Rating: R
Genres: Drama, Romance
Relationships: Draco & Ginny
Book: Draco & Ginny, Books 1 - 4
Published: 13/08/2007
Last Updated: 27/01/2011
Status: In Progress

Draco Malfoy doesn’t know how to have any fun. Incidentally neither does Ginny Weasley, so it’s all rather doomed from the start.

1. Pink Panties

Title: Highrollers
Author: Crystal/InTheStars
Rating: PG-13, for some, er, sexual content
Ship(s): Draco/Ginny, implied Blaise/Tracey
Timeline/Spoilers: Who knows? Some alternate 6th year for Ginny; 7th for Draco.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
Summary: Draco Malfoy doesn’t know how to have any fun. Incidentally, neither does Ginny Weasley, so it’s all rather doomed from the start.


They met every other Thursday, or whenever Theodore Nott felt appropriate.

He’d weave through the noisy halls with a shit-eating grin and yellow eyes so bright it was almost disconcerting.

“Thursday, 11 o’clock,” he’d whisper.

“It’s at 10 on the dot, tonight.”

Sometimes he’d wink at Tracey Davis and pinch her bottom as he hissed the words. She’d slap him soundly on the cheek, and he’d laugh and strut on with a red hand print marring his long face, as if she’d kissed him instead.

“It’s Friday this week. At one aye-em, Malfoy. Don’t be late.”

Draco wasn’t all that sure why Theodore continued to invite him. He was Head Boy and had the responsibility to march down- er, up there- and call the whole thing off, punish the brats, and go to sleep knowing he’d maimed his quota for the day.

That aside, it’s not like he’d ever attended either, and he certainly was sure he’d never plan to, and never would. It was a silly game with silly stakes, and watching a troupe of Slytherins con each other of valuables and clothing sounded like a hoot and a half, but Draco had a feeling he’d get bored easily, and quickly, at that. Plus, he liked keeping his things his things, and his parts to himself, in case that gist was unclear.

Draco,” Pansy would whine, leaning forward at dinner and slobbering all over his hen, “are you coming tonight?” She’d always top the high-pitched question off with fluttering eyelids.

“No,” he’d reply, pushing his plate away, suddenly not finding saliva-coated mash that appetizing.

“Oh, you’re such a spoil-sport,” she’d hiss, turning towards Daphne and coveting him little pouts he’d always ignore.

It wasn’t until Theo started inviting Ravenclaws that his interest had piqued. Or at least, piqued enough to start asking some questions.

“So, what do you people get into up there, anyhow?” He’d asked Blaise casually over breakfast one morning.

His fellow House mate had laughed, a sound that was low and apparently endearing, if the girls of Hogwarts had anything to say about the matter. Draco thought it sounded like a wheeze. “Little of this, little of that,” he’d answered, but not really answered at all, chewing thoughtfully on a muffin. “If you’re so interested, why don’t you just cave and check it out?”

“Not that interested,” he’d conceded, and then they started talking about the length of Daphne Greengrass’s skirt.

When he’d heard a Hufflepuff or two had attended, he’d just cocked an eyebrow.

No better group to nick a spot of spare change off of, right? Plus he didn’t really need any spare change anyway, so there was no difference in his level of interest.

But then people started really talking about it, and not even passingly. They’d talk about it over dinner and during study sessions in whispers and during class in passed notes, wishing and hoping this week, they’d be invited.

Draco had confiscated some parchment from a frightened Ravenclaw one morning when he was feeling particularly vicious and needed a pick-me-up. She was mousy with dark locks and wide eyes. The parchment read:

Twelve o’clock. Pink panties!

“What the hell does that mean?”


“Well, spit it out,” he had snarled. “I don’t have all day.”

“It’s for- I mean- the- Theo’s... you know,” she’d blushed, gnawing at her lower lip and letting out an annoying giggle.

Truth be told, however, he hadn’t been opposed to the sodding events until he’d heard dear Nott was inviting Gryffindors.

“Are you mad?” He had yelled, stalking up to the gangly bright-eyed boy.“The Ravenclaws, I sort of understood; they can be all right. The Hufflepuffs are easy to take advantage of, at least. But the Gryffs, Nott? The Gryffs? Are you insane?”

“Aw, come off it, Malfoy. It’s one Gryffindork.” He’d rolled his eyes, slapping Draco’s shoulder. “It’s a fun time for all. You should come. Eleven tonight. Don’t be late!”

So here he was, scowling, gazing up at some ordinary blasted hatch door above him, the sound of raucous laughter and most likely debauchery mocking him from inside.

With a resigned sigh, he tapped the door twice with his wand, muttering the password (“Playwitch”) with a passing thought about how entirely wasteful this entire situation was. Besides the part where he’d get a thrill out of ending it once and for all.

It wasn’t that Draco Malfoy didn’t enjoy a spot of fun here and there. He made sure every day to at least trip one Hufflepuff, go the lengths to say something awful about somebody, anybody at all. Laughter was the best medicine for spoiled rich brats too bored with their time than to do nothing else but make as many people as miserable as possible, right?


Smoothing down his robes, he ventured into the noise, taking each creaking step with sneering disdain.

The first thing he noticed were the bottles. Butterbeer, fire whiskey, and an assortment of other alcoholic beverages he’d only seen under lock and key in his father’s study, all open and laying about.

The second thing he noticed was the table and the talking cards (“Don’t put me down; you’ll need me later!” and “Oh hello, Jack! How are you?”).

The third thing he noticed were the clothes.

Or rather, the absence of clothes covering usually-covered body parts, and the pile of said absent clothing in a heaping pile on the aforementioned table.

And last, but certainly not least, he noticed a redheaded Gryffindor, starkers in nothing but a crimson lacy bra that seemed too small, and a short flouncey skirt that barely covered her thighs.

His first thought was quite linked with his downstairs brain- something about red tresses on his green sheets- and his second thought was about gauging his eyes out.

But then suddenly Theodore Nott had spotted him hanging out by the door and hollered, stumbled over, and pressed a bottle of fire whiskey to his chest. A loud greeting for him seemed to overtake the entire room, and there were hands patting his back and cards thrown at him and all of a sudden he was sitting next to Tracey Davis, not quite sure what had just transpired, or how he’d gotten from point A to point B.

“About time you showed up, mate,” Theo thumped his shoulder and fell into the seat between him and Ginny.

“I’m not your mate,” he said hotly, but somehow the comment was missed.

To his right, Blaise winked, one hand holding cards, and the other entwined with Tracey Davis’s fingers.

“Yes, there’s been an awful lot of talk about seeing you naked,” said a dreamy voice.

Draco snapped his head over to his left, careful to avoid sweeping his eyes over Ginny Weasley’s spilling chest. Looney Lovegood was looking at him very seriously.

“Especially from Pansy Parkinson,” she added.

Ginny stifled a giggle.

Pansy, who was sitting next to Luna, blushed unbecomingly- not that she was ever becoming to begin with- and glared. “Shut up, Looney,” she hissed, “it’s your turn to deal so do it.”

Luna went on as if Pansy had not even spoken. In fact, her wide eyes had never left him. “I’m Luna; I don’t think we’ve met,” she said, holding out her hand with a pleasant smile.

Draco looked at it as if it were diseased. She didn’t seriously expect him to touch her. Did she?

“Pleasure,” he drawled, curling his lip.

“This is Ginny Weasley,” she added brightly, hand still extended, flicking her gaze to the one person he was trying not to look at.

“Yes, I know,” he said, chancing a glance over.

She was biting her lip, arms crossed uncomfortably over her nearly-bare chest. He wondered if she realized it only made her cleavage dip just so- again, he was torn between vomiting until he died and... other... primal urges.

“Hello, Malfoy,” she greeted, but her voice was not small or meek or anything like he expected. Instead of mimicking her awkward stance, it was loud and laced with hateful sarcasm.

“Ginny’s on a losing streak, isn’t she?” Theodore wiggled his eyebrows, leaning on the back legs of his chair.

That patented blush stole purchase on her cheeks, spreading across her chest as well. “Only because this game is ridiculous! It’s as if you’re all conspiring against my clothes!”

“You can’t blame them though, can you, Weasley?” Draco smirked, reaching forward to distastefully poke through the heap of clothes before them. “I would think with the dirty rags you wear, you should be thankful to get them off of you.”

Her hands were gripping the sides of her chair and she huffed like an angry bull, glaring daggers at him. He merely rose an eyebrow and one side of his mouth into a small smirk.

Pansy’s shrill laugh answered his drawled words, and Ginny fluttered her hot gaze to the guffawing girl. “Oh, shut up, Pansy,” she growled. “I may wear hand-me-down robes, but at least when I look in the mirror, a pig doesn’t stare back at me.”

He almost laughed- the sound was nearly passing his lips before he stifled it.

Pansy blanched, letting out a throat-grating screech. “How dare you?! Draco! Draco, you’re not going to let her get away with that?”

I’d let her get away with it,” Theodore interceded, grinning mischievously at Ginny. Draco was almost thankful to be saved from answering the bint, because while he didn’t want to agree with a Weasley, he was also a fan of the truth. “I’ve heard she could curse a bloke into oblivion by wiggling her cute little nose.”

Ginny had the grace to flush under Theo’s intense stare, arms crossing under her ample breasts once again. “Yes,” she agreed, “although my cute little nose doesn’t wiggle.”

“No, but the abundance of cellulose on your thighs do,” Pansy interjected.

“Now, now,” Blaise said quietly, “let’s not get vicious like last time.”

“I enjoyed last time,” Theo disagreed. “Scantily clad witches wrestling sort of makes my night.”

“You’re disgusting,” Pansy bit out.

“I’m only human,” he shrugged.

“Are we going to play or not?” Tracey said, her voice just as low as Blaise’s.

“Yes, of course, Davis,” Theodore said, leaning forward, turning his attention towards Draco. “Here’s how we play.” He paused to take a swig of butterbeer. “Five-card draw at the moment. For money until you’ve got none, and then for clothes until you’re as naked as you’d dare.”

“Explains why you’re the only shirtless one here, Weasley.” Draco looked over to her with a wide grin.

“Someone please explain to me why you were invited,” she hissed right back, flushing to the roots of her hair.

“Well, it’s no mystery why you were,” he retorted harshly.

“And why’s that?”

He made a show of leering at her barely-covered form, sneering in acted distaste as he reached her fierce eyes yet again. “Nott’s never had the best taste in women, and it’s showing.”

“You ruddy little toad.” Her chair screeched as she half-rose, stopped only by Theodore’s quick and willing hands. For a moment, he was sure she was going to reach out and claw his flesh off.

Luna was humming and handing out the cards, looking completely oblivious to the tense moment. “Ginny, while you’re up, can you get me another butterbeer?”

Cinnamon burned into him for a few heated seconds and then she seemed to come to herself slightly, shaking her head. She threw Theodore’s hands off her arms and stalked over to a full cart of alcohol, her skirt swaying with her rocking hips.

Draco smirked and leaned back, enjoying the show.

Theodore gave him an agitated look, and Pansy sulked.

This was going to be fun.

2. Hummburners!

Author's Note: Thank you all for the reviews from last chapter! I'm not sure if I'll continue this past here, but I might if I'm inspired and if everybody wants it enough. It was supposed to end with this chapter, because I really have to add to


soon, but Draco and Ginny got away with me, as usual. :P

Luna had mentioned it to her over a copy Enchanted Overalls of the Twentieth Century in the library.

They were doing their work together between whispered conversation and it was a Monday.

“I went to Theodore Nott’s game night last Thursday,” she’d said conversationally, peeking slightly over the top of the book’s binding. “Do you like apple tarts? I’ve always preferred peach.”

“I prefer apple,” she’d answered, finishing her essay with a flourish, accustomed to Luna’s odd topics. “How was it?”

“It was all right.” Luna had then buried her nose back in the book. “Pansy Parkinson has a hairy stomach.”

“You saw her stomach?” She’d gaged a little, maybe even threw up a little in her mouth, if she remembered correctly.

“Yes, and Theodore’s arse.” Ginny had rose an eyebrow. “He asked a lot of questions about you.”

“Did he?” She’d tried to recall an image of the older Slytherin- there it was. Tall and gangly, a lot cocky and a bit charming, with predatory yellow eyes.

“Yes,” she replied wistfully, “have you ever thought about inkblots?”

The first time Theodore had invited her, it was when she was walking back from a rigorous Quidditch practice. He’d approached her head-on with a curling simper.

“Hey there, Ginny.”

“Hello,” she’d replied nonchalantly, side-stepping him.

“Was just checking if Lovegood told you to come along tonight with her.” He’d turned fast to keep up with her.

“She did.”

“Then I’ll see you there,” he’d winked and then started ahead, jogging to the doors.

It wasn’t as if she were interested in the boy at all. She knew full too well Theodore Nott was as pervy as they come, not to mention an all-out player. The only reason he, a Slytherin, would ever be interested in her, a Gryffindor, was if he wanted a good time that lasted exactly one night.

She wasn’t going to crawl into his bed like a slut, but she was going to attend his little game night, because Ginny Weasley had been curious since the first moment she’d heard of it. It sounded exciting and different, and better than lounging around the tower reading.

It wasn’t as if she didn’t know how to have any fun of her own, because she did. She went flying and played Exploding Snap with Luna every once in awhile. They had an enjoyable time, even if it was only the tame, not necessarily thrilling kind.

The first night had been interesting, mostly because she’d only brought a few knuts. She had nothing else to spare, but Theodore didn’t seem to mind one bit.

But Pansy did, and the more attention the boys lavished her with, which seemed to inversely relate to the number of clothes she had on, the more Pansy got snippy.

When Parkinson had declared her a “horrible tease with lopsided boobs,” she’d brushed it off.

When the bitch had called her a “blemished freak show slut,” she’d kept on playing just fine.

But when Pansy had opened her awful mouth and insisted that she was “losing on purpose” and understood why she “had no real friends because who would like a impoverished ninny” who was “as loose with her cheap lingerie” as she was “her legs,” Ginny had frankly lost it.

She’d really not like to get into it, but Blaise had to pull her off Pansy before she’d done serious damage to the other girl’s face.

Truth be told, she was only back a second time because Luna wanted her to come and it wasn’t as if watching the trio acting secretive by the fire was all that entertaining.

It had been going quite well, and she’d been ignoring Pansy, and Pansy had been ignoring her for the most part, but then he had walked in, hair ruffled from a long day and tie loosened enough to expose the hollow of his throat. Even in a tired state he was still graceful and reeked of perfection- a physical kind, at least.

And then he’d opened his mouth and ruined everything about him that she could stand.

Huffing, she turned back to the table, grasping two butterbeers, eyes sweeping over his casual stance- legs open, shoulder blades on the back of his chair- and that trademark smirk aimed straight at her.

She banged the bottles on the table and plopped into her seat, taking a swig of her own, gaze never leaving his.

“Like what you see, Weasley?” He taunted, tugging at the Slytherin-stripped knot around his neck, burning his throat with fire whiskey. “Don’t look so much, pet, you might get Nott jealous.”

“I’m not anyone’s pet.”

“But you do like what you see, then?”

She was sure she was blushing, and she opened her mouth to completely deny his words, but someone beat her to it- or to speaking, at least. “Draco, are you flirting with her?” Pansy asked, her face beet-red, fists clenched on the table.

For some reason, that idea made her stomach twist and turn unpleasantly- or pleasantly- she wasn’t positive which.

“Well, she is the girl with her top off,” Blaise admitted, lips tugging, eyes glued to his hand of cards.

“That she is,” Theo said, voice wavering. He shot Draco a pleading look, one that Malfoy looked away from.

“I’m not flirting, Pans,” he answered, for the first time glancing over to the agitated girl, “not that it’s any concern of yours.” He left it like that, and everyone was silent. Ginny had an inkling that silence was a challenge for anyone else to argue.

Coincidentally, no one did, except for Luna. “I think she’s concerned because it certainly sounded like you were,” she told him, her eyes almost unnaturally wide. “Plus she’s a bit jealous. I think she might have some Fuggletrot blood.”

What did you just say about me?”

“Fuggletrots are magical creatures known to mate with wizards and-”

“I am not half-Fuggletrot!”

Pansy was nearly rising from her chair, and Ginny was too amused and overcome with giggles to mention Fuggletrots technically didn’t exist.

“Sit down, Pansy,” Blaise said serenely. “They don’t exist; she’s just trying to get a rise out of you.”

“No, I’m not. They’re born in swamps and have green noses, for envy-”

Pansy plopped back into her seat. “Do shut up, Looney.”

“-and they wear no clothes, except for a strategically-placed leaf-”

“Let’s play!” Theo cut in.

“Right,” Draco agreed, pulling out a pouch from his pocket. Ginny couldn’t help but grimace as it hit the table, no doubt a good portion of money clanking inside. “All in,” he announced, grabbing his cards and not even bothering to look at them.

Instead he was staring at her.

Tracey delicately took a galleon from her small pile of money and placed it in the middle. Next to her Blaise put a quarter of winnings up for grabs. Pansy, still fuming, bet her shirt, and Luna meticulously put in every coin she had, one by one.

“And what are you betting, Weasley?”

He’d hardly looked away from her once the entire time, and she’d refused to blink. “My skirt,” she replied sourly.

Theo chuckled uncomfortably, looking between them. “I’m betting half.”

Scowling, she fumbled with her cards, picking them up and resolutely looking away from Draco. Unfortunately, his stare burned along her skin and continued to do so, and it was even more mortifying than simply staring right back.

She had an ace and two threes, which was more than she’d had all night. Ignoring the look Draco was still brandishing her body, she thought about chancing the rest of her cards and put them down, hand lingering over their tops. (“No, don’t trade me!”) “Anything wild?” She said quickly to Luna.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” Draco replied.

“I wasn’t asking you. It’s not up to you.”

“Not this round,” Luna answered, smiling.

Ginny took up another two cards and sat back, trying to hide her expression.

Nothing, as always. Unconsciously, her eyes found Draco’s stormy grey irises over her cards. He still hadn’t glanced at his, and had taken to tapping long fingers on the table and smirking. She looked back down, cheeks flushing with embarrassment and unease and god help her, maybe a little excitement.

Yes, this was a lot more entertaining than the tower.

“Are we ready?” Her voice cracked.

“Sure am, beautiful,” Theodore answered, putting his cards down. “Three fours.”

“Two threes,” she announced miserably.

Luna placed hers cards face up with a bright smile. “Straight.”

“Three aces,” Pansy declared.

“Four of a kind,” said Blaise.

Tracey sighed. “Two sixes.”

Draco was still looking at her as he dropped his cards on the table. “Straight flush.”

“That’s impossible!” She burst out.

He rose an eyebrow. “Is not, Weasley. It’s right here.”

“A straight flush, on your first deal?” She shrieked.

“It happens,” he shrugged, but his eyes glowed with malice. “I think you’re just upset because you’ve got to lose that skirt.”

“You cheating-”

“We had enough of that last Thursday,” Tracey whispered.

Ginny shut her gob, taking in a deep breath. “You’re cheating. You didn’t even look at your hand.”

“He’s not cheating!” Pansy argued.

“He couldn’t be, Ginny,” Blaise said. “The cards have got anti-cheating jinxes on them, remember?”

“Yes, they do, Weasley.” Draco flashed her a long-toothed grin. “Now strip like a good girl.”

Shaking with anger, she struggled with her skirt’s button and nearly ripped it off her legs after it came loose, discarding the fabric to the middle of the table. Draco watched every move with parted lips and a mildly interested expression.

Pansy looked ready to scream.

Luna collected the cards and handed them over to Ginny, patting her hand absently in comfort. In response, Ginny slid the cards over to Theodore. “I’m out this round,” she hissed.

“Sore loser, are you?” Draco leaned forward, counting his coins.

“No, I’m nearly naked, you pounce.”

“I can see that,” he laughed, cocking an eyebrow. “I thought Gryffindors were supposed to have some spine though.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She asked fiercely, before chiding herself in silence. Asking Draco to clarify was always playing right into his hands, as she was learning fast.

“For one thing, you’re stopping while you’ve got other things to bet,” he smirked.

“I’m not comfortable with baring all of myself, if you don’t mind.”

“Well, that’s where your lack of spine comes in.”

It took all her will power to stay quiet.

“You agree? Well, all right, if you agree...”

“Will somebody just deal already?” Pansy cut in, but Theodore was already obliging.

“This’ll be the last round, I think,” he said sharply, discontent and gazing pointedly at Draco.

Ginny could tell that Malfoy wouldn’t be invited again.

This time, everyone went all in except for Draco, who only gambled with everyone else’s money, a pleased simper decorating his mouth.

“I’ve got nothing,” Theo announced bitterly, throwing his hand down. They all screamed and cursed at him, their colored faces spewing insults.

Around the table, everyone had mediocre hands, except for Luna, who tried to convince them an ace and a five was the best pair you could get. “It’s the way Hummburners play!”

“Hummburners don’t exist,” Blaise had sighed patiently.

“Yes, they do!” But she was ignored, and as it were, Draco won the hand by a nail, giving Ginny a toothy smirk as he held up four eights.

Simply grinding her teeth, she rose before everyone else did, reaching for her white-button down immediately. Blaise and Tracey trickled out with quiet goodbyes, disappearing down the hatch as she growled to herself and had to start over again, shaking fingers slipping the buttons in the wrong places.

Luna patted her arm in farewell. “I’ll see you at breakfast,” she promised, eyes looking around the room as if she hadn’t ever been there before.

“Ginny, do you want me to walk you back?” Theodore said at her side.


From the corner of her eyes and through a lock of hair, she could see his fake smile dropping. “Are you sure? It’s a long way. I wouldn’t want any meaner Slytherins taking advantage of such a pretty girl.”

“No, Theodore, I think I’ll be all right.” She smiled tightly at him, grabbing her red and gold tie, giving up completely on the disarranged shirt.

“All right,” he said, shifting. Unwillingly, he turned to leave. “Remember to lock up!”

“We will, Nott,” Pansy answered.

Ginny looked up. The girl was saddling up to Draco’s side, who was still sitting. Disconcerted, she inhaled when he continued watching her as if she were an interesting museum exhibit. “Do you mind?” She shot at him. “I don’t need an audience.”

“Come on, Draco,” Pansy said, gripping his shoulder lightly. “Let’s get back to the dungeons.”

He moved her hand without any pretense, eyes only glinting when she reclaimed the limb as if he’d burned her. “You go ahead.”

Red filled her cheeks, and she glared coldly at Ginny for a moment, who only paused to give her a nasty look. Then she left loudly, heels clipping, slamming the entrance closed with such force the floor shook.

“Stop staring,” she snapped irritably.

“Does it make you uncomfortable?”

Yes. Why else would I demand you stop?”

“Good,” he rose, and Ginny took a surprised step back. “If it makes you uncomfortable, I won’t stop.”

“Has anyone ever told you that you are extremely creepy?” Her voice shook.

“No, you’re the first, actually,” he said, and Ginny didn’t like the look in his eyes, even though he didn’t come any closer, only leaning his hip casually on the edge of the table.

“Aren’t you leaving?” She asked, hoping he would.

It just occurred to her the moment Pansy had left that she was alone in an out-of-the-way room with Draco Malfoy. Draco Malfoy, who hated her and her family, and could curse her and leave her here in just her knickers for Theo to find eventually.

“No,” he answered, and then he smiled, and it was small and a bit scary. Everything about him was relaxed- his crossed arms, his posture, but his eyes were alert and fixed on her, and she felt like if she moved he would pounce. “I’m waiting for the rest of my winnings.”

“What?” She exhaled, having no idea what he was talking about, reaching for her skirt.

His hand shot out and beat her to it, his almost unnaturally long fingers curling around the ratty fabric. “This is mine.”

Excuse me?” Anger flared up in her, replacing her fear. “Give that back, Malfoy! It’s not yours, not unless you’re exploring transgendered tendencies!”

He actually laughed, and not the way he’d laugh at her brother or anyone he’d just done something awful to, but really laughed, as if she’d said something funny. She pushed away thoughts about how it sounded sexy- and how sexy he looked- and how- no, she wouldn’t think about how gorgeous Draco Malfoy was, not when he was doing something as juvenile as holding her skirt hostage.

“The tie and the shirt’s mine too, Weasley,” he added.

“How in your small mind do you figure that?”

“I won them.” He cocked an eyebrow. “They were in the middle of the table same as everything else.”

“That’s- that’s not how strip poker works!” She screeched, and half-heartedly swiped at it.

Draco held it up out of her reach, and laughed that laugh again. “That’s how I play.”

Forgetting to keep distance from him under a rush of annoyance, she came closer, eyes on the last piece of clothing she needed to leave, jumping for it. Much to her increasing irritation, he only lifted it higher.

“Give - it - back!” She ordered between jumps and straining on her tiptoes.

“If I give it back, what do I get?” He proposed, and Ginny paused long enough to realize she was nose to nose with him and his breath was hot on her face. She froze, and his simper spread and he moved fast.

Suddenly her thighs were against the table and he was pressing against her, arms trapping her on both sides.

If it was possible to pale and flush at the same time, she was sure she was. Her heart was beating a mile a minute and she was torn between breathing shallow and fast and not breathing at all. “What are you doing?” She hissed, the words stringing together, frantically pushing at his shoulders.

“Collecting my winnings,” he murmured, arching his neck, lips trailing lightly over her jaw.

She shivered, and pushed him again. “Stop it. I don’t remember being on the table, Malfoy. Now stop it before you’ve got all of my brothers out to castrate you.”

“You could be on the table,” he suggested, and Ginny shoved at him as hard as she could manage.

He laughed, and she could feel her eyes filling with tears. “Please.”

He breathed against her neck, nipping gently at her ear in a way that made her knees feel a bit weak. “That’s the magic word, isn’t it?” He whispered, before crushing his lips against hers.

She tried to pull away, but he kissed her so hard it hurt, bruising her mouth with his. She made a sound of protest and dug her nails deep into his neck, but he only pulled her closer, tongue flicking out to soothe her puffy lips.

“Come on,” he exhaled impatiently, fingers weaving through her hair, keeping her lips near his.

“I said no,” she pushed at him again, and this time he stepped back, his silvery eyes filled with impatience.

She felt hot and itchy and high on fear and perverse excitement, and she reached to touch her kissed lips, pinning him with a heavy look.

“Give me my skirt.”

A corner of his mouth coiled upwards, and suddenly he looked dangerous again. “No, Weasley, I don’t think I will,” he said calmly, voice laced with ice. “If you’re so comfortable shedding the thing, you’ll manage getting back to your bed without it.”

“Give it to me,” she choked out, ire racing through her veins. She lunged for it, but he held it up again, cocking his brow.

“I said no.” He repeated her words from before, and then stuffed the garment in some inner pocket, hand emerging with a few coins that he dropped between them. “But thanks for the good time.”

He smiled at her aghast expression, leaving without another word, robes billowing behind him.

3. Thin Lines

Title: Highrollers
Rating: R
Ship: Draco/Ginny, implied Blaise/Tracey
Timeline/Spoilers: Who knows? Some alternate 6th year for Ginny; 7th for Draco.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
Summary: Draco Malfoy doesn't know how to have any fun. Incidentally, neither does Ginny Weasley, so it's all rather doomed from the start.

Notes: Long time, no update. I had a strange burst of inspiration to add a chapter, so here it is. Hopefully it's just as enjoyable as you guys found the other chapters; I had a good time writing it. I know the tone is a bit more serious, but I think that was inevitable. Anyway, hopefully you guys like it!

She was going to kill Draco Malfoy. There was no doubt in her mind that this would come to pass. If she said it out loud, she would not stutter. That slimy, disgusting little ferret would get what was coming to him, and Ginny would be vindicated from the humiliation he'd subjected her to the other night. Kissing her like that, cornering her, having the holier-than-thou balls to give her three lowly knuts for half-terrifying her and being angry when she didn't put out for him. And taking her skirt! She liked that skirt!

The sexist, misogynistic, prejudice, awful, disgusting... She was simply running out of appropriate adjectives. As it were, she had no plans of yet, but she was sure she would think of something brilliant, something to put Salazar Slytherin himself to shame. And then Draco would be just as hopelessly humiliated as she'd been, and all would be right in the world.

