She shines
in a world full of ugliness
She matters
when everything is meaningless
She doesn't see her beauty
She tries to get away
it's just that nothing seems worth saving
I can't watch her slip away...
She reads the minds of all the people
as they pass her by
Hoping someone will see
If I could fix myself I'd
but it's too late for me
I won't let you fall apart

Ginny pushed open the heavy dungeon doors of the Potions classroom. She had detention…again. It was especially cold this late in the evening, and even through her thick winter cloak she could feel the chill of the October air. Snape sat alone at his desk scribbling furiously on a parchment so she stood at the doors, waiting patiently. Finally, he looked up. “You’re three minutes late,” he commented in his drawling tone.

She didn’t argue that she had been standing there for three minutes waiting for him. He folded up the lengthy letter and put it in his pocket. For a moment he stared at her, his hands on the desk and face turned down in the angry frown he always wore. “Why were you late?” He barked, making her jump.

She gulped, staring down at her scuffed shoes. “I…I was…” She stammered.

“What Weasley? Spit it out!”

She jumped again. “Sorry, Professor.”

“Sorry is not an excuse for being late. I should assign you another detention.”

She closed her eyes, rocking back on her heels. This was what she used to do when she became angry and was trying not to mouth off, but now she just wanted to escape. From this annoying professor, this cold classroom, and the next few dreary hours ahead of her in which she did some mundane task in punishment for dozing off in class again.

“Miss Weasley, you will look at me when I am speaking to you.” She opened her eyes, but didn’t lift them. She watched curiously out of her periphery as he rummaged through his desk, grabbing a messenger bag and some papers. He stood, stepping around the desk. “I do not have time to watch over every student’s detention. I am a very busy man.” He said this as if she’d accused him of something. “One of my student helpers will be supervising you. Draco!”

Ginny looked up in surprise. Draco stepped around the doorway of the large Potions closet, where Snape kept stock of all of his ingredients. He glanced at Snape first with a blank face, then his eyes drifted to Ginny. The deep, penetrating look he gave her made her drop her eyes back down to the floor.

“Mr. Malfoy will see fit that you finish your task and are escorted back to your Commons room.” This surprised Ginny. Why would Snape offer her an escort? Was he afraid she would wander around the school without one? “I have recently acquired a new shipment of Potions ingredients and the moron who shipped them to me did not label all of them. You will label them,” he dug in the drawer of his desk, pulling out a quill with an old, dilapidated feather, a bottle of ink, and some masking tape “with this and put them in alphabetical order so I can find them. If you are uncertain as what a specific ingredient is, you will ask Mr. Malfoy for help. Do you understand, Miss Weasley?” Ginny nodded. “Miss Weasley, do you have good penmanship I hope?” She shrugged. “Weasley, when I ask you a question you will look me in the eyes and answer in words, not shrugs and nods.” He repeated his question.

Ginny forced her gaze up, glancing into his dark, angry black eyes and away. She looked over his shoulder at the wall behind him. “I suppose.”

“You suppose…?” He turned in a flurry of robes and stepped briskly to the chalkboard, picking up a piece of chalk and throwing it at her. She missed it and had to stoop to pick it up. “Write your full name on the board, Miss Weasley.” Ginny nodded and went to the board, making a large sweep around him so as not to be within arm’s reach, and did as she was told. “Good. At least there aren’t any of those annoying curvy letters I can’t read.”

“You mean cursive?” Malfoy asked with a smirk.

“Yes, that.” Snape glanced at the clock on the wall. “I will not be back before your detention is over. Good night Mister Malfoy, Miss Weasley.” With that he left, leaving Ginny alone with Draco.

Draco chanced a smile at her, but she didn’t return it. An awkward silence fell heavily upon them, Ginny staring at her feet and Draco staring at Ginny. Or what he could see of her, anyway. She was all bundled up in a thick dark gray cloak of wool, shivering slightly. He stepped towards her, taking off his own cloak as he went. “Are you cold?”

She didn’t say anything as he untied her cloak and let it fall from her shoulders, momentarily glancing down at her in her school uniform: dark pants and a white loose shirt that looked to be a hand-me-down from one of her brothers, and draped his own cloak around her, fastening it at her neck. She stood perfectly still, eyes wide, shivering ceasing, and his fingers brushed her neck before he dropped his hands and stepped away. “How is that?”

“Much warmer,” Ginny commented in surprise. His cloak looked to be made of thin cotton, but it was twice as warm as her own, and much lighter, too.

