~ In which everyone demands a kiss ~
“I know you like her.”
Severus’s deep voice broke the morning’s silence. Draco paused as he mounted his broomstick.
‘How to answer?’ he mused. ‘Of course I bloody like her? There’s no way I bloody like her? Does it really bloody matter now that Potter’s bloody with her?’
“Go to bloody hell,” Draco retorted, taking off into the air and releasing his sparkling Snitch.
Severus took off after him, controlling the urge to knock him off his broom. “Stop being a thick-headed chump, Draco,” he shouted, scowling at the back of his rapidly retreating figure.
The Christmas holidays were long over, and all students had come back to Hogwarts enthusiastically looking forward to the first Quidditch match of the year. The Quidditch season had started late to adjust to all the new exchange students, and Slytherin was playing this to their advantage by putting off their usual first match against Gryffindor and getting in as much training time as possible for their new team members from Beauxbatons.
It was just as well, thought Severus, shaking his head at Draco’s unfocused grab for the Snitch. Gryffindor would have steamrolled them if Draco continued being distracted from his role of Seeker and Captain.
Severus grimaced as he thought back to that eventful Christmas day. How could Ginny just melt in Potter’s hands like that?
Draco had eventually found out (in the worst kind of way, Severus thought) from the rumours being whispered around the student body. And now it was as if Draco and Ginny were making up for the friendliness they’d experienced during Christmas, by avoiding each other as much as possible, and barely speaking when they held their morning duelling sessions. It was getting on Severus’s nerves.
He’d always known Potter was an interfering snot with an ego as big as his father’s, why didn’t anyone else see it?
Severus frowned to himself and was just about to yell at him again when his gaze met an empty sky. Ignoring the sound of the breakfast gong, Severus flew down slowly towards the broom shed, his gaze sweeping the ground below for a familiar glint of blonde. He landed lightly on his feet, preparing to enter the small building when he paused, his sharp ears catching a muffled conversation from within.
“—And that’s what I’ve heard,” came an expressionless voice.
“Well, what of it?” replied another voice, higher than usual. “It doesn’t really matter anyway.”
“Of course,” said the first voice bitterly. “Why should it matter? And especially to me.”
There was a long pause and Severus gave in to his curiosity and edged closer to the door.
The second voice began once more in a pleading tone. “Draco, I…it’s just that…oh, please don’t…please, look at me.”
“Why should I?” spat Draco in undertones. “You were right the first time, Ginny, it doesn’t matter at all. I don’t know why we’re even having this bloody conversation because it doesn’t fucking matter.”
There was a slight pause as Ginny recollected herself. “Draco,” she said softly. “I can’t just let this go. You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting—”
“Of course I know how bloody long you’ve been waiting!” snapped Draco suddenly. “And that’s why I can’t believe you’re just going to…to run back to him now that the stupid git has just realised you’re not hanging onto his every word anymore.”
“I am not running back to him!”
“Liar,” spat Draco. “Get close to one unlikely person and you run.”
“I have no idea,” seethed Ginny, “–what you are talking about.”
“Of course you wouldn’t!” shouted Draco angrily. “You are the most stupid, blind, thick-headed person I know–”
“SHUT UP!” yelled Ginny back. “That’s all you ever do! Insult me! Tell me I’m stupid! Constantly put me down! HARRY would never—”
“HARRY DOESN’T CARE ABOUT YOU!” cut in Draco with a snarl, making Severus nearly jump out of his skin.
With years of practise, Severus silently sneaked a glance around the corner. Ginny was standing stock-still with an expression of wretchedness on her white face, while Draco stood opposite her with his jaw set and an expression of utter anger coursed throughout his.
“And you would know?” she said quietly, her voice radiating poison. “You, Draco Malfoy, who sneers at the mention of half-bloods, house-elves, or Knuts. You hate everyone... How can you lecture me on affection? How can you tell me that Harry doesn’t care about me?”
“Oh, fuck off,” snarled Draco back, not attempting to deny any of Ginny’s accusations. “You wouldn’t know love if it spat in your face.”
Ginny gave an inarticulate growl of rage. “Stop acting so fucking superior, Malfoy!” she yelled back. “You don’t know anything about love! You don’t even–”
Draco thrust his face an inch from hers. “I would know love,” he cut in, with a curl of his lip. “If it slapped me in the face.”
Ginny’s breath hitched in her throat. “What are you implying?”
Draco glared at her and turned to leave. “It doesn’t matter,” he spat. “God, I’m through with this.”
Ginny grabbed at his shoulder, the anger on her face melting into tense anxiety. “Wait! Why can’t you just be happy for me? Why do you have to ruin it?”
Draco shook off her hand and whirled upon her. “Don’t you think it’s funny,” he said through gritted teeth, “–that Potter should suddenly take an interest in you after three years of disregard?”
Ginny clenched her fists, shaking her head at the glaring Slytherin.
“Don’t you think it’s funny,” continued Draco scathingly, “ –that after you spend time with his worst enemies, after you turn to his worst enemies instead of him, after he realises that his worst enemies are actually getting the better of him for once; he suddenly decides he wants you back? Don’t you think it’s even slightly funny? I do. I think it’s fucking hilarious.”
Draco gave a short mirthless laugh and caught Ginny’s hand just as it flung to hit him in the face.
“Are you saying he’s jealous?” shouted Ginny, her wrist shaking in his grip. “Because he’s not! He’s not that sort of person!”
“Believe what you want,” he muttered, meeting her flashing eyes with his own. “But I think he’s mad with rage at the sight of his own Ginny Weasley fraternising with the enemy.”
Ginny drew a deep breath and was the first to break the glare. “Don’t touch me!” she yelled, yanking her hand from Draco’s steely grip.
There was a long pause and Severus had to strain his ears to hear Ginny’s next comment.
“You don’t know Harry,” she whispered. “You don’t know him like I do, he would never—”
“You don’t even know yourself,” Draco spat, looking away.
Ginny drew back as if she was slapped, the tenseness in her face rising once more. Draco made no sound as Ginny fled quickly from the broom shed, not noticing the silent, black-haired boy around the corner.
“Hey Gin’, why the long face?”
Ginny glanced up into the twinkling eyes of Philip Woodley and sighed heavily. She hadn’t spoken to Draco since their argument, and even though it had been over a month ago, she still caught herself dwelling on it.
“I don’t know.” She grimaced, her previous topic of thought surfacing once more. “But of course, I don’t know anything, do I?”
Philip took the armchair beside hers and observed her through brilliant green eyes. “You know a lot more than most people.”
“Nothing that matters,” said Ginny, bitterly. “Everyone else seems to know what’s going on, but not me, not ever.”
There was a long pause before Woodley spoke. “Maybe you know exactly what’s going on, but you just can’t accept it.”
Ginny looked at him quickly but Woodley was looking away, his face masked in shadow. She tried to decipher those soft words but gave up and started absent-mindedly examining her fellow fourth year in minute detail. She supposed if he did slick back that hair… and had a perpetual look of scorn… perhaps he would…
Ginny tore her eyes away, angry at her mind for always going back to him.
“There’re a lot of things hard to accept,” Woodley continued, as if a long pause hadn’t just elapsed.
“Like what?” said Ginny heavily, tearing her eyes away from his angular jawbone.
Woodley just gave her an odd look. “It’s different for different people,” he muttered.
“What about you?” Ginny pressed, glad for the distraction. “D’you—why are you saying all this?”
“I’m just saying,” Woodley said shortly, “–acceptance is the first step towards happiness.”
“That’s an odd theory,” remarked Ginny. “But it depends on what you’re accepting though.”
“No,” replied Woodley softly. “It doesn’t.”
“But what if it’s something stupid?” argued Ginny, surprised Woodley wasn’t grinning for once. “Or something incredibly unfair, or what if it’s something completely horrible?”
“Well, I suppose you have to try harder,” Woodley argued back. “But ignoring it will get you nowhere.”
“Acceptance will get you nowhere!” Ginny declared, wondering how she’d never seen this side of her friend before. “If you don’t like something, then fight it. You’ve always got a choice.”
Woodley stared at her awhile, eventually cocking a blonde eyebrow at her. “I can see now why people call Gryffindors stubborn and pig-headed.”
Ginny grinned, relieved the mood had lightened somewhat. “Yeah well, some things are worth fighting for,” she said with a smile.
Returning her smile, Woodley settled back into his armchair. “Yeah,” he mumbled. There was a brief pause when he snapped his fingers suddenly, making Ginny look up.
“Sorry to bring this up,” began Woodley, slightly embarrassed, “ –but I was supposed to be talking to you about Draco Malfoy…”
But Ginny had frozen, her scowl replacing her amiable expression as soon as she heard that name. “There’s nothing to talk about,” she said at once.
Woodley cleared his throat uncomfortably. “I was just going to ask whether you could talk to him—”
“–and try and convince him—”
“—to-sell-shirts-to-the-Slytherins.” Woodley garbled out, before Ginny could interrupt once more.
