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Crossing into Chaos by Emeral_eyes
Chapter 18 : Abductions and ultimatums
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 32


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Abductions and ultimatums

“Sent the girl home?” Zabini asked as Draco sat down at their table in the Three Broomsticks. Draco cast him a sideways glance, and smiled wryly.

“About as much as one can send that girl home,” he said, recalling her protests when he insisted on walking her back to her flat. If he didn’t find her bad temper an exciting challenge, it would be hard to justify that she worth the effort, particularly as there was any number of girls just waiting to fall at his feet if he so much as gave them a second’s thought.

“She does have the tendency to fight tooth and nail against things that are actually in her best interest,” Blaise said, with a smile, which faded after a moment. He leaned forward, glancing around to ensure that no one was listening in. “You’ve noticed them?”

“It’s been going on for a couple weeks now. I caught them outside her flat one night, and they haven’t been quite so obvious after I spoke to them. I could almost kill them for this…” Draco muttered darkly, watching a pair of Death Eaters march past the restaurant’s windows on their nightly patrol. “…The insolence of it.”

“Maybe you should keep your distance, at least until they stop watching so closely,” Blaise suggested. Draco glanced at him for a moment, before leaning back in his chair, surveying his best friend’s face with scrutiny.

“I need a drink,” he said finally, before standing up and heading towards the bar, unwilling to wait for the Mudblood waitress to make her way over to them. The weasel’s friend seemed to share her disregard for how important he was, and treated him exactly the same as any other customer.

“Weasel isn’t here anymore,” a shrill voice said as he reached the counter. He ignored Pansy Parkinson’s comment, waiting to flag down the bartender, who he knew from experience would treat him with the appropriate level of service, that which his surname demanded. It appeared, however, that Parkinson was determined to make a nuisance of herself, as she maneuvered her body between him and the bar. “I can tell because Blaise has been moping around the bar ever since.”

He ignored her remarks, and pushed past her, finally signaling the bartender.

“You mean to tell me that you haven’t noticed the way the two of them are always together? How he waits for her after every Quidditch practice, in the hallways between classes? Aren’t you at all concerned that she’s now trying to bewitch your best friend behind your back?” Pansy spat out, sounding shrill and desperate. Malfoy slammed the drink the bartender had just handed him down on the counter, and turned to her.

“I’ve been very tolerant of you this entire time because I respect your father. But if you ever try to make that kind of allegation about Weasley or Blaise Zabini ever again, I will no longer be so tolerant,” he said darkly, before walking back to his table.

He sat down at the table, feeling out of sorts. It was always so boring when Weasley wasn’t working. Just watching her as she worked, the various personalities she took on depending on who she was serving, was fascinating. He could tell, instantly, which patrons she genuinely liked, and those whose orders’ she’d probably spit in. She didn’t seem to realize how transparent she was, how terrible she was at lying. Luckily, most of the affluent patrons who frequented the restaurant were about as dim as they come – a symptom the Dark Lord’s preference for the loyalty of those who would never be able to challenge him.

“Parkinson giving you a hard time? She’s becoming more and more desperate to make us all see how egregious it is that we spend time with Weasley,” Blaise commented.

“She’s been bothering you as well?” Draco asked, trying to keep his voice level. As ridiculous he thought her insinuations were, there were more than a few occasions when he had met up with the two of them, and had had to fight back irrational flashes of jealousy.

“Just her usual snide comments, trying to cause trouble wherever she can,” Blaise answered casually. “She practically takes notes every time she spots Ginny and I.”

Draco felt his eyes narrow involuntarily, as he noted it was the first time his best friend had ever called Weasley by her first name.

* * * *

Ginny stared at the impeccably dressed woman seated at her desk, a mixture of emotions keeping her body frozen as her mind tried to figure out which was stronger – her surprise, her abject terror of Malfoy’s mother, or her slowly building outrage over the fact that this woman had just let herself into Ginny’s home.

“What can I do for you, Mrs. Malfoy?” she asked, her strained voice as moderately polite as she could muster. She was using the same tone she reserved for the particularly offensive drunk Death Eaters who appeared at the restaurant after serving their duties to the Dark Lord, the tone which was ultimately polite, but edged with a strain of defiance it wasn’t in her nature to hide.

“You’re a bit of a sassy thing, aren’t you? I was warned about that,” she said, coolly. “Your mother must be mortified to have such an undignified girl. Well, I guess that’s what becomes of being raised as you were.”

“Glass houses, Mrs. Malfoy,” she muttered, her temper prickling at the slight. Narcissa Malfoy was well-known for her delicate stature, impeccable wardrobe and perfect feminine grace. All the magazines and newspapers often referred to her as the perfect lady, and standing in front of her, tired and disheveled after work, Ginny knew that it hadn’t been just regime propaganda – she really was the image of a perfect lady.

A perfect lady who was now staring at her with the coldest look even as she was smiling politely.

“I’m here to talk to you about my son, as I’m sure you’ve realized. If you’re as clever as everyone says that you are, you no doubt figured that out as soon as you came in and saw that I was here waiting for you,” she answered.

“Indeed.”

“Now, what am I to do with such a clever girl? If you had any other last name, you’d almost be an impressive young lady – determined to succeed at Hogwarts against all odds, supporting yourself on a pathetic wage working as a waitress while still keeping your marks up enough to maintain your scholarship. You’ve been quite a match for my son, from what I’ve heard,” she said, sounding mildly impressive yet somewhat horrified as she described Ginny in her soft, cool voice.

“I take after my parents that way,” Ginny responded, feeling her cheeks burn as her prickling temper began to boil. The audacity of it was so outrageous – to break into her home and then stand there, insulting her. Even though her relationship with Malfoy had come so far, all she could remember, while staring at his mother, was the very first confrontation she’d had with him. How angry she was, how terrifying it had been, and how she knew it would have been smarter to walk away, but her pride and her temper wouldn’t let her.

“Yes, I suppose you would. I remember them both – we were in school together, back when they let all sorts in. Of course, your mother would have passed today’s higher standards, given her family background, but your father… he’s a different story. But they weren’t such troublemakers then – that would come much later, during a different time,” she said, as she wandered over to Ginny’s nightstand, picking up the framed portrait of her parents.

“They’ve been nothing but honest citizens under the Dark Lord’s rule. Others have tried many times to prove otherwise, but always seem to come up empty,” Ginny said, keeping her voice carefully level. She could remember all the times in her childhood that either of her parents would have to appear before the “tribunal” Voldemort had put in place after he took power, attempting to stomp out any strain of resistance in the wizarding population. Others, trying to deflect suspicion away from themselves, often accused members of her family, mostly due to their tendency to speak their minds without a thought to who may be listening.

“Nicely said, but irrelevant, as that’s not what I am here for,” she said.

“Well, let’s have it then,” Ginny said, bracing herself.

“Have what, Miss Weasley?” Narcissa Malfoy asked softly, arching a perfect eyebrow at her. It was clear where her son had picked up that particular trait, but there was no mischief behind it, no arrogant charm. It was pure coldness.

“Whatever ultimatum you came here to deliver, or the terrible threat of all the consequences if I don’t stay away from your son – well, actually, if I don’t try to keep him away from me, as in all fairness, he’s been the one persisting in spending time with me,” Ginny said, crossing her arms in front of her defiantly.

“I suppose you would expect that, considering my son. His methods aren’t very refined – he prefers to wage an all out war. I prefer a much more delicate touch. Which is why I am here to offer you an incentive, instead of a threat,” she said, her voice sickly sweet.

“Incentive, you say?” Ginny responded, careful to keep her voice even.

