Chapter 5 : Chapter 4
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Once at Hogwarts again, Ginny could tell things had taken a turn for the worst in the Malfoy household. Her friend, from where she sneaked glimpses of him across the Great Hall, had grown thinner and paler in a way she hadn’t noticed over the summer. He had always been pale, of course, but now there seemed to be a grayish tinge to his face and shadows under his eyes that she wouldn’t have noticed in the dark cover of night. He never listened to anything the Headmaster might have to say during breakfast, instead sitting with his head in one hand and wand in the other and staring blankly ahead.
She began to watch him from day to day, as he pushed away his friends and pseudo-girlfriend, ignored his schoolwork, and became nothing more than a shell of his former self. Ginny tried contacting him with the coin she had given him, but he never answered her and she feared he might have spent it.
Without actually making the conscious decision to do so, Ginny started following Draco as he made his perfunctory Prefect rounds. At least, that was what she thought he was doing. She was forced to duck behind a statue as he came to an abrupt halt one night, outside the door to the Astronomy Tower.
“I’m telling you guys, Malfoy’s a Death Eater!” Harry insisted darkly in his and Ron’s dorm the day after term began. Ginny felt fear shiver through her body and forced a shrill giggle to come from her mouth to hide her worry for Draco.
“Harry please, I highly doubt that Voldemort would make Draco a Death Eater, even as revenge against Lucius,” she pointed out, mostly in denial. No one seemed to notice her use of the Slytherin’s first name.
Harry rolled his eyes and ran his hands through his hair. “You didn’t hear what I heard, Ginny. Malfoy said ‘I’d rather pitch myself off the Astronomy Tower than spend two more years at this rubbish excuse of a school. Besides, I’m off to bigger and better things as it is.’ That sounds like he’s got a lot to fall back on to me!”
Ron snorted from his bed. “Sounds like he’s bloody suicidal to me. But we can only hope, right?”
“That’s not funny!” Ginny insisted even as the others began to laugh. She stomped her foot like a little child and stormed out.
Ginny stared at Draco, preparing to fling herself out to catch Draco in a flying tackle if he made a move toward the highest point of the castle. But he just stood there, staring at the wooden door. She was surprised he hadn’t sensed her…
“Ginny, get out of there.”
Ginny stepped sheepishly out of her hiding spot. “How long have you known I was there?”
“Pretty much the whole time. You drag your feet.”
“Oh.” Her cheeks heated up as she subconsciously lifted her feet much higher than necessary to walk to Draco’s side. He quirked one eyebrow at her and she punched his shoulder. “What are you doing up here anyway?”
Draco cast one last look at the door before turning his steely gaze onto her. “Go back to your dorm.”
“Ginny, you’ll get a detention.”
“From who? It’s not like you can, now that the Inquisitorial Squad is no more.”
The boy’s eyes fell shut and he heaved a sigh, as if praying for patience. A muscle twitched in his jaw. “Just-…go back to your dorm, Ginny.”
What if this was her only chance to find out if Draco had betrayed them all? “Give me a reason to leave, Draco.”
At first he didn’t answer her. He just stared at her face, seeing the knowledge in those brown eyes. She, staring back, seemed to learn something in his expression that she had subconsciously known all along. Some part of her hand known since that night in the orchard at the beginning of the summer, but had refused to admit it. She just couldn’t think about the fact that Draco Malfoy, someone she considered her very best friend, had betrayed her. Slowly, she reached down and pulled the sleeve away from her left forearm. The scars from her rendezvous with Tom Riddle had mostly faded, but some scars never go away.
“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” she whispered to him, so quietly that maybe only the darkness could hear her. His eyes glittered from where he stood in the shadows with something more than just wariness. One of those tiny sparks in his eyes went out, and began to travel down the side of his face as he took a violently trembling hand to expose his left arm.
“To what lengths would you go to protect those you love, Ginny?” he pleaded in a choked whisper as Ginny took a step away from him in shock.
You should have known.
He’s nothing more than a carbon-copy of his father.
She shook her head, stepping back again. “You’re right; I should go.” She turned on her heel and fisted at the tears in her own eyes as she began to jog back to Gryffindor Tower.
Just as you’ve always feared.
“Ginny, wait!” Draco cried with a shaking voice that echoed all around her.
She should have stopped. She should have gone back and listened to what he had to say. She should have realized that he was just as frightened and desperate as everyone else in this war, comforted him in the way that his own mother wouldn’t, and told him that everything was going to be alright.
But she didn’t. She ran back to the Tower with the sounds of her best friend crying angry bitter tears hammering at her mind.
She had never hated herself more than after she was back in her bed and realized she had just left Draco back there alone, not even when it had finally sunk in that she had allowed an evil mastermind to invade her brain and use her to do his dirty work. She lay in her bed for hours, alternating between staring at the ceiling and her sunny gold bed hangings. After two hours like this without sleep, she charmed the hangings black, and fell into a fitful slumber. She dreamt of snakes and skulls and as she reached out to hold Draco a raven quoth “Nevermore,” just before he turned to ashes in her arms.
