Part Five:

She’d left their room with every intention of returning to her dorm before it grew too close to curfew, but as she climbed the steps out of the dungeons, she found herself wandering almost aimlessly. Her mind just couldn’t seem to settle, and her feet were following suit, taking her up and down hallways that were growing emptier as curfew grew closer.

He’d kissed her. She’d kissed him back. They’d kissed each other. It was almost too much to handle, the thought of her, and him, little Ginny Weasley and big bad Draco Malfoy. Could this really be happening? Well, they had been friends for some time now, and as hard as that had been to wrap her head around, it made perfect sense to her, as did her friendship with Pansy Parkinson. But did her being involved with Draco as more than a friend make sense?

So, she’d thought on and off – okay, mostly on – about the possibility of more with the handsome, annoyingly egotistical blond since shortly before school had started back up, but did that mean that it could actually happen? The possibility was one thing, the reality was quite another. It was fantastical, outlandish, improbable, and yet it was something else too. When he had kissed her that first time she’d been shocked, and elated. Then they’d kissed again, and the shock had worn off and the elation had gentled to happiness.

The third time had settled the blazing sparks into a constant simmer in her blood, a distant warmth spreading through her entire body. By the fourth kiss her entire awareness had become focused on him, on the way he held her and kissed her and surrounded her. It had felt exhilarating and comforting all at the same time. It had felt right. The thought circled round and round in her mind, calming her racing heart and bringing a soft but goofy smile to her lips.

It had felt right. Maybe it was right.

Everything seemed to settle around her as she repeated the words in her head. Who was to say that she couldn’t be with Draco? Most everyone would probably find the idea of her being friends with him and Pansy as ridiculous as her being involved with him, yet hadn’t they already proved that their friendship was anything but? Pans and Draco were her friends, her best friends, and she trusted them as much, if not more, than she would trust Harry or Hermione, so why should it matter if people would think her and Draco ridiculous or impossible?

It shouldn’t.

Ginny nodded her head decisively and halted her feet, taking stock of her surroundings and heading in the direction of Gryffindor Tower, ready to face her housemates now that she had her thoughts in order. Before she could reach her destination, however, a voice called out to her from behind, only to be joined by two others, all calling her name.

Taking a deep breath, Ginny forced herself to stop smiling and slip on the mask she had worked so hard to construct. Once the redhead felt her emotions were properly disguised, she turned to meet The Trio.

“Hey Ginny. Where have you been?” her brother asked as he reached her side.

“It’s Thursday Ron, I was studying with Pansy.” The youngest Weasley smirked inwardly at the perfect amount of resigned annoyance and disgust that had laced her voice as she’d spoken.

“Oh, right.” Harry and Ron both shot her sympathetic glances at the thought of her supposedly forced tutorials with the sixth-year snake. Hermione, on the other hand, looked quite satisfied with the idea of her studying so hard, even as a note of suspicion entered her eyes.

“Isn’t it a bit late for tutoring? It’s almost curfew.”

Ginny kept her expression completely relaxed, then showed just the slightest bit of annoyance at the overprotective question. “There’s still half an hour until curfew, Hermione. Besides, the session ended a while ago. I’ve just been walking around, getting a bit of exercise in. All this tutoring is cutting into my flying time and I don’t want to be too out of shape for our next game.”

The mention of Quidditch immediately got both the boys to jump in and tell the bushy-haired girl to leave off. Ginny smiled to herself. It was almost too easy, she thought as they headed towards the tower. They had only gotten about halfway there however, when a rather unexpected sight forced them all to stop in their tracks.

Draco Malfoy, who was known for his constant air of arrogant nonchalance, was racing down the hallway at full speed, and he was heading straight for them. The heroes of Gryffindor all had wands drawn and pointed in an instant, but the blond paid them no notice as he nearly skidded to a stop in front of the smaller of the group’s two redheaded members.

“You have to get Pansy,” Draco gasped out, struggling to catch his breath after racing full-tilt up three flights of stairs and down twice as many hallways.

