caused by that movement woke her suddenly, and she groaned. Her head was pounding and her eyes burned with the need for more sleep. She snuggled down under the blankets, covering her head to block out the few beams of sunlight that had crept in beyond the curtains’ reach. She heard a groan beside her, and felt the bed shift slightly as its other occupant moved. Her eyes snapped open and it was then, upon seeing her hand carefully wrapped in white gauze resting on her pillow, that she remembered what had happened and where she was.

Her eyes met a pair of half-closed eyes, staring at her sleepily, and she let out a yelp of shock. She jumped up in a panic, scrambling away from him, trying to remember exactly how she had ended up in the same bed with Draco Malfoy. Sitting on her knees in the corner furthest away from him, she watched as he scowled and moved very slowly, turning to lay on his side, propping his head on his elbow, and stared at her with one eyebrow raised, perplexed. As she scrambled away, retreating to the furthest corner of the large bed, she ran over their exhausted trip back to his house in her mind, trying to recall how they’d ended up there.

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The previous night…

At the fork in the road, where, under normal circumstances, they would have parted ways - she to her flat around the corner, and he down the street, and over ten blocks, to the poshest neighborhood in the city - he'd simply snorted at her repeated efforts to extricate herself from his protective grip, and gently tugged at her arm, guiding her down the road with him. Tired and emotional, her stubborn streak had her planting her feet in the ground and refused to let her budge.

"I really just want to go home," she protested, unable to keep a tinge of whining out of her voice as she spoke. He stared at her, a hard stare that she knew indicated that his stubborn streak, as well, wouldn't let him accept anything other than what he had single-handedly decided needed to happen. But she was exhausted, her hands, raw and bleeding from her futile attack on the wardrobe's walls, were burning with pain and she needed to be somewhere safe and familiar. The closest thing she had to that in the city was her flat.

"What kind of man would I be if I let you go stay alone tonight? You don't know that it's safe to go home, not when that girl is still out there," he scoffed, seemingly insulted by her wild assumption that she was capable of taking care of herself and didn't need him. She suppressed a shiver as she remembered, with sick twist of dread, the horror of being trapped in the wardrobe, and she felt her stubborness begrudgingly unplanting her feet. But it wasn't quite satisfied, and so she jerked her arm out of his grip.

"No, really, I'll be fine. Besides, where else would I go?" she shot back, knowing full well that it would take very little convincing to head to Hermione's instead. She was always a reassuring presence, and her neat, tidy flat (well, tidy if one didn't mind tripping overthe few dozen piles of books she usually had accumulating in various spots) was always a comforting refuge when she needed to get away from her own place.

"You are coming with me," he said with a carefree shrug, as if it were the most obvious answer in the world, which also insinuated that she was a bit dimwitted for not automatically knowing that.

"Of course I'm not, don't be daft!" she cried. Malfoy looked at her for a second, with his head cocked to the side, as if contemplating a great and mysterious puzzle, before he reached out and scooped her up, hooking one arm underneath her knees so that he was carrying her, bride-style. She shrieked, demanding to be put down, wriggling half-heartedly.

"Oh, just be good and quiet down. Even if we argue about it for hours, this is still going to happen my way, you might as well just accept that fact and make our lives much easier," he said, exasperated. His tone was rather light, but in the dim light from the street lamps, she could see remnant streaks of blood on his face and that, more than his infuriating insistence that his will would ultimately win out, was what had halted her protests. She felt him tighten his grip around her, and she had to wonder how he could possibly have enough energy to be carrying her, after everything that he'd been through.

"Fine, I'll go with you, but put me down, I am perfectly capable of walking," she mumbled begrudgingly.

"Don't be silly. I’ve managed to catch myself a little weasel – such a tricky slippery little thing, why would I ever let it go after all that trouble?" he asked lightly, with an arched eyebrow and knowing smile. She sighed, a long-suffering sigh of disgust.

"You haven’t caught me," she mumbled, looking away, but out of the corner of her eye, she seen a smirk on his face that indicated that no matter how much she protested, he just wasn't going to hear it.

When they had arrived at his home, even though her eyes were burning with the desperate need for sleep, they nearly bugged out of her head as she took in the view of her surroundings. She’d passed the house only a few times as it was nestled in the affluent neighborhood, where she rarely had cause to go, and nothing from its impressive exterior indicated just how spectacular it was on the inside. Cho Chang’s house resembled a barn in comparison to the opulent display of wealth surrounding her. Everything was marble and silver and grand as grand could be.

“You know Malfoy, there is a fine line between elegant and tasteless, and your décor is hovering rather dangerously over it,” she said. He remained silent, but did manage to glare at her out of the corner of his eye as he marched up the grand staircase in the center of the hall, brushing past the nervous house elves desperately seeking to help him.

He deposited her in an empty bedroom, ordering her to stay put, as he marched out, a man on a mission. She gazed around her, but there was only one candle burning and she couldn’t make out much of her surroundings. He came back, carrying a small medical kit and sat down beside her, demanding that she hand over her hands to his care.

“I’ll be fine, really,” she protested, not keen on the idea of anyone touching them. They were throbbing and every movement just made it worse. He stared at her levelly, before reaching out, ignoring her attempts to snatch her hands away from his touch, and pulling her right hand towards him.

“I’d take care of it magically, but after everything tonight, I might accidently give you talons instead of fingers,” he said with a weak smirk. She could see the strain in his eyes, and had figured that the exhaustion had made him vulnerable, because she could have sworn there was a softness around his eyes as they met her eyes.

“Accidentally? Likely story,” she said, trying to lighten the mood. The intensity was starting to get to her, making her vulnerable to the way he was gazing at her, the way he was carefully treating her hands with antiseptic – almost as if he were completely conscious of how much it was stinging, and how surprisingly comforting she was finding his presence was quite possibly the most disturbing aspect of the night. She felt very safe with him, despite the fact that, for all intents and purposes, she still supposedly considered him a mortal enemy.

He’d wrapped her hands carefully in gauze, his finger gently brushing the underside of her wrist as he did so, setting her heart racing.

“This will have to do until morning,” he said. She nodded, unsure if she could trust her voice at this point. Her eyelids were getting really heavy, and she’d found herself laying back on the bed, wanting nothing more than to close her eyes for a very long time, feeling safe and secure in the warm haziness that his fingers on her wrist was creating.

“You must be exhausted, Malfoy,” she said, her voice hoarse. “Go to bed.”