He smiled. “It’s infused with a warming spell. It will heat to your body’s ideal temperature. If you had kept on your other cloak, you would have been burning up.”

“Oh.” Again she fell silent. Draco could tell this would get them nowhere. Tonight wasn’t going as he had planned it with Snape. He thought back to that conversation.

Draco stepped into Snape’s office a few nights after Ginny’s attempted suicide. He didn’t bother to knock on the door, the professor knew it was him already. Severus Snape glanced up from grading papers, not seeming surprised at all to see Draco in his private office. “What can I do for you, Draco?” He asked.

Draco sat down on the only other chair in the room, his elbow on his knee and his chin resting on his hand. He didn’t say anything, and though Snape gazed at him in curiosity, he did not ask. Finally, Draco spoke. “I need you to do me a favor, Severus.”

Snape nodded. “Yes, you know I would do anything for you, Draco.” Draco knew. After all, the professor had saved his life by taking the blame for Dumbledore’s death last year. The two men had spent three weeks together last summer hiding out before his father discovered them and dragged Draco back home for the last time.

“I…It…” Draco didn’t know where to begin. “It’s the Weasley girl.”

“What about her?” Severus asked, curious now.

“I…I was showering the other night in the Prefect’s Bathroom when she came in.”

Snape put down his quill and rested his chin on his folded hands, face squinted in confusion. “And?”

“And…” Draco blushed. “I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t help watching her, Severus.”

His professor lifted an eyebrow. “In the bath?”

“Yes.” Draco didn’t deny it. There was a short silence.

“I’m assuming you didn’t come here to tell me about your excursions as a peeping tom, Draco.”

“No, Professor.” Draco took a deep breath. “Snape, she tried to commit suicide.”

Severus lifted an eyebrow again, this time higher. “What happened?”

“She dove under the water and didn’t resurface. I couldn’t just leave her. I jumped in after her and brought her back up, but she wasn’t breathing. I had to breathe into her mouth to get her going again, she had taken in so much water.”

Severus sat back in his chair. “Did you report this to the school nurse or the Headmistress?”

“No. Of course not.” Draco noticed Snape’s warning glance. “I couldn’t! I promised I wouldn’t. And besides, how would that help her any?”

“Her parents would find out and they could get her psychiatric treatment-”

“I’m sure they’ve tried already. But Ginny is too far gone for any help, at least not from any of them!”

Snape’s eyes widened slightly when he heard Draco use her first name, the word sounding almost loving on his tongue. “What, exactly, are you saying, Draco?”

“No one else can help her. Nobody else understands what she’s going through. But I do!”

“Draco…” Snape warned. “You presume to understand. You’ve never been in her situation before.”

“No, I’ve never been raped, but I have been beaten repeatedly by my father for years. I think the two are pretty close, don’t you?” Severus opened his mouth to speak but Draco stood, interrupting him as he began pacing. “I understand her, Severus. I can help her. I can heal her.” He paused. “I just need her to trust me. To get to know me so that we can develop a friendship and then I can fix her.” He realized how crazed his voice sounded, the strange smile that had grown on his face, and so did Snape.

“You’re obsessed,” Severus said, realization in his tone. “You’re obsessed with her. I would almost think you were in love with her.”

Draco paused his pacing, his body frozen where it was, hand half raised, eyes at the wall, mouth open as he murmured to himself. He straightened up, staring at the floor in contemplation as he thought this over. Finally he said, “I think you’re right, Snape,” and glanced over at his friend.

The two men stared at each other for a long time. Finally, Severus asked, “What do you need me to do for you, Draco?”

Draco’s face lit up in a smile and he began pacing again. “I just need you to arrange it so that our paths meet again. So that I can spend more time with her alone, hours perhaps, to get her to trust me.”

Snape nodded. “That would be easy. I could arrange a detention for her and have you host it.”

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean she would be forced to talk to me,” Draco answered.

They both thought for a while. Then Snape looked up, a smile on his face. “I could pull the labels off of my potions ingredients and make her label them. She couldn’t possibly know them all like you do, and she would be forced to ask you for help.”

Draco beamed at the man. “That would be perfect! The more she speaks to me, the more comfortable she’ll become around me. Sooner or later, she’ll have to admit the relationship we’ve developed.”

Snape fell silent. “Do you realize what you are doing, Draco? Do you understand the dire consequences if you, in your attempts to help her, only end up hurting her more?”

Draco nodded, face serious. “Yes. I know how broken she is. I believe I only can help her.”

