This story is an ENTIRELY joint effort between
Arabella and Jedi Boadicea.
And when we say entirely, we mean that we literally wrote it
Over each other’s shoulders. It was incredibly fun – especially
got to make up insults together.
The Great Hall
The pitch of noise in the
Great Hall bothered Draco. It was too loud, as usual – people practically
yelling at each other down their tables. Laughing. Especially those Gryffindors. For a group that was supposed
to be so respectable, they generally made a ridiculous noise. Tonight was no
different, and it was with irritation that he pushed his golden plate toward
the kidney pudding. Crabbe spooned a heap of it for him,
a routine so long established between them that it went almost entirely unnoticed.
Draco only noticed it now because it was still, somehow, slightly satisfying.
After all, he didn't notice anybody getting things for Potter.
Potter was deep in
conversation with Weasley and the two of them seemed to be discussing something
quite intently. Draco had been watching them for years; he recognized the
difference between their general chatter and matters of importance. He saw
their expressions sober, saw the Mudblood lean in to contribute some quiet
piece of information. They were probably plotting something against school
rules. Again. And whatever it was, Draco thought
sullenly, they wouldn't be getting in trouble for it. They never did.
It was incredibly unfair.
"Did you hear,
It was Pansy's voice, high
pitched and almost breathless with excitement. She sat down quite suddenly in
the chair on the opposite side of Goyle, giving him a very brief frown, her pug
nose wrinkling slightly, her look saying very clearly that she thought he
should move and allow her the seat next to Draco. But Goyle didn't move.
Probably because he was too dense to even notice her glance, and for once Draco
was silently grateful for his stupidity. He really didn't want to deal with
Pansy right now.
When she got no immediate
response from him, Pansy pressed on, "Did you hear about the Ball?"
"Of course I
heard." Draco snapped, stabbing irritably at his jacket potato, his eyes
straying back to the Gryffindor table, where Potter and his two idiot friends
were now bent so close together in conversation that it was difficult to make
out their expressions. Like some horrid three-headed beast, Draco thought
sourly, and then with some pleasure, as he imagined Potter and Weasley drooling
at the mouth.
"It's only a few weeks
away." Pansy was still talking. Didn't she ever shut up?
"I know that."
"You have to plan ahead
for a Ball, of course," she went on, leaning forward on the table so that
she could see clearly around Goyle to stare Draco in the face. She was smiling
at him in that way she always did, her eyes wide and limpid, and there was a
slight simper to her voice.
He had no doubts about what
she was implying with all of this, but he wasn't going to pay any attention to
it. Not this time. He had no intention of going to the Ball this year. He'd
gone in the past, of course, because he'd been taught all his life that social
functions were important – to see and to be seen. It was important that he
attend them with a person of proper wizarding family on his arm, and the
Parkinsons had always fallen under his family's definition of
"proper." And Pansy was always there. But
not this time.
"Why don't you go and
start planning, then." Draco snapped, his potato
mauled into a veritable mush by the inattentive stabbings of his fork.
Pansy continued talking, saying something about the latest fashion in
quality robes, but Draco didn't spare her any attention. He was too preoccupied
with throwing frequent and increasingly irritated glances toward the Gryffindor
table. Potter and his friends had hardly touched their plates for minutes now.
Granger was gesturing energetically with her hands, and Weasley was nodding in
agreement with whatever she was saying.
And that was when he noticed
Ginny. Ginny Weasley, the youngest of that whole pathetic
She had come into the Great
Hall late for dinner, apparently, and now she was making her way to where
Potter and the others were seated, aiming for the empty seat beside Granger.
She approached slowly, almost hesitantly. He always saw her like this, tagging
along in Potter's shadow, moving with care as though she were afraid to disrupt
It sickened him. It was so like
a Weasley, to embrace that kind of debasement. And it was so like Potter,
to not even notice that he was, once again, getting special treatment. Not that
it could really be considered special, having a plain, empty-headed little girl
running after him all the time. And she did run after Potter. All the time.
Ginny settled herself in the
chair beside Granger, her face all the time turned slightly in Potter's
direction. She opened her mouth as if to add to the conversation, but at that
exact moment, Potter, Weasley, and Granger rose together, as they usually did,
and headed toward the door of the Great Hall, still deeply involved in their
own conversation to the exclusion of all else. Ginny watched them go, her mouth
still slightly open. She shut it again, after a moment, then turned to face her
plate and gave an almost imperceptible sigh. But Draco saw it.
It was obnoxious.
Potter proved with every
action that he didn't deserve the special treatment that he got from everybody.
And yet everyone persisted in lavishing it on him. Especially
the little Weasley brat. Didn't she have anything better to do than to
spend her time chasing incessantly after Potter?
"Draco, are you
listening to me?"
"No," he said
flatly, unwilling to cater to Pansy's relentless attempts to capture his
attention. He pushed back from the Slytherin table and stood, not bothering to
excuse himself. In his peripheral vision he noticed Crabbe and Goyle stuffing
their faces quickly with as much food as their mouths could carry, before
rising alongside him and following him out of the hall. He glanced one last
time at the Gryffindor table as they passed it. Ginny was in the same position
she had been before, her mouth now shut, picking morosely at her food.
Good. At least he wasn't the
only one who'd had a lousy dinner.
"Hurry up," Draco
snapped, pausing halfway up the lawn to jerk his head toward the castle. It was
an unseasonably hot day, and his school robes were heavy and stifling. He
wanted to get inside and down into the dungeon, where the stone kept everything
cool. He hated sweating over those ridiculous plants in Herbology, as if the
Malfoy heir should be cutting and gathering his own Potions ingredients. Draco
snorted quietly to himself. When he was out of Hogwarts, he'd never have to
wrestle another Python Blossom as long as he lived.
But at least he could
do it, if he had to. He threw a dark look over his shoulder, toward Crabbe and
Goyle. They stood together, still at the very bottom of the lawn, clapping a
mess of pollen from their robes with their oversized hands. They never could do
he repeated, turning fully around to glare at them. But either
they were deaf, or their paddle-hands were making too much noise, because they
only continued to smack at themselves and each other. Clouds of violet
pollen rose around them, and Draco sighed in disgust. He wasn't going to stand
here, hot and irritated, and wait for them much
A breeze picked up suddenly,
which should have been a relief, in the heat. Instead, it drove the pollen
clouds uphill toward Draco, who whirled toward the castle to avoid a face full
of it. But he couldn't avoid it entirely; he felt it settling in his hair and
reached up his hands in disgust to shake it out before the sticky, violet
substance could work his hair into messy clumps. Unlike Potter, he wasn't going
to walk around the school with his hair sticking up in all directions like a
street urchin. He brushed his hair back into order, flattening it with his
palms and making sure to consider the part.
Thoroughly fed up with Crabbe
and Goyle, he finally continued striding up the lawn - without them. If they
didn't catch up in five seconds, he was going to pull his wand and make them.
He marched toward the oak entrance doors and had almost reached them when they
swung open, and he was greeted with the unwelcome sight of the Gryffindor
fourth years emerging.
At their head was Ginny
Weasley. Some girl was whispering to her and Ginny leaned in close, listening.