Malfoy bent over, leaning down on one elbow to stare at her with that knowing half-grin that often made her want to smash his arrogant little face, but tonight, she found it more endearing that she’d ever could have imagined possible. It still, however, aggravated her, but in a much more pleasant fashion, especially as he carefully took her hand.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he said, his voice soft. “Not this time.”

“Oh,” she said, and she had to turn her head away to keep him from seeing the tears that had suddenly welled up. “I guess I can accept that, if you’re going to be so pigheaded and stubborn about it.”

“I am, weasel.”

“Good,” she whispered. They had both fallen silent after that, and it wasn’t long before their mutual exhaustion finally caught up with them, and they’d drifted in a deep sleep.

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Ginny took a moment to wonder why everything seemed so much harsher in the morning. It was hard to understand how, just a few hours ago, she’d felt relieved at his insistence that he stay with her, when now, her heart was jumping into her throat and her face was burning from the embarrassment of the whole thing. Ginny Weasley did not submit to another’s will just because she was tired and emotional; that just wasn’t who she is and now, in the stark light of day, she was more than a little upset with herself.

Especially as he was now sitting up and looking at her as if she’d lost her mind. His hair was flattened rather amusingly on one side, causing a strange peak at the top of his head, and he moved stiffly as he approached her, climbing over the pile of bedding.

“What are you acting so skittish for?" he grumbled, seemingly put out by her surprise to find that they were in the same bed together. It was understandable, given that they had been so exhausted the night before, that he would have fallen asleep there, but there was that secret part of her that ached with loneliness - the loneliness of being without her large family, of having few true friends to rely on, on being completely isolated from much of the society she lived in - that was incredibly soothed by his presence, and that was more terrifying than anything they’d been through the previous night.

"I'm not acting skittish," she retorted, sounding harsher than she had intended.

"You're acting as if you're expecting a hoard of Death Eaters to burst into the room and Avada you just because you slept in the same bed as your boyfriend," he scowled.

"You're NOT my boyfriend," she protested, before she was able to stop herself or hesitate for a moment to consider his feelings. Malfoy looked at her, his face a frozen mask of neutrality that she wasn't able to read. He stared at her like that for a moment, but it was a moment that felt like an eternity, as she reeled from the horrible feeling of guilt - how could she have reacted so rudely, as if the mere suggestion that he was her boyfriend were the worst thing possible, when he had quite literally saved her life the night before? His cold, unreadable eyes locked with hers, and she felt her heart lurch from the shame. Until he smiled; that arrogant smirk she'd come to loath so much.

"Well, Weasley, I was only thinking of you and your reputation. Wouldn't want it to get out that you'd slept with me twice when you're not even my girlfriend," he said, with that sly look that made her want to strangle him. "Of course, it would hardly surprise anyone, considering your background."

"It's not the same thing!" she protested, sitting up on her knees, her arms crossed across her chest as she faced off with him.

"Then say you're my girlfriend, and we can avoid any future misunderstandings that others may interpret," he said, slinking closer to her.

"You can't bribe me into going out with you, Malfoy!" she cried, furious. "Besides, do you really think that's a good idea? If my family found out, they'd probably think that you'd cursed me into agreeing and my brothers would mount some ill-advised rescue mission to free me from your destructive influence, and if YOUR family found out, they'd probably have every witch and wizard with red hair wiped off the face of the Earth to circumvent the further pollution of their bloodline by associating with such a blatant blood-traitor."

During her protestations, he'd moved in even closer to her, kneeling beside her in the tangle of bedclothes. He was practically looming over her, even from a kneeling position, and despite the furor of her speech, she was immediately intimidated. He looked down at her, his face a breadth away from hers, and her body reacted the way it had grown accustomed to when it came into such close proximity with Malfoy - it stopped listening to her, ignored her better judgment to move away, and responded instantly as he titled her chin up with one finger, and moved in to kiss her. Her body further betrayed her, as her arms slowly, tentatively, slid up Malfoy’s arms, until she was pulling herself closer to him, pressing her body right up against his as his lips finally brushed against hers, washing away the small thread of control she had away in the thrill of sensations he was able to conjure.

She’d been about to release a groan of pleasure which would have mortified and damaged her pride beyond all repair when she finally managed to gain control of her faculties and push him away, all while struggling to catch her breath.

“I’ll consider it,” she said, glaring at him angrily as he grinned at her, a smug and knowing grin.

“I meant what I said last night, Weasley. It wasn’t just some impulsive comment that I said, caught up in the moment. I meant it when I said I love you,” he said, his voice low. Despite the honesty in his words, Ginny felt a wave of unease as she searched his veiled eyes, unable to read his expression as he stared at her. She’d almost forgotten that whispered confession in the haze of exhaustion and pain that clouded that night, but now that he’d brought it up, she knew that it was going to be very difficult to think of anything else.

“You’re bound and determined to make both our lives as difficult as possible, aren’t you?” she sighed heavily, needing desperately to break the tension and expectation in the air. She wasn’t quite sure what he wanted her to say in response, but whatever it was, the words just would not come to her and she was grappling for something. He stared at her, that searching look which set her pulse racing, and she had to look away, inexplicably ashamed of herself.

“You’ve gone all skittish again, weasel. Now, I know that such a confession from me could make any girl lose all her senses, but you seemed slightly more sensible than others. Don’t worry, I’m a pretty generous bloke, so you can take some time to figure out how you’d like to respond to that,” he said, suddenly all arrogance and charm, once again. He took her hand with a sly grin. “I’m not going anywhere.”

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“Seriously, Malfoy, if you don’t stop following me, I’m going to curse you. And I warn you, if you are unfortunate enough to experience my Bat Bogey Hex, you will be walking with a rather strange limp for at least a week,” Ginny threatened, finally losing her patience with him as he’d been following her since she’d left his house, eager to seek refuge from the conflicting emotions he was causing and sort out her thoughts on everything that had transpired in the past 36 hours. She’d stopped abruptly, whipping around to face him, nearly causing him to run her over. He caught himself, then took a step back, gazing at her as if he were a scientist observing some unusual phenomenon.

“You could try; but I do think my reflexes are faster than yours, and it may, in fact, be you who would be walking around with a strange gait for a few weeks,” he said with an arrogant smirk, confident in his dueling abilities. Ginny released a hissing sigh of frustration and glared at him.

“Look, all I want to do right now is go up to my flat, change into my own clothing and start my homework, which is now going to take me all night because you’ve kept me at your house all afternoon when I should have been here, working on it,” she said, gesturing to the oversized white shirt and black pants she’d had to borrow from him after the house elves had confiscated her own, promising to clean and repair the damage that had happened the night before. Malfoy was still smirking at her, undoubtedly because of the way she knew she had blushed as she’d crankily lashed out at him.