“And do you know what you must do if she pushes you away? If she does not return your feelings of love? If you pursue too much, you will only crush her further and hurt her more. I don’t want to see you become…that, Draco.” Severus didn’t say it, but they both thought it. His father. They didn’t want to see him become his father.

“Don’t worry, Snape. I could never be like that man.”

The sound of Ginny’s voice brought Draco back to the present. It was so small he wouldn’t have noticed it or even made out her words if he hadn’t been staring at her lips. “I suppose I should get started then.”

“What? Oh, yes.” He nodded and led the way to the Potions closet. She seemed even more uncomfortable than usual confined in this much smaller space with him. Ginny sighed as she stared at all the unlabeled potions’ jars. There had to be at least thirty of them. She sat down on the floor in front of them, grabbing one and staring at its green contents in confusion.

Draco took the potion from her hand, setting it on the floor. He smiled at her surprised look, his arms folded around his bent legs, chin resting on his knees. He tilted his head to the side, still smiling. “Umm…” she whispered.

“I don’t feel like doing this. It’s so drab and besides, I’d rather talk.”

“Talk?” She shifted uncomfortably from side to side. “About what?”

Draco shrugged. “Anything. Everything. About you, about me.”

“I…I’d rather not,” she finally had the nerve to say, and reached for the jar of ingredients again.

Draco’s hand whipped out before he could stop it, grabbing hers. She froze, and so did he, both staring at her hand in his. Draco thought they looked nice together. His long fingers were wrapped around her small, fragile, cold hand. His hands had once been smooth and manicured, but now they were as callused as hers. He had no dirt under his fingernails, old habits died hard and he still insisted on cleanliness and good looks, even though he had no one to impress, but his nails were as unpolished as her own. What surprised him most was that her skin was even paler than his, the albino ferret, as he remembered her calling him once when they were younger.

She yanked her hand away, and he was thankful she refused to look at his face. She didn’t see the disappointment there. Draco finally ventured to speak. “I haven’t seen you in a week. How have things been?”

Ginny flinched at the memory of what had happened a week ago. A blush rose to her cheeks and she must have remembered regaining consciousness to find him leaning over her naked body. He was thankful he was able to keep his own blush in check. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, I hope you haven’t chanced another swim since then. You should be careful walking around the lake, if you fell in, small as you are and with all those clothes on, you’d sink straight to the bottom.” He made his tone sound joking, though they both knew that it hadn’t been an accident.

“No. The lake is too cold.”

Draco nodded as he contemplated. Where to go from here? How to get her to open up? Was he rushing things too much? Perhaps he should talk about himself? “Y’know, I didn’t learn how to swim until I was thirteen years old. My father got me private lessons from one of the best teachers, and still I wouldn’t let go of the edge of the pool. I looked ridiculous, a teenage boy afraid to dunk his head under water. Admittedly, I claimed it was because I didn’t want to get my perfect hair wet, but the truth was I was deathly afraid.”

“How did you learn?” Ginny asked, curious. Draco became excited that she actually wanted to engage in conversation.

“Well, finally, my father, fed up, grabbed me, pushed me away from the wall, and held my head underwater.”

She gasped, staring at him in shock. For once she didn’t flinch away from his eyes. “But…he could have killed you.”

Draco nodded, smiling. “He nearly did,” he said, a bit too cheerfully. He hoped she wouldn’t notice the pain he was trying to hide. “But you see, nearly dying like that, I became less afraid. There was nothing to be afraid of if you had almost died once. And I learned how to swim.”

They both fell into their own thoughts. Draco knew what Ginny must be thinking. She had almost died once, but she was more afraid than ever. Draco’s thoughts were more of contemplations, however. If that had worked to get him to trust his trainer and the water and his own abilities, couldn’t he apply the same logic to Ginny? She didn’t trust him, he knew that. And she never would. Not unless he forced her to. And the only way to make her truly trust him, with everything she had, was to make her see that he wasn’t a threat to her. And how else to do that but to let her see how strong he was, how easily he could crush her, just as easily as the water could have drowned him, and then prove to her that although he could, he wouldn’t? How else but to almost kill her?

