How can you see into my eyes
Like open doors?
Leading you down into my core,
Where I've become so numb.
Without a soul,
My spirit's sleeping somewhere cold,
Until you find it there and lead it back
Wake me up inside.
Wake me up inside.
Call my name and save me from the dark.
Bid my blood to run.
Before I come undone.
Save me from the nothing I've become.
-Wake Me Up by Evanescence
She was running, why did she always run? She knew every time, every time her nightmares would lead her to this same dead end, to this same horrible fate. And yet every time she ran, she followed the same path, she forgot it was a nightmare, for it was more, it was a memory, a memory she relived night after night. And the running was always slow, sluggish, it seemed her legs pumped and pumped and yet she moved nowhere, as if she were running through waist-deep water. She almost hit the wall before she realized there was a dead end before her. Ginny wheeled around, staring behind her as four shadowy figures filled the alley, blocking out the light, which glowed around their bodies like sickly green halos. Halos, on demons. How odd.
And every time she tried to scream. To scream for her life. But as they drew closer she found the harder she tried to yell for help, the smaller and meeker her voice became, until it was just a slight squeak. Why couldn’t she make a noise? Why couldn’t someone hear her, save her? They drew closer, they were just before her, they grabbed her, threw her to the ground, stripped her of her clothes, and still she could not utter a sound. And the worst part of all was knowing that, because of the silencing spell on the alley, even if she could scream, no one would hear her.
So she waited for the inevitable, for the memory, the very physical, very real dream, for it all to replay, differently each time, and yet the same. She shut her eyes but she could not block them out, could not forget, could not close her eyes against a memory. But it was different this time, truly different. The nightmare changed. The shadowy men disappeared. The alley melted away. Everything became peaceful and dark. She floated, she was airborne in space, in nothingness, alone, content. And a voice, she heard a voice somewhere in that emptiness, whispering to her. “I need you to…to dream about something else. Something…peaceful.”
And why shouldn’t she? Why resist? If only she could! If only she had any control. And what was pleasant, what was peaceful, anymore? Was anything sacred? It seemed everything she saw saddened her. What was there peaceful to dream about?
The sky. The sky was peaceful. The sky, covered in clouds, stormy. Grey. Overcast. The sun’s rays shining behind the clouds, making them glow. Like his eyes, stormy, but glowing with an internal sunshine. Those were peaceful. Full of such confusing, tumultuous emotions that she didn’t understand, but they brought her a strange sense of peace. And a face. A beautiful face, with pale skin, a long, pointed nose, everything about that face was pointed, the cheekbones, the chin. Blonde eyebrows over those stormy eyes, long lashes sweeping the high cheeks. Hair falling into that face like a curtain, reaching just to the jaw. The lips, thin, pink lips, pulled up in a smile, opening in a laugh, to reveal perfectly straight white teeth.
Pleasant. Peaceful. Perfect.
And the voice too! She heard it as vividly as if he were there with her, though she knew it was only a dream. She could make out the words, but they confused her. “What’s wrong with her, Proff?”
“Nothing.” What was this voice? It was coarse and raw and slithering and not at all like the soothing musical lilting of her favorite sound in the world. “Sheer exhaustion, lack of nourishment…perhaps insanity. Her mind already seems to have broken a long time ago, but her body held out much longer. Even it had to give in at some point.”
What were they talking about? Why did they interrupt her sleep? Why did they make the face fade? No! Bring it back. Bring back that angelic face. That musical voice. She was no longer free-floating. She could feel the weight of the world come on her slowly. Heavily. It bogged her down. Light invaded her closed eyelids. Her ears picked up the background noises around her. Her mind became clearer but she almost wished it wouldn’t. She was aware, even before she opened her eyes, of two bodies next to her, she knew one was Draco, but she wasn’t sure of the other. Finally, she opened her eyes.
Ginny did not recognize the room she slept in, at least not from this angle. The ceiling was the same but the walls were a different color. The bed was lumpier and smelled like him. The light came in through the window at a different angle. She was interrupted in her confused observations by Draco’s face appearing in her vision. He smiled at her, reaching a hand down to brush her hair out of her face. “Good morning, Ginny.”
Ginny moaned and closed her eyes, trying to remember what had happened. Her last memory had been leaving the Prefect’s bathroom after her shower but heading towards Draco’s rooms instead of her Commons. He was teaching her something, something about explosions, and there were plates flying, and he was bare-chested, and she was so tired she could hardly concentrate.
“What happened?” She asked finally, when her memory turned up nothing.
“You collapsed while I was tutoring you. You gave me quite a fright. You had a fever and…” he paused. “And it was late at night, so I didn’t think it would be wise to take you to the Hospital Wing myself. People would ask questions, after all.”
She blinked at him, then glanced over at the man behind him, at the mussed black hair, the greasy stern face, the mass of black robes, as if he were in constant mourning over something. “What’s Snape doing here?”
“I asked him to come check on you to make sure you were okay. I figured…well, I have a certain aversion to hospitals, and I didn’t think you would appreciate waking up in one, after…after all.”
She nodded. “Thank you. So, what’s the matter with me?”
