~ In which pain can end or begin with a kiss ~
“Don’t move!” scolded Ginny quietly. “You’ll only make it worse.”
“Well, I have to breathe,” said Draco, shifting on the floating stretcher and giving a sudden groan. “Where the hell’s Pomfrey?”
“She left ages ago with the other teachers. I think your team mates saw her.”
“Who cares about them?” exclaimed Draco. “I just sodding dislocated my shoulder and it’s lucky I’m not dead…”
Ginny’s face went from flushed to ashen when he said this and Draco’s voice died down.
“Anyway,” he continued, in a slightly disheartened tone. “She could’ve at least had a look at me…”
Ginny remained silent as she walked alongside of him and Draco glared at the slowly darkening sky. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to think back to when he’d just regained consciousness…
The first thing he’d been
aware of was the warmth. It’d reminded him of that night in the
It was then that she had looked up and said Potter’s first name, which brought back the hollow tree memory once more. This had caused him to try to draw back, to which she hastily complied. And it was then that it had hit him that Potter had caught the Snitch and not him, and that Ginny was still in Potter’s possession, and not his.
“Rotten reality…” he’d slurred to himself, vaguely making out that Ginny was trying to help him to his feet.
Suddenly he had felt himself falling…falling…and then landing…in a soft, floating stretcher. She had then performed some sort of charm on him to get rid of the fuzzy feeling in his brain, and then started to direct the stretcher slowly back towards the castle.
“So,” stated Draco, craning his neck sideways to look at her.
Ginny remained silent.
“What is it?” he finally broke out, annoyed that she wouldn’t even look at him.
“Why did you do it?” she whispered.
Her answer surprised him. It surprised him so much that he didn’t even feel annoyed that she was answering his question with a question.
“Do what?” said Draco warily, suddenly regretting that she was now looking at him. He suddenly felt all hot and bothered.
“You wore it. The cloak,” continued Ginny, who stopped and faced him. “Why?”
Draco’s gaze flicked away from hers, finding himself suddenly unable to remember the words he’d said so often in his head whenever he’d mentally played out the situation.
“I don’t know,” he muttered. “I just…decided to wear it.”
‘Yes, but it nearly got you killed,” said Ginny desperately. “I didn’t think you’d wear it in a match, I would’ve made the clasp stronger – I still don’t see why –”
“There doesn’t have to be a reason,” muttered Draco, finally willing himself to look her in the eye. “And it doesn’t have to be complicated. I just… I like it… that’s all.”
Ginny swallowed at this and ran her hand over her face. “No,” she replied, this time averting her own eyes. “It is complicated… and you’re… you’re complicated.”
There was a long pause where Draco just stared at her, screaming at his brain to let his voice work. “How am I more complicated than Potter?”
Ginny’s breath hitched and her eyes darted back towards him. The sun had just begun to set and his face was covered in the looming castle’s shadows. “There’s nothing complicated about Harry.”
“Right,” murmured Draco, “ –besides the fact that our current Dark Lord wants to kill him, who, incidentally, has already tried to do so countless times, but, being Potter, has survived each and every time because he’s the bloody Heir of Gryffindor…”
Ginny laughed softly. “The Heir of Gryffindor? Have you been reading those trashy Witch Weekly—”
“That’s not the point,” cut in Draco, though forgetting himself what the point was as Ginny’s slight smile continued to linger.
“What?” said Ginny after a long pause, reaching the lit-up entrance steps and noticing that Draco was looking at her oddly. “Do I have something on my face?”
“What?” responded Draco blankly, tearing his eyes away. “I don’t know. Probably.”
Ginny frowned half-heartedly but paused at the great oak doors, turning to face him. “So… Do you want me to walk you to the hospital wing? Or…”
Draco’s expression chilled somewhat. “If you want to get to your House’s celebration party, go right ahead. I’m sure I can manage.”
“That’s not what I was going to say,” said Ginny, running her hand over her brow. “I mean…I thought you might not want to get the Slytherins any more riled up…”
“Any more riled up than what?” asked Draco, with a frown.
“Oh…” mumbled Ginny, wishing she hadn’t said anything. “It’s just… you lost the… I mean… you didn’t catch the…er…”
There was a long pause where Ginny fell silent, miserably wondering why she never seemed to think before she spoke.
“What makes you think I lost?” said Draco eventually, raising his eyebrows.
“What?” She frowned, her hand falling from the oak door as she glanced back at him. “Oh…I don’t know…perhaps the lack of cheering Slytherins carrying you off into the sunset…and the obvious presence of me directing your stretcher towards the hospital wing…”
Draco stared at the Gryffindor before him, her untidy hair glinting almost scarlet in the setting sun. “Yeah,” he said quietly. “And what makes you think I lost?”
Ginny stared back at him, that familiar rush of heat she’d felt when they’d touched at Christmas pounding in her ears. She felt herself take a step towards him before jumping violently as the entrance doors swung open.
“Ah, Mr Malfoy! There you are!”
Professor Dumbledore’s smile wavered as both students shrank back, startled at the unexpected interruption. “Oh dear,” he said. “Please excuse my rather rude behaviour but I must speak to you, Mr Malfoy. At once.”
“Oh…” said Malfoy, staring at the Headmaster blankly. “All right…”
“Er…” Ginny mumbled, jerking backwards with her neck tinged a bright pink. “Well…I’ll see you at the Ball tomorrow night anyway. I’m…er…I’m looking forward to it.”
“What?” said Malfoy still blankly, as Ginny practically fled through the castle doors, the tinge of pink creeping upwards into her face. “Ball? What Ball?”
