Title: Best of Intentions
Author: Arsenic
Rating: Hard R, lots of graphically implied sex, most of it underage (between two people who are both underage)
Fandom/Pairing: HP, Ginny/Draco
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is owned by JK Rowling, Bloomsbury, Scholastic and Warner Brothers. I however, have a fantastic time playing around with it for no profit whatsoever.
Summary: Ginny's plans for Draco go awry.

A/N: This is a prequel to "Intrinsic Charm." It can be read separately although I imagine certain things become much clearer if that is read as well. On the warning side, as I mention with the rating, there is a lot of implied underage sex. Ginny starts YOUNG in this one, with other people who are young. If that bothers you, please forgo reading. Thanks.

For Cranberry, because she was interested in seeing a little Ginny/Draco. Happy birthday dear, thanks for all the smiles you've caused me.

*

There were disadvantages, of course, to being a girl. Ginny knew this well. People often expected her to wear stupid clothing that inhibited movement, and they almost never gave her quidditch paraphernalia for Christmas like Ron or Charlie, mum was always expecting more of her even than Bill or Percy, because well, Ginny was the girl and mum knew bloody well what girls were made of.

Still, there were certainly advantages as well. People never suspected that Ginny was half as much trouble as she often got up to being and for years she'd been able to pass off her own feats of mischief as Fred and George's. She wondered if they would have forgiven her had they not been so impressed by her own ingenuity. She wondered if they would have forgiven her if she hadn't been their little sister. Either way, there were advantages to being a girl.

Breasts, and the unaccountable fascination that boys had with them, with hers in particular, hadn't been one of the advantages she'd counted on, but she was hardly averse to taking advantage of it when it came along. After all, Michael Corners might not be much for conversation, but on his knees? It had been fun while it lasted.

Dean. . .Dean was much for conversation, and for complimenting her quidditch skills and coming up with bitingly funny pranks that he dreamed about carrying out and handed over to Ginny, who actually had the nerve to do so. Dean's hands had been soft but not gentle, his lips wide and something of which Ginny had had to learn not to be jealous. When Death Eaters raided Hogsmeade in Ginny's fifth year, killing three students--one of them Dean--Ginny started thinking about the advantages of being a girl in other ways. Ways that involved revenge.

Ginny knew a secret that very few Gryffindors seemed to know: Slytherin boys, disgusting and evil and repulsive as they might be, were fascinated by tits as well. Ginny had caught more than a few staring in their time. And a boy's guard was never more vulnerable than when he thought he was getting what he wanted.

Ginny thought about being cautious, cool. She knew that's what Fred and George would advise, despite their tendency to come off as anything but. And she'd gotten a long way in life by listening to and learning from them. But Dean was. . .

Ginny wasn't in the mood for cautious and cool.

Ginny did a little sleuthing to find out when Malfoy tended to take his showers before cashing in on her prefect status and slipping into the boy's prefect's bathroom to take a little shower. Malfoy arrived just in time to see her in all her glory.

Ginny snickered inwardly as he stopped, too shocked for just a second to even manage a nasty response. He recovered quickly enough. "Your family sending you out to make ends meet this week?"

Despite the spat out insult, Ginny tracked his eyes, ever so carefully staying away from anything that could get him into trouble. Ah ah ah, none of that. Ginny brought a hand up against one breast and soaped. She didn't bother to say anything. He wasn't worth her rather hard-earned wit.

"Get out," he said, and his voice was low with fury, his eyes near to trembling with the effort to Not Look. Ginny went about her business. Malfoy dropped his things then, robe still knotted tightly around him even as he came under the spray to push her away. "I said, Get. Out!"

His shove sent her down on the tiles and she pulled him with her because if she was going to end up with bruises, he sure as hell was too. The move, a bit of pettiness in the midst of a not-so-petty plan, got his attention in ways that her strip show hadn't, his hands slipping over her breasts and then he was on her, pent-up hormones and all and Ginny thought, don't touch me, don't touch me even as she arched up into him, laughed like she meant it, let him have his way.

She would have hers in time.

*

After the third time, when Malfoy had regained his equilibrium and evidently felt that it was long past time he played at a little retribution, he started the rumors. Ginny heard them of course. She was particularly entertained by the one that had her taking it from both ends from the twins and the story about her and Fang, because honestly, how would Malfoy even know something like that if he hadn't watched? Ginny whispered that concept around a little to her friends, who weren't quite so amused by the slander and soon enough, the rumors stopped coming.

Malfoy didn't.

She could have him anywhere she wanted. There were times, bending over him behind the Dragon Ferns in the greenhouses, on her back under the staircase third farthest from Snape's classrooms, against the wall of the empty arithmancy lab in the tower, that Ginny wondered what all this would be like if she actually did want him.

Ginny didn't, though, and Malfoy's own self-hatred for taking her up on the offer pouring back at her was hardly the thing to convince her otherwise. Ginny didn't like being called names, having her breasts twisted just slightly too hard, having hands leave bruises on her thighs. She moaned at all the right times for him and then, when he thought he was safe, she would scrape her teeth just too harshly against the length of his cock, whisper promises she had no intention of keeping, tweak that spot that denied orgasm right as he was at his most needy.

Malfoy wasn't a masochist, but he didn't seem to notice the pattern, or if he did, he figured it was pretty much on a level with what they were doing anyway. Ginny couldn't deny him that assumption, either.

So it was that everything was going perfectly until the day she took Malfoy in the Slytherin dressing rooms after the match Gryffindor had won. She waited until everyone else was gone, when he was still in there, sulking under the hot rain of water and raked her fingernails down over his shoulderblades.

The actual sex wasn't any different, maybe a bit more hectic, but then, the water was getting cold even as they continued. When it was all over, and Ginny slipped out of the stream, Malfoy reached out for his wand and threw a drying spell at her.

Ginny stopped in her tracks. "Thanks."

Malfoy turned off the water. "Don't mention it."

It might have been a pleasant rejoinder, but Ginny knew better. She had learned to recognize the slide of Malfoy's voice when he was mad at himself and projecting that anger. She debated mentioning it, a lot, just to see how far under his skin she could go, but revenge requires patience, and Ginny had that in abundance. She threw on the clothes she'd walked in wearing. "Good game."

"Fuck yourself."

"I have someone for that, thanks." Not wanting to lose any of the ground she'd gained, Ginny walked out of the changing rooms without another word. Whether he knew it or not, Malfoy was starting to like her.

Ginny buried a self-satisfied grin deep inside her stomach and went upon her merry way.

*

"Why are you doing this?" Malfoy asked when his hand was still tangled in her hair and it was probably going to hurt getting it out; he always, always founds the knots.

Ginny knew that the best way to lie was to find the most truthful statement possible. "I like sex."

"There's rather a few blokes who'd be willing to get it up for the Gryffindor team's star Chaser."

Ginny blinked, slightly unsettled. Her response was really the perfect opportunity for Malfoy to spew a bit of malice and both of them to leave sated. "Yes, but they'd probably get all gooey about it. I don't need bloody begonias with a good shag."

Inexplicably, Malfoy went about untangling his hand--gently. Ginny yanked her head away, then kept her eyes as wide open as possible so as not to turn the sting of them into something more visible. Malfoy sneered, "Or maybe you just like what Slytherins can give."

"Don't flatter yourself. I've heard stories about MacDougal that would make your toes curl."

"But he has acne," Malfoy said, as though this was a crime on a level with his notions of being born to the wrong parents.

Ginny made sure she could see straight before she smiled with as many of her teeth showing as she could manage. "And you have a wildly crooked cock, but looks aren't everything, are they?" She wanted to mention that a few dozen centuries of inbreeding would do that to a person, but then she'd have to drag out her own family tree and prove that actually, her mum's family originated from Ireland wherein her dad's, as unlikely as it seemed, hailed from Germany. Not really something she wanted to go into at the moment.

Malfoy kept his face impressively blank given what she'd just thrown at him. "Haven't heard any complaints."

"Like I said, compromises have to be made."

"Weasley-"

Ginny cut him off before he could get going. "Why are you doing this?"

"I like sex," he said snidely.

"Your family's got at least four perfectly acceptable pureblood girls lined up that they'd love to see you taking a hand to. Instead you're slumming it with the blood traitor, which is as like to land you deep in the ostracization pot should anyone find out as not."

"You're easy. They expect begonias."

Ginny snickered. "Not up to the task?"

Malfoy said, "When I have to be, I will," and his tone was unexpectedly quiet.

"Whatever you say. Just warn me when it happens. I'm not getting into a duel over some bint's jealousy thing."

"Maybe I'll want to erase all the evidence."

"Maybe I'm more of a witch than you'll ever be a man, let alone wizard."

"Maybe you have an overcompensation complex."

Ginny looked down at her breasts. "No, I think we both agree I'm more than well-compensated enough."

Malfoy was distracted by where her gaze had headed. "Tomorrow night then?"

He was still looking at her goods, so he didn't see the nearly-pitying look she gave him. "Sure."

*

Ginny spent Christmas break awash in news of Death Eater attacks. Some were perpetrated on members of the Order, although Ginny sensed that was more luck on the DE's part, than any brilliant planning. Most were on intermarried wizards, Muggle borns, and half-breeds of any other sort. People likely to be Order members. Ginny waited with a nervous sort of internal bleeding for them to start on "blood traitors." For the moment, though, it seemed as though that group wasn't on the agenda.

The first evening the students came back, after the meal in the Great Hall, Ginny took Malfoy under one of the long tables. She used a little magic on him that time. Not sex magic. Ginny wasn't stupid. She knew that all magic had its consequences, and sex magic more than some. No, just a little something to heighten Malfoy's senses so that when she tickled him it was nearer to pain than pleasure, something to bind him slightly so that when she left him on the floor and unfinished he'd have a bit of a hard time taking care of the problem.

He figured out her intentions nearly the minute her mouth slid off of his erection. To his credit, he didn't beg. Instead, he hit his head against the floor three times before training his eyes on her. "Weasley."

"Problem?"

"Wea- Ginny."

"Don't you fucking call me that, Malfoy."

"I wasn't there. And even if I had been, I couldn't have stopped it."

Ginny took a breath then, one as shallow as the ones Malfoy was trying to modulate in himself. "I wouldn't know what you're talking about."

"See, I thought about it, over the hol. Because you're a Weasley and I'm a Malfoy and I shouldn't be doing this and you probably oughtn't either, but here we are. So, what's the one reason a Weasley would seduce a Malfoy? Would you believe revenge was my second answer but I discarded immediately as your family is just So. Bloody. Moral?"

"What was the first answer?"

"That you were telling the truth."

"How long'd take you to discard that?"

"I've chosen to believe the truth is some part of this. You're not the lying type."

Ginny flicked a finger against the tip of his near-purple cock, causing him to bite his lip and swallow a howl. "You don't know anything about my type, Malfoy."

When he'd regained his powers of speech, Malfoy said, "I know you're loyal as bloody Hufflepuffs and that you don't believe in winning at any cost."

"I don't, do I?"

"If you did, I wouldn't be able to do this," Malfoy worked his hands free of the bonding spell, meant only to hold him until slightly after she was gone. Best laid plans, and all.

"So you think this is revenge?"

"I know it is. I checked. This started right after Thomas-"

"Donít say his name. Ever."