“Just as I was telling Draco. Merely exhaustion and malnourishment. You’ve been getting weaker and weaker for months until your body gave out and you became sick, hence the fever. I gave you some potions to fight off the illness, it appears to have been just a seasonal cold, about an hour ago. They should start working soon.”
“Oh. Well, um…thank you, Professor.”
“Yes, well, I must be going now, I have papers to grade. Draco, do you remember what we discussed?” Snape asked him, lifting an eyebrow. Ginny watched them in confusion. Draco nodded, seeing the professor out.
He returned with a smile and sat down on the bed beside Ginny. “How do you feel?”
She thought about it, tested her limbs, blinked her eyes, tried to find some trace of a headache or exhaustion or fever. There was none. She was still sleepy, her mind a bit sluggish and eyelids heavy, but she felt strangely…refreshed, which was uncommon for her. “Great. Oddly.”
Draco grinned and leaned back. “Good! That means you’ll have plenty of energy for what we have planned for today.”
“Today?” she asked in confusion.
He nodded. “I have a surprise for you. But first,” his voice became slightly more serious, “I need to give you these.” Draco handed her a wooden box. She opened it in confusion and glanced inside. There were rows of potions, about twenty in all, that she recognized immediately. “Dreamless sleeping draughts?”
“You…well, last night…you had a nightmare.”
She blinked in surprise, her cheeks suddenly flushing in shame. Had she said anything embarrassing? Screamed or tried to fight with her imaginary phantoms? “Oh…what umm…what did I do?”
“You were mumbling and twitching at first, and then you began thrashing around. It really worried me. Finally you…stopped. You slept the rest of the night peacefully.”
“Oh…But…these…” she glanced down at the potions. “I can’t, Draco, I can’t afford these.”
“It’s a gift. It’s not even a gift from me. Snape had plenty in his Potions supply cabinet.”
“But…this won’t even last very long. Just a month or so.”
“Then in a month I’ll get you more.”
“Draco, I can’t accept this.”
“You can, and you will.” He said it with his trademark smile, but in his tone was a hint of warning. “Unless you want me to go to the Hospital Wing and have Madame Promfey prescribe them to you. Then you can trek up there nightly before you got to sleep and have her administer the potions herself.”
She stared at him in shock. He was serious, he would tow her up to the Hospital Wing and watch as Madame Promfey made her drink one every night before going to bed. She could easily picture it in her head. “Fine,” she said finally, her voice a bit bitter.
“And since we’re on the subject, you’re going to start eating more from now on. You’re so thin you’re just skin and bones. If you get any thinner you’ll have to go to the Hospital Wing and then she’ll call your parents and they’ll find out you haven’t been eating anything lately.”
“Draco!” Ginny stared at him in surprise and hurt. Her mouth opened and close in protest, but no sound came out. “Why…why are you doing this?”
“Ginny,” he took her hands, his face grave. “You collapsed out of malnourishment and exhaustion. I can’t just…just sit by and watch you get worse and worse and not do anything. So I’m making a deal with you. I won’t go to Madame Promfey, I won’t go to your brother or your friends or your family, but you have to promise to start taking better care of yourself. In fact, I have to see improvement in your health in the next two weeks or I will.”
“You already went to Snape.”
He shook his head. “Snape is my friend, and he won’t tell a soul if I ask him not to. I needed him because I needed someone with at least some slight knowledge of medicine, medicine and potions often go hand in hand, to look at you and make sure you weren’t going to die on me. But you don’t have to worry about him spreading rumors around the school.”
“This still isn’t fair.”
Draco smiled sadly at her. “I know you think so but…but it is for the better. And I’ll help you. I’ll have food in here in case you’re hungry. Anytime you can’t sleep, you can just take one of those potions. And…and my door’s always opened, if the potions don’t work and you still have nightmares or if you just want some company. We’re friends, remember? That’s what friends do for each other.”
She nodded, staring down at her hand, which he held in his own two, his thumbs absentmindedly stroking her palm. “Okay. Deal. I guess I don’t really have much of a choice.”
His face lit up again in that childish beam. In it she could see hints of the trademark Malfoy smirk of triumph. “Now,” Draco said, pulling her up in sitting position by her hands, “go back to your Commons and get dressed. Dress warmly because we’re going outside. I’ll meet you by the Quidditch Pitch.”
“The Quidditch Pitch? But what…Draco…but…” he had rushed her out the door before she could ask any more questions, closing the door on her. She blinked at it in surprise, frowning, then headed back to her Commons. By the time she got there the clock read eleven in the morning. There were some people milling about the Commons, and she noticed their stares and whispers as she walked passed them. Ginny pulled her cloak tighter around her body, hiding the fact that she was wearing the same clothes she had been yesterday, and ran up to her room, which was, thankfully, empty of her roommates. The girl went to her trunk at the foot of her bed, pulling out her Muggle jeans and warm knit sweater, wishing that every one she owned wasn’t an eye-catching bright red. Ginny dressed quickly and ran a brush through her hair, pulling it back in a pony-tail, and was just slipping on her shoes when a knock came at the door. “Come in.”