“It took me awhile to decide how best to approach this situation. I’ve dealt with similar circumstances with my niece in a much different manner, as you may have heard, and I’m not entirely sure how successful it might have been. Sure, she was married as befitted her heritage, and the scoundrel she was dallying with has not been seen since, but there is definitely a defiant streak in that girl that I would not like to see in my son. So, I am offering you an incentive – if you agree to keep your distance from my son and actively dissuade him from seeking your company, I will sponsor the remainder of your education at Hogwarts. Combined with your current scholarship, you’d be able to quit your job and truly focus on your studies,” Narcissa said, stepping closer to Ginny.

Ginny felt as if she’d been hit by lightening. Of all the things that she’d been expecting to hear once she’d realized who was waiting for her in her flat, this was entirely the opposite. She suddenly felt how tired she was, and her eyes flickered to the pile of neglected homework on her desk. She knew how much her parents wanted her to do well at Hogwarts, how important it was that she succeed in her studies and everything they sacrificed to keep her there. Narcissa Malfoy had certainly found her Achilles’ Heel, and it hadn’t taken her very long at all to do so. She stared at the pale woman standing in front of her, staring her at Ginny with cold certainty that she would graciously accept the offer, and she suddenly knew exactly what was happening here.

“I’ve had this conversation a number of times with your son, Mrs. Malfoy. Despite what you may think of me and my family, as poor as we might be, there is not any price for which I can be bought. The very fact that you would think I could be just shows how ignorant you are and how completely you underestimate me. If you want your son to stay away from me, then you’ll have to find some other way of making that happen. I would never agree to any incentive you have to offer,” Ginny shot back, finally finding her voice.

She marched over to her door, flinging it open with as much dramatic flare as she could muster. Turning to Narcissa Malfoy, she gestured towards it.

“I would like you to leave, and refrain from invading my home in the future,” Ginny said. Her unwelcome guest stared at her in shock, two spots of pink appearing on her pale cheeks the only indication of how furious she was at Ginny’s refusal.

“It would be very unwise for you to turn down this offer – the next one won’t be so favourable,” she said, turning just outside the door, her frosty voice sending a chill down Ginny’s spine.

“I’d rather take my chances than sell my integrity, and perhaps my soul, to a snake like you,” Ginny spat before slamming the door in the face of the most powerful woman in her world.

* * * *

The next day, even though the cold November wind was whipping snow around furiously, Ginny wrapped herself in her cloak, brushed off a bench in the courtyard and sat down with her books, determined to find a few moments of peace to catch up with her Potions homework. At least that was what she was telling herself. Truth was, she hadn’t been able to sleep at all the night before and her eyes were dry and red, and she was pretty sure there were dark circles under them. While Pansy Parkinson and her crowd of twittering ninnies would love the opportunity to comment on that fact, and normally Ginny wouldn’t mind giving them that chance - equal to the task of rebutting their insults, she often enjoyed it. But she was afraid that Malfoy, with his ever-observant nature, would notice and probe into the reason why. She wasn’t ready to give him one yet.

She’d had nightmares; the same ones that had haunted her for years as a child, after that terrible night she’d seen the Dark Mark hovering over the Burrow. All those months following that she was separated from her family, she’d wake up screaming. Remus and Sirius, as hard as they tried, were never sure how to deal with a hysterical child and were unable to comfort her when she refused to sleep. She had to chuckle about it now, two hapless bachelors suddenly saddled with a traumatized child plagued with nightmares. She must have had them at their wits’ end, trying to manage her nightmares, insomnia and constant moping about. They eventually settled on taking turns conjuring Patronus Charms, sentinels to guard her room with their silvery shadows while she slept. It had worked, especially after Sirius had told her that a Patronus was the exact opposite of the Dark Mark, something made of light and conjured from a wizard’s happiest memory. Ginny fervently wished she knew how to conjure her own.

A hundred times, she had considered sending a note to Mrs. Malfoy, saying that she was reconsidering her position, and that she would, indeed, stay away from Malfoy (or at least, “dissuade him” from seeking her out), anything she could to keep any harm from occurring to her family. But it wasn’t right – that Narcissa Malfoy could make her feel so afraid for her family, just because her son had decided he was interested in Ginny. She didn’t care who she was, what kind of political power she had or how much money she had at her disposal, it was simply wrong that anyone felt they could intimidate her by threatening her family, and for that reason, if for no other, she would not back away from the declaration she’d made just before she’d tossed Narcissa Malfoy out of her flat.

And, of course, there was the fact that she didn’t think she could stay away from Malfoy, even if she wanted to. She cared about him, and had been serious about wanting to be friends with him, but even if she told him that she hated him and wanted him to stay away from her, she knew that he wouldn’t listen. He had the persistence of a battering ram.

“Ah, look what I’ve found, a little weasel all snug in a burrow. Shouldn’t you be hibernating?” a warm and friendly voice asked. She looked up from the book she hadn’t been reading and smiled to see Blaise Zabini standing over her, looking down at her quizzically. “Castle too warm for you?”

“Surely I don’t have to explain to you the merits of a quiet space and some fresh air, do I? All the times I’ve spotted you down at the pitch, in all kinds of weather?” she said, with a sigh. Her toes were just about numb and her cheeks were stinging from the cold.

“Well, within reason, Ginny. You’d never catch me out in the courtyard, shivering through a chapter on the magical uses of mandrake root. Study in the library, if you need to be alone,” he chastised.

“Too many people know to find me there,” she muttered, snapping her book shut. She tightened her cloak around her shoulders. “Bollocks, its cold out here.”

“I can sympathize with someone seeking sanctuary in solitude,” he said, shrugging off his robe and sitting down next to her. He then laid his cloak over the two of them, as if it were a blanket, and put his arm around Ginny, pulling her close to him. “Here, now, Weasley, we’ll keep each other warm.”

She stiffened, surprised by this action. But he was emanating warmth, and after the night she’d had, she was eager for some kind of comfort. Against her better judgment, she leaned against his shoulder and snuggled deeper into his heavy cloak. Reopening her book, she smiled up at him.

“Stroke of brilliance, Zabini,” she said, settling in to read a long, boring chapter about mandrake root.

It wasn’t long before the soporific properties of her Potions textbook lulled her to sleep, and she dozed off, her head resting on Zabini’s shoulder.

“So this is where she’d been hiding all afternoon!” Draco Malfoy said, wandering into the snow-covered courtyard. “I should have guessed that you were her accomplice, Zabini.”

“She claimed she need to study and won over my sympathies,” he answered. “Of course, I didn’t realize that she was a fugitive.”

Draco smirked at his friend, and then crouched down in front of Ginny, reaching out to stroke her face.

“Wake up, little weasel,” he said quietly, causing Ginny’s eyes to bolt open. Finding those familiar grey eyes staring quizzically at her, she jumped up, completely startled, knocking both her Potions textbook and Blaise’s robe to the ground.

“Bloody hell, Malfoy. Don’t creep up on a girl like that!” she cried out, her face burning red as both of her male companions shot each other amused looks and sniggered at her surprised reaction. “I was having a nice little dream, where all of my homework for all of my classes was magically finished itself.”

“Cheer up, little weasel. It’s a glorious day!” Malfoy exclaimed, smoothly picked up her textbook, placing it on the stone bench before scooping her up around the waist, spinning her around with him in a bit of a dance. “The shrew has flown away on her broomstick, all the way back to London, and I’m free for at least a month or so – until Christmas, that blasted holiday.”

“Your mother flew on a broomstick?” Ginny asked skeptically, wriggling away from his grasp.

“Of course not, undignified things that they are. It hardly matters, because she is out of the city, out of the manor and out of my life,” Malfoy said, his eyes sparkling.