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows at him and took control of the floating stretcher. “I assume Miss Weasley was talking about the Farewell Ball for the exchange students,” he commented. “Now, let’s get you to the hospital wing.”
Draco muttered distractedly but continued to watch Ginny’s retreating figure, his brow only unfurrowing as Ginny glanced back at him with an uncertain smile, before rounding the corner out of sight.
Severus paced up and down the hospital wing, impatient for Madam Pomfrey to return with balm for his bruises. He probably could’ve brewed the bloody thing from scratch in the same time it was taking her to fetch it.
He glared at himself in a nearby mirror, knowing that he wasn’t really there for the balm…but to check if that stupid, fool-of-a-boy was all right. Well, it had seemed like quite a serious fall, and it wasn’t as if he really particularly cared…but there wasn’t any harm in just double-checking…
But the sound of Dumbledore’s voice drifting up the stairs froze him mid-stride. The chance of Dumbledore sweeping in here…catching him checking up on Draco – not that he was, he told himself strictly. Just that…it might seem like that…especially to someone like Dumbledore… meddling sentimental fool that he was…
The footsteps grew louder and Severus panicked, whirling himself abruptly behind the bed curtains of a sleeping patient. Luckily the student continued to sleep peacefully, and Severus breathed a sigh of relief. Now nobody would ever know…
“Ah, Mr Malfoy,” he heard Madam Pomfrey exclaim. “Young Mr Snape was just looking for you.”
Snape added Madam Pomfrey to his Hate List and cringed at Dumbledore’s reply of, “Was he now?”
There was a frown in Draco’s voice as he answered. “What did he want?”
“Oh, just to see if you were all right I suspect. Poor thing made up an excuse about needing some bruise balm… I didn’t really take him seriously and I suppose he just eventually left.”
If glares could cut through linen, Madam Pomfrey would have dropped down dead. A furious eye found a chink in the bed curtains and Severus directed his glare at the two figures now manoeuvring Draco onto one of the empty beds. To his surprise, Draco didn’t look even remotely scornful at the idea of Severus checking up on him, but instead looked vaguely disbelieving.
“Are you sure…” Draco hesitated after a long pause, “–he was looking for me?”
“Well, he asked after you,” replied Madam Pomfrey, smiling at Dumbledore in a way Snape didn’t like.
“But…” Draco frowned at the potion Pomfrey was measuring out for him. “Did you ask why? It’s just… we haven’t spoken since Easter and it seems highly unlikely…”
“Perhaps Mr Snape’s head was hit repeatedly during the match?” suggested Dumbledore.
Draco scowled in response, though it could’ve been due to the fact that he was gulping down a nasty dose of potion Pomfrey had just handed to him. His scowl continued to linger however, as he finished wiping his mouth and glanced up at a waiting Dumbledore.
“I know you know about him,” said Draco finally, unable to bring himself to really glare at the Headmaster so choosing to glare at the empty flask instead. “I know he’s got a secret and he always used to see you about it.”
Severus froze behind the curtains, hardly able to breathe.
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows in response. “Now that your shoulder is healed, Mr Malfoy,” he said evenly, “I suggest we talk about yourself and not Mr Snape.”
“I already told you I threw all his letters in the fire, unopened. I haven’t anything else to tell you.”
“I believe you,” replied Dumbledore. “But I would also like to discuss future letters from your father. I believe that examining them could help us.”
“You mean help you,” said Draco stubbornly. “I don’t want any part of it. If you want the letters, fine, take them. As if anymore would come anyway, being there’s only a week left of term.”
“I’m afraid I still need you to open them, Draco,” said Dumbledore gently. “Else the Malfoy seal will destroy the parchment.”
“Fine.” Draco shrugged, pleased at how healed his shoulder felt. He shrugged it a few more times before testing his ankles. “Fine,” he repeated, swinging himself gingerly out of bed. “Well…if that’s all…”
“That’s all,” said the Headmaster, his face softening as Draco hurriedly folded up his broken cloak and placed it carefully into an inner pocket. “Thank you for co-operating, Draco.”
Draco muttered an assent awkwardly, though turning before he reached the doorway to glance at Dumbledore one last time. “When you see Severus next…”
Dumbledore waited patiently but Draco continued to hesitate.
“Doesn’t matter,” Draco muttered finally, and turned to walk away.
His panic forgotten, Snape continued to watch through the chink in the curtains, the bruises on his head settling into a dull ache.
Severus rested an elbow on the banister of the moving staircase, staring down into the gloom below. The staircase stopped and he continued to the portrait hole, his steps faltering when he saw that the corridor was already occupied.
Ginny Weasley was sitting on the stone floor, her knees to her chest and her back against the wall.
“Hello,” said Severus hoarsely, as Ginny turned her head abruptly. “Why aren’t you at the party?”
Ginny could only stare at him, unable to believe that after three months of ignoring and avoiding her, Severus was actually speaking to her.
“I...er...I’m...” To Ginny’s dismay, she felt a lump forming in the back of her throat. “I don’t know, what d’you care?”
Severus stared straight back at her, putting his hands in his pockets before looking away. “I don’t,” he lied.
Ginny put her arms back around her knees, resting her head once more. She waited for the muffled celebrations to louden as the portrait door swung open, but the sound never came. Instead she heard the sound of material scraping down stone, and when she eventually looked to her right, the hunched-over figure of Severus was sitting down next to her.
There was a long silence before Severus spoke. “I suppose you and Draco are speaking then.”
