I remember when
We used to laugh
About nothing at all
It was better than going mad
From trying to solve all the problems we're going through
Forget 'em all
Cause on those nights we would stand and never fall
Together we faced it all
Remember when we'd
Stay up late and we'd talk all night
In a dark room lit by the TV light
Through all the hard times in my life
Those nights kept me alive
-Those Nights by Skillet
Ginny stared blankly out the window at the dark night sky, the twinkling stars above. There was no moon out tonight to bathe the grounds in its light, and off in the forest she could hear wild creatures calling to each other, the sound sending shivers up her spine. Or perhaps it was the cold air that chilled her to the bone and made her wish she had worn warmer socks and perhaps shoes as well. But shoes were too loud when one was sneaking out of her commons room at ten o’clock at night.
She had gotten the letter that morning. Draco had passed her in the hallway and, with a private smile, slipped the note into her hand. She had stared at him curiously and as he passed her he turned, placing a finger on his lips and winking before walking off nonchalantly.
Ginny looked down at the worn, crumpled note in her hand that she must have read a hundred times by now. It was simple and to the point. Not a question or request, but an order.
Meet me in front of the prefects’ bathroom at ten.
That was it. Simple. Nothing more. No explanation. Vague, confusing, dangerous. She wondered, not for the first time, why she had actually come.
She trusted Draco, right? Yes, she knew she did. She didn’t understand what made her trust him. If it had been his strange lesson in detention or if she had instinctually known that he would never do anything to hurt her. But then again, her instincts weren’t exactly in tune, if what had happened over the summer was any indication. She pushed that thought away. Something about Draco made you want to trust him. There was some strange innocent kindness in his eyes, a laughter in his voice, a smile always on his face.
But still, she didn’t feel comfortable, meeting him in the middle of the night like this. She still didn’t know him very well. What if he did have ill intentions? Maybe she shouldn’t have come at all. In all honesty, Ginny completely forgot about the note for the rest of the day, only remembering it when she opened her bag and found it pressed between her books. But the reason for her not remembering his note wasn’t sheer forgetfulness.
It was what had happened just after he had slipped the note into her hand. Meandering slowly through the students in the hallway, she had glanced up to see where she was going when, through the massive crowd of people, her brown eyes locked with someone’s bright blue ones.
Bright blue eyes. Icy blue eyes. Cruel blue eyes. She blinked, just for a second, and they were gone, but those eyes, they were so similar…no, they were the exact same ones! They had to be! She knew them by now, she saw them every night in her nightmares. There was no doubt they were his eyes. The man that had raped her. The leader of the group. The one that had whispered in her ear. Told them what to do to her to make her suffer most.
She had turned and turned in circles, searching every face frantically, especially the male ones, looking into people’s eyes on purpose, something she couldn’t recall doing in ages. And in vain. She found nothing. She continued to whirl like a wild woman until she was dizzy and collapsed against the wall, eyes wide, tears streaming down her face, heart racing. He was in the school with her. In the very same hallways as her. And he could be any of them. Any of them.
People whispered and stared as they passed, some pointing, and she turned from their gossip and fled down the hall, escaping to the nearest bathroom where she collapsed against the wall. She hid out there for the rest of the day, shaking from head to toe, unable to get the image of his haunting blue eyes out of her head.
Ginny eventually fell asleep from the exhaustion, both mental and physical, and did not wake for hours, and when she did it was only to the sound of Moaning Myrtle crying in her stall. Ginny stood quietly, not wanting to disturb the girl’s ghost, but she of course knew Ginny was already there. As she moved to leave the bathroom, she and Myrtle crossed paths. They both paused, staring at each other, Ginny with an expression that was a mixture of shock and numbness, Myrtle in curiosity. Ginny nodded to the girl and left the room, feeling the apparition’s eyes on her back as she left.
She had found the note, remembered it, slipped out, and now here she was, staring out the window at the dark night, alone in an empty corridor, waiting for a boy whom she was probably wrong to trust. All of her nerves screamed at her to leave and she sighed resolutely, deciding she would wait only a minute more before-
A hand came down on her shoulder and Ginny squeeked, too surprised to make any other noise. The owner of the hand wheeled her around with a chuckle, and she was met with a wide, silly grin. “You actually came. I wasn’t sure you would.”
“I nearly forgot.” Ginny replied breathlessly.
“Forgot?!” He looked appalled and offended, and raised his voice in mock hurt. Ginny glanced around the hallways, hoping nobody heard. “However could you forget me? That hurts me, Ginny.” He pretended to swoon in pain.