A moment later she threw back her head and laughed, freely and loudly.
It was a startling sound, and
Draco stared at her for a second before sweeping his eyes over the fourth
years' heads for a glimpse of Potter - but he was nowhere to be seen. Draco
glanced back toward Ginny, who was still in the center of her friends, laughing
and poking playfully at them as she headed toward the Care of Magical Creatures
paddock. Draco couldn't remember ever hearing her make so much noise, and he'd
certainly never seen her so animated. But then, she was usually within earshot
of Potter. Apparently she only acted like a normal human being when her big
hero wasn't around for her to trail after. Out of Potter's shadow, Draco
reflected, Ginny was almost noticeable in her own right.
Not that anybody could miss
that awful hair. Especially with the sun glinting on
it. She tossed it off her shoulder.
Draco tore his eyes away and
pulled his wand, pointing it at Crabbe and Goyle, feeling immensely angry for
no reason at all.
barked down the lawn at them. As if they shared a brain - or half of one - they
raised their heads, left off paddling themselves and
lumbered up the lawn toward him. Draco turned to the door and waited. A moment
later, Goyle opened it, and he went in.
The Entrance Steps
Draco was rarely happy to be
out of bed and active early in the morning on Sunday. Back at the Manor on
Sundays he was often served breakfast in his room, at whatever hour he chose to
wake. But today he had risen early, the sun was already bright and high in the
clear sky, he hadn't even had breakfast, and yet he felt oddly satisfied. The
Slytherin team had booked the Quidditch pitch for early morning practice, and
for once Draco hadn't complained about it.
This year, he swore to
himself. This year he would defeat Potter. He would. He had no intention of
facing the rest of his housemates, not to mention his family, knowing that
Slytherin had lost the Cup because of Harry Potter. Not again.
Draco propped his broom
carefully on his shoulder and walked off the pitch at the end of practice,
heading back toward the castle. Crabbe and Goyle descended from the stands
quickly and fell into step on either side of him. They supplied a few grunting
comments of admiration for his performance in the practice, as they always did,
and Draco accepted it with almost indifferent silence, as he always did.
He wasn't particularly in the
mood to talk. Not that conversation with Crabbe or Goyle was ever very
rewarding. But right now he was too involved with his own thoughts to dredge up
the effort. He was still running over the practice in his mind, their new
strategies, the flying techniques he'd been practicing
all summer. Unfortunately, he wasn’t pleased with the practice, or his
own performance in it. In spite of his willingness to be awake in the morning
and high above the pitch, he had still found it difficult to truly concentrate.
He'd been feeling very .... preoccupied...
for the last few days. He couldn't quite put his finger on the reason, but it
was really starting to bug him.
Crabbe reached the entrance
doors first, and pulled one open. Draco walked through it, not really noting
where he was going. He wanted to get clean, get to the Great Hall for
breakfast, and get rid of the unsettled feeling he had. He began to climb the
Potter, Weasley and Granger
were walking together down the other side of the wide marble steps toward the
Great Hall doors, clearly on their way in for breakfast. They were talking -
Weasley was laughing his raucous, ill-bred laugh and the Mudblood looked highly
annoyed. Potter just smiled.
Draco swept by them without
acknowledgment, too focused on his own agenda to bother insulting them. And why
bother, really, when he would beat Potter in the next Quidditch match?
He'd wipe the smug smile off his scarred face for good. Out of the corner of
his eye, he saw Weasley shoot a dirty look his way, but that hardly mattered.
Weasley was a nothing. A nobody.
Like his sister. She was four
steps behind the three of them, her eyes trained, as usual, on the back of
Potter's head. And she'd apparently lost the freedom of expression that Draco
had seen in her the other day. She was practically mute.
He felt himself turn toward
her - he tossed his head sharply - he opened his mouth.
"Does he have you on a
leash, or do you just like following him around?"
Ginny froze. She blinked, then turned her head toward him, her face pale, her eyes
wide. She looked truly shocked. More than that, she looked wounded. And
that look was so completely mesmerizing for some reason, that he hardly even
noticed Potter, Weasley and Granger turning around to face him, all of them
looking vaguely surprised that he wasn't actually addressing them, and
all of them looking absolutely furious.
Ron was stammering, apparently speechless with fury.
Draco tore his gaze away from
Ginny, who was now flushing as red as her hair, and still staring fixedly at
him in something very like horror.
Potter and Weasley both had
their wands out, and were leveling them at him with furious looks. Even
Granger, who, as always, had placed a restraining hand on Weasley's arm, was
looking angry and on the verge of pulling a wand herself. She tossed her bushy
hair back with a furious shake, and said, "How dare you?"
Draco didn't even need to
gesture or speak; Crabbe and Goyle stepped in front of him, their massive hands
already in fists. Weasley shook off Granger's arm and took a step forward, his
wand still aimed past Crabbe and Goyle and directly at Draco. His mouth opened,
and Draco knew that an angry insult was forthcoming. He knew the look by now.
He'd deliberately provoked it more times than he could count. But right now, it
brought him no pleasure. He didn't want to hear it, and the entrance hall at
breakfast time was not the place to pick a fight to his advantage. This wasn't
a fight he'd intended to pick at all. And there was little satisfaction
to be gained from the look on Ginny's face – especially since he wasn't certain
why he'd bothered stopping to insult her in the first place, and he didn’t know
how to continue with it now that he had.
Before Ron could speak the
angry words clearly boiling over in his expression, Draco turned his back on
the lot of them with a disdainful little shrug. He wasn't worried about being
hit in the back by curses; Crabbe and Goyle were there as living shields, and
in the end he knew that Potter considered himself too
ridiculously noble to hit an enemy in the back. Potter had so many exploitable
weaknesses. But Draco wasn't going to bother with them today.
Broom still carefully gripped
and perfectly propped on his shoulder, he continued on down the hall, and down
the stairs toward the dungeons. Behind him, as he went, he could hear Weasley
swearing fiercely, Granger speaking soothingly to Ginny. Potter was completely
silent. And then there was only the sound of Crabbe and Goyle's shuffling
footsteps, and Goyle grunted a thick laugh. They knew he always wanted them to
laugh at his attacks on Potter and his cohorts.
But at the moment, Draco
didn't feel much like laughing.
He made his way down to the
Slytherin common room, and thought that maybe he'd skip breakfast entirely
today. He didn't particularly want to look across the Hall and see Ginny
By the end of the afternoon,
Draco had almost managed to block out his earlier encounter on the stairs.
Shortly after lunch, an idea had struck him which made all his remaining discomfort
disappear. He sat in the common room, idly drawing stick figures on his
homework, most of which ended up with scars on their foreheads and stakes
through their hearts. It was an image he never tired of doodling. He stabbed
his quill to the paper with contempt and satisfaction. He was going to get them
The match against Gryffindor
would take place the following weekend, which was why the Slytherin team had
been up so early every morning practicing. It was why they'd worked so hard on
the pitch this morning. It was why the Gryffindor team was going to be out
doing the same thing this afternoon. And it was why the Gryffindors would be
drilling all their most effective, and often secret, strategies. They were down
to the wire. Now was the day to spy them out.
