which a lot of trouble is caused by a broom ~
Although the sun was bright in the sky, there was hardly any light in the small, musty clearing. The trees grew so close together, towering over the slowly appearing shadowy figures, that it looked to be dusk.
Draco Malfoy and Ginny Weasley appeared suddenly in the centre of the clearing, thrown to the ground with terrific force. Disorientated and thrashing wildly, Draco struggled to get up.
“Ge…get-off-me!” he yelled angrily.
“You get off me!” Ginny yelled back, thrashing just as wildly but still stubbornly clutching the broomstick. With her free hand she flicked her wand at the Firebolt, binding its handle against her leather belt. With an exclamation of triumph, she looked up but saw Malfoy stagger backwards, an expression of horror rising in his pale face.
“What is the meaning of this?” said a voice full of cold anger.
Ginny nearly stumbled backwards herself, her eyes suddenly accustomed to the gloom as she stared around in horror. “N-no…” she mumbled faintly.
She was surrounded by dozens of hooded figures, but one in particular one drew her gaze. Taller than the rest he stood before her, silent and powerful. A purple hood masked his face in shadow, and a white, skeletal hand directed its black, slender wand straight at her heart.
Ginny clutched the broomstick instinctively, stumbling back into a shaking Malfoy. “Wait!” she cried desperately, the only Voldemort-related information she could think of bubbling to the surface of her mind. “Tom Riddle! You’re Tom Riddle!”
There was a low murmuring amidst the Death Eaters, silenced almost immediately by a raised hand from their master. He stepped forward, pulling back the purple hood from his head. Livid, red eyes fixed on the shivering girl before him.
“You know me,” he whispered. “But I do not know you.” He paused while he considered her. “Ginny Weasley, isn’t it?”
Ginny’s breaths were sharp in her chest. Perhaps she could deny it, how would he know?
But Voldemort’s voice was like poison in her veins; she was barely capable of speech, let alone lies. All she could do was stand there, frozen, and try not to throw up.
“Ginny Weasley, for speaking that disgusting, Muggle name,” said the Dark Lord softly, “you shall feel pain you cannot even begin to imagine.” He smiled. “And then you shall die.”
Voldemort’s eyes fell on Draco. “And your friend,” he said, raising his wand. “He will share your fate.”
Malfoy’s face filled with horror and he shoved Ginny aside.
“No!” he cried.
Ginny stifled an ear-piercing scream as Malfoy fell to the ground. His eyes were clenched shut as he clawed at his head, awful noises of pain convulsing from his throat. Voldemort’s eyes narrowed even further as he looked down at the writhing boy, a flame kindling in them as he watched Draco’s contorted face. Then the pain stopped and Draco lay on the ground, quivering in the wake of his agony.
Voldemort spoke aloud a name, and every Death Eater in the surrounding circle was thankful it wasn’t theirs. Save one.
“Lucius,” he said again, louder this time.
A single trembling Death Eater stepped forward. “Y-yes, my Lord?” he said, his head bowed.
“Why is your son lying at my feet, instead of Harry Potter?”
The Death Eater shook so much his hood fell down, revealing his white-with-terror face. He continued to stare glassily ahead, unable to look at either Voldemort or Draco’s jerking body. “M-my Lord, h-he is not my son…”
Although incapable of speech, Draco’s red-rimmed eyes betrayed his hurt. He jerked an arm towards his father.
Voldemort flicked his wand quickly, and Lucius’s voice cut off with a sharp gasp. His eyes widened in shock as he clutched at his tightening throat, ignoring his son’s feeble hand clawing desperately at the air between them. “He is y-yours,” Lucius choked, his usually proud face a dull purple. “Y-yours to do with what y-you…w-will.”
There was a tense pause as Voldemort raised his wand once more, before lowering it again with a mirthless laugh. “How very like you, Lucius,” he said, releasing the older Malfoy. Lucius stumbled back and rejoined the circle. “One more mistake however, and you won’t have any family left.”
Ginny gazed down at her feet, where Draco was lying still on the ground. At Voldemort’s laughter, his shoulders tensed and he jerked his head upwards, his blurry vision just catching his trembling father shrinking backwards into the gloom.
“And you, boy,” Voldemort spoke once more, his attention back to the two of them as he walked forward and kicked Draco in the stomach. “Are you going to try to save your companion once more? Or do you have something you can offer your new master?”
Draco gasped painfully, attempting to shuffle away from the towering wizard. Ginny also waited for an answer, a tiny ray of hope growing in her chest.
“No…you don’t understand, I was trying to tell you…I’m no friend of hers,” he spat.