“Be quiet, you fool, unless you want us to get caught,” she hissed back at him, suddenly irritated. He stood straight immediately. “Now tell me what you want and you’d better make it worth my trip down here. I was nearly caught by a patrolling prefect.”
Draco smiled at her. “I have a surprise for you.”
“A surprise?” If he noticed the suspicion in her voice, he ignored it. Draco grabbed her hand, startling her, and lurched her forward, pulling her through the halls as if their lives depended on it. “Draco, where are we going?” She whispered again, her eyebrows narrowed in confusion as he pulled her along.
“It’s not great or anything, a bit shabby, but I wanted to show it to you. Since you trust me and all, I figured I should trust you, right?” He smiled back at her, nearly running into the wall in the process. “The prefects’ bathroom just happens to be halfway between your common room and—here.” He skidded to a stop and she ran into him. Draco’s arms wrapped around her waist to catch her and stop her from falling, and they spun halfway around from the momentum of the stop. When Ginny’s head quit spinning and her feet fixed themselves under her, she lurched away from him.
“Where are we, exactly?” Ginny asked, glancing around them. They were on a dark, quiet, narrow hallway that she didn’t recognize. To the left was the direction they had come and to the right it ended, splitting off into two different halls. She had never had classes over here and could not identify the heavy wooden door before them or where it led. Draco’s face lit up in that amused grin he always wore.
“My surprise. Come, my lady,” he said with a flourish, holding open the door before her. “Step over the threshold and into my palace.”
She lifted an eyebrow skeptically and walked into the room, glancing around her. It looked like an ordinary classroom, and though it was clean, it didn’t appear to have been used in years. All of the desks had been pushed together to form a table and the chairs had been placed around them. Over top he had laid a sheet for a tablecloth. The room was fairly bare except for this makeshift table and the teacher’s chalkboard on the far wall. There was a single light fixture with mostly burned out candles that only dimly lit up the room. There were a few windows looking out over the Forbidden Forest, though she noticed no other landmarks to help her distinguish where she was in the castle. Draco had stepped in behind her and closed the door, locking it, which made her nervous. He noticed her expression. “Oh, this is just in case some Slytherins figure out that I’m living here.”
“You live here?” she asked in surprise, glancing around the small classroom.
“Well, not here. This is my dining room,” he motioned to the table. “And that is the grand ball room.” Draco pointed to the open space to her right. “And over here is the living room.” He took her hand, leading her to the far side of a room where another door stood open, light spilling out of it. Inside was a smaller space, almost cramped, with a threadbare couch on one side next to a small fireplace and a bed pushed up against the other wall. “And that is my bedroom.” He pointed to the bed. “And this is the study and library.” His head nodded to the desk between the couches and the bed. Over it was the only window in the room, this one facing the mountains to the west. Beside it were stacks of school books, some of which appeared to be from a few years ago. His trunk, where he must have kept his clothes, sat at the foot of the mattress.
“Wow…” she whispered, staring around her. “This is…unexpected.”
“Unexpected? How?” he asked, his head tilting to the side.
“It’s just…very humble…for Draco Malfoy.”
“Yes, for Draco Malfoy, I presume it would be atrocious.”
“So…why do you live here then?”
He grinned. “Well, I’m not Draco Malfoy.”
“You’re not?” She lifted an eyebrow skeptically. “Then...who are you?”
“Why, I suppose I never did make a proper introduction, did I?” He flourished his hand, holding it out to her. Tentatively, she took it. “I, my lady, am simply, Draco.” He grinned at her, bringing her knuckles to his lips and kissing her hand.
She pulled it away immediately with a sharp intake of breath. He noticed her glare and stood up straight, dropping his hand back to his side. Ginny turned to avoid his gaze and her eyes fell on it. Leaning against the wall beside the books was a broom. A Nimbus 2001. It wasn’t as nice as Harry’s Firebolt, but it was still more beautiful, sleek, and elegant than any broom she had ever owned. She ran her hands over the handle of it in awe.
“Do you like it? Would you want to ride it?” he asked, sitting down on one of the couches.
“Oh. No.” She dropped her hand, embarrassed at being caught. “I don’t ride.”
“What do you mean, you don’t ride? I saw you last year! You were fantastic!”
“I don’t ride…anymore.” The words hung between them heavily. Finally, he broke the silence. “Sit down. Make yourself comfortable.” He patted the space beside him. “The fire is nice and warm and you must be cold.”