“You shouldn’t talk about your parents that way,” she mumbled automatically, before she remembered exactly how she felt about Malfoy’s mother.

“We need to celebrate!” he declared. Ginny just shook her head at the exuberant puppy wriggling around excitedly in front of her, amazed that this was the same Draco Malfoy who’d so coldly and cruelly taunted her not a few months ago.

“You’ll have to do it without me,” she said, picking up her Potions book and wiping off the snow with a corner of her cloak before tossing it into her book bag. “All of your extra-curricular activities have been having a rather detrimental effect on my marks.”

“I’m going to have to insist you come with us, weasel. You can bring your books along if you like. I’m sure we can squeeze in some quality studying time,” he said, with a sly grin. She rolled her eyes.

“Behave yourself, Mr. Malfoy, or I may have to hex you,” Ginny admonished with a grin. She shouldered her bag. “I have to get to Snape’s class. If I show up early, it might astonish him into civility for the afternoon – an opportunity you couldn’t possibly expect me to pass up.”

“I’ll be seeing you, weasel,” Malfoy called after her, as she walked away.

“Only if I’m extremely unfortunate,” she called over her shoulder. She smiled to herself as she made her way to class, feeling refreshed. Her new Slytherin friends had an uncanny ability to help shrug off her loneliness, even through the briefest of encounters. The tight band of anxiousness she’d felt around her chest since she first found Narcissa Malfoy in her apartment had loosened significantly, and she took one last, deep breath of fresh air before stepping through the doors into the castle.

******

“Ginny, I was getting worried!” Hermione cried as Ginny dashed in through the door of the Three Broomsticks. Ginny just grimaced in answer as she stashed her bag and cloak under the bar, tying on her apron.

“Don’t make me say it – I think you can guess why I’m late,” Ginny said, exasperated. “Bleeding Snape! He should know better than to make a comment about using your natural defenses. I can hardly be blamed for asking if that was the reason he kept his hair so greasy – as a natural defense against the rest of humanity. He set himself up for it!”

“Oh Ginny, you really need to stop antagonizing him. That’s your lowest mark – it pulls down the rest of your average, when by all means, it should be your best subject,” Hermione sniffed disapprovingly.

“Temptation is the fire that brings up the scum of the heart,” Ginny quoted.

“You are such a drama queen. And you have no one to blame but yourself for getting detention. What did he make you do?”

“He sent me down to the Potions dungeon to scour cauldrons. I don’t think he was that mad about it, it was one of his less creative punishments,” Ginny commented. “Which only proves that he set me up with that comment!”

“Well, try to exercise a little bit of self control. He wins if you keep walking into his traps,” Hermione advised sagely.

“Why must you ruin the small amount of fun I manage to have at that horrid place?” Ginny demanded, hands on her hips.

“That must be why fate interfered and brought the magnificence that is my presence into your life,” Malfoy’s obnoxiously confident voice declared from behind her. Ginny grimaced, making a face at Hermione, before turning to see her ‘friend’ standing behind her.

“How fortunate for me,” Ginny said, sighing dramatically, before looking up at Malfoy and flashing him a cheeky smile. She spotted Goyle and Crabbe hovering nearby, each with a girl in tow. It never ceased to amaze her; every time she spotted those two out in public, they were with a different girl – never any that she recognized from school. “Surely it’s not date night in Hogsmeade, and you’ve decided to bring your lady friends here?”

“We’re celebrating my temporary emancipation from the wicked witch of West London, of course,” Malfoy explained.

“And you chose this as your venue?” Ginny asked skeptically. The Three Broomsticks was a choice spot of the elite in Hogsmeade, particularly the Merlin Room for private parties, but it wasn’t necessarily a popular place for the younger crowds. All Hallows’ was the only place deemed appropriate, particularly the Slytherins’ private lounge.

“Of course not, weasel. We’re just here to pick you up,” he said matter-of-factly. “Come along, the portkey leaves in about ten minutes.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you, Malfoy. I told you this afternoon that I don’t have time – I have a lot of schoolwork to catch up on, and I’m booked to work here all weekend.”

“No you aren’t,” Rosemerta called out cheerfully, as she deposited a tray of empty glasses at the bar. “I’ve juggled the schedule around, at Mr. Malfoy’s request.”

“You really didn’t need to do that. Malfoy, you shouldn’t have asked her to do that!” Ginny cried, outraged. Just when she thought they were making progress, he pulls one of his typical stunts, barreling right over her wishes in order to get what he wanted.

“Weasley,” he said, stepping closer to her, leaning closer to her so he could speak to her in that quiet, hypnotic tone of his when he was trying to convince her of something she was decidedly against.

“Malfoy,” she said, turning her basilisk-glare on him. He grinned; a sly half-grin, conveying that he was confident that he’d already won the argument.

“Let me take you away with me,” he said softly, reaching down and tugging playfully at her braid. “Somewhere warm, some sun and sand. You’re looking a bit pasty and tired, and I like my weasels red and feisty.”

“I can’t go with you. I’m not authorized for Portkey travel,” she whispered furtively, standing on her tiptoes so only he would hear him. Among the number of restrictive magical decrees the Dark Lord had made since he seized power, the limit on magical travel had been one of the hardest for everyone to accept. The Flue Network had been destroyed, Apparition was strictly licensed and those licenses were difficult to obtain, and a special permit was needed in order to activate and use a Portkey. Only Voldemort’s closest circle and political friends were allowed to travel as freely as they like.

“Rules don’t apply to me,” he said with a smirk.

“But they do apply to me,” she chided. “More than anyone else, in fact! Don’t start forgetting who my father is now, Malfoy, after all the times you attempted to use it as an insult back when we were enemies.”

Malfoy stared at her, an annoyed look on his face. Ginny tensed, wondering if she was going to have to pull out her wand and curse him before he left her alone. He reached out suddenly, grabbing her by the waist and pulling her close to him. She yelped, pushing her hands against his chest in a futile bid to free herself.

“Come now, weasel. Lay down your burdens, and come away with me to play in the sand like the proper 16 year old that you are,” he murmured in her ear, his arms planted tightly around her hips as she struggled to get away from him.

I can’t,” she insisted desperately, vowing that she was going to attack him as soon as he freed her. Everyone in the dining room was watching them.

“Too late!” Malfoy cried gleefully, and with horror, Ginny felt the telltale tug behind her navel, and the scene in the Three Broomsticks dissolved. She closed her eyes against the disoriented sensation, unwillingly grabbing tightly to Malfoy until she once again felt solid ground underneath her feet.

Opening her eyes cautiously, to ensure that the worst of the disorientation from Apparating was over, she looked around her and was amazed as her vision was filled with an amazing rush of colours. A warm, humid blast of air nearly sucked the breath out of her. It took a few moments for the brightness of the sun to sting her eyes before she started to blink. After a few moments, as her brain caught up to her senses, she realized that Malfoy was still gripping her tightly, but looking at her, Cheshire grin nearly as blinding as the bright sunlight. He was almost gleeful with the success of his plot.

She took a step away from him, wriggling out of his arms with a rough shove. They were standing on a rather rocky cliff, overlooking the ocean. All around them, lush green plant-life was growing, and bright burst of flowers could be seen everywhere.

“Well, what do you think, Weasley?” he asked her, his eyes practically glowing with pleasure.

She turned back to him, and taking a deep breath, and putting all her weight behind it, she sucker-punched his maddeningly-grinning face and sent him sprawling to the ground.

“I think that you’ve abducted me, brought me here against my wishes, and are far too pleased with yourself!” she cried, furious even as a thin stream of blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. “You have absolutely no respect for what I want, for my decisions. I’m not one of your brainless followers who will do whatever you command!”

