Part Six:

She dropped her hands to her side, letting the large sleeves fall over her hands, hiding their shaking from the various Slytherins she passed as she made her way through the crowded common room. She wanted so badly to glance back and reassure herself that Draco was keeping an eye on her but she forced herself to keep her head down so no one could see her face under the hood, and strode as confidently as she could down the stairs at the far end of the room. It took two repetitions of the instructions Draco had given her on their dash to the dungeons for Ginny to feel sure she had the right room before she entered, but less then a minute after stepping through the portrait hole, the youngest Weasley found herself inside a green and silver replica of her own dorm in the tower.

The shaking in her hands increased as she spotted her quarry sitting at a desk several feet away and the redhead had to take a deep breath before she could close the distance between them. As soon as she was close enough, she reached out and tapped the older girl on the shoulder, brown meeting blue silently as Pansy opened her mouth to snap at whoever had gone against her express command not to disturb her.

Icy blue pools widened in shock at the sight of her secret friend’s face peaking out from under the hood of a Slytherin cloak. The barely suppressed panic on the other witch’s face told her not to delay and the dark-haired girl quickly grabbed her cloak and headed towards the door, only to be stopped by the fifth-year’s voice.

“Bring your stuff too.”

Confusion creased her brow for a moment until the proverbial torch lit in her mind and fear flashed momentarily in her eyes before she slammed on the mask that had earned her the nickname pugface despite her pretty features. With a nod in response, Pansy pointed her wand at her trunk and muttered a few quick packing charms. Once that had been completed, the princess of Slytherin shrank said trunk and dropped it into her cloak pocket.

This time, when she made to leave, Ginny didn’t stop her, but simply followed her quickly back up the stairs to the common room. Both girls forced themselves to move calmly and confidently through the crowd of snakes so as to avoid any unnecessary attention. Blue and grey locked for just an instant before the witches stepped through the portrait hole and it was several tense but calculated moments before Draco joined them in the hallway.

He nodded once at his sister to indicate no one had noticed their arrival or departure, then silently led the way through the maze of dungeon halls until they reached their room. They quietly filed through the door, all three too preoccupied with their thoughts to notice that the door stayed open a moment longer than it should have before it swung shut behind them. As soon as it was closed, Draco absently cast a locking charm over his shoulder as he made his way to the small table and fell heavily into one of the chairs with a sigh, the adrenalin rushing out of him and leaving his entire body sore and tired.

Ginny took a step towards the blond, starting to reach out as if to touch him, only to drop her hands back to her sides unsurely and turn to her other friend as the older witch finally dropped her dungeon mask to reveal the mounting fear and panic that had been consuming her since the moment she had seen Ginny and realized the one reason the redhead would have risked entering Slytherin house.

“They know, don’t they?” The brunette’s voice was strained, hollow, as she struggled with the emotions inside her. “The Death Eaters know what my dad did.”

The broken tone pulled at her heart and the youngest Weasley grasped her friend’s hand as hard as she could, smiling damply at the grateful look Pansy shot her in response. That one look was all the dungeon princess spared for Ginny, however, all her attention shifting to her brother as the blond stared fixedly at his hands.

“Mother owled you, I take it?” The white-blond head bobbed silently as he nodded, but he gave no other answer and she sighed in fear and frustration. “Well, what did she say?”

The room remained silent and both witches tightened their hold on the other’s hand as they waited for Draco to speak. When he finally did it was in a stiff voice that almost shook with the strain of his precarious control. “The special wards we had installed notified her when the Death Eaters entered the Parkinson estate. Mother tried to contact Caralyna, to warn her, but it was too late.”

Pansy went completely still, so still that had she not felt the fine tremors in the hand grasping hers, Ginny would have thought her petrified. Not knowing what to do, wide brown eyes sought grey in question and for the first time since they’d left the common room, he looked up, his normally flawless mask shattered by the pain and tears in his silver eyes when they met hers, then shifted to meet his sister’s.

“I’m sorry Pans, Caralyna’s dead.”

The words seemed to jar the dark-haired witch from her shock, and before they’d finished leaving his mouth, Pansy gasped and choked on a sob. She shook her head almost violently as the tears started to flow. “No. She’s not- she can’t be.”

Draco stood unsteadily from his seat at her stuttered denials, but when he took a step towards her, she stumbled back with a yell. “No! She’s not dead, we don’t know for sure that she’s dead.”

Again, he stepped towards her, and again, she stumbled back, nearly falling. Ginny tightened her hold on the other girl’s hand however, and kept her upright, though she was just barely able to keep herself still, afraid that if she approached her, Pansy would run from her as well.