In about five minutes they'd
be up in the air - they wouldn't notice him if he came around from the far side
of the pitch and stayed close to the lockers. It occurred to Draco briefly that
he wouldn't be able to bring Crabbe and Goyle, but he waved that concern off in
seconds. They'd be much too cumbersome; they spoiled anything that required the
slightest finesse. And no one would see him anyway.
Tossing his homework to the
table, he rose and left the common room, climbing up the dungeon stairs, going
quickly down the corridors and out into the late afternoon sunlight. Upon
reaching the pitch, he cut left around the stands and entered the field from
behind the locker room building, keeping in its shadow so as not to be noticed.
He stood against the wall and squinted up, just as Potter dove.
For one moment, it seemed
Potter's Firebolt would hit the grass - no, it was definite, he was going to
plow directly into the ground - Draco watched, holding his breath, hoping for
it. Half a second too soon, Potter pulled up his handle and soared upward
again. Draco wanted nothing more than to stop watching this display, but he had
to watch the continuation of the move - it was the sort of thing he was
supposed to be stealing, after all. His eyes followed the sweep of Potter's
rise, arcing up from the grass, past the lower stands, hurtling to the top of
the risers, where Draco's eyes stopped.
Potter's broom continued
upward and into the sky, but Draco wasn't watching. A flash of color at the top
of the distant stands caught his attention and held it, something golden and
red, and it took him a moment to realize that it was the rays of fading
sunlight on Ginny Weasley's hair. Draco squinted into the light to see her more
She was sitting alone,
hunched down on the bench as though trying to make herself smaller, less
noticeable. A futile attempt, Draco thought, so long as she had that hair. But
he had no doubt why she was trying; in spite of the way she always tagged along
at Potter's heels, Draco felt certain that she was somehow ashamed of the very
fact. That just made it all the more disgusting.
And here she was, no doubt
sneaking out to watch her precious Potter at practice. Even though she had
three brothers on the team as well, Draco somehow doubted she'd be hunched out
here all alone if it weren't for Potter. And that thought filled him with the
usual hatred that came always with thoughts of Potter - only this time it had a
different edge, and he was suddenly feeling almost nauseous.
He was walking around the
pitch and toward the stands before consciously making the decision to do so.
But once he'd started, it seemed too late to turn back.
There was really no reason
for him to be talking to Ginny Weasley. What could she possibly say to interest
him? What could he possibly get out of the exchange?
I just want to know, he thought to himself, scowling. I
just want to know WHY she bothers with bloody Potter in the first place. He
was up the steps and in the stands before he'd even considered what he would
say when he got to her, and, upon reaching the end of the row where she sat, he
hesitated. She hadn't even heard him approaching; her gaze was fixed on the
sky, her eyes following the plays. Following Potter.
It was disgusting that she even found ways to follow him when she was sitting
still and though Draco still had no idea what he wanted to say, he knew he
wanted her to quit watching Potter. He took a step closer to her, letting his
shadow fall across her seat.
She turned. Her eyes widened.
Her entire posture changed. She had been curled and unnoticeable a moment
before. Now she straightened, throwing her shoulders back and tossing her hair
out of her face.
"What are you doing
here? This is a Gryffindor practice." She spoke with surprising
venom. Considering her obvious weakness where Potter was concerned, Draco
hadn't expected her voice to have that kind of fire in it. Of course, he'd
rarely ever heard her speak.
She continued to glare at
him, her expression demanding an explanation for his arrival, and Draco
realized he hadn't answered her. Why was he there? His mind raced for a
moment and no answer came to him. He felt the same pang of nausea he'd had
earlier, watching Ginny's face as she looked from himself to the Gryffindor
team in the sky and back again, obviously putting two and two together.
He was there to spy. Of course. Draco was relieved to have stumbled across the
explanation in his mind, though he was hardly about to say it out loud. And
anyway, he didn't have to.
"Get out of here, you're
not allowed to watch them!" Ginny was suddenly on her feet. "It's
obvious why you're here!"
And just as suddenly, Draco
found his voice. "Not really a mystery why you're here, either, is it,
Weasley?" he shot, narrowing his eyes at her, enjoying the fact that this
comment caused the anger in her face to falter slightly. He pressed on.
"Watching the fabulous Potter fly? Thinking how amazing he
is?" His own voice dripped with sarcasm, and Ginny flinched, her eyes
flitting back out toward the players in the sky, confirming his suspicion. She
was so stupidly transparent - didn't she know it? "Or maybe..."
he continued in a malicious drawl, bringing her eyes back toward him,
"...maybe you're just waiting for him to fall off his broom so you can run
down there and kiss it better."
Ginny's jaw dropped and for a
second, Draco felt the satisfaction of a direct hit. But it didn't last. With
speed and dexterity he hadn't anticipated, Ginny had drawn her wand and pointed
it straight at his chest. On a self-preserving instinct, he drew his own wand
and aimed back at her, feeling an unexpected tingle of excitement. It wasn't
the same as when he pulled his wand on Potter. The air between himself and
Ginny seemed to be charged, somehow. It was an almost heady feeling.
She spoke first, and though
her voice shook, Draco had a feeling that she wasn't afraid. She was simply
"You have no
right," she managed. "No right! I'm so sick of you,
Malfoy! You think you're so important just because your dad has money - well,
you're not - and the things I do are none of your business."
Her breath was short, her eyes were flashing, her wand
was trembling in her hand. "Get away from this practice and get away from me!"
Draco stared. That she had
stood up for herself so plainly was a shock, and the fact that she had dared
mention his father... He knew what his response ought to be. Family pride
required him to hex her to the ground without a second thought. She was a
Weasley, and none of her worthless family deserved to say a word about his. But
to his chagrin, he found that her final jab was the one that truly made him
want to hex her, and he opened his mouth on a spell.
Unfortunately, every curse he
knew seemed suddenly to have vacated his brain. Taking advantage of his pause,
Ginny tensed slightly and raised her wand. Draco experienced a brief shock; was
she really going to curse him?
He never found out. From
below on the pitch there was a shrill, piercing sound that he recognized at
once as the referee’s whistle. He spun toward it, seeing Ginny do the same, and
saw that Madam Hooch was speeding up the stands toward them on her broom. Her
yellow, hawk-like eyes blazed even from a distance, and she had never looked so
like a bird of prey as now, swooping upon them.
"PUT DOWN THOSE
WANDS!" she shouted, coming to a hover beside them.
Draco dropped his wand arm to
his side as Madam Hooch glared from himself to Ginny. Out of the corner of his
eye, he saw Ginny lower her wand also, her face flushing guiltily.
"What are your wands
doing out on my field?" Madam Hooch asked sharply, looking to Ginny
Ginny opened her mouth and
stammered. "I was only – I just –"
Draco turned fully toward
her, incredulous. She was going to try and pull the Gryffindor innocent act –
to pawn this off on him. Suddenly he didn’t care how guilty she was
feeling for being caught. He wasn’t going to be blamed for this.
He cut across her with
practiced ease and addressed Madam Hooch coolly.