Ginny sighed and squeezed her arms tighter around her legs. “What do you want, Severus? Did Draco speak to you? I don’t know what I’m doing here, honestly I don’t. You can’t just—I hate the fact—why do you–”
Severus looked at her, confused.
“You’re jerking me around like I’m on a piece of string, Severus. Both of you! You don’t include me, don’t talk to me, act as if I don’t exist for months. And now today, when there’s only a few days left of term and I won’t see you for months again – you come up to me all blasé, pretending it never happened!” Ginny swallowed loudly. “And that’s not even the part I hate most. You make me hate myself, Severus. You two have treated me so horribly but when one of you changes your mind, what do I do? I’m skipping Gryffindor’s last party, my brother’s victory party – I’m considering breaking up with Harry Potter! Look at me, Severus! You walk up to me, say you couldn’t care less and now I’m pouring out my fucking heart to you!”
Severus closed his eyes, rubbing the bridge of his nose with tense fingers. “Don’t say that. You shouldn’t… you – of all people… You shouldn’t hate yourself.” Ginny glared at her shoes and Severus continued in barely a whisper. “What you said about... forgiving people. That’s something you should be proud of, it takes... I find it very difficult.”
“Well, good for me,” muttered Ginny. “I give up easily.”
“No, you don’t give up,” said Severus, finally looking at her. “And… and that’s what I like about you.”
Ginny’s eyes openly teared up, and Severus looked away. “Anyway,” he murmured. “I’m glad you and Draco are speaking again. That’s all I really had to say.”
Ginny rubbed her hand over her face once more. There was a long pause as she composed herself. “Well, what happened with you two?” she said eventually. “The way you’re talking about him...”
Severus continued staring at the floor, the corridor torchlight flickering in the reflections. “I snapped at him. We haven’t spoken since Easter.”
Ginny stared at him, disbelief overriding her grief. “Since Easter? But...but that’s impossible. I thought nothing... Do you know how jealous I’ve been? What you two have... it’s something I’ve always wanted. You’re best friends, how did anything come between that?”
Severus brought his fingers to his forehead once more, his mind unable to fight his denial any longer. To hear the way Ginny spoke about them made his stomach churn in pain. He wasn’t like Ginny, he hadn’t always wanted this. He didn’t know how it had happened but somewhere along the way it had crept up on him. For the truth was he wanted it now; he wanted their friendship back.
“It’s my fault,” said Severus quietly. “And now I don’t know what to do.”
“You could try sitting next to him.” Severus glanced at her, and she gave him the barest hint of a smile in return. “See how things go from there.”
Severus shook his head and Ginny reached out a hand to touch his shoulder. “Whatever you say to him, picture him saying it to you. And however you would react; chances are he’d react the same way.”
Severus exhaled deeply, manoeuvring out of her touch and rising to his feet. “We’re not the same,” he replied, though hesitantly offering her a hand.
“Yes, you are,” murmured Ginny, her smile lingering as he pulled her up. “It’s obvious to everyone but yourselves.”
Severus raised his eyebrows ever so slightly. “Well, I suppose it usually is.” Severus paused, glancing from the sleeping portrait to Ginny’s tired face. “If you don’t feel like going to the party...that is... I know a place... we could go there.”
Ginny hesitated, the idea of putting off talking to Harry and the rest of the Gryffindors strongly appealing to her.
“It’s a place we should have shared with you months ago,” said Severus, averting his eyes. “I don’t know why we didn’t.”
Ginny tilted her head slightly to look at him, every contour of his face lit up by torchlight. “All right,” she murmured softly, and followed him into the night.
Draco opened his eyes slowly to the sound of the Slytherin morning bell. He closed them once more, trying to savour a particularly pleasant dream he’d been having about a certain red-haired Gryffindor. It’d been ages since he’d had a decent night’s sleep, let alone slept in like this.
But a growing eagerness seemed to take Draco all of a sudden, when he realised that the particular dream he’d been savouring was actually a reality. For Ginny had told him yesterday that she was going to rip Potter’s heart out of his chest and devote the rest of her life to idolising him, Draco Malfoy.
Well, thought Draco to himself, that was the main gist of it anyway…
Draco grinned lazily as he flopped out of bed into his slippers.
All right, so she hadn’t actually said that she was completely mad over him, but come on, why else would she be looking forward to seeing him tonight?
Draco wandered over to the bathroom mirror, brushing his teeth slowly and trying to fight down the urge to grin ridiculously at his reflection.
Today was going to be fucking fantastic.
Draco reached the end of the Slytherin table, dumping his books on the floor and sitting as far away from his house mates as possible. A bowl of greyish porridge materialised before him, to which he started eating with strange enjoyment. He was so engrossed with his breakfast in fact, that he didn’t even notice someone take a seat next to him until he accidentally bumped elbows.
“Watch it,” he said automatically, before jerking backwards. “What... what are you doing here?”
Severus shifted awkwardly on the wooden bench, too horrified with himself to do anything but start buttering his toast. “What, I can’t sit here now?” He scowled.
“Well, no you can’t.” Draco frowned back. “This is the Slytherin table. I mean...” Draco trailed off, still unable to believe that Severus was talking to him.
“Yes, well there’s no rule against sitting at other tables,” continued Severus doggedly, the butter on his toast now half an inch thick. “Besides. I hate Gryffindors.”
“Right,” muttered Draco, glancing around at his annoyed Quidditch team. “Well, I hate Slytherins. But you don’t see me sitting with Hufflepuff.”
“That’s because nobody likes Hufflepuff.”
Draco stared at his porridge, unsmiling. “What are you doing here?” he said flatly.