She stalked the halls the next morning like a woman possessed (no pun intended, for she did catch the irony of that metaphor, thank you very much), her head held high, her long, fiery hair following. Her eyes were bright, and livid, and people steered clear of her as she streaked her path into the Great Hall for breakfast. It was full by that time, the cacophony of students and teachers talking and laughing filling the large room, the smells of hot foods wafting into her freckled nose.

But Ginny couldn't care less about all that, no. She halted and her gaze immediately sifted through the sea of silver and green, searching and searching until her attention was caught by Draco Malfoy's slick white-blond hair. He was sitting with Blaise, picking at a muffin, and she merely smirked, a promising, furious twist of her lips when his bored, grey eyes lifted to hers. Oh Draco Malfoy, she thought sweetly to herself. You messed with the wrong Weasley this time.

Draco Malfoy wasn't intimidated in the least. Really, watching the dirty little witch put on an angry look for him was at most entertaining and at least astoundingly pathetic. Although he'd be the first to (secretly) admit the idea of her besting him in this little war she seemed to be waging was frankly adorable. Just as adorable as she'd been last night, so very full of rage and so very warm against him. Pansy always did say he got off on pissing everyone off. Ginny's fantastic knockers just made that astute observation all the more true.

So he smiled, quite simply, lecherously and maliciously back at her, reaching to loosen his tie as he licked his bottom lip and gave her to old up-and-down. She flushed prettily, and he felt victorious over the ire she must be feeling, the way her cool attitude hesitated as she turned to the Gryffindor table to sit.

Yes, Draco Malfoy wasn't worried about the little weasel in the least. She'd stay right under his thumb, where she belonged.

That was precisely when Blaise opened his big mouth. "Malfoy, I was just remembering the time when Ginny Weasley hexed you. Wasn't that just a brilliant hex?"

"Shut it, Zabini," he ordered, with just enough venom to let the smart arse know he meant business.

Blaise gave him that infuriatingly all-knowing, thin-lipped smile and went back to his toast, but Draco couldn't help but sneer and peek up at the redhead in question with a glaring look of trepidation. It had been a brilliant hex. The little spitefire, back when she didn't have curves, had given his snot pairs of dripping wings that attacked him mercilessly for an afternoon the year before. All because he might have subtly alluded to Harry Potter getting his just desserts when the Dark Lord rose. Well perhaps not subtly and maybe he'd included the mudblood and her ignoramus of a brother in that threat too, but no bother.

Draco cast Crabbe and Goyle a look from the corner of his eye. They were stuffing their faces with no manners whatsoever, as usual. It'd been awhile since he had the two bumbling fools watch his back, but perhaps he'd start stringing them around for a week, just for old time's sake or something to that effect. He smirked, glanced at little Ginny Weasley, and went back to his muffin.

It just was not fair. Perhaps Ginny's wonderful plan of giving Draco a good hex when his back was turned had the right Slytherin spirit to it, but something told her Salazar himself would more likely laugh at the attempt than pat her on the back and give her a high mark for effort. Draco seemed to always be two steps ahead of her anyway, the alarmingly sharp prat that he was, and had Crabbe and Goyle shadowing him like his loyal, idiotic dogs once again. It was enough to drive Ginny to enraged distraction, the kind that even Luna took notice of while they were working on Potions homework in the library.

"Do you have a crush on Draco Malfoy?" she asked, in a tone that suggested some unimportant topic such as the weather. Coincidentally, she was looking out the window when she posed the question, too.

Unsurprisingly, Ginny had never been more horrified in her life, and lashed out at Luna for even wondering something as positively, awfully awful as that. Luna had simply changed the subject to enchanted tree bark, and that was that.

Or it would have been, if Theodore Nott hadn't been following her around like a puppy in heat, asking her back to his blasted strip poker games with the ambition of, well, a true Slytherin. She'd been walking down the hall to Transfiguration as he pestered her about it, only a few days after Luna's ridiculous question, when it occurred to Ginny that perhaps Theo could help her, however unwittingly. Wasn't he close with Draco? She stopped abruptly and turned to look at the boy, who stopped short in his path and in his meaningless prattles.

"You know where Malfoy's special Head Boy room is, don't you?" she asked, and Theo rose his brows is both surprise and amusement.

"Well, yeah," he replied, and then narrowed his gold eyes at her. She had nearly forgotten how strikingly predatory they were, since she had been avoiding any unnecessary contact with him for nearly a week, but now she was forced to put on a brave face and tip her chin up just to prove it. The puzzle pieces seemed to be fitting into their places for Theodore, and she could see them nestle in snugly by the changing of his expression and the slight curl of his lips. It reminded her quite suddenly that this opportunistic Slytherin was indeed an opportunist and a Slytherin, and she should be a bit more careful, perhaps. "What happened between you two that night anyway, little Ginny? Pansy came back to the common room in a right state, and quite a bit of time before Draco, too..."

"Nothing," she replied too quickly, flustering and blushing like an eleven-year-old. So much for careful; Nott's eyes were flashing at her reaction. "Look," she spoke up, her voice infused with strength and conviction now, "he was a right prat to me that night and I didn't appreciate him leering and carrying on like he did. It was rude and disgusting and I want to hex him so badly his grandchildren will feel it. Will you help me?"

"What's in it for me?"

"I'll go to your silly poker game again."


And so it was, on the anniversary of her humiliation, that Ginny Weasley was climbing up a familiar ladder into a familiar room, only to be met with a particularly self-satisfied smirk of a familiar person--and only one person.

"You know," Draco drawled as her jaw dropped, "I never much cared for Nott. Always chasing tail and being a wanker and the like, but he drove an admirably hard bargain for you. Thankfully, I've got more resources and pull than he does, Weasley."

Her cheeks were already suffusing with an angry pink color as she watched him twirl his wand, dressed to the nines in expensive robes and his Hogwarts uniform, leaning against the rickety old table. It took her a few precious moments to realize what he was saying: that Theo had played her, sold her out for some undisclosed sum of money or what have you, and any useful information she could have gleaned from the traitor was evaporating right in front of her eyes.

She was seeing red, she was sure, but she was also seeing Draco Malfoy smirking at her like Christmas had come early. She reached into her robes impulsively for her wand, ready to hex him into oblivion when he raised his own. "Now, now, Miss Weasley. You don't want to hex the Head Boy, do you?"

She froze, seething, her chest raising and falling with shallow, frustrated breaths. Her fingers curled into fists and it physically pained her to bring them down to her sides. "What do you want with me, Malfoy?" she bit out. "You've humiliated me, now you've bested me. What the bloody hell is your game?" She spat the last, watching as the grey of his eyes shone a triumphant silver, as if he was waiting for that question. Her stomach was in knots because she was finally alone with the cruel boy, but in none of the scenarios she ever imagined during the last week. He was always a sniveling, begging mess at her feet or something just as delightful. Not cocky and regal as he smiled slyly and pushed off the table to draw nearer.

Ginny took a step back, gritting her teeth as he challenged her with a cool look and continued forward. She held her ground, because she was sure he'd take it as a victory if she didn't. Thoughts nagged at her, her unanswered questions banging incessantly against her skull. What was his game? What was so important that he had to buy Theo off her like she was his damn property? She nearly vomited at the thought, her cinnamon glare burning up at his pretty, pointed face as he pulled her robe open, snatched up her wand, and tossed it into some darkened corner.

Maybe she should have felt afraid at that, but she didn't; she merely felt twice as enraged. "What is your game?" The words burst forth, but his given surname was muffled as his lips crushed against hers once again, just as forceful and demanding as before. The heels of her hands came up to beat at his shoulders, and she tried in vain to turn her head away. But the slender fingers of one of his hands had wrapped around her hair, tugging her back to him by the roots. She tripped forward, because he'd pressed her body to his torso so close it was difficult to breathe, or maybe that was a result of how his mouth was attacking hers, teeth biting and tongue pressing forward past her parted lips.

She was shocked clearly; that's why it took her a moment to try to wriggle from his grip and his low, answering laugh. Her nails scratched down his neck and he hissed, squeezed her tighter as she let out a stray whimper. She curled her fingers around the collar of his shirt instead, bunching it in her grip. If anything, she could wrinkle his pristine and pressed clothes until he was done assaulting her.

He pulled back finally, his pink lips swollen from hers as she glared steadily up at him, still in his embrace. "I couldn't help but notice you're not saying 'no' now, Weasley," he pointed out breathlessly, and the truth of his statement filled her with shamed ire.

"Couldn't very well do that when you were forcing your tongue down my throat, could I?" she spit back, pressing up on her toes to better get in his face. His eyes flashed, looked down at her lips.

"You weren't biting it off," he retorted.

She flushed, because she could have. "Why don't you try again then and see?" The words left her before she could examine them, before she could identify them as a twisted kind of invitation. There was something dark in her that wanted him to, wanted to indulge this damned desire for him. Could she have fought him off harder the first time as well? Is that why he was doing this, to test her? One look in his silver gaze told her she was simply mad, that Draco Malfoy was an awful, disgusting person who had divested her of her wand and for all she knew was planning on having his way with her.

So why wasn't she scared?

He always got what he wanted. It was as simple as that. He was spoiled, and Ginny Weasley was appetizing to him. He wanted, simply put, to control her flame of hatred for him, make her bend to his will so he could have what he wanted. And here she was, trapped in his arms and responding to him once again, in such perfect, sweet ways underneath her violent refusals. There's a thin line between lust and hate and all that.

Her little challenge made him pause, made his lips curl up into a smirk. The backs of her fingers were against his neck and he found he liked the soft touch accompanied by that uncertain, shameful desire in her eyes. For him. "Is that what you want, Ginny?" he asked in a lover's murmur. The tone of his voice seemed to confuse her, and her light lashes fluttered. His fingers loosened around her hair then; his eyes traced the splattering of her dark freckles. "You want me to kiss you."

"No," she responded quickly, furiously. This time when she shoved him, he let her strength overcome his, and he took a few steps back, his teeth flashing as he chuckled at her. How fucking precious she was, wanting him. And even as the mirth of that fact resounded in him, she stripped it away with her next words. "You want to kiss me," she accused of him hotly, "because you're a filthy pervert and you liked what you saw. This is all just a disgusting game to you and I want no part of it. Go fuck Parkinson, I'm sure the bitch will like it."

His face fell at that, and he was still feeling the building fury at her words when she turned from him, her skirt twirling as she shakily searched for her wand among crates of empty butterbeers. "You Muggle-loving blood traitor," he spat, and ate up the space between them in only a few determined strides. She straightened even as he grabbed her arm, her wand jabbing him in the gut. "Back off," she snarled, their eyes clashing. He was furious, emotions churning within him as she held his gaze. Furious at the truth in her accusal, furious at the helplessness of the situation, how she had so utterly gained the upper hand with a few words. He didn't want to kiss her, he wanted to control the stupid bint; surely she could see the fucking difference, and now she was ruining it with her pretty little mouth. By telling him the game was over. It wasn't over until he said so.

He stepped closer, tried to contain himself. He was in control. He always was. "Don't forget who my father is, Ginny Weasley. Who my family is. You'll regret making me angry," he threatened, but Ginny merely smiled tightly. "Stupefy," she whispered, and Draco's eyes hardly had time to widen before he was thrown back and knocked unconscious.

4. Not All Bad

Note: I didn't foresee this chapter happening so soon, but HP has its claws in me again, I guess. Just another thing: the Slytherins in this? Not canon at all. Like I told a reviewer, I've had pretty detailed ideas of them before we got to know them better. I figured since this is very AU, I'd have some fun with said ideas. Hope you like this chapter!

There really wasn't much to be said of the week that followed; Draco had woken up with a nasty cut over his eye and a renewed sense of hatred for all redheaded and freckled freaks. He stalked the halls, livid beyond the telling of it, plotting and scheming with all his might to prove to Ginny Weasley that their little battle of wills wasn't over. She was none the wiser because if there was anything a self-respecting Slytherin was, it was a snake in the grass.

Still, she pinned him with guarded looks sometimes, in hallways and across the Great Hall, like she knew there was some dark madness festering within him. And that was fine; she could sense the snake, but she still couldn't anticipate when it would strike, if it would strike, and how venomous it could be. It was these thoughts that afforded him the peace of mind to sleep at night. Otherwise he'd just look up into the shadows of his hangings and think about her fingers at his collar or how lovely the anger in her eyes was or something equally infuriating like that.

He was a man possessed; even Potter and his merry band of idiots suffered less because of it. If Draco were in any right mind he would have to admit that he'd never been so consumed by his hatred before, not even over the scarred git. That's why when Draco didn't have his Head Boy duties or studies to keep him sufficiently busy, he used his extra time either glaring at the object of his obsession or thinking of ways to humiliate her.

The possibility of the latter fell into his lap the next Sunday near the lake. She was alone, which he was noticing wasn't much of a trend for Ginny Weasley, although curiously neither was having many friends. Looney Lovegood seemed to always be with the girl, and if she wasn't a gaggle of obnoxious Gryffindors chatted little Ginny's ears off. Maybe that's why for once she looked in her element or whatnot, sprawled across a patch of grass and reading a book. What was worse was that she was dressed in muggle clothing, like the poor excuse for a pureblooded witch she was. He took a moment to sneer over the disgrace, running a hand through his immaculate hair as he walked over, wand out. She was wearing jeans and some loose-fitting plaid shirt that looked decades faded, and her brilliantly red hair was pulled back in a messy plait that hung over her shoulder.

Somehow her brazen lack of class drove him even madder with annoyance that he couldn't wrap her around his finger.

Her back was to him as he approached; he was alone as well. (He'd dispensed of those great oafs Crabbe and Goyle a few days ago, when it became clear Ginny Weasley wasn't shadowing his step anymore. That bothered him, of course. It meant she'd been serious about staying away from him and that would just not do.) He realized he could curse her like this. No one was around and she wouldn't even know it was coming. Yet he dispensed that idea before it even fully coalesced. He wanted to look her in the eyes, really enjoy the moment. Now that thought filled him with excitement, and he strutted ever closer.

"What do you want, Malfoy?"

Her even, unworried tone startled him to a stop and for a moment he wondered if the girl had eyes hidden under that mess of ugly, soft hair. He growled out his frustration at being identified, picked up his pace, and reached down to snatch the book from her hands. She barely flinched, but her sweet brown eyes looked up at him with more than a little annoyance.

Good. She should be annoyed. "Is that any way to greet to your superior in every way, Ginevra?" he drawled, glancing at book's title. 101 Useful Charms and How to Cast Them.

"Well, Draco," she said testily, "when said superior person has assaulted the other on two occasions, a bit of a cold shoulder is expected, don't you agree?"

"It's not assault if both parties enjoyed it," he spat back, and then tossed the book unceremoniously towards her face. She caught it, her Chaser reflexes sharp, and glared up at him, her cheeks flushing at the snide and very true remark. He didn't particularly like that snotty, red look of hers at the moment, but he'd take what he could get for now, his grey eyes roaming over the little bow of her mouth. Of course she had to open it.

"Look Malfoy, if you're just going to stare at me like some pervert, will you at least get out of my sun? I'm trying to read, you arse."

"I'm not here to stare at your dirty face, Weasley," he hissed, incensed suddenly. He was not staring. "I'm here to hex you."

"No you're not," she argued heatedly. "Because if you were, you'd've done it already. So what do you want?" She said the words so plainly, with such assurance of her deduction, of her assessment of him. Yet it wasn't her confidence that enraged him; it was the realization that she was spot-on. His fingers tightened around his wand, his knuckles white.

Ginny Weasley was very tired of certain things in her life. She was quite tired of the monotony, she was a bit bored with her studies with the exception of Charms, and most troubling of all she'd been developing an impatience for her tittering friends this past week. It was such a lashing dislike that Ginny suspected it had probably been there all along, buried beneath the surface.

She wasn't quite sure how her run-ins with Malfoy had grated on her usually calm, arguably happy exterior in so many ways, but she wasn't feeling particularly pensive to figure out the connection, if there was any. All she knew was Luna had been right the other day; she was becoming a bit withdrawn over the whole situation. Of course, Luna had said it in her own unique way ("Ginny, I couldn't help but notice how often you're not with me when you are. I just thought you should know.") but Ginny understood.

Perhaps, yes, she would admit it: she hadn't been necessarily content with her life. She was Ginny Weasley, Ron's little sister and the victim of Tom Riddle, and apparently just another token female once infatuated with Harry Potter. She supposed there wasn't anything wrong with such monikers; they were true. It wasn't as if everyone saw her like that much anymore. She'd made her own way this past year, trying out for Quidditch, making friends and all. But there was a strange off sort of feeling in her nonetheless, something she just couldn't pinpoint.

If she did try to figure out this whole frustrating and saddening situation, Ginny might come to conclusion that she was lonely because of all those things, because that little git Malfoy had brought a mirror to her face, forced her to see some shameful desire that ruined the girl she was trying to be. That strong girl with no silly infatuations on boys who didn't want her, who wasn't drawn in by cruel Slytherins with honeyed words. And yet he'd forced her to come out of that shell a bit. She liked her shell; it kept her safe and snug.

But back to things that made her tired: Malfoy, the smarmy prat in front of her. He had made her tired this past week, always following her with leering, livid glares. It wasn't the glaring that made her sigh however, just the frequency, because it happened so often she couldn't help but keep her guard up and she couldn't put their misguided kisses from her mind. She really would like to forget about them and him, if she could manage both.

But he seemed determined not to let sleeping dogs lie, so here they were. No matter, however. She might find the gigantic arse attractive, but she still had her dignity and she'd meet his eyes now, when he was struggling to answer her simple question for the umpteenth time. It occurred to Ginny that he'd never even answered it last week. What was his game? What did he want from her? She wasn't even sure he knew at this point and she found the idea quite odd--that someone so self-assured like Malfoy would hesitate so genuinely over her.

He seemed to grow more and more infuriated by the second, his lips twisting into his trademark sneer, his grey eyes burning down at her. She was well aware of the wand in his hand, how his fingers clenched and unclenched around it, as if he were still deciding what curse would be most appropriate. Truth be told, she really wasn't sure if Draco would hex her or not, but she knew that he could have quite neatly without all this pomp and frill, so she'd stick by what she said. To be safe, she pulled back her arm to rest on a special pocket of her jeans, where her own wand was nestled.

"Well?" she prompted him impatiently, blinking up at him.

"Don't flatter yourself, pauper," he spat finally. "There's nothing you have that I could possibly want." His jaw clenched; he seemed to come to himself, cooling his anger as his haughty sneer twitched into a smirk. "Nothing I haven't already gotten a feel of, you filthy whore."

She was on her feet in an instant, wand out, but didn't even bother with a spell. Her hands found purchase on his broad chest and she shoved him with all her weight and might, feeling a dark kind of satisfaction when he stumbled back and nearly tripped over the slight incline of the hill. That careful indifference she'd been practicing fissured right down the middle at his awful words; her temper burst with hot indignation as she raised her wand to him. How dare he? How dare he? "Expelliarmus!"

He slashed at the air wordlessly, and her disarming charm rebounded. She stepped out of its way with a slight shriek. It hit the grass in a flash of light, exploded against the green blades. She'd barely turned back to Draco before he was on her, grabbing at her wand hand and twisting her wrist painfully--her foot came down on his, and hard. He gave a yelp when she barreled into him again, tucking her shoulder, just as she'd do with any of her dumb brothers. Draco fell this time, gracelessly and to the grass in a sprawl. Her momentum was what cursed her.

She landed on him heavily, her wrist throbbing against his chest where he still had ahold of it. He was lean beneath her, all long limbs and a broad torso that exuded warmth, as if he was an actual human being with a soul and the like. But the problem was he was a bastard who'd just called her a whore, and he still had a hold of her wrist in some painful death-grip. She only had to make a play to wrench it away once; he took that as some acceptable cue to roll them over, his weight pinning her to the ground.

"Listen to me, witch," he hissed, his breath against her lips, his hands fighting hers. She swiped at him, writhed with a small degree of panic, her heart thudding in her chest. He was stronger than her and heavier. There was no arguing that, but she was angry and frustrated and fought him with all her strength, letting out grunts and one last soft cry when he'd finally secured both of her wrists. Her lashes wet with annoyed tears, her teeth gritted as her body went hopelessly limp. She could see the marks of her nails on his neck and wondered why the vain arse had kept them; she could see the victorious tilting of his stupid mouth, the way his lips fit around the sticking charm he whispered, wand pointed at her wrists above them. He plucked her own from her fingers, threw it carelessly to the side, and looked down at her contorted face.

"Good, now you have to listen to me," he said calmly, and let his palms run down her arms. She gave them a harsh tug, but it did no good. She was completely stuck.

"I don't have to do anything," she bit out stubbornly, tried to kick at his legs. It was to little avail however; his knees had separated hers in the struggle, and she pulled in a sharp, audible breath when the frenzied movement brought a particular part of his anatomy to her attention. His hips had slid further up to pin her, and there it was--heavy and half-hard against her stomach. Her face burned and she stopped completely, owing his arousal to her mindless wriggling. Her eyes flicked up to his with accusations and disgust filling them.

It was disgusting, holding her down and somehow getting off on it, but she still felt an awful thrill at it, some gross power that she could do that to him. He wanted her. That's what he wanted; she could see it in his icy gaze, only warmed by his lust and his amusement. Unchecked locks of his hair fell forward, ruining the perfection of his cruel appearance, but she rather liked it imperfect anyway. She could feel her angry expression slackening as her chest rose and fell against his, too shallow and short. What will he do with me now? she wondered, and ached at the thought, was scared by it; in all truth more scared of herself than him.

"You're disgusting," she murmured, feeling strangely excited now, searching the depths of his widened pupils.

"Am I? I think you rather like it. Why don't you kiss me, Ginny?"

Yes, there were those honeyed words, the ones that pulled her in, tempted her. Her gaze dropped, as if heavy, to his lips. They were pale like the rest of him, but pink, and curved almost sweetly. They parted and he tipped his head closer, nose brushing hers, his breath slight and warm and expectant. Gently coaxing her even, but still so very sure. He waited, as if suddenly finding a store of patience, and she shuddered when his hands ran down her sides to her hips.

He can be nice when he wants to be, she thought absently. When he wants something.

"I'll never kiss you, Malfoy," she whispered to him. He froze above her. She didn't know what she expected, why she watched him raptly through half-closed eyes. She couldn't figure his expression, not when he was so close. He was tense, she could tell, coiled even. For a moment she was afraid he might strike in some way, but he was already pulling back, his face a mask of blank control, his eyes avoiding hers as he pulled himself to his feet and brushed his robes off.

"This isn't over, pet," he said without bite. "I'll leave you here like this, Ginny. Hopefully one of your sorry friends will find you before lunch."

None of her so-called sorry friends found her and for this she was actually quite grateful. Being found meant admitting someone had pinned her in a very questionable position, and she was sure without any doubt that such a thing would get around to Ron and then most definitely the rest of the trio, including Harry. This set Ginny's stomach flipping, the fear of it twisting her insides. It was particularly awful, this fear--the fear of Harry knowing--but Ginny set it aside as she twisted and tried to capture her wand between her feet. It was just far enough to evade her efforts.

See, the trouble with good, brave Harry knowing was if Harry knew then he'd probably do something just as dumb as her pigheaded brother. And if they knew who... This thought provoked an even stronger ambition to retrieve her wand and get herself out of this ridiculous mess.

The truth of the matter was maybe she still felt a pang or two for dear Harry Potter; she honestly couldn't help that bit of lingering affection. He was who he was, for Merlin's sake. Ginny let out a soft sound of frustration and stretched her body to its longest length, kicking the tips of her toes at her wand.

She just didn't want to be the center of attention, didn't want Harry to notice her after all her efforts to stop noticing him. And she certainly didn't want Harry and Ron of all people to somehow stumble upon the fact she might be attracted to that Slytherin troll.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a shadow, and Ginny turned her head up, slightly panicked for a moment. But the boy towering over her wasn't Harry or Ron, or even Draco back for another row. It wasn't even Theodore, who gave her slimy smirks in the halls but steered clear of her, probably because of his deal with Malfoy.

"My gods, Miss Weasley. You've really gotten him in a tizzy, haven't you?" Blaise Zabini was looking down at her with that patented kind of Slytherin amusement, his blue eyes sparkling under the crop of his dark hair. Despite all her upbringing, Ginny nearly relaxed. Zabini never raised her hackles like all the other Slytherins. There was just something genuinely kind in his eyes that made her believe he was good at the core.

"I don't know what you're talking about," she grumbled from the ground and he laughed with heart, throwing his head back. (It was quite an attractive laugh, Ginny was secretly thinking, and not one at her expense, thank the gods.) He then pulled out his wand and reversed Malfoy's sticking charm without even being asked.

She let out a relieved sigh and sat up, rubbing her abused wrists with a slight pout. From the corner of her eye, she saw Blaise squat next to her. She looked up curiously to be met with his wry smile. "I suppose you wouldn't," he answered belatedly. There was something about his tone that piqued Ginny's attention. Was he being intentionally vague and mysterious?

"What's that supposed to mean?" she demanded. He simply smirked.

"You Gryffindors never have any tact, you know that?" he asked rhetorically. "Always assuming you can use force and loud language to get what you want. You know that's the difference between us, really? Not all that good and evil rubbish. Slytherins know there's more than one way to go about things."

"What are you getting at?" she bit out, knowing she was playing right into his words and helpless to stop it. She was frustrated and the day hadn't exactly been going swimmingly.

"That though," he said, gesturing to her general form. "That anger is all Weasley, Ginevra." She glared at him levelly, not in the mood for beating around any bushes. He sensed it and gave her a kind, knowing smile. "Look, he's a prat. A right spoiled bastard who's just angry he can't have what he wants so easily. He's acting out. But he's not all bad."

His words astounded her, confused her more than she would have liked. Blaise straightened and passed her by, walking away now that she was too stunned to respond. She was suspicious that had been done on purpose. Malfoy, not all that bad? She let out a humorless, disbelieving heh and spun to catch sight Blaise's retreating back. "He's not paying you to say that, is he?" she called to him, pushing herself gracelessly to her feet.

Blaise stopped to give her a rueful smile. "I'm not so easily swindled, Miss Weasley," he responded, and turned away again, continuing back to the castle. "The answer is no, by the way. Don't let Slytherins give you half-answers."

Ginny simply watched him leave, her brow furrowed. She managed to call out a belated "thank you!" to his back for freeing her, but she wasn't sure if he heard it.

5. After Curfew

Note: *leaves this here* I'm on a roll. Thank you for your reviews!

It was miraculous how quickly and thoroughly Draco seemed to leave her alone. She should be happy about it, fully and completely, and she supposed she would be. If only it weren't confusing and strange and if only she didn't spend half her time over the next several days looking over her shoulder. That was the nerve-wracking part of all this; Ginny was waiting for him to come after her again, expecting it. He wanted her, didn't he? Blaise had said he was used to getting what he wanted, and despite her immediate misgivings about trusting the Slytherin, she couldn't help but lend his words some credence.

But she only saw Malfoy in the Great Hall after that Sunday, strutting in with that ridiculously self-entitled gait, head held high, as if he had nothing to be ashamed of. He hardly glanced at her to her knowledge, which was considerable, since she spent a bit of time glancing at him, just to make sure he wasn't looking at her.

She felt awful about it, and angry that she felt awful, because she was just looking out for herself, being so aware of him. But that wasn't the whole truth and she knew it, of course. Frankly she was ashamed of herself, still being drawn to him after he treated her as he had. Three times now. Three times over. What kind of person did that make her? She felt like a first year again, sick with twisted affection for a possessed diary and unable to stay away. Not that she'd call this affection. It was more aptly named lust, as if that made it any better.

Draco Malfoy was driving her mad. That was the conclusion she came to by mid-week-that or she had been stark-raving before and he simply pushed her over the edge.

"Ginny, I think I'd like some eggs. Would you pass them?" Luna's voice startled her from such musings that Wednesday morning. They were sitting at the Ravenclaw table, eating a bit of breakfast before the day began, and Ginny had been peeking over her friend's shoulder to catch a glimpse of the Slytherin table. She diverted her eyes quickly and handed over the bowl, turning determinedly back to her plate.