A blade of ice seemed to jab into Ginny’s heart, as she continued to clutch the Firebolt almost numbly. She raised her wand and pointed it at Draco’s chest.
“You…”she breathed, but jerked backwards when Draco staggered to his feet, raising his own wand in answer.
“What, you think I actually care what happens to you, Weasley?” said Malfoy, his face streaked with dirt and his fists shaking. “You think I wouldn’t sacrifice your life to save my own?”
Ginny’s throat felt horribly constricted, but her scorn overrode her fear. The Death Eaters and Voldemort were momentarily forgotten as she screamed in return. “I never assumed for a second, Malfoy, that you weren’t a cowardly worm just like your father!”
There was a split-second of silence before the sky went black. Already quite dim, the clearing was now swamped in darkness, and two things happened at once. Voldemort’s wand flicked and a burst of red light streaked straight towards Ginny, as Draco simultaneously yelled, “ACCIO, FIREBOLT!” Ginny felt herself jerked through the air by the broomstick, the flash of light slicing her cheek and hitting the broom instead. Draco, who had started running to the edge of the clearing, was suddenly barrelled into by a struggling Ginny, the force of their collision throwing them into a tangle of thick bushes to the side.
A burst of blue fire erupted from Voldemort’s wand, illuminating the clearing instantaneously and revealing each of the Death Eaters staring up into the sky barely visible through the thick trees. The greenish hue of the slowly appearing Dark Mark in the clouds mixed strangely with the blue light of the clearing, and Voldemort extinguished his flames with a snarl.
“Whoever did this will be punished,” he said, his red eyes gleaming with fury as they flicked from each of his followers to the next. “You!”
The closest Death Eater staggered backwards under Voldemort’s hideous gaze.
“Find the children and kill them,” Voldemort instructed. The Death Eater nodded fervently and hurried into the woods. “The rest of you, away! Aurors will be Apparating within minutes.”
Without another word Voldemort vanished with a loud crack. The remaining Death Eaters followed his lead. Draco watched through narrowed eyes, the way his father merely glanced at the Death Eater who was assigned to kill them, before Disapparating himself.
With only one Death Eater remaining, Ginny shoved Draco off of her and scrabbled about the ground for her wand.
“What are you doing?” hissed Draco. “He’ll hear you.”
The last Death Eater’s head suddenly jerked in their direction.
“Shut up!” hissed Ginny back, finding her wand at last. She exploded from the bushes, “STUPEF—HEY!”
Draco had barged past her at the last second, pointing his wand at the dark figure.
“AVADA KEDAVRA!” he snarled.
A small spark of green light flew harmlessly from Draco’s wand. Ginny groaned in horror while Draco paled considerably.
“Expelliarmus!” the Death Eater yelled angrily, lifting a hand to catch both students’ wands. “You are fools!” he growled, and flung back his hood.
Severus Snape landed hard on the moist grass.
His teenage body felt all stretched and queasy, but he was thankful for once that the Dark Mark had done its job and brought him there. There was no chance he could’ve Apparated like that on his own, of that he was now certain. Thankfully his clumsy landing had brought him just outside of the central gathering, behind a clump of bushes. Severus straightened up, fixing his belt and hood and just about to join the crowd when he froze, mid-step.
“And your friend, he will share your fate.”
It had been so long since he’d heard that voice, but the mere tone of it brought back horrible memories he’d started to forget...
Thrusting the memories aside, Snape whirled and sprinted silently away. An idea was forming in his mind, one that forced him to concentrate ruthlessly on his breathing rather than the cries of pain from the clearing.
After running through wild undergrowth for barely a minute, he lifted his wand to the sky and summoned all his strength.
“MORSMORDRE!” he bellowed.
There was a brief pause as Severus clutched his wand in a sudden wave of self-doubt, before a thick, black cloud erupted from the end of it. It billowed into the air almost magnificently, with answering black clouds forming out of thin air to meet it just above the trees. The hint of a gigantic glowing skull started to fade in, and Severus hurriedly brought his wand to his forearm once more. Donned in black, Severus reappeared this time towards the front of the crowd of Death Eaters. Feeling slightly disorientated at the sudden yelling and people around him, his eyes had barely adjusted to the gloom when a jet of blue flames from Voldemort’s wand blinded him.
“You!” the Dark Lord roared. For a terrifying moment Snape could’ve sworn Voldemort knew who he was. “Find the children and kill them!”
