It had been one of the first truly warm days of the New Year when Katie Bell returned to Hogwarts, and Ginny was, strangely, not elated. She was glad that Katie was alright, of course, but in her heart she knew who Katie’s allegedly anonymous attacker really was. Harry knew, Hermione knew, half of the school probably knew it without really knowing it, but no one (with the exception of Harry) seemed to suspect anything on her actual day of arrival.
Ginny was in the Great Hall when Harry practically leaped from his seat to accost poor Katie. For one instant, her eyes rested on Katie, she bit her lip, and then turned to watch as Draco entered the Hall and came to a complete halt the moment his silver eyes found the girl he had allegedly cursed. She practically saw the electricity flying through the air as his eyes and Harry’s eyes met, and Draco turned tail and walked out again.
There was no possibility or even hope for Ginny to see Draco that night. She sat in the Common Room with Hermione, waiting for some sort of nerves to snap and for her to start shrieking, especially when time dragged on and Harry didn’t return from wherever he had roamed off to, but she never did. She remained silent and almost ominously calm, to the point where Hermione almost appeared to be trembling slightly to compensate for Ginny’s lack of nerves.
However, both girls were propelled from their seats when the portrait hole burst open and Harry staggered in, hair wet and disheveled and his robes covered in blood. Hermione gasped and immediately began making inquiries, but he was already up the stairs in his dorm, shouting something panicked at Ron. The next thing they knew Harry was already on his way back out, flushed with exertion and eyes as wide as saucers. The portrait hole slammed shut behind him, and all was silent once again.
“What the bloody hell was that about?” asked Ron, coming down the boys’ dorm stairs with a bewildered expression on his face. The girls shook their heads, and they sat silently down again until Harry returned, almost an hour later.
“Harry, what on earth happened?” asked Hermione, taking in the state of her best friend. Ginny, too, took a better look and saw that he was coated in drying water, blood, and now a layer of thick grimy dust. He was still slightly out of breath, as if he had run a full marathon in the past hour.
“I…” he stammered, looking almost as if he were going to cry from shock. “I hexed Malfoy. I didn’t know it would…I didn’t…Oh, god…” He sank his head into his hands; shoulders slumped with defeat as Ginny’s blood ran cold.
“Harry, who’s blood is that?” she asked, hardly able to hide the tremor in her voice. Ron gave her a sympathetic look, probably thinking that his sweet innocent little sister was just too soft for the sight of blood. Harry didn’t answer; he didn’t need to.
“Did Malfoy make it?” asked Ron, with even a hint of hope in his voice. Ginny thought she would be sick, even though Harry nodded.
Hermione, almost the exact opposite of Ginny even though she had sent her a worried glance, sat up a bit straighter. “Well, I won’t say I told you so,” she told him in a reprimanding tone. “Even Ginny warned you about listening to that book.”
“Well I didn’t know it would come to this!” Harry snapped, finally pulling his face from his hands.
While the three friends started arguing, Ginny quietly slipped from the room out into the cool corridor. Allowing her heart to direct her where to go, she was not surprised to find herself at the hospital wing entrance. Checking in the window for any signs of life, she saw only one curtained-off bed and no one around, and entered.
The wing was eerily silent, even if there was only one person there, and she treaded as softly as she could. She crept around the curtain and held her breath. Draco was asleep, his face shockingly young and boyish in slumber. Even the side of Draco she knew didn’t compare to the vast innocence of him when asleep. She sat down beside the bed and slid her hand into his. It was comfortably warm. Her other hand gently brushed stray locks of white-blonde hair from his forehead. So peaceful.
Ginny just barely stifled a shriek as Draco’s eyes snapped open and he shot upright, grabbing her wrists in an act of self-defense. For a moment, he was completely unrecognizable, his eyes gone the color of a sharp blade and lips curled back in a snarl. For a moment she sat frozen, staring into his fatally-intense eyes, and he seemed to finally recognize her. His body sagged, eyes fell shut, and hands released her wrists. They both sank away from one another breathlessly, too scared to speak. Then, silently, he touched her hand, as if not quite believing she was real.