“Prove you can stay out of trouble for more than a few hours at a time, and I’ll be glad to leave you alone,” he said with a casual shrug.“I wouldn’t have tripped over the curb if you hadn’t been purposely distracting me!” she exclaimed furiously, her face burning as she recalled the earlier incident when she had, distracted by the fact that he was oh-so-calmly following her home despite her dramatic exit from his house and threats of mortal wounding should he follow her, tripped over the curb while crossing the street. She’d tumbled into a rather wealthy man who she often served at the Three Broomsticks, knocking him backwards into the entourage of equally wealthy yet not quite as influential men who were walking with him, sending the entire group of them tumbling into the mud. They’d been incredibly upset with her, and as she had attempted to apologize while using several vaguely-remembered cleaning spells her mother tossed around the house almost subconsciously, she’d accidentally set the robes of the Minister of Magical Transportation on fire.

Malfoy, of course, had watched in the background as she’d fumbled her way through trying to fix the messy situation, and only when Antonin Dolohov, the Minister, had pulled out his wand, his face positively purple with rage, and pointed it at her did he jump in and smugly extricate the embarrassed girl from the potentially volatile situation. Malfoy, it seemed, was quite familiar with Dolohov and his notorious temper, but he was also knew that he was petrified of Lucius Malfoy and turned into a stuttering fool whenever a member of the Malfoy family was around. He’d graciously accepted Ginny’s apology and moved on, as Malfoy had dragged Ginny away as if she were a mischievous two year-old.

Furious by his condescending attitude, Ginny had, naturally, stomped on his toe and stormed off, hoping that he would leave her alone and that she could relish the return of a state she was most familiar with – being completely furious with Draco Malfoy and longing to viciously curse him. It was comfortable, familiar and definitely a lot safer than the flurry of unsettling butterflies that stirred whenever he smiled at her, or leaned in to kiss her, as he was growing more and more apt to do.

“Besides, it doesn’t matter if I can’t stay out of trouble for more than a few hours. The fact is that you have absolutely no business trying to keep me out of it, or looking over my shoulder to ensure that I do,” she shouted, only because he was looking at her again, with that half smile and look in his eyes that communicated just how entertaining he found it when she got flustered and reacted with her temper.

“Of course I do, Weasley,” he said, taking a step towards her, putting his hands on her shoulders and bending down so that he could meet her at eye-level. “I – “

“If you dare even whisper that ‘I look after my own’ nonsense to me ever again, I’m going to go find Claire myself and bring her back here to finish what she started,” Ginny warned, remembering the entire fiasco that had resulted from his possessiveness.

“You liked it the first time I said it,” he mumbled sulkily, looking away. After a moment, as she stood with her hands on her hips, ready to continue lecturing him and he stood above her, looking in the other direction, patently ignoring her indignation, he finally looked back at her. “I was going to say that I just like making sure those I care about, especially pretty little Weasley girls who have unfortunate luck and a keen talent for unwittingly getting themselves into rather serious amounts of trouble, are alright.”

“What a selective memory you do have, Draco Malfoy. Ninety percent of the time, you’re the reason I find myself in trouble in the first place!” she cried in exasperation. He was smiling at her again, and she turned away, fully aware that there was just no reasoning with him, starting to walk up the steps to the door. Another thought struck her, and she paused, thinking over it a moment before turning back to him. He was still standing there, in the fresh snow and pale afternoon sunlight, and she had to shrug off the way it tugged at her. “I need to say something that you’re not going to like, Malfoy.”

“And what is that, Weasley?” he asked, leaning against the wall in that casually sexy way that she made herself furiously ignore as sexy.

“I hate you!” she cried out suddenly, and catching herself after realizing the words that had come out of her mouth and the way his eyebrows had shot up, she corrected herself. “I mean to say, I used to. Hate you, I mean.”

“Is that the part that I’m not going to like, or is there more coming?” he asked, looking at her as if she’d lost her mind.

“What I am trying to say is that, for the past six years, ever since beginning here at Hogwarts, you have pretty much represented everything that I hate, and as a result, I’ve always considered you an enemy. I haven’t always been very vocal about it, because I didn’t see the need for you to ever to even know my name, but as I’ve known yours for five years and have hated you and everything you stand for, the very fact that you are standing at my door after following me home because you claim to care about me and wanted to make sure I got home alright is incredibly hard for me to accept,” she said quickly. He crossed his arms as he stood across from her, and Ginny felt a twinge of guilt as she was struck with the realization that he was a little hurt by her words.

“Not exactly the type of thing a guy wants to hear from the girl he has recently professed his love to and plans to convince to become his girlfriend,” Malfoy said with a shrug. Ginny flinched, unsure how to continue.

“What I am trying to say is that it’s a sudden change. Because I don’t anymore,” she said, forcing herself to look at him, although the mere idea that she was going to say what she was planning on saying made her want to turn and run away rather than face how vulnerable it was going to make her. “Hate you, I mean. And I can even – sometimes! Only sometimes! – I can even see what your friends might like about you.”

“I knew you were warming up to me, Weasley.”

“Having said that, I would really like you to put this whole ‘girlfriend’ notion out of your head. Regardless of how I feel, regardless of who it is, I’m only sixteen years old. I have way more schoolwork than I have time for that I have to do on a regular basis because my scholarship is based on my academic performance, which is complicated by the fact that I work as many hours as possible at the restaurant in order to help pay for the right to attend a school that gives me more homework than I have time for. I have goals, you know, and I need Hogwarts to get me there. I have plans, important plans that I’m not going to jeopardize for anything, like graduating and getting a job and – “

“Overthrowing the government,” Malfoy cut in with a smirk, interrupting her tirade.

“Yes, exactly!” she exclaimed, before realizing what she had just agreed to and that this was the son of one of the most powerful men in the Ministry. “Wait, no, that’s not what I meant.”

“Get to the point, Weasley, you’re rambling and wasting precious minutes of my time,” he said, genially enough. She took a deep breath and forced herself to continue, even though her heart was now uncomfortably beating at a rapid pace in her chest and she could feel her face burning.

“What I am trying to say is that… Thank you for saying what you said last night, but please understand why I can’t… go down that path with you. I need to keep my focus on my goals, and you… you just spin everything around so that I don’t know which direction is which!” she said, grappling for the right words.