“No… Wait, what?” said Ginny, taken aback.
“For the play,” mumbled Woodley, looking as though he was regretting something.
“Oh…” repeated Ginny, her brow clearing as she remembered that they had agreed to sell t-shirts to try and raise money for their play’s props. “Er…don’t worry about it… I’ll sell them to the Slytherins.”
“You?” said Woodley, rather sharply. “Why you? You know Slytherins don’t—”
“It’s OK,” said Ginny confidently. “I’m…er…sort of friends with some of them…erm… Over Christmas we…er…talked.”
“That’s a lot of ‘er’s’,” said Woodley jokingly, though his eyes seemed narrower than usual. “Sure you can cope?”
Ginny laughed. “Of course!” she declared. “Come on! Let’s go sell a few now, everyone’ll be at lunch.”
“Kiss me, I’m famous,” said Harry Potter wryly.
Ginny blushed and hurriedly tried to wave the sparkling letters away with her wand. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “But they’re all pretty bad…if that helps…”
Harry covered his newly purchased t-shirt with his robes. He grinned at her. “It’s pretty clever. Did you bewitch them yourself?”
“I helped,” replied Ginny, grinning uncertainly back. “They all have custom blurbs that appear on the back when the person puts them on…they’re supposed to relate to that particular person. It’s supposed to be for Valentine’s Day next week.”
“Right,” remarked Harry, looking over her shoulder in amusement. “Kiss me, I’m sweet?”
Ginny blushed once more as Harry read out hers rather loudly. “Harry! I’m only wearing it for publicity…”
Harry smiled at her and nudged his best friend. “Hey, Ron, buy a shirt?”
“What?” said Ron distracted, pulling himself from a usual argument with Hermione. “Shirt? Why?”
“I’ll buy one,” offered Hermione, glaring at Ron but smiling at his sister. “I can’t wait to see the play, Ginny. I almost wish I’d stayed in Muggle Studies.”
“Here you go.” Ginny smiled back, peeling off a plain white t-shirt from the pile and handing it over. “Seven Sickles?”
Hermione counted out her money and asked for another.
“Hermione!” Ron exclaimed, as a white shirt was thrown in his direction. “What’d you do that for?”
“You can pay me back at the common room,” she said smugly. “I’m almost certain yours will read: Kiss me, I’m wrong.”
Ron scowled as he bit into an enormous sandwich. “Well, I know yours will say: Kiss me, I think I know everything,” he said irritated.
“You don’t actually have to put them on,” said Ginny. “Just sort of drape it over your backs.”
Ron gave his sister an ugly look.
“Well, come on, Ron,” said Hermione sweetly. “Let’s see if I’m right…or rather, if you’re wrong.”
“You first,” he said grumpily, looking at Harry for support.
“Yeah, come on, Hermione,” responded Harry. “It can’t be worse than mine.”
The three Gryffindors moved around to read the phrase on Hermione’s shirt as she threw it over her back.
“Kiss me, I’m brilliant,” Ginny read out, laughing at Ron’s look of annoyance.
Hermione blushed slightly. “Bloody brilliant, eh, Ron?”
Ron muttered something under his breath that sounded like ‘dodgy messages’, and flung his own shirt over his back ungraciously. “What does it say?” he asked grumpily. “And don’t let Hermione read it out.”
But Hermione had pounced on him as soon as the letters had appeared, beating Harry and Ginny to it. Ron waited for a triumphant exclamation but it never came.
“What’s this supposed to mean?”
Hermione’s voice sounded puzzled.
“Er…I think I better go prepare my books,” said Harry hastily, avoiding Ron’s eyes but grinning at Ginny before he left.
“Harry!” yelled Hermione, annoyed. “We’ve got class with Hagrid next!”
“If you’ve had a good enough gloat,” said Ron, turning around. “Will you tell me what the bloody shirt says?”
“It must be defective,” Hermione said in a superior voice. “As it doesn’t make sense.”
“Um,” said Ginny.
“What does it say, Gin’?” asked Ron, rolling his eyes.
Ginny ignored him and called to a girl sitting on the other side of Hermione. “Lavender, would you like to buy a t-shirt?”
“I’ve already bought one from Philip Woodley,” she replied, giggling with Parvati but glancing briefly at where Hermione was looking and giggling even harder. “Look what Ron’s says.” She poked her best friend.
“What are you giggling at?” demanded Hermione. “All it says is ‘Kiss me, I’m large’—it doesn’t make sense at all.”
“What?” exclaimed Ron; whipping the shirt from his back and going slightly red. “Er…have to go prepare…books…” he mumbled.
“We don’t need books!” yelled Hermione after him. “Honestly, what’s with everyone today?”
“Um,” said Ginny once more, feeling it was high time she should also leave.
“Kiss me, I’m large,” said Hermione to herself. “I’m large? What does that have to do with anything? How is Ron large? I know that his ego is enormous but what else could it be describing if it wasn’t—oh…”
Lavender and Parvati burst into a fresh fit of giggles at the sight of Hermione’s face.
“Um…” she mumbled, flushing even redder than Ron had. “Er…my books…must go and…er…see you, Lavender, Parvati.”
Hermione practically fled from the table, not even thinking of her forgotten t-shirt lying beneath Ron’s hastily dropped one.
Lavender Brown turned to a blonde-haired boy sitting opposite her. “What does yours say, Seamus?” she asked in deep interest.
Seamus gave Dean a disgusted look, and Ginny finally decided to move over to the Slytherin table as it seemed as if no one had been near any of them yet.
“Er…hello, Higgs,” she murmured, brandishing her t-shirts bravely.
“What d’you want?” growled Blaise Zabini, who was sitting next to the eating sixth year.
“Hullo, Weasley,” said Terence Higgs amicably, waving his fork at her. “What is it?”
“Er…buy a shirt for our play?” she asked, her confidence going up as Higgs drained his goblet and reached into his robes pocket.
“Yeah, I’ve heard of these,” answered Higgs, ignoring Zabini’s stunned look and dumping a pile of silver in her hand. “Keep the change.”
“Thanks,” said Ginny clearly, enjoying the sudden shocked silence in the hall as Terence Higgs flung back his robes and pulled on his newly purchased shirt over his bare chest.
‘Kiss me, I know how to have fun’ flashed on the back of his shirt in sparkling silver letters.
“Come on, boys,” he yelled to the rest of the Slytherins, though suddenly noticing the band of goggling girls at the table opposite. “Er…be right back, Weasley,” he said, and strutted off to the Hufflepuff table.
Very soon Ginny was surrounded by a dozen or so Slytherins–most of which she had danced alongside with on that eventful Christmas day.
“Er…” she said weakly, gawking as all the boys around her followed Higgs’ example by shucking their robes from their shoulders to hang down by their waists, and clustering around her bare-chested.
Ginny slowly became aware of a low murmur that had started up in the Great Hall, which gradually grew into a mass of hysterical giggling. Resisting the urge to giggle alongside of them, Ginny solemnly watched her pouch of money swell larger and her pile of t-shirts slowly decrease in size.
“Ginny,” she heard a familiar voice exclaim. “What are you doing?”
“Hullo, Severus,” she said cheerfully, but then noticed the alarmed expression on his face as he worked his way through the crowd. “What is it?”
“I thought you were getting attacked.” Severus scowled, forgetting who he was for an instant. “Pucey! Get that shirt back on!”
A reckless-looking sixth year who was waving his white shirt around responded by whacking Severus in the back of the head with it. “Good one, Snape!”
Fortunately (or rather unfortunately for most of the girl population in the room) a few professors left their seats to intervene with all the gratuitous nudity going on at the Slytherin table.
“Er…” said Ginny lamely. “D’you want to buy a t-shirt, Severus?”
“Fine,” muttered Severus, scowling at no one in particular when Professor Garwood came up to where they were standing.
“I’ll buy a shirt,” Garwood offered, though glaring at a Slytherin who was attempting to take off his shirt once more. “Here you are.”
Ginny took the silver Sickles obediently and handed her a t-shirt, looking curiously at Severus who had turned a dull red. “Severus, are you OK?”
Severus muttered something incoherent and grabbed his shirt hurriedly.
“Come on, let’s see what it says!” Ginny said enthusiastically, looking from the Professor to Severus with a strange expression. “Just sort of drape it over—yes, like that.”
Severus craned his head to look at the back of his shirt, knowing that once Ginny saw the words he would be free from that bloody Professor’s intoxicating gaze. “What does it say?” he demanded, wondering why Ginny had gone a very bright red and was trying to restrain a huge giggle.
“Er…” she said.
“Ah,” said Professor Garwood, looking as though she was trying to hold back a laugh.
“What?” Severus demanded once more, sounding rather like Ron did.
Professor Garwood coughed and then noticed a light-haired Slytherin coming towards them, “Ah, Mr Malfoy, come to buy a t-shirt?”