"I wasn't-"

"I donít care where you were and what you did or didn't do. You would've been there if you could've. You wouldn't've stopped it. You're one of them. Just tiny."

"You pretend I have any more choice than you do to be in your gang of saviors of the world."

"There's always a choice. It's just not always an easy one."

"And if I chose yours? Would this be my reward?"

Ginny let every molecule of disgust she felt pour into her face. "I'm not some prize."

Malfoy laughed, an odd, disjointed laugh. "What do you want from me?"

Honestly, Ginny said, "Pain."

Malfoy's tone was amused, but his eyes bitter as he said, "You're about to get it."

*

Ginny didn't know if she hadn't believed Malfoy or if she just hadn't taken his words so literally. All she knew was, she certainly hadn't expected--or, to her surprise when she thought about it much later, wanted--to see a flock of crows attack Malfoy mid-air during the Hufflepuff-Slytherin game. The crazy thing was, she was almost sure that Malfoy's hesitation in attacking back had to do with not wanting to let his attention off the game. Professor Snape, however, had been concerned with no such thing, which was bloody lucky for Malfoy, since by the time the Professor's magic was able to dispel every last one of the crows, it was hard to see much of Malfoy for all the red. Amazingly, he was still in the air. Ginny couldn't help but appreciate the skill in that.

She was determined not to go to the hospital wing. He was a Malfoy. He was a small part of a larger revenge scheme. Besides, it was possible that crows had just randomly decided to attack him en masse. Not likely. But possible.

Only she woke at three in the morning, black feathers sticky with red on her mind, pushed aside her covers, and went for a night time excursion. When she reached the hospital wing, it made her feel just a bit vindicated that she had to wake Malfoy. His first breath upon being woken was panicked. Ginny squashed down any guilt that might have induced. He put his hands up to shield his face, the area on which the crows had been most intent. Madam Pomfrey had had to do some serious reconstruction. She was good, Ginny could hardly tell. The only reason she could at all was, well, even her tongue knew Malfoy's face, let alone her hands and her eyes. "It's just me," she said.

After several seconds, Malfoy lowered his hands. "Warn a person, all right?"

"You were sleeping, what was I supposed to do?"

Malfoy leaned back into the pillows, resituating himself. "Wasn't really expecting you to come."

"I take perverse pleasure in proving you wrong."

"I suppose that makes two of us."

"Who sent the crows?"

"What makes you think they were sent?"

"A little thing I like to call Common Sense. I'll share more about its beauties and wonders with you later, but for now, just answer the question."

"My father."

Ginny could feel a headache coming on.

"This was just a warning of course. A sort of not-entirely-genteel 'I didn't much like your last letter, son, perhaps your next will be a tad more pleasing to the eyes.' He knew Professor Snape would stop the crows."

Ginny sat down on the edge of the bed. "What exactly could you have said in your letter to provoke an attack by crow?"

"Well, many things. One or two about my general dislike of the color black as a total dressing scheme, and he might have taken offense at the fact that I feel breeding large snakes is a really boring pastime, but I think the kicker might have been my refusal to take the Mark on my upcoming birthday. 'Course, this is all supposition on my part."

"Why would you have told him something like that?" Ginny wasn't even sure which part she meant. Probably the Mark thing.

"It was going to have to be said sooner or later. Professor Snape and I both agree that my usefulness is far less in being a spy than in being a conduit for information."

Ginny curled her fingers around the blanket beneath her, feeling lost. "Conduit?"

"Not all Slytherins really want to follow their parents blindly, Weasley. Honestly. Haven't you ever heard of teenage rebellion?"

"So, who-"

"I can't tell you." Malfoy turned his face away from her. "But we're about to have a huge falling out."

Ginny nodded. "I. I won't tell."

Malfoy sounded tired as he asked, "Why're you here? To see me like this? What?"

Ginny stumbled off the bed. She tried, tried so hard, to answer with a spiteful yes, maybe even a little laugh. Instead, what came out was, "I don't know."

For some reason, that made Malfoy smile. "Thanks for coming."

Ginny turned on her heel. "Don't expect a repeat."

*

Ginny did return, though. She was willing to admit, even as she did it, that it was a bad idea. She was obviously letting him under her skin, when this whole exercise was meant to do exactly the opposite. Only, he was in the hospital wing because he'd defied his father, because . . . And that was the question, wasn't it? So she went to visit him again, this time with crumpets for them to share when Madam Pomfrey wasn't looking and asked, "Is this really just teenage rebellion?"

"My father will most likely kill me, Weasley, what do your parents do when the twins blow up toilets?"

"That's a no, then?"

Malfoy snorted. "Would you decide to serve Voldemort just to get at your mum?"

"I've probably done stupider things." Or possibly not, but this was Malfoy, and Ginny wasn't sure there was much she would put past him.

"Maybe I just think you're right."

"Maybe your whole philosophy on life hasn't changed in the past term."

"Why do you support Dumbledore or Potter, or anyone who's not the Dark Lord?"

Ginny spread her hands. "Where do you want me to start?"

"Wherever, pick whatever feels right."

"Because You-Know-Who hates people for things that are out of their control, things that don't matter, because he's a half-blooded hypocrite, because he uses people and they in turn use people like eleven year old girls as a means to an end. Because he lies and cheats and steals and doesn't think about it twice. Because people like you and your father believe in him, which is enough, really."

"Maybe I don't want to have to hear you say that. Ever." Malfoy wasn't looking at her. He was staring at a small spot on his sheets.

"Explain to me how a few months of shagging has changed your entire perspective on the world, Malfoy," Ginny sneered, because she had no problem admitting she was good, her self-confidence was just fine, but she wasn't pure magic. The thought almost made her giggle.

"When were you going to enact that actual revenge part of your revenge?" he asked instead.

"When you were showing signs that it would matter."

He called the lie. "I was already showing signs."

"When I felt the time was best."

"And when would that have been?"

"Would it have mattered? I would have crushed you." Ginny wondered at her choice of past tense, but didn't dwell on it.

"No, see, you wouldn't have."

Ginny started to protest, but he held up a hand. "Let me finish. I may not know you all that well, or even at all, but one of the very first things my mum taught me, a present of survival if you will, is how to read people, where they're most vulnerable, what their strengths are, what they say and don't say. So I know. Most of the time I know exactly what people's intentions are toward me and what the feelings behind those intentions are. I knew from the first that you were playing a game, and it didn't take all that long for me to figure the game out. Longer than normal, but I think that's because I wanted to believe something else. So, whether I have any grasp on you as one Ginny Weasley is beside the point, I know you weren't going to carry through on whatever you had planned. Because in spite of yourself, you're kind."

"Great, so I'm kind."

"And funny. And one hell of a quidditch player."

"Uh huh. Your point, Malfoy?"

"Have I said ridiculously pretty?"

"Malfoy!"

"I just figured my chances of getting to know you were pretty small as a Death Eater in training."

"I wanted to meet this girl, so I put myself in a position to be killed by my father and all of his friends?" Ginny consciously lowered her voice. "Do you have any idea how insane that sounds?"

"Will it get me a date? A real one that doesnít take place in a changing room or under a stairwell?"

"You're such a bloody girl, Malfoy."

"No, I just know how these things are supposed to be done, street rat."

"Snob."

"Is that a no?"

Ginny blinked. Her automatic instinct was to refuse. Except that in a kind of fucked up way, this was sort of sweet, his risking his life just to get her to pay attention. And she and him were nothing if not fucked up. Ginny had no problems admitting that. "One date, that's all you get, Malfoy."

"Have to start somewhere."

Ginny sighed and got herself back to the Tower, where people just Charmed each other's homework to self-implode as a way of showing interest. Bloody Slytherins and their grand bloody gestures.

*

Ginny put it off and put it off and put it off, but in the end she did what she always did in situations where her confusion was more prevalent than any other feeling. She owled the twins. More specifically, she owled George, who was much more likely to listen to her first and mock second, rather than the other way around. Fred would of course see the letter and do as he would, so she would get advice on both fronts, but when she was feeling impatient, it was always George to whom she addressed her letters. Her letter was fairly simple -

George, I'm sure you've heard about Draco Malfoy's defection. Dumbledore's not got him under Imperio and Malfoy and Harry aren't secret lovers, as much as we might all want to believe either of those. With you, most likely, particularly the second. Don't worry, something equally useful is about to be confided: I've been having Malfoy on for several months now. HAVING HIM ON. Don't ask, vengeance plan gone a bit wrong. Or, in the current situation, possibly horribly wrong. He's asked me on a date. Even more ridiculously, I've agreed. Wrong decision? Your protťgť.

She could nearly hear their shock in the return letter. George was clearly the predominant letter writer:

Little sister ours, are you sure Dumbledore hasn't been at the old Imperio again? If you're absolutely positive, congratulations on being the first female ever hot enough to actually derail pure evil.

Fred had then scribbled, too bad you're our sister.

George regained control with, If you choose to accept his offer, we've sent a package of highly trustworthy experimental products that we suggest you take along. Some will determine Malfoy's honesty and some land him with temporary Herpes if he so deserves. If you choose to use the latter products, avoid having him on for at least a week. We're still trying to figure out the specifics of that particular item.

Fred had added, Please, please use it, Ginny. It's been a life long dream of mine to infect Draco Malfoy with a venereal disease. Sadly, not carrying any myself, this was not a possibility until this time.

George finished with, If he is telling the truth and this is all real . . . be careful.

It was signed with the stamp of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, an impression so grandeur and pompous that Ginny couldn't help but laugh every time she laid eyes on it. Which was the point, of course.

Malfoy had been released from the hospital wing so she forced herself to approach him at dinner that night, to descend among the Slytherins and look him in the eye and say, "So, when is this date of ours?" and see what he would do, now that he was back among his own.

Malfoy stood and stepped outside of the benches where he could look at her face to face. "You have a day that's good for you?" he asked loudly enough that all of the Slytherins still willing to associate with him in his disownment heard.

"I like Wednesdays," Ginny said perversely, since that was the first day her and Malfoy had "showered together."

"This next one then."

"Where?"

"Meet me in front of the Great Hall after dinner. It's a surprise."

"Better be a good one, the twins sent me a care package."

Malfoy had the sense to blanch at that. "You'll have no reason to use it."

On the one hand, Ginny sincerely hoped he was right. On the other, poor Fred's heart would be completely broken.

*

"So?" Ginny twisted her hips a bit. All the other students had finally filed past and it was just the two of them and the sound of retreating conversation.

Malfoy put his arm up, elbow out. "Come with me."

Ginny rolled her eyes, but tucked her hand in the crook of his elbow all the same. "Where?"

"To my secret dungeons. Where I plan on serving your brother's brains to you and laughing diabolically whilst you are forced to eat them."

"Oh. All right," Ginny said, as they came upon the quidditch pitch.

Malfoy shook his head. "Stay here a moment, right?"

Ginny stayed as asked and a few moments later Malfoy reappeared with two brooms, one the Firebolt Inferno that his mother had purchased for him during Lucius's stint in Azkaban and the other the latest Nimbus model. Ginny suspected it to be one of his teammates. She held out her hand to take the Nimbus from him, but he handed her the Firebolt. She didn't take it. "That's yours."

"What, not good enough for you?"

"I'm not some bloody charity case, Malfoy."