“So, that’s it then? That’s your answer?” he demanded, suddenly angry.

“But I am willing to consider the possibility of friendship,” she said, barely able to look at him, practically holding her breath. She silently pleaded with him to take what she was offering and understand just how hard it was for her to offer it. “I used to consider you an enemy and I don’t anymore and that’s going to take some time to accept, considering I never believed it could ever be possible. But I am willing to try being friends… that is, if… well, if you’d like.”

Malfoy stared at her, leaving her breathless with panic and anticipation, his penetrating eyes gazing at her face as if he were trying to find something. She bit her lip, not entirely sure why she was so nervous – if he said no, then she could just cut him out of her life and go back to her blissful state of invisibility, no longer registering on his radar. But now that she had begun to see more of who he really was, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to go back to that.

“I supposed I can accept that. For now,” he said, stepping towards her. His eyes had a mischievous glint in them, as he leaned in towards her, his mouth hovering near her ear as he lowered his voice to whisper his next words. “But I’m not sure how long you’ll be willing to resist the myriad of my charms.”

“Don’t be so full of yourself, Malfoy. You’re not as charming as you think you are,” she scoffed, feeling indescribably relieved and as if the weight of the world has just been lifted off her shoulders.

“Yes I am,” he said, moving swiftly to kiss her lips – a quick, light peck. She put a hand – still heavily wrapped in bandages – against his chest, and pushed him back. “And that’s what scares the hell out of you.”

“We’re friends, now, Malfoy. Friends can’t do that,” she declared. He narrowed his eyes, as if contemplating that statement.

“Then I guess our friendship is doomed to fail, weasel,” he said airily, before smiling at her slyly, and turning to walk away, leaving her longing to curse him for his frustrating talent for always scoring with the last word.

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It was fairly late when Draco Malfoy returned home that Sunday night. After he’d made certain the damnably stubborn Ginny Weasley was safely deposited at her flat (couldn’t she understand that he didn’t like the idea of her traipsing around the city alone when that unstable girl who tried to kill her the night before was still roaming around freely?), he’d had to visit Crabbe and Goyle, two people who were terribly unhappy with him. They were angry because he’d cursed them, because he hadn’t asked for their help and because he’d gone off on his own. After a few minutes of cold silence, however, the trio had reconciled their differences and everything was as it should be.

So, feeling rather content that the afternoon had been rather productive, he wasn’t entirely prepared for the sight that greeted him when he arrived back at the Manor. He’d waved off the house elves offering him dinner and walked straight towards the library, eager for the fire he knew would be burning brightly. It had been a fairly cold day; Halloween was only a few days away, and winter was starting to make its impending presence known.

As he walked into the room, he was completely surprised to see a tall woman with long blond hair standing with her back to him, staring out at the window that looked out over the city. The elegant cut of her robes and the signature silvery-blond hair gave her identity away, even though it had been a very long time since he’d last seen her.

Narcissa Malfoy didn’t turn around to face her only son, and continued to stare out the window in silence. Draco stared at her back for a moment, waiting to see if she would react at all to his presence, but when it appeared that she wasn’t going to acknowledge him, he walked towards the desk and sat down, rustling through the discarded sheets of parchment, looking for his Potions textbook. He found it, and flipped through a few pages until he found the proper page and began reading.

“What have we told you about wasting your time studying Potions?” her cool voice spoke, filling the quiet room. Draco ignored her, preferring to stay absorbed in the page he was reading. “I keep receiving these notes from your teachers, telling us how you have neglected other, more useful subjects while excelling in your Potions classes. There is no power or influenced to be gained through being a master of Potions.”

“Not quite the greeting one would expect for the son you haven’t seen nor spoken to in person in almost 14 months,” Draco muttered, refusing to look up from his textbook. “I’m surprised you even noticed you still had a son.”

“I noticed,” Narcissa said, her tone viciously cold while still maintaining the quiet, composed tone that terrified so many of her opponents, “because my son needed to be reminded of who he is and what is expected of him.”

“And who is that?” he snapped, tossing his book aside and standing up. His mother turned in surprised at her son’s tone, and stared at him in silence, her arms crossed at her chest and her cold grey eyes glinting harshly in the light of the fireplace.

“Someone who has a duty and a responsibility to maintain the reputation of his family name at all times,” she said, her words measured and spoken slowly.

“Very well. You’ve reminded me. I’ll see you in another 14 months,” he said, unable to disguise the tinge of disgust in his voice. He started to stalk out of the room, but Narcissa called him back with a simple warning.

“Draco. Do not get caught in public again with the girl in that photograph. You’re well aware of the consequences associated with consorting with undesirable members of our society,” she said. “If you aren’t, perhaps you should consult Nymphadora. She knows from personal experience.”

Draco met his mother’s eyes for a measured moment and left the room without another word. There wasn’t anything else left to be said them.

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Monday morning came far too quickly for Ginny. She’d spent the remainder of her weekend filling Hermione in on everything that had happened, responding to the growing pile of letters from her mum who needed reassurance after having heard barely anything from her only daughter since she’d sent Sirius Black to talk to her about the tabloid photographs, and catching up on her homework, all of which was complicated by the fact that her hands were still rather tightly wrapped in thick bandages and throbbed, a constant reminder of just how eventful that weekend had been, and just how much she was lying to her mum when she told her that everything was perfectly fine. However, despite how tired she felt, she was also rather satisfied. It felt as if a heavy weight was finally gone from her shoulders – her tenuous position at Hogwarts, ever since she’d defended Claire and brought on the wrath of Draco Malfoy and his Slytherin crowd, finally seemed to have regained some stability, especially now that she and Draco Malfoy had agreed to be friends.

At least, she felt that way until she entered the Great Hall and realized with a start that apparently her newly formed friendship with Malfoy hadn’t been advertised to the rest of the student body. Nor had the fact that her alleged ‘betrayal’ of Draco Malfoy wasn’t all that it had been made out to be. After the bustle of the crowded halls had come to an abrupt halt as she’d started to make her way to her first class of the day, she realized this fact as she was greeted with a couple hundred pairs of hostile eyes glaring at her in a way that would have been positively terrifying if it hadn’t been for the fact that Crabbe and Goyle soon pushed their way through the crowd to say good morning to her.

After the confusion as to why Malfoy’s best friends were speaking to the girl who had so grievously wronged him had passed, and everyone just accepted the fact that Ginny Weasley was no longer an open target, the crowd begrudgingly moved on, leaving Ginny trying to extricate herself from their company, lest she be late for Snape’s class again. Considering that he’d probably come in that morning to see the shocking state of his Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, she was not very keen on provoking his short temper even further by her chronic tardiness.