Draco sent her a brief look and then suddenly noticed Ginny. “I came to get Severus,” he answered, tearing his eyes away from Ginny’s confused gaze. “We’ve got Care for Magical Creatures.”
“Draco,” Severus said loudly, “–read the back of my shirt, what does it say?”
Draco looked at him as if he was an idiot. “You’re not even wearing it! Take it off and read it yourself.”
Severus gave him a withering look but did what the Slytherin had said.
“Kiss me, I’m sexy,” read out Draco anyway, much to Snape’s horror. “Jeez, Severus, what’d you go and buy a shirt like that for?”
Severus started blustering a combination of insults and swearwords when Professor Garwood coughed once more.
“I must get back to the staff table,” she remarked to no one in particular. Then, as if noticing them all for the first time, “Well! See you three at the Duelling Club tonight.” The Professor nodded at the trio, catching Severus’s eye and making him flush further.
“Are you OK?” asked Draco, smirking at his best friend.
“Shut up,” he said faintly, then in a stronger voice. “Get a bloody shirt and let’s get out of here.”
“I don’t need a shirt to proclaim my sexiness to the world,” scoffed Draco, ignoring Severus’s snort.
“They don’t all say that,” explained Ginny. “They adapt to that particular person.”
“Oh,” said Draco, momentarily shocked at Ginny’s lack of hostility in her tone. But then again, he thought wryly, maybe she just wants to sell me a bloody t-shirt.
“What does yours say?” Draco asked finally.
Severus eyed the two of them, wondering whether they were going to talk to each other properly for the first time in a month.
“It’s stupid,” said Ginny quickly, shoving a t-shirt into his hands. “That’s seven Sickles.”
Draco handed her the money slowly, giving her a sarcastic smile as she flinched at his palm brushing her own. “I don’t have an infectious disease,” he said clearly, ignoring Blaise Zabini’s suspicious look.
Ginny said nothing but stood silently, as if waiting for something.
“Well, let’s see what it says and leave,” said Snape irritably, glaring suddenly at Zabini.
“OK,” replied Draco, loosening his cloak’s collar.
Ginny looked around the Great Hall. Lunch was already over and most of the students had started to leave. She looked back at Draco who was now fiddling with his top robe fastenings.
“You don’t actually have to put the shirt on to read it,” she said suddenly, looking him directly in the eyes and narrowing her own.
“Oh?” replied Draco, a hint of defiance in his voice as he shrugged off the black material from his shoulders, letting it fall to his waist to reveal his bare chest.
There was an ever so slight gasp from the nearby Slytherins, but Ginny stayed staring into the Slytherin’s dark grey eyes, not allowing her gaze to travel downwards… not even if the whispers had interesting things to say about the upper body of Draco Malfoy.
“Hurry up and put your shirt on,” she hissed angrily, suddenly aware that her voice was echoing.
Draco gave her the same sarcastic smile and eased his new shirt over his head quickly, magically managing not to ruin his smooth, slicked back hair. “You didn’t care at all in the forest,” he hissed back.
“Draco,” said Severus warningly, putting a hand on the shoulder of the slightly smaller boy. “Continue this somewhere else.”
“Shut up, Severus,” muttered Draco. “So tell me, Ginny, why d’you suddenly shy away now that there’s a simple change of setting?”
“I’m not shying away!” gritted Ginny, trying to keep her voice low. “I just told you to bloody put your shirt back on!”
“I’m not talking about that,” muttered Draco angrily. “But as I said before, you didn’t care at all in the forest!”
“We were swimming!” exploded Ginny.
“While we were walking.”
I wasn’t interested back then! “It was hot,” she retorted aloud, instantly reprimanding herself for thinking that she was the least bit interested now.
“Well, I didn’t see you taking your robes off.”
“There’s a reason for that!” exploded Ginny again.
“Fine,” replied Draco, unabashed but turning to leave. “Talk to you next month.”
Ginny opened her mouth to retaliate when she realised what Draco had just said. Severus nodded at her and strode after the young Slytherin, leaving a confused Ginny. She was just about to turn around when she noticed the back of Draco’s t-shirt: ‘Kiss me, I’m Draco Malfoy’.
“Obviously it couldn’t think of a strong enough word for stupid,” she muttered to herself. “Or perhaps evil-git, or annoying-prat or—”
“Oi, Weasley,” yelled a voice, interrupting her thoughts.
“What?” she snapped.
“What’ve you got next period?” the voice of Terence Higgs asked.
“History of Magic,” she said with less hostility, wondering why this Slytherin sixth year was talking to her almost affably.
“Good,” he said in satisfaction. “I’ve got Divination. Here, come with me.”
To Ginny’s surprise she was dragged suddenly from the Great Hall, up a flight of steps, and into an empty classroom. Her head whirling, she sat on one of the dusty desks as Higgs started to pace the room before her.
“OK,” he said firmly, looking her up and down. “Firstly, the clothes have got to go.”
“What?” yelled Ginny in alarm.
“Hmm,” responded Higgs slowly. “Though maybe Malfoy goes for that pathetic sort of urchin look… I’ll have to research this. OK, keep the clothes for now.”
“Higgs,” said Ginny, wincing at the familiarity. “What are you talking about?”
Terence Higgs waved his hands impatiently at her.
“Show me!” he exclaimed suddenly, pulling her to her feet once more. “How d’you walk? Go! Give me a demonstration!”
Ginny shook his hands off hers and slowly edged towards the door.
“No, no!” said Higgs impatiently. “You look so…furtive. You have to look calm…smooth…seductive.”
Ginny stopped trying to creep out of the door and put her hands on her hips. “Tell me what you’re talking about!” she demanded. “Now!”
“Good,” said Higgs, sounding surprised. “Fiery is good, very good. I think we’ll go on that.”
“Tell me!” yelled Ginny exasperated.
Terence Higgs finally took notice of her cries and looked at her like she was an idiot. “You’re going to seduce Malfoy,” he said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“What?” exploded Ginny. “Why would you– you want me to do– WHAT?”
Higgs sent her an insulted look. “If you don’t want my help then you can just say so.”
“Help?” yelled Ginny hysterically. “Why would I want any help?”
Higgs rolled his eyes. “You need help,” he said firmly.
“So do you,” retorted Ginny. “You’re mental.”
Something dawned on Higgs’ face and he started to snigger.
Ginny glared at him. “What?”
“You’re in denial!” he yelled incredulously. “You Gryffindors really are thick!”
“Shut up,” said Ginny with dignity.
“You like Malfoy.”
“I don’t,” she said sharply.
“Bloody Merlin!” yelled the sixth year. “Your shirt should read: Kiss me, I’m in denial! Give up! Accept it! You like Malfoy, and he’s tripping over his robes to get you to realise it!”
Ginny was strongly reminded of Fred and George when Higgs talked, and tried to remember this as she had a sudden urge to punch him in the jaw again. “Fine,” she said sarcastically, changing her approach. “Whatever you say, I don’t care – but why d’you care then?”
Higgs crossed his arms. “I want you two together.”
“What?” said Ginny incredulously, half-forgetting her anger and wondering if he was slightly mad. “Why?”
Higgs rubbed his hands together. “Revenge,” he gloated.
Ginny sent him a somewhat relieved look. Now this was how a normal Slytherin should act, she thought to herself, scheming and gleeful. “Revenge?” she asked curiously. “Against whom?”
“Everyone,” said Higgs, sweeping his arm around the room. “Your moronic brothers, Lucius Malfoy—just everyone in general. If you two get together, Hogwarts will be in chaos.”
“I don’t think so,” replied Ginny, cursing herself for sounding defensive. “And my brothers aren’t moronic.”
Terence Higgs snorted. “Well, they’re bloody annoying. Don’t you find them finishing off each other’s sentences all the time even slightly annoying?”
“I think Fred and George are quite clever,” Ginny replied rather coldly.
“You would,” sneered Higgs, then looking rather surprised. “You know, this is the first time I’ve helped a Gryffindor—not to mention a Weasley.”
“Thanks awfully,” replied Ginny, rolling her eyes. “But you’re not helping.”
“I suppose the first step is getting you out of denial,” Higgs mused.
“I’m not in denial.”
“But how? I’ve never worked with thick, naïve Gryffindors before.”
“I’m not in denial.”
“Obviously Malfoy’s not in denial…so I can’t understand why he hasn’t just jumped you yet.”
“I’m not in—WHAT?!”
“Yes,” said Higgs thoughtfully. “I wonder if he lost his balls in that forest incident.”
“For your information,” said Ginny with dignity, “ –Draco is a lot braver than he was before.”
“Don’t pretend as if you don’t know what I’m talking about,” snapped Higgs irritated. “I’m talking about his hormones, his testosterone, what no wizard can live without… Did you kick him there sometime?”
“WHAT?!” exploded Ginny.