Perhaps it was time she went on with her life, just as it had been before this mess. Perhaps he was done with her and she could breathe a little easier. Just the thought had weights falling from her shoulders and she gave a little sigh, even as her stomach gave an uneasy little twist. She'd rather not acknowledge why: that as unwelcome as his demanding attention had been, she had liked certain things about it. The thrill of it, the feeling of being wanted and chased and such. It wasn't as if she had been sincerely afraid of the prat, except for that first time, just a little. But he'd-well, he'd stopped that time, and the second time, and the third time as well.

She blanched at the thought, felt physically sick, because it snuck into her thoughts for not the first time these past few weeks. The wave of shame and disgust she felt for herself nearly suffocated her for a moment. She didn't-she couldn't-she was as bad as that horrible troll if she did. She was pathetic.

She just wished the damn attraction would cease. And it would, she decided. Starting today, she, Ginny Weasley, would not concern herself with Draco Malfoy's unfortunate existence. She drank to this deal greedily, nearly gulping half of her grapefruit juice.

Unfortunately, the gods weren't so keen on this little deal with herself, and deigned to torture her for it. She stayed in some hidden, deep corner of the library too late that night-too hidden and too deep for even Madame Pince to check before she retired to bed. Ginny fell right asleep atop her Potions homework sometime after dinner and didn't wake up until the stars were out and a bit of ink had seeped into her cheek.

She wasn't aware of the latter, but she was certainly aware it must be past curfew when she jolted awake, as if suddenly realizing she had dozed off. It was quiet-quiet in that off-putting way only an empty, old library could be. The only light was from the moon, streaming in from the window behind her. It lit her surroundings in an eerie blue glow, along with her ink, her old quill and half-filled parchment. Blearily, she rubbed her face and cursed softly, raising from her armchair with stiff limbs, and started gathering her things.

Draco set about his rounds that night both irate and tired. A part of him wished some ickle firsties might be out of bed and roaming the castle-or better yet Potter and company-so he could expel all this excess frustration. He could take ten-no, twenty points-from their inferior house and maybe even doll out a detention or seven. Draco hardly needed the extra encouragement to be so giving, especially when it came to such insufferable idiots, but today Pansy had managed to get on his last nerve during dinner. She even steered clear of him afterwards, not bothering to drape herself over him in the common room and annoy him incessantly by begging for forgiveness.

Ever since he had initiated his little side project or whatever it was concerning Ginny Weasley, Pansy had taken to lavishing him with attention double-fold. He tolerated it because what would father think if he sent his future wife crying to her pug-nosed parents? Not that they were officially betrothed or anything, but Draco knew what his parents expected of him, and the Parkinsons were a noble, wealthy family of good blood.

However, it wasn't as if Draco particularly liked Pansy as a person. She was clingy and despite her upbringing could still use a few lessons in proper etiquette. He supposed she'd been charming those first few years of school, but now he was bored of her. And the way she pestered him. Gods, it set his teeth gritting just thinking about her transparent jealousy for that redheaded tart.

Of course that was the cause of Pansy's outburst: Ginny Weasley.

Dinner had started normally enough that night. Draco had sat next to Blaise; Pansy next to Tracey. Theo was a good distance down the table, chatting up Adrienna Putain, in part because he was in love with the girl but mostly because Draco was still annoyed at him for encroaching on his territory. (The fact that Theodore had noticed Ginny first was of no concern to Draco. He was a Malfoy.) Blaise and Tracey were being their sickeningly sweet selves and whispering to each other across their plates; Draco had long since stopped suspecting they were plotting or exchanging too many secrets worthwhile. They were just in love, although to their credit they weren't disgustingly public about it. Of course, Pansy was yammering about this or that and Draco was merely trying to eat his chicken in some semblance of peace.

"-find the counter-curse for it. Do you know the one I mean? And of course Longbottom is as blind as he is stupid and nearly crushed my toe. It just goes to show-are you listening to me, Draco? I'm trying to tell you a-Draco, why are you staring at that stupid bint again? I'm talking to you!"

He was, in all honesty (not that Draco was ever very honest), looking at Ginny while Pansy was rambling, not that it was anyone's concern or business. The problem with Pansy was that she thought it was her concern and business. Sure enough, she was an unattractive magenta color and glaring hard at him when he slid his eyes to her face.

He rose a condescending brow at her and asked simply, "What do you want now, Pansy?"

She flushed, her fingers curling tight around her cutlery. "I want you to look at me when I'm speaking to you! And stop gazing at that dirty thing over my shoulder," she added in an incensed undertone.

By this time, both Blaise and Tracey had ceased their lovers' talk and were observing the argument with mild interest. Draco, on the other hand, was clenching his jaw, his eyes cold with distaste. Pansy almost flinched at the sight of it, but held her chin up. "Pansy, we are not a couple," he hissed to her. "And whining isn't helping your case, did you know that? It's rather unattractive. I suggest you stop."

Her face had crumpled at that, her jaw dropping slightly as he rose and tossed his napkin on the table. He nearly felt a pang of remorse at the pain taking hold of her features, but he shrugged it off as he stalked out of the Great Hall. She had to back off and stop telling him what to do and where to look. He was not gazing at Ginny Weasley, for Merlin's sake. He was simply admiring her general being and wondering over her blasted existence, that was all. She was disgusting. Her red hair was eye-catching. Frankly unavoidable. And completely out of his fucking reach. No, no. He didn't want to lower himself; he was out of hers.

Had he gone mad thinking these things? He was beginning to suspect so. He wanted to curse himself for going to Theodore's poker game that night, for even seeing the girl in her skimpy knickers. He seemed to hate himself (no, he hated her, never himself) more and more each day for letting his pride and hormones get the best of him, because that was surely the case here. Father always said to remember oneself, one's superior place in the world. And most important of all, to keep oneself in check and under control at all times.

And Ginny Weasley-Ginny Weasley-had been such a fucking force of nature that she nearly burned down all of those lessons before he thankfully realized it. (Or more accurately before Blaise had helped him realize days before, after his and Ginny's spat by the lake. Something about keeping a level head and how it separated them from the animals; the Slytherins from everybody else. It struck a chord, and then Draco had vowed to stay away from the minx. For now.)

Really, so what if she refused to kiss him, refused to give into him? He was still content with the knowledge she wanted to, at least for the moment. He didn't need to shag her to prove his point or anything; she was below him. He had this over her, anyway. At any moment he could parade this through the halls and watch Potter and the Weasel explode. Surely she knew he had the upper-hand. She hadn't breathed a word of their encounters. So when he had time he'd continue play cat and mouse with her, but he had other things to worry about at the moment. Like rounds, and Pansy, and denying this blow to his ego, all the while nursing it back to health.

So he was in a right state patrolling the halls that night, listening hard for anyone out of bed and breaking the rules. Most of the younger students were frightened of him, and for good reason, so unfortunately such a thing was hard to come across these days, especially after curfew. He was therefore pleasantly surprised to hear the light, quick padding of footfalls near the library, and curious when he heard a few soft thuds and a muffled curse.

He smirked and turned the corner, searching for the unlucky person to receive his wrath. The torches lining the hall cast illumination on the scene in front of him: a head of crimson hair and a smudged freckled cheek. Ginny Weasley was on her knees, surrounded by littered books and quills, unaware of his presence as she sought to collect her possessions under the flickering flames.

Draco wasn't quite sure if he was blessed or cursed, having this opportunity. His smirk twisted into a half-sneer, and he walked over with purpose, delighting in the startled expression on her pretty little face when she looked up.

"It's after curfew, Weasley," he announced, stopping in front of her. He wasn't opposed in the least to the position she was in now: sprawled at his feet, like a pet. He kicked one of her ratty books towards her with the toe of his shoe. She seemed in awe for some odd reason, her cheeks flushing pink and her lips parted. He merely grinned broadly at her wide cinnamon eyes. "Ten points from Gryffindor."

This seemed to shake her out of her dull stupor, anger contorting her features. "Ten?" she sputtered.

"Another five for questioning the Head Boy," he drawled, and felt satisfaction as she pursed her lips and her eyes darkened. She wanted to say something; he just knew it, and he felt giddy with the fact that she couldn't lest she risk more points. Instead, she scooped up her books and pushed herself unsteadily to her feet.

"Good night," she said harshly and with a note of finality, and breezed past him.

He turned with her, feeling as if the encounter was too abrupt, watching as she rushed down the hall, apparently eager to be rid of him. It wasn't enough; he wanted to goad her on, get her incensed, look at her a bit more. He started to follow her, hungry for it. "That's it? I don't get a good night kiss, Weasley?"

"You know perfectly well my stance on kissing you, Malfoy," she said through clenched teeth, and walked faster. He cut her off easily and she stopped, took startled steps back.

"I'll take more points if I don't get a kiss, Ginny," he threatened with a wide grin. She looked disgusted, then astonished, and then she blushed, all the way down her neck and across her chest with a frown.

"Take all you want," she said firmly, and moved to pass him. He was quicker.

"All the kisses I want or all the points?"

"The points!" she clarified, her voice unsteady and echoing, her eyes darting from his as she blushed harder. "Let me pass," she demanded.

He gazed down at her for a moment afterward, his eyes bright as they looked over her from head to toe. He hadn't pounced on her like a common animal this time, but she certainly looked like willing prey, waiting patiently, fidgeting slightly. The only thing daring about her was her assertive stance, the way she bravely forced herself to meet his eyes and set her jaw like a true Gryffindor. He'd never appreciated that silly, foolish kind of courage before this moment. It wasn't a bad look on her. Amusing, mostly.

He smirked and moved to the side. She hesitated at his compliance for just a moment, suspiciously and narrowly eying him. Then she darted past him quick, as if he'd make a grab for her. He nearly chuckled, because he supposed it was something he'd do. She was learning.

He watched her walk briskly away, then slow dramatically, and finally stop. He cocked an eyebrow with interest as she turned towards him, looking at him strangely and clutching at her books like a lifeline. What is this now? he wondered. "Malfoy," she said, then paused.

"Yes?" he prompted.

Her words were clipped but sincere, starting slow and then tumbling out between her lips in a rush. "I hope you-well, I hope you realized that what you were doing to me was wrong and that's why you've stopped."

"Wrong?" he echoed with a note of incredulity. He supposed it was wrong, in a way, but not in the way she probably meant. It was wrong because it was a displeasing reflection of his character, wrong because his father wouldn't approve of his lack of control or his taste in women. He hardly did himself. But was it wrong to kiss her when she liked it, touch her when her body wanted it? Draco couldn't help but feel like that area was grey. She'd baited him a bit, hadn't she? Allowed it to a point? She was hardly innocent.

But he bet Potter wouldn't have kissed her like he did, wouldn't have touched her like he did, all noble and chivalrous as he was, and probably how Ginevra Weasley expected her men. Then again, Draco would bet Ginny might have been more open to the experience with that big, fumbling dolt. The thought made him bristle as he took a few calculated steps forward.

"I stopped because you're beneath me," he explained smoothly, cruelly, believing every word, even if it wasn't the whole truth. "You're not worth the considerable effort."

She flinched at that; he saw the flint in her eyes spark with her indignation and he reveled in it. "So if it were Daphne Greengrass-or say, Pansy Parkinson-you would have forced yourself on them?" she inquired diplomatically.

He scoffed. "I wouldn't force anyone to do anything, Weasley. They'd both accept me gladly."

There was a pause, and she looked at him hard, blinking fast. He thought it a bit odd, how she was looking at him, suspicious, even; all turbulent and searchingly before she pressed her lips together. "Well, maybe you should stick to them, then." Her response was a bit forced, a bit awkward. She turned away swiftly, took steps to leave for good this time.

What had he said to warrant such stiffness, warrant that look? He flitted through their conversation, through her probing questions, through her hesitancy, how she'd rushed through her words. His eyes narrowed at a thought, and he was off after her once again, reaching to grab her arm between his long fingers. She jumped at the contact, spun around and jerked away hard, her eyes all doe-eyed and pretty under the warm light.

She hovered there and so did he for a moment, her panic lessening slightly. He realized his demanding touch and sudden proximity must have put her on alert. But he wasn't going to kiss her now; he simply wanted to study her closely, watch the way a breath hitched in her chest as he took a step forward, and then another, and another. She moved back like an opposing magnet, her eyes never leaving his, not even when her back pressed flush with the wall.

He lifted a hand, flattened its palm on the cool stone above her shoulder, leaned over and arched his neck to be level with her eyes. She merely stared guardedly, gripping her books and sucking at her bottom lip. It was distracting him just a bit, how it popped out from her teeth and flushed back with color. He sucked in a breath. "Why did you want to know why I've stopped?" he murmured curiously.

Ginny hesitated, opened her mouth to reply, but the words seemed to be lost in her throat for a moment. She shook her head. "So I'd know for sure that you are stopping."

"Hrm," he intoned, decided to test that clever response. "You have detention with me, Weasley. Tomorrow night. Now leave before I make it two."

6. Being Pleasant

Note: As always, thank you for the reviews and the favoriting and the story alerts. :3

Secondly, this chapter tortured me for days on end. I don't know why it was so difficult, but it was. So I just want to get rid of it now. By posting it. IT'S DONE. FINALLY. YES. I CAN BREATHE.

Thirdly, this chapter is very Draco & Ginny-centric. (Although I suppose that's not necessarily means for complaint.) Next chapter however, there will be a cast of characters. Ron, Harry, probably Hermione, and also probably the lovely Blaise Zabini.

"Are you having fun?" There was an indignant slap as Ginny's dirty rag hit the floor.

"Loads, Weasley. How kind of you to ask," Draco drawled in response, looking up from his Transfiguration homework. She glared at him, which was her go-to expression so far during detention: eyes brimming with unchecked anger, her full lips in a quivering pout. If Draco were a lesser being, he might call the sight adorable. He supposed it was, if his type was some dirty pauper scrubbing the dungeon room's floor.

Then again, he thought, smirking as she went back to cleaning up Longbottom's last disastrous attempt at Potions, the view wasn't so bad. She was in another one of her uniform skirts--an awfully tattered thing--and he had a gracious view of her shapely thighs from where he sat. Even they were freckled, he noted, and he lingered on that discovery a moment. She was wearing red and gold knee-highs over her calves, along with a beaten-up pair of Mary Janes on her feet. The former clashed terribly with her mass of crimson hair, which was untidy in some intricate plait. He decided it wouldn't look too bad; if only it wasn't so poorly done, errant tendrils frizzing out on all sides.

Draco leaned back in his chair, absentmindedly playing with the quill in his fingers as he perused her appearance at his leisure. He was just admiring the cheap fabric of her button-down, or rather he was admiring how grossly thin it was and how he could make out the outline of her bra, when she stopped cleaning and fixed him with an uncomfortable look.

"Stop that," she ordered of him, and turned her warm brown eyes back to her task. Her cheeks were filling with color, pink splotches assaulting her cheeks. It was messy, the way she blushed. The way it deepened to a bright red and spread unevenly over her pale skin, camouflaging splatters of dark freckles. It was fitting, for a Weasley. Becomingly typical. He smiled.

"Stop what?" he inquired, although he knew what, of course.

"You know what, Malfoy," she answered impatiently. "You're staring at me like I'm a piece of meat. Stop it."

"Don't be crude," he admonished her with a sly smirk, although for all intents and purposes he certainly was doing so. "I'm simply appreciating you. It would be a lie to act like it's not exciting you. And you're a good girl, aren't you? You don't lie."

Ginny's only answer was scrubbing harder, although it was an effort in futility. He witnessed the clenching of her jaw, the pursing of her lips as she took out her frustration on the floor. He had been horrible giving her this task, hadn't he? Longbottom's spilled potion had hardened and clung to the stone like a strong sticking charm. He doubted any amount of scrubbing could get it clean; eventually he'd have to use magic to get rid of it.

"Says the person who called me a filthy whore," she finally spoke up, her voice filled with venom and uncharacteristic calculation. He cocked an eyebrow down at her, but she refused to look up. "You're the crude one. And I thought Malfoys were supposed to have class."

His lips were curling back into a sneer as she stopped to look up and admire her handiwork. She was all too pleased at his annoyance, he noticed with disdain. "Much more than you, pet," he retorted condescendingly.

"Struck a nerve, Malfoy?" She was nearly beaming, as if opening her inferior mouth about his family was some sort of high accomplishment, when in all actuality it was embarrassing. A Weasley insulting a Malfoy? Please, he could laugh. "And I'm not your pet," she added cheekily, with a matching smile to boot. There was something about it that filled him with pent-up, all-consuming frustration; he wanted to wipe the look off her face more than anything.

"I'll call you whatever I please," he said haughtily. He was glad there was only the barest hint of irritation in his tone. It would do no good to reward her for her little comment.

Yet a sweet, amused laugh poured past her lips anyway, filling the space between them. It was a dramatic change from her distracting pouts and simmering anger; his nostrils flared with indignation at it. Was she laughing at him? Because he didn't like it. The sound grated on him, itched at his nerves. She grated on him, how she so carelessly lifted the back of her small, dirty hand to cover her giggles, how she peered at him through her long, brown lashes with a dancing look.

It took more will power than he would care to admit not grabbing for her, pulling her to him in order to shut her up. He wasn't quite sure what he'd do once he had his hands on her, but strangling and snogging were both appealing options. Instead he set his jaw and tossed his quill onto his books, patiently waiting for her childish amusement to cease.

It did finally, slowing to a blessed stop. "You haven't been pleasant a day in your life, have you?" she teased him. He didn't particularly like the way she was looking at him, happy like that. As if she were having fun, poking at him. For all she knew he was entirely pleasant to those worthy of it. Not that he was, ever. Not even he could lie to himself about that. People were too irritating and that was hardly his fault.

"I have no reason to be pleasant to you," he spat evasively. And he didn't. She was a Weasley, and she was poor and dirty. She defended muggles and mudbloods; she was a cancerous wart on the proud name of wizard.

"None?" she piped up with a wry smile, tipping her chin up proudly. One of her eyebrows arched up and completed her challenging stare. "You want me to kiss you, don't you? Being pleasant wouldn't hurt your chances."

Ginny Weasley knew she was probably digging her own grave by taunting Draco Malfoy, but she figured he deserved it after tormenting her these past few weeks. (Not to mention tormenting everybody else his whole life.) And perhaps she was enjoying getting under his skin a bit, and a bit too much. There was something satisfying about how his mouth twisted when he was irritated, the way his aristocratic posture stiffened. He really was quite the specimen, draped over that chair and looking down on her, literally and figuratively.

She was allowed a little fun, wasn't she? Really, the tension she'd been feeling over this entire situation was stifling. The shame over being attracted to the great pounce was suffocating. Even now, looking at the perfect creases in his pants and the rakish muss of his combed back hair bathed her insides in warmth. Perhaps she had been excited by his eyes drinking her in. She had seen the hungry look on his face; the casual, entitled way he let his gaze roam over her body. Perhaps she had liked that, a little. Gods, what was wrong with her?

She felt like she hadn't breathed freely in a month. And now she was dodging questions from Ron and that gossiping bint Lavender about missing points and why she had detention today. Here she was, her knees wet with soap and water as she scrubbed the floor at Draco Malfoy's feet. If her anger and embarrassment amused him, why couldn't she laugh at his ridiculousness, at his high hopes of making her life hell? He was succeeding, wasn't he? Turning everything hopelessly upside down.

She thought perhaps she really had gone mad, bursting with giggles. He was just so insufferable, all the time! Now she sounded like Hermione chastising Ron. Merlin help her.

As if that wasn't enough, she had to make it worse by being cheeky and mentioning kisses and being pleasant. The moment the words passed her lips she wished she could take them back. Her life would be easier if he were pleasant, wouldn't it? For merely visceral reasons, at least.

"Are you flirting with me, Weasley?" He asked this with a drawling note of surprise, and she flushed at the smirk teasing the corner of his sneer.

"No," she denied immediately, and then blushed harder at the too quick and too vehement response. If she wasn't mistaken that sudden glint in his eyes meant something that would undoubtedly make her sorry. She hefted a great breath and pulled back her shoulders. "I'm just pointing out the obvious," she replied innocently, composed this time, and leaned over to continue with Neville's mess. "If you want to snog a girl, you're supposed to be nice to her, Malfoy."

"Indeed," he muttered, so low Ginny suspected it might have been to himself. She ignored it; it really might as well have been to himself, because she took his non-response as an opportunity to cease any other communication. Her teeth sunk into her lower lip, her arms weak and tired as she went over the blasted spot over and over. Really, she should just embrace this magnetic, sensual attraction to Draco Malfoy because then moving on from it might be easier. It was horrid, and disgusting, and she didn't like it, but what could she do besides school herself not to give him a centimeter so he could drag it into painfully long kilometers? Nothing. Nothing at all besides give in, and that thought was too terrifying to contemplate for long. There were lines, and that was one of them. She would not be snogging Malfoy any time soon. Eventually he'd grow bored of torturing her, wouldn't he?

She chanced a glance at him, a quick one from the corner of her eye, as if the sight of him might give her an answer. He was sitting exactly how she had left him: looking down at her intently, pale lips now parted, his eyes too silver to be human. It was the lighting, she knew; the yellow of the sparse sun filtering in and casting his face in shadow. The weight of his gaze was suddenly, painfully present and at the forefront of her mind. The heat of her blood pooled once again over her skin. She felt vulnerable and frighteningly exposed under his scrutiny, but most alarmingly of all she felt desired, and that made her body feel as sensitive to his gaze as she might to a touch. She couldn't help but cross her ankles, shift a little to press her thighs together self-consciously, let out a shaky sigh at the pressure. She worried over how far her skirt was falling but didn't dare check, not while he was watching. Her knees were trembling now; she nibbled nervously at her abused lip.

"Stop that," she demanded again, but this time it lacked the appropriate amount of firm disgust. Even to her ears it sounded more like a weak suggestion, at worst a plea.

She wanted to slap him during the ensuing silence, didn't even need to look up to know he was smiling with satisfaction. She shouldn't have said anything. When he did respond, it was to take in a long breath and pause, to lean forward over his lap and closer to her. Her heart thudded loud in her chest, and she clenched her jaw shut so tight her temples ached. She refused to bow her head any further and hide her sweeping, damning blush, absolutely refused to shame herself more. She wasn't ashamed. She wouldn't let him see it.

"Why should I?" he murmured silkily, in a voice too low and hypnotic to be real. "I'm trying to be nice to you, Ginny. You seem to like this."

"I don't," she burst out, arced her neck to face him with fierce eyes. Sure enough, he was smiling at her, elbows resting casually on his knees. Errant strands of his hair licked at the tips of his ears, and the knot of his Slytherin tie was loose under his collar. She could just see the milky, pale skin of his chest.

"Oh," he whispered, and she couldn't help but watch the way his lips moved around the facetiously said syllable, taming the small breath of air it took. She flinched at her preoccupation, moved her eyes resolutely back to his. "My mistake, Weasley. Forgive me." The words were laced with amusement, insincere in every way. He pulled back, looked away from her, and picked up his quill.

He was intolerable. He was a sickly parasite on her life. Ginny glared, even saw red, and turned back to the spilled potion, scrubbing it harder than ever, wishing it was his ugly face. How dare he? How dare he ferret into her desires like this, slither into her thoughts like a snake? Make her think things, want awful, despicable things and then mock her for it? She seethed. "None of it will budge, Malfoy!" she snapped suddenly, throwing the brush into the pail of now-cool water. It splashed, a small wave of it splattering the floor. "I've been scrubbing at it for a half-hour; it's not coming off this way and you know it!"

"Temper, pet," he said evenly, unconcerned by her tantrum. Ginny nearly pushed his chair, because he'd said it as if she actually were a pet yapping at his leg. He merely turned his head slightly, glanced down her, indifferent and bored as she huffed like an angry bull.

"I'm not doing this," she hissed, because she wasn't anymore. She was not going to scrub the sodding floor, she wasn't going to tolerate his roaming eyes and her attraction to him. She wasn't going to let him be sly and clever with her, say things that were despicable and terribly sexy. He was not sexy. He was Malfoy. Gritting her teeth, she reached for the edge of the table to pull herself to her feet, but it was stupid of her in all her rage to do so, because a sharp splinter sliced her finger raggedly open. She stumbled as she stood, immediately winced and reached for her wrist as warm blood dripped from her hand and fell at her feet. "Oh gods, oh no," she moaned painfully.

"Merlin, you're a mess," Draco spat and grabbed her arm. She wasn't quite sure when he'd moved from his chair, only that he was suddenly on his feet and tugging her none-too-gently across the room to one of the large sinks. He all but threw her in front of it and twisted the knobs, water spurting messily from the old, groaning pipes. She didn't have time to register how he was hovering behind her, close and warm, his body brushing hers with each movement, his arms caging her.

"Oh gods, it won't stop bleeding," she exclaimed. "Malfoy-"

"Just hold it under the tap, Weasley. For God's sake," he replied impatiently. His fingers grasped hers and tugged them under the running spout. Blood swirled down the drain.

"I don't want to go to the infirmary. I hate it there," she announced dreadfully.

"Your capacity to whine like a child astounds me."

"How dare--you know this is all your fault!"

"Yes, I strategically carved out that splinter and forced you to grab at it like an idiot. Ow! Stop stomping on my bloody foot!"

It was the second time she'd done so, it was true. But she had good reason. "Then stop deserving it," she shot back.

"Bloody witch." He hissed this near her ear, his hot breath tickling her neck. An unexpected shudder seized her body; she tensed.

That was the moment she became aware of his proximity, aware of the heat radiating from him, the solid pressure of his chest against her back. She tried to turn her attention back to her cut, back to their overlapping hands in the sink. He was holding hers too hard, his knuckles white, as if she might jerk them away. Ginny winced, tried to concentrate on that pain and not the tempting, welcoming presence of his body.

"Here." He shifted, pulled an arm back. His tone was less aggravated now, more resigned and impatient. She stiffened when he came back with a wand between his long, elegant fingers. "I'm not going to hex you," he muttered in annoyance, tugged their wet hands out of the water with only a little effort. She couldn't help but be cautious, even though she believed him. It didn't seem like cursing her was part of his plan at the moment.

He whispered some spell under his breath, some Latin string of words she didn't catch. The sliced skin pulled taunt over her cut in answer, staunching the flow of blood. "Ow," she exclaimed, flinched back against him. "It pinches," she murmured, with a small degree of curiosity. What kind of spell was that?

"It would," he retorted, as if her observation were painfully obvious. She scowled, and his arm disappeared, framed her side once more a moment later. He'd put his wand away, and now he was shaking out a handkerchief. It was white, soft as silk to the touch, and clearly expensive. The Malfoy family emblem was embroided with painstaking detail at one corner, and that was the corner he wrapped around her injury. Ginny couldn't help but wonder if it cost more than everything she was wearing, and yet he was carelessly using it as a bandage. "Now you don't have to go to the infirmary," he informed her with muted disdain. "And you might as well keep the handkerchief. I certainly don't want it anymore."

"You just can't help but be insulting, can you?" she murmured, but it lacked bite. Had he just been a bit nice to her? He hadn't been pleasant, of course, snipping and generally acting like an arse. But here he was, carefully wrapping her wound with a beloved Malfoy family handkerchief and keeping her from the infirmary. She let out a heavy, relieved sigh that the ordeal was over, the sound only shaken by her confusion.

"It's nothing personal, Weasley," he said softly. It might have been the first time she heard him speak without sounding like a stick was up his butt. She decided she rather liked it. The water was cooling and drying on her hands, turning them cold in the drafty air of the dungeon. She felt Draco shift behind her, swallowed hard when he began to gently rub warmth back into her fingertips. The impulse to relax against him made her sway just slightly; she fought it with the little will power she managed to hold onto. She wished she could see his face, study his expression. Was he being sincere or--no, he couldn't be doing this for any sincere reason. He didn't care; he just wanted to try going about this differently. She even suggested this option, hadn't she?

"Is this your idea of being pleasant?" she wondered. Her words were gently spoken, falsely casual. She was sure he could hear that, hear the probing, curious note of her tone that belied the lightness.

"I thought I was never pleasant a day in my life," he whispered, that familiar, drawling inflection injecting a melody into his words. They brushed against her neck, along her jaw. She pulled in a shaky breath; her lashes fluttered. "I've proven you wrong, Ginny?" There was a smile in his voice that she didn't dare turn to meet. He pulled away, left her cold and bereft without his heat. She heard his footsteps as he retreated; she clutched at the edge of the sink, feeling suddenly weak.

