Chapter 4 : Summoned
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It was on a weekend, late in the evening, when it happened. Draco had been expecting it, of course, but it didn’t make it any easier. He was on his way to meet Ginny in the library when a white-hot pain shot through his arm.
“Not now,” Draco whined to himself as he pulled back his sleeve. The brand had darkened to an inky black, and the snake almost seemed to move under his skin. He knew what it meant. He was being summoned, for the first time since he’d been back at Hogwarts.
If Draco had learned anything since becoming a Death Eater, it was that when the Dark Lord called, you were to immediately Apparate to his side. Waiting even a few minutes to do so would risk provoking the Dark Lord’s wrath, and that could be deadly. Especially for Draco, who was already out of favor.
He looked over his shoulder uneasily. Snape had gone over this with Draco earlier in the year; when the Death Eaters were summoned, Snape would meet Draco in the Entry Hall. They would quickly make their way off school grounds together before Apparating to the Dark Lord. Snape always did insist on treating Draco like a child. A stab of annoyance went through him. He was seventeen years old, for Merlin’s sake. Old enough to be going places on his own.
The burning from the Mark was getting stronger. Draco glanced back again. He was so close to the library. It was just at the end of the corridor. Surely he’d have time to get there and back to the Entry Hall in time? He knew Ginny was already there; she had left the Great Hall a good fifteen minutes before him. The thought of standing her up made his stomach hurt. Taking a great breath, he made his decision. He was about to bolt when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“I’ve been looking for you, Draco,” came the impatient voice of Professor Snape. “We’ve been invited.”
Draco sighed, hating the reverent tone which Snape always used when speaking of the Dark Lord.
“I’m coming,” he answered dully. Snape released him. Draco could hear Snape’s retreating footsteps echoing on the stone floor. He was about to follow when a flash of red caught his eye. Ginny was hovering by the library doors, half-hidden. With concern in her eyes, she tilted her head with an unspoken question. Draco gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head. Ginny’s eyes narrowed, but she nodded back, then headed into the library without a backwards glance.
Draco’s heart sank. Hating himself, he followed Snape through the castle and out the doors.
The meeting was long and boring, as usual. Draco’s parents each greeted him with the same formality as they did all the other 'guests' gathered in their home, either too preoccupied or too afraid to show any real emotion towards their son. A Mudblood was bound in the corner, crying softly, but Draco kept his eyes trained on the table. One Death Eater -- Draco didn’t see who -- tremblingly asked the Dark Lord how his recent trip abroad* had gone -- as if the Dark Lord had merely gone on holiday. Draco nearly scoffed and rolled his eyes with derision, but caught himself before he made any sound. The comment earned the Death Eater a hissed threat from the Dark Lord himself.
A few tasks were assigned to various Death Eaters, and a few more were followed up on. The Dark Lord seemed pleased with how things were progressing, even if Potter hadn’t yet been found. More Dementors were being stationed in varying towns and villages along the countryside*, a new tactic of the Dark Lord’s, which would spread even more fear and uncertainty throughout the country.
The whole thing ended with an overly-dramatic but quick killing of the Mudblood with a flash of green light. Nagini, the Dark Lord's giant snake, then slithered over to the fallen body. Draco closed his eyes for that part, gripping the edges of his chair until his knuckles turned white and fighting down a wave of nausea.
The only thing really out of the ordinary was that Draco thought he could feel someone’s eyes on him through almost the entire meeting. Once or twice he dared look up, but everyone’s eyes were on the Dark Lord. The fear in their faces was poorly hidden beneath a reverent facade, but the look of pure ardor and intensity on one woman’s face made Draco’s stomach turn. He would never understand how Aunt Bellatrix could be so enamored, so devoted to the Dark Lord. Bellatrix was so obvious about it, too, ignoring her husband beside her and gazing longingly at the Dark Lord as he spoke.
It was a relief when the meeting was finally over, and Professor Snape had safely escorted Draco back to the castle. Snape left Draco in the Entrance Hall, gliding up the steps to his office without another word. It was quite late, and the castle halls were deserted. Draco sighed unhappily, feeling very anxious about the conversation with Ginny he was bound to have in the near future. He made his way down to the Dungeons, and climbed into bed with his clothes still on.
Draco expected Ginny to avoid him after that, for a few days, at least. He thought he’d have time to sort out what he was going to say to her once she did confront him. Unfortunately for him, Ginny wasn’t exactly the type to sidestep confrontation. Very early the next morning, as Draco was wandering castle in an attempt to avoid talking to anybody, an arm shot out of seemingly nowhere and yanked him behind a tapestry. Draco yelped in surprise and tripped over his own feet, landing on the floor in a heap, and swore loudly.
“Silencio!” cried a familiar voice from the darkness.