Severus dropped his toast and finally looked Draco in the eye, a million apologies running through his head and not one of them able to force past his lips. “I’m leaving Hogwarts,” he said abruptly.
Draco stared straight back at him, his mind struggling with a million answers also. “What’d you do?” he muttered finally. “Fail all your OWLs?”
Severus grimaced as he
remembered throwing a tantrum at his potions instructor before storming off.
“That’s got nothing to do with it.” He paused but Draco remained silent. “I’m
going to travel. See some places that aren’t
A hint of scorn crept into Draco’s scowl. “Isn’t that what the holidays are for? Come on. What’re you really leaving Hogwarts for?”
Severus stared at Draco who had now taken to picking at splinters in the breakfast table. “I just…I have to get away. I can’t do this anymore.”
Draco narrowed his eyes and levelled his gaze straight at Severus. “Do what, exactly? What are you talking about? Why are you so fuckin’ weird, Severus? Why can’t you just tell me what it is?”
I can’t! screamed Snape in his head. You’ll hate me. I already hate myself. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.
Draco rose to leave and sudden despair wiped Severus’s mind blank. “Come with me,” he burst out.
Draco froze, as did Severus, all common sense and responsibility roaring furiously in his ears.
“What?” said Draco, looking stunned. “That’s… that’s stupid.”
“I know it’s stupid,” said Severus, running his hands wildly through his hair. “But who cares–”
“We’re fifteen. We can’t just–”
“Who would stop us?”
Draco gaped at him. “You’re mad… who would… OK. Where would we go?”
Something sagged in Severus’s expression as Draco turned to leave once more, causing him to hesitate and glance back at him one more time. “You’re serious,” stated Draco.
Severus grabbed a napkin and started cleaning his hands, the reckless haze settling down into depression. “I don’t know,” he muttered. “Maybe. A bit.”
“But…you’re…” Draco shook his head. “You really have lost it.”
Severus glanced upwards, suddenly reminded of how Draco had looked at the hospital wing. His tone wasn’t scornful at all, just vaguely disbelieving. “How about just the holidays then?” said Severus quietly.
The two boys stared past each other, the miserable events of the past few months playing silently in their minds. Their final sword fight in the hidden garden and the last words they’d shouted at each other circling around on loop. Neither could bring themselves to mention it.
Draco knew that he had to say something, before realising that he knew what he had to say and that he wanted to say it. “A Mediterranean holiday,” he nodded, his eyes still focussed in the distance but giving a faint smile. “I’ll think about it.”
Severus nodded at nothing in particular also, and both boys gathered up their books awkwardly to go to their next class.
The corridor leading up to the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom buzzed with chatter and laughter. Hermione Granger was trying to shush her fellow fifth years half-heartedly, but it was obvious that she too was still high on Gryffindor’s victory. There was a slight quietening of voices as Draco and Severus approached however, and Seamus Finnigan pulled his hood over his eyes and did a spirited impression of someone crashing their broom into the ground.
Severus threw Draco a sidelong glance, still feeling too awkward to know what to do. Draco already had his wand out, and was glaring daggers at all the students before him.
“Think I’m funny, do you?” he sneered, all traces of good humour gone from his face. “If anyone wants to have a go at me, let’s duel it out, right now.”
“We were just havin’ a laugh, Malfoy,” said Dean Thomas, defending his best friend. “Come on, you’d do the same if you were in our position…”
“Don’t compare me to you,” spat Draco, his glare intensifying as a few grins continued to tug corners of mouths.
Severus looked towards the few Slytherins starting to arrive but saw, much to his annoyance, that they were all pointedly looking in the other direction. “Insensitive bastards,” he muttered to himself.
But to everybody’s surprise, Draco lowered his wand with a smirk. “Actually, why would I bother duelling,” he said slowly, his smirk resting on a pair of spectacles, “when I’ve already won?”
Harry Potter’s eyes narrowed and Ron, who Hermione had forced to keep silent all this time, looked at Draco as if he were mad.
“Are you stupid or something?” Ron said loudly, looking around to his fellow Gryffindors for support. “We beat your Chasers. Harry beat you. We. Won.”
“There’s more to life than Quidditch, Weasley,” snarled Draco in response. “I hope you remember that when you die a virgin.”
“What?!” spluttered Ron, reaching for his wand. “How… how dare –”
“Don’t listen to him, Ron,” cut in Harry steadily, his eyes never shifting from Draco’s. “You know Malfoy is all talk and no action.”
The Gryffindors grinned at this comment and the Slytherins watched on curiously. Hermione was the only one looking frantically up and down the corridor for a teacher. Severus felt a twinge of unease as Draco stared back at his rival with barely disguised relish.
“You think so?” he leered, a nasty gleam in his eye. “You know, speaking of getting any action – why don’t you ask Ginny who she’s going to be spending the night with?”
The next few seconds happened in a loud blur. Ron launched himself at Malfoy, tackling him to the ground. He was quickly followed by Harry and then the rest of the Gryffindor boys had launched themselves at Snape, who was trying to tear Ron and Harry away from Draco. A couple of Slytherins hesitantly looked at each other and then they themselves threw their books down and started punching their way through the Gryffindors to try and beat a path to Malfoy. It wasn’t long before everyone, including the girls were caught up in a violent, yelling throng. Even Hermione was passionately waving her giant tome of a book she was carrying, trying to hit as many Slytherins in the face as possible.
“I DON’T BELIEVE IT!” came an angry bellow, snapping most of the pummelled students to their senses as they stopped hitting out and looked up.
An enraged Professor Garwood was storming towards them, her wand in hand and her grey eyes flashing.