7. Games

A/N: Sorry this chapter took so long. With Christmas and friends, life just got hectic and drew me away. Plus I'm sharing the room with my sister and I just write easier when alone. Thank you for all the reviews and encouragement during that meantime though! :)

Ever since her detention, Ginny felt a bit too preoccupied with thoughts of the awful Slytherin. Not that she would ever have admitted that; in all actuality Ginny was doubly preoccupied with making considerable efforts not to think of Draco Malfoy. She went to class dutifully and paid as much attention as she could manage, taking notes that she was sure Hermione would praise with encouragement. When she wasn't in class, she ate dinner with Luna or the other Gryffindors, facing away from the Slytherin table as often as she could. She went to Quidditch practice early now and left late; Harry was certainly proud of her sudden zeal and commitment. (He probably reckoned it was because of the coming match against Slytherin and not because of a Slytherin.) She studied late into the night in the common room (not the library, never the library, lest by some twist of fate she fell asleep again) so that when she finally laid her head down in her four-poster bed, she was too tired to think of Draco's grey eyes and lithe body, what it might feel like to kiss him without a fight.

It didn't help that he seemed to be around every corner she turned, characteristically pale and sneering. She had already stumbled upon him twice as he reprimanded some lower-years before the weekend was over. He hadn't noticed her the first time, but the second time she had no such luck. Her heart had nearly pounded out of her chest when his eyes had caught hers looking. She hadn't stuck around to figure out how he felt about the attention; she'd hurried away and he hadn't followed, thank Merlin.

Tuesday she had past him again on the way to Charms. Her insides were starting to do worrying things like funny little flips and flutters when she saw him. It made her nervous to be in his presence for entirely different reasons now, reasons she could only blush and loathe herself more for every day. She found herself somehow equally dreading and yearning for him to notice her as they approached one another from opposite ends of the hall. She could have slapped herself because this would just not do, this insanity. She wasn't sure how she felt when he merely walked past her with his usual holier-than-thou swagger, his bored, indifferent stare sliding to her rapt expression. He had smirked. She had wanted to do something terribly dramatic like die from shame.

Wednesday she was waiting for Neville after his Transfiguration class; they planned to go visit Professor Sprout about securing individual plots after the winter break. Neville simply loved Herbology of course, but she could use the extra credit. To her shock and dismay the Gryffindors took the class with the Slytherins, and she was greeted with Draco's pointy although sadly not unattractive face as she was leaning against a nearby pillar.

She felt her cheeks grow ridiculously hot as his blond head emerged from the classroom, followed by cheerfully talking students. She wished she had a book open or a bit of parchment, any reason at all to duck and avoid another stupid look. So she snapped her head down and started fumbling aimlessly through her bag, her heartbeat a panicked thudding in her ears. Please just walk away. Please ignore me, please... She pleaded with him without words, pleaded to any higher power, to Merlin, to the universe. It wasn't a prayer without hope; he had yet to stop and annoy her publicly. But now was the worst time for him to start, in front of everyone--in front of Harry, Ron, in front of some of her friends.

So of course she saw his polished shoes strut over and she was forced to look up, her breath catching as he stopped in front of her with a twisted, sneering smile. He was standing close, much too close for comfort in public (or in private, even if they were alone this would be too close, she chastised herself) and he was looking much too composed and amused and handsome in his perfectly tailored Slytherin robes. There was a light in his eyes, some awful spark that wasn't quite as malicious as it was predatory.

"You're not here for me, are you, pet?" he drawled in an undertone.

She blushed deeper at his chosen little name for her, felt a rush of irritation. "Why would I--no, Malfoy. I'm here for Neville," she replied firmly, glancing worriedly over his shoulder. If Harry or Ron came out--or even Neville...

"Well, he's a bit of a sniveling idiot, isn't he?" he remarked, almost conversationally. He looked as if she announced she was here to eat a heaping pile of vomit-flavored jelly beans.

"Don't be cruel." Ginny turned her attention back to him a moment, narrowing her flashing eyes. Neville was her friend and even if he wasn't, for Merlin's sake. Unsurprisingly, Malfoy was being an arse and she didn't have time for it. "Just--just shut up, Malfoy. I've got to go," she sputtered out in a rush, and breezed past him quickly. Just in time as well; Harry and then Ron spilled out of the entrance, followed by Neville.

"Oh hey, Gin," Ron said, looking both pleased and a bit confused to see her. He had an easy smile on his lips and a bit of ink on his jaw. Ginny didn't know how he managed to look like an overgrown ten-year-old so consistently, and that's why she gave her brother a bemused look and a raised eyebrow.

"Hey," she sighed, glad to be away from the ruddy toad behind her. Really, truly glad, as if life had just gotten easier, looking at her friends and family. She couldn't help but give Harry a warm smile, taking in his kind, jade eyes and the ruffled mess of his hair. A year ago she might have felt a curling warmth in her belly at the sight of his half-smile pointed in her direction.

Right now all she felt was the paranoid weight of Draco Malfoy's stare. She refused to look back and see if it was in her imagination or not. Surely he wouldn't stick around.

"All right, Ginny?" Harry asked.

"All right," she lied through her grinning teeth. She pivoted towards Neville, who was trying quite valiantly to stuff the mess of his books and parchment into his bag. "Ready, Neville?"

"What're you doing with Neville?" Ron piped up suspiciously, and Ginny didn't even fight the urge to roll her eyes. For goodness sake. Neville turned a bit pink and looked a tad afraid of Ron's brotherly wrath.

"We're going to see Professor Sprout, Ron. Come off it," she exclaimed, her face twisting into an expression of impatient annoyance. No wonder she couldn't get a date. Instead she got forbidden snogs from Draco Malfoy. Speaking of, she was not going to look over her shoulder.

Not even when Ron paused mid-breath and did so for her, his brow furrowing angrily. Ginny's heart fell into her stomach region. "Oi! What d'you think you're looking at, Malfoy?"

"Not much at all, Weasel." She heard his drawling voice and flushed, peering guiltily up at Ron's similarly puce face. Harry was quiet; she avoided looking at him directly at all. "I can tell you that with confidence." Footsteps sounded behind her as he spoke; soon enough she felt his towering presence behind her. Her shoulders tensed and she hesitated to turn around.

"Sod off," Ron spat.

Yes, please do, she thought anxiously.

"I would love to be anywhere away from your unfortunate and pitiful existence, Weasley," Draco said scathingly, "but it turns out I have some business with your little sister. Isn't that right, Ginevra?"

She almost laughed at the absurdity of the moment: Neville blanched and looked downright terrified for her, Harry furrowed his brow and looked displeased and suspicious. Ron, on the other hand, looked enraged, his lips moving silently. Ginevra? was what he repeated to himself, as if Draco Malfoy using her full name or her first name at all was the oddest thing in the world.

"I-" she started.

"You really better sod off, Malfoy, or Iswear," Ron threatened, took a menacing step forward, stopping only when Harry lifted a hand to his shoulder. "You've got no business with my sister."

"You don't, Malfoy," Harry added. His voice would be almost sound reasonable and diplomatic if it weren't for the disgust laced into Draco's spoken last name.

"No one asked you, Potter," Draco spat out hatefully. "Or you, Weasley, for that matter. But in the interest of shutting you both up, Miss Ginny broke curfew, didn't she? If she knows what's good for her she'll come to detention with me," he said slyly. Ginny nearly shivered at the veiled threat in his tone; she felt his eyes on the back of her head. More importantly, however, she wondered over how the huge git could love the sound of his voice so much he had to open his mouth and say such things she took so much care at keeping secret.

"That was--that was you!" Ron burst out, getting riled up quickly. "Ginny, why didn't you tell me this wanker-? Listen here, Malfoy, she went to your bloody detention last week!"

"And now she's got another," he announced. She knew his cool demeanor was cracking, heard it in his voice. He was irritated with her brother and Harry's righteous rambling and overprotective tendencies. Under any other circumstance, she might feel angered by it as well; right now all she felt was a damning sort of nervousness and excitement. It swirled in her belly, the idea of Draco pulling her off somewhere to be alone again. Would he try to kiss her? Would she let him? Oh gods, what was happening to her? She was supposed to hate him and dread this sort of thing.

Yet she pulled in a soft, shaky gasp when his long fingers curled around her upper arm, the touch firm and possessive.

"Let's go, Weasley," he said to her. She turned her head just enough to peek at his cold gaze, which was directed with a disgusted sneer at her brother.

"It's fine, Ron. I'll be fine," she mumbled, let Draco give her a little tug and pull her away. Ron looked ready to maim and kill; Harry looked similarly grave and worried. Her insides gave a little lurch, because they had no reason to worry, really. She wanted to go, Merlin help her. "You know I can take care of myself. It's just a detention. Sorry, Neville..."

By then Draco's slow steps had turned into long strides, his grip on her arm vice-like but not particularly painful. Still, he was going too fast and she had to rush to keep up, anger still blossoming in her chest at his little ploy to get her alone. At whatever stupid game he was playing. They turned a corner; Draco pulled her into some empty, dusty classroom, slamming the door behind them.

Ginny wasted no time wrenching herself from his grasp and giving his broad chest a good shove. He merely took a step back to keep his balance, sneered as if she merely offended him by moving his perfectly placed tie. "What was that, Malfoy? Are you insane? With my brother and Harry right there!"

"Yes, because you're right, Ginny: I care ever so much about what those idiots think," he said sarcastically, adjusting the knot around his neck.

"Do not call them that!"

"I'll call them what I please, especially when I'm merely speaking the truth."

She huffed, enraged by his snide tone, enraged by his audacity, at the way he had just manipulated her into this stupid room with him. Why? What could he possibly want from her now? "What do you want, Malfoy?" she blurted impatiently, crossed her arms over her chest.

Gods, that was a good question, wasn't it? That was the thought that ran through Draco's mind as he looked down on the angry little bint, her stubborn posture giving away all of her impatience. He sneered, curled his lip up as his long, agile fingers made slow, stalling work of fixing the knot of his tie.

Honestly, he wasn't quite sure what he wanted with her, now that he had her alone. Well obviously, he wanted to do quite a bit to the delectable and despicable creature in front of him while they were alone, but over the past few weeks he'd certainly learned how to curb those positively barbaric impulses. Really, playing Miss Ginny Weasley like a harp was by all means entertaining, but it sure was proving to be a bit of work, wasn't it? And to what end? Shagging her, leaving her crying by the wayside, perhaps? Throwing it in those oafs' faces he just pulled her from? What did he want?

The question troubled him, but he didn't let it show on the cold, condescending mask on his face. He was sure some creatively awful plot would occur to him eventually. For now he could have his fun, and he hadn't been having any of that watching the youngest Weasley run off to Potter and her brother, ignoring him after pinning him with such promising looks the last several days.

He took steps closer to her, finishing with his tie and smoothing his sneer into an arrogant smirk. It had been a few long moments since she had asked her annoying question, and the hard expectancy in her gaze faltered at the sudden and drastic changing of his expression. Her lips pulled down into a worried frown, her arms started to fall as he took calculated, intimidating steps forward.

"Weasley," he drawled. To her credit, she stayed still and lifted her chin bravely, her sweet cinnamon-colored eyes smartly cautious. "Ginny... I think we've already covered what I want." She was close now, inches away, and he could make out all the freckles on her pink, round cheeks.

She really was quite pretty, even with all that garish crimson hair, all sweet and precious and full of fire and silly bravery. It gave her quite an edge, being so small and seemingly fragile. Draco wondered what it would take to break her, felt his brow furrow at the feeling the thought left him. Strange, really, breaking her didn't seem as fun as simply riling her up. Then where would all these beautiful displays of personality go? And, of course, the challenge of getting into her knickers? But no, obviously. No, he'd like to see her in the dirt where she belonged, preferably if he put her there. Like any other self-respecting Malfoy.

His smirk twitched; he cast aside that strange feeling and its inclinations aside. "Really, pet," he murmured, his voice perfectly melodic, perfectly soft and suggestive. "The question is: what do you want from me?"

"I want you to get out of my life, you great prat," she instantly answered, but there was something rehearsed about the angry words, although the anger was without a doubt real. It blazed in her eyes, her lips in a frustrated little pout that beckoned his attention.

"Is that so, Weasley?" he intoned with a victorious smile. She took the verbal bait so easily every time. "Is that why you've spent so much of your time fixing me with those looks of yours?"

She flushed, in that oh-so-very becomingly typical way. "Looks of hatred, Malfoy," she said scathingly, but her eyes wavered just slightly from his piercing gaze.

"Rapt hatred, certainly," he teased, lifting a hand to trace the strap of her bag on her shoulder. He'd just like to trace that stubborn line of her mouth, the maddeningly delicate curve of her collarbone. It was peeking out behind the collar of her button down, her neck muscles tensing as she swallowed. That was another place he'd like to be familiar with, but he settled for the blasted strap of her bag. She made no move to instantly slap his hand away, which he found curious. Rewarding, really. Wasn't that progress, then? Her looks of 'hatred' too were progress; he did quite like them. The slight confusion, the soft curiosity, the quiet expectation. No girl had ever looked at him quite like that, not even Pansy, who was always too busy fluttering her lashes and trying to look cute. She looked at him with respect of course, with devotion, and the slyness of a thief looking to steal the dignity of his name and fortune, but never so purely, so innocently interested. Not like Ginny Weasley.

Twirling her around his little finger was producing a few pleasures he hadn't expected. This was one of them, he decided, although he wasn't sure he approved. Strange, how the feeling was warm in his chest, made him feel... well something he hadn't felt before, something that made him feel too light and entirely too good, as if-

As if he truly and honestly liked the idea of Ginny Weasley being soft on him.

The realization made him stiffen slightly, his grey eyes locked on his fingers' progress. Well, he did, didn't he? Instantly the notion that he might only logically be soft on her pressed past the walls of his mind with the force of a battering ram, but he instantly expelled the notion with vehement disgust. Of course he didn't--how could he even--it was too absurd.

His heart was racing a bit quickly in his chest now, and he felt irrationally irritated by it, by the scare the thought had afforded him. Of course he didn't want Weasley as anything but a nice, innocent little treat to corrupt. She had just captivated his attention with her annoyingly gorgeous body, sent him reeling for a time. This was simply just a strange fluke of all these plans to get her in bed with him or whatever it was he was doing here.

Really, the feeling wasn't anything specific to the stupid girl, it was just-

But the idea of admitting to wanting such human affection even to himself came with a price tag on his pride. He didn't need any of that, never did. He didn't need anyone or anything, for Merlin's sake, that he didn't already have or couldn't buy for himself.

"There was nothing," Ginny spoke up then, her voice even but transparently worried by his proximity, by his probing questions. She seemed to lose something halfway through--her breath or her nerve, perhaps both. She sucked in an lungful of air. "There was nothing rapt about it."

He snapped his eyes to hers, caught her gaze. Something there must have made her pause like she did, the concerned look on her pretty face hesitating. She looked positively startled, her lips parting, her brown eyes darting searchingly over his expression. He wanted to curse himself for a moment; what did she see there, he wondered? Something intense, he was sure, maybe even telling of his thoughts. Stupid. He was utterly stupid. There was no excuse for letting her see whatever intensity had been swirling in him.

He blocked her out instinctively, sliding on that dignified mask that was instilled in him since birth. It was useful. It was befitting a Slytherin and a Malfoy. There was no emotion on this mask, just indifference and cool calculation. Ginny's shoulders rose slightly at the sight of it and her eyes widened. He swept forward, pinned and caged her against the nearest table.

She sucked in a gasping breath as he did so, lifted her hands to his chest, as if to push him away. "Malfoy," she protested weakly.

"You can lie all you want, Ginny, but I know the truth," he bit out, a hair's breadth away from pressing against her body. He felt the whisper of her robes, the light pressure of her fingertips on his chest. It woke his body, lit him up in ways that disconcerted him. She looked scared now, cornered like an animal, and some darkness rose in him at the sight of it. He thought grimly, Good. Good, she should be scared of me. Yet his gut clenched as she looked up at him with that same awed curiosity, with such big, maddeningly warm eyes. "You want this. You want me. Even at that bloody poker game. I could tell by the way you looked at me."

She flushed, but didn't look away, didn't try to escape him for once. Didn't even try to deny it. "And the way you look at me?" she questioned in a small voice, but it was far from timid. "You should know, Malfoy, I'm not some prize in a game, all right? I know what you're doing, trying to wear me down. I'm not stupid and I've got more dignity than that."

He smirked at the mention of dignity, at her stubbornness. She said she wasn't a prize, that she knew his game, and yet she played into his hands at the slightest manipulation. "Then why haven't you pushed me away yet?"

She paled, looked away from him for a moment, her lips in a thin line. "Because I--well, because you're right, you arse," she blurted out, the words rushed and pained. She even grimaced, pulled her fingers from her chest as if she just noticed them, as if she'd been burned. He felt annoyed at the loss of her touch, felt annoyed that she even felt it necessary to pull away. That wasn't what he was aiming for here. "I do--I do want--but that's not the point," she argued fiercely, looked back up at him. Her gaze was hard, full of determination. "This is over, Malfoy. This twisted thing between you and me, it's done. Now let me go before I move you myself."

She was serious--utterly and completely. Defiant over her desire of him to a fault. A rush of satisfaction had swept over him, victorious and suffocating when she all but admitted to it: admitted to coveting him, admitted to what he had known all along. He wanted to lash out again, now more than ever at her ridiculous demands, but he stifled the impulse, his look penetrating and cold. Her lips barely quivered and she held her shoulders back, proud to the end.

And she would be, he knew. Proud to the very end. The thought resulted in a smirk and he obliged her, stepping away to the door. "Whatever you say, Weasley," he decided calmly, and left her there.

Draco wouldn't go as far as to say he was happy the rest of the day, but he'd admit, he was something close to it. He was utterly satisfied with himself, despite knowing the dangers of celebrating a small victory. That's what it was: the first step, the deciding factor. He had gotten Ginny to admit to wanting him, in however a stilted way, and while that was not nontrivial by any standards, it was only the first step.

People usually steered clear of him when he was like this. He wasn't quite sure why, but he didn't mind it. He positively loved it actually; no one got in his way. The only exception to this collective behavior was Pansy, but even she had taken to leaving him alone this past week, ever since his words with her. Instead she took to throwing him pouting, affronted glances and making quiet, hurt sounds whenever she was in his presence. Draco knew she was waiting for an apology. He hoped Pansy knew she would be waiting an eternity.

He was currently hoping this, letting out an amused chuckle under his breath as the girl in question stuck her pug nose into her Potions text and went on reading in the Slytherin common room. It was after dinner, which had been its usual affair, only sweetened by little Ginny Weasley's suspicious glances in his direction. He had set her on edge, no doubt. He seemed to be amazingly good at setting her on edge.

He was sitting by the fire in a plush armchair that had long been considered his by the entirety of the Slytherin house. Pansy was seated somewhere behind him. He was aware the wounded girl could see his smirking profile, but he had no qualms about anyone witnessing the plain, quiet triumph etched into his features. People could do with the reminder that Draco Malfoy got what he wanted.

The burning wood was crackling against the flames, licking the blackened stone behind the fireplace's gate. Draco rested his jaw in his hand as he observed the hungry fire, blocked Pansy's irritating huffs from his mind. He thought of Ginny, of his next move. Perhaps a lack of one? True cunning was not to seek out one's desire, but to lure it in. He felt a thrill at the idea of Ginny coming to him, decided that was the only way he'd be content with this little game. He just needed to set the trap further. She was already suspicious, already awaiting the continuation of his ploys. Maybe he'd sit back, give her doubts. She'd think it was all over. Clearly she was too bright and merely wanting him wasn't enough to sway her. She would have to believe he had lost all interest in toying with her...

And gods, she did want him. He thought of the fierceness in her gaze, how it burned with more than just frustration. The vulnerable way she hesitated at his proximity, the shortened breaths she took whenever he came near. Draco let out a breath of his own, nearly closed his eyes. His thoughts slowed now and his mood relaxed, thinking of those sweet, unsure looks she sent his way. He would have her.

By the end of the year, he would possess her.

"There are rumors going about, you know." Blaise's voice interrupted his pleasant thoughts; he looked up with an indifferent expression.

Zabini gave him a smile, one of those terribly knowing smiles, and sat on the love seat opposite him. He took his time getting comfortable, bringing an ankle up to rest on his knee. Draco, on the other hand, simply rose an eyebrow and waited. Blaise wasn't one for gossiping and neither was he. He wondered then what this was about.

"By the by, Draco, you make an awfully frightening happy person," he remarked casually. "I think I prefer your brooding and obnoxiousness to... this." He casually gestured Draco's way.

"Noted, Zabini," he retorted. "I'll tailor my moods to fit your preferences." His tone was immensely dry; he watched the way Blaise reacted: so genuinely amused, his laugh full and short. Behind the sparkle in his warm blue eyes, Draco knew there was more than just uncharacteristic kindness (for a Slytherin, anyway), more than just a laugh. Blaise Zabini was the only other housemate Draco had ever felt threatened by when it came to cunning and intellect. Yet despite that first impression, Blaise had never been a threat. He simply lacked the ambition to rule the Slytherin House. Over the years a strange alliance had formed between them. Draco wouldn't call it friendship, but it was the closest thing to the phenomenan he had. It was the only reason Draco would ever be so frank with the other man, ask a question such as the following without any feints or slyness. "Now what do you care about rumors?"

"Me? I don't care at all, my dear friend," Blaise drawled. "However, Tracey tells me she heard something of interest in the library today from a Gryffindor." Draco's interest perked, but it didn't show on his expression. He hated quite simply that Blaise could practically read his mind anyway, which he proved quickly. "Yes, I know. Which Gryffindor of your concern, you might ask. The Boy Who Lived or Miss Ginevra?" He paused, obviously to dangle the bait a little. Draco rose an eyebrow and Blaise smiled; he knew it was working. At the very least, he was testing Draco's patience and knew it. "Well, neither. Colin Creevey apparently has some romantic interest in Ginny Weasley and is planning on asking her into Hogsmeade. I thought that was interesting. He seems a bit meek for her."

"A bit," Draco sneered out in response. He ignored the flashing hot rage he felt all the while, staring blankly into Blaise's piercing stare.

That was quite interesting, not to mention entirely annoying. Blaise was studying him for a reaction, Draco knew, and he schooled his expression to one of emotionless boredom. Who exactly was this Creevey lout? The one with the camera who followed Potter around for years, wasn't he? Yeah, he was the dirty Muggleborn who was petrified when the Chamber was opened. He couldn't recall seeing the filth hanging about recently. He wouldn't be surprised if the mousey boy had gone off and died without Draco hearing or caring about it.

He sort of wished Creevey had now, preferably during second year. This added another player to the game, gave him something more to think about. He could perhaps spin this to his advantage...


"Anyway, I've got homework, mate," Blaise said abruptly and got up. He slapped a friendly hand on Draco's shoulder as he passed him by.

He barely felt it, already glaring into the flames, his satisfaction subdued. What if Ginny said yes to this idiot? What then? Would he just let her go? The thought made him bristle inwardly. No, he would let her go. He would just have to remind her someway of who she truly wanted.

"She's a waste of your time, Draco," Pansy spoke up venomously. "I hope you know. She's too pure and simple for the likes of you. I don't mind that you have an annoying fixation. When it gets old trying to shag a prude, you should know that I could handle you." She got up and left, head held high.

Draco's jaw clenched in frustration. He tried to dispel Pansy's pathetic attempt to get to him, but her words stuck with him for hours after.

8. Utterly Mad

A/N: I basically just vomitted this one out tonight. In like, five hours lmao. I was in the shower and just imagined some of their exchanges in this chapter and basically rushed out to start keyboard smashing it into existence, mostly because I've been angsting over this chapter like a... angsty person and didn't want to lose it. Mmm descriptive language. I'm a master of it. This was my riveting author's note.


The last person Ginny wanted to deal with today was Colin Creevey. Well, the last person she wanted to deal with was Draco Malfoy, but in all actuality she was beginning to have doubts he could hold a candle to Colin's expertise in popping up when she least desired it. Only that aside wasn't true at all, not one bit, she told herself. Just because the last two weeks had been disturbingly Malfoy-free didn't mean she was having withdrawals or something ridiculous like that. She wasn't. She was simply worried for her well-being again, perhaps. He had done this ignoring-her-existence thing before, and then came back to torment and harass her when she least expected it. So she was just practicing some constant vigilance, scanning for his pointed face in every crowd and glancing over to the Slytherin table in the Great Hall, where surely he would try to attack her in front of hundreds of witnesses.

Oh gods. If she was going to entertain these kind of thoughts, she would rather be accosted by Colin. The fellow Gryffindor seemed to be campaigning for The Most Annoying-est Nice Boy Ever Award lately, following her around like a puppy waiting for a treat. She suspected he was attempting to be gentlemanly, asking to hold her books and help with her studies, but really it was excruciating. It wasn't as if Ginny disliked Colin; on the contrary she rather liked the boy. They were in the same year and had always been rather friendly, having dinner together here and there and hanging about in the common room when the trio couldn't be bothered with the extra company. But during the passing autumn things had changed for Colin without Ginny noticing until it was too late. Really, she was usually quite oblivious to these sorts of things in the first place. If it weren't for Lavender Brown pointing it out to her she might never have realized until he popped the question.

The point was Ginny had a suspicion Colin was going to ask her on a date soon enough, and perhaps that was why she was feeling so dreadful over the situation, because she had no idea how to reject him and it frustrated her that she was going to have to figure out a way. She didn't want to hurt a friend.

It wasn't as if doing so was difficult. She just had to say no nicely but firmly. Ginny thought she had been abundantly clear lately, declining invitations to dinner, declining help with Potions, declining help with her books, and not being very talkative. She was friendly at first, but she was just a friendly person because it was polite. Now she was afraid he had found that encouraging. Plus she hadn't suspected anything in the beginning of his impromptu courtship a few weeks ago, and now she was stuck looking up into his hopeful eyes every time he tried to strike up a conversation.

She was just going to have to tell him in no uncertain terms when he asked. If he asked. Even if he didn't ask.

Which was why she was at the library and hiding in the stacks, hoping he hadn't spotted her at the tables when he walked in. Gods, she was a coward. An awful Gryffindor, no doubt, getting up and darting behind a shelf of books the moment his dirty blond head appeared. She peeked between two rows to check on her success and immediately felt her heart jump into her throat. He was walking her way with a warm smile, scratching at the back of his head.

She straightened and steeled herself, letting out a resigned sigh and pulling out a random book. Can't hide forever, Ginny, she told herself.

"Hey there, Ginny," he said in a soft murmur as he approached, checking for a sign of Madame Pince.

She gave him a tight smile and flipped open her book. "Hey, Colin," she whispered back. Looking at him now, he wasn't entirely lacking. He had filled out some the past few years and stopped following Harry around. (Something they had in common, she thought wryly.) He was taller than her by a nose, with broad shoulders and sandy hair. He had a shy, goofy sort of smile and a sweet sort of look that she could understand some girls finding adorably attractive. Plus he was quite a gifted photographer. He was an artsy type. That was something to appreciate. Yet he hunched a lot. Even now his hands were in his pockets and he was looking at the ground more than at her. His eyes were hazel and quite plain anyway. Not stormy or compelling, some captivating color like grey-

Oh dear Merlin. She blinked quickly and looked down as well, trying to shake off the vision of Draco Malfoy's silvery eyes watching her. She hadn't yet forgotten the day in that abandoned classroom when he had looked at her so strangely for a moment, vulnerable in some way. Or not. Perhaps she saw nothing. She hated herself for reading into it, seeing more than it was. It was practically a forever ago in any case, nothing to concern her now.

"Light reading, eh?" he asked, pulled her from her thoughts.

"Oh, uhm," she answered, for the first time glancing at the pages. It was some history book, that she could tell. "Something for History class, maybe." She fibbed and closed the bound pages, taking her time to slipping it back on the shelf. "What brings you here? You don't have your bag or anything."

Ginny had her suspicions, which was why she found it hard to meet his gaze.

"Oh, I was actually looking for you," he said after a deep breath. Ginny watched him blush and felt heat in her cheeks as well. Here it was. "I'm uh - well, I might as well just say it. Would you like to go to Hogsmeade with me tomorrow?"