The Dark Lord yelled orders to the other Death Eaters then Disapparated. In moments Severus was left standing in the dark, waves of relief washing over him that both students had escaped. His sharp ears however, caught a quiet rustling noise coming from a nearby bush, and a soft hiss of a voice. Hoping it wasn’t a lingering Death Eater, Severus gripped his wand slightly firmer and walked quickly towards it.
Snape jumped violently as Draco and Ginny burst out of the bushes, brandishing their wands wildly. The last thing Snape heard was ‘Avada Kedavra’ before he realised what was going on.
“Expelliarmus!” he barked angrily, catching their wands in his outstretched palm. “You are fools!” he cried, and pushed the black hood from his face at once.
Draco and Ginny gaped in shock as Severus pulled off the rest of the Death Eater robes, which dissolved into black smoke as he threw them away.
“Snape?!” burst out Draco incredulously.
“This place will be crawling with Aurors very soon!” Severus said harshly, ignoring the two of them stammering and demanding answers. “We have to move quickly.”
Snape snatched the Firebolt from Ginny, the sudden movement snapping her back to reality.
Wait,” Ginny demanded, snatching the Firebolt back. “Why are you running away from the Aurors? They can help us!”
Snape snorted and gave her a scathing look. “Even assuming the Dark Lord hasn’t infiltrated half of them, we’re at the scene of the Dark Mark and Mr Malfoy here has just used the killing curse. We’re not dead so we’re obviously accomplices. How understanding d’you think they’d be?”
And he really didn’t feel like being questioned about his Morsmordre.
Draco paled. All of his bitterness and anger had faded into a feeling of extreme nausea at the thought of his near death experiences. Making up his mind, he also made a swipe at the Firebolt and attempted to mount it. A small scuffle ensued as all three hurriedly tried to clamber onto the now-battered broomstick.
“Look, it won’t take all three of us,” Ginny said crossly, after being pushed and shoved out of the way. “Two at the most, and it won’t go very fast either.”
“Well, one of us can stay,” growled Draco, giving Ginny a rather nasty look.
Snape growled in frustration.
“I’m not leaving anyone here! It’s too dangerous. You two go, I’ll catch up…We meet three miles due west from here, preferably a tall tree. Is that clear?”
The two students stared at him, taken aback.
“Hurry up! I’m not bloody repeating myself!” he said irritably.
Draco scowled and mounted the broomstick with a very bad grace, followed by Ginny who gave Snape a curious look.
“Why should we trust you?” she said slowly.
Snape made an impatient noise and thrust their wands back into their grasp. “Because if you don’t, you’ll get us all killed,” he snarled, restraining himself from shaking the daylights out of them.
Draco and Ginny flinched, but managed to rise into the air relatively fast. They hovered in the air as Snape quickly used his wand to get his bearings. There was a brief pause as they stared down at the glaring Severus, before Draco and Ginny shot away in silence.
With one last glance around, Snape sprinted quickly after.
“Stop shoving will you?!”
“You’re the one taking up the whole dirty broom you…”
“We’re going off course! Trust you not to…”
“We have not and I should know. Girls have no sense of direction.”
“Of all the stupid things you’ve said, Malfoy…”
“Move back, I said!”
A slight scuffling between the two arguers caused the broomstick to wobble precariously. Already sinking lower and lower, it seemed as if the broomstick was on its last legs. Fortunately they’d travelled about the right distance to alight in the boughs of a large leafy tree below.
Ginny Weasley flopped down between a pair of forking branches and started rubbing her neck in relief. Draco glared at her disapprovingly.
“You should be on guard, not lazing around. Aurors could come at any time,” he said rudely.
Ginny stared at him indignantly. “Yes well, I have nothing to worry about, do I? Not my fault you tried to kill someone, was it? Especially if it was going to be me not so long ago, wasn’t it?”
“Oh, shut up, will you,” Draco said irritably. “I ended up saving your useless life, don’t you remember?”
“Only because your cowardly escape-plan backfired!” cried Ginny in outrage. “Do you actually expect me to thank you for that?”
“Well, I wouldn’t expect it from an ill-bred Weasley!” sneered Draco at once. “And what does it matter? We’re alive. That’s all that counts.”
Ginny glared at him, scorn rising in her flushed face. “I thought you didn’t care what happens to me! As far as you’re concerned, you’d sacrifice my life to save your own –”
A blurry memory of his father turning purple and denying him flashed across Draco’s mind. “Just shut your awful face, won’t you?” he yelled suddenly.
“You shut up,” replied Ginny coldly, and she turned her head and looked the other way.
Draco glared at her, his now shaking hands fingering his wand. What he wouldn’t give to… But no, he mustn’t. Any signs of magic would have Aurors flocking.