With that one small touch, suddenly everything she had been holding back seemed to come back at her in a rush, like when one’s ears would pop after climbing a high hill very quickly, and then her throat was closed up and her eyes aching and a sob wrenched through her. She made a positively ghastly face trying to stop herself, but it made no difference, and within moments she was bent double, clutching at Draco’s hand and pressing her eyes into his sheets. Slightly dumbfounded, he put a hand on her back and made small circular motions to try and silence the sobs that weren’t even coming. She was completely still, reveling in the darkness that was boring into her eyes.
“Tell me what it was like,” she whispered, remembering the fierce look on Draco’s face as he had demanded the same of her, so long ago. Lifetimes ago. “Did you see the boatman? The light at the end of the tunnel?”
He was silent for a long time, and she could feel the tension rolling off of him in waves, but his hand never slowed in its pace on her back. He took a slow breath in, as if preparing himself, and then: “I remember it-…it was dark, and quiet, and-…” She raised her head to look at him when he didn’t answer her, but he turned his head quickly away, as if he were embarrassed or ashamed. “…there was no war, no death lurking round every corner; there were no Death Eaters or Phoenixes, just…peaceful. And I-…” A muscle in his jaw twitched, and Ginny felt herself go cold all the way from the back of her throat to the very bottom of her belly, as if she already knew what he would say, and didn’t want it.
“For a moment…I hoped that Potter had actually killed me.”
Ginny’s hands closed like a vice around Draco’s, and she started shaking with fear. “Sweet Circe, Draco…what the hell is he making you do?” The next thought that occurred to Ginny, quite rapidly after the first, made her stomach turn, but she persevered nonetheless. “Maybe-…maybe there’s some way for me t-to…to help—”
“No, abso-fucking-lutely not!” he snapped, finally sitting up to attention with the wild gleam of a trapped animal in his silvery eyes. He curled his knees up to his chest and held them there with his wiry arms; Ginny could see every tendon, every boyish muscle that lie beneath the white skin. He was so pale, so thin, and so very frightened. Still just a boy, forced to do the work of a man four times his age just to keep his family alive. Was that any different than Harry’s fate? The only difference was the sides they were on. “You know I would never ask that of you, Ginny.”
“I know,” she told him, hardening her jaw in that defiant way that made him look twice. “That’s why I offered instead of waiting for you to ask.”
“Ginny, do you not get that this isn’t some game?” he snarled, trying desperately for her to understand. Grasping at straws, he finally admitted: “I have to kill someone, Ginny!”
They both went so eerily silent that they could hear a nightingale crying somewhere far off in the Forest. Ginny swallowed past the lump in her throat with some small degree of difficulty. “Wh-who?” she asked quietly.
“Do you really expect me to tell you?”
Ginny shook her head slightly, but there was no distinction between agreeing with him or simply thinking. Her brown eyes lifted from where they had again fallen to her lap, filled with uncertainty.
“Is it Harry?”
Draco neatly scoffed at her. “Everyone knows the Dark Lord wants Potter to himself.”
“Then Ron? Hermione?” she added with a hint of a tremor on her brother’s name.
“What about Katie? You nearly killed her once, but she’s not exactly a vital member of the Order or anything…”
“I never said that was me!”
“Then of course there’s McGonagall, Snape, Flitwick, Trelawney…” she began listing all of the teachers at Hogwarts, trying to find some link between them and the Order and Draco all at once until finally he grabbed her hands in his to keep her from fidgeting so badly. He watched her with something akin to pity in his eyes and shook his head as she finally came to a halt. “What?”
“I just think you’re funny,” he murmured without a trace of humor. “Such a child. But we’re all still mere children in a way; we all imagine our heroes to be immortal until the very end, don’t we?”
She narrowed her eyes at him thoughtfully for a full minute before seeming to finally realize the one person she had left out of her ramblings. She went white, so shockingly white that Draco reached out to catch her if she fainted. Even her lips and eyelids were bloodless. She stared up at him with nothing but horror in her eyes, shoulders trembling beneath his hands. B-but it’s impossible!” she half-moaned, half-whimpered.
“You think I don’t know that by now?” Draco murmured. “But I have no choice. Fail, and watch my family die before they kill me; succeed, and wait for your Phoenix people to hunt me down and get their revenge.”