She nibbled on her bottom lip and flushed harder. "Like a date, Colin?" she inquired dreadfully.

"Yes, well..." He trailed off, then set his shoulders and said resolutely, "Yes. Like a date."

"I, well... I just-" She was about to do it, about to lay down the truth. I don't see you like that Colin, I'm sorry. But movement over Colin's shoulder distracted her and she paused at the sight of Draco Malfoy strolling into the library as if he owned the place. He was tall, regal as always, his book bag slung over his shoulder. Pansy Parkinson was walking at his heels with one of her pleased and twisted simpers, leaning slightly forward to whisper something to him.

He rolled his eyes, impatient as ever, and the gesture brought his gaze startlingly enough to hers. Ginny nearly jumped out of her skin - she just hadn't been expecting him, or his attention after so long, which she immediately realized was silly of her. This was the library and he was allowed here. He could frequent here as much as he liked. She tore her eyes away, but not in time to miss the way Draco lazily lifted an indifferent eyebrow at her.

"Ginny?" Colin prompted, looking unsure. He shifted on his feet nervously. She blushed when she met his unremarkable, warm eyes.

"Sorry, I - Colin, I'm really flattered and everything..." She frowned and felt a pang of guilt when his face fell.

"Oh. Well. Well maybe we could go as friends or... I mean, I like being friends with you, Ginny," he assured her hopefully, and with a sweet smile. Ginny restrained herself from reaching to squeeze his arm or anything like that. She had given him enough mixed signals lately, however unintentionally. He really was brave and kind, clearly let down but taking it in stride. Ginny felt a rush of admiration for him.

She smiled. "All right. We'll meet up at The Three Broomsticks for a butterbeer? As friends," she added with a warm look.

"I'd like that." He grinned.

The next day started cheerfully enough. The sun was a warm yellow in the blue sky, bathing everything in bright light. It was a bit chilly, which didn't bother Ginny much at all. She always rather liked the cold. All the same, she put on a sweater for the trip into Hogsmeade, some soft plum-colored number that she always felt attractive and snug in. It was the nicest piece of clothing she owned, apart from some of her dressier robes.

She headed into Hogsmeade with Luna after a bit of breakfast, armed with a set of gloves in addition to her autumn cloak, just in case. They took a thankfully empty carriage there and on the way talked about the coming Halloween feast, about classes, and about the new Quibbler issue and quidditch. Ginny felt relaxed and content. Life without a particular blond Slytherin was proving to be much simpler and she appreciated the seamless flow back into the old way of things.

Even Luna commented that Ginny seemed in better spirits lately while they were browsing some shops, which both pleased and aggrieved her. She felt pangs of guilt for pulling away from Luna in the wake of all that trouble. She had shut out her only true friend.

"Yes, about that..." She sighed softly, playing with some enchanted trinket. It was of a Holyhead Harpy player on a broom. "I'm sorry, Luna. Really, if I behave oddly again, I give you permission to confront me. Even slap me around a bit."

"That's all right." Luna smiled serenely and plucked the merchandise from her hand, watching as the small figurine hovered off her palm and started flying in circles. "I'd rather not slap you, Ginny. I'm sure your anger at that would be something to behold."

Ginny laughed and pretended to be offended, although Luna was right, of course. Merlin have mercy on anyone who deigned to slap her around a bit. Soon enough it was nearing lunchtime, and Ginny headed to The Three Broomsticks to find Colin, leaving Luna to some errands the girl had.

Even though it wasn't too cold, Ginny was glad to be inside and in warmer air. Her nose was a bit numb, her hair windswept and most definitely a mess. She spotted Colin almost instantly; he was lounging at a booth to the side, his camera resting on the table. He had a book out and he was currently immersed in drawing something or other. This wasn't something new; Colin often drew sketches of staged photos he would like to shoot. Sometimes he tried to rope her into posing for him along with other Gryffindors.

She approached him, sliding off her cloak. "Hullo there, Colin," she greeted.

He looked up, clearly torn from whatever world he went off into while thinking about his art. Ginny's friendly smile turned a bit unsteady as his eyes lit up tellingly. Perhaps she shouldn't have agreed to come? They were friends and she didn't want to complicate that. "Hey, Gin." He grinned boyishly.

"Were you waiting long?" she asked as she sat.

"Oh no. I've been here awhile actually. Just drawing," he explained. There was a pregnant pause as he leveled an earnest look at her.

Ginny blushed under the attention, fidgeting slightly. "Well, I'm going to go to the loo and get a butterbeer. You want one?"

Colin smiled and lifted up his mug. "I'm good. Hurry back though," he called eagerly after her.

She walked away quickly, wincing and grateful to be away from the air of awkwardness. Yes, agreeing to meet here with Colin had been a bad idea. It wasn't a cup of tea at Madame Puddifoot's or something supremely obvious, but she had been pretty thick regardless. Stupid, she admonished herself, slapping her forehead with her palm. You're so foolish, Ginny.

She pressed her lips together and headed further into the back and towards the loo, cursing herself the whole way. She assured herself this wasn't a date, that she told him it wasn't a date. She would just have one drink and leave after. She did still have an epic Potions essay to write this weekend.

Mildly comforted, she turned into the small alcove that housed the restrooms. It was quieter, a bit cut off from the rowdy chatter and laughter of the main room. There were two doors - one for witches and one for wizards.

And it just so happened that Draco Malfoy was leaning his tall and imposing figure against the wall, right next to the door she needed to get to. She was surprised yet again - hopelessly startled, just as she had been at the library. She froze, eyes widening and skin flushing with color at he raised his icy, bored eyes to hers.

"What're you doing here?" she blurted out accusingly. What was this, really? He was nowhere to be found except at meals for nearly a month, and now she was face to face with him two days in a row? She just didn't like it and immediately bristled at the sight of him.

He looked at her in that infuriatingly bored way. His lips twitched in slight incredulity; his brow rose with too much innocence. Gods, how she didn't trust him one bit. He held out an arm, gesturing to the door, as if the answer was obvious. "Waiting for Pansy."

Ginny huffed at his explanation and set her jaw. Fine. He wasn't going to scare her away. She walked over to the wall opposite him and leaned against it, crossing her arms. She would just stand here and wait for Pansy to finish as well. And not say a word.

Or she wouldn't, if she had any sense. "You don't seem like the type to stand about and wait for anyone," she said with reproach, and maybe the barest hint of curiosity. He didn't, really. He certainly tried to order her about, didn't he? She met his steely eyes and tilted her chin up, pursing her lips. She wasn't intimidated, he had to see that. That wasn't the problem. There was no problem, besides the one currently forming as she glared at him.

He was dressed immaculately, his disgustingly expensive cloak hanging off his shoulders just so. Underneath he wore a pair of slacks and some casual azure sweater that made his eyes look less like a piercing grey and more of a soft blue. She was struck once again with how handsome he was, although not in the traditional sense. But all the same, she couldn't help but think it. His hair looked soft and beckoned to be fixed; it was perfect in its imperfection, mussed slightly by the winds outside. And on top of all that he had a commanding presence, an exuding charisma that lured not only her attention, but everyone else's for good or bad, not to mention the undying respect of his house.

She hated it.

Draco smiled at her moment, just barely. He copied her stance, although bore none of her tension. She had never seen him so calm and it disconcerted her. "I waited for you for an absurd amount of time," he drawled in a low voice, his look full of meaning.

Heat filled her cheeks. She wasn't quite sure if it was entirely with anger, and she hated that too. She tore her eyes away, annoyed at the comment, at the incorrectness of it, at the way he looked at her when he said it. "You didn't wait for me, Malfoy," she clipped out impatiently. How long would Parkinson take? "You attacked and then got angry when I didn't find it flattering."

"Perhaps," he murmured. She snapped her eyes back to his, furrowing her brow at the word, at his tone. Was he agreeing with her? His lashes were low, his smirk lingering as he rested his head back on the wall. Then he rolled his eyes at her continuing glare of disbelief. "Look," he said frankly, "in the interest of keeping my name pristine" (Ginny snorted there; he sneered) "you should know that I also cared little for those barbaric advances. I can assure you I won't stoop so low in the future." He ran his eyes over her body with his pointed words; irritation boiled in her chest at the slight. Her body heated with it and she clutched at her arms to stop from slapping him. Was this a Malfoy's twisted version of an apology?

"Is everything you say some disguised insult?" Ginny inquired harshly.

"Only to those befitting them," he retorted bemusedly. She nearly pulled out her wand and cursed the condescending look off his face. "I suppose, however, you can take my words in whatever light you prefer."

"What's that supposed to mean?" she asked incredulously.

"It means I'm done, Ginny Weasley," he said plainly. The indifferent way he said it, as if she was nothing but dust to brush off his shoulders - well, that hurt, much to her vehement annoyance. It made her even more angry. How could he be so flippant about everything? "You made it clear that despite... wanting me," he said those words slowly, as if savoring them, "you have no intention to act on it. Contrary to popular belief, I'm not a monster, Weasley. I suppose you're happy I'm not harassing you?"

"Ecstatic," she answered sibilantly.

"Good. I wouldn't want to harass you," he said. He even sounded sincere.

She let out a choked laugh and looked away for a moment, furious beyond the telling of it. How dare he? "You can't - this isn't - gods, you're such a prick," she spat out. "You torment me for weeks because what, Malfoy? You thought I looked good in my knickers? You got off on the fact I found you somewhat attractive? And now you're standing here telling me I should be grateful you've risen above being a complete and utter git, like it's some kind of accomplishment? Like it's not something the rest of us decent people do every day! Fuck you," she snarled, her nostrils flaring.

He blinked at her, unbidden emotion flashing across his pale, pointed face. It was the first of it she'd seen their entire conversation, perhaps only the second time she had ever seen it. She had seen him cold too often, angry and slighted just as much. She had seen his condescending sneers and the warmth of his lustful gaze. But she'd only once seen vulnerability and softness, and only for a moment before he buried it. It scared her, scared her more than his rotten mask ever could. Because it proved it - it proved that this face he showed her was a mask, and a terrible one at that. She could only guess at what went on underneath, only guess at the depth of his hatred and anger, of his cruelty. And worse yet, what, if anything, made him human.

And she saw a glimpse of it now. Fury at her words, his face contorting into a pained wince. He tensed, grew rigid. He was silent for a long moment, and Ginny felt perverse pleasure that she had done that to him, rendered him speechless. "Listen, Weasley," he finally said. "If you think I'm proud of myself for being so awful to you, you're wrong." The words took a moment to sink in and when they did she felt them like a slap. She straightened under the force of it. "The truth is-" he paused, struggled, said the words as if they physically pained him, but then they all started to tumble out in a rash deluge of sentiments. "The truth is you're a blood traitor and classless, sure, but you've - well you grew on me a bit, all right? I liked that you wanted me. And you're right, I was forceful because I was a prat. I just hated that you didn't like wanting me back. Does that apology make you happy, Weasley?"

Ginny gaped at him, took in the fierceness of his humiliated expression, the pink, angry dots on his cheeks. Did he just - did he just - he didn't. No, he didn't. He couldn't have. She sucked in a breath, not sure what to say with it, how to react.

She was saved, however, by Pansy Parkinson of all people. The girl exited the bathroom at precisely that moment, looking powdered up. She had on a curling smile that instantly died when she saw Ginny.

"Draco," she hissed, irritated. "Don't you think it's time we go back to the castle?"

Ginny closed her mouth. She had torn her eyes away from Malfoy when Pansy had appeared. Now she looked back at his penetrating gaze with wide eyes. He was still staring at her, straightening as his fervent look faded to a simmer and the color left his cheeks. He did it with such graceful control that she couldn't help but be in awe of it.

"Fine. Just be quiet, Pansy," he snapped. "I have a headache." He turned then and stalked into the crowd. Pansy gave her one last departing scowl before following.

The annoying rocking of the carriage didn't help Draco's mood and neither did Pansy huffing about and generally acting like a child across from him. He looked resolutely out the window and studiously ignored her anyway. He had much practice doing so anyway; it was like child's play.

His jaw was clenched, his elbow rested on the window's sill. He held his chin in his hands, barely seeing the scenery passing him by. For all intents and purposes, he was still back at The Three Broomsticks, standing across from that stupid, infuriating Ginny Weasley and her maddening honesty. He was still looking at her ridiculous messy hair and that awful purple sweater and steaming over how she had been there with Colin fucking Creevey. He'd done his research the past two weeks, oh he had. He'd wager he knew just as much about Colin Creevey as Ginny at this point. The Potter-worshipping, artistic little pounce.

Although if he were honest (and that was the problem here, wasn't it?) that wasn't entirely why he was in such a foul state at the moment. No, it all had to do with Ginny's insatiable need to lash out and tell him things about himself that he would just rather not have heard. He had been doing so well, had been so collected and she had dashed it all by opening that bow-shaped mouth of hers.

Gods, what had he done? Why had he told her all that? What was bloody wrong with him? He resisted the urge to kick the door, knowing it would garner attention from Pansy; she might decide to speak to him then. (It was a helpless annoyance he even had taken her to Hogsmeade; his father had written and told him Draco should treat her better and all that rot.)

He closed his hand into a fist, pressed his sneering mouth against it, deciding to use his damn mind and rationalize this. So he said some things. Some things like not hating Ginny entirely, some things that might lead her to believe he felt guilty or had a soul. A little voice whispered that this wasn't quite a disaster, was it? He wanted Ginny to give into wanting him. With all her laughable morals and goodness, having a soul might help. But even so.

He felt out of control and that - that - would not do. He was supposed to be manipulating her, playing her into his hands. If he wanted the clever witch to find out he had a fucking soul, it should be through his own devising, not out of some undignified outburst. Out of some inherent need to prove himself to her, to get through to her.

Draco closed his eyes and concentrated on breathing. Waiting so long to continue this game had been a bad idea. He saw that now. It gave him time to stew, time to think about Ginny, time to study her from afar and wonder over his attraction to her, over his lack of control around her. And that hadn't taken long to figure out, had it? Had he been so blind this entire time? So blind to how he had felt stirred by the way she looked at him before - fierce and curious all at once? Truthfully it was the envy that made him realize it, the envy he felt whenever her dirty Muggleborn admirer hung about her like a dog waiting for scraps. Ginny would smile at him, laugh with him, talk with him. Draco would admit to being possessive, being envious, but not like this. Not so consumingly to the point he couldn't think right, wondering what it would feel like to be on the receiving end of her affection. And there was the rub - he wanted Ginny for more than what he had set out for. He didn't know how or why or when it had became this, but it had.

His lack of control was only evolving into something much more dangerous, much more abhorrent. He must be insane, utterly mad.

His chest hurt suddenly. It constricted beneath his ribs.

He swallowed thickly, working past that pain.

There was no way he could go on like this.

9. Fancy

A/N: Okay, this took a lot out of me for some reason. It's been a pretty busy, stressful week and I feel like posting it and starting a new chapter will just help me write more efficiently. It's marginally shorter than the last few but it's still a full scene. Hope you enjoy it!

Keeping up appearances was never a problem for Draco Malfoy. He would be hard-pressed to start a habit that shattered such superior breeding now. Denial was never a problem for Draco either; most times the young Slytherin even believed all the hateful things he told himself. It shouldn't be an issue then, ignoring Ginny Weasley's dirty freckled face and warm eyes or forgetting about ever thinking traitorous thoughts about the girl. It shouldn't be.

Lust wasn't such a bad thing to give into; he could live with that sin. He could live with appreciating her crimson hair that hung loose over her shoulders, sometimes tied haphazardly back, sometimes in one of her messy, completely undignified braids. He could live with remembering how far her freckles went, conjuring up the memory from that blasted poker game, how they dipped between her breasts, even travelled down over her mid-drift. He could live with the light pink of her lips, the heart shape of her face and the curve of her hips. She was a Weasley and she was scum, but she was human and at least a pureblood. And she was beautiful.

There seemed to be a line. Some faint line he couldn't help but step over time and time again, more and more after he had identified it while watching her with Colin Creevey. It wasn't just her body; it was the fire in her cinnamon eyes, her quick wit and courage, the way she held herself even in the face of his cold wrath. It was her. Everything that made her Ginny blurring into all that visceral attraction. No matter how hard he tried lately he couldn't separate the two. They had fused together somehow and he just couldn't compartmentalize these parts of Ginny Weasley for his own sanity.

And maybe he shouldn't keep trying; maybe he should give up this stupid game and tuck the whole of her away in his mind before he went mad. He could hide her in some dark corner to never look at again. He could go on just fine after that and learn from his mistake: Don't fancy fiery redheaded Gryffindors because nothing good comes of it.

His pride fought that notion of giving up, raising its hackles at the very thought. Give up? How was that an option? He was a Malfoy. Malfoys don't let feelings get in the way of acquiring anything, even a person. They found a way to push them aside and get on with it. If they couldn't or didn't, they weren't worthy of their name.

But continuing on with this game seemed more and more like something that required a bit of courage to Draco, a bit of guts. It would mean he would have to accept how he felt or turn his affection for the girl entirely off, neither of which he seemed capable of doing; he had been trying and he still tired. This truth was now he was a tad nervous about pursuing her, scared now that he had given her a glimpse into the truth of his feelings. Merlin, his feelings. He sounded like a girl, fretting over this bloody predicament. It didn't help that she was back to looking at him oddly whenever they were remotely near each other, curiously studying him from beneath lowered lashes, as if trying to figure him out. It felt invasive and irritating; it felt like he had handed over the upper hand to her.

He had. The truth was he had. So he kept up his cruel front and ignored her, only sent her challenging looks every time she took to noticing him long enough. Perhaps she would tire of it eventually. Perhaps he would get himself under control. Either way, Draco wouldn't be comforted in the least.

In the meantime he found he could concentrate a bit better lately, as if telling Ginny Weasley he found her entire package appealing soothed some of his stress over it. He supposed that was only logical, if he had been even remotely concerned about bottling up his affections, which he hadn't. He took it in stride anyway and decided not to think of it, turning his attentions where they were better deserved: class and quidditch. Pansy still hung about like an annoying fly he must try not to swat; she had been encouraged by his invitation to Hogsmeade. He didn't know why, considering she knew he had only invited her because she purposely complained about his disinterest to her mother, who brought it up with his mother, who told his father and so on. Blaise shot him bemused and sympathetic looks during Pansy's dullest and most annoying moments; Tracey merely smiled shyly beside him, her head as always bowed. Draco gritted his teeth and wished he had a girl like Blaise did: some quiet, pretty girl who had a decent head on her shoulders and all the devotion in the world to give.

Instantly his mind presented him with an entirely different image of the girl he'd like to have. He knew his first desire was just not true and it nagged incessantly at him.

He was experiencing such a moment in the library just after Halloween. Somehow he had been roped into a N.E.W.T. studying group. He sat trying to read up on a few advanced potions Professor Snape had recommended Draco familiarize himself with while Pansy prattled on to him about nothing.

Blaise and Tracey were studying quite silently, only peeking up from their books at more of the ridiculous comments Pansy would make here or there. Draco tried to tell her to shut up nicely a half hour ago ("Will you do me the honor of shutting up?") but it hadn't stuck because she had started up again just moments before.

"And I said that she couldn't charm her hair into looking like anything - Draco, what are you doing?"

He had slammed his book closed and was getting up, unconcerned with the reproachful look Madame Pince shot his way. "What does it look like, Pansy?" he answered with only the kind of condescending irritation Draco could. "I'm leaving in the hopes that your incessant chatter doesn't follow me. Don't follow me," he ordered for good measure and turned into the stacks, armed with only his one book.

He ignored her affronted huff with a roll of his eyes, turning down one aisle and another aimlessly, walking deeper and deeper into the rows and rows of books, hoping to find a desk or a sitting area hidden somewhere. They were around, he knew - comfortable old couches placed in odd clearings. The library was huge and Draco didn't come here often enough to remember a specific one. He was quite sure there was one around the area he was in however, which was why he slowed, looking down every aisle.

Imagine his surprise when he peered down one and found Ginny Weasley's mane of red hair assaulting his eyes. He very nearly cursed, his free hand curling into a fist. These chance meetings were growing quite tiresome. He couldn't help but think some higher power wanted to torture him. She was standing on her toes, straining high for a book on the very top shelf. She wasn't going to reach it but still she attempted to determinedly.

He sneered at the way her skirt rode up on her thighs, one of her knee-high socks not quite pulled up the whole way. Merlin, he hated her. He was sure he hated her, hated the way seeing her made him pause to resolutely push down the rush of emotions and desires she conjured up within him.

Her small fingers nearly caught the binding of her book. She let out an impatient little sound, which was quickly followed by a sigh of the same caliber. Before he knew what he was doing he strode forward to snatch the volume off the shelf and extend it to her, his face a impenetrable, haughty mask.

Ginny nearly stumbled back in surprise, sucking in a gasp when she spun to the side and met his eyes. She gaped at him, rather like a fish, that familiar temper and suspicion entering her gaze. He fought to keep his expression as impassive as ever, his eyes unwavering as he stared down at her. He did stare to his supreme annoyance, fixed on the soft curves of her dusted cheeks, that small freckle on her top lip. The spark of life in her stirred something in his chest, much like it always had. At least he understood it now, even if he could hardly stand it. At least.

"The proper response is 'thank you,' Weasley," he drawled during her suspended silence.

She bristled, snatching the book from him. He let his hand fall to his side. "I know the proper response," she retorted defensively. She hesitated over the following moment of silence, her slim shoulders pulling up, her eyes darting around his stone expression. "Thank you," she said grudgingly.

"You're welcome." He wasn't about to forget his manners. Nor was he going to stand around and look at her anymore like some fool. His jaw clenched; his nails dug into the cover of his own book. He was annoyed that this seemed to be the end of the interaction. He willed his feet to side step her, relieved despite himself that they obeyed and he was walking away. Besides, he had caught a glimpse of that sitting area behind her shoulder, so there was no reason to stick around and have a staring contest.

He stopped short at the mouth of the aisle, his lips thinning into a frown when he caught sight of a pile of books and parchment littered on one of the old armchairs. Ginny slipped past him, her warmth nearly brushing his side. She was small enough to do it, her brown eyes just as careful not to touch his. "Excuse me," she said, not unkindly, and sat in the middle of her things. Only then did she glance up at him, clearly uncomfortable with his towering, lingering presence.

"You're sitting here?" he inquired, half-incredulous and half-annoyed. He realized only after he asked how stupid the question was: of course she was sitting there - her bum was on the cushion.

Thankfully she either didn't notice the ridiculousness of his accusal or decided to overlook it. "I always sit here," she shot out, rather impatiently, and looked at him as if he might challenge that.

Ah, he realized. This was her spot. This was where she sat and did her work, away from the tables and other students. His gaze roamed the small alcove distastefully, his lip curled up. It was musty; the armchair, sofa and small table there were old and ratty enough to be worth of a Weasley, really. Even the rug beneath them was faded and looked better suited for the trash. He kicked at the edge of it. "Fitting," he drawled.

"Are you done insulting me? I have work to do," she slung back, as if her time were terribly limited and important.

"I just started insulting you," he retorted viciously.

"Fine, then out with it," she demanded, her voice rising, her cheeks flushing with color. She was quite a sight to behold; their climbing hostility seemed to inject her with ready and consuming animosity: her back was straight, her chest jutting out enticingly, her pretty features twisted into a blazing, strong look. "Get it over with, you spineless prat," she spat. "Call me poor and filthy and below you and get it over with."

He wanted to. He wanted to more than anything, looking down at her stupid face. He wanted to call her all the names he could think of at that moment. He wanted to hurt her in some way, any way - wanted her to know even a sliver of what was boiling in his gut and consuming him alive. She was too fucking gorgeous, sitting there with that righteous Gryffindor look on her face, and he was hopeless to even understand why that was. Why it made her beautiful, why it made him care or stole this kind of attention from him in the first place. (Did she know? She had to know. She had to know what she was doing to him.)

He bored his cold glare down on hers and she met his eyes unflinchingly, waiting for his insults and his cruelty. It would to set this right, wouldn't it? It would set this entire situation back on course. She expected it, he realized. The little bitch expected him to continue ignoring her existence, to continue pretending like he hadn't said one halfway decent thing to her in Hogsmeade.

He couldn't explain it, the sudden desire to prove her wrong. It made him feel sick and strange, open and vulnerable. He hated her. He hated her, didn't he? He had to, this infatuation aside. She was a Weasley, a blood traitor. Everything he hated and more.

Some force inside of him was commanding him to leave, to flee, to get away from her before he realized he might not hate her as much as he should. No good could come of that. But he had to say something. "Wasting breath insulting you is what's beneath me," he hissed.

He nearly stumbled back like a scared boy when she rose from her seat, her fists clenched and her eyes flashing, but he stopped himself with what he assumed was the very last shred of his dignity. He had never wanted to put distance between them before, but now it seemed like he should. Like if she came too close there would be nothing that made anymore sense to him and he needed to hold onto that.

"You're nothing but a slimy, two-faced coward," she exclaimed, "and I hate you!"

"You're wounding me, Weasley, you really are," he shot back sarcastically.

"I would think so, considering just the other week you were confessing you fancied me!" she shouted back recklessly; all the color drained from her face as if she just realized the meaning of the words. Her eyes grew wider and then wider still when he felt some taunt string inside of him snap.

One moment he was a good few yards away and the next he was crowding her, his fingers grabbing at her arm to keep her in place. She made a startled sound but she didn't stumble back, even as she tried ineffectually to wrench her arm away. Her face was tilted up towards his, her jaw set and her look furious. He could count the dirty freckles on her nose if he felt like it. "I do not," he ground out, "fancy you."

"Liar," she accused brazenly, and then her eyes slid down to the sneer on his lips, darted back up to his glare as if checking herself. She blushed hard as he smirked with vicious amusement.

He wanted to give in and kiss her senseless, until he forgot why he hated her so much, until nothing made sense anymore. Would it be a relief, he wondered? Or would it drive him insane, getting lost in her?

"If you're waiting for a kiss, Ginny, I'm not going to give you one," he whispered beneath his shallow breath, pleased with the scandalized look on her face. "And since we're being so candid, maybe you can enlighten me this time around. Why haven't you siced your brothers and your precious Potter on me, hrm? What did you get out of it?"

She blanched. "Let. Go," she ground out between her teeth, tried to tug her arm away yet again. But he held it firmly, knowing he was onto something worthwhile.

"Did you like it, Weasley? Did you like feeling wanted?" He swung blindly with the questions, was rewarded with telling rage. She was like a map - all her transparent expressions leading him to all her soft spots. "Did you like feeling chased? It gave you a thrill, didn't it? Knowing you could turn a corner and I might be there, wanting you." He took in her expressions, drunk them in like a thirsty man would consume water in a desert.

It was a hollow sort of satisfaction, watching her distress. It flickered in her eyes, the reaction to the truth in his words. It made him tired and weary to see it, to see the damage he had done. Her shame didn't please him; it merely crawled into his gut and sickened him. When she shoved him, he let her do it. He let himself stumble back.

"Get out of my face," she ordered fiercely, "or I swear-" She stopped there, but the threat hung in the air between them, palpable and real.

"As you wish," he replied. He bent at the waist, giving her a mock bow before leaving.

10. Curiosity

A/N: All righty, here it is. :) I know this a really quick update. This one is normal-sized and was going to be longer/take more time to publish, but I decided I'd cut it off here since the next chapter will probably be on the epic side. It should also have a scene that's been bouncing around my head since chapter six which I am excited abooooout.

Also, the timeline might be off, I don't know. I don't feel like going back and counting the weeks I mentioned during the course of the story. I'm sorry if it's not right. Quidditch starts in early to mid November though, so that's what I'm sticking to. All of this happens in a pretty condensenced bit of time anyhow. (Note: This chapter is set in early to mid November.)

ENJOY! Your reviews for last chapter really mean a lot by the way. :) THANK YOU ALL AGAIN.

She was having trouble sleeping.

It wasn't anything serious. For a good few years - even still sometimes - she had nightmares about the Chamber and Tom, but those night terrors were few and far between now. That had been serious, in her second and third year, having dark, terrifying dreams about cruel eyes and a velvety voice, about snakes and cold, wet stone. It was at its worst during the summer - her mum would desperately try to shake her awake amidst all Ginny's crying and moaning. She started taking potions that made her nights calmer and more peaceful; Ginny learned charms to put on her bed hangings when school started. Eventually, mercifully, the nightmares faded.