Ginny glanced at the way his fingers were lingering around his wand and snickered to herself. Draco immediately heard and his glare intensified, feeling furious that she wasn’t cowed in the least by his presence, but bordering on smug. He looked her up and down and voiced the first insult he could think of.
“You look awful!” he snarled.
Although Ginny looked very untidy and the cut on her cheek had left a bit of dried blood on her face, she looked infinitely better than Draco, who looked beaten down, scruffy, and as if he’d been crying in the dirt.
Taking in his appearance, Ginny felt the least worried she’d felt all morning.
“Malfoy,” she said calmly, leaning backwards against one of the boughs, “ –your opinion means absolutely nothing to me and I’m going to ignore you from now on.”
Draco turned red at the collected girl in front of him. “Ignore me and I’ll push you out of this tree,” he snarled haughtily.
Ginny burst into hysterical laughter and Draco gave a yell of rage as he charged straight at her. Ginny turned her head just in time to get a shoulder in the side of her jaw as she felt herself falling… falling…
Scrabbling desperately at scratchy branches Ginny felt herself jerk to a stop, nearly wrenching her arm out of its socket as she managed to catch hold of a sturdy branch. To her satisfaction she heard a resounding thud on the ground below followed by a moan of pain.
“Serves you right, you psychotic idiot,” Ginny muttered, shinning deftly down the tree trunk.
Draco was lying sprawled on his back, his face contorted with pain and humiliation. Ginny rubbed her cheek where she’d been hit, not feeling in the least bit sorry for him.
“What on earth were you doing?” she demanded indignantly. “If you have a problem then I’ll duel you! It’s not exactly normal to go tackling people out of trees, you stupid git.”
Draco responded with an unintelligible mix of insults and swearing. He was just struggling to his feet when he felt a knee go right into his side.
“Argh!” he yelled, only to find himself trying to be pulled up by the front of his robes by Ginny Weasley. “What’re you –!”
“Hurry! M-move!” stuttered Ginny, a look of panic on her face.
Draco’s head jerked around, as if expecting to see a lurking Death Eater directly behind him. Instead he saw a glittering coil of scales, hissing in disturbed anger.
“Argh!” he yelled again, lunging forward against Ginny, causing them to stumble backwards and fall heavily to the ground in a tangle of arms and legs.
Ginny groaned in pain as she saw the poisonous snake slither away into the undergrowth. She tried to sit up only to find that she was being pinned down by a shocked Draco.
“And just what are you two doing, may I ask?” said a voice icily above them.
Draco muttered something about a snake and it not being his fault and scrambled off the flushing Gryffindor.
“How did you get here so quickly?” asked Ginny haughtily, instantly regretting her words.
Oh, great now it sounds like me and Malfoy were planning to…
“I ran, you stupid girl,” Snape said coldly. “Where’s the broomstick?”
Ginny looked sulky at his insult and didn’t reply. Draco motioned sullenly towards the top of the tree.
“What’s it doing… Never mind, I’ll get it.” Snape made a face. “That is, if I can leave you two alone for one minute…”
“Oh, please,” they both sneered in unison.
Snape raised his eyebrows and they both turned a dull red.
“I’ll get the bloody broom!” Ginny burst out in annoyance, and started to shin her way back up the trunk.
Draco’s eyes narrowed as Severus threw him a sideways glance. “Not a word, Snape.”
Severus cleared his throat with the barest hint of a snicker before calling up to Ginny, “Can you see anything from there?”
There was a rustling of leaves, before Ginny slid down the trunk with a thump. “What?” she said blankly.
Snape made a noise of exasperation and climbed up himself. “Judging from the mountains in distance,” he called down to them, “we’re actually somewhat close to Hogwarts.”
With a sudden leap, Severus sailed through the foliage and landed gracefully on the ground. Draco and Ginny jumped back in alarm.
“You were twenty feet in the air!” exclaimed Ginny.
“Wait,” said Draco, waving irritably at Ginny to shut up. “If we’re close to Hogwarts then that means…”
nodded Snape. “We’re in the middle of the
Ginny looked scornfully at a paling Draco. “Well, that’s a good thing. Students go into the forest all the time; we really are close.”
frowned at her disapprovingly. “The
Ginny and Draco were both looking distinctly pale now, and Severus stopped and cleared his throat. “But of course… Ah… We are quite close to Hogwarts after all… Perhaps only forty miles give or take.”
“Forty miles!” yelled Draco.
“Yes, but I’m here!” snapped Severus. “And I’m…er…very intelligent for my age.” He glared at them. “You’ll be fine.”