"For-" Malfoy stomped away then turned and stomped back. "I just wanna see you fly it, all right? You're sexy when you fly on that ridiculous Clean Sweep that you actually manage to keep in the air and I thought. I thought you'd like to try this. Maybe I'm just stupid when it comes to you."

Ginny wasn't sure she was doing that much better when it came to him. She reached out and took the Firebolt. Placing it between her legs she kicked off and-

Ron had of course told Ginny, over and over and over again what it felt like to fly on a Firebolt. Ginny had never really believed him. Nothing could be that smooth, that intense, that easy, all at once. Only it was. Ginny leaned into the broom and let it take her where it would, no longer caring that Malfoy was the only one out here with her and that if he wanted to try something, her being hundreds of feet in the air would give him the perfect opportunity.

At some point as she was twisting and diving and laughing and possibly crying, he found his way beside her. He didn't ask how it was or even attempt to talk, just paced her as much as he could on the Nimbus.

When Ginny could no longer feel her fingers, and the stars were blurring in her eyes, she brought herself down and laid on the ground face up. Something warm curled up on one side of her, silent and comforting. Registering what that something was, trying not to think about just how good he felt, she asked, "How is it that nobody has noticed us out here all this time?"

"Erm. I did something enormously Hufflepuff like."

Ginny frowned. "And that would have been?"

"Asked permission. Of Professor Snape and the Headmaster. There's probably been someone out here watching, just in case. But, um, my good standing with Professor Dumbledore is only slightly more stable than my good standing with you at this moment. So I thought maybe it was for the best."

"They would see, then, if I did this?" Ginny rolled over onto him, and kissed him.

"Please don't tell me you're an exhibitionist. Because given who's watching, I don't think I could get it up if I tried."

"No, but I do so like watching you squirm."

"And to think of all the nice girls I could have had."

"The option's always still there."

Malfoy looked her straight in the eyes. "No, I think I'm ruined for anyone else."

*

To say that Ron wasn't thrilled about the whole thing was a bit of an understatement. There were actual hexes thrown within the first twenty minutes of the argument, until Hermione found them and put both of them in body binds. She pinched the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes for a second before turning on Ginny. "Honestly. Malfoy?"

Ginny sighed. "Let me loose. I wonít try anything."

Hermione, knowing better, didn't even exact a promise, just gave a warning glare before finiting the spell. Ginny rolled her wrists a bit. Then her neck. Then her back. Finally she said, "When a boy sends you flowers or candy, you feel flattered, right?"

Hermione looked away but when she turned back Ginny could see the remains of a blush. "Erm, I imagine so."

Ginny rolled her eyes in Ron's direction. "You are the stupidest boy ever to have lived." Ron made a sound of resentment but Ginny just kept going, "Well, how would you feel if that boy up and decided to re-examine the way he lives his life for you? You'd give him a try, wouldn't you?"

"And you believe him?" This from Harry, whom Ginny hadn't even noticed creeping into the Common Room. Ginny was mildly relieved she'd gotten back from the date late enough that the fight between her and Ron hadn't had more of an audience.

"I believe. . ." Ginny dug a little more deeply than she had been willing to do for Malfoy himself and tried to articulate what was going on to these people who were as much family as Ron. "I believe that if I don't give him a chance then I destroy any potential for good that there might be in him."

"So the two of you are. . ." Hermione frowned, seemingly unable to find an end to that sentence.

Ginny collapsed down onto the couch. "The thing is, when he's done being a nasty little bugger he's actually a bit, erm, like me, I suppose."

"Malfoy has nothing in common with me or any of my family, Ginevra Molly Weasley."

"My name will always make me wince less than yours, Ronald Bilius Weasley, so don't start down that path."

True to expectation, Ron winced. Hermione evidently took pity on him, as she let loose the second binding spell as well. Ron slumped onto the arm of the sofa. "He'll hurt you. And not just your heart. He'll probably end up as the center of some grand scheme to hand over a red-headed virgin-"

"Well, then he's certainly barking up the wrong tree. Something he knows intimately."

Ron went white. Hermione bit her lip, although whether from trying to hold in a laugh or a gasp of shock and disgust, Ginny wasn't sure. Harry said, "Wow, really?" before going cross-eyed and banging the palm of his hand into his forehead several times in succession.

Ginny tried, "He wasn't my first, if that helps."

Ron gave a strangled yelp. Hermione's mouth dropped open. Harry pulled himself together and asked, "Why was he on the list at all?"

Ginny hesitated a second and then said, "Ill-planned revenge for Dean. I, um. Still miss him."

Hermione murmured, "Oh, Gin."

"So I really do know him rather better than you'd expect," Ginny said, very quietly. "And it'd be nice if you could trust me, since I haven't really done anything to upset the trust between us in five years or so, and that last time wasn't personal at all. I just liked that my diary talked back to me. Nicely. Shows what I know about nice."

"I think what you know about not-nice might be more important in this instance anyhow," Hermione observed.

Ginny gave a small laugh. "Probably."

Harry said, "But if he does anything, well, I'm really looking for someone to practice some stuff I want to try on Voldemort on."

Ginny nodded. "I'll keep that in mind."

Ron said, "You do that," but his tone wasn't quite so dark, and Ginny knew what acceptance sounded like from him.

*

Given that Malfoy was cut off from his family and all financials aspect thereof, he was at this point even poorer than Ginny, which meant that all their dates, particularly ones that involved Hogsmeade, called for a large dose of creativity. Which, as it turned out, once the situation deemed it necessary, Malfoy found large doses of in himself.

"The roof?" Ginny laughed. "You're joking."

"Not even just a little bit. And I had to do some fancy talking with Madam Rosmerta, so I'd appreciate a little appreciation."

"You want to share a butterbeer on the roof?"

"I plan on doing a warming spell. C'mon, where's your Gryffindor sense of adventure?"

"I just don't see why we have to have the butterbeer on the roof."

"Because nobody's watching us there."

"If you expect one butterbeer to get me tipsy enough to be having you on the roof, you've got another-"

Malfoy kissed her. "Just try it out. If you don't like it, we can go in, and even sit with all your friends."

Ginny stilled. "Awfully sure of yourself," but it wasn't a taunt.

"You ever been up there?"

The question alerted Ginny to something. "Why have you been up there?"

"Dare."

"Give me details and you've got yourself a date."

"One of Zabini's more malicious ones, but the alternative was a Truth that would've involved, erm, divulging some information about a certain redhead, that at the time I preferred kept to myself. So I made my way out of Hogwarts at half past midnight, through the Apparition wards, and Apparated to the roof. Took a photo and got myself back to the dorms."

"How'd you not trip all the safeties?"

"I'll tell you when we're on the roof."

Ginny was game for that, so she followed him on up and, to his credit, the view was pretty amazing. The roof was slanted of course, and Ginny had to concentrate a bit on keeping her rather precarious balance. Malfoy positioned himself behind her and held them both at just the right angle so as not to feel that they would both topple to the ground. Ginny knew a million spells to catch herself, but she had better things to be doing with her afternoon than falling off roofs.

"I tripped them."

"The safeties?"

"Yes, coming back in. They're not as hard to fool on the way out, there's a million ways, mostly misdirection. The twins must have taught you at least one."

Ginny, loyal to the end, didn't respond. Malfoy, intelligently, didn't wait. "Anyway. Nice little visit to the Headmaster's that. Professor Snape there too, pleading my case. Slap on the wrist, really. A measure most likely of how much Professor Dumbledore didn't much care and the fact that he probably thought there was information to be gained off of me."

"That must have tickled you. Driving us all mad."

"I had nightmares about falling off the damned roof for weeks. That was all I was really concerned about."

"Then whyever are we up here again?" Ginny carefully twisted around to ask.

"Because I was pretty sure if I was up here with you, that wouldn't happen."

Ginny knew she probably looked like someone had hit her with an exacerbated stunning spell.

Malfoy said, "I've already fallen. It wasn't quite the nightmare I imagined."

"Not even with the crows?"

"That wasn't precisely a good time, no, but well. No, not as bad."

"Y'ever been to Dervish and Bangs?"

"A few times or so," Malfoy rolled his eyes.

"Ever found the nook in the back that no honest sales clerk can say she's seen within the last millennia?"

Malfoy's grin was slow but steady. "Don't believe I have. Share?"

"And share alike."

*

Because Ginny knew that the whole having to stay at Hogwarts over Easter hols thing was a sore spot, she approached it with a certain amount of caution. "The thing is, my mum is really always open to another guest. She'd have Harry every bloody time if she could."

"Ginny, if you really think I've neglected to notice the difference between Potter and myself, perhaps what I'm doing over the hols isn't the conversation we should be having."

"Believe me, I've noticed, but as my mum hasn't gone to school with you for five years, the likelihood that she has is lessened. And she's actually pretty good at giving everyone a chance to speak for themselves."

"Not that that's likely with you calling me Malfoy every ten seconds and reminding her that I'm the son of your father's nemesis."

Ginny blinked. "Sorry?"

"We've been shagging for nearly eight months, dating for three and you still call me by my last name, the one which serves to remind everyone of my associations with Dark Magic. Sometimes I think you're still playing at revenge and you're merely far more subtle than anyone, including me, gives you credit for."

Ginny frowned. "Do you really think that?"

Malfoy put his head in his hands. "I don't know. What am I supposed to think?"

"That I have a hard time breaking bad habits. You've seen my fingernails."

Malfoy looked up. "A bad habit? That's all you consider it to be?"

Ginny studied him. "I didn't realize it was hurting your feelings."

He sighed. "Yeah, well, it is."

"Draco it is then."

"Just like that?"

"Well, no, you'll probably have to glare at me a lot."

"Good thing I've perfected my glares into levels. Wouldn't want to accidentally kill you for slipping up."

"So if I introduce you as Draco, you'd come home to meet my family?"

"I've met most of your family."

"My mum and dad and Charlie and Bill. And no making fun of my house and other stuff that you might usually make fun of. Not like you can do much better at the moment."

"Geez, don't go for blood or anything."

Ginny was unrepentant. "Keeps you out of trouble."

"If you really want me, I'd. . .yes. That would be very kind of you, to have me."

"I've been told I'm kind. And I certainly do want you."

"I suppose I'll have to come then."

"I suppose you will."

*

Draco didn't tell Ginny where he scrounged up the funds to buy the vase that he took to her place for Easter by way of a thank-you-for-the-hospitality gift, and Ginny had the tact not to ask. Particularly as she hadn't seen him wearing one of his favorite jumpers in several weeks. She did however, ask, "Somebody teach you flower arrangement?" since the wildflowers that he put in it were perfectly ordered in colored tiers and Ginny, who had tried her hand at her mum's centerpieces more than once, knew that this was no simple feat.

"My mum. Not on purpose. I just hung at her side a lot as a kid."

Which explained why when Molly put her hand to his cheek and thanked him for the flowers with a fully genuine smile, he stammered and closed his eyes. Draco, Ginny had learned, didn't know what safety meant, nor when he could trust the truth of fondness in someone. Even now, having fought so hard to have Ginny's true affection, whenever she did something that suggested the fight was near won, if she was touching him she could feel the tremble of his stomach and if she wasn't she could chart the nonchalance with which he would throw off the sentiment.

All the same, it was obvious that Draco missed his mum, and that for the sake of mums everywhere, he was bound and determined to be on his best behavior so long as he was in the Weasley Homestead.

