Chapter 6 : Chapter 5
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After her “discussion” with Harry, things seem to move quickly again for Ginny. She continued to pursue Draco on his nocturnal excursions, never drawing any conclusions from them, even as Hermione prodded her to study for her OWLs. Instead, during class, she would fiddle with her coin from the set she and Draco shared. She would charm messages on its rim under her desk, stare at it for a long time, and then remove it and start over again. She began taking notes on his behavior when she observed him during meals and breaks, under the cover of night; it was the closest she would ever get to writing in a diary ever again.
She began to feel his eyes on her again during mealtimes. There were no words for the ecstasy that sent her heart thrumming and whirring in her chest like something mechanical. It took days for her to dredge up enough courage to actually look up when she felt his eyes resting on a spot near the outer end of her right eyebrow; it was just barely a peek from behind her lashes, but there he was. He turned white, so sickly white as she had never seen before, and turned away so quickly that she thought Oh Merlin I actually hurt him! But then the moment was over, and only Hermione seemed to notice the way Ginny had tensed up in every muscle of her body.
That was the only part of what once was her relationship with Draco that truly horrified and sickened her; the way her whole body seemed to coil and tense with some unnamed physical and emotional affliction whenever she looked him in the eye. She became filled with a raw uncontrollable adrenaline-rush that left her wanting both to run and fight or something similarly physical that was really quite the opposite of fighting.
And, of course, those wicked dreams that so betrayed the logic of her mind. They drove her mad, twisting and turning labyrinths where she always got lost and was hunted by bats and crows and ravens screeching Nevermore and barking dogs and howling wolves and tall trees and winding branches and crackling flames and burning embers that clouded her mind and blinded her and then she was falling, falling, falling but not into a hole or trap but into Draco Malfoy’s arms and his bed and his icy eyes burned her bare flesh as her blood-red hair set him ablaze and he turned to ashes between the blankets and all she was left with was the stench of smoke. She always woke up drenched in sweat, gasping for air, and feeling so very dirty for that most curious burning pressure between her legs.
After weeks of lost sleep and very little satisfaction in all of her methods to try keeping the dreams of ice and labyrinths at bay, Ginny finally caved in and asked Hermione for help, who had always shown a sisterly compassion for her. The older girl had been more than understanding and sympathetic, and had suggested a few ways for Ginny to distract herself from what she called “Great Expectations”, which got her laughing at her own pun for a book she had read about a million years ago. In the end, Ginny threw herself into Quidditch practices and Hermione continued to study ruthlessly until the most ungodly hours of the night.
The first night back after the Christmas holidays had ended, Ginny wandered up to the Astronomy Tower’s topmost peak, trying to sort out the increased awkwardness that seemed to be occurring between herself and Harry more and more often. And, of course, it didn’t help with Dean trying to shove his tongue down her throat at every possible interval and in any possible venue of the castle. Dean was a nice and charming guy, really, but she just didn’t want to snog him anymore.
Her thoughts were interrupted very suddenly by the sound of footsteps coming up the spiral stairs to the Tower. Instantly, Ginny began to panic, not entirely sure why she was so determined not to be seen, but somehow knowing that she must hide. She dove for the side stairway that led to the storage room below the Observation Deck, and crouched down at the base of the enormous steel globe that made up the center of the deck, staring up through the small gap between the floor and the base.
Slow, deliberate footsteps made their measured way across the deck’s floor, and Ginny felt a thrill of dirty excitement rush through her lower belly at the prospect of getting caught. However, all of the niggling worry seemed to freeze inside of her as quickly as if a Dementor was standing beside her, when she caught sight of the young man’s white-blond hair. Draco! Of all people! What on earth could he…?
I’d rather pitch myself off the Astronomy Tower…
Ginny froze, quite literally, as Draco fully crossed the deck and leaned up against the tower’s outer railing. She felt her body trembling as she shifted in the lower deck to get a better view of him.
Sounds like he’s bloody suicidal…
A strange sound drifted down through the floorboards, so foreign and unusual when coming from the lips of a Malfoy that at first Ginny thought it was laughter. But she knew even from the first instant she heard it what it truly was, but only didn’t want to acknowledge it. There he was, the great and unflappable Draco Malfoy, leaning against the safety-rail as if it were the only thing tethering him to the earth, and his entirely all-too-thin body was shaking with sobs. Ginny’s heart broke in her chest, and suddenly what she had known ever since Draco had exposed his Mark to her came to surface.