"She pulled her wand
first. This was self-defense."
Madam Hooch turned her hawk
eyes on him, looking anything but convinced. Of course.
As usual. The prejudice – the unfailing prejudice of
so many of these teachers against Slytherin House – was just unbelievable. And
to make matters worse, coming up behind Hooch at high speed were Potter and
Weasley and those hideously duplicated twins.
For the first time since
arriving at the pitch, Draco became suddenly, acutely aware that he had left
Crabbe and Goyle behind in the dungeon.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING,
MALFOY?" Weasley was barreling toward him ahead of the rest, leaning
forward on his broom as though he had every intention of spearing Draco on the
end of it.
Madam Hooch shot them a
warning look, which made all of them pull to a halt beside her. But they
hovered together, all four of them, glaring at Draco as though they’d be happy
to dismember him if they could only get their hands on him.
"That will do,"
Madam Hooch said curtly.
Ignoring her entirely, one of
the twins advanced a few inches on his broom. "If you were trying to curse
our sister, Malfoy..." he threatened, leaving his sentence ominously
unfinished. The other one filled in the blank with a grim nod of agreement.
They didn’t look to be joking now, yet Draco had to smirk. The mere fact that
there were two of them was their worst joke of all.
Madam Hooch’s tone was final. She turned back to Draco. "You say she
pulled her wand on you first?"
At these words there was an
"As IF!" Weasley hollered.
"She was provoked!"
yelled Potter at the same time.
Ginny drew herself up
slightly at these last words. Draco saw it out of the corner of his eye, and it
Potter!" he snapped.
Hooch looked around at them all, her gaze coming back to Draco and Ginny.
"I saw two wands drawn," she said evenly. "I’m giving two
There was a noise of outrage
from the three Weasleys and Potter. Ginny made no protest, but threw Draco a
look of such open contempt and frustration that he recoiled slightly. He was
once again momentarily surprised by the fierceness of her reaction. This was
not the spineless little wisp he’d grown accustomed to seeing in Potter’s wake.
And this time, he couldn’t
help noticing, she wasn’t toning it down in front of Potter, either. Draco was
satisfied to think that he had managed to force her out of her usual
timidity. It was like being one up on Potter, in a way.
"Be here at four-thirty
tomorrow," Madam Hooch instructed them. "You’ll be serving your
detention in the broom shed."
Weasley muttered profanely
under his breath. Madam Hooch ignored him.
"Is that clear?"
"Yes, Madam Hooch,"
Ginny answered, her tone resigned.
Draco gave a nod of bare
acknowledgment. Madam Hooch returned it, regarding him with a gaze so pointed
that Draco knew she could guess why he’d been on the pitch in the first
place. Then, satisfied, she turned away and returned to the rest of the
Gryffindor team, where they were waiting by the goal posts, watching curiously.
Ginny turned as well and
stalked past Draco, going down and out of the stands without so much as a look
at him. Her brothers and Potter immediately pivoted their brooms to follow her,
but all of them made certain to shoot him one last dirty look before they went.
Draco sneered at their retreating backs and left the stands in the other
He headed toward the castle,
seething inwardly. What had he been thinking? He hadn’t gotten a single
Gryffindor strategy. He had only gotten a detention, and Potter had seen him
get it. Why had Madam Hooch been on the pitch anyway? She never watched over
the Slytherin practices.
It was a moment before the
answer dawned on Draco. She’d been out there for Potter’s protection. That
idiot Dumbledore had probably set her out there to look out for Potter’s
safety. Everybody was always shielding Potter this year, vigilantly, as if his
life was ten times more important than anybody else’s.
Of course, Potter was in
danger. Draco permitted himself a smile, thinking for a moment of his father,
and of the things he’d overheard at home last summer. Oh, Potter was definitely
His anger now somewhat
abated, he turned his thoughts back to other matters, musing about the
detention he’d have to serve. He was going to have to fabricate some kind of
story about where he’d be going tomorrow afternoon. He certainly wasn’t going
to admit that he was serving a detention in the broom shed with Ginny Weasley.
And he certainly wasn’t going
to admit that something about the idea was almost appealing.
The Broom Shed
Draco was making himself walk
slowly down the lawn. He wasn’t going to rush toward the stupid broom shed and
work himself into a sweat, not even if Potter and the Weasleys knew the time
and place of his detention. Draco looked both ways, however, assuring himself
that none of them were nearby to intercept him. He didn’t have Crabbe or Goyle
with him after all. He’d had to put them off with an excuse – not that it had
been difficult. They would have believed him had he said he was off to have tea
with the giant squid. He’d actually toyed with telling them that, and in fact
had only decided against it because he didn’t want them spreading such a rumor
around the common room as if it were the truth.
By the time he arrived at the
broom shed, his lingering amusement and disgust had faded, leaving him with an
unsettled feeling in the pit of his stomach. He attributed this to the fact
that Madam Hooch stood waiting for him, her arms crossed. When she spoke, her
tone was clipped.
"You’re late, Mr.
"I was kept after
class," Draco lied smoothly. "Professor Trelawney needed to speak
with me about my star chart." Draco assumed that no teacher in her right
mind would seek out Trelawney to verify this information, and after a moment,
Hooch nodded. She pushed open the broom shed door and gestured him inside.
Draco went, swallowing for no reason as he did so and finding that his throat
was suddenly dry.
Ginny was in the shed
already, seated with a broom across her lap. She kept her eyes fixed on its
tail, though there was no way she could have been unaware of his entrance.
Without ceremony, Madam Hooch
took a pair of clippers from the wall and handed them to Draco.
"I want every broomtail
in this shed clipped into shape by the end of two hours, and no magic. Miss
Weasley has assured me she knows how to do this. Do you, or do you need a
Draco was instantly
affronted. "I’ve been maintaining brooms of better quality than
this my whole life," he informed her coldly.
"Then I’ll expect yours
to look twice as professional," she returned, with equal frost. Draco
heard a sound from Ginny that sounded suspiciously like a snicker, though he
couldn’t be sure. She still hadn’t lifted her head.
With that, Madam Hooch left
them alone, shutting the door behind her and leaving the shed in a dead,
uncomfortable silence. Draco glanced at Ginny, then quickly turned and snatched
a broom from the wall. He looked around for a chair, realizing at once that
there was only one bench in the room. Ginny was sitting on it. There was room
enough for him to sit beside her, but everything in him balked at the idea. He
wasn’t sharing space with her.
Fastidiously, he cleared a
space for himself on the shed floor and sat down, wrinkling his nose in
distaste. His robes were going to be filthy after this.
For a long time, the only
sound in the shed was of twigs being clipped. Draco didn’t look up. If she
wasn’t going to look at him, then he wasn’t going to look at her.
It must have been half an
hour before he heard a particularly violent snip, followed immediately by a
stinging sensation in the middle of his forehead. A second later, a small bit
of twig fell from his head into his lap. He stared at it a moment, then raised
his head to find Ginny’s eyes already on him.
She was obviously trying not
to laugh. There was something very smug about her face... she was smirking
at him. Draco felt himself flush with irritation and embarrassment. He wasn’t
going to sit here and be a target of amusement for a Weasley.