Draco’s eyes widened at the thought as he contemplated it. Would it really work? Or just scare her away? He gazed at her, his eyes studying. She was already so broken, so pathetic. She seemed to believe every man was out to get her. She knew he wasn’t a Death Eater, and therefore couldn’t have been one of the men that had raped her, but she still didn’t trust that he wouldn’t. Draco whispered, “Ginny, are you afraid of me?” Ginny’s eyes widened. She didn’t answer him. “I know you are.” He continued, standing up and stepping closer to where she crouched on the floor. She froze, watching him from the corner of her eyes. He took another step, and she seemed to shrink against the shelves at her back. “And perhaps you should be,” another step, “because I am much stronger than you,” another, “and I could easily hurt you.” He grabbed her arm, and she squealed in shock. She tried to pull away, but she was much too weak. Draco was careful not to crush her small wrist in his hands. “And we’re all alone,” he whispered, his mouth at her ear. “Nobody would ever know.” She yanked again, this time much harder, and surprised Draco, pulling him out of balance and down on top of her.

They fell to the ground, Ginny beneath him on the floor, Draco catching himself so he didn’t crush her, his hands by her head, his knees on either side of her hips. He knew how trapped she must feel, with him pinning her arm down to the floor, his face just inches from hers. Her breathing sped up and her pulse raced under his fingertips. As he watched the rapid rise and fall of her breasts, the thought dawned on him. He could hurt her, easily. He could take her, right here, right now, on the floor, and she wouldn’t be able to resist him. He imagined her naked, shivering body beneath him. And then, realizing where his thoughts were leading, observing the irritating tightening in his pants, Draco felt only disgust in himself. How could he even contemplate such a thing? Albeit, that was the point he was trying to get across to Ginny, but he should have known better than to have such sick, revolting thoughts. He was trying to help this broken girl, not hurt her more.

Draco swallowed the bile rising in his throat and he whispered, “Ginny.” She shuddered at the sound of his voice, and he observed her glazed eyes, horrified face. Damnit! He was losing her, quickly, as she fell inside herself. He was sure she was remembering what happened to her that night. No, he had to keep her focused on the present, on him. Draco grabbed Ginny’s face, forcing her to stare into his eyes. This seemed to snap her back into the present. “Ginny, pay attention to me. I said I could easily hurt you. And I could. I could rape you. I am physically capable of it. But Ginny,” he stressed these words as much as he could, “just because I could doesn’t mean I would.”

She continued to shake beneath him, and he wasn’t sure if he had gotten the point across. “Ginny, listen to me.” He let go of her face and began to stroke it gently. “I am not a rapist. I am not a Death Eater. I didn’t hurt you that night, you know that. I was far away, fighting with my father in his house. And if I had been there that night, I would have stopped that from ever having happened to you.” He suddenly felt guilt weigh on his soul. Had Draco been able to prevent it? He tried to remember what he was doing that exact night, but all he came up with was an endless stream of beatings, each night blending into the one before and the next, until it was all a blur. Had he had an invitation to join the Death Eaters that had hurt her and turned it down, resulting in another beating from his father? Or had he never been invited at all? He didn’t know for certain. There were so many Death Eaters committing so many crimes every night he couldn’t keep up with them all, or with those he had been invited to join and those he hadn’t. Draco forced himself back to the present. “Ginny, even though I could hurt you right now, I wouldn’t because I’m not like that. I don’t know what it will take to get that point across to you.”

Finally he sighed, when he realized he wasn’t going to. He just hoped he hadn’t fucked everything up. Draco let go of her and sat up. She quickly scurried against the wall, shaking in fear, staring at him. She could have easily run out the door, but she didn’t. That was promising. Draco leaned against the far wall, waiting. Waiting for her to run away or to approach. Waiting for her to hate him forever or to trust him. He couldn’t tell what she would do.

Finally, growing annoyed with the silence, he asked, “Well, do you trust me now?”

Ginny jumped at the sound of his voice breaking through her thoughts. She had gone over all he had said and done a hundred times, from every angle, trying to make sense of it all. She couldn’t. Ginny was confused and afraid and shocked and she wasn’t sure which was strongest. She felt his eyes on her, and asked, “What?”

“Do you trust me now?” He repeated, never looking away from her. And she couldn’t break that piercing gaze, though it seemed to be looking deep into her soul, stripping her of all of her protective layers. Exposing her, making her naked. It was uncomfortable and frightening and yet, she could escape it, couldn’t force herself away.

Did she trust him? He had proven his point. He was powerful enough to hurt her, but he had stopped. He had claimed that even though he could, he wouldn’t. And did she believe that? Did she believe he wouldn’t hurt her? Obviously, he’d been given the opportunity and had pulled away. But had he been there that night, would he have stopped himself, stopped the Death Eaters?