To what lengths would you go to protect those you love, Ginny?
Draco Malfoy was no Death Eater. He was just a scared kid, forced into a corner by his father’s high expectations and the devotion and love he felt for his mother.
The pale boy, with his wet eyes and desperate face, reared back in sudden fury and began to kick and claw at the tower’s safety-rail. He cried out with both frustration and pain as the metal rail made hard contact with his foot, and he dropped to sit on the floor, his head sitting cradled in his hands. He murmured something Ginny couldn’t make out, and suddenly she could take this torture no longer.
She drifted slowly back over to the stairs but didn’t go up. She had read a book over the hols that she had at first assumed Hermione had simply forgotten to mark as a gift for her, but now she was convinced otherwise. She disguised her voice until it sounded both older and younger than her own. “Boy, why are you crying?” she asked softly.
Draco’s head snapped up from his hands, his eyes unfocused and swollen. He looked almost unsure if he had truly heard her or not. He rose to his feet, as lithe and graceful as a dancer, and yet just as unsteady as a young child separated from his mother at the market. Now Ginny was surer than ever that he was the one to have left the book Peter Pan in the snow under their tree in the orchard. “I…” his voice cracked, as if he hadn’t spoken for weeks. “I’ve lost m-my shadow… I’ve lost it… I’ve… I’ve lost…”
He was suddenly shaking again, gasping for breath as tears began streaming down his sallow cheeks again. Ginny ran up the side stairs and threw her arms around him. He wrapped his arms around her waist and held her against him as if she were the only thing that existed in his world. He bowed his head until his face was hidden in the curve between her neck and shoulder, and she ran her hand comfortingly through his hair, murmuring Shh, shh, it’s alright Draco, shh, it’s going to be alright… until his tears had dried. Even then, he kept his arms around her so tightly it nearly hurt, but she made no move to get away. She never wanted to leave him again.
“Draco,” she whispered once his breathing had become slow and even again. He felt feverishly warm in her arms, and raised his head until his chin was on her shoulder, showing he was listening. “Draco, let me take you to Dumbledore’s office. He’ll protect you, Draco, he’ll keep you safe and you won’t have to be a Death Eater anymore and—what…?” Draco pulled away from her, and she felt suddenly frozen with the lacking heat of his body against hers.
“I already told you that I’m not doing this for myself, Ginny,” he murmured, straightening his tie and hair. Once again, his pale lips moved into words she couldn’t hear, but she could guess.
“The Order can protect your mother too, Draco!” Ginny cried, guessing his further reasons on a whim. “Please Draco, please, I just want you to be safe, I don’t want to see you fall apart in that horrible darkness like Sirius Black did!”
Draco’s hands slid up to the sides of her face, his thumbs brushing away the moisture she hadn’t even known was there. “Oh, Ginny, please don’t cry. Isn’t it bad enough that I am?” he whispered with a shaky smile. Ginny smiled despite herself and sidled closer to him, burying her eyes in his shoulder. He tentatively wrapped his arms around her again, and she reveled in his warmth.
Within moments they had both moved to the edge of the deck, away from the safety-rail, and sat down against the wall with their arms around one another for warmth against the chilly night. “So you knew my uncle?” he murmured into Ginny’s hair. They were both muted in the sudden darkness, the red of her hair gone to black and the shadows of his face more sunken than ever.
“I did. He was a good man,” Ginny told him softly. He nodded in silence, tightening his hold on her. They sat there together on that Tower for what should have been forever, and Ginny so badly just wanted to seal that door so no one could ever find them and they would never have to face the world and its cruelties, but it was not to be so.
With a loud bang, the door to the Astronomy Tower opened and Hermione came in. Draco practically flew from her arms to the side stairway as Hermione’s eyes fell on them both. Something desperate must have flashed in Ginny’s eyes, because the older girl hissed “Get out of sight!” and then closed the door until only she could fit through. “I, uh, don’t see her up here, Ron!” she unconvincingly lied, waving frantically behind her back. Draco hauled Ginny to her feet and pulled her down into the storage deck, where they huddled amongst old telescopes and varying equipment.