“We are not brainless,” Goyle unwisely piped up, as he and the other two had appeared in time to see her attacking Malfoy.

“Don’t interrupt!” Ginny barked. “Furthermore – I told you that I couldn’t come away with you. I have responsibilities and schoolwork to finish, and a family full of people sacrificing a deal great to keep in that hateful school. You have to stop undermining all of my wishes just because it suits your fancy.”

“Come now, Weasley. You’re being a bit hard on a fellow who was only trying to take you on a fantastic mini-break to a private island in Hawaii,” Crabbe said tentatively. Ginny turned to him, ready to tell him exactly how he was wrong to defend his friend in this particularly instance, but the sight of Blaise Zabini standing a few feet behind him, oblivious to the fit she was throwing, wrapped up as he was in the two girls from that night out at All Hallows. He’d brought them along with him.

Turning back to Malfoy, who was sitting up, wiping the blood from his mouth and glaring darkly at her, she shrugged.

“Since I’m here – you better have brought something more appropriate for me to wear in this heat – you don’t ever want to see a redhead with sunstroke,” she declared defiantly, casting a sideways glance at Blaise and his girls.

Malfoy stood up slowly, and continued to glare at her darkly. “Why is it impossible for me to be able to do anything nice for you?” he asked.

“Because you go about it like someone trying to light a candle with a fire-breathing dragon. Too much, too big, too far and completely without regard for those around you who catch fire in the process. I’m not going to fall for that nonsense,” she said crossly. They glared at each other for a moment, before she turned to the others, smiling sweetly. “Now, gentlemen, perhaps you can show me to where we’ll be staying?”

******

She was standing out on the balcony she’d found in the bedroom she was told was to be hers for the duration of their stay, staring down at the ocean below them. She’d had been told that besides the Malfoy private residence, there was also a small, exclusive (of course) resort located at the very top of the cliffs, a luxurious vacation spot for wizards who did not wish to share their vacation destinations with Muggles. It was hard to believe that she’d been serving Firewhiskey in Hogsmeade just an hour ago, only to be standing in paradise.

A knock sounded on the door, and she sighed heavily, knowing that it had to be Malfoy. Now that the fire of her temper had started to cool, she wasn’t sure if she would have the energy to keep fighting with him. But, oh, how she wanted to.

“This is for you. Goyle went back and spoke to your Muggle friend, and she packed a bag for you,” Malfoy said stiffly. She turned to see him leaning against the doorframe, holding out a small canvas overnight bag.

“Thank you,” she said, “I appreciate that. I can only imagine what poor Goyle had to put up with – I have no doubt that Hermione would have given him quite the lecture.”

“Clothing, you appreciate. Surprise mini-break to an exclusive island, you resort to physical violence. I swear, I don’t understand women,” Malfoy grumbled, clearly exasperated.

“I told you I wouldn’t come, and you brought me along despite what I said. You have to stop doing that!” she cried.

“Doing what, exactly?” he demanded darkly, stepping into the room.

“Steam-rolling over everyone’s wishes and demanding from them things they can’t possibly give you. You don’t know how to take no for an answer, not if the answer you’re expecting is ‘yes’.”

“You claim you can’t possibly give it, but here you are – you are just incapable of pushing yourself. For someone as stubbornly determined as you, you throw in the towel fairly easily, you know.”

“It’s because you just consume all the oxygen in whatever room you’re in – you consume it all, and you leave everyone just gasping for breath!” Ginny cried, her voice cracking. “It’s too much! You ask too much, and it can be just suffocating at times. You’re the most selfishly unselfish person I’ve ever met! I can’t breathe when you’re around, sucking up all the oxygen and steamrolling over my wishes, and if you don’t stop, we can’t be friends anymore.”

Malfoy stared at her, and the intensity of his gaze set her heart racing. His left eye and cheekbone were already purpling and swollen from where she’d struck him, and she had to look away, not enjoying the stab of guilt. The silence hung in the air like a heavy fog.

“I see,” he said, finally. “We’re leaving for dinner in an hour. Please join us, if you feel so inclined.”

Without another word, he turned and left the room. Ginny collapsed on the bed after he shut the door behind him, more confused than ever before. He hadn’t raged back at her, hadn’t stormed out of the room or slammed the door in anger. He just nodded, and exited as calmly and gracefully as he didn’t anything else. She wasn’t sure what kind of reaction she’d expected from him, but that hadn’t been the one.

******

She hated to reward him for bad behavior, but the landscape was too beautiful for her to resist, and she could feel him hiding a grin every time he caught her glancing about her in awe. The rocky shore with the pounding surf below – it was completely enchanting, bewitching her to leave off the gruff countenance and take part in the moment.

Malfoy was leading the group along a path bordering the cliff, promising them a feast waiting for them if they just made the effort to hike up the path.

“Why didn’t we just have it brought to the house? There isn’t going to be much of a crowd on the island around this time of the year to entertain us,” Goyle complained.

“You had the opportunity to invite a guest, and chose not to. Don’t start whining about that now,” Malfoy said icily.

“Commit to an entire weekend with one girl? That’s not likely to happen,” he scoffed in answer.

“Then be content to spend your nights here alone,” Malfoy answered back.

“Why won’t there be anyone on the island?” Ginny asked Blaise, who was walking between her and one of his female guests, Georgia.

“Malfoy’s family owns it all. The resort, the beach house where we’re staying, the marina and restaurant. There’s a small town of locals who live here permanently, over on the other side of the island – and most of them work for the family – but when Malfoy is here, the place tends to empty out for them and their guests.”

“I see,” she said, feeling slightly queasy. It was strange to get a first-hand view of just how popular his family’s empire truly was.

“What, do you think he would have brought you here otherwise? Be caught with a Weasley on a private island get-away?” Georgia asked incredulously. “It’d be the end of him if any of his parents’ political friends found out about it.”

“I don’t think that would have been his only reason for being cautious,” Blaise interjected before Ginny could speak what was on the tip of her tongue. He shot her a pleading look, and she nodded once, promising silently to keep her peace.

“Weasley, come up here, there’s something you should see,” Malfoy called from further up the trail. He glanced back at her with that little-boy-at-Christmas smile of his that twisted her resolve and had her legs moving of their own accord, despite the fact that she was still extremely angry with him.

When she reached him and looked to where he was pointing, she gasped out loud. The curve of the cliff-face gave them a spectacular view of the neighbouring island, the setting sun casting a delicious glow of the volcanic mountain and the coffee plantations growing all along the side.

“This is why I had to bring you here,” he said, he voice barely audible over the pounding ocean and wind blowing her hair around.

“Doesn’t make it right,” she said, but as he smiled at her with an impish twinkle in his eye, she knew there hadn’t been much conviction in her voice.

“Come along, you two!” Crabbe called, the group having passed by them and had reached the restaurant.

“Tell me, who on earth builds a restaurant at the edge of a mountain – an unstable, active volcanic mountain?” Ginny asked, as Malfoy guided her along, gently steering her away from the spectacular view.

“It has the best view in the world. Why wouldn’t we?” he asked with a shrug.

“And you’ll have nothing but the best, of course,” Ginny teased.

“Not always – I chose you, didn’t I? The girl who gives a bloke a black-eye for taking her on a fabulous mini-break to a private island in Hawaii.”

“You kidnapped me!” she exclaimed, and had to bite back a smile. There’d been some awkward moments of calm between the two since their confrontation earlier, and she was so grateful to be sparring with him instead of acting polite and calm, that she was really enjoying herself.

“You could have pulled away from the Portkey,” he retorted.