“Guys, I really need to run. We’ll chat later,” she said distractedly as she checked her battered pocketwatch.

“Weasley, just make sure you talk to us before you see Malfoy. He’s a bit… punchy this morning, which means he’s inevitably going to act like a giant git and knowing you…” Crabbed trailed off, glancing at Goyle for some assistance.

“And knowing you, you’ll call him on his nonsense and he’ll irrationally act like an even bigger git that he was originally and you two will start hollering at each other and it’ll be the Blue Holwer all over again. And blue just isn’t your colour,” Goyle said. Ginny stared at them for a minute, processing what they had said, before just shaking her head and starting to walk away.

“I’m late for class and Malfoy is characteristically a big git most of the time, this shouldn’t be any different,” she called over her shoulder. “But thanks for trying to warn me. Don’t know if you heard, but we’re friends now so you really needn’t have worried.”

“That’s why we’re warning you. He tends to take things out on his friends worse than his enemies or people he doesn’t like,” Crabbe said warningly, but Ginny was too preoccupied by the sight of a rather furious-looking Professor Snape standing at the entrance of his classroom.

“Weasley!” he barked as he spotted her, zeroing in on her with startling speed.

“Good morning, Professor Snape. Have a good weekend?” she asked as cheerfully as she could, peering through the door and spotting the classroom which had been cleared of the debris from the destroyed wardrobe. “Oh, I see you’ve done some redecorating! Very nice, sir!”

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Snape hadn’t been at all impressed with her compliment, and after an almost unbearable class of his berating all of his students for their lack of knowledge in the Dark Arts, he’d assigned practically a month’s worth of homework. Already feeling burdened by the amount of work she was behind, Ginny had decided to forgo the usual torture that was eating lunch in the Great Hall with her fellow students, and had found a secluded corner in the library, poring over her books, determined to make a serious dent in the essay Snape had assigned.

Her goal was rather short-lived when her refuge was intruded by a scowling Draco Malfoy, who sauntered up to her table and slumped into the chair, where he then proceeded to sulk for almost three minutes, until she finally looked up at him from the book she was reading. She stared at him silently, raising her eyebrows inquisitively at him. He rolled his eyes and sighed moodily.

“Where have you been all day?” he snapped. She paused for a moment before answering, wondering what was different about Malfoy. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but something was just… not quite right with him.

“Considering we have classes all morning, it is safe to assume that that is where I’ve been – in class,” she responded simply, before turning back to her text book. She spotted a potentially useful passage, and picked up her quill awkwardly with her bandaged hand and attempted to write down a note on her parchment paper, which was already very messy and covered with large, clumsy handwriting and smudgy blotches of ink.

His eyes snapped down at her hands, and she could see his expression change from moody to furious, as he reached out and snatched her quill out of her hand.

“Why haven’t you taken care of your hands yet?” he barked. Narrowing her eyes at him, she reached out and snatched her quill back, only to fumble it so that it dropped the table with a faint clatter.

“For any number of reasons, the main ones being that it is both incredibly illegal to do so – at least, for my sort, as you put it last time, but also because it’s a rather difficult spell to cast on oneself when you don’t have full use of either hand,” she said crankily, already irritated, as usual, from the ordeal that was Snape’s class. “Malfoy, this may be hard for you to grasp, but I’m not exactly the most welcome student to ever grace the school’s halls, and so I try to avoid giving them any excuse to toss me out – at least, the ones that I can avoid. Ever since you barged your way into my life, that’s becoming a great deal more difficult.”

“If you hate it here so much, why do you stay?” he muttered, as he took her left hand in his and started untying the bandage she’d clumsily tied around it that morning after her shower.

“What gives you the impression that I hate it here?” she asked with a frown.

“You positively emanate disdain for everyone and everything in this school, weasel. You may not be aware of it, but those of us with any degree of intelligence can easily see that much,” he responded, meeting her eyes before looking down again. Having successfully removed the bandage, he seemed to be examining her torn knuckles as he reached into his pocket to pull out his wand.

“It’s what the school has become that I hate,” she said fiercely, before gasping slightly as the skin on the back of her hand began to tingle intensely as Malfoy cast the healing spell. “My parents both went to Hogwarts – it’s where they met – and we all grew up on their stories about their years here. The mischief they’d get into, the inter-house competitions, their weekends in Hogsmeade, back when it was a sleepy little village instead of the horrible city it is now, the Quidditch games, their life in the dorms… They both loved it here, and after hearing all of their memories, to come here and have it be, well, what it is now… it’s such a disappointment.”

“The death of an ideal,” Malfoy said, turning his attention to her right hand, his fingers gently stroking the underside of her wrist for a second before he set to work, unwrapping the bandage and muttering the spell that erased the swollen and broken flesh and completely dispelled the uncomfortable throbbing that had been plaguing her all morning as she tried to ignore it and carry about during her classes as usual. He looked up, meeting her eyes as he laid her hand down on the table, releasing it for only a second before his fingers were stroking the newly healed skin on the back of her hand. “For someone so determined to be a hardened realist, you’ve got quite the naïve sense of idealism. But you still didn’t answer my question – why are you here if you don’t like it?”

“I’m here because my parents, though they would never say it, want me to be here more than anything else,” she said, snatching her hands away from him, as his touch was starting to send that familiar and all too dangerous thrill down her spine. “There aren’t many of their dreams that can be achieved, but having at least one of their children graduate from Hogwarts and experience the place that created some of their favorite memories is something I can do for them, as much as I hate it.”

Malfoy stared at her as she spoke, his searching eyes looking straight in hers, making her feel extremely uncomfortable. There was a look in his eyes that was completely unsettling, almost as if he were trying to grasp a completely abstract idea that he just couldn’t comprehend. There was a moment of silence, the only thing that could be heard was the scattered sounds of the other students flipping pages and scratching their quills against parchment. Then he blinked and his expression was unreadable once again.

“Let’s not forget the certain advantages that come along with being a Hogwarts graduate. Future career in the Ministry, perhaps?” he asked, and she could definitely hear the implied accusation in his voice. “How are you going to fight the system unless you’re on the inside of it?”

“Couldn’t you just believe that I want to make my parents happy?” she sighed wearily, looking back down at her textbook. He’d come to her rescue and that had made her put more trust in him than anyone outside of Hermione, but the haze of disbelief was wearing thin and she was starting to become very uncomfortable with how much he knew of her opinions regarding Voldemort and his Death Eaters – his father being principle among them.