She woke up with tears streaming from her eyes, and snow falling outside her window. It was the first Hogsmeade weekend of the year, and Dean would give her hell all week if she didn’t show up for their date. She’d been seeing him casually since the beginning of the year, but doubted anything serious would come from it; he treated her as if she were made of glass, and as flattering as that was, it was also very irritating.
She met Dean in the Three Broomsticks, gave him the perfunctory hand-holding and snog, and excused herself back to the castle rather early. She hadn’t seen Draco at all as they wandered the village aimlessly; it seemed that he didn’t even have his heart into making Harry’s life hell anymore.
That night, after Hermione explained the events of Katie Bell’s being cursed to her, Ginny felt that same block of ice settling in around her heart. She was terrified; what on earth had Draco been assigned to do? It obviously had something to do with Hogwarts, or he wouldn’t have even been on the train to begin with. Every time she even thought about Draco her heart began to race for almost no reason at all, and she would instantly feel as if everyone near her could detect her thoughts and would incriminate her for thinking of the Malfoy boy with something besides pure hatred.
The sun returned, the snow went from soft and fluffy to hard and icy, and, against her better judgment, Ginny once again decided to follow Draco. This time she was more aware of the sounds she made when walking, and managed to follow him all the way to the Room of Requirement undetected. However, as soon as the door closed and she pounced upon it, it opened to a broom cupboard.
Determined to find out what he was up to and thoroughly disgruntled, Ginny crossed to the other side of the hall, sat down with her arms crossed, and waited. However, Draco was in there an awfully long time, and she had suffered through a full day of classes and a Quidditch practice, and ended up falling soundly asleep. She woke up outside the Gryffindor Common Room, where Neville was nudging her shoulder nervously.
“Gin, did you forget the password too?”
She, of course, had to feign forgetfulness to cover for being out so late, and they had to wait for Hermione and Ron to come back from Prefect duty before getting back in. Neville went up to his dorm, and Hermione took Ginny by the hand and led her to a spot beside the fireplace and told her a shocking story.
Harry came back from a meeting with the Headmaster just late enough for Hermione to tell her all about the Half-Blood Prince’s book and for her blood to begin to freeze over with fear. The moment he stepped inside the Common Room Ginny was on her feet, face red and eyes blazing. “Harry, Hermione just told me that you’ve been following instructions someone wrote in a book.”
For one passing moment, Harry nearly laughed at her intense seriousness. “Ginny, why—?”
Once again, the Boy Wonder has forgotten about your suffering, whispered a voice in the back of her mind. It sounded awfully like Draco. Her hands clenched into fists and angry tears sprung up in her eyes at the implication. Hermione made a strange sound in the back of her throat from behind Ginny, and she could just sense the older girl shaking her head shamefully. Harry, seeing this, suddenly went pale and brought one hand up to cover his mouth.
“Oh, shite, Ginny, I completely forgot—!”
“Of course you did,” Ginny spat angrily. “It didn’t happen to you, so of course you’re completely oblivious to it!”
“No, don’t ‘Gin’ me, Hermione! Someone has to teach him that yes, bad things have happened to him, but bad things happen to other people too!” She turned back to Harry, wondering how on earth he could have forgotten something that had changed the course of her entire life. “Harry, I listened to the writings of that journal, and it nearly got me killed. I have to live with it every day, and every night I go to sleep in the fear that I might not wake up again.” For an instant, her resolve floundered. “I don’t want to see that happen to you, because dammit Harry, I care about you!”
“Ginny, this is different, I promise!” Harry insisted, pulling his copy of Advanced Potion-Making from his satchel. Instantly, Ginny felt that same fear rush through her every time she saw a blank diary, and took an instinctive step backwards into Hermione’s foot, thusly trapping herself between the two upperclassmen. Harry held the book open to her, where the so-called “Half-Blood Prince” had left his mark. Ignoring Hermione’s disapproving sniff, Harry took out a quill and wrote Harry Potter was here in the margin of the book. “See? Nothing happened. This was just some bored kid who knew a lot about Potions, okay?”
Ginny saw something shivering behind Harry’s eyes, something that she had once seen in Draco’s. Quite suddenly their closeness made her feel just as warm as if it was summer again, and she squirmed away. “Whatever.” Not daring to cast a glance over her shoulder at them, Ginny flew up the stairs to her dorm and curled up into a tight ball on top of her bed. She hugged a pillow to her stomach, closed her eyes, and tried not to remember what little pieces of her first year she had actually been awake for.
When she did sleep, she dreamt of blood and rooster feathers, and always the ice. It was the ice that encased her heart, the ice that tinted her lips and fingernails blue, the ice that froze her mid-step and kept her in enchanted sleep for a thousand years. Sometimes, her hair turned into fire, but once the ice melted away it always froze back around her again. There was never a sun in her dreams, only the moon, and that was what kept the ice from melting away forever. But where did one start searching for something as elusive and mythical as the sun?
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