“I’ll take that as a no…” said Higgs unperturbed. “Hmm. Maybe he swings the other way.”
“WHAT?!” yelled Ginny once more.
Higgs gave her an incredulous look. “You can’t be that sheltered, Weasley,” he exclaimed. “If he swings the other way it means he’s into other boys, into the laddies instead of the ladies, likes jerkin’ the gherkin, pickin’ up soap, slappin’ the—”
“I know what it means!” yelled Ginny hastily. “Don’t be vulgar.”
“Well, what d’you think?” replied Higgs, ignoring her as usual. “He’s around that nephew of Snape a lot, isn’t he? D’you think Snape junior’s a ladies’ man? Whenever I see him, he’s runnin’ away from huge flocks of girls—there’s got to be something queer about him.”
“Severus is not—”
Ginny stopped. Come to think of it, girls were always chasing Severus (ever since someone caught a glimpse of him bare-chested while working with Hagrid) but he had never shown the slightest bit of interest in them. He was even keen on avoiding them.
“Well, Draco isn’t—”
Ginny stopped once more. Whenever Draco and her had…touched, Ginny had felt a jolt of electricity…or a jolt of something, but when she’d tried to see if Draco had felt it too, he’d just looked at her with those unreadable grey eyes, as if he hadn’t felt a thing.
Ginny chose her words carefully.
“Well, I don’t think that they’re together—”
Ginny stopped for the third time and swore in her head. They were rather touchy-feely, whether they were hitting each other or wrestling or whatever…and they always seemed to disappear certain mornings of the week and not mention it to her…and whenever she talked to Severus, he would bring up the subject of Draco, or whenever she talked to Draco— Well, she never did talk to Draco anymore but it seemed as if his whole world revolved around Severus, especially after he had given him one of those duelling swords…
“I don’t know,” she said dully. “What d’you think?”
“I think they’re bloody weird,” responded Higgs off-handed. “Whether they be queer or not. But they don’t seem to give off the vibe, just like they’ve got something else on their minds and not girls. Weird.” Terence Higgs shook his head in disbelief as though he thought this wasn’t possible. “Though I did see pink glitter in Malfoy’s hair during Christmas,” he added suspiciously.
Ginny managed a weak smile, wondering why she suddenly felt so incredibly depressed.
“Well, it’s too bad,” continued Higgs gloomily. “I bet Malfoy’s dad would’ve fallen on his arrogant arse if you two had gotten together…”
Ginny stared at him. “What have you got against Lucius Malfoy?”
Higgs walked over to the dusty window and glared out. “Kicked me off the Quidditch team a few years ago,” he growled eventually. “Gave everyone else high-class brooms, and put his son in my position.”
“Were you Slytherin’s seeker?” she asked surprised.
“Yeah,” continued Higgs with gruff pride. “I was only a second year when I got picked, but then I got kicked off a year after…but at least I got to bash Malfoy junior to a pulp when he missed the Snitch back in ‘94.”
“Did you really?” exclaimed Ginny in a rather high voice.
“Of course,” replied Higgs, giving her a strange look. “What d’you care? You didn’t even know him back then.”
“Yes…” said Ginny reluctantly, “–but still.”
“Well, he gave me a bleeding lip,” continued Higgs enjoyably. “Though I nearly broke his jaw and gave him two black eyes, a bleeding nose, and I hexed his hair bright red—sort of like the colour of yours.”
“I didn’t notice,” replied Ginny surprised. “And neither did Ron, he would’ve been gloating for weeks…”
“He went straight to the Hospital Wing, refused to let anyone see him though he only stayed there for a few hours… actually we respected each other more after that—” Higgs glanced at Ginny’s dawning expression. “What’s with you?”
She smiled. “My brother Ron and Harry Potter.”
“What about them?”
“D’you think they’re gay?”
“Don’t know,” shrugged Higgs. “Never talked to them.”
“Well, that’s who Severus and Draco remind me of,” Ginny said. “Their friendship is just like Harry and Ron’s—it’s just like they’re best friends.”
Higgs’ face brightened.
“And Hermione,” continued Ginny with a wry face. “I’m like Hermione…I’m the one who’s stuck in the middle. Whenever one of them has an argument, they always side with each other…and not with me…they obsess over Quidditch, take me for granted…don’t realise I’m a girl.”
“What?” said Higgs, not listening but thinking of where he could get low cut robes that matched dark red hair.
“Nothing,” sighed Ginny, though eventually glancing back at him. “But, Higgs? Er…I mean, can I call you Terence?”
“No,” said Higgs brusquely. “Keep going.”
“Well, I don’t think you should continue with your plan to get me and Draco—” Ginny’s voice wavered slightly. “–together.”
“Why not?” demanded the sixth year.
Ginny blushed. “I’m sort of…sort of with Harry.”
“So?” replied Higgs. “Drop him.”
“No!” exclaimed Ginny, sounding scandalised.
“Well, get him to drop you.”
“Why would I want to do that?” Ginny flushed.
“No, I don’t want to hear it!” exclaimed Ginny. “I can’t believe we’re still having this argument! I’ve been going along with you for far too long now. And don’t you dare—” Ginny paused, realising she was sounding somewhat out of place by the way she was talking to a large male Slytherin two years older than she was. “Please don’t mention this to Harry,” she said finally. “Or Draco, or Severus, or even anyone, not that there is anything to mention.”
Terence Higgs tilted his head to the side and looked at her for a few seconds. “All right,” he said. “But you’ll change your mind.”
“Yeah,” muttered Ginny sarcastically. “Right.”
“See you then,” said Higgs, standing by the empty doorway and waiting for her to go out.
“Yes,” said Ginny suspiciously, though not noticing the way his wand flicked as she passed him.
“Cheers!” Higgs yelled, as Ginny descended down the flight of stairs, bright silver letters on the back of her t-shirt flashing: ‘Kiss me, I’m in denial’.
“Oi, what?” responded Draco, frowning as he looked up from his essay. “I’m busy.”
“Hang it, it’s just an essay for old Binns,” said Terence Higgs, grabbing a chair and sitting on it backwards. “Now tell me what’s going on between you and little Weasley.”
Draco had been about to make a cordial remark but his expression immediately closed at Higgs’ last question. “I’m busy,” he repeated, starting to write furiously with a luxurious green quill.
“Well, anyway, I happened to be talkin’ to her,” continued Higgs amicably, as if Draco hadn’t spoken. “And you managed to come up in the conversation.”
“Oh?” replied Draco, beating down his curiosity and managing to glare at the other boy. “Should you be telling me this?”
“No,” said Higgs regretfully. “But I managed to keep it to myself until after dinner, didn’t I?”
Draco resumed scribbling on his parchment.
“Well, anyway,” repeated Higgs. “When are you going to step up and ask her out or something?”
Draco kept scribbling, though the nib was pressing on the parchment rather hard. “Shut up,” he finally replied, ripping the paper as he did so.
“If it’s Potter,” said Higgs, “all us Slytherins’ll chip in to get rid of him.”
Draco snorted. “You think you and your friends can do what the Dark Lord can’t?”
Higgs shrugged. “We won’t kill him…just…uglify him or something.”
“Another cunning plan from Slytherin house,” muttered Draco.
“Damn straight!” declared Higgs, banging his fist on the table and upsetting the inkbottle all over Draco’s just-finished essay. “So, it’s settled then?”
“Look what you’ve done!” seethed Draco, waving his inky parchment through the air and resisting the urge to whack Higgs in the face with it.
“She wants you, Malfoy,” continued Higgs, waving his wand over the parchment and charming the ink away.
Unfortunately the written words were gone as well, and Draco was left with a blank piece of parchment.
“I hate her!” yelled Draco, glaring at Higgs and violently collecting his stuff together to move elsewhere.
“You don’t hate her,” replied Higgs smoothly. “You just hate me.”
Draco muttered something furiously incoherent under his breath.
“Here, give me your parchment,” said Higgs, grabbing the paper along with Draco’s quill before he could protest. “Now this’ll make you change your mind.”
“Change my mind to what?” snapped Draco, his fingers reaching for his wand.
“To take some action,” said Higgs firmly, scrawling on the parchment. “Here, I’ve started you off.”
The smug sixth year handed Draco the parchment and quill and sat back and relaxed.
Draco glared at the parchment, ready to set it on fire if it had anything to do with Ginny on it. There were two columns drawn, the first one headed ‘good’, the second ‘bad’. There was only one other word written on the parchment and that was in the ‘good’ column. That one word made all thoughts of arson clear from Draco’s mind.
“Pretty?” he read out, guessing what the parchment was supposed to signify. “You think she’s pretty?”
Higgs looked up at the amused tone of voice. “She’s all right,” he said, unabashed. “For a fourth year that is.”
Draco snorted. He’d seen better.
Then why aren’t you thinking about them all the time, said an annoying little voice in the back of his mind.