But this. This was different. It wasn't the fear of dreams keeping Ginny awake; on the contrary when she did dream lately she couldn't even remember what happened.

The trouble came with lying her head down. Every time she settled into her sheets there was nothing but the wind whipping at the tower, her red and gold hangings cocooning her, and her thoughts to keep her company. She didn't fancy thinking much lately, because it seemed the harder she tried not to, the easier it was to think of Draco Malfoy.

It frustrated her. She tossed and turned, thinking about the past few months. She replayed everything in her head, tried to turn it over and dissect it, tried to understand it against her own will. She wasn't the type of girl to sit around and think like this. At least not anymore. Now she just stopped her churning mind and did what felt right. She followed her gut.

When she liked Harry, she would do this sometimes: curl up in bed and think of him until she couldn't keep her eyes open. She would play out ridiculous romantic fantasies in her head, wonder what it would be like to kiss him, to be fancied by him. In her first year, sometimes she would think of Tom, too. Maybe for a while even after the Chamber she did; maybe she yearned for Tom's false concern over her silly problems and every thought. She longed for an attentive friend she could tell everything, when she couldn't find one. Who wanted to talk to little Ginny Weasley, who had been possessed by the Dark Lord? Not even Ron cared to ask how she was, even when she was having those night terrors. That sort of thing was just Not Done in the Wizarding World.

She supposed it was no matter. She had friends now; at the very least she had Luna. Tom wasn't - well he had never been real, not in his intentions. Ginny had built her friendship with him on lies and deceit. It had only been real to her.

At the end of all these meandering thoughts, Ginny concluded she just hadn't been so occupied by another person in awhile, and she hated that Draco would be the object of so much of her attention.

He was awful.

She hated him.

Except the feelings that accompanied her thoughts weren't of hatred, not really. Not anymore. Ginny felt inexplicably sad and confused thinking of him now. She felt shame and anger, but also curiosity and shame and anger for the same.

He seemed to haunt her without meaning to, snaking into her mind without being called. She wanted to blame him and his incessant chasing of her; just a few weeks ago she needed that scapegoat. Now it fell on her deaf ears: it wasn't him anymore. Maybe it never had been. Despite all her anger and shame and all the awful things he had said and done to her, the fact remained she had always been a bit drawn to him; to his good looks and scowling charm, his flippant cruelness and his bullying, spineless family. She was like a moth to a flame, yet always sensible enough not to fly too close, to admire and hate him from afar. To keep from getting burned.

Draco didn't bother her now. He merely went on with his life after their chance encounter in the library; she followed suit. Sometimes she would feel the pressure of his stare, lift her eyes in the halls to find his cold grey eyes following her. Sometimes she would even look at him carefully from across the Great Hall, both willing him to feel her gaze and hoping he didn't. Colin's cheerful voice or Luna's errant thoughts would cut her mission short and she would break away from it, shake it off until the urge crept up on her the next meal. It was shameless and she knew that, but she couldn't help herself. She never could.

Ginny was confused. She wanted to know now. She wanted to know why he felt affection for her. How he could. Worse yet, she wondered what he would be like, if things were different. If she was, or if he was, or if the world were different. How would he treat her without all his pride and prejudice, without all his cruelness? Would he be warm to her? Could he be? Were those few moments he had been acted or were they real, taking into account what she knew now?

All of her desires to know him in and out consumed her, but she wouldn't try. She couldn't. It was just another thing that was Not Done in the Wizarding World. She was supposed to hate him, not want to know him. He was a Malfoy. She was a Weasley. And his father had tried to kill her, for Merlin's sake. By all accounts, Ginny should blindly believe she already knew everything about him she needed to. But she didn't.

So, she had trouble sleeping.

"Colin, look, I really can't stay longer. I have Quidditch practice."

It must have been the third time she told him this week. Last month had passed quickly - too quickly, and November's first game was bearing down upon the Gryffindor team. They were slated first, and of course, against Slytherin. Ginny tried to not think on it; it hardly mattered. As a Chaser, she had no reason to worry about facing off with Draco. The point was Harry was Captain now and as Captain he had been working them to the bone every other night a week and even on Saturday mornings, rain or shine. The Slytherins were practicing just as much now.

It was Thursday and dinnertime. She had just popped into the Great Hall for some food before venturing out to practice. The game was scheduled for Saturday and she really couldn't be late to practice. Furthermore, she didn't want to be. It didn't help that Colin seemed to be hounding her lately, in such a friendly and nice way that she couldn't be upset with him about it. He kept asking her to do purely platonic-sounding things with him: study or have dinner in the Hall, play a game of Exploding Snap or chess in the common room before bed. But he kept smiling in that way he had in Hogsmeade - so hopefully that Ginny knew there was more to it than friendship.

"It's okay, I understand," Colin said, looking a bit forlorn as he glanced down at his plate. "We need to beat those Slytherins, eh?" He added this with a burgeoning smile, looking up as Ginny pushed herself to her feet.

She managed to give him a patient smile of agreement and bade him farewell, letting out a sigh of relief as she head for the doors. Being around Colin had never felt so awkward and suffocating before. Now she guiltily tried to avoid him and cut their interactions short.

Ginny couldn't help but glance to her right before she reached the exit. It was a habit by now, checking for Malfoy. She frowned a little when she didn't spot him and tore her eyes away, doubling her speed out to the pitch. It didn't matter where he was; she had more important things to worry about this evening. And that was Quidditch.

They had been running drills all week and playing out game plans. Harry had them memorize a few and she went over them in her head now as she opened the castle doors. The night was pleasant - Ginny enjoyed these short November heatwaves - although there was a light breeze that gave her slight shivers. She tried to remember if she had left her Quidditch sweater in her locker or if she had chucked it in the basket last week.


She spun around, halfway to the pitch by now and jarred out of her thoughts. Draco Malfoy walking towards her with his usual confident gait was just as jarring, if not more so. Her heart thudded against her ribcage and her breath caught in her throat; all she could manage was watching as his cloak billowed with his quick steps. What could he want?

His expression was impassive: both indifferent and bored. She could make it out as he came closer. The sight of it brought her back to herself and she swallowed, schooled her own features from her momentary shock and curiosity the best she could.

He stopped a couple of yards away from her and yet still towered over her. Her spine straightened in answer; she couldn't help but flush under his blank silver eyes. They would be vacant and unfeeling if it were not for the veil she could sense appropriating those ideas. He couldn't feel nothing, could he? They hadn't spoken in more than a week.

His arm lifted; he held out his hand. She noticed for the first time the sealed enveloped he carried. "It's prefect rounds. For Granger. I know she's at the pitch to watch your brother," he explained swiftly.

Oh. Something hopeful and fluttering inside her fell.

She looked down at the parchment, down at his long, pale fingers with a furrowed brow.

Just prefect rounds. He wanted her to give them to Hermione. Of course.

Her tongue darted out to wet her lips. "Why can't you give them to her yourself?" she asked, and with a bit more strength than she felt.

Ginny's eyes sought his again; she saw the telltale sign of impatience break through his stare. His lips twitched and so did his wrist. He stepped closer. Ginny set her jaw.

"Because, Weasley," Draco said slowly, "if I go on the pitch during Gryffindor's practice everyone will accuse me of spying. I'm not in the mood to deal with your House's ridiculous big-headed prattle."

"We're not big-headed," she protested immediately, forgetting about her disappointment, about all of her curiosity for the moment. Gods, he was such a prat.

"Oh, so your brother and Potter wouldn't have accused me of spying?" He shot the question back effortlessly, one of his eyebrows lifting with a smirk.

She shut her mouth and fumed for a second, glaring. Of course they would have accused him of it. "It's not like they wouldn't have a reason. It's not above you."

"Touché, pet," he conceded sardonically. He held out the envelope further. "Now will you take it since you've vetted me?"

She huffed and pushed her misbehaving hair out of her face, not wanting to give in on principle. Instead she reached forward to snatch it from him because she had no other immediate ideas on how to argue further. "Fine," she said grudgingly.

"Thank you." There was no surprise that his tone said 'finally' more than it conveyed even a smidgeon of gratefulness. He bowed his head marginally at her and turned without pause to head back to the castle. The departure was so abrupt it startled her, her fingers curling tight around the message as she blinked owlishly at his retreating back.

"Malfoy!" she yelled, his name bursting from her lips. She had to grace to blush at the impulsiveness of the action, and flush even harder when he stopped and half-turned towards her, looking at her with slight bemusement and curiosity.

"Yes?" he drawled back.

She pulled her shoulders back and stomped over to him, determined to get some answers - about something. About whatever it was she thought of next when she opened her mouth. Because the truth was she wasn't quite sure why she had called his name.

He was somehow paler in the twilight, ethereal and angelic. She nearly scoffed at the thought as she stopped beside him, glaring up at his amused, searching gaze. He was expectant now, waiting for her to speak. She wasn't sure if she preferred this calmness to the rashness of his attitude all the other times they interacted. He seemed in control now. Utterly and completely. She faltered in her thoughts and then tipped her chin up resolutely.

"I want to talk to you," she announced. "You said you fancied me. Twice now," she blurted out incredulously.

"And?" he prompted.

"Well, why haven't you done anything about it, you stupid prat?" The words tumbled from her lips, unbidden and irritated. There it was, her curiosity. But it came out all wrong or perhaps too right. She wasn't sure how she meant it, but it couldn't have been like that. She just wanted to understand, not ask in such a way...

She trembled looking up at him, watching the mirth he took from her current antics fade away from his stare. He was looking at her strangely now, too intensely and guarded for her liking. He took a step forward, his silvery eyes narrowing down at her. "Do you want me to?" he murmured, searching her expression for something. She felt like he was reading her as easily as he could a book. The heat left her cheeks, the color seeping from her skin as her eyes widened. What did he see? She realized with burgeoning panic that she didn't want him to see anything - what if he saw something encouraging?

"I just want to understand, Malfoy," she answered quickly, trying to deflect his attention. "I want to know why you'd - why you'd fancy me. You hate me."

His aristocratic features went slack then; his eyes narrowed their focus on her wide eyes. There it was, she saw it now - that dangerous flint in his gaze. The tense set of his broad shoulders. He was angry. "If you think fancying you is something enjoyable for me to endure, Weasley, then you're sadly mistaken," he bit out. He all but glided closer, his steps graceful and menacing. His pale lips were in a sneer and his fingers were in white-knuckled fists. He radiated condescension and she felt that imposing force in his tall presence. All of it bore down on her now and her breath went shallow at the sight of it; it riled her up and gave her cause to flush indignantly again.

He endured her? As if his feelings were some awful problem?

She wasn't surprised. Or at least she shouldn't be. Of course Malfoy would take this as the bane of his current existence. Of course he was angry about it. Still it toyed with her temper.

"Oh so I'm your dirty little secret," she spat out, resisted the urge to reach out and give him a good shove back. He was just too close now, too virile and arresting. Errant locks of his blond hair dislodged by the breeze swept across his forehead; she could nearly make out each individual strand. She had to tilt her head back to meet his eyes now; her body hummed at the lingering presence of his heat.

"Yes," he confirmed evenly. "So don't look at me like that and tempt me, witch."

"Oh, please." Her voice was full of vitriol, even as her insides twisted at his words. How was she looking at him? "I'm not some succubus, Malfoy. I'm not tempting you, I'm asking you a question."

"And I answered it," he said, cutting her off, voice raised slightly to over power her own. "So are we done?"

She sucked in a breath at that, looked unflinchingly up into his waiting gaze for a suspended moment. There was something there, on his face, some ghostly emotion she couldn't place but still held her captive. He wanted to be done, that much she could tell. "But you didn't," she replied softly, remembering Blaise, remembering his advice. Don't let Slytherins give you half-answers. "You didn't answer me."

He let out a shaking breath and it nearly startled her, that small break in his strong control. "What do you want me to say, Weasley?" he asked just as softly. "That you're too gorgeous for your own good and so entirely Gryffindor it kills me? That you've managed to possess my every thought this year just by existing? I bet you would; I bet you'd just love to hear about some bloke mooning over you. Well, I'm not. You're a filthy blood traitor. You're poor and beneath me and you don't deserve a minute of my time."

His words didn't hurt. That was the first thing she realized. They were insults, yes, slights meant for her and her family. They were words embalmed by his cruelty, by his everlasting hatred. But his eyes were flat as he said them, his lips slightly twisted into a grimace. She stared at him now and wasn't even angry, because she knew what that unnamed emotion was now.

Pain. He was hurting.

"I don't," she whispered, her lashes fluttering, her head shaking slightly. "I don't love to hear it." The fingers of her free hand twitched; she pressed her lips together. His expression morphed quickly, evolved into disgust and concern, but it didn't anger her. Those emotions were for him, not her. "Malfoy..."

He recoiled, before she could even think to raise her hand, to offer him comfort she was helplessly confused over wanting to extend. "Just stay away from me, Weasley," he ordered, stepping back and turning without giving her a chance.

She watched him go, even more confused than before.

11. A Good Clean Game

A/N: Here it is! Hermione's in it! I've hardly mentioned her, but I'm glad she's made her first appearance. I kind of love Hermione Granger so I'm a bit surprised at myself for excluding her for ten chapters.

Also, the scene I was planning is not in this chapter. It will definitely be in the next. That's the thing about writing. It takes you to unplanned places. I felt like the chapter really ended here and so that's where I stopped. So unfortunately, there's not much D/G interaction in this one. But trust me. There is plenty to come.

It seemed to Ginny that Saturday's Quidditch game was upon her before she could blink twice. She took breakfast that morning with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, the last of whom looked cheerful. Ginny knew Hermione enjoyed watching Harry and Ron play but would never admit it. She didn't blame the bookworm for keeping that from them - neither would let her live it down if she said so.

Harry and Ron on the other hand were both wired and nervous. Ron was muttering under his breath and shoveling food into his mouth at Hermione's urging. Harry looked pale and kept asking Ginny to recite some of their game plans to him.

"Harry!" she finally exclaimed after the fourth time. She gave him an amused, sympathetic smile. "We've practiced for a month! I remember the plays! You're a brilliant captain and we have a brilliant team. Don't worry about it."

He choked out a laugh and tried to look optimistic. If Ron were in any state to do it, he might have told Harry he was worse than Wood.

Soon enough it was time to head down to the pitch and suit up. Ginny barely had time to smile and wave at Luna when she came down to eat. Her best friend was wearing the oddest red and gold headband that projected the words 'GO GRYFFINDOR!' in matching, sparkling colors over her yellow hair.

"Now just remember what I told you about Crabbe and Goyle," Harry was warning her as they walked across the lawn. Crabbe and Goyle were the Slytherin beaters; last year they had targeted Ginny with vicious glee because she was so quick to score and probably because she was a Weasley. The thought made her a little sick now; since when did Crabbe and Goyle do anything without Draco Malfoy telling them to? "Stay out of their crosshairs if you can-"

"Harry, if I can score I'm going for it, Bludger or no-"

"You think I can't protect our star Chaser, Harry?" Seamus piped up, sidling up to her. He flashed a charming grin and swung an arm around her shoulders. He was one of the new Beaters this year and furthermore couldn't help but act like a shameless flirt. Ginny laughed at his antics and rolled her eyes, accustomed to the friendly behavior after suffering through it for so many practices.

"I didn't say that," Harry retorted. "I just meant-"

"We know and don't worry about it, mate. Me 'n Dean have Ginny's back. You worry about Malfoy and the Snitch."

"That's right, Harry," Ron grumbled. "Just keep that slimy git from winning."

"He's been a bit absent this year, hasn't he?" Hermione said conversationally from alongside Ron, her brow furrowing curiously. "I mean, when was the last time he bothered us? It seems odd."

"Doesn't matter, he's still a bastard," Ron argued. "He hasn't been bothering you anymore, has he, Gin?"

She felt all of their eyes converge on her; she resisted the urge to reach back and give Ron a nice punch on the arm. "Uh," she responded with a flush, "no."

"I didn't know he was bothering you, Ginny." Hermione sounded concerned. "And he told you to give me those prefect rounds the other night, didn't he?"

"What did he do?" Ron roared, as if asking to pass along an envelope were the equivalent of an awful hex.

"Shut up, Ron," Ginny snapped, turning to glare at her scandalized brother. "He asked me to give the prefect schedule to Hermione, that's all. Now can we please just get to the pitch and play the game?"

She punctuated this suggestion by speeding up and leaving them all behind her, heading to the locker rooms alone. It wasn't even Ron being the idiot he routinely was or that anything they were saying wasn't true - Malfoy was a bastard and a slimy git, and it was odd he hadn't been bothering the trio. Or at least it would seem odd if they didn't know Draco had been spending an inordinate amount of time concentrating on her.

It was quite simply the overall reminder of Draco that grated on her. It was the thought of Malfoy and their fragile, crumbling game, remembering Thursday night and all the things he said - all the things she felt for him.

It wasn't pity. It would be easier if she pitied him, but she didn't. She understood the pain in his eyes, the frustration and shame. He could pass as a mirror reflecting her turmoil. The mere fact that she could understand Malfoy, relate to him in some way - that kept her up at night more than wondering about his motives ever could.

Stop it, Ginny, she told herself, dropping her things on a bench and reaching in her duffel to gear up. She heard the talking and laughter of her teammates nearing soon after; she willed herself to set her attitude right. Months ago this wouldn't have got to you. Just play the game and win. She hated to admit that might be easier said than done, not thinking about the blond Slytherin for a day, especially when they would be on the same field and playing the same game. All the same, she managed to smile tightly at the two other Chasers (Katie Bell and Demelza Robins) when they came in to suit up and go over their plays. The sound from the pitch was getting louder, the time was getting later, and soon enough she found herself walking alongside her teammates onto the field.

Even after a year, the magnitude and volume of a Quidditch game never failed to invoke passion in her; the only thing that dampened it now was Harry giving her a concerned look under the cheers and boos of the crowd. "Ron can be... well, you know, Ron. Don't let it get to you, Gin?"

She sighed and nodded with a smile, wanting to comfort him. He wanted to win the Cup this year and she couldn't blame him. She shouldn't be so selfish, especially over Draco Malfoy's tendency to distract her. Harry deserved it; Quidditch brought him happiness and who knew where he would be after seventh year?

Probably facing Voldemort. Ginny shivered, not wanting to think too long and hard about that. But now that the thought occurred to her, it nestled into the back of her mind, nagging at her.

"I'm fine, Harry. I've had a lifetime of practice ignoring Ron. My head's on straight," she fibbed. Hopefully promising it to Harry would give her more incentive to follow through.

He nodded at her, thankfully assuaged. They were halfway across the pitch now. Ginny could make out the approaching Slytherin team, Draco at their head. She had been avoiding looking at the group and she wished she could avoid it a little longer. Now all she saw was Draco, tall and regal and looking as unpleasant as ever, his eyes hard with the promise of competition and his lips in a grim line. She sucked in a fortifying breath and realized with some degree of disappointment that he was glaring at Harry. He wasn't looking at her at all - as if she were just Ron's little sister and below his radar yet again. It shouldn't surprise her - why would he stare at her so openly? He couldn't; furthermore he didn't want to have soft thoughts about her to begin with. Her disappointment was over just that - an unmet expectation she shouldn't have in the first place.

She wondered now, looking at his cruel expression, where he would be after this year. Wasn't it assumed by all - even her - that he would take the Mark? She hadn't really thought of it too much, hadn't really thought of Draco's prospects at all. But with Harry and Voldemort at the forefront of her mind, she paled with dread at the conclusion under new light. Draco had practically been bred to become a Death Eater, hadn't he? And here she was sympathizing with him, wanting him in ways that should make her physically sick. Ginny would have liked nothing more than to fade into the background, become just as invisible as Draco was treating her at that moment.

They slowed to a stop and Ginny forced her eyes on Madame Hooch, glad for any reason to keep them off Draco. "I want a good, clean game," the older witch declared.

In the wake of the last few months, Ginny couldn't help but feel like there was no such thing.

"And Weasley's got the Quaffle! She dodges Bulstrode - look at that dive! Will she get past Nott? She does! She does! Gryffindor leads one-hundred to seventy!"

Draco gripped the handle of his broom tighter, letting out a soft growl as three-fourths of the stands erupted in cheers and hollers. Only the Slytherins yelled and booed against Gryffindor's bloody charm of a Chaser. He was currently circling the pitch high above the grounds, keeping Potter in his periphery. He was discontent to admit it, but the bespeckled git had dumb luck in finding the Snitch, not to mention oodles of the same luck when it came to catching the thing.

He clenched his jaw. Truthfully he was having trouble keeping his attention on looking for the winged golden prize. He was much more concerned with Nott's awful stint as Keeper. Even Ronald Weasley was besting him in keeping goals out. He should never have given the idiot the chance to play - even if Ginny Weasley happened to be something else with a Quaffle under her arm.

Which brought him to the true reason of his inattention: Ginny in all her glory. She was merely a red and gold streak below him, dodging Bludgers and players with single-minded determination. Yet every time that Hufflepuff pounce of an announcer said her name something inside of him curled pleasantly and painfully. Then his eyes sought her out, as if just to check on her.

It was irritating. Frankly not a distraction he could afford. He was Seeker and Captain now, and if he didn't win the Cup this year his father would scold and belittle him for Merlin knows how long. Plus the idea of Gryffindor winning yet again set Draco's teeth on edge.

In all honesty Draco's teeth had been on edge all month. He felt tense and more irritable than usual, all over the growing soft spot expanding from the center of him. His chest ached with it; he found his thoughts wandering too often where they shouldn't go. And her with her crimson hair and those sweet brown eyes always brushing over him in the halls and at meals, giving him foolish and despicable hope he had to squash. He felt weak. He had been grateful to speak to her the other night, as if it were some masochistic treat for him to brood about the rest of the evening. He shouldn't want anything to do with her, especially now. He couldn't want anything to do with her. He hated her.

It's over, he told himself again, impatiently and with a note of resignation. He decided it was over that day in the library, that no amount of ambition or pride would push him along the course he contemplated. He would not go after Ginny Weasley when he would be nothing but a besotted arse doing it. She could hardly stand the sight of him and he had sincere doubts that would change. He would not make a fool of himself at any cost. Although Thursday he had; remembering that flash of pity in her eyes still made him bristle. He didn't want nor need her Gryffindor righteousness forcing her to take pity on his feelings. He didn't need pity from anyone - he was a Malfoy. There was nothing to pity.

He let out another growl and tore his eyes away from her, leaning down and putting some speed into his lazy flying. He circled one of the towers quickly, for a moment enjoying the cool November air graze through his hair. He saw Potter watching him intently; Draco took a moment to sneer at the disfigured moron before dipping a little closer to the game below them.

Slytherin had a good start - and then Ginny had gotten a hold of the Quaffle and things were rapidly heading south. She was a threat - in more ways than one. Crabbe and Goyle had been trying to catch his eye for the last several plays; he knew what they wanted. Approval to hit a brutal Bludger at her. For reasons Draco abhorred he had managed to blithely ignore the brainless duo, pretending to concentrate solely on finding the Snitch.

It was risky anyway, he told himself. They could be fouled and suffer a penalty. Knowing Crabbe and Goyle's penchant for being the least cunning of anyone Draco knew, they'd probably bloody it up and then what would they have? An injured Weasley and potential points to Gryffindor. For the first time in his life both of those things filled Draco with dread.

He swallowed thickly. The very ridiculousness of all these thoughts and all these completely counterintuitive feelings were driving him a bit mad. Up here, above everyone, only the wind whipping at him, he felt the truth of it all. Terrifyingly enough, he was beginning to accept it. He was fucking hopeless for the Gryffindor minx.

Not that it changed anything. On the contrary, it made him determined as ever to forget about her.

Pansy seemed pleased about it anyhow. He had even taken to sitting with her in the common room after dinners again. The first time he'd done it last week she practically beamed like the shameless tart she was. Blaise had merely looked at him from across his own seat in bemusement and with that irritatingly knowing speculation glinting in his blue eyes. Draco had let Pansy ramble about nothing for an hour to make her happy.

He figured he might as well find the path he had abandoned this year: the path that led him back to what his parents wished for him. Pansy and everything the union of their houses stood for. Pride, purity, and power.

Not this. Not this gaping, hungry hole in his chest.

"And Weasley's got the Quaffle again!" Instantly he slowed and his head turned just barely to catch sight of her. It was much too easy to discreetly watch her here; in the castle there was only so much he could do to steal a glimpse. Not that he had.


Luckily Ginny seemed too unaware to notice his attention. Now, on the pitch, she didn't have a spare moment to even check, not like he had. And there she was zooming meters below him, the red ball tucked tight at her side. She dodged a rogue Bludger with ease and dipped down under Vaisey gracefully. It was especially graceful considering her broom was nothing but a charmed heap of twigs and branches.

His lip curled up just barely in a sneer that lacked its usual disdain for her poverty. Draco let out an impatient breath and then felt it catch in his throat.

Crabbe was in her path. He was hitting the second Bludger towards her head with all his might. Draco tensed, felt some awful sickening horror contract his throat. There was nothing he could do - he couldn't tell Crabbe to stop; it was too late. How could he anyway; how could he tell his teammate not to hurt a Weasley? His stomach lurched and his broom moved against the wind - Potter passed him by a hair, diving down with furious speed. He saw what Draco saw; saw what was about to happen.

The Bludger collided hard and fast with Ginny's up-turned head, knocking her violently back. He saw blood splattering the air, caught a glimpse of her gaping mouth. The crowd screamed and rose in their seats; the announcer's words seemed muffled against the uproar.

She fell. Draco heard nothing.

His broom fell with her; the drop he took seemed out of his control. He instinctively gripped the smooth wood and leaned forward, felt himself glide towards her. He wouldn't make it. He wasn't even trying to; he was still numb with shock, eyes wide and stricken on the sight of her sliding off her broom, free-falling several meters.

She never hit the ground - Finnegan, her closest teammate, was there to catch her limp body. Quite suddenly he heard the crowd again; they responded with collective gasps of relief and shouts of concern.

Potter was by her side in an instant, her brother not far behind. Everyone hushed and a murmur went threw the stands. Her team was gathering around her, making it difficult for Draco to see anything.

Like a flock, they descended to the ground a moment later, only Dean Thomas lingering to retrieve Ginny's hovering broom. Madame Hooch and Professor McGonagall's small figures walked briskly across the field to join them.

That's when he saw Crabbe off to the side with Goyle, both boys smiling and snickering at their handywork. Draco felt something like white-hot rage boiling in his gut; his teeth gritted together so hard beneath his sneering lips that his temples throbbed.

"Attention!" Madame Hooch's booming, spell-enhanced voice startled him from thoughts of turning his broom their way and strangling their thick necks until they turned purple. "Miss Weasley is suffering a head injury, but we believe she will be fine soon. I'm ordering a time-out to discuss the possibility of a penalty to Slytherin!"

In the background, Draco could hear Ron yelling to McGonagall, "He was aiming for her head! He meant to knock her off! I'll rip him to shreds, that fu-"

Harry placed a warning hand on his friend's shoulder. That was when the stands erupted again, viciously calling for a foul. His team started to descend to the ground now too; Draco swished down and hit the grass last, being the furthest in the sky.

He spared the Gryffindors a glance; he just caught a glimpse of Ginny sitting on the ground, her fiery red hair matted with blood, her cinnamon eyes hazy and unfocused. It infused in him emotions powerful and consuming: both determination and fury, grabbing and drowning him in their reckless clutches. The shock was gone now, fully and completely. All he heard was the blood rushing into his head, the deafening sounds of the pitch's audience flooding his mind. All he understood was how Ginny's body went boneless for those few terrifying moments.

His nostrils flared and he walked faster, harder towards his team. They were crowded together near the goals; Nott was leaning against one, his yellow eyes watching the Gryffindors with some measure of interest and muted concern. Bulstrode, Vaisey, and Hendricks were looking irritated; he could barely make out the words their voices spat. Probably something about how the team shouldn't be penalized.

The only people Draco truly saw were Crabbe and Goyle standing to the side, laughing as if they just made some hilarious joke.

"Who the bloody hell told you to do that?!" he bellowed as he approached them. They instantly whipped their heads around, their guffaws dying and their smiles slackening when they caught sight of him.