Ginny gave him a hard look. “OK,” she said slowly, “but you still owe us some answers.”
Draco nodded in agreement, and then gave an annoyed noise as he realised who he was agreeing with. Snape waited silently, mentally going over the answers he’d prepared during his run there. “Ask what you will,” he said.
Ginny took a deep breath and recounted in her head what had happened. “OK… how did you follow us?”
Severus shrugged. “I grabbed hold of you when you were just disappearing, but I was unable to get a proper grip and so was flung off to the side while we were spinning around… I ended up landing not far from you, in some bushes nearby.”
Snape kept his dark glittering eyes fixed on Ginny’s light brown ones until she eventually drew away. He could tell that they didn’t quite believe him and he couldn’t blame them. It really was quite a rubbishy story, but there was no chance of him telling them about his tattoo.
Ginny hesitated and carried on. “How did you get Death Eater robes?”
Snape crossed his arms and smirked. “I stunned one and stole them from him… then I saw that I could do nothing to help you, so I ran a short distance away and conjured the Dark Mark—”
“That was you?” said Draco disbelievingly.
“That takes a lot of dark magic to conjure up,” said Ginny doubtfully.
“Well, I was taught by the best –” Snape glared at them challengingly, “my uncle.”
Ginny’s eyes widened and Draco thumped his fist into his palm. “That’s why you wanted to get out of there! Not because of my pitiful Avada Kedavra, but because of your Morsmordre!” Draco gave a loud, hollow-sounding laugh.
Snape looked surprised at the sudden outburst. “Trust the Slytherin to work it out,” he replied with a smirk.
Draco stopped laughing and looked at him sharply. Then he realised that he wasn’t insulting him.
“Yes, well,” he drawled slowly, obviously pleased with himself as he leaned against a tree. “I hope the Malfoy’s are at least a little bit smarter than the average wizard.”
“Yes, and what a little bit it is,” Ginny muttered under her breath.
“Fine, I’ve told you my story, now tell me what happened with the Death Eaters,” Snape interjected hastily.
And so Draco and Ginny told their story and Snape listened, then thought for a moment.
“Let me see the broom,” he said. Ginny, who’d been clutching it to her chest the entire time, handed it to him reluctantly. There was a gash down the shaft and the tail was out of alignment. Snape ran his fingers over it carefully. “It seems clean now, though near useless after being hit by that spell. We may as well leave it.”
Ginny reached for the broom hastily. “I’ll carry it.”
“Probably still too much for your family to afford though, eh, Weasley?”
Ginny whirled. “At least I have a family, Malfoy.”
Draco turned red. “Shut up!”
“Both of you shut up!” growled Snape. “I’m sick of you two whining idiots at each other’s throats all the time! There’s nothing else we can do but start heading back while it’s still light. If you value your lives you’ll follow me. Are we clear?”
Draco gritted his teeth and turned away. Ginny murmured unenthusiastically.
“Then let’s get moving.”
“Bloody insects!” Draco yelled, swatting at his knee.
They had been walking for four hours now without stopping. Draco was more tired, sweaty and dirty than he’d ever been in his life. He couldn’t stand the way his usually pristine hair kept on falling across his forehead, and every ten seconds he would irritably brush it away, longing to use his wand to fix it.
A tousled mess of red hair obscured his view, mockingly refusing to proceed with his wishes and just faint from sheer exhaustion. He longed to push her over, to get her back for laughing so scornfully at him. He couldn’t stand being ignored, and especially by her, who was so infinitely beneath him. His memory flashed back to that nasty moment when she really had been beneath him, the one that Snape had barged in on.
Not so nasty though, was it, Draco?
Draco came to an abrupt halt, furious at himself for thinking these ludicrous thoughts. His two companions paused also, and looked back at him.
“What is it?” Snape inquired, giving Draco a curious look.
Draco shook himself and clenched his fists.
“I dunno but it’s in my way,” he growled, and barged past Ginny.
Ginny rolled her eyes and followed silently, wondering why, of all the people she could’ve been stuck with, she’d ended up with Malfoy.
It was quite late in the afternoon when Severus halted before a small, trickling stream. “We may as well stop here,” he said, pointing to a gigantic hollow tree a little into the distance. “And we can spend the night there.”
“What?” exclaimed Draco at once, looking appalled. “Why can’t we make it to Hogwarts by nightfall? We’ve been walking all day.”
“With the pace we’re going it will take us at least a couple of days,” Snape said shortly. “It should be safe enough to use our wands tonight anyway.”
“That’s a relief,” said Ginny. “I can’t wait to get clean; I’m absolutely filthy.”