“Pansy…” He tried to keep his voice gentle, soothing, but his own pain shown through too clearly and he had to swallow the lump in his throat before he could go on. “Pans, your dad betrayed Voldemort, he turned himself into the Ministry, he made a deal with them. He gave the Aurors information in exchange for yours and Caralyna’s safety from investigation. There’s no way the Death Eaters would have-” He cut himself off, unable to finish, though he knew that she had to accept the truth, denial would do her no good, and he needed her thinking clearly if they were going to figure out what to do next.

“We don’t know for sure.” The words were almost a plea and it was like a cutting charm to his gut as the Prince of Slytherin watched his big sister slowly crumble to the ground. Unable to hold himself still, Draco ran to her side, almost sliding the last few feet in order to reach her before she was able to scoot away from him.

As soon as he got there, he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her tightly against him as she began to sob brokenly into his chest, his own tears finally escaping his control as he felt the wetness of her tears on his shirt, felt the violent trembling in her shoulders as she clung to him. He pressed his cheek to the top of her head and whispered meaningless words into her hair as his eyes sought out the only other person he could trust, the only other person he knew would not use this show of weakness against him.

Ginny, who had dropped to her knees when Pansy’s legs had first given out, inched forward with a squeeze of the hand she still held and raised her free arm slowly, giving Draco the opportunity to tell her to stop before she draped it across his shoulders and gave him a half-hug in comfort. The two exchanged sad, knowing smiles, then closed their eyes and just held on, letting their friend cry herself to sleep in their arms as their own tears fell quietly down their cheeks.

It was almost half an hour later, when Pansy’s deep, steady breaths assured them she was asleep, that they met one another’s gazes. The exhaustion was clear in his face and Ginny gave him another half-hug before she carefully broke the silence, keeping her voice down so she didn’t wake Pansy.

“I’ll go talk to Dumbledore. He can make a Portkey or something for your mum.” Something akin to confusion filtered across his face and the redhead smiled sadly, knowing he must really be tired if his snakey mind couldn’t follow her train of thought. “She’s lost her father and the woman that raised her, she can’t lose her mother too, and neither can you.”

The young wizard opened his mouth to protest, but she shook her head firmly. “He has to be told, Draco, and Pans needs you here. I won’t be long, I promise.”

“Go to Snape instead.” Ginny sighed at his request but he held her gaze. “He needs to know too, and he can better anticipate what the other Slytherins will do when their parents send word about Pansy. The owls have probably already started arriving from the Death Eater parents and the Headmaster is far too trusting, he won’t want to think the snakes’ll go after her. Snape will know better. Tell him, he can go to Dumbledore for us and find somewhere for Pans to stay.”

“You mean somewhere for you both to stay.” The witch rolled her eyes at the stubborn look on her friend’s face. “No, Draco. You can’t stay in the dungeons any more than she can and you know it. The others will know someone warned her; they’ll find the wards soon enough and know you’re the only one that could have done it. They’ll go after your mum and you. Once your mum gets here you guys can stay with her, maybe, I don’t know, but you’re not going back to Slytherin Draco, you can’t.”

Her fear showed plainly on her unmasked features and as he saw it, his gaze softened ever so slightly. “Fine. I’ll stay with them if you go to Snape instead of Dumbledore. Okay?”

Somewhat surprised that he had given in so easily, Ginny nodded and went to stand, but he stopped her, his hand reaching up and grabbing hold of her wrist as she let go of the other witch’s hand. Brown flew up to meet grey in surprise only to see his eyes close as he leaned forward and brushed her lips with his. The kiss was much softer than the ones they had shared only two hours before, but no less shocking to either of them.

Both of them stared silently at each other for several moments after the kiss ended, their minds going back to the last time they’d been in this room, before the owl had turned their world upside down, when the most frightening thing in their lives was becoming more than friends with someone who months ago couldn’t have been any less of a friend. But they were friends, and more, it would seem, though the thought was less frightening and more comforting than it had been a short time before.

They smiled almost shyly at one another – if a Malfoy could ever actually be called shy, that is – and Ginny went to stand. His hand tightened on her wrist as she rose and time stilled as their eyes met and Draco Malfoy told Ginny Weasley something he’d never even told his sister in the entire time he’d known her.

Ginny just smiled, the expression not as sad as it had been the last time, and quietly left to make her way to the Potion master’s rooms. Once again she failed to notice the door staying open an extra moment before closing behind her, her mind too busy replaying the words Draco had just said.

*Thank you.*

End Part Six
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