“I’m not going to Splinch myself over you and your inability to compromise,” she fired back, as he shepherded her through the glass doors of the restaurant, hardly giving her a chance to take in what it looked like. It would hardly have mattered, however, because inside the doors, she entered a large patio surround by a luscious garden, littered with tables circling an open-pit fire in the center, all set against the horizon of the ocean behind them. Indeed, the entire area seemed to be suspended in mid-air, jutting out past the edge of the mountain, hovering over the churning sea below.

Unfortunately, her wondered gazing was cut short as Blaise stood in front of her, using his large form to block her view.

“The Master’s son has come,” she could hear someone shout, and as she tried to squirm around Blaise’s body to see the commotion she could hear, she then realized that all of her Slytherin friends had crowded in around her.

“I told you we shouldn’t bring her here,” Blaise muttered angrily to Malfoy. He ignored his friend, and bent to speak to Ginny, his voice low, and his eyes deadly serious as they met hers.

“I need you to keep quiet, stay behind me and do exactly as I say,” he said, before turning. Zabini was muttering something to Georgia, and then she sulkily complied to his request, handing Ginny her large straw hat and oversized sunglasses.

“Nott, didn’t expect to see you here. Or any of you for that matter. What’s the occasion?” Malfoy’s voice boomed out, all arrogance and charm.

“Impromptu gathering, you know. Away from prying eyes – wouldn’t want the rebels to catch wind that we’re planning anything. Too many spies nowadays,” the sickly familiar voice said, and Ginny felt her heart jump into her throat.

“Indeed. Had I known this was being planned, I shouldn’t have brought my guests – they aren’t all familiar faces to you, as you can see,” Malfoy answered, gesturing behind him. Crabbe and Goyle closed in tighter around her, and she could barely see what was happening. She felt the terrifying clutch in her throat, as she began to feel the panic swell over how tight the space she was standing in had become.

“It’s no matter – we’ve finished our business and are just having dinner before we leave the island. You and your friends must join us – we’d like to extend our thanks to your father for his hospitality. Come and sit – there’s going to be a number of people who are going to want to meet Lucius Malfoy’s son,” Nott said, gesturing for them to sit down.

“The first opportunity you see, get her out of here,” Malfoy muttered to Zabini, who nodded gravely. He then turned to the rest of the group. “Shall we?”

Goyle, Crabbe, Georgia all trailed after Malfoy, but Blaise Zabini turned to Ginny.

“Pretend to be fascinated with the view out the front doors,” he said, before turning her with his hands on her shoulder. As she moved, she caught a glimpse of the crowd – about a hundred men, and scattered among them, a number of recognizable faces; some of the most prominent Death Eaters in the government.

Blaise placed his hand at the small of her back, guiding her to the doors.

“Aren’t your friends going to join us?” she heard Nott ask.

“Perhaps later. I think Blaise is looking for an opportunity for some one-on-one time. Why else would he have brought her?” Malfoy asked, his voice loud enough for the two of them to hear, but lowered conspiratorily. Nott laughed knowingly, and she felt her stomach twist with disgust.

“We’ll catch up with you back at the beach house,” Blaise called over his shoulder, before grabbing Ginny’s hand and dashing out the door, dragging her with him.

* * * * *

“So that’s what you two were arguing about earlier?” Ginny asked, laying back in the lounge chair. They’d returned to the beach house, and had been sitting on the deck, watching the sunset in silence as Ginny gathered her thoughts. She could appreciate that about Blaise; he never seemed to be fussed when there was nothing but silence between them.

“You know how he can be – arrogant to a fault. He thought there wouldn’t be any Death Eater gatherings – of course he would have known it would be happening.”

“They really wouldn’t have appreciated a Weasley stumbling into their secret meeting,” Ginny said wryly, before erupting into giggles. “I mean, they’d come all this way to ensure their secrecy, and here I am, an outsider, ruining it all.”

“It would have been bad for everyone. Worse because so many of them know who you are – you’ve made quite an impression among the patrons of the Three Broomsticks,” Blasé said seriously, and Ginny sighed. He didn’t seem to understand that she needed to laugh about the situation – it was either that, or dwell on the implications of her friendship with Draco Malfoy leading her straight into a nest of vipers.

“Georgia seems like an interesting girl. How’d you meet her?” Ginny asked, changing the subject.

All Hallows’. She’s a nice girl, I suppose,” he said with a heavy sigh.

“But she’s not Cho, and you kind of hate her a little bit because of it,” Ginny said knowingly.

“She can be a little shallow. And frivolous,” Blaise said, as if confessing a great secret. Ginny laughed.

“Here I thought you were being such a great martyr, giving up your night to sneak me out, but it’s all in your own interest,” she said.

“There’s a village on the Muggle side of the island – they’ve set up a bit of a boardwalk and market, to attract Muggle cruise ships in the area. If you don’t mind pretending, we can head over there and have some fun,” Blaise said, standing up. “Besides, it’ll be a suitable punishment for Malfoy – we’ll be having fun without him while he’s stuck entertaining people he hates.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Ginny said.

******

When they stumbled back to the beach house, giddy and exhausted from their escapades, it was well after midnight. A very stone-faced Draco Malfoy was waiting for them, sitting alone in the dark of the living room, arms crossed angrily in front of him.

“You didn’t expect us to just wait for you here all night, did you?” Blaise Zabini asked with a laugh, even as Ginny halted in her tracks, her laughter dying on her lips. This wasn’t just a jealousy-related mood, there was something more behind the intense glare Malfoy was pointing in their direction.

“I would have expected at least some kind of indication that you’d made it back here without any trouble, or that you were heading somewhere else,” he said, his voice deadly quiet.

“If you thought for a minute something had happened to us, you wouldn’t be just sitting here, idly waiting for us to return. You’d be torturing Muggles to find to what had happened,” Blaise scoffed. Malfoy shot out of his chair, and stalked over to loom threateningly over Blaise.

“You know very well who was in that room, and I would have thought you’d be considerate enough to not let me sit there driving myself mad, wondering where she was,” Malfoy spat at his best friend.

“If anything had happened, it would have been entirely your own fault, and that is what has been driving you crazy. You’re a selfish bastard, Malfoy, and you go after what you want regardless of what it could mean to those around you,” Blaise shot back.

“And you have so much experience going after what you want? Since Cho Chang left you, you’re almost unrecognizable. Snap out of it and be a man, for god’s sake!” Malfoy shouted. Watching in horror, Ginny moved forward to interject, but a glare from Malfoy silenced her. It wasn’t her quarrel.

“You shouldn’t have been worried. I wouldn’t have let anything happen to her,” Blaise said, his voice calm after a few moments.

“She’s not yours to protect,” Malfoy growled.

“Need I remind both of you that I am no one’s to protect,” Ginny declared with annoyance, tired of them forgetting that she was in the room. “And very capable of defending myself.”

“She’s not yours to willfully endanger because you’re too arrogant to exercise common sense, either,” Blaise shot back. Ginny sighed, the fun of the night completely evaporated.

“As I clearly have no place in this battle of manhood, you’ll have to excuse me, I’m going to bed,” she said, before storming out of the room to let the two idiots argue.

******

There was a soft knock on her door a half hour later. She debated for a minute whether she wanted to answer it or not, but figured at the very least, Malfoy could use another right hook to knock some sense into him, if it came to that.

She opened the door slowly, glaring at him.

“May I come in?” he asked quietly. She looked around her, dramatically pretending to be searching for the person he was speaking to.

“Oh, you mean, I exist again?” she asked sarcastically, before walking away from the door, leaving him to follow her inside.

“I am sorry about what happened tonight. All the others have left the island, and the rest of our trip should be without incident,” he said.

“No more Death Eathers?” she asked, eyebrows raised.