“No, I couldn’t,” he snapped. It was then that Ginny realized what was different about him. He’d lost his swagger – that arrogant knowledge that the entire population would kill to be in his good graces, and the expectation that all would fall victim to his charm. That confidence, and all that came with it – his scathing wit, the sly grin that made her want to punch him in the face again – it had all dissipating, seemingly overnight.

“Surely that’s not an entirely inconceivable concept, even for an arrogant prat like you. You seem to be following right along in your parents’ footsteps, would you expect me to believe it’s not motivated by some desire to please them?” she snapped back, feeling more disconcerted by this altered Malfoy sitting across from her like a sulking child instead of the arrogant irritability that normally defined his demeanor. Malfoy jumped out of his chair at her words, tossing his chair back with a loud clatter that cast a deathly silence over the library.

He looked down at her, and she drew back slightly. He was furious; something she had said had infuriated him, and after pacing away from the table a few steps, he suddenly turned back and slammed his hands on the table, leaning over so that he was only a few inches from her face. She met his intense grey eyes, glaring at her.

“You shouldn’t assume things about me based on who or what my parents are, you ignorant little pauper,” he spat, causing Ginny to jump to her feet, electrified by the sudden flare of temper that shrouded everything else with the burning need to retaliate.

“So, we’re back to that again, are we?” she cried, planting her own hands down on the table, facing on with him. “Some friend you are turning out to be, Malfoy. I think I liked you better when I couldn’t stand you. And how dare you accuse me of something you’re guilty of doing with the exact same breath! You continually make assumptions about me based on who my parents are and how much money we have!”

“Don’t become just another name to add to the list of people who think I can be nothing more than a brainless pawn in my parents’ plans, who just assume that I have no aspirations of my own!” he cried out.

“Well, if your personal aspirations include becoming the most insufferable snobbish prig that ever graced this school’s halls, congratulations, you’ve been quite successful,” she snapped, snatching up her textbook, quill and parchment paper, stuffing the lot of it into her bag. “Friend or not, I’m not going to just let you insult me!”

“You started it,” he called out to her as she stalked away from him, heading for the door. She paused, turning back to face his darkly glaring face. Now that the intense flash of anger had begun to subside, she was just confused. What had she said to set him off, what had shattered the tenuous peace they’d agreed on the other day?

He was standing beside the table and overturned chair, his arms crossed petulantly across his chest as he glared at her, and Ginny felt certain that she was staring at a stranger. A stranger that was using this furious front to hide something else, the truth about what had been the real cause of his sudden demonstration of anger. Shaking her head with a disgusted sigh, she returned to storming out of the library, determined to track down the only two people who could have an answer as to what had caused Malfoy’s behavior, vowing to herself that if there wasn’t a good excuse, she was going to shove him in the Vanishing Cupboard on the first floor, and wouldn’t give a second thought to where he might turn up.

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Much later that night, Ginny was sitting in the empty dining room of the Three Broomsticks, her schoolbooks spread out in front of her, trying not to chew the end of her quill anxiously as she tried to concentrate on her essay about the major rules of Transifiguration. Every few moments, she would sigh deeply, shift her papers around a bit before trying to settle back down to work, but it was incredibly difficult to think about anything other than her row with Malfoy that afternoon. She could hear the clock ticking in the background, echoing across the empty restaurant, conspiring to drive her mad.

“We’ve been waiting for you at your flat for over an hour. What are you still doing here?” Crabbe said, before chuckling softly as she jumped and let out a squeal of fright over his startling appearance. After catching her breath, she glared at him.

“I should you be asking you what you’re doing here!” she exclaimed, spotting Goyle in the shadows behind him. Figures that he would also be there; Ginny had trouble remembering a time when she’d ever seen one without the other. Crabbe shrugged off her indignation, sauntering forward, dropping down in a chair across from her and meeting her eyes with a disgusted look as he picked up one of her pages of notes.

“You’re out this late doing schoolwork? I think your life needs a little more excitement, Weasley,” he said.

“It’s had quite enough of that for the time being, I’m sure we can all agree to that,” Ginny said with a wry smile. “So, gentlemen, what brings you here?”

“We were waiting for you at your flat and thought that you might actually still be here. What are you doing here so late?” Goyle asked, with a frown.

“Homework. There’s more space to spread out here,” she said, trying to repress an involuntary shudder. Her tiny flat, normally comfortingly familiar and cozy, now – thanks to Claire – seemed unbearably small. She was finding it hard to even sleep there and had decided to start doing her homework at the restaurant after closing. “Why were you waiting for me?”

“Mostly because we wanted to know what you said to Draco to set him off on such a tear. He’s been a ridiculous mess since this afternoon, and we just assumed that you were the reason,” Crabbe said, in his typically light-hearted fashion.

“I told him he seemed to be following right along in his parents’ footsteps,” Ginny said with a shrug of her shoulders, only to be met with a chorus of groans from Crabbe and Goyle.

“Tell me you didn’t!” Goyle cried out accusatorily. Ginny watched in exasperation as the two friends simultaneously slumped over-dramatically in their chairs and glared at her.

“I know we shouldn’t have let him go looking for her during lunch,” Crabbe said to Goyle, as if Ginny wasn’t even in the room.

“What’s the problem? It’s not as if I haven’t said worse to him, why are you two drama queens making such a big deal over such a little thing?” Ginny demanded. “Malfoy went off like a crazy person after I’d said it, but I thought that was just Malfoy being Malfoy!”

“Malfoy doesn’t exactly have the… easiest relationship with his parents. And any insinuation that he may be like them tends to… well, set him off,” Crabbe said gravely.

“There isn’t much that doesn’t, with that filthy temper of his,” Ginny commented distractedly. She was suddenly recalling something that he said to her just after their night in the Astronomy Tower, when she’d quipped that the status quo of their world had benefitted his family: “It’s done nothing of the sort. It’s certainly benefited my parents individually, but it’s been anything but to my family. Let’s just say that we’re more like a group of individuals that share a surname and occasionally try to mess about in each other’s lives…Perhaps we were happy once, but it was all so long ago, who can remember trivial things like that?”

“When he was young, his parents spent most of their time in London, until they moved there permanently about five years ago. He rarely sees them, and when they do get together… it’s never very pleasant. The last time they were all together was for Tonks’ wedding, over two years ago,” Crabbe said.