"Do you think this is
She raised an eyebrow
slightly, shrugged almost imperceptibly, and returned her gaze to the broom she
now held, continuing to clip it. But Draco couldn’t simply allow this to pass.
She still looked far too satisfied with herself. More infuriating was the fact
that she seemed able to dismiss him with so little effort. It was insufferable;
he wasn’t going to have it.
"Are you deaf?" He
paused, waiting for a reply. Nothing. "Have you
no breeding?" he drawled. "You answer a person when they ask you a
But the only sound from Ginny
was the ongoing, deliberate clipping of broomtail twigs as she steadfastly
It was too much. Feeling a
need to break through her resistance, Draco raised the level of his taunts,
aiming for the place where he knew her to be especially weak. He spoke with
"Or does Potter like you
mute?" he continued softly. "Is this required? Are you practicing for
when he finally gives you the time of day?"
Ginny stopped clipping, but
her head remained bowed. Her hand relaxed on the broom and as she took a
shallow breath, Draco could just see her brow wrinkling slightly. A flash of
triumph shot through him. He had done it. He had broken her resolve.
But when Ginny raised her
head a moment later, he knew at once that he’d been wrong. She didn’t seem
wounded at all this time. Rather, she was clear-eyed and calm, regarding him
with something between amusement and... perhaps concern. Or was it pity? Indignant at the very idea
of such a thing, Draco opened his mouth, ready to tell her to wipe the look off
her face. But Ginny spoke before he could get a word out.
"Do you ever stop being
nasty for five seconds?" she asked simply, still looking at him.
Draco felt himself freeze
slightly. What kind of a question was that? He held Ginny’s gaze for a moment
purely out of surprise, and searched for a reply that wouldn’t come. Could he
stop being nasty? What was she aiming at? At first his mind was almost
flustered, and then it flooded with serious irritation. He’d thrown his best at
her and yet she sat unfazed, while he was left feeling disconcerted.
She was still looking at him,
waiting for his answer. Well, she wasn’t going to get one. There was no way he
was getting into a personal discussion with Ginny Weasley – no way. How
dare she even ask a question of him? He wouldn’t condescend to reply to her.
Not that he could have, if he had wanted to. He still didn’t know the answer to
her question himself.
Forcing his eyes away from
hers, Draco returned his attention to the broom he held and gave the tail a
violent clip. After a moment, he saw Ginny drop her head again, and heard the
sound of her resuming her task. Draco continued to clip twigs angrily, snipping
them one by one with new, unnecessary force, hoping one would fly across the
shed and smack the Weasley brat right on her freckled face.
When Madam Hooch returned to
the broom shed at the end of two hours, not another word had been spoken. She
inspected the brooms – taking up one of Draco’s and inspecting it with what he
knew to be exaggerated criticism. He watched her, irked. These teachers were
truly full of themselves and Draco felt it was time for another letter to his
father about it. When Madam Hooch finally opened the door and announced that
their work was good and their detention complete, Draco stood, brushed at his
robes and swept past her, out onto the pitch.
A moment later, he felt the
air move next to him and saw Ginny pass him by, striding off the pitch and up
the lawn. Her pace said clearly that she had no desire to be near him, or to
have another encounter with him. It was offensive, and Draco’s first instinct
was to follow her and plague her just for that. But instead he slowed, and
watched her continue toward the castle. The sun was very nearly down. Hogwarts
was bathed in burnt orange light, and Ginny’s hair absorbed and reflected it as
She’d hit him in the head,
Draco reminded himself quickly. She’d laughed at him. She’d been the reason
they’d had a detention in the first place, and Draco knew there was no reason
at all for him to hang back watching her like this. He put two fingers to his
forehead where the twig had stung him and rubbed the spot, scowling. He
continued to rub it as he traveled back inside and down into the Slytherin
common room, though it certainly no longer hurt, and he only dropped his hand
when he entered the fifth year boys’ dormitory and caught sight of himself in
The center of his forehead
looked red and irritated. Even from across the room, Draco was arrested by this
strange addition to his reflection. He couldn’t help but think what it reminded
him of. And even though he certainly didn’t want one – it was revolting
to see a scar in the middle of someone’s forehead – Draco couldn’t help but
reflect that if he had one, life would be a little different.
Feeling sullen and wronged,
Draco shoved back the hangings on his four-poster and fell back onto his bed to
sulk. If he had Potter’s little past, he wouldn’t have gotten that detention.
Of course, if he had Potter’s past, Ginny Weasley wouldn’t have pulled her wand
on him in the first place. And she would never have dismissed him. Draco
could still see the look she’d had on her face when she’d so easily brushed him
off, and he was enraged. He should be the one brushing her off.
But he wasn’t. It seemed he couldn’t. And in a rare moment of honesty with
himself, Draco realized that the problem was he didn’t even want to.
Sickened by the thought,
Draco sat up abruptly. He couldn’t lie here entertaining any more abhorrent
ideas – this was unthinkable. Absurd. He had homework
to do before tomorrow, and he’d be damned if he was going to show up in Potions
tomorrow without it perfected and make a mess of his elixir with Potter and his
convoys looking on. He got up from his bed and strode into the common room,
determined to maintain his usual command.
"Goyle," he barked,
upon seeing him making a mess of his potion ingredients across the room.
"Get over here and bring your dandelion roots." Goyle got to his feet
unthinkingly and made a lunge past Crabbe, tripping and knocking both his own and Crabbe’s ingredients to the floor. Goyle
grunted at the mess and bent over awkwardly to try and clean it from Crabbe’s
boat-like shoes. Crabbe leaned forward to assist in this, and in doing so he
smacked his head against Goyle’s.
Draco made a noise of utter
impatience, appalled by their futile attempts at something so simple. The two
of them were useless apart and even worse together – one day they would
be trained. He settled himself in the best chair by the fire and crossed his
arms, waiting for them to recover themselves and bring him what he wanted.
"Here, Draco –" a
familiar, breathy, tittering sort of voice cut across his thoughts. "I’ve
cut twice as many as we need for tomorrow while you were gone." Pansy alit
in the chair nearest his by the fire and gave him her usual syrupy smile,
holding out a handful of perfectly clipped dandelion roots. Draco snorted
softly at this not at all unusual offer and gestured to the table, where Pansy
dutifully deposited the roots in a pile for him. He watched, detesting her for
being so absolutely servile. Hadn’t she learned anything, growing up in her
house? The Parkinsons were in his own circle, but Pansy was practically a
"The Ball was officially
announced this afternoon, you know. For Christmas day," she continued,
pausing to allow Draco to volunteer an invitation. When he refused to reply,
however, her smile did not falter. She simply scooted closer to him and found
"Where did you go after
class?" she asked, making her eyes wide and expectant.
Draco looked at her briefly.
Her pug nose, half-lit by the fire, was very unattractive. Even less attractive
was the way she leaned forward, raptly attentive to him, hanging on his every
"Were you outside
practicing something new for Quidditch?" she guessed, giving him a silly
little smirk that Draco supposed was meant to be flirtatious.