“No more, I promise. Nott has gotten into the habit of making free use of our property, which is the only reason they were all here – the uninvited parasites,” he said, his voice full of venom. “I’m glad none of them saw you.”

“Absolutely. Must keep your friends of lower social status appropriately hidden. You know, Malfoy, next time you hold a party, why don’t I just work as part of the wait staff and make everyone happy?” she snarled. He grabbed her wrist before she could stalk away.

“I’m relieved they didn’t see you because it would have put you in an awfully precarious position, stumbling unexpectedly into a secret government meeting. You, I’d be able to protect, but your family… that would be a great deal more difficult.”

“I know,” she conceded. “I’m not mad at you. I’m just angry.”

His eyes locked onto hers, and she felt that disconcerting sensation that he had the ability to see straight into her soul.

“I would like to take you out tomorrow, to show you the island properly. Will you come?” he asked, his voice enticingly soft.

“Why are you being so polite? It’s freaking me out!” she exclaimed, with a shiver, wrenching her wrist from his grip.

“You told me that you needed to feel like an equal member of this friendship. That’s what I’m trying to do!” he exclaimed, frustrated.

“I was really only expecting you to listen to me when I said I didn’t want to something. You’ve surprised me a little,” she said, rewarding him with a smile.

“Does that mean you’ll come?” he asked cautiously, as if expecting a catch.

“Since you’ve marooned me on this island, I don’t see that I have much choice. What else am I going to do?”

“I’ll see you early in the morning, then,” he said, and Ginny tried to ignore, the twinge in her heart as she spotted a glimmer of excitement in his eyes.

Feeling as if they’d gone backwards two steeps, but forward one, Ginny fell asleep, feeling rather satisfied over their progress.

******

Show her the island, Draco Malfoy certainly did. They traveled all over the cliffs with two broomsticks he produced, before venturing into the jungle at the south of the island. She followed, skeptically, as he led her through the dense trees, which required all of her concentration to navigate around, until they suddenly reached a break in the trees, which revealed a thundering waterfall in the midst of what she could only describe as a tropical oasis.

“How do you leave this place, ever, to go back to Hogsmeade?” she breathed, incredulous as they hovered over the lagoon on their brooms.

“The knowledge that I can always come back,” he answered pointedly. “It’s fresh water and quite warm. Do you swim, Weasley?”

“Even if I didn’t, I’m pretty sure I would earn, just to go in there,” she said with a laugh, before feignting down to the water bank.

They splashed, laughed and played in the water for hours, Malfoy teasing her endlessly over her desperate dislike of snakes by constantly warning her that there was one behind her. Every time, she’d yelp with fright, splashing around desperately to get away from where she floated, before he’d chuckle, gather her into his arms and dunk her under water. Each time, after she’d realized what he’d done, she’d retaliated by diving down and yanking his leg so his head would go under water, after which she’d proceed to tease him about mussing his hair.

After they’d crawled out of the water, happily exhausted, and had dozed in the sun to dry off, Malfoy guided her out of the jungle and towards the Muggle-inhabited section of the island, where she’d been with Blaise Zabini the night before. They wandered through the board walk, deliciously inconspicuous among the crowd of tourists who’d come in from the cruise ship anchored in the bay.

As the sun filled the sky with a spectacular orange glow, he insisted on one last stop before they headed back to the beach house to join the others for dinner. When he pointed out to where he wanted to fly, Ginny looked at him incredulously. It looked to be the highest point on the island – the flight up there would definitely be windy and treacherous, particularly considering how tired she was from their afternoon.

“Just trust me, it’s worth the risk,” he said arrogantly. She just shrugged and followed along, even as they flew over yards of ragged and dangerous-looking rocks, knowing that if either of them slipped, it would all be over.

But when they landed, she could see instantly that he was right and that it had been worth the risk. They were so high that all she could see for miles was the glistening ocean and the fire-red setting sun.

“Quite spectacular, Malfoy,” she said as if she’d doubted it. He dropped down the ground after he’s spread a towel out, and motioned for her to sit next to him. She obliged, and didn’t even protest when he threw an arm around her, pulling her close against his side. It would have almost have been companionable – a moment purely between close friends, if only the close proximity didn’t set her pulse racing.

“I don’t know how you ever leave this place. Why wouldn’t you just stay here forever?” she sighed, staring longingly at the glowing sky. It was so lovely, it almost made her ache.

“Just say the word, Weasley, and we can,” he said, as mischievous tone in his voice. He laughed as she swatted him disapprovingly, as she had started to do whenever he crossed the invisible line of friendship. He was quiet for a moment, before he spoke again, quietly, seriously.

“Surprisingly, it was never actually all that hard for me to leave. We were never a family for fun-filled group vacations. They started sending Nymphadora and I here whenever they needed us out from underfoot a long time ago. In fact, all four of us have never been here at the same time, not even once. When I was little, leaving was pretty easy, because it meant I could go home. Now that I’m older and have the house in Hogsmeade to myself, it makes no difference.”

“They’d just send you here on your own?” Ginny asked, having trouble imagining that. Her family, even now, with so many of her brothers grown-up, tended to move in a pack.

“Don’t worry, little weasel. After awhile, we all learned to prefer it that way.”

“But that must have been lonely, here all on your own. Parental supervision or no, I bet you weren’t allowed – or wouldn’t, considering your horrible snobbery – to play with the Muggle children on the island,” she said, perfectly able to picture Malfoy as an arrogant, imperial little demon-child, too superior to play in the sand with anyone less than pureblood.

“Of course. It doesn’t matter, commoners just get in the way,” he said, dismissing her concern. Against her better judgment, she cautiously moved her arm so that it lay over his chest, needing to do something to comfort him, even if he didn’t think he needed it.

“Thank you for today, Malfoy. It was pretty incredible,” she said.

“Of course it was. Would I bring you anywhere it wasn’t?” he declared. “Now shut up – I want to watch the sun set in peace while you dream up ways to reward me properly for all of this,” he said with a knowing grin, using his free hand to plant her head against his chest. “This may be a good way to start.”

She squirmed for a moment, before dropping the pretense of protest, and snuggling in closer to his chest, welcoming the added warmth. The wind that was blowing all around them off the ocean was carrying a slight chill, causing goosebumps to appear on her sun-soaked skin. She closed her eyes and inhaled, breathing deep the lovely salty air. Opening her eyes, she saw the outline of Malfoy’s face against the bright orange sky, and she couldn’t help but stare at it. His pale skin seemed almost ethereal – like a perfect porcelain façade, hiding the tumult of contradictions beneath.

He hated Muggles, commoners, so-called ‘blood-traitors’, anyone who disagreed with him. Yet, he was relentlessly pursuing her. He was the most arrogant, selfish person she’d ever met. But he gave, almost without thinking, to those he cared about more generously than anyone she’d ever seen before, and appeared to delight in their reactions to it. He seemed as if he cared mostly about himself, but he’d thrown himself in danger to protect her against Claire without batting an eye.

She fidgeted slightly as his arm hung heavily around her shoulder. He didn’t move, not even to immobilize her against his chest, so she assumed he’d fallen asleep. Slinking up, she rested her finger against his bottom lip, smiling at him as she thought back on the day she’d just experienced, and how he watched her throughout all of it, as if her reaction was the only thing that mattered. She felt the wall of uncertainty and distrust that forced her to constantly rebuff him waiver. She tipped her face up and brushed her lips against his cheek.

He half-opened one eye.

“That still counts, little weasel,” he said, his voice low and husky. She recalled what he’d said to her the night of the masquerade ball, that he wouldn’t kiss her again unless she kissed him, and felt her heart jump into her throat. Swiftly, before she could even react, his arm hooked under her shoulder, and he pulled her into his lap, so that she was straddling him. His hands slid down to her waist, securing her tightly against him. She leaned back, away from him, but then remembering that they were perched on a small rock ledge near the top of a mountain, she found herself grabbing at his shoulders as she remembered just how far down the water was.