She glared quickly at Draco, but was surprised to find that he hadn’t even pulled a face. He seemed to be staring bitterly at his murky reflection in the stream, fingering something around his neck absent-mindedly. Ginny felt a twinge of guilt and slightly petty. She really shouldn’t have made that jab about him having no family. It had been so unlike her! She should at least try to be civil.
“What’re you looking at?” Draco snapped, suddenly meeting her eyes and scowling.
“Not you, you can bet,” snapped Ginny back, glaring at the pale-faced boy before turning away.
It was impossible, she thought angrily. Everything about him made her see red, and she found it exceedingly difficult to travel with someone so cowardly and self-absorbed.
She glanced over at Severus, who had stridden towards the hollow tree and was busy pulling a mass of vines over the entrance.
She wasn’t quite sure how she felt about Snape, only knowing that she’d much rather follow him than Draco. It was hard to believe that he’d risked his life to dress up as a Death Eater when he could’ve just saved his own skin. Although her friends had been dubious at first, she could see now why he’d been put into Gryffindor.
Snape swore, zapping at one particular vine that had tangled against his chest. The vine pulled tighter against his robes, outlining the curves of a muscular upper body. Ginny grinned despite herself.
Yes… The fact that he was a Gryffindor, and he seemed quite fit… Those were very positive values, in her eyes.
“Ugh, we’re not actually going to eat that are we?” murmured Ginny, pulling a face at the dead rabbit Severus had flung in front of them.
Draco stared at it in vague disinterest while Severus smirked. “Why no, of course not, I’ve just brought you a nice dolly to play with,” he replied, prodding the body with his wand.
Draco gave a snort of laughter while Ginny blanched.
“Very poor taste, Snape,” replied Ginny in a suffering voice, picking up the rabbit by the ears and walking off.
“Wait, where are you going?” called Severus in alarm.
“I’m cleaning the stupid thing! We can’t eat it like this.”
Severus frowned at her retreating figure. “Come on, we have to follow her,” he grunted.
“Why?” muttered Draco, but reluctantly pulling himself up.
After a long and messy process in which the rabbit was almost carried off by the stream, the three ravenous teenagers sat down by the fire to watch their meal slowly roast. Following what seemed to be an eternity, they tucked in. Although there were many complaints of burnt fingers and a ridiculous number of bones, each secretly found it to be the most delicious thing they’d ever eaten.
It was very late at night before all three travellers trooped towards the enormous hollow tree. They sprawled in the warm glow of Snape’s wand, and, despite the complete darkness that surrounded them, each was feeling sleepy and comfortable enough to relax.
Draco yawned, and Severus was quite surprised with how tired he was also. He was usually so active at night. Well, the day’s events had been a little wearing. Though strangely enough, trudging through the woods wasn’t as bad as he thought it’d be. It seemed sort of… relaxing, in its own way.
Snape ran his hands through his sweaty hair, feeling slightly guilty.
Well, he was going as fast as he could. He couldn’t risk leaving them by themselves. It wasn’t as if he could use this body to Apparate and get help. And besides, they really didn’t need it; they were fine and would get back to Hogwarts eventually anyway.
Glancing around him in surprise, Severus realised they had fallen asleep.
“Move over, you lazy slugs,” he grumbled, poking them with his wand.
Draco didn’t respond and Ginny merely grunted and rolled over. Snape frowned, but didn’t poke them again. “Mobilus Corpus,” he muttered, and moved a floating Draco more to the side.
The sleeping Slytherin landed softly on the cushion of grass that they’d stuffed the space with earlier. Snape then did the same to Ginny, who woke up as she hit the ground. She looked at Snape sleepily through the gloom.
“Mmm… it’s awfully squashed in here,” she murmured, burrowing into the thick grass.
Snape ignored her and put an outside repelling charm on the entrance. He then lay down, his back to the sleeping Gryffindor, and his face turned towards the dark forest.
Draco’s eyes snapped open.
What a horrible dream…he had dreamt about his father…
As his eyes grew accustomed to the gloom, he realised where he was and the wave of irritation at the thought of his situation swept over him once more.
It was so… stupid. Hard to believe that he had faced the greatest Dark Wizard of all time and lived. Now he was living like a Muggle savage, eating rabbits and sleeping in trees. Though come to think of it, it did seem to be an awfully cosy tree…
Draco froze, suddenly realising why he was so cosy. Ginny Weasley’s slender form was pressed against his side with her arm draped across his chest. To his horror he saw that his arm was pinned underneath her shoulders.