Yes. Yes, she believed he would have prevented it. She believed he would never hurt her that way. And she did trust him. She couldn’t explain why, exactly, she trusted him as much as she did, but she did trust him. She wasn’t comfortable around him, far from it, and she didn’t know him very well, and she was still afraid of him, but she trusted him. She nodded, slowly. “Yes, I do.”

The edge of his mouth lifted up in a smile. “I’m glad,” he answered in the same small whisper. Then, suddenly chipper, he went back to speaking as if that had never happened. “Y’know, after my father held my head under water like that and almost killed me, I hated him. I refused to speak to him for weeks, and if I had been stronger, I probably would have tried to physically hurt him. More than once I wanted to hurt him, to drown him, so he knew what it felt like.” He grinned. “So, I’ll understand if you want to hit me or something. If it’ll make you feel better.”

Ginny felt a strange sensation then. Her heart fluttered and her mouth lifted, and she didn’t quite understand what it was at first. Then she remembered. This was smiling. Ginny tried to force it down, the smile, but it was harder to resist than crying or even falling asleep.

He continued. “And if you want to pin me down and threaten to rape me, I won’t resist.” He joked. “Just so you know.”

Ginny lowered her face, burying it in her legs so he wouldn’t see the smile on her lips. She couldn’t stop her shoulders from shaking though, just slightly. He must have noticed, because he came to sit beside her, his hand on her back. “Hey, what’s wrong? I was just kidding.”

She shook her head, tears springing to her eyes with the effort she was putting into not laughing. Draco pulled at her shoulder, lifting her up, and she tried to make her face a mask like he always did. He gasped dramatically and she heard the amusement in his voice as he teased, “Is that a smile I see on your face, Miss Weasley? You’d better be careful with that thing. Somebody might see it and have a heart attack.”

Ginny found she couldn’t resist anymore. She burst out laughing, hiding her mouth under her hand and her face behind her hair. She could hear Draco’s chuckles. “And…why…is that?” she asked between giggles.

“Because it’s too beautiful. They would fall in love with you immediately.” She stared at him, uncomfortable from the seriousness in his voice. “That, and the shock of seeing it at all. They would drop dead on the spot.”

“Then why aren’t you dead?” she asked, her voice thick with laughter, as she pointed at him.

He clutched at his heart and stood, backing away from her, covering his eyes. Draco swooned dramatically and fell to the ground, shaking a few times before going still. He opened one eye and watched her collapse into a fit of giggles.

“When I was younger my mother entered me in a Little Miss Witch pageant.”

“A what pageant?” Draco asked, looking confused.

“Little Miss Witch. Where they dress up little girls in fancy dresses and put makeup on them and make them look ten years older, then make them prance around on the stage and show them off like brooms up for auction,” Ginny explained.

“And what happened?”

“I got disqualified because I punched a girl in the face and broke her nose.”

Draco’s eyes widened in surprise and he leaned back a bit, as if afraid she would hit him. “What did she say to you?!”

“She called me carrot top.”

He burst into laughter, and Ginny’s small giggles followed suit. A clock chimed somewhere far off, and Draco wondered how long they had been sitting here talking. It seemed just a few minutes, but it must have been hours. The unlabelled jars sat on the floor beside Draco and Ginny, who had drifted closer as the hours went by, until they sat side by side. They had told stories for a long time, all funny ones, neither wanting to ruin the moment by touching on some sadder memory. Draco found himself staring at Ginny, enthralled by her smile. It had to be the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. And her laughter. At first it had sounded rusty and unused, but still it chimed like the most musical sound in the world. He was all too aware of the warmth of her arm against his, the occasional accidental brush of their hands, the smell of her shampoo. “It’s eleven already,” he commented, counting the chimes as they ended. “We’ve been here for four hours.”

Ginny nodded. “I wonder where Snape is. What is he doing out this late?”

“I don’t know,” Draco lied. Of course, he did. He had asked Snape to stay away from the classroom for the rest of the night to give Draco some alone time with Ginny. He was sure the man was fast asleep in his room by now, which was just down the hall, halfway between his class and the Slytherin Commons room. Draco wasn’t comfortable being so close to the Commons, but thankfully none of the Slytherins had passed by Snape’s classroom on a late night excursion.

Ginny seemed troubled by something. Her laughter had stopped and her face had become serious again. “Why is he back at the school, Draco?”

“Why? Oh, you mean after what happened with Dumbledore?”