Ron bristled at the apparent command and reached out to pull his little sister behind him, ready to tell the snake exactly where he could stuff his words. Ginny shook off his hand and cut off his retort as she stepped forward.

“What happened?” she asked, trying her best to not panic. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t actually said something was wrong, there was no way Draco would willingly approach her in front of anyone, let alone The Trio, unless something was wrong; very, very wrong. Three pairs of eyes widened at the lack of rancor in her voice as she quickly and easily responded to the seemingly harsh words of the hated Slytherin.

“Mother owled. They know about the deal.”

Hermione’s eyes narrowed as she watched Ginny’s face pale at the words before her shrewd gaze turned back to Malfoy and she found herself having to suppress a shocked gasp. Never mind that Malfoy had willingly, even eagerly, approached them and had refrained from making a single insult or biting comment, forget that he was even now ignoring Ron and Harry’s indignant demands to leave and that his cold grey orbs hadn’t left Ginny’s face since he’d arrived. None of that compared to what the smartest witch of her generation was seeing now, etched clearly beneath the half-hearted attempt at a mask on Draco Malfoy’s face: fear.

Never in all the years she had known and hated the amazing bouncing ferret had Hermione ever seen such emotion, or any emotion besides disdain or annoyance, for that matter, on his face. But she did now, and it was mirrored on the face of the youngest Weasley as she once again shook off her brother’s restraining hand and stepped even closer to the snake with an anxious “where is she?”

With a kind of morbid fascination Hermione continued to watch as Malfoy muttered “dorm” as the white-blond and redheaded forms took off running down the hall, Harry and Ron both yelling after them and giving chase.

The brunette witch automatically followed her friends, her mind racing through everything she had just seen as her feet raced through the school to the dungeons where Ginny and Draco were hurriedly removing their robes. The redhead was already replacing her Gryffindor school robes with the blond’s Slytherin ones by the time the others reached her, and she didn’t even pause in the act of buttoning closed the black and green material as she spun to face them, cutting them off with a surprisingly harsh voice.

“Don’t even think about it,” she demanded before they even had a chance to yell at either her or the blond next to her as he shrunk her discarded robes and stuffed them in his pocket. “You have no idea what is going on so just stay out of it, or Merlin help me I will curse you so hard and fast it’ll take Madam Pomfrey days to undo it all.”

All three Gryffindors stood in slack-jawed silence for several seconds in the wake of Ginny’s threat and the fifth-year took advantage of their shock to pull the hood of the slightly oversized robe over her head to obscure her face and slip through the portrait hole as Draco whispered the password and followed her in. Ron and Harry snapped out of their trance as the portrait swung shut, both boys immediately stepping forward, wands gripped tightly in their hands.

Luckily for the portrait, Hermione had regained her senses a second earlier than her friends and stepped in front of them, blocking their path and forcing them into a dark alcove nearby.

“What is wrong with you?”

“What’s wrong with us? ‘Mione, Ginny just went into the Slytherin common room… with Malfoy!”

The brunette rolled her eyes. “Yes and what exactly do you think is going to happen if you stand out here yelling and throwing hexes? What do you think the Slytherins will do if they find out a Gryffindor is in their common room?”

The boys’ mouths snapped shut as one and they stared at their friend as she stood before them, one hand on her hip and a single eyebrow arched in question.

“Oh, right,” Harry stated, running a hand through his disheveled hair.

Ron copied the other boy’s movement while he asked his own question. “So what exactly are we supposed to do here? Just let her get herself hexed to bits by Malfoy and his goons?”

Hermione rolled her eyes again. “No Ronald,” she said, emphasizing his full name with a tone he’d only ever heard from his mother. “We’re going to wait right here until they come back out and then-”

“-we’ll hex Malfoy to bits?” Ron cut her off hopefully.

“No.” Hermione shot her redhead friend a glare, halting any further comment as she continued. “Harry can Accio his invisibility cloak and we’ll follow them. Malfoy and Ginny seemed a bit too easy around one another, and I for one want to know why.”

End Part Five
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