Shut up, he responded fiercely.
“If I fill this out—” Draco scowled as he looked at the other boy. “Will you bugger off and leave me be?”
“Already going,” said Higgs with a grin, turning to walk to the other end of the common room.
Draco gave a disgruntled sigh and looked at the parchment grumpily. “Well, at least I can fill up the bad column,” he said in satisfaction. “Let’s see…”
The History of Magic essay was soon forgotten as Draco became more and more engrossed in filling up the two columns. After half an hour of muttering angrily and crossing things out, the page looked as follows:
Draco smirked as he looked at the list. Clearly, there were more bad points to Ginny than good ones, and there was no point in doing as Higgs had suggested, and take some action to claim her.
But… Draco’s face contorted, he didn’t write how she managed to make him forget all else whenever she sang in that stupid play, or how she had made him feel unstoppable when she fell among those horrible Hellhounds, or how proud he felt whenever she used to watch him swoop for Muggle golf balls instead of that stupid Potter…
Draco glared at the parchment.
Well, he also didn’t write down how she had snuggled up to him in the forest only to mutter Potter’s name, and how Potter only had to say the word and she would cancel everything else just to be with him, or how her and her stupid arguments were tearing up his and Severus’s friendship, making them argue all the time instead of having fun like they used to.
Yes, it was all her fault, he thought angrily, grabbing the parchment and suddenly scribbling over the entire good column.
Only one point in that column was readable now. Draco glared at the last point and snorted.
“Yes, that’s the only good thing about her,” he said loudly, not caring whether the rest of the Slytherins heard him. “Father hates her.”
Cramming the parchment into his pocket, Draco retired stormily to his dormitory.
“Lavender?” said Ginny, flopping on the couch opposite a reading fifth year. “Can I ask you something?”
“Hmm?” Lavender responded, flicking through the pages of a trashy magazine and sighing deeply.
“I mean…it’s concerning a…a…”
“A boy?” demanded Lavender, throwing away her book and looking at Ginny hopefully.
“Er…yes…” said Ginny embarrassed, glad that most of the Gryffindors had gone to bed. “Um…but I would prefer…”
“Cross my heart,” said Lavender, then yelling across the room. “Parvati! We’re needed here!”
Ginny blinked and there was suddenly another beaming girl sitting opposite her, grasping her hand reassuringly.
“Is it Harry?” Parvati asked.
“No,” said Ginny quickly. “Not Harry.”
“Ron?” asked Lavender in interest.
“What?” said Ginny disoriented. “Why would I—”
“Ooh, Snape,” chorused the girls, looking as though Christmas had come extra early.
“Snape?” exclaimed Ginny, but then realising who they were talking about. “Oh, Severus! No, no it’s not—” Ginny frowned, wondering why the image of a tall, greasy Professor crossed her mind when the name ‘Snape’ was mentioned. She knew perfectly well that Severus’s last name was Snape also. “No it’s not about him,” she said firmly. “It’s about Dra—er…Malfoy, it’s about Malfoy.”
“Malfoy?” exclaimed Lavender incredulously. “As in Draco Malfoy?”
“Well…who else?” mumbled Ginny peevishly. “There’s only one Malfoy in this school.”
Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil exchanged looks. “What about him?” said Parvati, observing Ginny rub her right palm nervously.
“Well…” she hesitated.
“Oh-my-God!” yelled Lavender. “You’re not…?”
“No!” cried Ginny, flushing. “I wouldn’t do such a thing.”
“Well, what is it?” said Lavender, looking slightly disappointed.
“We won’t tell a soul,” said Parvati, attempting to sound sincere.
“Well…what’s your…your opinion of him?” Ginny said finally.
“Oh, I thought you wanted advice,” said Lavender, not bothering to hide her disappointment this time.
Ginny hesitated. “Well…I would really like your opinion first.”
“Looks-wise?” asked Parvati interestedly. “Snoggable-wise? Competition-wise? Personality-wise?”
“Er…any,” mumbled Ginny, feeling thoroughly embarrassed.
“All right, looks-wise,” said Parvati to Lavender.
Lavender made a face. “He still looks rather pointy-faced to me, and especially when he sneers, reminds me of that ferret incident…” Lavender paused to snicker. “He’s not as pale as last year…and he’s not horribly bad-looking I suppose… though don’t get me started on his hair.”
“I like his hair,” said Ginny unexpectedly.
Lavender and Parvati just stared.
“Well…I mean,” began Ginny defensively. “I think it suits him—”
“What, all slicked back and plastered down?” asked Parvati incredulously.
“Does he look worse with normal hair?” asked Lavender curiously.
Ginny thought back to their time in the forest, the first time she’d seen his natural hairstyle… It had a sort of amusing flop and fell over the left side of his forehead when he was irritated—
“Hullo, Ginny, are you still with us?”
“Hullo,” Ginny responded automatically. Yes, it was a nice hairstyle when it wasn’t slicked back, though it just didn’t seem Draco if he didn’t have it styled…maybe only when they were by themselves she would like the flop…
“Erm, yeah, I like his hair slicked back,” said Ginny firmly.
“All right,” said Lavender, giving her an odd look. “Parvati? The body.”
“Hmm…” replied Parvati thoughtfully. “He’s not that short anymore, is he? And we all got a good look in the Great Hall this morning. I never thought he’d actually have an upper body.”
“I know what you mean,” Lavender replied grinning. “He must be working out somewhere…though not nearly as good as Snape.”
“Definitely not,” Parvati agreed, looking as though she was going to giggle.
Ginny stared at the two leering girls beside her. It was starting to dawn on her that perhaps everyone in Hogwarts was, in fact, gossiping about her two best friends, her friends that she’d never really pictured as anything but friends.
She imagined Severus striding forcefully down the corridor, managing to be amazingly graceful and all the while radiating the sort of authority that made you feel slightly intimidated and not really question his presence. Draco’s steps, too, were graceful, but instead of the cocky swagger he had grown up with, his new walk was slightly more rushed and vague; mostly giving off the impression that he was more irritable than proud lately. It was no wonder then, that when Draco and Severus walked together, the whole corridor seemed to spread apart.
And to think she had been spending most of her time with these two boys and never even seen it… Hell, she’d practically groped Severus (something she was never going to tell her fellow fourth years, or, probably, another soul) and stolen a kiss from Draco. Before Christmas they’d even scuffle during duelling, and although she’d always been slightly aware of Severus’s rather…attractive upper body, she’d still never really thought…
“But the chest is still pale.”
Ginny realised they were back to Draco once more.
“Yes, pale is icky,” agreed Parvati once more. “Is the prat snoggable, Lavender?”
“Well, he was going with Pansy for a bit, wasn’t he?”
“Yes, but she was more of a show poodle…”
Ginny gave them both exasperated looks and the two giggling girls hastily straightened their faces and continued.
“Yes, well besides her –and she’s a maybe – I don’t think he’s kissed anyone… or vice versa—” began Lavender.
Ginny winced at the ‘vice versa’.
“So experience-wise…” continued Parvati.
“Duh-dun!” the two girls chorused, giving each other high fives.
“As for competition,” said Lavender shaking her head.
“What competition?” sniggered Parvati. “All right, he’s rich, but he’s such a horrible, spoilt little bastard and wouldn’t go with a Gryffindor, that I don’t think anyone would go for him in the first place.”
“Maybe little Ginny Weasley,” said Lavender, giving Ginny a sidelong look. “He’s rather friendly with you, isn’t he?”
“He’s all right,” said Ginny rather ungraciously, feeling strangely annoyed at them for insulting Draco so much…after all, he wasn’t that bad…was he?
“Well, his personality is his biggest let down,” said Parvati decidedly. “And it’s Malfoy for God’s sake. Imagine going on a date with him! If it’s not something dull about the weather or Ministry, your conversations would probably revolve around hunting Muggles or beheading house-elves or something heartless like that…”
Ginny scowled in annoyance, wracking her brains for something to contradict the other girl with. “He’s not dull,” she said eventually, then her brow lightening. “He likes ice-cream!”
“Really?” said Lavender sceptically. “He seems more of a flan person.”
“Well, he’s not,” said Ginny irritably. “And he’s not heartless! Everyone has a heart… deep down.”
“Very deep down,” said Lavender dryly.
“Very, very deep down,” said Parvati even more dryly.
“An itty bitty tiny heart.”
“Which only beats on the last day of the twelfth season…”
“During the full moon of a summer solstice...”
“Oh, stop being so horrid,” snapped Ginny, getting up.
“You wanted to know.” Parvati shrugged. “Ask anyone, that’s how everyone feels about Malfoy.”
“I don’t,” said Ginny angrily.
“Well, you’ve obviously got feelings for him then,” said Lavender, grinning at Parvati.
“I don’t,” repeated Ginny angrily, starting to back away when Harry, Ron and Hermione poured through the portrait hole.
“Then why’d you ask us about him?” called out Parvati after her.