Ginny nodded. “I can’t see how he was allowed to come back after killing the Headmaster.”

“Well didn’t you read the newspapers this summer?” Draco asked in confusion. “The trial was in there.” Ginny shook her head. No, he supposed she hadn’t had much contact with the Wizarding World at all this summer. “Well, it’s a long story.” He sighed. “You know that it was my task to kill Dumbledore, don’t you?”

Ginny nodded. “I heard from Harry about it last year.”

“Then you know I couldn’t kill him? I didn’t have it in me.” Ginny nodded again. “Well, you see, my mother was afraid of what my father, and worse, the Dark Lord, would do to me if I didn’t complete my task. She knew I wasn’t strong enough to be a murderer. So she had Severus make an Unbreakable Vow. If I couldn’t kill Dumbledore, Snape would.” He took a deep breath. “That’s what happened that night. Snape killed Dumbledore for me and we made our escape before the aurors could get us. For three weeks we hid out in the wilderness, afraid to approach civilization. Snape, as you know, was a false Death Eater working for the Order of the Phoenix, and I never wanted to be one in the first place. But with Dumbledore no longer there to vouch for us before the Order, and because I had failed to please the Death Eaters, we had nowhere to go.

“However, my father didn’t give up the search. He wanted to punish me for my insolence. He finally discovered us and brought us back to Lord Voldemort. Snape explained that I had been too weak to commit the crime myself but that I shouldn’t be punished. He claimed we had been hiding out from the Ministry. He suffered the Dark Lord’s wrath for me. Voldemort would have quickly killed me without any remorse, but Snap was too valuable to him, so he only tortured him and left my punishment to my father.

“Finally, Voldemort accepted that Snape would have to go to trial before the Ministry if he wanted his job back. Voldemort needs him working in the school so he knows what is happening inside Hogwarts,” Draco explained. “Severus went before the court and explained himself, and all the charges on him and me were quickly dropped.”

“But how?” Ginny asked in confusion. “How did they just forgive him that easily?”

“Don’t you get it, Ginny?” Draco asked, shaking his head. “The court, the trial, the Ministry, they were already set up for the charges to be dropped. They were just to satisfy the people, so that nobody questioned why Snape had gotten back his job.” Ginny still didn’t get it. “Ginny, the Ministry isn’t what it used to be. It’s slowly being taken over by the Death Eaters. Very little of it is run justly anymore. Wizards and witches are being kept oblivious as the Ministry begins to change its rules and regulations. In just a few years time, it will be completely owned by the Death Eaters, and they will use it merely as a tool to reach their ends.”

Ginny gasped, staring at him in shock. “But…my father…”

“Yes, your father still has his job. For now. But I’m sure even he is beginning to become wary of the situation. His branch is one of little importance, so it hasn’t been taken over yet, and perhaps won’t be for a long time, but sooner or later he will be out of a job and watching with the rest of us the corruption of the Ministry.

“Of course, McGonagall couldn’t do anything to protest the Ministry’s decision, even though she is beginning to catch onto the situation. So, Severus got his job back and I was allowed to return to the school.”

Ginny was silent as she contemplated this. Finally, she spoke. “Then, Snape is a good guy?”

Draco nodded. “Yeah, he’s a good guy. He was only protecting me. He had to go back to pretending to be a Death Eater, but I could still manage to escape. He couldn’t help me after I ran away though, not without being caught. So I was on my own for past few months.”

“Will you tell me about it? About what happened?” She yawned tiredly.

Draco smiled. “Maybe some other time. It’s a long story, and it’s late. We should both get to bed.”

Ginny nodded and Draco stood, helping her up. “What about the Potions ingredients?”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it.” Draco didn’t admit that it had been a setup. He didn’t think Ginny would like that very much. “C’mon, I’ll walk you back to your Commons.”

They walked in silence, being careful not to get caught by any of the Prefects out on duty or by Filch. Once they almost passed Peeves, but he heard a commotion down the hall and so they avoided crossing paths. Finally, Draco got Ginny to her Commons room. “Well, this is where I leave you.”

Ginny nodded, shifting from one foot to the other. Draco smiled and put a hand on her shoulder. She was still jumpy, so he wasn’t surprised when she shied away from his touch, but he didn’t let go. “I’ll see you around,” he promised. Draco lifted her chin in the air, tired of seeing her with her eyes turned down all the time. He turned and left, waving back at her, and again waited around the corner until he was sure she was safely in her Commons room. He had a grin on his face all the way to his room.

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