No, Draco imagined replying casually. I
was down in the broom shed with Ginny Weasley.
He snickered aloud at Pansy’s
imagined reaction. She frowned in confusion at the inappropriate sound, and
Draco shifted his eyes to the roots she’d cut for him. They looked about the
same size as the twigs he’d been clipping earlier and he wondered what Pansy
would do if he threw one at her head.
"I was busy," he
said shortly, shaking his head at her when she opened her mouth to pry further.
That was all she was getting out of him. And it was true that he’d been busy –
he’d been held in detention with a Weasley, who, considering her family’s position, ought to be acting toward him the way that
Pansy was acting now.
Ought to. But she wouldn’t.
Draco didn’t know why he was
bothering with the library tonight and yet he headed toward it distractedly, at
high speed, hardly listening to the labored breathing of Crabbe and Goyle as
they worked to keep up with this unusual pace. They were used to his lazy
stride, but that wasn’t good enough tonight. He couldn’t concentrate on
anything, least of all the piles of homework he had waiting for him this
weekend. His mind was wholly occupied with tomorrow and with knocking Potter
out of the sky. The match against Gryffindor was to take place in the morning
and Draco was ready to strike. He had never been so filled with the desire to
destroy. And since the afternoon in the broom shed he’d been on pins and
needles, watching the crowds in the corridors around him, making perfectly sure
to avoid her.
It wasn’t difficult, really,
seeing as she was a year his junior and rarely in the same areas of Hogwarts
that he was, during the school day. He didn’t have to try to avoid her.
But more than once he’d seen her approaching and instinctively detoured on the
way to his own classes. Just yesterday, he’d ducked behind an unfamiliar
tapestry and ended up in a room he’d never before seen. Crabbe and Goyle hadn’t
really seemed to notice that anything was wrong with him. They hadn’t even
noticed that he was leading them in the wrong direction. And sometimes, he
reflected, it was lucky that they were so entirely dim. He wouldn’t have taken
well to questions and he wasn’t about to offer explanations.
He really didn’t know if he
could explain it anyway. He only knew it wasn’t natural. It wasn’t right. It
was just a restless feeling that made his stomach writhe whenever she came
around corners, but that was all. That was all. She was, regardless of
her bloodline, only one step up from a Mudblood. She wasn’t even pretty.
Her freckles were totally lopsided – there were more scattered on one half of
her face than there were on the other. Not to mention that outlandish hair.
What was she trying to prove, with that hair? She was just a weak little
nothing who looked like somebody had set her head on fire.
That thought was untrue, but
it gave him a certain crude satisfaction and he reveled in it, pushing aside
another tapestry and marching onward toward the library, his fine hair falling
in his eyes. Yes. She was a stupid, arrogant, poor, pathetic, Potter-loving
little girl with too many miserable brothers stationed around her all the time.
Draco pushed back his hair
contemptuously, turned another corner without breaking his stride and shoved
open the library doors without consideration for who or what might be on the
There was a loud smack
as he collided with a student in his path, followed by several dull thumps and
the sound of pages fluttering as a schoolbag and a stack of books toppled to
the floor. Draco came to an abrupt halt, feeling Crabbe and Goyle pull up close
behind him, still breathing hard.
Ginny Weasley faced him. Her
things were all over the floor.
He’d just knocked entirely
against her, and it was with incredible effort that Draco managed to ignore
this fact and fix her with a hostile stare. For a moment they did nothing but
stare, but it was only a moment, and then her eyes were gone. She had dropped
down to gather her books from the floor.
Draco made no move to help
her. He stood and watched her, bent at his feet, quickly retrieving her
belongings. It was a gratifying position to see her in, really. He welcomed the
sense of power and excitement that it brought. He could almost pretend that she
Until she stood again, with
everything in her arms, and caught his eyes.
Draco caught his breath,
loudly enough that he heard it and worried that she had, too. Her hair was
disheveled, her face pink from being bent over, and she kept steady
eye-contact, clearly not afraid of him at all. Draco found himself unwillingly
captivated by the disorder of her appearance. He’d never seen her flushed
except in embarrassment, and she had to throw back her hair to get it out of
her eyes. It was amazing that she could stand here, an absolute mess, and still
manage to be somehow enthralling. That simply wasn’t the way things should be.
It irritated him greatly, yet another thing to add to the list where she
It wasn’t until Crabbe made a
grunting sound behind him that Draco realized he was still staring, unmoving,
at Ginny. He became aware again of Crabbe and Goyle at his back, and knew that
they were awaiting some sign from him to tell them what to do. Ginny, too, was
staring at him in silence, clearly awaiting some sign from him as well. But her
expression now was full of suspicion, and also some
confusion in the slight furrow between her brows. Even her eyebrows, Draco
noticed, had a slight hint of gold in them, like her hair. He noticed - and
immediately realized that he had better say something quick to end this
He drew a deep breath,
thinking to say something scathing about her keeping out of the path of her
betters, when he suddenly remembered the sound of her voice in his head.
Do you ever stop being
nasty for five seconds?
His breath caught again, but
this time it was with indignation, not surprise. He hadn’t had an answer for
her back in the broom shed, and the truth was that she didn’t deserve one. It
was an impudent, stupid question, and he wasn’t about to dignify it with a
response, even though he’d had quite a few days to think on one. But right now,
with her wary gaze on him, he felt the indignation of it filling him so that it
was a struggle not to burst.
Of course he could stop. She had some gall to
even suggest that there was anything he couldn’t do. He could do whatever he
set his mind to. Just as he was going to beat Potter in the match tomorrow, so
could he prove her wrong. Stop being
nasty? Of course he could. And wouldn’t she be shocked, stupid,
presumptuous little girl.
He said the first thing that
came to his mind, and he said it slowly and clearly, just so that she’d be
certain to catch every word. "Nice hair, Weasley."
But her eyes didn’t widen
with shock, much to his disappointment and frustration. Instead, she actually
rolled them, and the openly wary and perplexed expression she had worn a moment
before now turned to one of disgust. She made a sound half-way between a guffaw
and a sigh, then tossed her head again to fling her
mussed hair out of her face.
Was she taunting him
with that move? Draco scowled, but before he could say anything more she
clutched her books more closely to her chest and stepped around him, head held
high. She spared no glance for Crabbe or Goyle, just stepped around them as
well and reached out with a steady hand to open the Library door. She swept out
in silence, and the door swung shut behind her with a dull thud.
Draco stared at it, stared
after her, stunned. Unbelievable. She had just walked
out. It was beyond galling, and it was utterly confusing. It made no sense, how
Potter could treat her with such indifference yet still have her complete
devotion, while a comment from him earned nothing but her apathy. She
should be grateful for any kind of attention, Draco thought angrily. She wasn’t
likely to get it anywhere else. Especially not with that
graceless attitude. But then again, what had he expected? She was
Goyle grunted suddenly.
Draco frowned and looked to
him. He and Crabbe were both watching him with deeply confused expressions,
which was not at all a new sight. But even they could sometimes notice that
something was amiss if it was standing right in front of them – and Draco
realized he’d been standing here staring at the door through which Ginny had
gone for rather a long time.