Not that he was a sitting target for the slow-to-dwindle ire of the twins and Ron. Hardly. If Draco's food had him up puking half the night, the twins' brooms would mysteriously defy their control. If Draco's clothes went missing, Ron's posters would all suddenly develop horrifyingly dirty language the minute Molly walked past his door. It was a subtle war, but a war nonetheless. And Ginny, no fool she, was well aware that all four participants were enjoying every last second of it. As such, she let it continue, as the tricks were taking care of the animosity between all parties, slowly and oddly, but surely.

She waited out her father's abduction of Draco one night after dinner in a cold sweat, only to have both Draco and her father emerge from the hour and a half of alone time completely unscathed. Ginny bit her lip in order not to ask, but Draco took pity on her and said, "He was vouching for my intentions."

"Bloody hell. I'm fifteen."

Draco didn't answer. Ginny sighed. "Draco. I didn't mean-"

"I know. But it was sort of nice. His taking me seriously. Even as a possible threat."

"You convinced him otherwise?"

Draco leaned his head against the tree they were standing beneath. "I think I convinced him to give me a chance."

"Strong work."

Draco laughed a little. "It may have more to do with him trusting your judgment than anything I've done."

"Who only knows why. I haven't exactly proven a bulwark of trustworthiness. Not that I don't appreciate it."

"I think parents like to trust until they're given a reason not to."

Ginny leaned into his chest. "Trust and love aren't the same thing. Connected, yes. But not the same."

"You think they still love me?"

Ginny took a breath and ignored the voice that told her this was dangerous territory. "I think that somewhere inside them, our parents always love us, no matter what we do."

Draco brought an arm around her. "I hope youíre right."

"Yeah, me too."

*

Draco survived being vetted by Charlie, Bill and Ginny's dad to return to Hogwarts the week after the hols. He spent more and more time with the Gryffindors until he and Theodore Nott ended up screaming at each other in the middle of the Great Hall about Draco being a, "bloody fucking Muggle-loving worm!" and Nott being a, "spineless collaborating slave!" and a whole bunch of other things that didn't really bear repeating until two of the professors dragged them off each other. They were both sent to the hospital wing and when Draco poked his head in the library later that day, Ginny nodded, "You look better without the tail. I mean, I could've worked with it, but I prefer the fully human look."

"Good to know you're flexible." Draco sat down next to her. "Can we get out of here?"

Ginny opened her mouth to say something but her eye caught Draco's profile just as she was about to and she shut it, nodding her head instead. "Where d'you want to go?"

"The lake?"

"It's pretty cold out today."

"I know."

Ginny took the hint and slid out of her chair. She stuffed the parchment she'd been working on into her bag and slung the bag over her shoulder. "Well then?"

They made their way to the banks of the lake. When they were sitting, Ginny asked, "You all right?"

"Everything went according to plan. I'm on the outs with Ted, he's most likely something of a hero, why wouldn't I be all right?"

"Dunno, but here we are freezing to death, so you tell me."

"I can't just want to be alone with my girlfriend?"

"Draco, you're one of the most epicurean people I know. You never seek out discomfort unless you feel it will balance some other type of hurt."

Ginny could see the flight instinct flare up in him. He managed to wrestle it back down, however, and stay put. "It felt so real."

"Draco-"

"He's one of the few things I have left and it felt. . .like giving him up."

Ginny wrapped her arms around his waist from behind. "It wasn't real, love. And even if it had been, you would still have me."

"How long?"

"Beg pardon?"

"How long before you realize that I'm just some penniless Slytherin likely to die in the next couple of years and move onto better prospects?"

"Depends. How long before you realize I'm just some penniless Gryffindor hussy likely to die in the next couple of years and move onto better prospects?"

Draco expelled a breath. "Quite the two we are."

Ginny whispered in his ear. "I'm not going anywhere."

Draco locked his hands around hers just to keep her to her word. Ginny couldn't even find it in herself to be insulted.

*

"McGonagall is to take me. Over the hols, I mean."

Ginny worked not to show her surprise. "Really?"

"I suspect she might have drawn a losing card, but prefer to think that the professors have some sort of arcane dueling ritual in which the loser has to take the odd Slytherin who's been booted out of his familial holdings."

"Not to crush your romantic visions, or anything, but McGonagall could take three fourths of the other professors with her eyes closed, wandless. Possibly without command of her vocal chords."

"The card thing it is, then."

Ginny smiled softly. She swept a hair out of Draco's face, tucking it behind his ear. "I think she volunteered."

"You been at the butterbeer again?"

"Outside of you, Draco, she might very well be the most perceptive person I've ever met."

"She's head of Gryffindor."

"The conversion process is painless, I swear." Ginny snickered.

Draco dragged a smile up for her but it was one that so obviously involved significant amounts of effort that Ginny took pity on him. "I'd ask you to my place, but honestly, asking my mum and dad to host another person for a whole summer, I mean, they'd do

it-"

"I know, Gin."

"You can visit, though. As much as you want. And maybe we'll take days in the city, if you're allowed."

Draco leaned in so that his shoulder rested against Ginny's torso, his head inclining under her head. "'Course."

"And." Ginny bit at her lip.

"And?"

"It mightn't hurt for you to try and get to know Professor McGonagall. She's quite smart and powerful and you could use a few more friends with both those traits, to be blunt."

"Did you really expect me not to take advantage of the situation?"

"You can be startlingly unpredictable at times, I'll have you know."

"Why, thank you."

Ginny kissed the top of his head. "Whatever you do this summer, listen to her, Draco. She'll keep you safe."

"Don't trust me to do that on my own?"

"You're not the person I have trust issues with."

Draco pulled back to look up at her. "That's new and different."

"No, Draco. I wouldn't have invited you into my house if that were new. You just have huge blind spots when it comes to Gryffindors."

"You're killing the warm fuzziness I was quite enjoying."

Ginny pursed her lips so as not to laugh. "Sorry."

"Hardly."

Ginny shrugged. "If I tell you that I trust you to be smart and stay safe, would you dare to break that trust?"

Draco glared at her. "Bloody Gryffindors and their bloody rosy world view."

*

Gin,

Professor M thinks I might have some talent at Transfiguration if I weren't, and I quote, 'so busy trying to undermine her authority rather than pick up a thing or two in the class.' Anyway, she wants to work with me on some of the practicals. Bit of a drag, staying with a professor over the break.

She's surprisingly protective of me. Don't mention that I said it, for her sake and mine.

What are you getting up to while I suffer summer schooling? Draco

Ginny, politely, didn't mention that she knew Draco rather enjoyed the professor's protective tendencies, that she could read that even into his all-too-neat penmanship.

Draco,

See if you can get her to teach you animagic transformations. Bloody useful, wouldn't you think?

I've been slipping off to the twins's shop, much to mum's despair. Want to meet there sometime? Or does she let you go so far on your own? Ginny

Gin,

She'll let me go so long as she knows every last detail and can verify, which I suppose might be a bit of a problem, unless your mum would be willing to vouch for me.

It's all right, we'll figure out something. Draco.

Ginny practically rolled her eyes when she opened that letter and immediately penned a response.

Draco,

Why can't you bloody well ever just ask for what you want? My mum will certainly vouch. Just because she's not thrilled at me spending so much time there doesn't mean she won't allow for it. I'll have her send a note. Ginny

She refrained from pointing out that his parents must have been holy terrors, since, despite everything, it was pretty evident that Draco loved said parents. To each their own.

Gin,

Professor M got the note, said that sounded like a fantastic idea, and that I need to get out with people my own age more. Can you imagine? She was practically mothering. Draco

When they met up, Ginny kissed Draco hard and long before pulling back and asking, "Practically mothering?"

Draco shuddered. "Professors aren't supposed to be people."

Fred chose that moment to appear and clap Draco on the shoulder. "Right y'are, mate. My condolences on the summer accommodations."

Draco accepted the condolences but didn't say much else, and Ginny had the sneaking suspicion that he might actually be finding the experience not so terrible as he had been expecting. Without hearing his voice she couldn't tell if his last letter had been the slightest bit wistful, but it wouldn't have surprised her.

"Anyhow," a newly present George said, "we have some things we'd like to test-"

"No," Ginny said.

"But-" Fred started.

"No," she repeated.

"They're not harmful," George tried.

Fred added, "At least, we don't think."

Ginny glared. "I'm not gonna say it again."

Both twins blinked. "You look eerily like mum when you do that."

Ginny grinned. The twins ran. Ginny went back to kissing her boyfriend.

*

Draco came back none the worse for the wear in the fall, if slightly more filled out. Ginny was intrigued by this new development and plagued him to answer for it until he said, "I'm not sure I'm supposed to tell."

Which only further whetted Ginny's curiosity. "I swear on the purity of all Gryffindor virgins, Hermione still sadly included, that I will not betray the secret of your newfound fitness."

At this Draco looked offended. "I wasn't fit before?"

"Not like you are now? I would get poked whenever you rolled any which way."

Draco huffed. "Hermione, really? Is your brother special, or something?"

"Your attempts to distract me are fledgling and pitiful and should you not choose to get on with the telling, I shall find nefarious ways to punish you."

Draco nodded his head mournfully. "Mm, I believe that."

"Then?"

"All right. The professor has a hobby."

"Pie-eating contests?"

Draco snorted at the image that conjured, and Ginny couldn't help smiling as well. "No, she makes gingerbread houses. Big ones. And then we eat them."

Ginny's imagination was captured. "Really? Like, how big? How does she keep from becoming the size of a room?"

"Really. Big like the cakes the elves make at special occasions and I think before I came she gave most of them as presents. I don't think she generally makes so many as she made this summer. She let me help once I'd proven that I wouldn't sabotage the effort out of sheer Slytherin spite."

"Did she actually use that phrase?"

"No, but I could see it in her eyes."

"Uh huh. So how did you prove this?"

"Took the task of making the icing, and did it well. The icing keeps everything together."

"You made icing?"

"As a first step. But she taught me how to make the actual gingerbread and where to get the best cinnamon drops and how to make the chimney send up sugar steam, and a whole bunch of other tricks of the trade. Really, I wish you could've seen a few that we did toward the end of the summer."

Ginny ran a hand from Draco's wrist to his shoulder, admiring the new contours of his arm. "Me too. Although I'm not sure the results would be quite so pleasing on me."

Draco grinned. "Do I get a reward for telling you my secret?"

Ginny hated to spoil anyone rotten, really she did, but he was so bloody hard to resist.

*

Theodore Nott went home for some type of "family emergency" and didn't return. Draco tried to pass it off as nothing, but Ginny noticed the way he picked at his food and Hermione finally asked her, "Is there something wrong with Draco? He was nearly dangerous in Potions today. Not really like him at all."

So Ginny told him, one hand at the collar of his robes, "If there's something I can do-"

Which he cut off with, "Not everything is fixable, Ginny. Not even by the Great and Mighty Gryffindors."

While Ginny most certainly believed him--after all, did she not have a brother that didn't speak to her family anymore and was Sirius Black not dead--she knew that there were things that could be fixed and that at this stage, Draco was most likely still one of them. She thought about going to Professor Snape. He was Draco's Head of House, that had to count for something.