He chuckled against her neck, sending shivers down her spine. She adjusted her head, meeting his eyes. His body was warm beneath hers, and as he moved slowly, so painfully slowly that the anticipation nearly immolated her whole, she knew that she was treading in very dangerous waters. But then his lips touched hers, and she was no longer capable of caring.

Instead of the instant flash of burning passion, an intense rush of emotion and desire that pounded in her temples and set her heartbeat racing, this kiss was entirely different. Malfoy was taking his time, brushing his lips against hers slowly, tenderly, as if he were testing her ability to resist him. Or perhaps it was a cleverly devised tactic, teasing her just enough to entice her without pushing too far and scaring her away. Either way, it was driving her mad, especially as he moved away ever so slightly whenever she tried to deepen the kiss.

She pulled away in frustration, staring at him plaintively. His face was neutral, but his eyes were dark and intense. She moved towards him, but he ducked away, a half-smile on his face.

“Fine! It counted. I kissed you,” she muttered, and his face broke into a huge grin, suddenly dipping her backwards, nipping a quick kiss at her neck, causing her to giggle then shriek with fright as she realized that the only thing keeping her from dangling from a mountaintop was Malfoy’s grip on the small of her back.

“Took you long enough,” he grunted against her neck, before her hands reached his face and she pulled him to her, kissing him fiercely as he groaned loudly. She teased him with her tongue, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck, pressing herself as close to him as she could. This is just hormones, she told herself. I am just a healthy, teenaged girl doing exactly what any other girl in this position would do. But then Malfoy pressed his lips against her neck and she reacted, her body moving without thought or hesitation, completely melting against him.

He lowered her backwards, his forearm cradling her head against the hard rock beneath them. She barely noticed the rough stone jabbing into her spine as his other hand traveled slowly down one arm, lingering at her hip, as he kissed her deeply. She drew her knees up around him, allowing him to settle in on top of her, maximizing the contact between their two bodies, contact that she desperately wanted to feel, something she wouldn’t let her mind rationalize away.

She ran her hands along his back, pulling him closer to her as his lips wandered away from her mouth, questing down along her jawline. His hand, which had settled at her hip, started to move again, dipping tentatively underneath the hem of her t-shirt, before gently wandering up the flat plane of her stomach. She fidgeted slightly at the unaccustomed contact, and had to bite back a giggle as his gentle touch tickled her, but then she felt his fingertips probing along the bottom of the swimsuit top she was wearing under her shirt.

He paused in his ministrations, meeting her eyes with a questioning smirk and an upraised eyebrow, and before she allowed herself to think things through and scurry away from him, she leaned up and kissed him, reaching to pull him closer. A thrill went through her as she closed her eyes, and breathed deeply, trying to stay relaxed so she could continue enjoying Malfoy’s body.

But suddenly, as soon as his surname entered her mind, she felt as if she couldn’t breathe, as if all the oxygen had been sucked right out of her lungs and she was going to suffocate right there in his arms. Her mind was screeching at her, and her body finally started listening.

“Malfoy,” she gasped, as his lips broke away from hers, as he moved lower, planting a trail of kisses along her jawline, down to her collar bone, apparently oblivious to the panic attack she was now experiencing. She pushed her hands against his chest, needing to get him off of her. His body stiffened immediately, and he pulled away, meeting her eyes with a dazed and rather confused expression on his face.

“Is everything all right?” he asked, his voice gruff. She shook her head furiously, sitting up as he moved away from her. She scrambled to sit up, pushing her back against the rock face, her palms resting flat against the stone underneath her as if it was the only thing in the world that was keep her from floating away.

Malfoy watched her silently from underneath the hair that had fallen into his eyes, sitting just a foot away from her. When she met his eyes, solemn and ever-observing, she had to look away, as unshed tears were starting to burn her eyes. When she did, Malfoy shifted closer to her, ever so slowly as if she were a wounded animal he was trying not to frighten, until he was sitting beside her.

“I only have so much in to give,” she said softly, “and you want everything.”

He rested his hand on top of her hers, and his fingers found her cold, shaking ones, entwining around them.

“I just want you,” he said, before wrapping an arm around her shoulder and planting a kiss on her forehead. It was such a comforting, tender move, and she felt so undeserving of his kindness, that her heart nearly burst in her chest.

“Even if only as your friend?” she asked, wiping away tears that had managed to escape the furious attempts to blink them away.

“Well,” he said, running a finger through her hair before tucking a stray strand behind her ear, “until you’ve admitted that you’re in love with me, I don’t want anything more.”

“Malfoy… I’m sixteen. I don’t know what love is, let alone how I feel about anyone. I mean, I thought I hated you for the longest time – rather rightly so, you must admit. But now, you’ve become a rather constant feature in my life. I’m clearly incapable of sorting out my own emotions,” Ginny tried to explain, finding it hard to articulate what she was trying to say. She knew what she wanted to say: that Malfoy made her feel everything – anger, happiness, sadness, frustration, contentedness, desire – stronger than she even knew was possible, and it was completely terrifying to her that anyone could have that much power. But that was something she would rather die than express. “I just don’t… I don’t want you to expect anything from me until I’ve sorted that out.”

“Come, weasel, we’ve got dinner, and the others, waiting for us back at the house,” he said, jumping up. He helped her to stand, and as she was about to push past him to where they’d stacked the broom, he stopped her. Bending slowly, he brushed her lips softly. As she ducked away, shooting him an admonishing look, he simply shrugged. “I’m a man addicted – going cold turkey could make me act in completely irrational ways.”

He’d hopped onto his broom and started flying back down the mountain, and she quickly followed suit, hollering at him the rest of the way back as he laughed at her blustery anger.

* * * * * *

They’d capped the evening off, after consuming a sinfully rich meal, by wandering along the stretch of sandy beach in front of the house. Ginny watched in mild amusement as the three boys continually pushed each other into the water, sparking a retaliatory gesture and eventual show of male dominance when the victim became the aggressor. At one point, Malfoy was chasing after Goyle and Crabbe, who had teamed up and forced him into the water up to his knees, and then tripped him. He’d sat, stunned, as the waves crested around him, his hair comically disarrayed from the activity. He’d promptly jumped up, uttered a few choice words, and taken off, running barefoot through the sand, after his cackling friends.

Ginny stayed behind, walking with Blaise, who was no longer accompanied by his female companion.

“Is Georgia not feeling well? I didn’t see her at dinner either,” Ginny asked, her curiosity over the girls’ absence getting the better of her.

“She returned to Hogsmeade this afternoon,” he said blandly, but a sly look out of the corner of his eye had Ginny giggling.

“Had a pressing engagement, did she?” Ginny asked with a laugh.

“I’m afraid I may have insulted her by my lack of interest,” Blaise said with a heavy sigh. “She insisted on talking, yet never really seemed to have much to say.”

“I should be careful, then, or you might send me packing like you did her? I’d try it on Malfoy if I thought it would actually get him to cut me loose, but I think he’d see through that tactic,” Ginny said, shaking her head. Blaise touched her arm, a move so unexpected that Ginny stopped walking and looked up at him.

“I’d never be so stupid to send you away, Ginny,” he said, with a serious look on his face. Ginny froze under the weight of his stare, unsure of what he was doing. Did he know what kind of effect it had when he said things like that to her? Her heart was racing and her mind was spinning, trying to interpret the meaning of his words.