No more sound escaped Draco. A cloud of dust had risen after he fell, and he sneezed noiselessly. As his eyes adjusted to the dimness, Ginny’s face came into focus. She looked so fierce that Draco actually crawled away from her. She rolled her eyes and stuck out a hand to help him up. Draco just gaped up at her.
“Oh, come on,” Ginny muttered, mostly to herself. She grabbed a fistful of Draco’s robes and dragged him to his feet with surprising strength. “Now,” she said, “I’m going to un-Silence you, but you have to promise not to cause another racket.”
Draco nodded, still slightly shaken.
“All right,” she said, and lifted the Charm. Draco breathed an audible sigh of relief, glancing warily at his surroundings. He realized they were in the same little alcove that he had hidden Ginny in weeks ago, when the Carrows were after her.
“Did you have to ambush me like that?” Draco snapped, keeping his voice low. “Honestly, Weasley, I could have cursed you!”
Ginny snorted derisively. “Yeah, okay,” she said a smirk. “You keep telling yourself that. Anyway, where’d you go last night?” Her smile turned upside down and her eyebrows knit with concern.
“I think you already know the answer to that, Weasley,” Draco responded darkly.
Ginny’s eyes flashed and she made a sound like an angry cat. “Don’t give me that, Malfoy,” she hissed warningly. “Answer.”
Draco’s shoulders slumped and he stared at the dusty floor. “I was...summoned. For a meeting.” He met Ginny’s hard eyes. “With the Death Eaters.”
“And are you okay?” Ginny asked, her voice trembling.
“I’m fine,” said Draco.
“Good,” Ginny responded in a whisper, then drew back her hand, and--
Ginny’s open palm struck Draco’s cheek. The force knocked him back a few steps, causing him to once again lose his balance. However, before he could fall over like he did the first time, the same hand that Ginny had used to slap him now reached out to grab his own to steady him. They stayed like that for a short moment, holding hands and breathing unsteadily. Slowly, as if she wasn’t quite sure it was really what she wanted to do, Ginny pulled Draco to her and hugged him tightly. Draco’s arms seemed move of their own accord, holding her against him. He was much taller than Ginny, who barely came up to his shoulder. Her forehead rested against his chest as she clung to him. He felt her draw in a shaky breath against him. They’d never been this close before. All those times in the library they had been unconsciously careful to avoid unnecessary physical contact.
“So you’re okay,” she whispered. Draco nodded and Ginny released him. He wished she wouldn’t. “I...I don’t know how I’m supposed to be feeling right now,” she said honestly, keeping her eyes down. She leaned against the wall and slid to the floor. “I’m so angry that you have anything to do with those people. If they can even be called people.”
Draco didn’t respond. There was a pit in his stomach and his chest was tight. He lowered himself to the floor next to Ginny, careful not to touch her.
“I’m so angry,” she said again softly, almost to herself. “But I’m also relieved that you came back at all. But I feel like I shouldn’t feel relieved. I’m supposed to hate you.” She looked up at him, her eyes shining. “And in a way I do--”
Draco flinched at this. His heart sank. Of course Ginny hated him. He was a Death Eater. He was one of the ‘bad guys’. He was on the wrong side.
“--but not like that,” Ginny continued, noticing Draco’s reaction. “I hate that you’re one of them. But I don’t think I could hate you, who you really are. I don’t think I could hate you if I tried.” She ended in a whisper, so quiet that Draco had to strain his ears to hear.
Ginny rubbed her hand furiously across her eyes. “This is just so bloody confusing!” she hissed angrily, then stood up quickly. “It’s getting late. Other students will be awake by now. I’ll see you later.” She turned to go.
But Draco couldn’t let her go yet. Not like that -- not on that note. “Weasley,” he called softly after her, speaking for the first time since she had slapped him. She stopped and turned her head back towards him, so he could see her perfect profile. “I...I’m going to be in the library after dinner.”
He saw her cheek lift slightly, as if she was smiling sadly. “Okay,” was all she said before disappearing into the corridor.
Draco didn’t leave the alcove, though. He stayed for quite a while, mulling over Ginny’s words. She should hate him. It almost sounded like she wanted to hate him. But…
I don’t think I could hate you if I tried.
The words made Draco's heart swell. As much as Ginny should hate him, she didn't.
Finally, a new chapter! Thanks to everyone who has been keeping up with this. It's been a pretty busy time for me lately, and I'm thrilled to finally be able to update this story. Leave a review! Here are a few questions for you:
1. If you've been following the story, you'll know we're right around Chapter 14 in Deathly Hallows. Do you have an idea of what's coming next?
2. How do you feel about the way Ginny reacted? Does it seem true enough to her character?
3. How do you like the title change? I thought "Why?" seemed a little boring. If you have a different suggestion, please tell me. I struggle with title-naming.
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