I don’t know! Ginny screamed to herself, turning and running up her dormitory steps with ‘Kiss me, I’m in denial’ flashing behind her in silver letters.
The morning of the first Quidditch game of the season dawned bright and clear. As soon as the first chink of light hit the dormitory floor, Ron Weasley got out of bed and dressed quietly. For the first time in his life he was the first up and out of bed – even Snape was still rubbing his eyes and stretching when Ron crept stealthily from the room.
It’s our first game, the flame-haired boy thought to himself as he descended down the stairs. I’m not going to let Harry down.
It was strange how things had changed that year, Ron continued to muse. It wasn’t at all how he’d expected. You-Know-Who hadn’t been mentioned at all since Ginny’s encounter. Ginny wasn’t hanging around them so much and seemed to have changed a great deal. Harry was more distant than last year, but he was doing great as Captain. It was definitely weird between Ginny and Harry…it didn’t seem plausible to Ron… but the proof was there when they sometimes spent evenings together in the common room, both content just to huddle up close and gaze into the blazing fire.
He and Hermione had been forced to spend more time together, whether it was to let Harry and Ginny have some time alone, or whether they could weave plans to cheer Harry up more, Ron didn’t know. He only knew that he was missing his times with his best friend.
Sure, Hermione was more agreeable these days, and definitely more fun to be around than she was before…but Harry was Harry, and not Hermione, and he bloody missed him.
Ron sighed as he grabbed his old Cleansweep Seven from the broom shed. He quickly mounted it and felt the familiar rush of adrenaline as the wind swept through his hair. He wasn’t an exceptional flyer, but practise did make perfect and he had been flying since he was small. Plus everyone knew a Weasley could fly better than the average wizard.
Ron spiralled to the ground, nearly colliding with a dark-haired boy striding below.
“Whoa!” Ron yelled, screeching to a halt right in Severus Snape’s path. “Merlin, sorry.”
nodded coldly and strode around him, making his way to the
Severus cursed, wondering how he could evade him.
Mistakenly thinking that Snape had stopped because he was waiting for him, Ron flew over to the other boy and swooped down. “Want to practise?” he asked, noting in satisfaction that he didn’t have his horrible, scratchy kitten with him.
“No,” said Severus, looking over at Hagrid’s hut but then realising he was out for the weekend.
“What are you doing then?” asked Ron, landing fully on the ground. “Where are you going?”
Severus glared at him, feeling annoyed that he was stuck around there until breakfast. “To the broom shed,” he answered acidly, moving off in that general direction.
“I thought you didn’t want to practise,” continued Ron, hovering just behind him much to Severus’s annoyance.
“Changed my mind,” he replied grumpily, reaching the shed and grabbing his racing broom that his ‘uncle’ had sent as a Christmas present.
“All right,” said Ron enthusiastically. “Chuck us a Quaffle then?”
Severus pulled a medium-sized red ball from the basket and, with a rather nasty grin, lobbed it as hard as he could in Ron’s general direction.
“Oof,” exclaimed Ron, getting flung backwards out of the shed but catching it anyway. “Good throw.”
Severus scowled, disappointed.
But it was soon Ron’s turn to be disappointed, as he tried time and time again to throw the Quaffle through the waiting rings, only to be stopped every single time by a muscular hand or foot or side of the broom.
“Damn it,” he grunted, his high spirits lowering. “Why can’t I score at least once?”
“Oh, are you trying?” murmured Severus. “I had no idea.”
Ron merely gave him a very expressive look and zoomed upwards, the red Quaffle sitting securely under his arm. “Get ready, Snape!” he yelled, though even to Severus’s ears it sounded faint as he was so far up.
“What’s the fool doing?” he muttered, preparing himself when he saw the red-haired boy position himself into a steep dive. “He knows he’s supposed to throw the Quaffle in the goals… not try to barge past me.”
“READY?” yelled Ron once more, a determined look on his face as Severus nodded slightly. “Here I come…”
Ron Weasley dove towards the goals. His broom might have been slower than most but it seemed as if he was really pushing it to the limit this time, as his red hair and black robes streamed backwards into a brown blur.
“Weasley,” cursed Severus under his breath, feeling slightly alarmed at the speed the boy was going straight at him, “ –what the hell are you doing?”
But nevertheless, Severus stood his ground, watching the other boy come closer and closer. However, this soon changed as Ron’s determined look changed into one of horror, as he tried to suddenly pull backwards only yards from Severus, before failing horribly and going into a flailed spin.
“Watch—AHHH!” yelled Severus, as a spinning Ron careered wildly into him, his elbow connecting with Snape’s chin.
Jerking back sharply, Ron fell dizzily downwards to the ground below, Severus’s hastily drawn wand sticking out of his ribs. Managing to keep one leg around his broom, Severus flipped upside down and caught a view of Ron hitting the ground with a sickening thump. “Idiot,” he mumbled, flying down clumsier than usual and holding his head in his hands. “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?” he shouted when he got down.
Ron didn’t reply, but only made an indecipherable groan, pulling weakly at Severus’s wand in his side.
“My wand!” exclaimed Severus, his head still throbbing as he grabbed for it. “Give it back!”
Ron’s groan turned into a roar when Severus yanked his wand away from the other boy’s limp hand. “MY WRIST!” shrieked Ron.
“Oh…” muttered Severus disconcerted. “Er…”
“Oh no,” moaned Ron. “The match…Harry…oh bloody, bloody, BLOODY HELL!”
“Settle down,” muttered Severus, though handling his wand somewhat guiltily. “Here, I’ll conjure up a splint.”
“NO!” roared Ron. “DON’T COME NEAR ME AGAIN!”
Ron attempted to use his broom as a lever to get up, but only succeeding in crumpling back down to the ground again.
“My leg,” he moaned, but still managing to yell at Severus when he edged closer. “PISS OFF!”
“As I recall,” said Severus sourly, “ –it was you who ran into me in the first place.”
“Well, you didn’t have to go breaking my wrist afterwards, did you?”
“Well, what did you think you were doing?” said Severus angrily.
“Weasley feint,” mumbled Ron. “Just conjure up a stretcher and I’ll get into that.”
“Weasley feint?” Severus sneered, trying to drown out the other boy’s groans as he directed the stretcher towards the castle. “Sounds like a rip off of that Seeker’s move, the Wronski feint, to me.”
“It sort of is, we always use it for Chasers at home,” mumbled Ron, closing his eyes.
“Oh, so it went wrong?”
“Yeah, didn’t stop properly,” replied Ron with a grunt, ignoring the sarcasm and feeling somewhat more relaxed now the entrance door was in sight. “You were supposed to get out of the way just before I was going to ‘hit’ you so I could score…but then I went out of control and you didn’t move…so it mucked up…”
“How you’ve managed not to kill yourself, Weasley, is beyond me.”
Walking up the stairs Severus rolled his eyes, waiting for trouble in the form of Harry Potter and Hermione Granger to start yelling at him.
“WHAT DID YOU DO?” Harry shouted angrily.
“You…” Hermione breathed, resembling an angry rhinoceros.
“S’OK, Harry, Hermione, it was mostly my fault,” came Ron’s voice at his side. “Take my broom will you?”
“Mostly!” burst out Severus at once, glaring at Hermione when she yanked Ron’s broom from his grasp. “That was my sore shoulder,” he said coldly.
“Good.” She glared back, moving back next to Harry who was asking Ron what had happened.
Severus gave them a final glare before proceeding to breakfast, wishing he could deduct points for cheek.
“All right, Severus?” came the voice of Draco, then turning into a sneer when he noticed Ron and Co. making their way upstairs. “What happened to Weasley?”
“Where were you?” said Severus grumpily, ignoring his question. “Why didn’t you meet me this morning?”
“Slept in,” replied Draco, his eyes darkening. “Couldn’t sleep last night.”
Severus scowled. “Well, thanks to you, I had to practise with that idiot Weasley all morning.”
“What?” asked Draco surprised. “Quidditch?”
“No, Gobstones,” growled Severus, pulling up a seat at the Gryffindor table and whacking his broom down next to him.
“Oh, right. Your match after breakfast…” remembered Draco disinterestedly. “Well, I’ll cheer for you, but I’ll be booing your Seeker.”
“All right,” said Severus gruffly, though feeling strangely satisfied. “See you then.”
Draco nodded, moving slowly away to his own table and purposely away from an interested Terence Higgs and suspicious Blaise Zabini. He ate his breakfast slowly, glancing from time to time at the Gryffindor table, though it wasn’t always to Severus Snape.
Ginny Weasley was also sitting by herself. She had gone to sit with Severus, but seeing that he wasn’t in the best of moods, had moved even further away from the throng than he had. She picked at her food, noting that Harry wasn’t at the table, nor was Ron or Hermione…nor any of the Quidditch team come to think of it –well, except for Severus.