In the end, though, she went to Professor McGonagall, because Ginny liked to have some sense of what the outcome of any venture might be. The Professor bid her come into her office and then said, "Well, Miss Weasley?"

Ginny let go of a breath and with it went everything she had prepared to say. Instead she asked, "Do you care about Draco? Even just a tiny amount?"

Professor McGonagall flicked her wand at a pen that had steadily kept writing even as Ginny spoke. It lay down. "Perhaps you'd best sit."

Ginny did as she was told. "Theodore Nott is either in deep trouble, or dead."

"How do you know this?"

"I don't, but Draco has a rather strong suspicion and I think its best if we both just acknowledge the roles being played by both Draco and Nott and move on."

"All right."

"Draco's. . .in a bad way over it. I can't get him to come out of it. I think he thinks it should've been him, which is ridiculous, of course, Nott made his own choices just as Draco his, and if Draco has to feel bad over Nott then I'd best feel awful over Draco-" Ginny stopped. "That was most likely more than you wanted to know."

The professor smiled a bit. "But no more than I'd pieced together. I'm not as thick as the students prefer to think, Miss Weasley."

Ginny's smile was sharp. "Then will you help?"

After a long silence, Professor McGonagall said, "There is something I could try but it couldn't involve you."

"Will it help?"

"It might."

"May I know what it is?"

"No," she said, quick and stern, "and I have to ask you not to try and find out. It's going to place rather a few people in what could be an awkward spot, and the less people who know, the better."

Ginny nodded. "One day he'll tell me everything anyway. When this is all done with."

The professor tilted her head. "Indeed, Miss Weasley. I hope you're right."

*

Whatever Professor McGonagall did, though, worked, because slowly, days, weeks at a time, Draco calmed. He stopped kissing Ginny like each touch of their lips was a sort of spell, a charm to end all things. His hands didn't tighten around his broom so tightly Ginny would worry about it snapping in mid-air. He even, on occasion, smiled at her in a way that gave everything about him away. She would often step in front of him when he did that, hide him from others, because he was hers at that moment, and she didn't want anybody else knowing all his secrets.

When Ginny finally got up the nerve to ask, "Look, are you still-" Draco said, "I don't want you knowing."

"I'm brilliant at keeping secrets." She cupped her hand over his dick, safely hidden under breeches and robes and a thick wall of dignity.

"But this is one that I donít want you to have to keep."

His face was white and long. She tilted her head. "You think they'll come through me to get to you."

"If it comes to that, absolutely. And they won't stop until they do."

"Then what does my not knowing help?"

"Do you really want to be the person who gives me to them?"

"Thanks for the confidence."

Draco stepped away from her. "It's not about that, Ginny. You don't know. This is something- Even if I tried and tried and tried, even then I could never explain this to you. You've seen Longbottom's parents? That's nothing, all right. I've been around this all my life and I'm probably just lucky that I thought it was perfectly normal for most of it or I would be utterly, hopelessly warped."

"Don't try and pretend you aren't, Draco Malfoy, we both know perfectly well I don't date anybody without a mild amount of twist in him." Unsure of whether to be angry or vicariously heartbroken, Ginny chose safety in sarcasm.

"I think you'll end up being the one to give me away any way things happen."

Ginny looked sharply at him. "Fuck you."

"Because I won't let them have you. Not for anything. Not for two seconds, nothing. And then I'll be theirs."

"I don't need a rescuer."

"No, and you don't particularly need me, but I need you."

Ginny gaped at him. "Of all the stupid-"

"Name one thing you need me for."

"Sex."

"One thing you couldn't get from just about any boy in this school, excluding MacMillan, whom I suspect of being a eunuch."

"Love."

"You have your family."

"It's not the same." She could see he wasn't convinced and wasn't sure of how to convince him, when his own version of familial love was so different as to be nearly incomparable on any level. "You. . .need me. I need that."

"This is probably fantastically stupid on both our parts."

"Trust me, there are millions of worse reasons to be in love."

"I donít know that any of it matters. I don't think I could stop myself in this if I tried."

Ginny felt odd as she told him, "I couldn't." Fred and George would be so disappointed in her ability to dissemble. Draco, however, was looking reassured, and that was all she had the ability to care about at that moment.

*

Ginny was contemplating letting herself just be happy with the way things were, just believing that her and Draco could be her and Draco after school, maybe with jobs and a flat and, depending on their jobs, perhaps a small amount of disposable income. Ginny was interested in a child or two (and secretly, she thought Draco was rather good genetic stock, despite all the inbreeding) but not much more than that, and occasionally she allowed a small thought or two about what those children would look like or how she would win the fight over names.

Despite Draco's mounting loss of appetite and the new crease over Harry's forehead and the fact that even Ron seemed to crack jokes with less consistency, Ginny found her own sort of complacency, one that didn't include delusion, and went with it. After all, it was much easier to function in an effective manner if she didn't have to believe that death was an imminent possibility with each step down every hallway.

The attacks on Muggle-borns and mixed-marriage families decreased as the middle of the year approached. Ginny's mum invited Draco home for the Christmas holiday and Draco accepted, after making sure that McGonagall and Dumbledore felt it was all right. The holiday went smoothly despite the absence of Charlie, who was working on a situation involving dragon-theft in which many members of the Order suspected Voldemort of being involved.

January came with a marked increase in stress over nice, comforting, normal things known as NEWTs. Harry and Hermione were both taking an enormous amount, if for completely different reasons, and Draco was taking just as many, and though Ginny had never mentioned it, nor did she plan to, she thought this was probably merely a manifestation of Draco's highly competitive nature.

With March came a surprising relief from what had until that time been a bitterly-cold winter, and a crucial quidditch match between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff.

Ginny remembered the kick off. She remembered Seamus's voice--never quite the same as Lee's, even if his commentary was every bit as unreliable--announcing Hufflepuff's possession of the ball. Ron, being the captain, had already given strategy and Ginny leaned to the side, speeding as best she could on her Cleansweep to reach her assigned position. After that it was like every quidditch game ever, pure exhilaration, harsh as the wind, high as the goal post, a blur of twisting and tumbling and touching and every once in a while the sound of a bell and the announcing of a goal and sometimes Ginny didn't even care whose goal it was, even though she knew she was supposed to. That really wasn't the point. Ron, of course, had never agreed on this issue, but Ginny knew what quidditch was really about, and it had nothing to do with which team got more butterbeer at the end of the day.

Ginny was on the tail of the quaffle when she heard the screams. In the first few moments they sounded like shouts of encouragement, the same as most other loud noises she was used to hearing at this height. Only then Harry was speeding past her but Hufflepuff's seeker was nowhere in his wake. She whipped her head to see where he was off to but instead found herself arrested by the site of Ron falling from his broom, feet and feet and feet from the ground. She twisted herself fully around and shot off to go catch him, only to be hit by a stunning spell.

Though she could never be sure, she was pretty confident that the last person's screams she heard before giving into the spell were hers, defying the spell's power, trying desperately to get to Ron. Ron.

*

Ginny woke up in the hospital wing with one of her arms pinned to her side, bones obviously having been reset, and a headache that made her want to cry. She didn't. Instead she asked, "Ron? Ron?" And then screamed the question until someone came, probably Madam Pomfrey, and poured something down her throat that sent her back to sleep.

The second time she woke up her arm was free and her head didn't hurt quite so much but she was now aware of what seemed to be a healing burn all across the quads of both of her legs. This time someone was there, several someones in fact. Her mum was closest, hands folded over Ginny's. Harry was also there, him and Hermione asleep on each other. The twins were at the foot of her bed, standing over a chair with her father in it. Bill was behind her mum and Charlie was sitting by the window. Draco was on her other side, his hand knotted in her hair. She almost pulled herself loose, just to remember how things had been when this had all been fairly innocent for all that Dean was already dead, but she couldn't bring herself to. She wanted his hand there too bloody much.

Molly's sob was almost unrecognizable as such but then she bent over Ginny and hugged her tightly, saying things about "precious," and "Ginnyginny," and "you're safe," and well, Ginny knew all this. "Mum. Mum."

Molly released her but didn't take her eyes off her. "What is it dear?"

"Where's Ron?"

Molly's eyes filled again and Ginny looked wildly to the other side of her, where Hermione and Harry were both awake, evidently not having been sleeping all that deeply to begin with. Hermione was biting the inside of her cheek but Harry held her gaze, his eyes hollow. It was Draco, however, who knelt at the side of the bed, put the hand that had been in her hair to her cheek and said, "Ron's dead, love."

Ginny tried to breathe, she did, but the words, "I should've," "I tried," blocked her airways and she just barely heard Draco's, "It was Avada Kedavra, love, he was dead long before he ever hit the ground. There was nothing you could've done. I'm so sorry."

And then she breathed, only her breaths poured out in a torrent of water and salt and pain. "Ron." She thought that she should be worried about her mum, about Hermione, Harry, her Dad, everyone, but Ron had been the closest thing she'd ever had to a twin, and watching the twins, she'd always so wanted to have one, Ron had been her protector, her Older Brother, and even when that hadn't meant good things, even then, she'd loved him.

So instead of thinking about all the people she should have been thinking about, she took Draco's offer of sanctuary, buried her face in his chest, and sobbed. Draco held on.

*

All seven funerals of the students were held together. The funerals of the five staff members killed were held the next day. Draco cried silently for hours after that funeral, mumbling Professor McGonagall's name just once into Ginny's neck. Ginny wanted to feel glee at his pain, to find comfort in the shared misery, but in truth misery doesn't love company, at least not in those it wants to see happy. Draco fell asleep after crying and Ginny fell right next to him and they stayed that way for two days, when Professor Snape, of all people, shook Draco awake and said, "We found Nott."

Draco said, "I can't go to another funeral."

The professor said, "Good thing he's still alive."

The breath Draco took was so sharp, ended so abruptly that Ginny stilled beside him, afraid that it was somehow the last. But then he let it go, and with the exhalation came an explosion of movement inside of him even as he stayed in one place. Ginny wrapped her arms around him, worried that if she didn't contain things, he would come apart. Sometimes, Ginny was learning, good news was as hard to take as bad.

"Where?" Draco asked.

"We found him at Nott Manor, but we've transferred him to St. Mungos. Seems Nott Sr. was a bit skittish about killing his eldest, but saw the need to make an example nonetheless."

"May I see him?"

"When he wakes up."

Draco accepted this with a nod of his head. Professor Snape said, "You'll need to eat. The both of you. It's Wednesday."

Ginny wished the news had much affect on her, knowing that would be a good sign. She tried to spark a caring in herself. "My family?"

"Wish to see you back at the Burrow when you've woken. Classes have been suspended for the year, I'm sure you remember. Seventh years will be able to take their NEWTs at an undesignated time."

Ginny looked at the man across from her. "And Draco? Where's he to go?"

"With me, of course, Miss Weasley."

Ginny blinked, noticing for the first time that Professor Snape had actually bent to their level, that he had not once insulted her and that his voice held a strange strain of something that she couldn't identify either as exhaustion or compassion. Perhaps some strange combination thereof. Still, she remembered, "He needs kindness right now." Draco was a lot like her. It just wasn't immediately evident. And she knew what she needed at this moment.

The professor nodded. "I know."

"Are you capable?"

"Are you questioning me?" Professor Snape rose up to his full height, and carefully rearranged his features to hide as much of the profound tiredness as was possible.