“No!” Ginny moaned, her head in her hands. The very thought of her own family and friends tracking down and murdering her very best friend in the world made her head spin like a top. She tried in vain to imagine her father, so awkward and sweetly genuine, raising his wand to end the life of another human being, and her stomach turned over. She couldn’t really see any of the Order killing someone like Draco, not even Mad-Eye. Especially not—
Draco sprung back from her as she sat up like a bullet and grabbed his hands, a wild terrified hysteria flowing through her veins to accompany her adrenaline. “My mother, Draco!” She had nearly shouted it aloud before remembering Madam Pomfrey in the other room. Instead, she had settled for whispering with the manic desire to keep him alive as a strong undertone.
“What about her?” he asked perplexedly. Ginny moved from the chair at Draco’s side to right on the bed itself.
“My mother!” she reiterated. “Don’t you see? I’ll take you to my mother, she would never condemn a child even if it was a Malfoy! She’ll make sure you’re kept safe. Draco, we could leave. We could leave tonight! Please!” She clutched his hands again, her knuckles turning white, and he had to pry himself free.
“And what of my mother, then?” he asked, a bit more sharply than he had intended. She instantly went silent and, like a flower in winter, she seemed to wilt before his eyes, pressing her eyes into the hard heels of her hands. “This is just something I need to figure out on my own.”
His stubborn independence when it came to everything truly important reminded her of Harry again. Why was it that he could so easily tell her to fetch him a book or remember to bring food from the kitchens for the next meeting, and yet when it came to being assigned the role of murderer by a madman, he was convinced that he had to act alone? Without any warning at all, the curious sensation of water trickling down her hands and wrists began, and she dropped them to her lap to find herself crying. She hiccupped a small sob, but swallowed those that tried to follow. Draco didn’t miss it. He cupped her chin in his hand and made her look at him. Expecting that hard steely glare that always accompanied one of his more serious orders, she was shocked to find him looking completely desolate. Once again, he was nothing more than a boy with too much on his plate, and Ginny was only making things worse. She tried to turn away so she could wipe the tears away, but he held her tight.
“Why are you crying?” he whispered in that same way she had to him only a few months ago. How long ago had it been? Surely there hadn’t been snow on the ground back then.
“I…I just don’t know what to do,” she finally admitted. “I refuse to give up being close to you, but the farther into this war we get, the harder it is to pull this off. Everyone’s so scared that they won’t let me leave the yard alone, and-…I can’t choose between you and Harry I just can’t!”
“Who’s making you choose?” Draco asked incredulously. Her glare told him everything he needed to know, and he sank back on his pillows, crossing his arms in a small fit of that same only-child selfishness that he never could shake. “Well, it seems to me that your choice is clear. You’ve been moony over Potter ever since you were six years old.”
“No, really Ginny,” he insisted, becoming more genuine but sounding about ten times more exhausted. “Just-…just go find him and-and marry him and have all those green-eyed redheaded babies the whole wizarding world expects you to have.”
“Maybe we’ll all be lucky and your side will win the war before I have to do my job. Then at least we can fake a breakthrough and ‘become’ friends, you know?” he suggested weakly. Ginny, nearly wild with frustration, drew back a hand as if to slap him, and finally he went silent.
“Don’t you get it, you git?! For all those years, I’ve only been in love with the idea of being Mrs. Harry Potter, not actually being her! This is different!”
“Because I’m in love with you, you daft, barmy sod!”
Ginny made an unusual sort of choking sound in the back of her throat and clapped a hand to her mouth, shocked by her own words. Before Draco could even pick up his jaw from the floor, she had leaped from the bed, stuttered a quick goodnight, and left with her face burning red even in the dark of night. The moment she was out the door she was running as quickly as if the Dark Lord himself were nipping at her heels, practically flying, until she was safely back in her dorm and hiding in the peace and quiet of her bed hangings, trying to silence her thumping heart.
For almost a year now she had been looking for the sun to fill in her nightmares and melt away the ice. Could it be true? Had she finally found the sun?
Sorry for the delay, everyone! I just moved last week, and we're still working out some kinks with the internet. I'm at my mom's house right now and she's got wireless, but I have to buy a new wireless router in order to get the internet at my dad's place. Anyway, it could be either a few days or a few weeks before the next update. Sorry if I'm disappointing anyone out there!