Across the room, Draco brushed a strand of imaginary hair from his face.
stupid, all these habits he had picked up from their time in the
He, Draco Malfoy, would still be head of his gang of fifth years. He would have a father. He wouldn’t have stayed at Hogwarts for Christmas. He would despise all Gryffindors. He would hate Potter for all the same reasons that he did for the last four years, and no more. Severus wouldn’t get under his skin. And neither would Ginny. The biggest worry in his life would be trying to impress the new Potions Master, since Professor Snape was absent. He could concentrate on Quidditch. He wouldn’t have to play against a best friend on the opposite team. And he wouldn’t have to list all of these stupid points whilst staring at a red-haired fourth year across the room.
Draco bit savagely into a piece of toast and traced his left palm with his index finger. His gaze flicked back to Ginny, who had looked up and was searching the Slytherin table with her light brown eyes.
He couldn’t tear his eyes away, and continued to watch as she searched the crowd, feeling strangely gratified that he knew she was searching for him. When finally she locked her eyes on him, she saw that he too was sitting away from the crowd, and was staring inscrutably back at her. Draco saw her jerk in surprise and look quickly away, welcoming the distraction of a hysterical Hermione dragging her away from the breakfast table.
Draco, too, looked away, wondering what the hell was stopping him from sprinting over there and carrying her off into the opposite direction…
Damned, stupid pride making him miserable… But what was his pride worth nowadays? He was friendly with two Gryffindors, one being a Weasley. He was hoping to get more than friendly with the Weasley. His father had disowned him, he didn’t even know if he was able to come home that summer. His pride was worth squat to him now. Well, maybe his Malfoy pride… and even his Slytherin pride…but not his self-pride.
Pride, pride, pride, yelled an annoying voice in the back of Draco’s mind, you’re a Weasley-loving soppy fool! Even your self-pride means nothing now.
“Hey, Malfoy,” came the voice of Terence Higgs. “You ready to swallow your pride and ask Weasley out?”
Higgs’s amicable inquiry was answered with a punch in the jaw. Draco stood over him, as the sixth year sprawled onto the table slightly stunned.
“What the hell, Malfoy?” gasped Higgs incredulously, as Draco withdrew his wand and held it against the other boy’s throat.
As the gleam in Draco’s eyes started to melt away, Higgs shoved Draco away from him and straightened his robes.
“Draco, what are you doing?” came the voice of Severus Snape once more, hurrying over.
“Oh, nothin’,” responded Higgs promptly, looking as though a punch in the jaw was the usual greeting between two Slytherins. “Just muckin’ about.”
Severus shot the sixth year a suspicious look and looked back at Draco.
“Nothing,” echoed Draco, his eyes focusing in and looked towards his best friend. “Let’s go to your match now, eh?”
“What was he talking about?” Severus demanded, jerking a thumb at the retreating figure of Terence Higgs. “What did he say about pride? Was he insulting you?”
“Let’s go to your match,” Draco repeated, standing up and resting a hand on Severus’s shoulder. “Don’t want to be late.”
Severus gave him a relieved look. He could’ve sworn he’d heard a trace of the old Draco-mockery in his tone. “You’re not seriously going to cheer when you’re sitting with the Slytherins, are you?” he said slowly. “Hell, I would hex you.”
“I won’t sit with them,” replied Draco, cocking an eyebrow at Severus.
“You’re going to sit with Ginny,” Severus stated, a hint of amusement in his usually glaring eyes as he read the other boy’s slight smile like a book. “It’s about bloody time.”
“Shut up, Severus,” said Draco calmly, but then suddenly digging him in the ribs with his wand. “I’ll race you.”
“Ouch,” muttered Severus, his resolve to poke the other boy back dissolving as Draco gave him a shark-like grin. “Fine.”
And with that, Severus contented himself with pushing the smaller boy to the floor with his broom and starting to run, his earlier feelings of anger starting to melt away, with the hope that perhaps Draco was finally back.
“And it’s the first match of the season! Gryffindor versus Hufflepuff – who will win?”
Lee Jordan’s hearty voice boomed across the rapidly filling stands. When they were quite full, and the noise had settled down somewhat, the enthusiastic commentator continued his introductory spiel.
“Well, we all know that leading Gryffindor team is Harry Potter! Seeker for four years and now Captain!”
All of the Gryffindors cheered madly, and Lee Jordan was finding it hard not to cheer himself.
“Around a third of Hogwarts is on exchange, including part of our Quidditch team…so in place of our beautiful Chaser, Alicia Spinnet, we have the not-so-beautiful Ron Weasley! Yes! Another Weasley on the team!”
There was a slight wave of laughter at this, though a small part of the girl population were yelling comments which sounded like ‘not beautiful, my arse’. However this cheer was suddenly interrupted by Lee’s excited voice once more.
“Well! Here’s some news, folks! Ron Weasley has been temporarily injured, and will not be playing in this match!”
“WHAT?” came a surprised roar from the crowd.
“Yes! And—what’s this? Here he is! It’s our latest Weasley addition himself, arriving not on broom but on stretcher right next to me! He is accompanied by Hermione Granger; Merlin! What d’you two have to say for yourselves?”
Ron tried to sit up on the stretcher but only succeeded in cracking his leg once more. Unfortunately, his roar of pain was amplified throughout the stands and was met with an enthusiastic cheer.
“There you have it, ladies and gentlemen!” yelled Lee Jordan dramatically. “But who will replace him? And at such short notice? Who?”
Hermione leaned over and whispered something into his ear, making him nearly yell in surprise.
“What’s this?! Not ANOTHER Weasley?!”
“WHAT?!” the crowd roared, clearly getting pumped up.
Above the top row of seats, upon the roof of the stands sat a single Slytherin, his fair hair glinting in the sun. After he couldn’t find a certain fourth year seated anywhere, he had decided to sit by himself and fly his broom to the roof, so he could watch his best friend stop goals only thirty feet away. He had remained relatively bored throughout the introduction of Gryffindor’s team, but on Jordan’s last exclamation, he had exclaimed ‘WHAT?!’ just as loudly as everybody else.
“You heard me correctly! It’s GINNY WEASLEY! The youngest of the Weasleys is going to valiantly try and take her brother’s place just for this match! Jeez, I hope she’s good…”
“NO FUCKING WAY!” yelped Draco, in a very-un-Draco-like manner.
Down in the Quidditch change rooms, Severus Snape was reacting in much the same way.
“Ginny?!” he yelled incredulously.
“Hey,” she said waveringly, adjusting the scarlet robes around her collar. “Merlin, I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Ginny!” yelled Harry, bursting into the room with the rest of the team. “You don’t have to do this! We—”
“It’s OK,” said Ginny firmly, taking a deep breath. “Hermione was right. You need someone who knows all of the formations and strategies, not to mention the signs that you’re going to make when you want these carried out. No one else outside the team knows them, except me because I’ve been practising with you. Please, I know you have no one else lined up and you really need to win, so I’m willing to help you… in whatever way I can.”
There was a pause while Harry looked at her for a long time, his face melting into a grateful smile. Fred and George simply gaped, the thought of their little sister playing as Chaser on their team wiping all thoughts of jokes from their minds. Severus blinked at her, still oblivious to the fact that Ron was still hurt. Surprisingly, it was the other two Chasers who nodded to each other and slapped her on the back.
“Spoken like a true Gryffindor.” Katie Bell smiled. “Anything’s better than a forfeit, eh?”
“Wait, wait!” cut in Fred Weasley, before Angelina could open her mouth to also offer words or encouragement. “You’re saying Ginny is going to play on the team? Ginny?”
“We don’t want her getting smashed by the Bludgers,” explained George, shaking his head at his sister. “Mum’ll kill us if she knew—”
“She wouldn’t!” interrupted Ginny spiritedly. “Mum’d be proud if I played just this once! She was on the team back then also, if you didn’t know.”
“And besides,” said Angelina indignantly, “ –the only way she’s going to get hit by the Bludgers is if you two don’t do your job properly.”
“Remind me to step on your toes next time we dance, Angelina,” muttered Fred under his breath, poking her slightly with his broom.
Harry took a deep breath. “If Ginny wants to play, she can, but we’re not forcing—”
“I want to,” she said promptly.
“Cool.” Harry grinned, catching her hand inconspicuously. “I was starting to go mad… I was considering fetching Colin since he’s been at half the practises snapping photos.”
“Thank goodness you didn’t,” shuddered Katie. “He gives me the willies.”
Further discussion was suddenly interrupted by a big booming, “AND HERE THEY ARE! GRYFFINDOR TEAM!”
Harry quickly positioned himself onto his broom and gave his team a tense smile. “Ready?”
“Been ready,” growled Snape.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” murmured Ginny nervously.
“Of course,” said Angelina.
“When you are,” said Katie Bell.
“READY!” chorused Fred and George cheerily, forgetting their slight worries about Ginny when they heard the crowd cheer wildly.