“AM I TEACHING WITCHES AND WIZARDS OR AM I TEACHING MUGGLE SAVAGES?” she bellowed once more, glaring around at them all.
There was a disgruntled murmur from the fifth years as they picked themselves off each other. Hermione dropped her thick textbook in horror, not even noticing that it hit Pansy Parkinson over the head when it landed. Last to get up were Severus, Draco, Harry and Ron. Harry’s face was still white with anger, in stark contrast to Ron who had gone an angry red and couldn’t stop clenching and unclenching his fists, as if itching to hit Malfoy in the face again and again. Severus looked only slightly disgruntled, and was actually quite exuberant to be fighting alongside Draco once more. Draco’s neck was tinged with pink but as he snickered ever so quietly before getting up, it was clear that he thought he’d won that battle.
“Right,” said Garwood, calming down ever so slightly but her glare not lessening. “I don’t care if it is your last day of lessons – today’s practical has been cancelled. Everyone into the classroom and you’ll be revising your notes until the lesson ends. NO talking.”
The slightly bruised students filed silently into the classroom, the Prefects entering last after the Professor had had a grim word with them. Hermione gave Ron a numb look as she sat down, making Ron scowl across the room at a seemingly complacent Draco Malfoy.
Ginny, seethed Ron to himself, I have no bloody idea what you see in that git.
Comforting himself with the fact that he’d see his sister at lunch (who of course would be outraged that the slimy Slytherin had said such a thing about her), Ron frowned down at his parchment and started trying to decipher his messy scrawl.
Ginny grinned at her reflection as she pulled a Muggle baseball cap over her eyes.
“How about this?” she asked, looking around for her fellow fourth year.
Philip Woodley emerged from behind a messy rack of clothing, dressed in a suit of armour complete with a helmet. “How about this?”
Ginny laughed and picked up a helmet identical to Woodley’s. “Huh,” she mumbled, the visor over her eyes. “This is stupid, I feel like my head’s going to fall off my shoulders at the weight of this old thing.”
“I know,” replied Woodley regretfully, pulling off his bits of armour clumsily. “You’d think that since it’s a Wizarding store, the Muggle costumes would be charmed to be a bit more comfortable.”
“And practical,” added Ginny, wincing as bits of her hair were yanked out with her helmet.
“Everything here is authentic Muggle!” screeched the shopkeeper from the front counter, glaring at the mess they’d made during their costume search.
The two students caught each other’s eye and quickly stifled grins.
“Ooh! How about these?” exclaimed Ginny, seizing a pair of mauve, spandex trousers from the rack and waving them at a dubious Woodley. They reminded her of a certain pair of erotic mauve pyjamas she’d become familiar with at Christmas time.
“Oh, great,” Woodley replied, raising his eyebrows as she started to giggle. “I was hoping you wouldn’t see those.”
Ginny tried hard to straighten her face before replying but a sudden vision of the male population of Hogwarts in tight pants made it difficult.
“This is great,” she gasped, ducking into the rack to hide her laughter and dig out more pairs. “Ooh, look! Leather ones!”
Woodley made a face. “They look so… restrictive. I mean, it’s all right for me,” he said hurriedly, as Ginny popped her head out enquiringly, “because I grew up in tight, scratchy Muggle clothes… but I mean, half of the purebloods like Ernie and Snape are used to wearing robes where there’s… room.”
The back of Ginny’s neck grew hot as the image of Severus in leather pants started strutting around on stage.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” flushed Ginny at once, overwhelming Woodley with a pile of fluorescent-coloured clothing. “Come on, we’ve already missed lunch! We can’t leave it any later.”
“All right,” said a muffled Woodley, staggering to the counter with the unsteady pile. “But you’re getting the blame…”
Ginny waved offhandedly in response and started sorting through a pile of old cardboard boxes. A grin broadened over her face as she saw the contents.
Well, it just wouldn’t do to have tight pants without big leather boots.
Severus yawned and looked lazily at the classroom clock. He seemed to be the only one in their last History of Magic class who wasn’t on tenterhooks for the lesson to end. He wasn’t looking forward to the dress rehearsal after class, let alone the actual performance that evening. He toyed with the idea of simply not showing up… but then the thought of barely concealed threats from the Headmaster, Ginny, and Professor Garwood made him reluctantly push the idea away. It would be more trouble than it was worth.
Besides, he wasn’t even that angry… in fact he was in quite an amicable mood. He’d had a decent lunch with Draco, and the conversation had seemed almost normal. Draco had even offered to lend him his sword for the play, and didn’t even seem to care that Woodley would be using Snape’s. He seemed to be in quite a pleasant mood, and that mood had rubbed off onto Severus. He didn’t know what it was about him, but having Draco back seemed to make Hogwarts more tolerable than usual.
And as for the holidays, Severus didn’t know whether to be happy or horrified that they would be spending them together. At the moment he chose to be happy, and was defiantly ignoring any sort of logic that said he couldn’t keep his secret forever.
The lesson eventually ended and all the students streamed out of the classroom with whoops of joy. Severus moved apathetically down the hallway, heading in the direction of the old classroom they used for play rehearsals.
But a sudden jolt of pain in his left arm froze him in his tracks. Glancing warily around the empty corridor, Severus moved close to a pillar and rolled up his sleeve. Although the pain lingered slightly, the mark was still its usual dull black.
“Mr. Snape,” said a voice behind him.
Severus stiffened and rolled his sleeve down, casually turning to meet the speaker.