“Remember when we were little, Vince? They seemed so different back then,” Goyle said. “I always thought he had the best parents, and with Tonks around… his house was always pretty lively.”

“What happened to them?” Ginny asked softly.

“Oh, power, undoubtedly. After the war ended, things were so calm for awhile, but then all those rumours about Dumbledore building up an army and starting some kind of resistance movement started floating around, and both Lucius and Narcissa were called back to the Ministry,” Crabbe said. Ginny thought wryly about how different their versions of history were – she never recalled a calm period in all her life, but then again, her side was the one that lost.

“They’re ambitious, the both of them. Sometimes their ambitions didn’t always match up, and before you know it, they’re in opposite factions, both competing against each other for more power in the Dark Lord’s government. Happens all the time,” Goyle said with a casual shrug of his shoulders. Ginny was momentarily overwhelmed by a wave of sadness brought on their acceptance of such a situation as completely normal.

“In any case, you just can’t go around comparing him to his parents. It makes him stroppier than pretty much anything else can. Often, you almost forget that Malfoy has parents; he only gets the occasional letter from his mum wanting to know if he’s dating the girls she keeps trying to set him up with – part of her empire-building strategy. But when one of them is in town, it’s very dangerous territory,” Crabbe said.

“And is one of them in town?” Ginny asked tentatively, a sharp jab of fear spiking deep within her. She had the sudden urge to rush home and start a long letter to her parents, and she wasn’t entirely sure why.

“Yes,” Crabbe said, after a moment’s hesitation. Ginny nodded slowly, her mind spinning.

“Okay then. Well, if you see Malfoy before tomorrow, tell him I’ll see him at school,” Ginny said, standing up to gather her things.

“Are you going to play nice? I mean, whatever he said, he only said it because he was angry about what you said. He didn’t really mean it,” Goyle protested as she efficiently began to usher them out the door.

“Malfoy is enough of a coward on his own without sending his two best friends to come and plead his case for him. But if I’m right about what I think I know about Malfoy, he’s going to be absolutely furious that you two even came here tonight, so you’d better leave before you two just end up making him act like even more of a git. See you tomorrow,” she said, practically pushing them out the door and shutting it behind them. They stared at her through the glass window, looking rather amused, and she just waved cheerfully at them.

It was only when she was finally alone again that she sat down again, and considered everything they had told her, with Malfoy’s words running over and over through her head.

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He was waiting for the next day, just as she came out of Snape’s class, just before lunch. Leaning against the wall with his arms crossed and glowering at anyone who gave him more than a passing glance, Ginny paused for a moment as she exited the classroom, involuntarily struck by the image of him. Whatever it was that had chipped away at his arrogant swagger, his aura of self-confidence, seemed to have dissipated. As he noticed her, and those penetrating eyes that always set her pulse racing met hers, she could see that the charming arrogance had, indeed, returned.

She walked up to him, walking slowly – almost sauntering – towards him, looking up at him warily as his eyes darted away from her. Ginny stopped in front of him, contemplating what to say.

“It’s hard to see why so many people adore you, especially when you’re such a terrible friend,” she said finally. Despite what she’d heard from Crabbe and Goyle, she was still a bit stung by his sudden change the other day, from the cranky yet considerate person who could gently heal her fingers while teasing her for being stubborn, to the snarling jerk who represented everything she hated.

“That’s why they adore me,” he said, rather stonily. He still wasn’t meeting her eyes, and she felt her temper spark.

“Oh, keep telling yourself that,” she said, rolling her eyes exasperatedly. But she realized something in that moment, as he sheepishly cast a sideways glance in her direction – the very fact that he was there waiting for her was some form of apology, severely inadequate for what he had said, but all that he could muster. Anything more would be against his very nature, and as incredibly difficult as that was to accept, Ginny found that she was alright with it. Just as he had, eventually, been able to accept her tentative offer of friendship as all she was capable of offering. “I guess you make up for it in other ways.”

“Oh really?” he asked, his eyebrow arching as his eyes finally met hers. She felt her heart lighten as she recognized a friendly mischievous twinkle, and found herself smiling. She turned to walk down the hallway, planning on accepting his apology by sitting with him and his friends in the Great Hall during lunch.

“Well, only really when there’s a deranged psychopath who has me locked in a closet,” she said, casting a sly grin over her shoulder as she darted down the hallway, laughing as he chased after her.

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“Ginny! Are you coming Friday night? Oh, you just have to come,” Millicent Bulstrode was exclaiming, clutching Ginny’s arm tightly in her spontaneous excitement. Frowning skeptically, looking over her shoulder to see if Pansy Parkinson was lurking around the corner somewhere, waiting to curse her as Millicent distracted her with her sudden fawning attention, Ginny extracted her arm from Millicent’s grip. She’d been fawning over her as soon as Ginny had been ordered to sit down at the Slytherins’ table, sliding down next to her and continually trying to engage her in conversation.

“She’s right, you should come Friday,” Crabbe said, with an approving grin. He’d taken notice of the way that Ginny and Malfoy had been bickering as they came into the Great Hall and was beginning to drive Ginny a little crazy with the way he kept trying to telegraph his approval of the fact that they’d seemed to have patched things up.

“I can’t, I’m working Friday night,” Ginny said, feeling quite proud of herself as she managed to sound disappointed. “Millicent, where’s Pansy? Surely she can’t survive without you for so long.”

“I don’t care where she is. I’ve had enough of her attitude. The things she says about you, Ginny! Like the other day, when you were walking to class – “

“Millicent, I really don’t need to know what she’s been saying about me,” Ginny interrupted with a laugh.

“You should still come Friday. What time are you finished work?” Crabbe pressed. “We’re just going to be at All Hallows’, but with Halloween only a week away, it’s going to be a pretty good party.”

“Thanks, but I won’t finish until fairly late,” she said. Malfoy glanced at her out of the corner of his eyes and there was something about the half-grin on his face that told her that he knew very well how she really felt about having to turn down the invitation.

“Try not be so broken up about it,” he said softly, leaning down to whisper in her ear. She shrugged him off, almost set to remind him once again of her ad hoc boundaries of their friendship but she was too distracted by the tiny shivers that were running down her spine. It was a little frustrating to her that he could still have that effect on her, just by whispering in her ear. “Any party worth going to doesn’t really start until fairly late, and the later you arrive, the more fashionable you are.”