Draco watched as seven scarlet blurs streaked from the room below the stands, joining the canary yellow opposition already hovering above the field. His eyes stayed trained to one particular figure, flying not as confidently as the rest, and seeming to avoid everyone. Feeling foolish, he tore his eyes away and cheered his best friend.
“KILL ‘EM, SNAPE!” he roared, as a sullen-faced figure flew up to the goal rings.
Severus’s moodiness lessened somewhat as he searched for the source of the shout, finally catching sight of Draco on the roof.
“Dunderhead,” he smirked.
Ginny Weasley clung to her brother’s broom self-consciously, her brain clouded with the suddenness of events.
When Hermione had dragged her from the breakfast table, she had had no idea that Ron was injured, let alone too injured to play for the moment. Hermione was practically having a fit, saying that Ron was seemingly even more upset than Harry, and after all their hard work, they were going to lose their first match. Ginny had snuck a look inside the Hospital Wing (She and Hermione had just been in the corridor) and all the rest of the Quidditch team were tightly squashed around a doleful looking Ron, discussing in horror what they were going to do. It was too late to cancel the match, and, as it was only twenty minutes away, they would have to forfeit. Hermione had suddenly grasped her shoulder, whispering her idea.
“Oh hell, oh hell,” Ginny whispered to herself, snapping back to the present as Madam Hooch threw the Quaffle into the air. “What am I doing?”
But before she could answer herself, Angelina had caught the Quaffle and was heading backwards in her direction.
Ginny looked up at Harry, who punched his fist and gave her the thumbs up. Ginny grinned shakily back, and concentrated on the formation she’d watched so often from the stands. But suddenly she didn’t have time to think, as the Quaffle was hefted in her direction and she barely had time to grab it and zoom upwards, away from the eager opposition.
In a matter of seconds Katie spiralled below her, knocking shoulders with a determined looking Hufflepuff. The Hufflepuff veered off course when a whizzing Bludger flew past his ear, and Ginny threw the red ball as hard as she could down to her fellow Gryffindor. Biting her lip she flew straight towards the awaiting goals, following a zigzagging Angelina.
Ginny didn’t have any time to reason like she did when she was just mucking about with Ron and Harry – every move she pulled off, every pass she made, was automatic. She had always had an excellent store of knowledge for Quidditch, as her brothers at home barely talked of anything else. She wasn’t the best flyer, probably the worst out of everyone on the pitch, but her reflexes had been nearly perfected due to her duelling with Severus and Draco, and she was playing this to her advantage.
“GOAL! GRYFFINDOR SCORES!”
Ginny flushed in pleasure, as Katie Bell circled the goal rings and gave her a high-five. But she didn’t celebrate for long, as Hufflepuff was already zooming towards their goal rings.
“SAVED! And what a save! Oliver Wood would’ve been proud.”
Draco whistled from the roof, waving his broom through the air at Severus. Severus didn’t see him but scowled hotly at the crowd, which changed into a deep flush as his sharp eyes caught sight of the Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor waving a scarf in his direction.
“Go, Ginny!” Hermione screamed, startling Ron into falling out of his stretcher.
“What’s going on?” he said groggily, wincing as he pulled it down to clamber back in once more. “Is she doing all right?”
“I think so,” replied Hermione. “Here, you see.”
Hermione whipped out her wand so that the stretcher was on an angle and Ron had a clear view of the fast-paced game.
“Oh, Merlin!” he exclaimed, as Ginny nearly fell off her broom from a sudden burst of speed. “I can’t watch!”
“GOAL!” screamed Hermione, clutching Ron and dancing around. “WE GOT A GOAL!”
Gryffindor let out a big roar of approval, as Lee Jordan’s magnified voice proclaimed at exactly the same time as Hermione that Katie Bell had scored another goal. Ron roared along with the rest of the crowd, though it was partly in pain as he tried to leap out of his stretcher and dance around also, but had to be helped back into it after a sickening crack.
Up on the roof, Draco harrumphed, but there were slight fingernail marks in his broomstick from when Ginny had nearly got knocked off her broom by the opposition. Luckily, no Bludgers had gotten even remotely close to her, but this could be due to Fred and George imagining their mother’s face if Ginny had gotten even a scratch.
Over at the Gryffindor goal rings, Severus was getting bored. Sure, the Hufflepuff Chasers were giving him decent competition, but he was considering whether to let a few goals pass, maybe just to rile up Potter or mar Gryffindor’s reputation, he didn’t know. At least those bloody third year girls waving the sparkly sign reading: ‘Gryffindor’s Keeper Can Catch Me Any Time’ would probably burst into tears.
Severus’s thoughts were interrupted as he perceived Draco waving his broom over his head and laughing and pointing at a Hufflepuff on the ground.
“FOUL? OH, COME ON!” yelled Lee Jordan.
Ginny flushed embarrassedly, Madam Hooch reprimanding her for stopping suddenly and knocking a following Hufflepuff to the ground. Ginny looked shamefaced up at Harry, but he, like the rest of the team, was grinning at her and trying not to laugh at the expression on her face.
“Ginny, everyone makes mistakes,” he whispered into her ear, as Hufflepuff took the penalty shot. “You have to admit, that was pretty funny.”
Ginny grinned surprisingly back. “Well, I really am a shocking flyer,” she admitted back. “So I still can’t believe that Madam Hooch thought I did that on purpose.”
Harry winked at her and flew upwards once more as the Quaffle came back into play.
The rest of the game existed as a sort of blur in Ginny’s mind, a very fast-paced blur involving a lot of close calls. She vaguely remembered hearing her brother roar over all the rest of the crowd when she narrowly missed scoring, and out of the corner of her eye she saw Severus stopping goals again and again, each time with an excited compliment from Lee Jordan. She remembered going into various formations with Angelina and Katie, and Fred and George hovering around her constantly, usually resulting in Harry getting suddenly attacked by Bludgers every now and then.
But the best moment of all was when she saw the two Seekers dive forward at a glint of gold, hovering just near the Hufflepuff goal rings. Instantly, the game between the Chasers seemed to freeze, and the anticipation grew and grew as the Seekers’ dives steepened. The crowd’s roar got louder and louder, until suddenly it exploded, and Harry flung his full hand over his head and landed neatly on the ground with a big smile on his face.
“POTTER CAUGHT THE SNITCH!” roared the announcer. “GRYFFINDOR WINS! TWO HUNDRED TO NOTHING! WE WON!”
“We won!” screamed Ginny, laughing half-tearfully as she dove clumsily to meet her whole team on the ground. “WE WON!”
“Good on you,” she heard someone whisper quietly into her ear.
“Oh, Severus!” she blurted out, throwing her arms around him and startling him into hurriedly backing away.
But Ginny was too worked up to feel offended, and she could only raise her broom above her head and make indecipherable screams of joy. Slaps on the back rained upon the whole team, as all of Gryffindor poured from the stands and starting screaming into their ears also.
She surveyed the crowd through slightly blurry eyes, noticing Philip Woodley and all her fellow fourth years yelling proudly and making their way towards her. And then she saw Ron, bellowing as he attempted to jump up and down, but Hermione not stopping him as she waved wildly at her. Her gaze then moved unconsciously to the Slytherin stands, and she saw a few amused-looking Slytherins giving her small cheers, but most of them already leaving. Her eyes, however, kept searching past them, her smile slowly breaking down as she realised the person she was looking for wasn’t there.
“Up there, Ginny,” she heard Severus’s voice rap, before he leapt back onto his broom and zoomed away from some screaming third years.
Ginny looked up in the direction where the hastily departing boy had motioned, and the swelling lump in her throat began to rise as she saw a lone figure standing upon the Quidditch stands’ roof. The figure of Draco Malfoy stood with his hands in his pockets, his robes streaming behind him, as he stared down at Ginny’s figure with an inscrutable look upon his face.
Ginny’s voice hitched in her throat, as she started to try to push her way through the crowd.
“DRA—” she started to scream, but a deeper voice managed to cut in.
“GINNY!” she heard Harry yell, and she felt herself swept into his arms, and a pair of warm, green eyes and a shock of messy black hair obscured her vision to the Quidditch stands.
“H-Harry?” Ginny stuttered, her head whirling as she flung her arms around him back. “Oh, Harry!”
Harry laughed and whirled her around, “We beat ‘em, Gin’!”
Ginny threw her head back and laughed alongside of him, all signs of worry fleeing from her face.
“We beat ‘em…we beat ‘em…we beat ‘em…”
Harry’s soft, warm voice echoed through her mind, and soon an enthusiastic crowd was pushing them along to the awaiting celebration party. Ginny felt an overwhelming burst of happiness as all her friends surrounded her. She whooped and cheered as loud as she could, but she couldn’t stop her eyes from straying one last time to the Quidditch stands’ roof. A sudden soberness seemed to wash over Ginny, as she continued to search though in vain.
There was no one there.