Chapter 6 : Thoughts Aren't Safe
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“You’ll stay with me?” she whispered in a wavering voice. Her eyes were pleading and scared. Draco knelt next to her, clutching her hand firmly.
“I’ll stay with you,” he promised. “Always.”
Draco stayed like that, kneeling next to Ginny, until he was sure she was fast asleep. Once she was, he carefully pulled his hand out of hers and went to stoke the fire. The events of that evening had exhausted him. As he prodded the flames he felt his eyelids grow heavy. Adrenaline had been pumping through him as he worked over Ginny’s injuries, and now that things had -- for now -- calmed down, he felt completely drained. All he wanted to do was sleep. When he was confident the fire wouldn’t die on them, he leaned against the side of Ginny’s bed and let his eyes close. Just a few minutes, he thought. He’d let himself rest, for just a bit, and then he would check on Ginny again.
Some time later he was roused by the feeling of soft fingers brushing across his forehead. He opened his eyes and saw Ginny looking embarrassed.
“Sorry,” she mumbled as she whipped her hand back. Her voice sounded hoarse and raspy. “I didn’t mean to wake you. Your hair fell into your face.”
Draco smiled as he watched her cheeks tinge pink under the bruises. “S’okay,” he said through a yawn. “It felt nice.” He pulled himself into the chair by the bed, rubbing sleep out of his eyes. “How are you feeling?”
Ginny shrugged slightly, and winced. “Like I was hit by the Hogwarts Express.” The swelling on her face had already gone down a bit, and the cut along her hairline had healed up nicely. Draco doubted there would even be a scar, which was more than he could say about the lashes on Ginny’s back. Those stripes would never completely fade, much like the pale scars on his own body from when Potter had hit him with Sectumsempra*.
Ginny seemed to be thinking along the same lines, because after a moment’s hesitation she asked in a whisper, “Will the scars ever go away?” Tears pooled in her eyes and she rubbed at them self-consciously. “I’m not vain, or anything, I just…” She took a shuddering breath and looked at Draco expectantly. “Will they?”
Draco knew Ginny wasn’t vain, but he did know how it felt to suddenly have ugly scars marring one’s perfect body. His hand rubbed his chest unconsciously. He used to be quite proud of his own perfect, alabaster skin, until that last duel with Potter. Dark curses left a mark, and his scars were just as prominent now as the day he’d got them.
Avoiding the question, he responded with one that had been eating at him since he had first found Ginny in the hallway. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked. It came out more sharply than he had intended. Ginny flinched slightly as Draco’s temper flared. “We saw each other almost every day for weeks, and not once did you mention that you were being tortured on a regular basis! You’re lucky you’re not dead, or insane! Honestly, Weasley, have you no idea what they’re capable of?”
“I’ll bet you do,” Ginny spat, reaching for Draco’s arm. She jerked it towards her and ripped back his sleeve to show the Dark Mark burned into his skin. “You know exactly what they’re capable of.” Her voice cold and merciless.
Draco ran his free hand over his face. His temper was rising and it was hard to control it. He took a shuddering breath and pinched his eyes shut, letting Ginny keep hold of his arm. “I’m not like them,” he whispered. “I’m not--”
“Aren’t you?” Ginny challenged. “You have the same Mark as they do. You were with them when they killed Dumbledore*. You tried to kill him. My brother got half his face ripped off because of you! You’ve pledged yourself to them. You’re on their side--”
“I didn’t have a choice!” Draco exploded.
“There’s always a choice!”
“Not in this situation!” He was now shaking with unsuppressed rage. “It was either kill or be killed! I took the only choice I had! I’m just trying to survive here!” He was ranting now, and Ginny sat back wide-eyed as Draco jumped to his feet and paced in front of the hospital bed. “Try to imagine, Weasley, try to think about what you would do in my shoes. You’ve been raised in this insane life, this terrifying life of death and hate and darkness, and there’s no way out. You just keep getting deeper and deeper into it without truly realising what it all means. And then, one day, *your dad messes up, and you get punished for it. You’re forced to act on and partake in everything you thought you believed in. You’re actually called up to fight for your cause. You’re forced into an awful situation because it’s either agree or watch as they torture, perhaps kill, anyone you were weak enough to care about. So you do it, even though you’re not sure if you believe in it anymore, not sure you believe in anything anymore, and you’re just trying to survive. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to survive. I’m just trying to make it through alive.”
He paused, drawing ragged breaths.
“We’re all trying to make it through alive,” Ginny said quietly. “But don’t you think it matters how we make it through? With them, it’ll never end. You’ll never make it through. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. It’ll be death and destruction always, for the rest of your life. I don’t want that kind of world.”
Draco didn’t know what to say. He didn’t reply for a while, too lost in what Ginny had said. He’d never thought of it that way. He’d never thought about life after the war, what would happen when -- if -- it all finally ended.
He reached for the Dreamless Sleep potion and shoved the vial into her hand.
“Here,” he said, trying to keep the emotion out of his voice. “You should be sleeping. Your body needs to rest.”
Ginny glared at him before tipping the rest of the potion into her mouth, swallowing loudly.
“You’re not leaving, are you?” she asked hesitantly. “I know we fought, but--”
“I’m not leaving. I promised.”
Ginny smiled timidly before settling back into the mattress. “Thanks, Ma-” She paused. “Thanks, Draco.”
Despite their argument, and despite his anger and slight embarrassment over telling Ginny things he’d never spoken aloud before, his face broke into a smile.
Draco let Ginny sleep as long as he could. When the hour hand on his wristwatch neared the number six, though, he knew they both had to get back to their Common Rooms. They couldn't risk getting caught. He roused Ginny gently and helped her put her tattered school robe over her hospital gown.