"Yes," Ginny said, because despite the two days of sleep, she was still near to falling over, and not at all ashamed have him see it. "He needs someone to do that for him. Unless you plan to?"

"I am taking him home with me, am I not?"

Ginny let a bitter stream of laughter bleed from her mouth. "For the moment, I will take that as a statement of purpose."

"I'm obliged, I'm sure." Professor Snape sneered.

Draco said, "I am."

*

Dear Gin,

He's different than Professor McGonagall. He doesn't care what time I get up in the morning or what I eat for dinner, but he stays with me when my dreams turn nasty and he gives me things to do when I most need them.

Ted's out of Mungos and has been taken in by his cousins up in Belgium. Not terribly convenient for me, but Ted's always loved his extended family on his mum's side, so it's a good thing for him.

How is your family? How are you?

I miss you. Draco

Draco was like clockwork with correspondence. He owled once every three days and immediately in response to any correspondence Ginny sent back. Once, Ginny thought, once she would've been positively haphazard in her replies. She knew she had been the previous summer. Now, telling Draco about the things going on, even when those things were absolutely nothing, now it seemed the only way to make them real, as though just her family knowing (just her family, minus one) couldn't do that.

Draco,

The twins are raking it in. Jokes sales have gone up an astronomical sixty percent since the. . .quidditch match. The less likely to remind anyone of reality, the better.

Bill's asked Gringotts to relocate him, at least for a bit, to somewhere within easy Apparition distance. They're looking at Eastern Europe. That would be nice as then he would be close to Charlie, who could probably use the company.

My mum and dad are, well, I suppose as well as can be expected. Mum cries over random things that she never used to cry at, and dad stays at work much longer than probably necessary, but they don't blame me and they only very rarely blame each other, so I take it as healthy progress. As much as I know anything about these things.

I miss my brother. So painfully that I force myself to do things all day, things that take enormous amounts of concentration or physical effort, things that will exhaust me until I have no choice but to sleep. I am waiting for the immediacy of it to fade, I am waiting for something less powerful, I am waiting until I can feel guilt rather than pain.

I'm sorry to hear that Nott has moved, although it's nice that he has family. I dearly wish you did, even if Professor Snape is treating you better than I would suspect him capable of. Please remind him of my relation to the twins and a Ministry Official should he forget my warning to him.

There are rumors, rumors my dad will do nothing to quash even within our house, that Hogwarts will not be reopening in the fall, at least not immediately. There are members of the Ministry that feel the need to question its safety in the wake of last year's events. And while I have a brother who is dead due to said events, closing Hogwarts seems to me to be more an admission of defeat than anything else.

I miss you too. Ginny

Ginny always sent her letters at morning, because she was near to guaranteed to get a response by evening and not to have to lose sleep waiting.

Dear Gin,

The rumors are true. Severus--I'm evidently to call him that, as I'm no longer a student--has spent nearly every day either communicating with the Ministry or going in to plead for the case of Hogwarts. They don't seem thrilled to take the opinion of an ex-Death Eater, nevermind that he very likely saved all of their lives with his actions.

I've been trying to think of ways to help him, as I agree with you, and would back him in his attempts even did I not. He deserves that much of me.

I realize that Potter is mourning, but, I don't suppose you could ask him to put in a good word? It's hard to deny him anything right now, as I'm sure you've noticed. I don't mean to put you on the spot, you know you can say no to me.

Can I see you? Draco

Ginny spent all day thinking about the request before sending Harry an owl, asking him if he could meet up with her for tea. She chose ground that wouldn't remind either of them of Ron and told him Hermione was more than welcome to join. Harry took a day and a half to respond with a simple, sure.

Ginny owled Draco, Taking tea with Harry in three days time. Will owl you results afterward. Come any time at all. Or tell me when you wish me to come and how to get there. Any time at all.

*

Harry hugged her, which was odd, since Ginny didn't remember Harry ever much touching her before. She didn't ask him what it was about, though, since the comfort was nice enough and Ginny knew that sometimes things were best left unexplained. Hermione tried her best to smile. "Hullo, Gin."

"Hermione. Harry."

They ordered tea and Ginny asked, "D'you have plans?"

"No," Hermione said, and she sounded all right with that. "Not just yet."

Harry, taking something from Hermione's calm, shook his head. "I figure it can wait until the NEWTs have been taken. Remus doesn't seem terribly concerned with

my. . .vagrancy."

Harry had been staying with Professor Lupin since the need for his blood protection had ended. Ginny wasn't entirely sure where the two were housed but she didn't ask. "I've a favor I need."

Hermione sipped at her tea. "What sort of favor?"

Ginny put a hand to her stomach and looked away from her tea. "One that I need Harry's reputation for."

Harry frowned. "I'm happy hiding right now."

"The Ministry is trying to shut down Hogwarts. Professor Snape has been working day in and day out to change their minds, but his position as spy, well. Nobody trusts a spy."

Hermione's eyes were cold. "He saved my life, along with three-fourths of the Hufflepuff quidditch team."

"And mine, a few or so times," Harry admitted tiredly. Ginny knew he didn't much like to state any type of fondness for Professor Snape but that the two of them had enough of a working relationship, had since Dumbledore had managed to bring Harry through the rage induced by Sirius's death. "They want to shut down Hogwarts?"

Hermione looked at him. "What would you do in their places?"

"The same thing I'm doing now. Trust Snape."

Ginny thought that if Harry could say that, anybody else probably ought to be able to. "Would you consider putting in a word?"

"Is Snape willing to take the position of Headmaster?" Harry asked.

"I haven't asked. Does it matter?"

"It shouldn't, I suppose." Harry finished off his tea. "But the thought of someone in that position who doesn't understand, wasn't there-" He shuddered.

"You're most probably setting yourself up for an even bigger fight," Hermione warned.

Harry's fingers tightened slightly around the rim of his cup. "Probably."

Hermione nodded, although Harry was looking down and couldn't see her. "All right." She smiled at Ginny, a twisted, tired smile. "Looks as though we do have plans."

*

Ginny came to Snape Manor in the end because Draco wrote, it's just, I want you to myself and she couldn't disagree. The Burrow, for all the ways in which Ginny loved it, was not a bastion of privacy.

Snape Manor wasn't quite so well, Manorish as Ginny had been expecting. It was on plenty of land, certainly, but the house itself was about the size of the Burrow, if considerably more stately. Ginny knocked at the front door and rather than some house elf or a member of the housekeeping staff, Draco answered the door. He pulled her to himself and held her for long minutes before Professor Snape's voice came from somewhere that Ginny could not see. "At least close the door. If I have to dig up an Extermination Potion it will be you doing the digging, Draco."

Draco snickered but shut the door. "Yes, Severus, as you say."

Ginny frowned. "Where is he?"

"His labs. He has Spelled Mirrors so that nobody can enter the house without his knowing."

"Is he still watching us?"

Draco shook his head. "That's why he interrupted. He's not a voyeur. Wanna see my wing?"

"You have a wing. You don't stay down for long, do you?"

Draco took her hand. "There are only two of us here, I'll have you note."

Draco's wing was the upper half the house, which included two bedrooms, a full bath and an office. Professor Snape evidently laid claim to the downstairs, which housed a kitchen, his labs, a master bed and bath, a living room, dining room and entertaining space. The parts of the house that Ginny saw were done up tastefully in cherry wood with quite a few large pane windows. Not what she would have expected from someone who spent nine months out of twelve in a dungeon, but she supposed change did everyone good.

When they were both laying on Draco's rather decadent king-sized confection of a bed, piled as far as the eye could see with down comforters--Draco was a burrower--Ginny settled onto her back with her head pillowed on his chest and said, "Harry and Hermione are going to petition for Hogwarts re-opening, but on the condition that Professor Snape is made headmaster."

"Let it not be said that Potter can't pick an inconvenient time to figure out who're actually his friends."

"Leave off. The professor hasn't made it easy for any of us to acknowledge that he might not be unadulterated evil."

"You let me go with him."

"I saw what he did at the match. I figured if nothing else, you'd be as safe as you were going to be."

"He was the one who helped me."

Ginny threw out her hands. "Helped you?"

"When Ted disappeared, and I wasn't handling it well. I don't know who spoke to him, or if he just decided that was the moment to interfere, I haven't a clue, but he kind of, I donít know, pushed me through that."

Ginny sent a silent prayer of thanks to Professor McGonagall, wherever she was. "If I had known that I mightn't have been so cold to him the day he told us he was taking you."

"I wasn't ready to give his secrets away."

"I wasn't blaming. It just makes me feel better, knowing."

"Thanks for coming here, even without knowing."

Ginny didn't say, "I'll come when you call, that's the way it is now." She said, "So, does this place have secret passages? Manors are supposed to have secret passages."

"Read too many adventure books as a child, did we?"

Ginny grinned. "You wouldn't believe the stash Fred and George kept."

Draco huffed. "I'm sure it had nothing on mine."

Ginny hadn't expected love to be so tangible, this curl of something sweet that had settled well in her stomach, the flush of pleasant heat that suffused her back and chest. She took a breath, and held onto the heat as long as she could.

*

Against all odds, given the current state of the Ministry--utter and sheer chaos--the educational board managed to schedule NEWTs at the end of August. Draco stayed at the Burrow the night before, as Professor Snape had evidently decided that the Weasleys could provide, "A better pre-exam atmosphere."

Draco explained, "I think that means he wants me to be around other people who will talk to me about something other than the exams and make sure I get a good night's sleep. And eat. He's a horrible cook. Awful. I canít understand why he won't hire on a house elf or a cook or something, but it seems to be something personal. Something between him and the kitchen."

"You know some very weird people."

"Present company excluded?" He smiled.

"Are you kidding? Have you met my family and me? Sometimes I worry that we're dating for all the wrong reasons."

The NEWTs took three days, two of which Professor Snape's plans to get Draco away from NEWTspeak was completely undermined by Harry and Hermione both finding their way back to the Weasley's house. Molly just kissed them both atop their heads and poured more water into the soup base she was making.

At night, when Draco should have been asleep, because he had Arithmancy early that next morning, he said, "Look, I don't mean to upset, but Potter and Granger-"

Ginny sighed. "I donít know. I can't tell if it's just more of what it was before, or if this is something they need to do because he's not here anymore, I don't know. And I don't feel up to judging."

"I thought I should make sure you were all right with it."

Something about his tone made Ginny roll onto her stomach, the uneven dirt of the garden poking through her shirt, grass and stones falling off her back. "Draco?"

"It's not as if your brother and I were close."

"Not unless you count mortal enemies that way, I suppose."

"Not even that toward the, well, after us."

Ginny lay her head down on her forearm. "Why does it matter?"

"It matters that I don't know how to help you."

Ginny rolled again onto her back and brought her arms with her, the momentum causing them to smack into Draco, as intended. He flinched back. "Hey, ow."

"You're being a moron."

"You're really sweet, I don't know how I managed to evade your charms for so very many years with that honey-coated tongue of yours."

Ginny ignored him. "D'you think I had any love for your father?"

"Seems rather unlikely."

"Did I particularly need any to help you deal with his loss?"

"Are you entirely sure you helped, so much as gave me something else to concentrate on?"

"What do you think helping means, exactly?"

Draco sat up from where he'd also been lying on his back. "You told Severus I needed kindness."