Ginny tentatively stepped over to the fire, glancing at the loveseat he was sitting on and at the desk chair next to it. She sat down there quickly, curling her legs up to her chest and leaning towards the warm fire. “So…why did you show all of this to me?”
He shrugged, not taking his eyes off of her, which was disconcerting. It always felt as if he were staring at her, even when she looked away, as she had done now. “I figured, you trust me, then I should be able to trust you. This is my hiding place. Where I live. I just have to hope you won’t go telling any big bad Slytherins about it.”
She looked at him in surprise. “As if I would talk to any of them. But…why do you live here? And not with them?”
“Ginny, I don’t think you understand the gravity of the situation. I ran away from home. Away from my duties as a Death Eater. I refused the Dark Mark, Ginny. I am as good as dead to them. Well not even, because I am alive. No, I am…well, I am just another target, so to speak. Even more so because I offended Voldemort.”
“You mean, they would hurt you?”
“Oh, no doubt of it. They probably wouldn’t kill me. I’m too valuable. Lucius, and perhaps even Voldemort himself, both want to teach me a lesson for my insolence. But they would beat me, every chance they got, you saw that yourself a few weeks ago, when they caught me alone in the hall.”
“Why didn’t you report them?”
“And have the whole school find out that I had just let them beat me? That I had just let my father beat me?” She nodded. “Ginny, I would have thought you of all people would have understood the best. I was ashamed. I didn’t want anyone to know.” She looked down at her hands, which were clenching at her robes. Of course she knew. If she had been given the choice, she would have made sure nobody had found out about what had happened that night to her. She would have kept it a secret and taken it to her grave. As it was, she didn’t have a choice, and the whole of wizarding England now knew, thanks to Rita Skeeter.
“So you’re stuck living here?” she asked, glancing around his room again. It was small, the couch was dilapidated and used, as was the bed, which sat directly on the floor with no frame, but it was all fairly clean and neat, which surprised her. Most of the men in her family weren’t obsessed with cleanliness like Draco was. Maybe it was a habit that came with growing up rich.
“It’s not so bad, really. I never really liked anyone in Slytherin, and I’m not exactly a social person. You help with the loneliness, certainly.” He smiled. “You and Severus are pretty much the only people I ever talk to anymore.” He sighed. “I do wish, sometimes, that I could change houses though. Maybe be a Gryff. Do I fit the profile?” Draco laughed at Ginny’s scrunched up face as she tried to picture him in Gryffindor house. She thought he might be in more danger than he was in Slytherin. “Seriously, though. The whole system is stupid. You are put in this house at eleven, supposedly based off of your personality, but we all know it is really based off of your family history. Supposedly we get a choice, but at age eleven, we always choose what our parents would want from us.”
“You don’t like the houses, then?”
“Of course not! It’s all set up wrong. Once you’re in a
house, there’s no getting out of it. No changing your mind. You’re stuck with
the same people year after year, all who are supposed to have the same
qualities as you, but in the end, don’t we all have much more complex
personalities than just bravery, cunning, loyalty, and intelligence? Don’t we
all have many aspects of that? In the end, all it does is promote house
rivalries and clichéd ideas that all Slytherins are evil and all Gryffindors
are heroes and all Ravenclaws are haughty and all Hufflepuffs are pushovers.”
She thought it over. “I never really thought of it that way, but there is a lot of truth in your words.” Ginny smiled sadly. “I’m not really a Gryffindor anymore than you are a Slytherin.”
He paused in his rant, staring at her in surprise. “What do you mean by that?”
Ginny shrugged, picking at the hem of her pants. “I’m not brave or courageous or strong, and I’m certainly not a hero.”
Ginny felt his hand on her shoulder. The touch burned her. She shrank away from it, wanting to shrug it off but not wanting to hurt his feelings. “I think you’re courageous, Ginny.”
She shook her head. “I’m afraid of everything.”
Silence hung between them as she sat stiffly and uncomfortably, wishing he would remove his hand. Finally, he let go and sat back, and she exhaled the breath she had been holding in relief. “I suppose I did promise to tell you about what had happened when I ran away from home.” Ginny nodded, chancing a glance at Draco face. He was staring out the window, though he didn’t appear to actually see anything in particular. “You saw me. In the hospital. Do you remember?”
Again, she nodded. “You had broken your arm flying.”