“That’ll have to do,” she said, looking disgustedly at the holes and faint bloodstains on her robes. “At least Gryffindor tower is close.”
They parted ways outside of the Room of Requirement. Ginny squeezed his hand and whispered a quick “thanks”, looking at him with the curious expression she usually used on him. Draco left first, scouting out the corridor to make sure Ginny could make it back to Gryffindor tower unseen. When he got back to his room he collapsed into his four-poster bed. The snores of Crabbe and Goyle drowned out any other sound, and he was, for once, grateful. It was a weekend, and he let himself sleep until Blaise shook him awake.
“It’s almost dinner time. Where were you last night?” he asked quietly, even though the rest of their dorm mates were out.
Draco took his time stretching and yawning before answering. “Doesn’t matter,” he drawled sleepily.
Blaise’s face darkened. “I hope you know what you’re doing, Draco,” he warned. Draco blinked, keeping his face carefully blank. “You know what I’m talking about. The Weasley girl didn’t show up at breakfast either,” he pressed.
Draco’s eyes widened slightly, and it was enough of a confirmation to Blaise.
“I knew it,” Blaise whispered. “Draco, you can’t--”
But Draco shook him off, standing quickly. “I’m hungry,” he mumbled quietly. “I’m going to dinner.” He left the dormitory quickly, taking the steps two at a time out of the dungeons.
Or, at the very least, he suspected. How Blaise knew, Draco wasn’t sure. They’d been so careful! Every time he’d met up with Ginny, they’d taken every precaution to make sure no one could ever suspect them.
Suspect you of what, though? A voice in the back of his head prodded. You haven’t actually done anything. There’s nothing to accuse you of except doing homework in the same place as another student...right?
He thought a moment, pausing on the staircase out of the dungeons. That sounded about right. Besides helping Ginny those two times, he wasn’t actually guilty of anything. He hadn’t done anything wrong, except think about Ginny, and--
His heart almost stopped. He’d thought about Ginny. That was the problem. No thought, however fleeting, no emotion was safe from the Dark Lord, the greatest Legilimens that ever lived. He could read minds.
Forgetting his hunger, Draco all but ran past the Great Hall and up to the headmaster’s office. The stone gargoyle in front of the entrance seemed to leer at him coldly. Draco had been up to Snape’s office before, however, usually Snape was with him at the time. The stone gargoyle would always leap to the side as the headmaster approached it. But this time, Snape wasn’t in sight -- probably still at dinner, Draco realised.
“Er...can I go up?” he asked uncertainly. The gargoyle didn’t budge. Draco growled in frustration. “Come on, you great ugly hunk of rock!” he shouted, punching it with his fist. The only thing he accomplished was splitting his knuckles open on the solid statue. Blood trickled from the cuts and Draco sighed in defeat. If he couldn’t go up, then he would just have to wait. He dropped to the floor, leaning against the wall, and held his fist in his hand as he waited for Snape to return.
He didn’t have to wait long.
Thankfully, Snape returned from dinner early. Draco leapt to his feet as the headmaster approached.
“Sir!” Draco gasped, ignoring the throbbing pain in his knuckles. “I--”
“Malfoy, what on earth have you done to your hand?” Snape snapped. He noticed a spatter of blood on the wing of the stone gargoyle, which had already jumped aside. “Five points from Slytherin. Come up to my office immediately so we can get you cleaned up.” He roughly pushed Draco towards the staircase, not speaking again until the door to his office was safely shut.
“Now,” said Snape curtly. “You should know better than to try to discuss something with me out in the open corridors, Malfoy. What is it?”
Draco hesitated. Now that he was here, he wasn’t sure what to say. Asking for help meant having to explain why he was asking for help. He took a moment to think of how to phrase his question without bringing up suspicion.
“Spit it out, boy,” said Snape impatiently. “I don’t have all evening.”
“Canyouteachmeocclumency?” The words tumbled out of Draco’s mouth too quickly, as if he wanted to get them out before he could change his mind. He closed his eyes and took a breath before repeating himself slowly. “I would like to learn O-Occlumency...sir.”
An unpleasant smile grew on Snape’s pallid face. “I see,” he said quietly. “And, may I ask, why this sudden interest in shielding your mind?”
Draco paled. He had hoped, in vain, he realised, that Snape wouldn’t ask.
“What is it that you might need to conceal?” Snape asked, seemingly to himself. “Are you protecting yourself? Or, perhaps, are you protecting someone...else?”
“Just a...s-sudden fancy...Professor…” Draco stammered, knowing full well that Snape knew he was lying.
“I see.” Snape repeated as he sneered down his hook nose. He pulled out his wand and tapped it softly on the desk, and a folder full of parchment appeared. Snape opened it and took his time looking through it, leafing through each page with a look of distaste. “Well, Draco,” he said finally. “It says here that your grades have been suffering as of late. Your last Potions score was abysmal. Dreadful, Draco, really. I expected better of you.” His voice was cold. He folded his hands on the desk and leaned forward slightly, lowering his voice. “As your Headmaster, I cannot let your grades suffer so..." He took a breath, then looked Draco in the eye. "If anyone asks, tell them I am helping you with...Remedial Potions..."
Okay, a huge thank you to everyone who read and reviewed my last chapter! Seriously, my heart does a little happy dance when I read your sweet words of praise and encouragement. You guys rock!
Here's a few thoughts and questions for you now...
1. Draco wants to learn Occlumency! Any predictions on how this will go?
2. This chapter is set in the beginning of November during Deathly Hallows. Any guesses on what's coming next? I'm trying to keep the story moving, but not too quickly. There's so much that happens in the book over the next few months.
3. Which is your favorite Harry Potter book and why?
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