"Shut up." He
snapped, flushing with anger. Just anger. He
deliberately turned his back on the door. "How many times have I told you
not to ask questions? Just go sit down or something before you hurt yourselves.
I’ll find the books I need myself."
The score was twenty to
ninety. It was going to come down to the Snitch. And by God, he was going to
Wind tore through Draco’s
hair and he could feel the total destruction of his careful coiffure, but for
once he hardly paid attention. Today he was going to do it – to catch it – to
plow into the ground if that was really absolutely necessary. If only he could
Draco swept his eyes over the
grass and through the players, straining for a glimmer of fluttering silver wings
and watching Potter for the first hint of a dive. He had to watch Potter.
Spying the Snitch was Potter’s real ability. It wasn’t his flashy speed, or his
tedious, show-off feinting. It was just that Potter always seemed to be the
first person to notice the flash of gold they both were waiting for.
Even in storms, Draco thought irritably, jerking his
broom to the side to avoid one of his own Chasers and returning to his
distracted thoughts. He knew he ought to focus if he intended to win this, but
found his mind wandering even as his eyes searched the field. Blasted Potter. It was as if Potter knew ahead of time where
it was going to be, and Draco had wondered more than once if, somehow, Potter
was cheating. Yes, that must be it. The Granger Mudblood had probably put some
Snitch Spotting charm on Potter’s glasses.
Draco felt a rush of
inspiration. Of course. Why had he never
thought of it before? All he had to do was knock off those hateful glasses at
the last second, and Potter’d never have a chance. It could easily be made to
look like an accident. It was truly a brilliant idea. Draco glanced down the
pitch toward the person most likely to interfere with this new strategy, but as
Keeper, Weasley was trapped near the posts. He wouldn’t be able to get near
enough to stop it. And when he, Draco, held up the Snitch at the end of the
game, it would be clear who the better man was. Clear to everyone.
Feeling quite as if he’d
already won, Draco pulled up close behind his enemy’s Firebolt, making the
space between their brooms uncomfortably tight. Potter shot a glare over his
shoulder and Draco was so involved in smirking back at him that he was nearly
pummeled by a Bludger. He ducked, dropping meters in the air, away from
Potter’s tail, and felt a wind rush by his face – another Bludger. Draco spun
in midair to see the faces of those cheap imitation twins hanging on either
side of him, leering. And when Draco shot up after Potter once more, the twins
followed suit, gripping their brooms with their knees in order to smack their
bats menacingly against their open palms. Barbarians.
It was astonishing that they were even related to their sister.
Draco jumped inwardly at this
unexpected thought, jerking his head to get rid of it. No. She had nothing
to do with this. He commanded himself to focus, shooting forward on his broom
to evade the ugly distraction of the Gryffindor Beaters and continue to pursue
his own target. This was entirely between himself and Potter.
was already diving.
Panicking, Draco launched
into a steep dive he could hardly control, hurtling with all the speed he could
muster – accelerating – gaining – near enough now to seize the Firebolt’s tail
– close enough now to pull his nemesis back by his garish, scarlet robes. They
were neck and neck, screaming through the air, nearly to the Snitch. Finally
Draco had his opportunity. He was perfectly positioned to knock Potter. Hard.
Potter stretched out his
fingers toward their goal. Draco took aim. Summoning all the force he possessed,
he shunted inches to his right, slamming Potter’s left shoulder with his own.
The Firebolt spun dizzily sideways. Potter’s glasses were sent flying from his
But to Draco’s horror, at the
very same moment, Potter’s already outstretched fingers groped outward, closing
blindly around the Snitch. And though the Firebolt hit the ground with a
satisfying thud moments later and Potter tumbled painfully onto the grass, his
fingers stayed tightly shut. Draco could make out one silver wing, beating uselessly
against Potter’s palm. He had done it again. It was over. Again.
Behind him, Draco heard the
stands erupt into cheers, foot-stomping and wild applause. Three-quarters of
Hogwarts was screaming itself hoarse with happiness. He watched Potter for
another moment, dully, suddenly too weary even to be revolted by the fact that
the entire Gryffindor team had swarmed around Potter, shouting joyfully and
throwing their fists into the air. Weasley was picking up his glasses and
handing them back; Potter sat up in a daze and fixed them on his face, grinning
with the full measure of his pretentious modesty.
Draco turned away.
Unthinkingly his eyes found the Gryffindor section and traveled up its stands,
fixing on the unmistakable flash of red and gold that was Ginny Weasley’s hair.
She was hugging Granger, and the two of them were clearly overcome with
excitement; they were bouncing up and down childishly and making a terrible
noise. After a moment, Ginny pulled herself away, threw both her arms into the
air and hollered something unintelligible. Her face was alight with happiness –
she shone at Potter. Her focus was entirely his. And Draco knew, with a
nauseating thump of his gut, that the scene would not have been reversed had he
himself caught the Snitch. Ginny wouldn’t be yelling for him – shining
at him. She’d be cursing him for knocking Potter to the ground.
Draco made a rocky landing
and smacked his Nimbus Two Thousand and One back over his shoulder. He hated
Potter. He hated Quidditch. He hated the fact that the members of his own team,
far from offering brotherly support to him for the loss, were taking turns
shooting him sour looks of disapproval and scorn. He hated that his father
would want to know exactly what had happened, and that there would be nothing
but censure and derision when he found out. He hated the Slytherin stands and
the incessant, impotent snarls they were sending toward Gryffindor.
He hated that Pansy was
already hovering in wait for him on the edge of the pitch, having squeezed
between Crabbe and Goyle where he couldn’t fail to miss her, a look of affected
concern pasted across her face. He knew what she would say. She’d said it
before, after every match he’d ever lost. She’d say that Potter had definitely
cheated, that Draco had played wonderfully, that
it was all so very unfair.
Not interested in her lying
flattery, Draco cut by her without a word and left her with her mouth hanging
open. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Potter and Weasley coming off
the field. Granger joined them, still bouncing stupidly on the balls of her
feet, her bushy head bobbing.
And with her was Ginny, for
once apparently too thrilled to keep silent, reaching out to touch Weasley’s
arm as she smiled openly at Potter. "Brilliant catch," he
heard her declare.
Draco slammed open the locker
room door, wondering how difficult it would be to drown himself in the shower.
The Common Room
Almost as soon as he sat down
at the table, Draco regretted having come up to the Great Hall for dinner at
all. He should have gone with his instincts. He should have stayed down in the
dormitory and brooded in peace.
The Hall was filled with the
echoes of cheerful conversation. The Gryffindor table was practically riotous,
and even across the distance of the Hall Draco could make out snippets of the
conversation; Quidditch talk, all of it. Praise for Potter. As
always. The Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw tables were only marginally less
The Slytherin table was a bit
more subdued, but he took no comfort in that. Nobody was really talking to him,
as it was pretty obvious that no member of the Slytherin Quidditch team was
much in the mood for conversation. Draco was pleased to be left mostly alone,
but irritated nonetheless at the subtle current of excitement that still shot
down the Slytherin table. This wasn’t excitement about the match. He knew what
it was about, and it did nothing to improve his mood.