Ginny kissed him. "You still do."

"Is that what you need?"

She focused in on the Arctic Star. "Not a bad place to start."

*

Despite Harry's help, Hogwarts had not been given the go-ahead by the time school was to start up in September. Those families who felt this an outrage, the Weasleys among them, sent their children with the books from last year's list, sent out by an industrious Hermione, along with a letter explaining that volunteers from Hogwart's staff at the time of its closing would be there to provide instruction to their children with or without funds or support from the Ministry. Which, as it turned out, was exactly how things went.

Those professors who were alive and willing to return--so, those who were alive--did so for no fee, just a place to live and regular meals. Ginny wasn't clear on exactly from where the meals were coming until she voiced the thought aloud to Draco who shrugged, "As it turns out, my father never thought to change his will."

Ginny widened her eyes. "He left you enough to feed an entire school?"

"I'm sure you've noticed that it's considerably less than an entire school," Draco said with a hint of mournfulness. "And as he accidentally left me his and my mother's entire fortune, including large parts of the Black estates which reverted to my mother upon discovery of Bellatrix, Rudolphus, and Sirius's death, yes. Severus wouldn't allow me to pay the staff at least a nominal fee, though I offered. He did say I could come on for an equal amount of no-pay as a floating professor, as they're painfully understaffed. A few of the members of Dumbledore's Nearest and Dearest Club have agreed as well from what I hear, your brother included."

Ginny was going to have a serious talk with someone as to why she was being told about this by way of her completely-unrelated-to-their-family-boyfriend. "Charlie?"

"Bill."

"Bill just got transferred."

"I know, he's on limited hours."

"Anybody else I ought to know about?" She asked somewhat tartly.

Draco kicked her ankles. "I don't think they'll schedule me to teach any of your classes. I pretty much told Severus that wasn't the best plan."

"What, he couldn't figure it out on his own?"

"Sometimes it isn't such a bad thing to just tell people what you need."

"Have you lost every hint of House pride?"

"No, just the need to constantly give my House a bad name. I know nobody's ever specifically felt the need to spell this out, not even, evidently, the Sorting Hat, but Slytherin does not necessarily equal scheming, lying, deceptive or sneaky. It's supposed to equal intelligent, ambitious, cunning and clever. Either the Hat sometimes badly fails the House, or that doesn't really cover the true precepts as honestly, you've met several of the people who lived in my quarter of the castle."

Ginny hid a smile. "Right. What were we talking about?"

"Not a clue."

"D'you give this year a chance in twenty million of lasting to the final moments?"

"Well, geez, handed those odds, yes."

That was a chance though, and Ginny was more than willing to take it in any form it came.

*

Tonks was an awful Transfigurations professor. The effort was obviously there, and she was brilliant at encouraging everyone, but her theoretical understanding of transfigurations was about as good as that of metamorphing--she didn't really understand it, she just did it.

Bill was a surprisingly good Charms professor. Ginny didn't mention the surprising part to him.

Snape was pettier than ever, which wasn't a huge shock, given everything he was dealing with outside of the classroom. Ginny, being a seventh year, ended up with him as her professor for DADA as well. She wrote long, vicious letters about the situation to Fred and George and went about learning as much as she possibly could.

Firenze was at least familiar in the role of Divinations professor, if a bit nonsensical, and Professors Vector, Sinistra and Sprout were blessedly unchanged.

The largest presence seen back at Hogwarts that year in regards to the student body were Slytherins either unrelated to Death Eaters or children of Death Eaters who had been placed with families without Dark sympathies. There was a near fanatical loyalty to both the school and Professor Snape from that quadrant, and though she found it odd, Ginny rather enjoyed the small but positive effects that it had on her Very Own Personal Slytherin.

Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs tied for returning numbers with Ravenclaw trailing behind either. Even so, the numbers were drastically reduced.

Occasionally Harry and Hermione would come by for dinner. Harry didn't like to as the few younger years who had returned tended to forego eating for staring at him when he was there. Hermione was surprisingly good about smiling at them and saying, "How're things?" so as to shock them into looking away without being particularly rude about it.

Professor Snape would sometimes stop by the table and ask things that Ginny knew she wasn't supposed to hear about the ongoing struggle with the Ministry. The two of them had developed a sort of easy relationship that involved a considerable amount of sniping at each other in the form of what Ginny could only assume was a type of unbalanced affection.

Draco could be found in the kitchens after curfew which added an odd sort of nostalgia to their rendezvous, what with the sense of forbidden pleasure. Of course, the first time they met up, despite the fact that he'd told her that was where he'd be, he'd said, "I'm encouraging delinquency."

She of course, had told him, "Shut up if you want to get laid," and he of course had.

*

At first Ginny just thought she'd caught a hint of influenza. It wasn't terribly common in wizards and witches, but weirder things had happened and they most certainly happened to Ginny on occasion. She put aside the fact that the only time she was sick was in the mornings until it had been going on for well over a week. Then she ascribed the problem to being incredibly stressed over NEWTs which promised to be even more harrowing than usual given the unorthodox bent the school year had taken.

It wasn't until Draco was watching her in the kitchens one night and said, with casual worry, "You're not usually a nervous eater," that Ginny noticed the increase in her diet and thought, not good, seriously not good.

She tossed off his concern with a, "A lot's changed this past year," and didn't say a bit more until she'd conned her way into the Restricted Section and read up on how to test for the sort of thing she was thinking might be the problem and running the test. Four times.

After that she hid in her bed, waiting for the inevitable prefect or Head of House to come by, only, with the reduced circumstances that Hogwarts was currently surviving in, Ginny was the closest thing Gryffindor house had to a prefect and as Professor Snape was not technically Headmaster yet, there was nobody to name a new Head of the House. Therefore it was Bill who found her.

He crept into the bed with her and said, "Took me forever to find you."

"I'm in my own bed."

"Right, well, you're usually more devious. I looked in all the unlikely places first."

This drew a small smile from Ginny. "Sorry. Mustn't've been thinking straight."

"Next time I'm sure."

"Bill?"

He put his forehead to hers. "Yes?"

"Could you find me Draco? If I said that I really needed him and I couldn't talk to anyone before I talked to him, could you?"

Bill took in a breath, evidently about to say something, but then thought better of it. "He's in the teaching lounge. I can floo from the Common Room."

"Thank you."

"Am I to come back with him?"

Ginny found his hand and squeezed. "No, but-"

"Thanks for my love, support and genuine brilliance as an older brother?"

"Couldn't've said it better myself."

Bill slipped off the bed and out of the room. Within moments Draco's head poked round the door and he called, "Gin?"

"Bed."

"Ah. Want me to come in?"

"I just told my brother to floo you and then leave us to our own devices. No, I want to have this conversation between curtains."

Draco climbed in. "Bill sounded worried."

Ginny had considered all the ways she could tell Draco. Her favorite, of course, had involved an elaborate joke with her state as the ultimate punchline. Unfortunately, no matter what she had concocted, Ginny hadn't been able to find any of it very funny, so she'd eventually settled on just looking him in the eye and saying, "I'm pregnant."

To which his glib and brilliant reply was, "But we were both using spells."

"Evidently we both screwed bloody well up."

"Are you certain?"

"No, I thought I'd mention it on the off chance." Ginny's teeth nearly cut at her lips with the sharpness of their movement.

Draco tilted his head then, and looked straight at her abdomen. He brushed his knuckles over the area lightly before resting his palm over it. "What do you want to do? What do you want me to do?"

Ginny was used to Draco's trust, to his way of giving over to her just when she thought him most likely to bluster. Even in her familiarity with this, the wash of agency that his questions allowed ran over her with the same heat of his hand. She answered his questions in reverse order. "I want you to stick around. I want to keep it."

Draco's sigh of relief echoed through Ginny, and she could hear what Draco wouldn't say about what everyone needed right then, about issues of death and life, about what this ill-timed mistake could mean in the way of beginning to heal. She tucked her head in his shoulder and fell asleep.

*

Of course it had been easy to tell Draco who was part of the whole thing anyway, since Draco was like Ginny when it most counted, and this had counted. Despite the difficulty, however, Ginny told her parents second, because they were her parents and probably deserved that much from her.

Her mum yelled a lot, and her Dad said, "Didn't someone at the school teach you

about. . ." and waved his hands a bit, and Ginny said, "Contraception hasn't really made it into the course curriculum, Dad," but refrained from mentioning that George had taught her all about that stuff when she was twelve even though Charlie had threatened to skin him alive if he did so.

This stopped her mum dead. "You didn't use any protection?"

Ginny ran a hand over her head. "'Course we used protection, mum." Wisely, she kept from mentioning that she was pretty sure this would have happened far far sooner had they completely foregone that. "Mistakes do happen." She said this casually, since both Ron and her had been complete mistakes as her parents really would have had to have been mad to actually plan children after the twins.

Molly glared at her. "It's one thing when a body's been married ten years Ginevra Molly Weasley."

"He asked to marry me," Ginny said by way of mollification a second before her brain kicked in to warn her not to. Draco had, too, shortly after she'd woken from her quick nap atop him. She'd said, "Thanks, maybe later," and he'd caught himself protesting and stopped and asked, "Is it 'cause of my last name?"

She'd kissed him at that. "It's because you're asking me with your hand resting on something that isn't supposed to be there."

"So, really, maybe later?"

"I'll consider it."

Molly was not half so easy to put off. "Well then, why aren't we planning a wedding?"

"I told him I'd think about it." Which was a truth of sorts, Ginny thought.

"There'll be no thinking-" Molly started, but Ginny interrupted her with a, "Yes, mum, there will be a lot of thinking. Probably more thinking than there was over the question of whether to keep the baby, and that was quite more thinking than I've ever done over one problem before in my life. I've learned a lot of things from the twins, some of them dangerous and better to just discard, but the one thing that I'll probably always owe them for is the lesson that each decision concerning my life is mine to make, and there aren't enough factors in the world to change that. I know you can't and don't approve and I even understand that. I'm not ready to say yes to him, though, so I'm not going to. I'll tell you if that changes."

"You're my daughter-"

"I know, and another thing I've learned from the twins is that you'll come around. Even when you really don't want to." Ginny's tone was apologetic when she said this, but she hadn't come here to lose this fight.

Molly stormed out of the room. Arthur said, "Maybe you'd best leave for a bit," but he gave her a hug and ran his hand over her head the way he had when she was a little girl and Ginny knew that he wasn't mad, not really. She took his advice and flooed back into Professor Snape's office, from whence she'd left the school. He looked up at her and after a brief flicker of his eyes up and down her frame asked, "Family emergency cleared up, Miss Weasley?"

Ginny wondered for a second what Draco had told him to get her the pass out of the school and what the Professor had deduced from what he hadn't been told. She gave him the best smile she could manage. "On its way."

*

Just as her parents were beginning to accept her decisions as her own, were starting to hesitantly welcome the idea of this unexpected grandchild, just as Draco had stopped throwing offers of marriage when she was least ready for them as though she might instinctively catch them as she did a quaffle, just as the second trimester was making its appearance and easing the symptoms of oncoming birth, Ginny awoke to pain so intense she couldn't scream and warmth spreading over her thighs and the sheets of her bed.