"Dra-" Crabbe started, nonplussed.

"You insipid piece of shite." Draco cut him off, heedless of how the rest of the team quieted and stared.

Crabbe trembled, his dumb face full of shock and fear. Draco felt a kind of dark pleasure at the sight; he should be scared. He'd been rash before, thinking of strangling the dolt. His father had taught him plenty of dark curses better befitting the tub of lard.

"You think that was funny, do you?" he hollered. "Look at the scoreboard, you idiot! Do you want a fucking penalty?"

"N-no," he stuttered.

"And you, Nott." He turned towards Theo, his chest heaving. The other man's yellow eyes seemed to pierce through Draco, narrowing and lighting with curiosity. In fact, all the Slytherins were looking at him with masks of shock, confusion, and calculation. "Maybe you should ask to borrow Potter's glasses if you're having trouble seeing the Quaffle zooming past your thick skull."

"We're sorry," Goyle pleaded, fumbling through the words. They meant nothing to Draco, less than nothing. Theodore simply stared at him for a long, quiet moment, his golden eyes studying him with blank appraisal. Draco nearly bristled, suddenly feeling the unbearable tightness in his chest constricting his breath, suddenly hearing the harsh thudding of his heart, the uneasy nausea churning his stomach.

Then Theo's gaze travelled past Draco's shoulder, down the field and to the horde of Gryffindors and professors surrounding Ginny. Draco's fingers clutched his broom handle tighter at the silent suspicion Theo was posing.

How transparent could he be acting if even Nott saw right through him? In retrospect he had already given the fellow Slytherin enough clues - flirting with her at the poker game, claiming her as his own conquest, even paying the idiot off for it with his position as Keeper. That had been unforgivably reckless, he realized.

"Fucking worthless," he spat, "all of you."

He turned around then, stalked away a few paces to escape the pressure of Nott's scrutiny. He threw his broom to the ground and looked up to the booing and shouting teeming mass of students, reaching with shaking fingers to adjust to ties of his robe, knowing he had to wait to check on Ginny. Theo's eyes were still on him. Everyone's eyes were on him.

He turned his head just so, let his gaze drift casually to the other side of the pitch.

Ginny Weasley's pupils looked wide and black as they watched him. The swarm of people around her moved and fluttered and argued, but she sat still on a conjured stretcher, heavily leaning against her brother's shoulder. She looked lost and dazed and yet utterly intent on him, her cinnamon eyes struggling to stay open.

A breath left him, trembling from his lips, and with it took the brunt of his outrage and the coiled tension of muscles. She was fine. Banged up but fine.

He realized with a degree of horror that was all that mattered to him. Not the game or the possibility of being penalized. He couldn't care less about Nott blocking her brilliant attempts to score or making Crabbe pay for what he had done.

He looked away, running a hand through his messy, windswept hair, trying to put it back in place. Trying to compose himself.

He cared. That was what the panic and rage filling him to the brim was about. He actually cared. Draco couldn't remember the last time he could say that and mean it.

12. Hospital Wing

A/N: Some of you might be pleasantly surprised. This scene was originally supposed to take place straight after the game, but with certain factors ~changing, it didn't. I actually wrote the majority of it the night I posted the last chapter and then spent the last week stressing over it and rewriting lmao. Ginny's voice always gives me trouble. BUT I'M FINALLY HAPPY WITH IT. It's long, but whatever. ENJOY :D

Gryffindor won two-hundred and seventy to one-thirty. Slytherin suffered no penalty, not that Ron could help it. Apparently batting a Bludger at a student wasn't necessarily against the rules; quite contrary to them actually. Not that Ginny had been around to witness it, being cooped up in the Hospital Wing. She had tried in vain to convince McGonagall she was fine, but even Harry and Ron pushed her off from continuing to play, just like the overbearing brothers they were.

Maybe she hadn't necessarily been fine. She spent the better part of the night being woken by Madame Pomphrey every few hours; she was forced to answer simple questions like what month it was and what was the name of her owl. She supposed she should have acted a bit more grateful towards the nurse. Not that she had been cruel or disrespectful, just grouchy. The poor woman had been forced to get no rest just as Ginny had, but she was justifiably in a foul mood.

She hated the infirmary. She dreaded it even under normal circumstances. It was just an old, ingrained fear she had of the glaringly clean spaces and all the sick people. It brought back memories of her first year and waking up on a cot. It reminded her of the deep shame she carried all that year and in many ways still did. This was the place she confessed. Where she bared her soul and shared with everyone how dear she held Tom to her heart and what he had done with it.

At the very least the team and Luna had visited her after the game, exhausted and content with their victory, although worried and angry over her state. Pomphrey had shooed them out much too soon.

It was morning now - the sky was grey with the coming dawn. She heard the twittering of birds outside the window, calling for the sun. Ginny sighed and turned gingerly on her side. The cot wasn't necessarily comfortable, but she felt snug and warm on it after so many hours. Her head still pounded fiercely; the cut on it throbbed. And yet the pain hadn't stopped her mind from churning all night. It hadn't stopped her from having half-lucid dreams of a man with blond hair and grey eyes. Dreams of slender fingers on her cheek and a familiar voice whispering her name.

She thought of him now, cocooned in the secrecy of morning, her bleary eyes unseeingly gazing at the curtains surrounding her cot. Ginny thought of the coiled tension in his frame, of how he had stormed across the pitch with such power and determination. Ginny recalled with resignation the unparalleled fury in which he had confronted his team and the way he had looked after her moments later.

Draco Malfoy was never soft. He was jagged at every edge. Biting and cruel and mean. Even his smiles were cold and mocking. But the way he had looked at her then - silent and barely controlled - was the closest to soft and human she had ever seen him look.

He had been furious. Over her. He had been worried. Exhausted, barely awake, and injured, Ginny didn't know what to make of it. How to feel about it.

He cared.

Ginny pressed her lashes to her cheeks, curling her knees up to her chest. She felt hot tears behind her eyes, from either the pain and the confusion of her thoughts, she didn't know. She was tired. So bloody tired and that was her only excuse. What an idiot she had been - was she weak? Was something wrong with her? He was just a cruel, awful boy. He made her friends' lives hell. He had attacked her, forced his lips on hers, mocked and insulted her and still she - still she lay here thinking about how he had looked at her. Still she started having doubts - doubts about his awfulness. She thought of Draco Malfoy now and didn't think of a bully, of a rotten Slytherin who would become a rotten Death Eater just like his father.

She saw a person instead. Someone human, who felt pain and must feel love. Someone who cared about her.

Her lungs constricted painfully and she turned her nose into her pillow. Her shoulders shook once on a sob, and then again as tears leaked from her eyes. Her hand clutched at her nightgown over her heart. What was happening to her? How could she think this way? How could she relate to him? How could she want him like she did and be so drawn to him, despite everything? How? She wasn't like him. She wasn't at all.

She cried. She cried until her chest ached and her cheeks were rough with the salt of her tears. She cried even though she felt utterly stupid doing so, cried through her frustration and fatigue. She cried until she spent the last of her energy and could cry no longer.

Then she lay silently, sniffling and staring at the high ceiling, feeling the warmth of the sun's first morning rays, breathing through her chapped lips. She blinked slowly, tiredly. There was a sound then - a door opened and Ginny closed her eyes with a painful sigh. She wasn't ready to face anyone, not even Madame Pomphrey. She didn't even have the strength to try not to look miserable.

Her lips trembled and she forced her tears back. She hated this - hated feeling like this. She felt so fragile, so ready to break at any moment. It was Malfoy's fault. It was her fault. It was her stupid bruised head and not getting enough sleep. She just wanted to sleep. Then maybe she would feel less like a foolish little girl.

She swallowed, her throat unbearably dry, and let her eyes open. "I'm awake." She spoke in a raspy voice to the nearing footsteps. "The Minister of Magic is Cornelius Fudge and it's November and everything. Can I please go back to the tower?"

"You're just a fountain of facts, aren't you, Ginny?"

The same fingers from her dreams pushed her curtain slowly to the side, revealing Draco's somber face. His voice had been low and worried despite its usual condescending drawl. His silver eyes looked over her pitiful form with a greedy hunger that belied his casual posture: he was leaning against the curtain's pole, already dressed in his usual black slacks and a soft-looking green sweater, his hair still wet from a shower.

She felt all the breath in her lungs leave her, her clumsy fingers immediately reaching to wipe her thankfully dry cheeks. He couldn't see evidence of her crying, but she realized with a burst of horror she might have just tipped him off. "Malfoy?" she asked in hoarse shock, struggling to sit.

It was a dumb idea, sitting. Her head spun and she felt faint and nauseous. All that crying and all of her weariness seemed to compound her concussion. She clutched an arm around her middle, barely noticing how Malfoy tensed and straightened and walked to her side.

"I'm flattered you want to get up on my account, but please don't," he murmured, somehow managing to sound sarcastic and sincere all at once. "The last thing I want is for you to be sick all over my shoes."

She choked on a laugh; of course he would say that and worry about his perfect, shiny shoes. "Do shut up," she said, and looked up at his tired, haggard face, frowning through her passing dizziness. He looked like he hadn't slept as well and the realization made her nervous. Her hands trembled against the sheets. "Water?" she croaked and he nodded, reaching for the nearby table to pick up a cup. It filled with liquid at his touch, being enchanted to do so.

He handed it over to her and she took it, trying not to notice how their hands brushed or how her fingers twitched. She avoided his eyes and brought it to her lips to drink from in long, heavy gulps. She was parched, that was no lie. Ginny emptied the glass and watched it fill up again in her lap, licking her lips of the water. She hated that she was hesitating to speak, hesitating to ask. Draco hovered by her side and with each passing second his presence seemed to loom larger. She couldn't take it.

"What are you doing here?" she whispered, not unkindly.

She was answered, at first, with silence. From the corner of her eyes, she could see his torso, his waist. See the clenching and unclenching of his fingers and the familiar Malfoy crest adorning one of them. She deflated a bit at the sight, closed her eyes against it.

"Crabbe's an idiot," he replied. There was some venom in the weary declaration.

She laughed a little but stopped herself, worried it might turn into sobs. Her eyes opened and she tilted her head up, meeting his confused brow with an unsteady smile. "That's not really news," she said dryly.

It took a moment, but his lips quirked up into a simper. He let out an amused breath and held her eyes; his were a bit sad and a bit of that something else she had seen on the pitch. Both human and full of feeling. All of those things she had been so afraid of, what she had been crying over not long before. Sadness washed over her; her exhale was shaky as she looked away, as she used taking another drink of water as an excuse to do so.

"No, I suppose it's not," he said slowly, and continued on with growing confidence and bite. "He'll pay for it, trust me. The misery he's about to suffer will pale in comparison to the nastiest nightmare he can imagine."

The passion in his voice startled her. She wasn't sure what to make of it, Malfoy promising retribution on her behalf. It was confusing - utterly. Worse yet, her insides were doing strange things in reaction. Warming and curling up with pleasure. She licked her lips. "No food?" she wondered in a small voice.

He laughed this time, and the sound was low and short and entirely too appealing. "I could curse him - make everything taste like something foul," he ventured creatively.

"I would rather do those honors."

"I could arrange that for you."

"A Malfoy arranging something for a Weasley," she declared, finally finding the nerve to lift her gaze to his. "Is the world coming to an end?"

There must have been something in her tone - something heavy and serious. She hadn't intended it, but there it was, weighing down her words. Her exhaustion and uncertainty, all of her unspoken questions tied to this one silly line. Here they were, in the dead of the morning, away from prying eyes and hiding even from their own disapproval, talking and laughing as if the past few months hadn't torn them both to shreds, as if this were normal when it was the farthest thing from it.

She was just too tired right now. Too tired for those thoughts, for this careful dance they were playing. It was too surreal, being civil with him. Too confusing. And it pained her, because she didn't want it to end, because it was what she wondered about for weeks - if this could be so. If he could just be nice to her. Could she take those words back? Could they keep pretending?

Draco's brow furrowed, as if the question reminded him too about their realities. That by all the sense in this world, he shouldn't be here. He gazed down at her with the same sort of weariness, his posture annoyingly impeccable and his lips in a grim line. Even despite the hour, despite his lack of sleep, he was studying her. She could practically hear his mind turning. And yet he wasn't sneering as if he found what he saw despicable - instead he looked utterly serious and it made her anxious.

"Please don't look at me like that," she requested softly.

"Like what?"

She groaned and closed her eyes, not wanting to answer, and tugged her blankets up to her chest. She wanted to lay back but didn't dare, not with him here. She wouldn't act like some invalid who couldn't sit up for a conversation. "Like that. What are you doing here?" Her voice picked up then; she heard the childish whine in her words and winced, opening her eyes to peer up at him for a reaction.

Lines of irritation strained his features; he was frowning with displeasure. She almost welcomed it, that familiar look of his. But she didn't all the same - it filled her with dread. She didn't want his cruelty. His fingers curled around the rail framing her bedside; she watched his strong jaw clench and the flint in his eyes light as he leaned over to catch her gaze. "Is it so odd that after the last several weeks I would want to check up on you?" he asked in a low, menacing voice.

She tensed at the intimidating way he hunched his shoulders over her, how he met her eyes head on with challenge. Her cheeks flushed with her rising temper, with the heat of his sudden closeness. That was all it took really, it rile her up. "Maybe a bit," she answered stubbornly, tipping her chin up.

His lips curled up in a familiar sneer. "Cor, woman," he spat. "Do you enjoy acting like a brat?"

A flood of frustration filled her to the brim, his hands closing into small fists. "I am not a brat," she hissed, wanting to reach out and smack him for being so rude and so blind. "You're the one who told me to stay away from you and yet here you are!"

She might as well have slapped him for all the darkness and promise that entered his gaze. He looked positively frightening, his lips twisting and his knuckles whitening. She very well might have offended him by saying that and she wasn't entirely sure why. "I apologize if suffering your righteous Gryffindor pity didn't seem like a good time."

She huffed, her jaw dropping slightly at his words, her nails digging into her palms. Of course, she realized. Of course he ran away from her that night; he thought she felt sorry for him. He was infuriatingly wrong, because she hadn't pitied him and it filled her with irritation. And he had no right - not any right to call her names and get angry with her for thinking him horrid and selfish. He was horrid and selfish; it was all he had been to her until today.

One of his eyebrows rose and he smirked that awful smirk at her reaction. "Deep breaths, pet," he patronized her. "Use your words." It was too much. She lifted her arm and vindictively punched his shoulder, satisfied when he grunted and took a step back in shock, holding the offended spot. "Words, Weasley!" he repeated incredulously.

"Well why isn't it a bit odd that you want to check up on me, you incredible prat?" she blurted out. "You've been nothing but selfish! And that wasn't pity, you stupid idiot! How do you think I've felt? I told you to leave me alone all the time because I couldn't stand it! I couldn't stand wanting someone who was such a bastard to me! Did you even bother to think about that?"

His eyes widened and he blinked. "Gin-"

"Don't 'Ginny' me! Don't you dare, Draco Malfoy!" Violently, she pushed the tangle of sheets off her legs, emboldened by her outburst and running on adrenaline. Clumsily she pushed herself off the bed on weak, unsteady legs. The floor was cold against her feet and she swayed, clutching at the bed and trying to look dignified as she walked away. "Now shut up because I've got to go to the lav!"

She pushed her mess of dirty hair from her face and kept her head up, marching past the curtain to the infirmary's private restrooms. The door shut behind her with a satisfying slam.

She headed straight for the toilets to do her business, purposely avoiding the mirror. She huffed and seethed and still was doing both when she stomped over to the sink and yanked the handle up. Water spurted from the tap and she furiously cleaned her hands, finally glancing up to her reflection.

She was a mess. This wasn't a surprise. Like all things when she was in this sort of state, it merely made her angrier. Her hair was knotted and frizzy, messy from all the tossing and turning she had done. She was pale and there were circles under her eyes, her freckles dark and defined against her ghostly visage. She looked exhausted. Like a sick hag-in-training. And that wasn't even mentioning the sizable bruise and nasty cut at her temple. At least it wasn't swelling, thanks to Madame Pomphrey.

But those things weren't what she really saw - what she saw was her wide brown eyes and the upset furrow of her brow. She saw the vulnerability past her anger; she saw the reason she had been crying.

With a moan she leaned over to splash water on her face and hopelessly run wet fingers through her hair, trying to tidy it.

Instantly she knew - she felt it. Felt the softness buried deep in her heart. He cared and even if she was justified to think so little of him, she really didn't. He just made her so angry - she sighed. By all accounts he just admitted to his own weakness and his own pain, not wanting to be pitied. He admitted to caring, coming to check on her. She threw it back in his face.

"Merlin," she murmured, wincing as she brushed her digits over her tender forehead. She didn't need this. She didn't need this at all.

A wave of fatigue and faintness swept over her. It hit her hard and quickly - she shouldn't have gotten so riled up but she couldn't help it. It was his bloody fault!

She combed her hair down one last time, exiting without a second look at herself.

He was still there. She hadn't realized until now how she half-expected him to be gone. His face was painted with a grimace, his tall form leaning against the side of her bed. He was twisting his ring around his finger, looking impatient and displeased.

What a surprise, really. She scoffed softly from where she stood and he looked to find her, his eyes sliding too slowly up and down her still form. She felt them against her skin, somehow even through the thin fabric of her nightgown. How did he do that, make her feel so exposed? She fidgeted and resisted pulling her arms about herself, blushing. He merely blinked.

"I didn't mean to upset you," he declared simply.

"Yes, you did," she argued tiredly and padded over. She climbed on her bed silently, tucking her legs under the sheets again.

"Not like that I didn't," he replied.

Ginny frowned at the response and stole a suspicious glance at his back, at his sculpted shoulder blades and the nape of his neck. His white hair licked just there, curled just barely with the first sign of an overdue haircut. Not like what? she wondered. Not like reminding her of the past few months? Not like upsetting her so seriously? She wondered how soft his hair would be if she touched it. She wondered if she could memorize the dips and valleys of his back with her fingers.

"Look, Weasley," he continued lightly, his head still bowed, his hands still occupied with his ring. "It's entertaining riling you up."

She felt a rush of irritation cut through her forbidden thoughts. "It's really not. Stop it."

"As you wish," he murmured in a drawl, in such a tone that Ginny couldn't be sure if he were mocking her or not.

Still, she pressed her lips together, forever feeling obligated to do the right thing. To say what needed to be said. "Thank you for checking on me," she announced awkwardly. "Even if you've been a prat you didn't - well you didn't have to visit me."

She meant the words and that was even more unsettling than saying them. They poured from her lips with a kind of careful softness that she didn't want to acknowledge. Even though they were stilted and felt strange in her mouth, she meant them. He didn't have to care. Ginny wasn't sure what would be worse at this point: if he didn't at all or if he did.

She dragged in a breath and lifted her eyes. He had turned his head and his eyes were half-closed looking at her, his lips slightly parted. She felt heat in her cheeks; she felt a rush of heat everywhere. He was studying her again, touching her without lifting a finger. Ginny tried not to look away and only succeeded with the strength of her considerable will, her spine straightened resolutely.

"Bet it took a lot out of you to say that," he murmured.

She bristled. "Don't ruin it," she admonished fiercely. "I meant it. That Bludger - and you, on the field..." She trailed off when his expression darkened. There was intensity clinging to features, swirling in his eyes. Ghosts of that fury she had seen. She swallowed, pressed her lips together a moment. "I could tell you were - I mean, you were... upset."

His jaw set at that; the turbulent ire faded and he looked away. He didn't seem to want to respond, but he did. He nodded, just slightly. Her heart rose slowly into her throat. There it was: confirmation of what truly kept her awake all night. He cared about her.

A shaking breath left her and she tore her eyes away from his grave profile to look into her lap, down to her wringing hands. "Oh," she whispered.

"I meant it," he said, his voice softly menacing. "Crabbe will pay for what he did."

That made her look up, that dark tone of his voice. He did, she realized. He did mean it. One of his hands clenched and unclenched in and out of a fit, his lips in a sneer. Her fingers twitched; she wanted to reach for him, tell him something comforting, anything at all.

So she did, her hand lifting just barely, hesitating before going on. She brushed a touch over his shoulder, lingering too long and pulling away much too soon. "Draco?" she whispered, stuttering through his name. She had never called him by it, not seriously, and the syllables felt intimate and forbidden rolling off her tongue. She liked the way they tasted: all jarring consonants and soothing vowels. A lot like him.

He looked at her then curiously, his brow furrowed. He was studying her again and it made her blush, but she didn't look away, determined not to lose her nerve. It felt like a challenge every time with him, not backing down. She held her chin up and pressed her lips together, standing by the gesture she had extended to him.

The only sound when he moved was that of fabric and shallow breathing; he turned to face her better, his arm lifting from his side. A breath filled her lungs as he reached for her slowly, a question in his eyes. He looked at her cut, back to her eyes.

She hardly thought; she merely nodded with anticipation. He touched her temple, just below her bruise, and she closed her eyes and tilted her head down. The bed shifted when he rose slightly, his digits sliding into her knotted hair, his cool palm at her cheek.

She didn't know what she expected - what she thought he was doing. Or perhaps she did, because she wasn't surprised when his lips pressed tenderly against her forehead.

Her fingers reached for his chest, the tips of them just barely brushing the soft fabric, which was warmed by his body. Her hands shook and recoiled as if burned - she couldn't. It was wrong. But some rush of desire washed over her, tempting and seducing her to give in. It would be easy, just once. She deserved this much, didn't she? To just touch him, to let him touch her - just this once. Just to know what it would be like.

She reached for him again, let her palms press over the apex of his chest. Her breath caught at how solid he felt; she felt dizzy as his lips slowly left her temple, travelled down to press against her cheek. "Ginny," he whispered breathlessly, his voice full of awe. One of his crooked fingers reached to cradle her chin, tip her bowed head up.

She waited, her digits curling into his sweater, her heart thudding in her chest. His breath touched her parted lips and she held back a whimper, swaying slightly forward. When he kissed her, it was softly, searchingly, and not firmly enough. But it tended to some simmering fire in her, brought to it a burst of flame. His lips were slightly wet and fit between hers; he pulled back slightly and then kissed her fully with a kind of ardent tenderness that crippled her. This was not at all like she remembered it - it was too warm and gentle.

A soft sound left her; she slid her hands up towards his shoulders and felt a rewarding shudder run through his frame. It made her gasp just slightly; Draco took it as invitation to brush his tongue into her mouth, press it between the seam of of her lips. She parried back with her own, nearly smiling at his sly move, nearly letting out another sound when he pressed forward with confidence to break their tentativeness and kiss her deeply.

She tilted back precariously, clutching at his sweater out of instinct. But his hand found the small of her back and steadied her. She relaxed slowly into it, unsure if she wanted to put more weight on it, if she wanted to lay back and give him permission-

And then his teeth grazed her bottom lip and pulled her back under the haziness of his warmth and kiss. His tongue filled her mouth swiftly, leaving behind his taste; his lips pressed and moved with increasing hunger against hers until there was nothing but that. Nothing but their soft, gasping breaths and the gentle tugging and nudging and caress of their hands. The warning bells sounding in her head were barely given credence, even when he pulled her body to him and it wasn't enough, not at all, and she fell back into the sheets and bed creaked against their combined weight. His mouth latched onto her pulse and her toes curled; her hands found fistfuls of his hair as she whimpered. The strands were like silk and too pretty like a girl's and she giggled breathlessly and jumped when he bit her neck, as if he knew what she was thinking.

One of his knees settled between hers; she tried not to arch her back too far, tried not to encourage too much even though she shook with desire. He groaned above her, pressing wet kisses below her ear, one arm holding his body aloft. His free hand clutched at her waist and buried itself in her hair, always moving and her body moved with it. Everything was turning languid and drugging; he whispered her name and returned to kiss her soundly on the lips.

His eyes were open just barely as he hovered above her, his pale face flushed. It made her blush to see him so affected; she wasn't very experienced. Or maybe it was how unabashed and raw he seemed, how unapologetic. He looked at her hotly, possessively, his gaze roaming her cheeks and lips and eyes with obvious appreciation and pleasure.

"Look at you," he murmured in a melodic drawl, his slender fingers reaching to trace her cheek, the line of her jaw. "I didn't think you could look anymore beautiful."

If she could have grown redder, she might have. It occurred to her then that she was hardly beautiful at the moment - just haggard and injured. "I look terrible," she said wryly, stating the fact with slight incredulity.

"Yes, you do," he agreed, an amused smirk tugging at his lips. "And you smell a bit too - you know the castle has running water, don't you? Not like the shack you live in half the year."

His tone was light and his eyes were warm, but that didn't stop her own from narrowing. She hit his shoulder with as much force as she could from beneath him; he merely grunted and chuckled at his own joke. "Shut it or I'll shut it for you," she threatened.

"I was kind of hoping you would," he replied suggestively.

"Well, I guess you'll be hoping a long time," she replied primly, trying not to smile.

"So far you've been worth it."

The response was quick and entirely too clever and pleasing. She grew quiet after it, trying not to look at him too softly. She wasn't doing a very good job of it; she knew that. Otherwise he would have no reason to be smiling down at her like he was, one of his brows raised. He looked handsome smiling like that; he looked gentle and good and completely transformed from the sneering, cruel boy she knew. Although for all her waxing poetic about his expression, he certainly looked as smug as ever.

She let her gaze drop to his neck, her fingers following. His hair was in disarray from her clutching at it and she quite liked it like that - not annoyingly perfect. "Draco," she murmured, not quite sure what she was going to say. It seemed important, terribly so. The touch of a smile on her lips faded and she played with the hem of his collar.

She wasn't expecting another kiss, but she welcomed it. He leaned down, his nose nudging against her cheek, his mouth soft and greedy and slow and robbing her of all thought. She thought maybe he meant to do it, meant to interrupt whatever nagging impulse had her say his name like that. She was more than willing to play along for now, her lashes fluttering closed and her fingers blindly roaming his chest and back. He was lean, she knew that, and slightly built, just like a Seeker should be. But he was also warm and sweet; for all his forcefulness the past few months he hardly let his hand reach past her mid-drift now. It sat there, heavy and distracting, his strong fingers caressing and clutching the fabric of her nightgown until she thought she might go mad, trembling for more.

She gasped just slightly with anticipation when that hand slid over her waist, anchored on her back. He tugged and she complied, her stomach pressing to his and the soft flesh of her inner thigh sliding against his slacks. She felt him then, felt his arousal pressing between them. His lips fell to her neck and she felt the curling smile on them before he tended to making her shiver and whimper with his tongue.

Maybe if she were in any state to care, she would be miffed he probably kept his hand still to coax her into being compliant, being this warm, entirely manipulable thing in his arms. She couldn't though, because his teeth were scraping at her pulse and his palm was finally abandoning her waist to move down her thigh. She was hardly aware she was rocking into him until he hissed and cursed against her skin; she flushed at the realization and willed her body to stop.

"Don't you bloody well quit that," he growled, more pleading than anything else. In fact, he was breathless, his mouth pressed against her cheek and his fingers digging into her thigh. His body was taunt, she realized, muscles coiled and strong as he hovered above her. And his raspy voice cut right through her; the hands clutching at his shoulders clutched harder.

A sound left her throat and she turned her head to bury her face into the column of his neck, lips pressed against his creamy white skin. She was curled about him now; Draco groaned and let his weight fall some, let his hips pin hers to the bed. Excitement and anxiousness burst into her tummy; she flushed hot and tried not to squirm. "I have to," she murmured, nuzzling against his pulse. "We have to stop."

He made a non-committal and displeased grunt against her shoulder; she giggled.

"Yes, this is all terribly hilarious," he drawled. "Why haven't I been laughing?"

"Don't be a grump because I'm not ready to give you a shag," she said, amused by his sarcasm. "Especially the morning after a concussion."

"Tomorrow morning, then?"

She hummed thoughtfully. "No, not then."

"Day after tomorrow?"

"Maybe then. But only if Ron confesses his undying love for Milicent Bulstrode and they run away together to join a Muggle carnival."

"What the bloody hell is a car- no, don't tell me. I don't want to know," he decided haughtily.

"No, you probably don't," she agreed, quizzically thinking of Harry and Hermione explaining carnivals to her. Something about sitting on a giant Muggle wheel and candy made out of cotton. And clowns. Ginny would never understand the purpose of clowns.