Professor Garwood strode towards him, the look on her face still holding faint traces of ill humour from the incident that morning. “I assume you’re on your way to dress rehearsals? I’m filling in once more for Professor Mimble.” She cleared her throat. “Professor Dumbledore hinted at lunchtime that you might need a little persuasion to show up this evening.”
Severus scowled. “I believe Professor Dumbledore has trust issues.”
“Oh, really?” said Garwood, raising an eyebrow. “Well, come on, we don’t want to hold everybody up.”
“Right…” muttered Severus, following the Professor somewhat reluctantly. He supposed he could slip away to examine his tattoo during rehearsals. All he needed was a suitable distraction.
This proved very easy
indeed, for as soon as they entered the rehearsal classroom they were met with
a throng of shrieks and cursing. All of the fourth and fifth years were rushing
around the room in panic, each one engrossed in their own personal mishap. Most
of the girls were huddled around
“This never would’ve
Severus looked around in disinterest, wondering why indeed Ginny wasn’t back yet, while Garwood made an angry noise of impatience and moved towards the bear.
“You idiot!” moaned Terry Boot to his younger brother. “I just needed a bear suit. I’m not going to bloody tame that thing.”
“It was really difficult,” protested William Boot sullenly. “And besides, this’ll probably be loads better…”
“Oh yeah, loads,” said his brother. “I already tried showing him the script and he ate it.”
The bear cub seemed to take offence to this remark and began to growl. However just as it reared up onto its hind legs it shrank with a sudden pop, leaving a small stuffed teddy bear in its place. Garwood just gave them a single look before moving over to the unfortunate student with a teakettle on his head.
“Keep still!” she said sternly, tapping on the metal smartly.
“It wasn’t my fault!” came the muffled but indignant voice of Justin Finch-Fletchley. “It was –”
But whoever’s fault it had
been was instantly forgotten as Severus Snape fell to the ground with a
strangled cry of pain. Every head and teakettle swivelled towards the doorway
as the black-haired boy tried to struggle to his feet once more, managing to
make it to his knees before collapsing in agony and cradling his left arm. The
room was silent (except for
“Snape!” she rapped out sharply. “Snape, what’s the matter?”
Severus grimaced and very reluctantly let go of his forearm and clutched gingerly at his temples instead. “My head…” he croaked, wincing at the ongoing pain and wishing he’d made it out of the room in time. “It just… it hurts, that’s all.”
Severus looked upwards groggily, a nasty feeling of apprehension mixing with the sharp pain as he noticed Garwood looking very closely from his shaking left arm to the expression on his face. “Professor… I need…”
But Severus’s voice trailed away as he fell forwards with a thump. One of the girls gave a slight scream and the hesitation in Garwood’s eyes dissipated. Quickly stooping down she checked the boy’s pulse. “No more transfiguration while I’m gone,” she instructed the room, getting to her feet and waving her wand at the unconscious body. “Your classmate will be fine, and I’m sure a quick trip to Madam Pomfrey will be all he needs to get back on his feet again.”
“Oh no…” muttered one of the fourth years. “There’s no way I can play Snape’s part tonight…”
“I’m sure he will be quite well by then, Mr. Smith,” said Garwood lightly, catching the dubious comment and her frown softening somewhat. “Although I’m sure you could manage if not.”
And with a final wave of her wand Garwood exited the dazed room, directing a hovering, unconscious Severus in front of her.
“There you are!”
Ginny stopped mid-step and grinned over her shoulder at the girl pursuing her. “Can’t stop now,” she called. “I’m already late as is.”
Her and Woodley were making their way towards the upper levels where the rehearsals were. Each was laden with a gigantic plastic bag filled to bursting with colourful clothing, with a strange assortment of batons, helmets and boots floating jerkily after them.
“No, Ginny, wait,” panted Hermione, hefting her heavy books from one arm to the other. “It’s important – it’s about Malfoy.”
For a moment Ginny looked as if she regretted slowing down, but dropped her bag with a sigh as she noticed the worried expression on her friend’s face.
“All right, what’s he done this time,” she said jokingly, but then turning to Woodley and waving to carry on. “I’ll only be a sec, show everyone those trousers, eh?”
“I knew this would happen!” groaned Woodley, but continuing on anyway. “I was bound to get the blame for those awful things…”
“Thanks, Pip!” laughed Ginny in response, but then her smile dropping somewhat as she looked back at a hesitating Hermione. “What is it?”
“Look,” said Hermione at last, sighing as she pushed a piece of bushy fringe out of her eyes. “I know this is going to sound awful, whichever way I put it, but I know Ron will only say something fifty times worse so…”
“What is it?” Ginny repeated with a shrug, trying to hold back a smile. “You know it’s all right, I talked to Draco yesterday and I… what?” Ginny frowned as Hermione’s worried expression turned into one of slight anger. “What is it?” she demanded once more, her good mood slowly dissolving.
“Malfoy and Harry and Ron – well, everyone,” said Hermione eventually, “they all started fighting this morning before the Defence lesson –”
“Oh, is that all?” interjected Ginny relieved. “That’s normal –”
“—they were arguing over you,” finished Hermione.
“Me?” said Ginny blankly. “Why? Whatever… oh, no, wait… Harry, I haven’t talked to Harry yet…”
“What?” exclaimed Hermione, pulling away suddenly. “You mean… you mean Malfoy wasn’t making things up?”
“What? What d’you mean?” said Ginny wildly. “What did he say?”
Hermione gave Ginny’s flushed face a long look before shaking her head with a sigh.
“Ginny, I’d sort of suspected you’d had a thing for either Malfoy or Snape for a while now…” she said in a low voice.