No, no, no! He thought furiously. I am not going to be caught in another compromising position with her.
Hurriedly twisting his hips in the opposite direction, Draco slowly started to draw his arm out from underneath her, furiously ignoring the way his body was protesting at the move. To his dismay, she snuggled up even closer and drew her arm even tighter across his chest.
“Harry…” she murmured.
Draco glared at her in disgust. Pitiful, oh how pitiful. Of all people it had to be Potter, didn’t it?
Draco felt a sudden urge to punch Potter, right in the glasses, and see what she thought of him then. Somewhat comforted by this thought, Draco resumed untangling himself from her embrace, though a bit rougher than before. When he was free, he slowly and methodically started to roll her to the other side of the space, closer to the other boy’s sleeping figure. When he was done, he shuffled back into place and snuggled once more into his old spot.
Draco closed his eyes and tried to sleep, ignoring, for the moment, the way he could still feel the lingering warmth of her body pressed against his.
Ginny opened her eyes sleepily, feeling deliciously warm but wondering why the noise of crickets was so loud. Memories of that day came flooding back to her, making her groan in annoyance at waking up in the middle of the night when she was so bloody tired. She was just about to close her eyes once more, when she became acutely aware of where her hand was resting.
Oh no. Her hand was… Well, no wonder she was so bloody warm; she was cuddled up with freaking Snape for Merlin’s sake!
Try not to think about it. Just free your hand from out of his robes, slowly and very, very carefully.
Ginny became suddenly aware of the rippling muscles underneath her moving palm.
Oh, this is not good. Trust you to start lusting after the tall, dark, mysterious stranger that saved your life and just happens to be lying right next to you… Oh great, I’m babbling… Oh God I have to get my hand out…
Ginny stared at Snape’s face for a long time, trying to make sure he was fully asleep. She then started once more to move her hand away when a steely grip on her wrist made her freeze.
“What the hell are you doing?” hissed Snape, glaring at her.
“Er…I…er…I was just…er…”
Snape sat up while Ginny stuttered in horror and pulled her hand away. She felt a slight pressure leave her side and heard Snape gasp in horror. He stared incredulously at his own hand currently trying to free itself from her robes. Ginny’s eyes widened in shock as Snape jerked his hand free and started jabbering to himself.
“Was I… D-did I…?”
“Your…your-hand-was-on-my-hip,” said Ginny quickly, flushing a bright red.
A gigantic wave of relief washed over Severus’s face. He shook his head violently as if trying to convince himself that it didn’t happen.
“How did we…I don’t know how…”
“It’s OK,” Ginny mumbled in embarrassment.
“No, it’s not! I shouldn’t even be—”
“Really, it’s OK,” Ginny interrupted more forcefully this time. “Look, it won’t happen again… let’s not… let’s just… forget it.”
Snape stared at her through the gloom. It was a long time before he spoke.
“All right,” he said quietly.
Ginny sighed and settled back down before speaking again. “I don’t know about you, but I’m wide awake now.”
Snape gave no reply. He had lain back down also, although he was a lot further away than he was before. “We should try and get some sleep,” he said shortly.
Ginny murmured an assent and Severus’s eyelids began to feel heavy once more. He was just drifting back to sleep when Ginny spoke once more.
“Severus?” she said quietly.
“What is it?” muttered Snape, rolling onto his side to face the outside forest.
“Are you really Professor Snape’s nephew?”
There was a long pause before Snape replied. “Who do you think I am?” he said finally.
The pause was even longer this time, before Ginny spoke.
“What’s your real name?” she said quietly.
Snape’s gaze travelled to the pale crescent moon overhead.
“It’s Severus,” he muttered.
Ginny’s eyes had grown accustomed to the dark, but she wished she could see Snape’s face as she was talking to him. She looked very hard at the back of his head before saying what had been on her mind since the first moment she saw him.
“Can I…” Ginny hesitated before plunging fiercely ahead. “Can I trust you, Severus?”
Snape’s eyes lowered. Memories of when he’d first been asked that question by the Dark Lord, and then later by Dumbledore came flooding back. Both times he’d hidden his slight uncertainty while answering. Now that he was being asked again he realised, with mild surprise, that he didn’t have to think very hard at all to answer that question once more.
“Yes,” he said quietly.
Ginny hadn’t known what answer to expect, but she felt a huge load of tension lift from the back of her mind. She looked at him curiously through the gloom.
“Can I ask you one more question?” she said.
“What is it?” said Severus tiredly.
“D’you trust Malfoy?”
Snape shrugged to himself and closed his eyes. “We’ve no other choice,” he said at last. “Do you think he trusts you? And I’m sure it doesn’t help things if you’re always insulting him.”