“But of course, you shouldn’t expect anyone with my breeding to have any sense of what is fashionable, so you’ll condescend to forgive my ignorance,” Ginny prattled off, anticipating the next words out of his mouth. The slight shade of puce his face had taken on as he stared at her, mouth gaping, indicated that she’d hit fairly close to the mark. After a split second of speechlessness, he recovered, shaking off the momentary surprise.

“I’m glad that you recognize how magnanimous I can be, given the proper set of circumstances,” he said and she had to laugh at the ridiculousness of someone actually using the world ‘magnanimous’ to describe themselves. “Regardless, my original point was that you should still come.”

“So your snotty Slytherin friends can condescend to make the poor Gryffindor feel included, while they get roaring drunk and discuss how great and powerful they all are? No thank you, I’d rather spend the night at home, writing Snape’s essay,” she scoffed, standing up from the table.

“Who is the snotty one now?” he demanded, following after her. “If I ever had any doubts about what house you belong in, your righteous indignation just reaffirms that you are definitely a textbook Gryffindor.”

“My righteous indignation?” Ginny cried out, turning around on him, outraged.

“Oh, don’t worry, little weasel, your blatant hypocrisy is also a dead giveway,” he said, with a casual shrug and annoying smirk. She stared at him, crossing her arms, feeling her temper starting to spark, mostly because he knew that he was pushing her buttons, that he even knew what buttons to push, and he was doing it anyway.

“Oh, is the poor little Slytherin upset because the mean little Gryffindor prejudged all his friends before she’s even met them, just based on what house they belong to? I can only imagine how horrible that must be for you,” she said snarkily, before imitating his smirk the best that she could. He stared back at her, crossing his own arms, and a tense silence had fallen over the room as the rest of the school population watched their showdown. Suddenly, Malfoy leaned down, plunking his hand down on her head and ruffling her hair, jarring her out of her focus on staring him down.

“Well done, little weasel. I suppose there’s a chance we can be friends after all,” he said, meeting her eyes and arching his eyebrow mischievously. She glared at him, but his obvious amusement with her was infectious, and before she knew it, she found herself grinning back at him.

“Would you look at this? A bloke is gone for a few weeks, and comes back to find himself in some bizarre and twisted version of reality no one would have ever thought possible,” the quiet voice, with the signature mildly-bored tone, of Blaise Zabini said, interrupting the moment. Hardly daring to believe that she wasn’t hearing things, she could see in the series of expressions that crossed Malfoy’s face that his best friend and the object of her massive unrequited crush had, indeed, returned to Hogwarts.

“Blaise! When did you get back? Aren’t you supposed to be off gallivanting around with Cho and her Quidditch team?” Crabbe exclaimed, as he slapped his friend on the shoulder in greeting. The Slytherin girls, stars in their eyes as they realized that their second choice was back in town, rushed towards him, Millicent Bulstrode leading the pack.

Malfoy hung back from the crowd pushing around Zabini now, demanding to know all the details of his time away, and what had brought him back to Hogwarts. Ginny, not quite sure what to do with herself, just watched the scene unfold, trying to understand what was making her so breathlessly excited and nervous. Oh sure, Zabini was as beautiful as ever, with his dark eyes and quiet voice, calmly answering the questions that were being hurled at him, but after everything that had happened – after what she’d overheard him say to Cho Chang about her – surely she still wasn’t harboring her doomed crush on the Slytherin boy?

Then Blaise scanned the Great Hall, and when his eyes met hers and she nodded to acknowledge him, determined to keep her expression neutral. But as he smiled at her, she felt an overwhelming rush of warmth flood her face, and she had to look away, unable to keep from smiling shyly as she realized that she was blushing.

Even with all the commotion going on around her in the Great Hall, as the rest of the students craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the popular boy, she could still feel the weight of his eyes on her. Forcing herself to recover from her uncharacteristic bout of shyness, she glanced up and was greeted by the sight of Malfoy glaring at her with his arms crossed, his face stony and unreadable. Surprised that he would be concentrated on her, instead of joining the crowd hovering about his newly-returned best friend, she frowned at him, wondering what his problem was now. As he stared at her, she felt a strange spike of fear, as if she’d done something wrong, something she needed to apologize for.

“Blaise Zabini is back. Isn’t that great, Malfoy? Your best friend came home – you might not need me to be your friend after all,” she said, trying to keep her voice light. Malfoy looked as if he were considering her words very carefully, before he made a move to start walking to the entrance, where the crowd had finally started to thin out.

“I’ll keep that in consideration, Weasley,” he said as he passed by. But then he suddenly leaned over, to whisper in her ear. “But never forget, weasel, it’s not about need. It’s entirely about what I want – and that is you.”

He was already icily greeting his friend and chastising him for coming home without giving any of them any indication that he’d be home soon by the time Ginny recovered from the sudden light-headedness and feeling that her knees had grown incredibly weak.

“Let’s get out of here, we need to celebrate your triumphant return to Hogsmeade – I say we skive off the rest of the day,” Goyle proclaimed, causing a flurry as the Slytherin girls started offering to tag along, citing all the various reasons why they were available. Crabbe and Goyle shrugged at each other, and ushered a few of Pansy Parkinson’s usual crowd out the door with them.

“Yes, let’s get out of here,” Malfoy agreed, and cast Ginny, who by the time had recovered enough of her faculties to make her way to the outskirts of the huddled group, a sideways glance. “Weasley, you stay here – a girl who can’t even manage a simple healing spell needs all the classes she can take.”

And with that, the Slytherin group exited the Great Hall, Blaise Zabini giving her a sheepish smile and friendly wave as he was ushered out by the twittering group of girls who were practically clinging to him, leaving Ginny standing there all alone as Malfoy followed along behind.

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Author's notes:

- Blaise returning? Totally HYD. Also, Draco's comment about not wanting to let her go when he finally caught her, bringing her back to his house to look after her are also all from HYD (although used in a slightly different context). The rest, such as it is, is my own.

- So, it's been a really long time since I've updated, hasn't it? I got a lot (like A LOT) of messages asking me if I've abandoned the fic - the answer is definitely no. I just had a really busy summer that transitioned into an even busier fall and this chapter just wasn't doing it for me, so I procrastinated. In any case, when I started writing, I planned to do 4 "arcs" to the story, 4 of the storylines from HYD that I particularly loved. Last chapter finished the first of these arcs, and this one introduced the second (which is actually going to be fairly small, comparatively), so there is still a lot of story left for me to write, so hopefully you'll keep reading, even between ridiculously long periods without updates.

As always, I will continue to post fic bits on my Live Journal between chapters - and I certainly won't be abandoning the story.


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