“What?” protested Ginny weakly. “I do not… I mean… just, keep going.”
“And I know you’d like to think he likes you back,” continued Hermione quietly, ignoring Ginny’s feeble protests. “And maybe he does, I wouldn’t know. But if you’d been there… if you’d heard the way he was gloating, practically salivating when he told Harry that he’d won you…”
Hermione shook her head once more, as if trying to rid her mouth of something unpleasant. Ginny’s protests had grown silent, the colour in her cheeks slowly draining away. Hermione glanced from Ginny’s rigid expression and back down to her books before she doggedly ploughed on.
“And it was that awful moment… it was as if he took some sort of perverse pleasure in pushing it further, as if watching the expression on Harry’s face when he told him who you were going to ‘spend the night with’… he was just… he had this horrible look in his eye as if it was the paramount… as if he’d finally achieved the pinnacle of every… every…”
“I know,” said Ginny in a low voice, slumping down suddenly on the stairs but looking obstinately the other way. “I know what you’re going to say… I know you’re going to say he was just doing it for revenge… just pretending to like me for revenge…”
“I don’t think that,” corrected Hermione, smiling ruefully at Ginny. “I think more of your judgement than to think Draco Malfoy could string you along like that.”
Ginny’s defiant expression crumpled slightly at these last words, and as the pause lingered she felt unable to stop her head from drooping down into her palms.
“He wasn’t supposed to say anything to Harry,” Ginny muttered dully. “I assumed he wouldn’t…”
“Ginny,” ventured Hermione softly, sitting down next to her and looking at her seriously, “all I want to hear is that you know what you’re getting into here. Do you really know what Malfoy is like all the time? Do you really know his character that well?”
Ginny mumbled something unintelligible into her palms.
“Do you really know Malfoy?” persisted Hermione, knowing that it had to be asked. “Are you really… do you know just what he’s capable of?”
There was a long pause as Ginny’s face tightened in her hands. “Severus,” she mumbled, getting jerkily to her feet and turning away. “I’m sorry, Hermione… thanks for telling me everything but I… I can’t do this at the moment. I need… I need Severus.”
“Ginny,” Hermione started to say, but lowered her hand when she saw the look of desperation in the other girl’s eyes.
With a last parting glance Ginny started ascending the stairs once more, leaving a vexed Hermione sitting below.
Ginny’s head was whirling as she entered the classroom full of her laughing classmates. She was immediately greeted by a chorus of good-natured voices demanding ‘what took so long?’ and ‘just what is up with these bloody trousers?’
“Where’s Severus?” she managed finally, ignoring everyone’s comments and looking desperately around the room for him.
“Hospital wing,” replied William Boot, looking at her curiously. “He had a weird sort of…”
But Ginny had already rushed out of the room, her feet pounding the stone floor as she tore off down the corridor.
Severus opened his eyes groggily. The familiar whitewashed ceiling of the hospital wing blurred slowly into his vision, obstructed instantly by Madam Pomfrey’s anxious face looking very hard into his eyes.
“He’ll be fine,” he heard her say, as she crossed the room to Professor Garwood. “Poor boy just fainted.”
“Are you quite certain he’s all right?” replied Garwood uneasily. “He gave the most ear-piercing yell…”
“Isn’t he acting in that play tonight? I’m sure he was just being melodramatic,” replied Pomfrey, shooing the doubtful Professor towards the door. “I’ll send him back down to you as soon as he’s ready.”
After Garwood left, Madam Pomfrey hurried once more to Snape’s side and carefully rolled up his left sleeve. Severus blinked at her, bleary eyed, though didn’t have enough energy to protest.
“Why does Dumbledore always have to leave at such crucial moments?” she wailed, wrapping his forearm in a cool towel. “Just hold on, Snape, I’m assuming this is what’s bothering you but I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do to completely stop the pain.”
Severus nodded slowly, glad that the pain had alleviated somewhat anyway, subsiding instead to a dull sort of ache. At least his mind could start to examine the meaning of it now, and he was just about to open his mouth to tell her so when Madam Pomfrey rushed from the room towards her office. Severus reached numbly for his wand, meaning to draw the curtains around his bed when Pomfrey burst back into the room.
“I won’t be long, Snape, there’s just been a mishap down at the greenhouses,” she said breathlessly, hurrying towards the door. “There’s a bottle of your Dreamless Sleep potion in the cupboard if you think you need it. Go up and wait for Albus as soon as you’re feeling better.”
Severus muttered an assent as the nurse promptly left, leaving the room silent for him to slowly recollect his thoughts. Why was the pain starting now? Was he supposed to be somewhere? Was the Dark Lord just angry with his subjects in general? Why now?
The voice of Ginny Weasley at the door jerked him to attention. He stiffened as she came tearing up, flinching further as she threw her arms around him.
“What… what are you doing?” protested Severus in alarm, as he distinctly felt her muffled sobs against his neck.
“I’m sorry,” she mumbled, though making no attempt to pull away. “I didn’t know what happened to you and I ran into Garwood on the way and she said you’d fainted and I’ve just had the most horrible time finding you and wondering what was going on and I really need to talk to you and –”
“Don’t be stupid,” tensed Severus at Ginny’s babbling speech. “You’re over-reacting, I’m fine.”
But Severus’s words were immediately proven false when the pain tore through him once more, and it was all he could do not to yell and attempt to tear his arm off in agony. Feeling his chest constrict against hers, Ginny tried to pull away enough to look at his face. However the way his arms were suddenly very tight against her back made it difficult, and when she eventually did see the look of pain in his eyes she had to restrain a cry of horror.