“Are you sure, Hermione? We’ve looked everywhere else for her!” Ron insisted, pushing his friend aside to look around the observation deck himself. Ginny crouched, frozen in the circle of Draco’s arms, and was only just able to register the blond boy’s protective position through her terror of Oh my goodness Hermione saw us together!
“Satisfied?” drawled Hermione (in a very good imitation of Draco, honestly) after Ron had walked around the observation deck no less than three times. He made only a disgruntled sound and left the room. “I’ll be down in a minute; I want to double-check my Astronomy homework!”
The bushy-haired witch closed the door with a decisive snap, and turned slowly to face the deck. For a moment, Ginny remained silent, hoping desperately that Hermione wouldn’t call out “Ginny, come out of there, we need to talk. You too, Malfoy.”
Defeated, Ginny and Draco came out of their hiding place, not daring to even touch one another once in Hermione’s sights. Ginny crossed her arms over her stomach tightly, feeling colder by the minute. The older girl had her arms crossed as well, but not to keep warm.
“How long has this been going on?” she asked without further ado, switching from looking nervously at Ginny to glaring daggers at Draco.
“Since we were children,” said Ginny instantly. At Hermione’s completely horrified look, she hastily added, “We’re friends!”
Draco snorted, and Hermione instantly rounded on him. “Just because I haven’t shouted for Ron to come up here and beat your scrawny albino arse to a pulp yet doesn’t mean I still won’t! Ginny has brothers that are Curse-Breakers and…and dragon-trainers! And Fred and George! The rest are, regrettably, less impressive, but they could still hurt you if they wanted to!” The Slytherin raised his hands as if in surrender, and Hermione preened like a showy owl before turning imperiously back to Ginny.
It was clear that she found this position of power (which she tried and failed to hold in her own group of friends) to be highly satisfying. However, seeing Ginny’s stricken face, she softened and took on a sisterly tone. “Ginny…why on earth didn’t you tell anyone you were friends? I mean, we might have…”
Ginny moved further from Draco, tightening her hold on herself, and glowered at the older girl who obviously knew nothing about her. “Might have what? Welcomed into your high-and-mighty circle with warm open arms? Tolerated his presence any time he was near?” Hermione blushed, looking cowed, but it did nothing to deter the steam Ginny was steadily building.
“And when would have been the right time to tell you we were friends, Hermione? That horrible year where I spent more time trying to keep track of who I was than who I was friends with? Or maybe when Draco’s father was trying to get Buckbeak executed and Hagrid sacked?” Hermione shook her head slightly and opened her mouth, but Ginny held up a hand for silence. “Or what about when his father was plotting Harry’s death and V-V-You-Know-Who’s rebirthing, should I have told you then?” A hint of sadistic, mocking laughter had tainted her voice so that even Draco was edging away from her. “Or maybe the right time to point out that he’s my best friend would have been last year, when Draco was put on the Inquisitorial Squad, and held us all back in Umbridge’s office to try and keep us from helping while his father tried to kill Harry?” Draco made some sort of involuntary movement at Ginny’s theory about last year, but made no sound.
Hermione was standing stock-still, one hand over her mouth. She lowered it slowly, staring determinedly at the floor. “I…I didn’t think about any of that…”
“I know you didn’t,” Ginny muttered at the floor, all anger suddenly gone. Quite suddenly, there were tears streaming down her face again. “Please don’t tell Ron, Hermione. You’re my best friend, and…and Draco’s my best friend too. Don’t make me choose.”
The thoughtful silence seemed to stretch on forever. Finally, Hermione reached out, took Ginny’s hand, and led her out of the tower. Ginny sent a fleeting look over her shoulder at Draco, but he had already turned away toward the night sky.
She followed Hermione in a frightened torpor, hardly able to even make her feet move beneath her. They went all the way to Gryffindor Tower, inside (where Ron was nowhere to be found, thankfully), and at her dorm, Hermione silently released her hand and continued to the sixth year dorm. Apparently, she was not going to tell anyone. Thank Merlin. Ginny slipped into her light golden bed hangings and fell into bed, too grateful and cold to lie awake.
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