This was it, it was official. Draco Malfoy was head over heels in love with Ginny Weasley.
It was one thing to pine after her from a distance, but to actually spend time with her was a different matter; he found he was insatiably in love with her. He loved her quick temper and her easy laugh; he loved how easily she got flustered; he loved the way she said Draco, he loved her smile, her hair, her eyes, her freckles, everything. He couldn't stop thinking about her and replaying every second of the hours she'd spent with him...and wondering, desperately wondering, why she had come to visit him...why she had sat down and spent all that time with him...and, most of all, why she'd wanted to come back.
The next day was pure torture. He had absolutely nothing to do but lie in bed and think about vanishing cabinets and red-headed girls. It was nearly evening, and the shadows in the room were growing long and tilted, when he heard the sound of footsteps hurrying to the hospital wing. It was Ginny, just as she had promised.
She came trotting up to his bed, smiling and looking windblown. A fresh, flowery, out-door smell hung round her, reminding Draco just how much he wanted up and out of this bed. He noticed she held an armful of books and parchment.
"Hi," she said cheerfully. "I got all the teachers to give me your homework."
"You brought me homework. And am I supposed to be pleased and grateful?"
She tilted her head, but he could tell she knew he was teasing. "At least it'll occupy your time."
"Give it here."
She handed him all the books and then plopped down in the chair next to him. He really was grateful, and he wished he could just tell her that, but those words wouldn’t come easily. If their positions were reversed, she would thank him, he was sure...but then, that was Ginny, who somehow found it easy to be nice most of the time.
"Do you feel any better?" she asked.
"Draco -" she paused, then continued carefully, "how'd you really get hurt? I mean, what really happened? Har - I mean, I heard that you had a duel."
Harry. Why was it that some mention of Potter was made in every conversation someone made with him? Potter this, Potter that, Potter Potter Potter, bet you Potter can do it better.
"He just barged in on me and started hexing me," he growled, well aware that he was lying. He'd been well aware of Potter's presence, and he had been the first one to try to hex him. But he hardly cared, as long as Ginny was on his side.
"What were you doing?" asked Ginny artlessly. Then she looked abashed and added, "I probably shouldn't ask, sorry. It doesn't matter." But she still looked hopeful, as if she wished he would tell her.
He had no intention of doing that, and as he had nothing to say, he remained silent.
Ginny leaned back and folded her arms. Draco thought, with a quickening of his heartbeat, that she couldn't possibly know what that particular pose did to her chest. He forced himself to look away, and as he did so, he heard footsteps and voices coming towards them - familiar voices. Ginny started and paled; there was her brother's voice, along with Potter and Granger. "Come on, Harry," Granger was saying, in her sharp, bossy tone, "if there's anywhere we haven't looked, it's the hospital wing."
Ginny shrieked, albeit very softly. There was nowhere for her to hide. Panicked, Draco did the only thing he could think of: he reached for his wand and hissed, "Mus Verto!" under his breath, hoping against hope that he’d gotten the spell right and that he’d be able to turn her back. Seconds later, where Ginny Weasley had been standing, there was only a tiny, red-haired mouse, squeaking madly and darting around disorientedly. Draco reached down and scooped her up and dived underneath the covers, holding his breath. Ginny squeaked and scrabbled in his hand, and he realized he was clutching her far too tight. He let her go, and she became still.