Draco chuckled, though no humor met his eyes. “No, not flying. I had broken it, or rather my father had, the night I tried to run away.” He took a slow, deep breath. “I was supposed to get the Dark Mark that night. I had been planning to escape for weeks after my father found me, but I overheard my parents discussing my induction ceremony. The date had been set for that night and they hadn’t told me. He knew what I would try to do. So, I was forced to change my plans and pack my bags in less than an hour, taking only what I would need: my clothes, my broom, some food, my schoolbooks, and all the money I had, which wasn’t much. I was almost to the fireplace, almost free, when my father surprised me. He was there, waiting for me, though how he knew I was running away and exactly which fireplace in the manor I would choose I don’t know.”
“He attacked me. He beat me.” Ginny winced at his nonchalance. “He might have even killed me, but I fought back and managed to escape. You don’t want to know all the details. But I had a broken arm and a lot of bruises. I came to the hospital because I was too exhausted to heal myself and besides, I’ve never been great at healing bones. I had to make up that ridiculous story to explain it, though I know the mediwitch didn’t believe it.” He shrugged. “That was the night I saw you.”
Ginny nodded. It had been, from what she was told, three days after her attack. She had only then been able to get out of bed and roam around the dark hallways at night, and had by chance seen Draco’s interview with the skeptical nurse.
“The next day I left. All I had was what I had brought with me, which wasn’t much. I went to the only respectable, though inconspicuous, place I could think of, the Leaky Cauldron. I got a room there but I knew with the money I had I couldn’t afford to rent it out but for a few weeks. So I struck a deal with the owner, Tom, to work the bar every night for room and board and I could keep my scanty tips. They weren’t much, especially when you had been living a life of luxury before, but anything was better than returning to my father and the Death Eaters.”
“And he never found you?”
“Oh, he did, of course. It didn’t take him long to discover where I was hiding. He even came to my room, in the dead of night, and almost killed me. I barely managed to explain to him that if he did kill me, everyone would know it was him. Tom suspected, though I never told him outright, that I had run away from home and an abusive parent, and he always kept careful tabs on me to make sure the man hadn’t tried to hurt me. I explained all of this, and how if Lucius tried to take me back Tom would make sure the whole wizarding world found out about his abuse. It surprised me when Lucius actually saw reason and let me go. He left with a warning that the next time I was alone and not under someone’s care, he would find me and bring me back to Voldemort. Which is why I’ve been hiding out here.”
“You think the Slytherins would try to take you to your father?”
“No. They are smart enough to know that the professors would get suspicious if a student disappeared. They know it would be looked into and they would be discovered as the kidnappers. But I think they would send me his love every chance they got.”
Ginny winced. “What happened while you were living there this summer?”
“Oh, not much really. I made acquaintance with Tom and other people who worked there. Especially the women on the street.” He blushed. “They liked me. They realized after a few tries that I wasn’t interested in them, but they still made the suggestion occasionally. They were nice. I don’t think I’ve ever met women who were more…comfortable with themselves. They seemed to like their job; they didn’t just see it as a way to make money. They were very positive people.”
Ginny looked at her hands, wondering at the strange pang she felt in her chest. She didn’t trust these women. She hadn’t even met them, and yet...she disliked them? “It sounds like you had relations with them,” she teased, ignoring the confusing emotions.
“Relations? Oh, you think I dated them? Had sex with them?” She must have made a strange face, because he laughed at her then. “No, no, far from it. We were friends, but as I said, I wasn’t attracted to them. In fact, you’d probably be surprised to learn that I’m a virgin.”
Ginny stared at him, mouth opened in surprise. “But…I mean…even I’ve heard stories. Girls who aren’t even in Slytherin house talk about you.” She blushed, suddenly embarrassed as she remembered the rumors she’d heard about him.
Draco chuckled again, sitting back and lacing his hands behind his head. “Yes. Stories. And that’s all they are. I’m sure you can guess who made them up.” Ginny shook her head. “Ahh, that would be the work of Pansy Parkison. She’s always had a crush on me. I can’t stand her. I always resisted her when she threw herself at me.” He sounded disgusted. “So she made up stories of us being together. Rumors spread like wildfire and other girls started adding in their stories and that’s how I got this reputation I never wanted.” Ginny smiled, hiding it behind her hand. “What? What are you laughing at?” She shook her head. “Tell me!”
Ginny chuckled under her breath. Glancing at his offended expression, she found herself laughing out loud. “It’s just…most guys would be happy to have a reputation like that that they never had to work for.”
He scoffed and rolled his eyes. “Most guys. Well, I’m not most guys. I would rather not be known for shagging all the sluttiest girls in school and then some.”