She wanted to move, to get off her bed since that seemed like a bad place to be in that very moment, but really all she could think about was the pain. She must have found a way to scream, though, a rogue breath, a rousing of her body's defenses, because suddenly Daisy Monahan was in her room, trilling, "Ginny, are you-" before she noticed the blood.

Daisy was only a year younger than Ginny, though, and had been at The Quidditch Match, so she didn't start screaming herself, just threw a Levitating Charm at Ginny and started talking again, this time in soothing tones. Ginny couldn't understand a word of it but she was off the bed and any improvement in her fortunes seemed a huge deal. She wanted to thank Daisy but the only thing that would come out of her mouth after that one precious scream were broken whimpers, allowed free only when her body truly could hold no more air.

Madam Pomfrey took Ginny in her arms with the help of the Charm at the very doors of the infirmary. It made Ginny wonder if she was still screaming. She hoped not. She was concentrating on trying to find out when the pain slackened off and Ginny slumped back onto the infirmary bed in which Madam Pomfrey had placed her. Madam Pomfrey urged her, "Breathe, dear," and Ginny did her best to do so.

Ginny asked, "Baby?" upon glancing down and noticing that she was still bleeding, even if she couldn't feel it anymore. Then, "Baby?" when Madam Pomfrey didn't answer quickly enough for her liking. Daisy was still in the room, Ginny could see out of the corner of her eye, and Ginny hadn't yet told her fellow students, had only informed the necessary professors--robes were a beautiful thing when a girl was looking to keep her own secrets. None of that was terribly important right now, what was important was, "Please, my baby?"

Madam Pomfrey said, "Sh, this happens sometimes love, I'm sorry," and kept working, kept cleaning up what just an hour ago had been something between Ginny and Draco, had been the sign of something new starting, had been something.

Ginny vaguely heard Daisy ask, "Where're Professor Malfoy's quarters?" If Madam Pomfrey answered, she didn't hear because she was too busy saying, "No, no, he'll . . . no," because as many things as he could obviously forgive her, she wasn't entirely sure this was one of them. Be it unintentional murder or some deeper more intrinsic failing on her part, Ginny had lost this something that was theirs. Daisy was gone before the last no, however, and Ginny doubted she'd up and decided to return to her room. At her side Madam Pomfrey's hands still moved over her body, cleaning and working on and trying to make things all right. Ginny nearly bit through her tongue in a moment of hysteria.

Draco was there before she'd let go of her tongue and it was only for him that she managed to loosen it, only for him that she managed to say, "Sorry, oh fuck, sorry sorry."

Draco, sounding oddly like Madam Pomfrey, said, "It's all right, sh, love, this happens. It's nothing to do with you," and Ginny wondered if they'd conversed even though Draco had just gotten here and there was no time for it, but maybe before. . . Maybe he'd known about this danger and not said anything because Draco was good at nothing if not the sin of helpful omission.

Ginny said again, "Baby."

Draco said, "I know. I'm more concerned about you. We can have another baby. I might even be able to get you to marry me before we go about this again. I only have one you."

Ginny shook her head, because with the Pain Numbing Spell that Madam Pomfrey'd obviously hit her with, she was, "Fine."

"I know it feels that way, but trust me, the visual's a little nerve-wracking."

Ginny remembered what she'd felt in the bed, what she'd seen, what Daisy'd seen. "Sheets all bloodied."

"I know, it's fine. Just breathe."

"Baby!" Ginny shouted as much as she could because she wanted him to know, to understand how much this hurt even without the pain, just knowing.

Draco gripped her face in his hands and forced her to look at him, look at his eyes. He said, "I know. I'm sorry. I can't- Can't do anything. I'm sorry."

Ginny believed him.

*

Once the bleeding stopped Madam Pomfrey fed Ginny a few potions, one of which sent her off to sleep and when she awoke there was nothing in the way of physical traces to tell her that anything had even happened. Ginny knew.

Draco was still there, lying on the cot one over from hers, his eyes closed. She knew him, though, too. "Draco."

His eyes opened immediately. "You're awake."

Ginny nodded.

"It's been a while." When she didn't ask, he said, "Three days. Madam Pomfrey said that was how it was supposed to go, but. . . I prefer you awake."

Ginny wasn't particularly sure she preferred herself awake, although sleeping held some fairly horrific components of its own. She curled up, wrapping her arms around her knees, folding her knees where the baby was supposed to be. "Did she say what happened? Did I- Was it my fault?"

Draco rolled off of his cot and came to her side, fitting one hand over her arms and tucking the other against her back. "You were hit with some pretty severe curses That Day, Gin. Madam Pomfrey thinks it most likely that there were some long-lasting effects. So if it's anyone's fault, you can safely blame the same people we all blame for a number of things. Not yourself, love."

"I keep thinking that there must have been a sign, some sort of warning, you know-"

"If that's the case than perhaps someone else should have noticed. Maybe me, since I'm around you nearly every day, or your mother, who knows just a bit about having babies and has dropped by more than a few times since you told her, or Granger, who pays too much attention to near everything, or Severus, who looked deep enough to figure it out all on his own. I wish one of us had, Gin. I wish we had."

"You aren't mad," Ginny said dully.

"I think you might be mad enough for the both of us. You're better at anger anyway. I just bluster and say offensive things. You throw hexes and run."

Ginny tried to smile for him. "There's nowhere to run."

"There's me. I'm always up for being run to. I'm horrible at anger, but I hear I'm brilliant at sad. You know what they say about misery."

Ginny knew what they said. "Marry me, Draco."

"Right here and now if we can get the proper personnel."

"I could very likely be barren."

"I do believe Madam Pomfrey mentioned that," Draco said softly, pressing at her arms to get them to unlatch so that he could straighten her out, take her fully into an embrace.

"My NEWT scores are looking to be dismal, my concentration-"

"Somehow, I think you'll manage to find placement. The wizarding world is not unaware of the plight Hogwarts faces, and you have your last name going for you. Which, by the way, I think you should keep."

"Not a chance. I wonít be ashamed of the choices I make, nor the people I love."

"That makes two of us, then."

"I think we should wait. My mum'd be disappointed."

"And I desperately want to see you in wedding robes. If only for the sheer pleasure of peeling them off later."

Ginny tried smiling again. It was a fraction easier this time. She slid to the opposite edge of the bed as much as she could, pulling Draco up into it. She wrapped his hands in hers and bunched them all against her abdomen. He said, "Does it hurt?"

She asked, "Can't you feel it?"

He put his forehead to hers. "I can feel you."

*

Theodore Nott sent her a letter, care of Draco. It said, "I don't know you at all, but Draco's completely taken and I felt I ought to say that I was sorry." Without her understanding why, that simple condolence settled under Ginny's shoulders and lifted up some of the weight that had taken up residence there.

Her mum had been surprisingly silent on the whole issue, offering more physical comfort than anything else, which had Ginny squirming away at times, unsure of what it was that bothered her about the touch. When Molly did say something, however, it was, "Right after Charlie. . .there was supposed to be James. Jamie."

Ginny, who had been feeling a bit in awe of her mother's ability not to loose children like she often did sleeping shirts and face towels, an ability that Ginny was obviously lacking, asked, "Is it always this. . .?"

"Yes," Molly said. Then, "No." Then, "I'm not sure, I suppose it depends."

Ginny had long known that her mum wasn't omniscient or omnipotent. It would have been nice, though, for her to have suddenly gained either of those qualities. Ginny didn't have anything to say to that so she allowed her mum to cuddle her. Molly did the best she could at it, Ginny knew.

Draco bought her small presents, things from Fred and George's, candies that weren't deemed safe while she had the baby, quidditch rags. When he couldn't keep himself from doing so, he cried in front of her. That was the thing she appreciated most. The first time he'd tried to hide it but she'd stolen his chin with her hand and pushed it upward. "I need to know you're with me."

Draco'd kept his eyes on her, tears pouring from them. Afterward, much later, Ginny had kissed them away.

Fred and George had offered her a spot with them, a fairly lucrative spot at that, upon graduation. Ginny figured that if all else went wrong that was something to fall back on and took her NEWTs accordingly, with a type of laissez faire attitude that made it easier to function if harder to concentrate. She found the former to be more important anyhow.

When they were over, Ginny turned her mind to infinitely more important things and asked Hermione to be her Maid of Honor. Hermione said, "I'm horrid at toasts, and wait, since when are you getting married?"

Ginny said, "Since I decided to and you can get the twins to help you with that, I'm sure it will be a smashing success."

Draco insisted that Severus be his Best Man and that Nott be one of the groomsmen, but he also relented on asking Harry and Bill to serve as groomsmen as well. Harry told Ginny after Draco had asked, "I'm sorry I can't be-"

And Ginny had said, "I think he always felt the same way about you."

Ginny obtained Susan Bones, Luna Lovegood and a rather gob-smacked Daisy Monahan to fill out the rest of her bridal party. Daisy, who was a year younger than Ginny but had been a rather insistent sort of friend since the miscarriage grinned a goofy grin and asked, "Oh, really?"

Ginny had nodded, garnering her a giddy clapping of Daisy's hands and a, "Congratulations, he is awfully fit, isn't he?"

Somehow it brought the first real smile that Ginny had smiled since losing the child to her face. "I'd not noticed."

*

The night before the wedding, Draco snuck into the Burrow, into Ginny's room. Ginny said, "My mum'll kill you if she catches you here, and then where will we be? Nobody likes wedding cake at a funeral, it's not fashionable in the least."

"I think it would be best for everyone then if you were just a bit quieter," Draco whispered, even though really, Molly was all the way downstairs and it was unlikely at best that she could hear anything through the noise of everyone else that had come to stay at the house in the pre-event hours.

"Cold feet?" Ginny asked.

"No, they're- Oh. No, not at all. Why, you?"

"Because I'm so well known for changing my mind after I've made it up."

"You did once."

"Remind me."

"There was a boy you once intended to destroy." Draco whispered this as well.

Ginny put a hand to his cheek. "I was quite young then."

"Yes, it was so terribly long ago."

Ginny tilted her head, examined him as she hadn't in a long time, not since she'd gotten used to just knowing him. "What brings you here this evening, Draco?"

He shook his head. "Dunno. Suppose I thought now was a bad time to be breaking patterns, following the rules and all."

"You might have a point."

"Happens occasionally."

Ginny laughed softly. "I had a dream about Ron last night."

"Was he furious?"

"We were playing quidditch. That was it. Just us, flying."

"Seems he and I are in agreement on that subject." Draco had been trying to convince Ginny to get back on a broom for half a year. "New and different, but I'm not complaining."

"Take me out, then."

"Pardon?"

Ginny motioned at the broom on which Draco had ridden up to her window, cloaked in a Masking Charm. "Midnight ride."

"Just like that?"

It wasn't at all just like that. Ginny would be climbing onto the back, holding onto him, allowing him to steer and it was nothing like just like that at all. "Just like that."

Draco, though, wise enough to know when pushing would only lose him what he ultimately wanted, relented. "All right, but put a jumper on, it's cold up there."

Ginny fished through her packs to find something suitable and pulled it over her head. Draco had already mounted and she slid up behind him. "Ready when you are."

He brought them carefully out of the window and then up above the house, where nobody would see them as they glided away. Draco called back, "Good, then?"

Ginny tightened her grip the tiniest bit, brought her mouth right up to his ear and said, "Yes, good."

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