“Well, one should think that you’d never have to, as there’s very little chance you’d ever hear me prattling on inanely,” she said, with a sudden arrogant toss of her hair. “I’m so full of depth and wisdom, I’m practically incapable of it!”

With that, she turned and started marching up the beach to where the other boys were now wrestling each other in the sand, leaving Blaise Zabini and his confusing words behind. Despite her better judgement, she turned back to look at him, and found him staring with those dark intense eyes. She frowned, wondering what was going on, before she felt Malfoy grab her around the waist, scooping her up as he ran.

“Let’s see if weasels can swim!” he shouted gleefully, and Ginny started thrashing violently, trying to free herself from him, as he ran towards the ocean.

* * * * *

She sat bolt upright in bed, her heart pounding painfully in her chest. She sat in dark of her bedroom in complete silence, terror tingling ever single one of her nerves, paralyzing her.

She heard it again, a small rap on the window of her bedroom. The faces of the numerous Death Eaters she served on a regular basis at The Three Broomsticks flashed before her eyes, and she wondered which one it was that had come to kill her. The rap sounded again, and she squeezed her eyes shut, willing it all to go away, scarcely able to breath.

When another small rap sounded, she opened her eyes and forced herself to move, unwilling to just sit there and let them come for her without giving them one hell of a fight. Grabbing her wand from where she’d left it on the nightstand, she leapt from the bed, dashing to the wall nearest the set of glass doors leading to the balcony, pressing herself against the wall just beside the door. Adrenaline surging through her veins, she leaned over, peeking through the glass. When she didn’t see anyone, she burst through the doors, wand outstretched as she scanned the area.

“Easy there, Ginny! It’s just me,” a warm familiar voice said, sounding amused. Gasping for air and grabbing for the balcony railing as her knees grew weak from the sudden rush of relief, she leaned over and spotted Blaise Zabini standing on the ground below, holding a broomstick. “Can I come up?”

He flew up without waiting for a reply. “What’s wrong with you, Ginny? You look a bit peaky… are you sweating?” he asked with distate before examining her closer. “You’re shaking!”

“Next time you want to stop in for a late-night chat, please just knock on the door, or call out my name or at least tell me who you are,” she said, her voice weak, as she looked up at him, still clutching the railing for dear life. “Or, at minimum, keep in mind that you and I live it two very different worlds, and someone rapping on your window means something very different to you than it does to me.”

“Ginny, I’m sorry… I wasn’t thinking,” he said, his voice soft. He reached out, and pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her in a tight embrace. It was warm and comforting, and she let herself relax against him, even as she felt her face begin to flame with embarrassment. “You’re okay, I promise.”

“I’m sorry,” she muttered against his chest. “I’m feeling quite foolish now.”

“Don’t worry about it, Ginny – you are right, I should have known better. I wasn’t thinking,” he said softly.

“You Slytherins seem determined to get me killed. You all forget what life is like for people who aren’t you, or who don’t have the parents that you do, or the power and protection that that power brings you. You forget how dangerous it is for anyone else to speak out or be different in any other way,” Ginny said, looking up at Blaise. He was looking down at her with his dark eyes shining, seemingly drinking in her words. His arms tightened around her.

“No wonder Malfoy is so besotted with you. You’re a ball of fire and defiance that scares everyone away, but then you show some vulnerability and you’re this soft, sweet girl trembling over a nightmare and all a man wants to do is gather you up and hold you until everything bad goes away,” he said, and Ginny felt an uneasy thrill travel down her spine.

“Malfoy knows better than to even try,” she muttered, pulling herself away, feeling awkward and uncomfortable by this sudden closeness between her and Blaise. “So, what brings you here tonight anyway?”

“I bet myself that you’ve probably never seen the ocean at night, and thought I could show it to you. Come for a ride with me?” he said, gesturing towards his broomstick. “That is, if I haven’t scared your sense of adventure away.”

“Don’t be silly, of course you haven’t. Finer men than you have tried!” she said, flashing him a defiant smile as she grabbed his broomstick from his hands. She barely waited for him to hop on behind her before she took off, soaring high up into the moonlight, letting the furious rush of air clear her mind and calm her jarred nerves.

She was so lost in the exhilarating sensation, that she barely heard Blaise shout to her where to land and he had to tug on her shirt before she finally began to descend to the sandy beach below them. Dropping the broom to the ground, she stopped and stared, slightly surprised.

It was dark. She couldn’t really see much; the waves breaking on the shore could barely be seen under the sparse light of the moon. The ocean before her was just a dark mass of movement. More than anything, it was the sound that was overwhelming. Despite the fact that she could barely see the magnificence of the ocean, she could hear every wave as it rushed towards the shore. With the wind whipping her hair around, she closed her eyes, just taking in the noise.

“Stunned you into silence, have I?” Blaise asked, sitting down next to her on the sand.

“Miracles can happen,” she murmured, before lapsing back into silence. Running her hands through the soft sand while drinking in the breeze and sound of the ocean, she let her mind wander. She was lost in her daydreams when Blaise put an arm around her, pulling her towards him.

“You are completely different from the girl I thought you were, the first time you crossed my path,” he said.

“And what kind of girl did you think I was?” she asked, amused.

“Well, to be honest, I thought you were a lower class version of Pansy. You always seemed to be underfoot, insinuating yourself into our group,” he said. She sat for a moment, before turning and smacking him on the shoulder. Not satisfied, she continued attacking him, outraged.

“Pansy? Pansy Parkinson? Why don’t you just rip out my heart and serve it to me, because you’ve done it metaphorically, you might as well do it in reality!” she cried, furious as he laughed at her attempts to do him physical harm. When she caught him in the ribs and he flinched, he’d decided he’d had enough, and he retaliated, catching her wrists and binding them together with one of his large hands while he reached out and started tickling her side.

Screeching, she thrashed around wildly, trying to free herself, and flung herself backwards, tumbling to the sand, toppling Blaise over with her. He landed on her, knocking out her breath. She gasped to regain it, and continued to squirm, trying to free herself from his weight. He smiled down at her devilishly, knowing that he had her beat.

“If you let me finish, I would have said that it didn’t take me long to realize that I was wrong. You’re a girl that’s full of surprises, and all together too good to be wasting your time on the lot of us,” he said, staring at her in an uncomfortably penetrating way. “I just wish I could have seen it sooner… Cho tried to tell me, but I wouldn’t listen.”

“That’s because she’s the kind of girl that, when you’re in the same room with her, she’s the only one you can see,” Ginny said, trying to brush off the uncomfortable feeling rising in her stomach.

“Well, I see you now,” he said as he leaned in and kissed her. It was only after the fact that she realized the uncomfortable feeling in her stomach had been the fear that everything was about to change irrevocably.

Empowered by a spike of fear, she reached out and violently pushed Blaise off of her. Jumping to her feet, she stumbled away, trying to grasp the shifting reality she seemed to be caught in. She felt a hand on her shoulder, and spun around, brushing it away. Blaise was looking at her, an intense expression on his face that she couldn’t read. She stared back at him, a crushing silence between them.

“You weren’t in your room, and I was worried,” a voice said from behind Blaise. A shock of cold horror ran down her spine, as she stepped around Blaise to see where it was coming from. Pale in the dim moonlight, Malfoy was standing just a few feet away from them. Without another word, he turned and walked away.

******
Author's notes:

From HYD - the meeting with Narcissa and her offer (although situationally very different from the HYD-verse), Ginny's reaction to it, Malfoy whisking her away to a private island, and the last scene of the chapter.

Thanks for those of you who have been so patient with me - I've had some cancer-related illnesses in my family this past year, which made finding time to write difficult, but with a bright, shiny cancer-free future ahead of us, I hope to be doing a lot more of it now.


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