Ginny nodded. “I’ve noticed. That you’re not most guys, I mean.”
Draco smiled at her then, his lips curling up on the side, his eyes twinkling. The firelight hit the side of his face, making it glow pink, casting the other side in shadow. His messy hair fell into his grey eyes, eyes that always seemed to be seeing into her soul. She gasped in surprise, turning her wide eyes away from his silver ones and staring at the glaring firelight instead. When she blinked, his face was still imprinted in her mind.
“Ginny.” She shuddered at the way her name sounded coming from him. It was almost a whisper, a caress. She didn’t like it. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing.” Ginny stood, heading towards the door. She didn’t want to be here anymore. Their talk was nice, but she felt uncomfortable, confused. And Ginny hated to be confused. She was almost to the door when she was yanked back suddenly, caught off guard. She turned, staring at her hand, which was gripped by his. “What? Let me go!”
He seemed surprised. “Ginny, what’s wrong? Did I say something to offend you?”
“I’m fine. Now let go.”
“No.” His face was scrunched up in irritation and confusion. “Don’t leave angry. Especially when I don’t know what you’re angry about. Now tell me.” His voice was a command, and she knew he wouldn’t let her go without an explanation.
She sighed tiredly, rubbing the bridge of her nose between her eyes. The headache didn’t go away. Ginny wracked her brain for an acceptable answer. “I’m just stressed out is all. I’m failing my classes and I’m behind on homework and I haven’t been able to sleep well.”
He grinned. “Is that all? Here I thought I’d done something to make you mad at me. Which classes are you behind in?”
“All of them.”
He whistled, then nodded. “Right. Well, which is the easiest for you?”
She shrugged. “None of them. Though if I had to choose…Charms, probably.”
He grinned. “Well, you’re in luck. I’m alright at Charms, and I already had that class last year. I still have the book in fact.”
“I don’t understand…”
Draco dropped her hand and went to his stack of books, rummaging through it. He pulled one out with a triumphant, “Aha!” He held it up and she recognized it as a newer version of her dilapidated, hand-me-down book in her room. “I’m going to tutor you. You’re in chapter three by now, correct?”
“Four.” She replied.
He whistled again. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
When Ginny got back to her Common room later that night, or perhaps it was early the next morning, she was exhausted. Draco had spent hours going through the first chapter with her, teaching her each of the spells she was supposed to already have learned. She thought she got the basics of them, at least. When he had walked her back to her Commons, he gave her a potion, explaining, “The only thing that I know of that will help you sleep is a dreamless sleeping draught, but this will help you wake up in the morning. Put a drop of it in your drink every morning and it will pep you up for hours. Don’t use more than a drop, though, or you’ll stay awake for days, and the repercussions are horrible.”
She nodded, taking it from him with a “Thank you.”
His hand touched hers and lingered for a few moments before he dropped it, turning to leave. “Come by again tomorrow around eight. We’ll study more Charms.”
As he walked away, Ginny asked, “Why are you doing all of this, Draco?”
He spun on his heels and began walking backwards slowly, grinning at her. “Well, this is what friends do for each other.” Ginny was so surprised she dropped the bottle. She had to admit he had fast reflexes. His wand whipped out and he caught it with a levitating spell before it could hit the floor. “Be careful, that stuff’s expensive.”
“Friends? Is that what we are, then?”
He nodded. “Though, we should probably keep it quiet, our friendship, I mean. I think the school would have a fit if they saw us together. A Slytherin and a Gryffindor. A Malfoy and a Weasley. It’s not exactly normal.”
She tilted her head to the side. “I thought you said you weren’t a Malfoy anymore? Or a Slytherin, for that matter?”
Draco beamed at her attentiveness. “I suppose you’re right. But I still would hate to think what the Golden Trio would do to me if they found out I was hanging around you every night. I’m more afraid of them than my father or the Slytherins.” Draco shuddered, and she couldn’t tell if it was for dramatic purposes or completely genuine.
Ginny smiled at her feet. “Friends…” She tested the word on her tongue. “I am friends with Draco Ma—with Draco.”
She left him then, sneaking up to her room quietly with that silly grin still on her face. Ginny made her way to her bed by feel alone, careful not to disturb the other girls sleeping, and hid the bottle in the drawer of her nightstand. Without even bothering to change into her sleeping gown she collapsed onto the bed in exhaustion, and for the first time in months she slept fully, not waking once from terrifying nightmares.