“What?” exclaimed Ginny, sitting up in indignation. “I’m insulting him?”
But Snape was fast asleep, and didn’t respond.
Ginny rolled over in annoyance. Her irritated thoughts began to grow vague, and she fell asleep.
The morning dawned and Snape opened his eyes and sat up fully awake. To his relief he noticed he was well away from Ginny Weasley and could stretch comfortably without finding himself in an awkward position. He shook his head as he remembered last night, wondering how on earth they had ended up like that. His teenage hormones were obviously dangerous.
Severus gazed down at the sleeping students, both of them faintly frowning but otherwise looking quite peaceful.
“WAKE UP!” he roared nastily, using his wand to dig them both in the ribs.
Draco sat up startled while Ginny gave a yell and clutched at his neck, unfortunately clawing him in the face.
“GAH!” roared Draco, feeling desperately around for his wand while trying to shove Ginny off his lap. Ginny jumped off Draco in shock while Severus felt the urge to snicker shamelessly.
“What’d you do that for?!” Ginny yelled.
“Time to go,” stated Severus, and rose to leave.
“Go?” cried Draco in outrage. “But it’s barely dawn!”
“Did you want to get back to Hogwarts or not?” replied Snape, raising an eyebrow at the two wild-haired, bleary-eyed teenagers. “Now is the best time to travel, before it gets hot.”
After a bout of mutinous muttering, Draco and Ginny pulled themselves to their feet, eventually catching up with Snape as he arrived at the nearby stream. There was barely any light from the rising sun and the reflection on the water was near black.
Peering into the murky water, Severus touched his wand against the surface. He muttered something under his breath and the water turned radiantly clear.
“It should be fine,” he told them, satisfied, and slowly and methodically began washing his face.
Ginny gazed at the stream, feeling impressed at Severus’s seemingly casual use of magic. He barely concentrated at all.
“That was brilliant,” she exclaimed, only to realise that Draco was echoing the exact same sentiment.
Draco scowled, catching Ginny’s eye and quickly looking away. Ginny also looked away, her conversation with Severus the night before replaying in her head. Making up her mind she marched a step closer to him and held out her hand.
Draco looked from her determined expression to her outstretched hand. “What d’you want?”
“I don’t like this any more than you but we’re stuck together,” muttered Ginny, jerking her hand.
Draco narrowed his eyes. “I’m not shaking that, it’s filthy.”
Ginny said nothing, ignoring the way her mind was screaming that she really didn’t want to touch Malfoy’s slimy hand either, but using all of her concentration on keeping it there for Malfoy to shake, because it was what had to be done.
“Fine,” he said eventually, holding out his hand to grasp hers and letting go very quickly. “Only because I have to and it’s temporary.”
“That’s the idea, Malfoy,” Ginny replied, restraining the urge to wipe her hand on her robes.
Draco walked stiffly off to another part of the stream without another word. Ginny continued standing still for a moment, wondering what on earth Harry and Ron would think of her now. Kneeling slowly by the stream, she started to wash her face.
Snape had watched this affair out of the corner of his eye and was slightly impressed by how it had turned out. He knew he’d never have been able to declare a temporary truce with any of his old school rivals, especially unbidden. His decided his disdain for Ginny Weasley had lessened somewhat.
“What are you doing? Hurry up, will you?” Snape called out.
The larger boy was hacking his way through a particularly thick piece of undergrowth and had just discovered to his alarm, that Draco and Ginny were out of sight.
“Sod off!” came a muffled cry indignantly.
Snape gave a snort of disgust and retraced his steps. They’d already taken more rests and toilet breaks than he’d thought necessary.
“What is the problem here?” he demanded, glaring down at the two sprawled out students on the ground.
“We haven’t eaten for ages,” groaned Ginny Weasley casting a pitiful face at the unimpressed observer.
Even Draco nodded fervently. “Yeah, I’ve got this horrible empty feeling in my—”
“Head?” replied Snape dryly.
Ginny gave a snort of laughter despite herself.
“Oh, switching sides now, Weasley?”
“Look, we have to keep moving. Death Eaters are not idle and I am very surprised they haven’t caught us yet!” snapped Snape irritably, before they could start arguing again.
“Oh, don’t be,” came a cold voice behind them. “I myself am not at all surprised that I caught you.”
The three travellers spun to face the stranger in horror.
“Way to jinx us,” muttered Draco under his breath.
Standing in the remains of their beaten path was a solitary figure clad in dark flowing robes and hood.
The outfit of a Death Eater.