She sighed and closed her eyes, trying to relax after all that excitement. It wasn't very hard; her head was still sore and all of the morning was taking its toll. She tried not to concentrate on the pressure of Draco's weight, how his breath felt against her neck and the shudders it sent down her spine. But it was helpful thinking of the warm embrace of his body, how he was half-draped over her like a blanket.

This silence was easy, and strange because of it; Ginny let her palms settle over his shoulder blades and she breathed him in, wanting to remember every bit of this because it seemed so fragile and precious.

He shifted then. Ginny noticed he was too making an effort to calm himself, but still she had to bite her lip at the friction. "How's your head?" he wondered, and pulled back to survey the damage.

"Fine," she answered, distracted by his silver eyes. They brushed over hers, much like his touch did against her cheek. "I've got a headache but it's nothing compared to last night. Pomphrey - oh Merlin!" she exclaimed, giving him a shove. "You have to go! She could come back any second!"

Draco didn't seem as concerned as he ought to be about this. On the contrary, he merely looked annoyed, taking his sweet time to get up as Ginny nudged him frantically. "Ow - ow - what is with you and hitting me, woman?"

"Don't be a baby; I'm hardly touching you," she retorted incredulously. "Get off!"

"Ah, yes," he replied, with a familiar smirk as he did as she ordered - slowly. "There's the Ginny I fell for. I was wondering where she went off to."

Finally, he was on his feet. Ginny had sat up to shoo him along, but her waving hands didn't seem to be having much affect. "Go!" she prompted in a harsh whisper.

He didn't leave immediately. Instead he grabbed her flailing hands and leaned over to press his lips to her worried mouth. A muffled sound of surprise spilled into their kiss; Draco caught it hungrily along with her breath. "Fine," he said, pulling away suddenly with a frighteningly toothy grin.

He let her wrists ago, seemingly delighted when she huffed, torn between agitation and other softer feelings, and then he turned to leave. "Try not to miss me too much."

Ginny fell back into the sheets and tried not to do just that.

13. Skirts

A/N: Sorry this chapter took so much longer than usual! I suppose I needed a break since the last was so lengthy/challenging. So was this one honestly! But I'm happy with it. :) I hope you guys enjoy it.

PLEASE READ: Also, I'm going to be changing my pen name at ff.net. Those of you who know me from PK: I won't be changing it. But from now on, my ff.net pen name is petitebelette. So don't be surprised when next chapter is miraculously not by InTheStars. Thank you!

Ginny wasn't quick sure what to make of the next few days. She finally fell into a deep sleep Sunday afternoon after a visit from Luna, Hermione, Ron, and Harry, and a spot of breakfast and some tea. Madame Pomphrey had given her the go ahead to catch some actual rest only after she drank some horrid potion. By the time she woke up it was well past midnight Monday morning. Bored, impatient, and aggravated at being so cooped up, Ginny had left her bed to take a shower in the Hospital Wing's communal restrooms. She stood under the hot spray much longer than necessary, eventually pulled on a new nightgown, and retired back to bed for several more hours of sleep.

She was excused from classes that day, although somehow managed to be excused from the infirmary as well. Only the latter mattered truly. On the contrary Ginny welcomed the thought of classes and deigned to go, if only because it was more entertaining than sitting around and sleeping more. She hadn't seen Draco since Sunday morning and was beginning to feel agitated over it - agitated and a bit nervous. It wouldn't be a surprise to her if their encounter had been some strange, sleep-deprived hallucination she dreamed up due to her head injury. Yet for all her paranoid suspicions that it could be, she of course knew it wasn't.

If it wasn't, how could she remember so clearly what his mouth felt like on hers, what his drawling, melodic tones sounded like while gently teasing her?

Despite her eagerness to catch a glimpse of the Slytherin, at the very least just to remind herself it happened, she missed breakfast while rushing up to the tower to pull on her uniform and retrieve her books. All during Herbology and History of Magic her friends and Housemates inquired with concern and interest about her health and commented scathingly over the Slytherin team for attacking her like they had. Ginny listened with as much attention she could muster and bristled a bit at all the hostility.

Not that she didn't feel it herself - not that she wouldn't like to hex Vincent Crabbe into a dark and painful oblivion - but their rancor reminded her of the one Slytherin she didn't think was wholly vile. Maybe just marginally vile. Or rather vile about ninety percent of the time but really lovely the other zero-point-five percent. That extra four-point-five was set aside for those moments he seemed infuriatingly both cruel and lovely.

Oh, Merlin. She was thinking him lovely now; had she gone utterly mad for him? Draco Malfoy wasn't lovely, or even cruel and lovely, he was just cruel. Or not. Lately her hateful thoughts of him had been results of a knee-jerk reaction and not very genuine.

By the time lunch rolled around she was both inattentive to most of her surroundings and conversations and completely focused on proving - well proving something or other to herself about this whole situation. That either it happened or it didn't. He would acknowledge her existence or he wouldn't. Either option seemed completely viable. He really was such an infuriating prat; she could see him avoiding her gaze and her entire existence when she walked in. Oh, she realized, he better not ignore her completely or she'd curse him into a million little pieces.

Oh dear Merlin, now she was paranoid. She wasn't naive and she certainly wasn't stupid. Was just a look - a smile - even a nod - was that too much to ask for? Just something to tide her over into the next day so she knew she wasn't insane and this unfinished, turbulent thing between them could see some more resolution (whatever that might be) would be more than enough for her. But would he chance it? Despite all their interaction this year, she knew they had both gone to lengths to mask the nature of it.

Luna was rambling about troll legend on the way to lunch that day, talking about how her father had interviewed one of the beasts for an article years ago. Ginny merely inquired how in the world Mr. Lovegood managed to make sense of anything the creature said; Luna went off into a diatribe about troll language that only a fellow Ravenclaw or Hermione could follow with ease. It was during this diatribe that they entered the Hall for lunch. As always during this time of day it was noisy and full, brimming with food and students. Ginny's arm was linked with Luna's as they headed for their tables; they sat at either or without much discretion of choice. Wherever had room was where they settled.

Of course, the moment she entered the room she blushed like a besotted first year, not even knowing if Draco was even there, to her left, in his usual perch and surrounded by his usual companions. She didn't mean to be so eager about it, not at all. Ginny couldn't help her penchant towards impatience. Despite promising herself she would be casual about it, her eyes immediately slid to the Slytherin table.

Draco's shocking white-blond hair was what she saw of him first: silky and shining, casually combed back over his downturned head. He was smirking, a bit of flashing teeth showing as he talked to Blaise over their lunch. Pansy seemed to be sulking beside him and stabbing her food; to her right Crabbe and Goyle sat stuffing their faces. Her eyes stopped only on Crabbe, her lips pulling down into an angry frown, but soon her gaze flickered back to Draco. Draco, who looked as smug and self-satisfied as ever, his grey eyes gleaming with a frightening kind of happiness.

Her chest ached suddenly, nearly caved in on itself as her breath caught. How could someone so terrible look so beautiful, she wondered? Months ago she might have found that smile curious and awful all at once. And she did find it that now, but she also found it inexplicably handsome.

"You have a curious look in your eye, Gin," Luna said conversationally. It was only then she realized she had been staring, openly so. Ginny flushed a deeper red and tore her eyes away from the Slytherin table, meeting Luna's penetrating blue gaze.

"Oh, I- you know, that ugly troll who hit me," she explained. "Just looking for him."

Luna smiled airily and let it go as they sat; Ginny mentally hit herself. Hard. Why in the world would she be looking for Crabbe? She was much more clever than that excuse! And Luna was more observant than most gave her credit for. Grimacing slightly, she started hungrily loading her plate, instinctually looking up after a few moments had passed. She wouldn't say she had sat down facing Draco on accident, but she hadn't been expectant of catching him looking her way.

She had simply hoped for it, and not in vain, because he was looking her way now, in between heads of other students. That strange, scary smirk was on his pale lips, those lips that had kissed her. And his guarded, half-hooded eyes were brimming with an indescribable ardor that seemed to possess her entire being. He lifted his brows at her once, almost playfully.

The look only lasted a second - not even two - before he turned his attention back on Blaise.

He could get used to this. Not that he wasn't used to getting whatever his icy Slytherin heart desired regardless, but this was different. Winning Ginny over felt a little bit different than any other worthwhile prize he could get his own hands on. For one, she was a woman, and a rather special one at that. (Special in the best sense of the word - and a Weasley - who knew? Like a diamond in the ruff.) No one else had inspired this rush of power and contentment in him before. Nor had they kindled such soft feelings to contrast against the violent protectiveness he felt over her. He wanted to take care of her after this entire mess; wasn't that strange?

He supposed it wasn't, considering. Didn't his father dote on his mother? Bring her gifts and make sure she was comfortable and satisfied? Ginny had been through the wringer, no thanks to him. No thanks to Crabbe, the doomed Neanderthal. So that's what he would do, as any Malfoy would. Get her a gift and lay on some charm.

For another, he could get used to having such a beautiful witch soft on him. Pansy was suitable; she always had been. At one point he had even considered her oddly shaped nose somewhat endearing. But she was no Ginny Weasley. None of the girls (all in Slytherin, mind you) who he had taken interest in these past six years were Ginny Weasleys. They certainly didn't have flaming red hair, so unacceptably untamed and gorgeous it hurt to look at it. It really was something, how she let it loose like that, sleep-tousled and quickly combed. Nor did any other girls have a splattering of sun-kissed freckles reaching everywhere over their creamy skin. Or those curves, or those dainty pink lips and cinnamon eyes.

Yes, he could get used to this. Even the terrifying ache he felt thinking about her. Even the warning bells sounding in his mind that this opportunity, however wonderful, was one he should let pass him by. But Draco, if he was anything, was selfish. What his parents didn't know would not hurt them. Or him. Or Ginny.

So he set about acquiring his first gift to her that Sunday afternoon with renewed resolution: no one would know anymore about his feelings for Ginny Weasley than they already did. Blaise, Theodore, and Pansy already knew more than they should - and while he cautiously trusted Zabini, he knew better than to expect too much. Theodore and Pansy, however, could be problems for their own separate reasons. He wouldn't make the mistake of underestimating either of them. Theodore was an opportunist if Draco had ever met one, and Pansy could be even crueler (although not craftier) than Draco given the right motivation.

And of course, there was Crabbe. He would have to bide his time plotting that revenge lest he wanted to give himself away entirely. For now, sneaking around and convincingly letting his attentions for the Weasley wane would do. He was just appalled sneaking around meant visiting the smelly owlery during his Monday rounds. He could think of no other way to send the present to Ginny tomorrow morning with the post. He would have much rather just sent his owl, Persephone, but for obvious reasons he couldn't. The regal animal glared at him from her high perch after he shooed her away; all he could offer her was an apologetic eyebrow raise in return. "Don't look at your beak down at me, old bird," he told her. She ruffled her feathers as if offended. "You know I'd rather use you."

Increasingly paranoid of owl droppings, he quickly found a suitable school owl and attached the parcel to its leg, giving it a treat and instructions. Afterwards he returned to his private room and fell into an easy sleep. The morning came and he readied for the day without any happenings of interest. He sat in his usual spot in the Great Hall and dug into his breakfast, which was interrupted shortly by Blaise taking a seat next to him.

"G'morning, mate," Blaise greeted in a cheerful voice, despite the yawn that followed it. The fellow Slytherin had taken to studying well into the night for his NEWTs in the common room lately, Tracey curled up at his side. The small, quiet girl wasn't with him this morning, which was surprising but not odd - it was still quite early for most students to be awake. Draco resisted the urge to look over to the door, as if gazing at it might mean Ginny would walk through it faster.

"Zabini," he replied briskly, turning back to his eggs.

"Your welcomes are always so warm and inviting," Blaise commented, reaching to fill his plate with ham and toast. "A real pleasure."

"You know my motto, Blaise," Draco retorted dryly. "One catches more flies with honey."

"Yes, than with vinegar. Speaking of, I took immense curiosity in the honeyed looks you were sending to the Gryffindor table all yesterday. Might I inquire after Miss Ginny's health?" He said this all casually, not even glancing at Draco. His fingers were reaching to get his meal together: he grabbed a muffin, poured himself juice, and began to butter his toast.

Draco's grip on his silverware tightened, but he kept eating. He was well aware Blaise was studying him just as thoroughly. Had he been transparent yet again? No, he hadn't. He knew he hadn't. He had taken great pains all day yesterday. Yet Blaise was easily the sharpest person in the House, not to mention the bloke sat next to him during many meals. Furthermore, Zabini made it an infuriating point to notice and catalog everything, much like Draco did.

That's why it didn't escape his notice Blaise decided to bring this up now, with no one in reasonable distance to eavesdrop. Was his so-called friend simply letting him know he knew something was going on? Perhaps. To deny it would be almost as damning as admitting it outright. Blaise was too smart for that: Draco would have to be vague and open to interpretation. Blaise could then chase whatever notion he felt like. "As far as I know, she's fine," he answered evenly.

"That's good to hear," Blaise replied sincerely, and then abruptly rose halfway out of his seat. "Sweetheart," he murmured, his lips in a small, genuine smile. Draco peered up to catch sight of Tracey Davis walking their way, her strawberry blond hair loose around her shoulders, her wide green eyes stuck on her standing boyfriend. A soft infusion of pink touched her cheeks at Blaise's attention; her head bowed and she gazed at the ground as she made her way around the table to perch next to him. It was characteristic of her: always so shy and quiet. Draco barely remembered the last time she had spoken more than a few sentences to anyone but Zabini.

"Hello," she said gently to both of them. "May I have the orange juice?" Blaise reached for it, even going as far as to pour it for the girl. As always when Tracey was around, that keen look in his eyes was mixed with a distracted sort of softness. At the moment, Draco was grateful for it. Now Blaise would hopefully pay his actions marginally less attention because he was so sickeningly in love.

It was all perfect timing, he thought wryly, as Ginny and her band of idiot friends took that moment to come strolling in. Potter and the Weasel were at the group's head. Granger followed after them, her nose in a book. Yet the mudblood was still rolling her eyes at the two morons ahead of her - she turned to give Ginny a commiserating look.

Ginny. He mouth felt suddenly and inexplicably dry as he watched her discreetly from his lowered gaze. He thought maybe she glanced his way, but he couldn't be sure. He ate another bite of his breakfast, one of his hands clenching in and out of a fist on the tabletop. It was a nervous habit - a tick - and therefore a tell. He stopped the reaction immediately, somewhat appalled at himself for it. And not only because it was noteworthy to anyone paying attention. He was sure he wasn't nervous despite all these bloody feelings churning inside of him, feelings that made him everything he certainly did not want to be: vulnerable, malleable, and painfully starved for her.

That was the master he was serving now, wasn't it? Some hidden, primal center that yearned for something sweet and beautiful and something he didn't deserve. If there were anything Draco knew he didn't deserve, it was this.

But she's mine anyway, he reminded himself fiercely. She wants me. She feels for me. That's all mine. The thoughts were a dark comfort and enough to soothe him.

Ginny and the golden trio were settling into their seats; Draco attentively watched as Colin Creevey came in and bounded off next to Ginny. A hot streak of annoyance burned through him and he stabbed the last of his eggs onto his fork. If he hadn't like Creevey before, he certainly couldn't stand the incessant sight of that pounce now. Hadn't Ginny turned him down? He realized with a cold, jarring rush down his spine that he didn't actually know. He hadn't asked obviously, though she had been at The Three Broomsticks with him.

She wasn't interested in the dirty Muggleborn, though - she couldn't be. He knew that; she seemed much too impatient in his presence. Draco looked down the slowly filling Slytherin table casually, checking for any eyes. Then he cautiously stole a glance at Ginny. Despite what he knew about the situation, Draco still found it rewarding that she was facing away from Creevey even though he rambled away next to her.

A ghost of a smirk tugged at his lips. That was when the post arrived.

"Anyway, Romilda backed out. I never should have asked her in the first place. She's not very reliable. So what do you say, Gin? Want to be my next project?" Colin shot her a wide, dazzling grin, leaning over his plate to catch her gaze. She realized facing away from him like she was might be a bit rude, but she couldn't help it. She had been shamefully glad he hadn't visited her in the hospital over the weekend, but all last night in the common room he seemed determined to make that lost time up to her.

As she did her homework, her head still pounding from her injury, he had sat next to her and talked until she snapped and told him she had a headache. Then he sketched, his presence awkward and large in her mind. He sat too close for her comfort despite how she scooted away from him, and she bristled when he peered over her shoulder. Merlin, she hated when people did that. It all came to a head when she leaned back and her shoulders brushed the arm he had slung over the couch when she wasn't looking.

Furious, she had gathered up her things and stomped up to her dormitory, informing him coldly that she was tired.

And now he was back again, despite her irritation. It had to be transparent by now. It certainly didn't help that she knew Draco was across the room and could be witnessing this entire annoyance. It made her flush harder, remembering the promising, playful look he had given her the afternoon before. She didn't want him to get some stupid idea she was okay with Colin pursuing her. Things were strange and fragile and despite herself, she didn't want to endanger them now. Now, when they seemed to be heading towards something worthwhile. Something she probably wouldn't fight tooth and nail like she had before.

She was spared answering Colin by the post, thank the gods. She let out a relieved sigh when he was distracted by letter from his parents, and took the opportunity to reach for a muffin situated a few seats over. She used it as an excuse to plop down in that seat, closer to Hermione.

She gave the girl a smile, although Hermione didn't even look up from her book. Ron, who was across from her and stuffing his gullet, rolled his eyes. "Don't even bother," he told her. "We've tried loads of times already." Ginny gave him a smirk that mirrored Harry's; Hermione continued reading without a reaction.

That was when some nondescript owl swooped down and dropped a package unceremoniously on her plate. It landed with a surprising but not particularly loud clatter. However, it was loud enough that Hermione flinched and looked up.

"Oh," the bookworn realized.

"What's that?" Ron piped up suspiciously.

"Looks like a package, Ron," Harry answered dryly, peering over.

"I know that," he retorted impatiently, giving Harry's look of wry amusement a pointed, worried frown. Ginny reached over and hit his arm hard for it; she knew that look. It was her brother's ridiculous look of entitlement to all things Ginny-related. "Ow! Gin!" Ron exclaimed, scandalized. "What the bloody hell was that for?"

"You know what, you big oaf," she replied hotly. "And it's none of your business if I get packages. Get back to stuffing your face. Go on!" she ordered him. Ron huffed and sent her a glare before grudgingly returning to his meal, although Ginny wasn't dim enough not to notice him peeking anyway. Nor was Ron sneaky enough to hide his surly, curious glances.

Shooting him one last scathing look, Ginny turned her attention to the parcel in front of her. It was a medium-sized box, neatly wrapped with grey, unassuming paper. There was a note attached to it bearing her full name, the lettering in black, careful cursive. Ginevra.

She blinked and picked it up, wondering who in the world - she froze then, blushing as her insides twisted and curled up with anticipation and excitement. Would he - what could he even be sending her? Her head snapped up instinctively to the Slytherin table, but Draco was not looking her way at all. Instead he was staring at the table, seemingly lost in thought as he picked at a pastry. Yet she couldn't help but feel like he was watching her intently. She blushed harder and set about tearing the envelope open, giving Ron another cautious glower. He was doing as he was told, but clearly still eying the box.

She pulled the folded parchment out and greedily took in the note.

Consider this my atonement.

Meet me in fifteen minutes. Fourth floor, behind the goblin tapestry.

Her heart raced in her chest, thudded against her ribs. Draco, she realized with surety. It was from Draco. He wanted to meet. He had gotten her something - what? She licked her lips and quickly stuffed the note in her robes, reaching to open the package with eager curiosity. She did so carefully, unfolding the paper and lifting the box's top. She only peeked into the shadowy depths, conscious of her brother's attention.

Folded and seated amongst green tissue paper sat a finely tailored and pleated black skirt.

Slowly, she smiled.

Of course. His atonement. He was giving back what he stole, even if it wasn't the original. Her skirt. A nearly hysterical laugh bubbled in her throat at the fitting gesture.

Instead she pushed the lid back on abruptly, feeling exhilarated as she quickly stood, her eyes skimming over the other side of the room. Draco was gone - he wasn't there. If her heart rate had picked up before, now she thought the organ might erupt. She grabbed her things quickly, not even bothering to care about the trio's alarmed looks and Ron's, "Oi! Where are you off to?" although maybe she should have.

"Class! Appointment with Flitwick!" she called over her shoulder, thinking fast. She practically ran the distance to their meeting space, her loose braid flying and cheeks flushing. There was no one on the fourth floor yet, she realized, and that was fortunate; he had obviously thought this through. With a startling burst, she felt grateful and impressed at the lengths he had taken this weekend. He cared. He cared, and this time the realization was frighteningly lovely.

She couldn't worry herself over how much she cared. Not today. Not now.

Breathless, she arrived at the tapestry, pausing for a moment to gulp in air and smooth her hair back. She had never been behind this tapestry; she had always assumed there was nothing there. There was, though. Just beyond it. A coil of something nerve-wrecking and pleased curled up in her gut. She ducked under the hanging wall before she lost any of her nerve.

It was dark, and it took her eyes a moment to adjust to the scant light seeping from the hallway and from the door, just a few paces away. Ginny walked towards it resolutely, turned the knob, and slipped in.

It was bright. Much brighter than even inside the castle; that was the first thing she noticed. Tall windows with heavy curtains lined the eastern wall. Old couches and tables were scattered about the room. Ginny wasn't sure if the room had been some common place to congregate once upon a time or simply a place to store old furniture.

Draco was leaning against a windowsill, calmly gazing out on the lake and surrounding scenery, his hands in his slacks. He looked almost princely - his posture casual and yet still tall. Not one bit of him was wrinkled or out of place. His trousers were creased with crisp lines, his tie straight. Even his sleeves rolled over his forearms were perfectly folded. But Ginny wasn't looking at his clothes, not really. There was a lot more to be appreciated in the lines of his lithe body, his combed-back hair, and the serene, guarded expression clinging to his handsome features.

With a readying breath, she shut the door and walked further inside, pausing only momentarily when he snapped his head up and caught sight of her. A rush of something left her paralyzed for a moment. Then she flushed and continued on to drop her things on a nearby chair, trying to figure out the strange emotion that had coursed into his eyes and then disappeared. Surprise?


It was stuffy, so she unhooked her robe and laid it over the couch's back, nibbling at her bottom lip. "Thank you," she said, wanting to break the thick silence, "for the skirt."

"Do you like it?" He had shifted to face her; she saw when she looked up. His voice had been soft and haughtily curious - somehow, some way. Ginny imagined only he could pull that tone off. And for some reason she was finding breathing difficult, as if the room were too small or hot looking at him now. It was because his unreadable grey eyes were steady and penetrating, strangely devoid of malice or disgust.

There was only that arresting wall there, the one that kept his emotions at bay. Yet his expression was soft, the line of his pale lips untroubled by the hint of a scowl, a sneer, or even a smug smirk.

He looked beautiful. Angelic even, with all that sunlight streaming in. She could pinch herself for being so typical.

"Yes. It was - thoughtful of you," she replied, feeling heat in her cheeks. She was staring at him now, she knew that. Her arms felt strange at her sides, all the way down to her hands and fingers. They seemed in some sort of limbo as her brain decided what to do with them.

She wanted to touch him, and the impulse jarred and tempted her. It felt as if there was some spell between them, some enchanted string that tugged and beckoned her closer.

"How?" she wondered aloud.

One of his brows raised, as if he found the query an amusing one. "It wasn't hard," he answered, his words laced with condescending overtones. "I just had to send that old, disgusting thing of yours to the shop for the right measurements. I also asked them to extend the hem. I noticed it was a bit too short."

Of course he did, she thought wryly, a smirk pulling at her lips."I wouldn't think you'd mind that." Although that skirt had been very short. She'd had it since third year and didn't have the money to part with it just yet.

He mirrored her lips, his small smile bringing more life into his grey eyes. "I think I'd mind perverts ogling your legs very much, Ginny."

"If you're going to be as protective as my brothers, I think I should leave now and spare you a few nasty hexes," she replied, raising a challenging brow.

He straightened gamely at it and took a step forward, holding her dancing, mischievous gaze with a sly one of his own. The anxiousness she felt in her tummy started to morph into something much more consuming - excitement. It entered her blood and sang in her veins; she flushed hard and not from self-consciousness or anger when his eyes slid from her face and down her form.

"I think you should stay," he argued, slowing making his way over.

"So you're not going to be like my brothers?"

"There is literally no one else in this world I would hate to be more," he declared, and Ginny felt inclined to agree whole-heartedly, although she was sure Draco probably had a few more reasons as to why not.

"I doubt that," she ventured dryly, entirely fixated on the promising, predatory gleam in his silver eyes. "A Muggle? A house-elf? The giant squid?"

But by then he was in front of her, his hands slipping from his pockets to reach for her waist. She let him take hold of her, amazingly enough, her breath shaking from her lips at his warm arms and then the cushion of his solid body. She forgot about her aimless questioning as her hands fluttered over his shoulders and reached for his hair; he craned his neck down to silence her voice, his mouth pressing against hers.

It wasn't right and she didn't care. The rush of dark pleasure and desire that filled her body to the brim at the warmth of his lips and the firm, soft, and demanding way they moved against hers eradicated any caution she might have entertained. She barely knew how to handle the way her body responded, how it leaned into him and warmed with a building flame that spread through her frame and over her skin.

Ginny gasped in a shallow breath when he pulled away, his hands lifting to tenderly cradle her face. "You need to be more careful in the Great Hall, pet," he murmured. "You stare. It's pathetically obvious."

That pulled her from the haze of his kiss enough. "I am not pathetically obvious," she protested defensively, jerking a few inches away.

Draco chuckled; he was so close she could make out the wrinkles on his smiling lips. In fact, she could barely see much else besides the slope of his cheeks, the light web of his eyelashes. His eyes were dark, rimmed with icy silver, and his breath rushed softly over her mouth. She felt the vibrations of his laughter against her chest; she fought to keep her eyes open when he kissed her again. But it was no use; he robbed her of any further argument.

His fingers pushed into the mass of her red hair, buried deep and probably ruined her already messy braid. She flicked her tongue playfully against his lips and was rewarded with a soft groan. "Gods," he whispered in a strained voice, clutching at the plait, "your hair like this."

"You like it?" she murmured back, trying not to smile against his hovering lips.

"Yes. It's disgustingly adorable," he confessed, the words slightly hoarse and desperate. She imagined it was something he had been thinking about awhile.

"You know what I hate about you?" She practically breathed the words, suddenly seized with the desire to profess something too. Something just as silly and ridiculous as loving and hating her mane of Weasley red hair.

His answer was tugging at her plait none-too-gently, pulling her head back further to better look in her eyes. A surprised, soft mewl escaped her throat, her lips parted and her eyes wide as she stared up into the depths of his gaze. "What's that?" he prompted.

"Your stupid tie," she blurted out, her fingers skimming down his neck to rest over its knot. There it was, all green and grey and everything she should despise. "Your expensive clothes. Your hair. It's always perfect. You're always so perfect and rich and condescending and I hate it." The words tumbled from her lips, both tumultuous and freeing.

Draco stared at her, licked his lips, and squeezed her closer, so tight it nearly hurt. "What're you going to do about it, Weasley?" he asked in a low, baiting sort of tone.

The use of her last name was deliberate and it roused her temper; he meant to do that. Meant to remind her who they both were and what they were doing. He meant to challenge her. She could see in his unwavering eyes he wanted her to meet the provocation. And for once, she didn't want to disappoint him.

A calm wave of resolution came over her; Ginny labored for breath as she stared up at him. She took a step forward, forced him back until he fell into the nearest plush armchair. She followed his sprawled form, slid her knees around his thighs as he watched with hooded eyes, entirely complacent as she took his face in her hands and leaned down to kiss him, and kiss him, and kiss him. Until there was nothing but grasping hands and needy gasps for air, breathless moans and friction.

Even later, when Ginny laid down in her four-poster bed, surrounded by her House colors and friends and family, she didn't feel guilty for anything that happened that day.

She wasn't sure if that said more about the person she was, or more about her feelings for Draco Malfoy.