“Severus! Severus, what’s wrong?” she said in a high voice. “Please don’t – what… what’s happening? Please, don’t, please, I really need you right now – Severus!”
“Get… get away from me…” He tried pushing her away but only succeeded in slumping forwards onto her left shoulder. “Don’t come near me…”
“What’s wrong, Severus?” Ginny kept repeating, although her voice was getting more and more terrified. “Why isn’t Madam Pomfrey here? What’s going on? What…”
But her voice abruptly stopped as her eyes froze on Severus’s left forearm. The towel had unravelled and loosened during his struggle, revealing a skull-shaped tattoo gleaming a dull red, like the embers of a fire. Although Ginny’s head was whirling, she’d heard and seen enough to know at once what that ugly tattoo signified. It was all she could do not to yell out at the sight of it; the symbol of terror that had plagued so many of her nightmares since her days in the forest.
The unmistakable mark of a Death Eater.
Draco Malfoy yawned and entered the rehearsal classroom. He had his Malfoy sword casually slung over his back, and was on the look out for a certain black-haired boy to give it to. His entry, however, was met with cold indifference and demands that he leave straight away.
“All right,” retorted Draco, just as coldly, especially glaring at Philip Woodley who was eyeing him grimly in a pair of ridiculous tights and leather boots. “I was just looking for Severus, that was all. He needs to borrow my sword.”
“I’ll give it to him,” volunteered Woodley, tapping the sword by his side. “He’s already trusted me with his.”
“Well, I shan’t trust you with mine,” said Draco snootily, disliking the way he was staring at his sword. “It’s bad enough you’re not even worthy to wear his. Where is he, anyway?”
Woodley tilted his chin and his eyes narrowed slightly. “Ginny came looking for him a couple of minutes ago,” he said at last. “Will said he was at the hospital wing… or something like that.”
Draco glanced suspiciously around at the people in the room, as if expecting Woodley to be lying.
“All right, I’ll see him there then,” said Draco graciously, turning to exit and narrowly avoiding clipping Garwood with the hilt of his sword. “Sorry, Professor.”
“That’s quite all right, Draco,” said Garwood absent-mindedly, but then addressing the rest of the students. “Excellent, you’re all dressed? Then let’s start the rehearsals.”
Draco started making his way towards the great flight of stairs leading to the upper floors. He wondered briefly what Severus was doing in the infirmary but then shrugged nonchalantly to himself. It couldn’t possibly be serious; he couldn’t think of a single time that Severus had been ill that year. Draco slowed his pace and lazily began to ascend the stairs before him.
Ginny swallowed and mustered up the courage to move her shaking fingers to the burning tattoo on Severus’s forearm. The sudden contact on this area brought him suddenly back to his senses as he jerked away with all the energy he could muster, clutching at his arm and tugging the sleeve back down clumsily.
“I told you to get away from me,” he groaned through gritted teeth, closing his eyes in anguish at Ginny’s horrified expression. After all the precautions he’d taken… after all the lies he’d told… everything had been in vain…
His agonising thoughts were interrupted by a light touch on his cheek, and the feel of Ginny Weasley’s body pressed back against his. He opened his eyes to find her staring searchingly at his face, as if desperate to find what she was looking for.
“If you’d only explain…” her voice trailed away, her eyes lowering for a moment before looking back up at him with an odd compassion. “I only want to… I still… I don’t want to see you in pain again.”
As if to spite them both, the last wave of agony that hit Severus was determined to be the most vicious. Although bordering on the same intensity as the last hits, this wave kept going on and on, until he was in a cold sweat and hadn’t realised he’d been yelling, and Ginny was shaking him and squeezing him and on the verge of tears before it started to dissipate.
“I – I can’t…”
“What?” swallowed Ginny, choking back the urge to shake him violently and demand to know what she could do to help. “What is it?”
“I’m… I’m too…”
“What?” demanded Ginny tearfully after his long pause, moving her other hand jerkily up and running her fingers clumsily through the back of his hair. “Tell me what to do and I’ll do it – I’ll do anything…”
You’re too close, thought Severus wildly, as he tried to weakly struggle out of her embrace. But Ginny’s grip just tightened and a sudden tension seemed to rise in her face as she looked at him.
“Except leave you,” she said almost fiercely, as she continued to hold him tightly. “I won’t… I won’t ever leave you, Severus.”
And as Severus looked into her flashing eyes, huge warning bells started sounding in his whirling mind, the larger part of which warning him to jerk away, but a smaller, usually ignored part taking notice of those eyes filled with that indescribable something, and those words filled with so much promise, and the body pressed against his. And it was that small part of him that overrode his reason, which made him appreciate the warm hand on his cheek enough to cover it with his own.
“I can’t do this…” he muttered desperately.
But Ginny felt her heart was beating too loudly to take notice of what Severus was saying. His hand over hers seemed to be scalding hot and as she looked into his anguished eyes she saw a flicker of something she’d never seen before. She’d meant to hug him tightly and say how glad she was that he was all right but somehow her head had moved of its own accord and she was kissing him, kissing Severus Snape and all of her frustrations and heartaches and worries were poured into that kiss and it felt so damn good.
The small, usually ignored part of Snape’s brain was kicked into overdrive as instead of pulling away he found himself kissing her back fiercely, all restraints torn down from the extended pain and the way the kiss was filling a void he hadn’t realised existed.
No one noticed Draco Malfoy standing frozen in the doorway. No one noticed and the kiss deepened just before Malfoy turned away, his face hidden in shadow, before he ran.