Hermione’s bushy hair peeked into the room, followed by her inquisitive face. Noticing Ginny was alone and decent, she stepped fully into the room, closing the door behind her and sitting down on one of the beds. “Ginny…”
“Yeah, ‘Mione?” Ginny asked, sitting down opposite the girl, who had an odd look on her face. She was ready to leave, she didn’t want to keep Draco waiting, but Hermione’s expression was so worried she couldn’t bare to walk out the door without hearing what she had to say first. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, I…I was just wondering where you were last night.”
“Where I was?” Ginny’s heart began to pump faster in her chest.
“You left late last night to go take a shower, but you never came back. You weren’t here this morning. And when you came in just now you were wearing the same clothes you had on last night…”
Ginny’s palms began to sweat. She rubbed them against her rough jeans. “Yeah.” There was no point in denying it.
“Ginny…what…what happened? Are you alright?”
“What do you mean?”
“Last night…were you attacked?” The girl said it in a whisper.
Ginny was so surprised she burst out laughing, though that perhaps wasn’t the most appropriate thing to do, judging by her friend’s glare. She shut her mouth, shaking her head and trying to suppress giggles. “Is that what you were worried about?”
“Well, I mean, I didn’t think…well, I didn’t think that you were out having sex.”
“Strike two, ‘Mione.”
Ginny shrugged. “I got sick and passed out.”
“You passed out? Are you okay? You don’t look sick.” The girl placed a hand worriedly to Ginny’s head.
“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Ginny replied, batting it away. “My friend took care of me.”
“Your friend? Who?”
Ginny realized she’d let slip something she perhaps could not take back. “Nobody. He’s in a different House.”
“He?” Damn, this girl was too observant. “Do you…have a boyfriend?” Hermione looked incredulous.
“Merlin no, ‘Mione. He’s just my friend.”
“Who is he? I have to know now. I don’t feel comfortable with you hanging around strange men I don’t know all night after…after what happened over the summer.”
Ginny’s eyes narrowed. “Well, you don’t have to feel comfortable with it at all. It’s not any of your business.”
“Ginny, please don’t be mad at me. I just meant…I just don’t want anyone taking advantage of you.”
“Dra-” She froze, realizing she was about to say his name. “He wouldn’t.”
“No, you said Dray. Who is Dray?”
“Nobody.” Ginny stood, grabbing her cloak and heading for the door.
“Dray, Dray, Drake…Draco…Draco Malfoy?”
Ginny froze with her hand on the handle. There definitely was no denying it now. The girl was way too damn smart for her own good. She’d figured it out. Ginny heaved a heavy sigh. “Yeah. Draco. But not Malfoy. He renounced his last name.”
“I don’t bloody care whether he renounced it or not, he’s still a Mal-”
“Well I do bloody well care!” Ginny turned on her, eyes flaming. “He’s not a Malfoy, Hermione! He isn’t a Malfoy, he isn’t a Death Eater, and he isn’t his father!”
The girl was taken aback. “How do you know?”
“I saw his arm. There was no Dark Mark.”
“Those can be covered up. He may be lying.”
“Ginny, I don’t know…”
“Well I do, Hermione. He’s a good guy. He’s my friend. I’m not even sure exactly how it happened but…but I trust him. I trust him with my life, Hermione.”
“And your virtue?”
That was going too far. “He isn’t like that, Hermione. He doesn’t want sex or to take advantage of me or whatever. We’re friends. It’s a mutual friendship. Nothing more, nothing less. What can I say to make you trust me?”
“It’s not you I don’t trust, Ginny,” Hermione answered sadly.
“Then what can I say to make you trust him?”
Hermione’s lips pursed as she thought. She went to the window, staring out it at the sky above. For a long time she was silent. Then she asked, finally, “Does he make you happy?”
Ginny’s lips turned up in a smile. “Yes. Very. When I’m with him I…I can just forget everything. Everything that happened over the summer, y’know? I’m comfortable around him. And I’m happy. It’s like this weight is lifted off my shoulders.”
Hermione nodded, turning to her with a smile. It looked slightly forced, but only slightly. “Then I trust him.”
“You do?!” Ginny laughed and grabbed her friend, pulling her into a hug. She stepped back. “Hermione, you can’t, under any circumstances, tell my brother or anyone else about our friendship. Do you understand?”
Hermione frowned. “But if you two are such good friends then it should be alright if people know, right?”
Ginny shook her head. “Just trust me on this. It’s better for me and him if everyone else is oblivious.”
“You’re asking me to keep a huge secret from my two best friends.” She sighed. “All right. I won’t. For now. Nut if I see the slightest indication that he’s hurt you-”
“Oh, thanks, ‘Mione! Thank you thank you thank you!” Ginny threw her arms around the girl once more, then grabbed up her cloak, heading towards the door.
“But where are you running off to? Are you going to him? Ginny, you were sick yesterday, shouldn’t you rest and eat-”
Ginny was out the door and running down the stairs before she could finish her sentence. Everyone who saw the wide grin on her face stopped and stared in shock, wondering if it had been a figment of their imaginations.