Directly opposite him on the
other side of the table was Pansy, and she was talking to Crabbe, of all
people, on Draco’s left side. Her words were directed at Crabbe, but Draco
could feel her eyes straying toward him as she spoke. He refused to look up
from his plate, scowling at his stew.
Vincent," Pansy was saying in a sympathetic sort of voice, "You could
always ask Millicent to go the Ball with you. I rather thought you would have
done so by now. You’re perfect for each other."
Crabbe made an unintelligible
grunting sound, translatable by those who unfortunately knew him as an
expression of anxiety.
Draco scowled more fiercely
and began to stir his stew with his spoon, forcing himself to watch the clumps
of meat and potato push their way through the thick sauce. It was better than
watching other things. Better than lifting his head and being forced to face the
Gryffindor table, where he knew exactly what he would see.
No, he shouldn’t have come
down to dinner. He should just leave, go to the Owlery, and send off the letter
to his father explaining about the Quidditch match so that he could put it all
behind him. He’d send the letter, his father would send a reply tomorrow
telling him how severely disappointed he was in his son, speak harshly of his
incompetence, and then it would be over. Until the next time.
Down at the far end of the
table, he could just make out the sound of Blaise Zabini talking to a pretty
fourth year, inviting her to the Ball. Out of the corner of his eye he saw
Millicent Bulstrode approaching, making a threatening sort of advance on
Crabbe. He could feel Pansy’s eyes on him. Expectant.
He stirred his stew more viciously.
"Well, I think I’m all
full." Pansy said momentarily, with an air of forced casualness.
"Maybe I’ll just head down to the common room and work on that report on
Love Potions." She paused, then said
suggestively, "Should I wait for you, Draco?"
"No." Draco snapped
quickly, without lifting his gaze.
Pansy gave an almost
inaudible sigh, and stared at him in silence for a moment before finally
leaving. Draco clenched his jaw against a relieved sigh of his own, and gripped
his spoon tightly in a fist, churning with even more vigor at the stew.
But almost instantly, he
regretted having driven Pansy away. Because now the seat
across from him was vacant, and he had a clear line of sight to the Gryffindor
table. It was as though his hearing suddenly became ten times more
acute. He could make out the sounds of individual conversations from those
bloody Gryffindors. He heard one of those despicable twins talking loudly to a
girl he was clearly inviting to the Ball. Draco wondered how any girl could be
desperate enough to accept an invitation from one of those identical idiots,
unless she did so out of sheer pity, because they really were pitiable. If he
had a face like that and had to see it reflected every day on some awful
twin, he’d curse himself.
More pitiful was the sight of
Weasley, fumbling to talk to that awful-haired nag he was always sniping at. He
wasn’t sniping now, however. On the contrary, he seemed to be attempting to set
up some kind of crude invitation of his own. Draco raised his goblet
disdainfully and swallowed. Weasley clearly didn’t have the slightest clue what
he was doing, yet that idiot Granger was looking at him as if he were spouting
poetry. Her standards were obviously nonexistent. Of course, what more could
one expect, from a Mudblood?
Draco regarded the
distasteful scene, realizing slowly that he didn’t have to watch it. He could
always decide to look over one seat to Granger’s right. But he had an idea that
what he would find there would be difficult to face and so he kept his eyes
fixed on a spot just over Granger’s head, willing himself not to move them.
Unable to resist for very long, however, he shifted his eyes the necessary
She was there. Watching Potter. Predictably. Her
brown eyes flitted from her plate to his face and back again and her face was
pink beneath her freckles. Draco wondered if she was hoping to be asked to the
Ball herself, and if so, was she expecting her invitation to come from her
hero? Draco glanced at Potter’s face and scowled to see him as oblivious as
usual. He felt a sudden, cruel urge to inform Ginny it was never going to
happen – to walk by and hiss at her for being so senselessly persistent – when
Potter got abruptly to his feet and strode around the table with decision.
Ginny’s eyes followed him.
Her face paled as he came deliberately around toward her and Draco saw her
swallow, hard. But Potter didn’t stop at her seat. He didn’t even seem to
notice her. Instead, he walked behind her and came to a halt at the Ravenclaw
table, where he went about quietly addressing Cho Chang. A moment later, Cho
nodded briefly and Draco reflected with high satisfaction that it was fitting
to see Potter running after Diggory’s leftovers. It was an appropriate
situation for him. For a moment, Draco felt much better about his Quidditch
However, when he returned his
gaze to Ginny’s crestfallen face, Draco felt his breath do something odd.
Either she was allowing her hurt to show in public, or she simply
couldn’t help it. She had thrown her head back slightly and was looking at the
ceiling of the Great Hall in what could only be an attempt to stop tears. The
ceiling’s moon shone on her face and for a moment she seemed to have forgotten
she was in a room full of dinner plates and raucous noise and people.
So had Draco forgotten. When Ginny pushed up from her table a moment
later, heading with some speed toward the doors of the Hall, Draco rose and
followed, waving a hand behind him at Crabbe and Goyle, who were prepared to
trudge along after him as usual.
He didn’t want them now. He
wanted out of the Hall. He just wasn’t hungry, he told himself, moving quickly
to the doors and going through them. He was full and there was no good reason
to linger in a roomful of noise. Instinct propelled him directly toward the
corridor that led to the Slytherin stairway, but the moment he realized where
he was going he wheeled around to face the Hall doors once more. He wasn’t even
fully conscious of his reasoning, until he saw it standing in front of him.
doors stood Ginny.
Draco couldn’t see her face and yet he was arrested by what was happening. The
curtain of her hair hid her expression as she endured an invitation to the Ball
from a Gryffindor boy in her year. Draco only recognized him because he was so
fantastically annoying. It was that miserable Potter enthusiast, Creevey, and
he was actually asking Ginny as his dance partner.
Ginny listened, but did not
reply at first. Draco watched as her head turned almost imperceptibly toward
the Great Hall and she looked inside a moment before seeming to make a
decision. Her spine visibly straightened and she turned back toward Creevey,
tucking her hair behind one ear as she did so and revealing her profile. She
was smiling kindly.
"Yes, of course, Colin.
I’d love to."
Creevey beamed. Draco felt
ill. That imbecile was going to take her, and she was going to spend the
entire night wishing it had been Potter. Oh, she was chatting brightly
enough now, but Draco had seen her face in the Hall when Potter had asked Cho
Chang, and he knew the truth. And he wasn’t going to stand here idly, listening to her laugh with Creevey and watching her
maintain composure over Potter, and cursing himself for not following her out
here five seconds sooner and...
Feeling he might actually
retch at what he’d been about to do, Draco turned violently on his heel and
rushed toward the entrance to the Slytherin stairs, forcing his mind around a
few truths. She was one of them. She was a Weasley and a Gryffindor. Filth just like her brothers. He, however, was at the top of
his House and his father was at the top of the world. He was the Malfoy heir
and even if he wanted – even if he really, really wanted –
Draco slowed his pace
slightly, and forced his breath to be regular. He was halfway down into the
dungeon and the light was dim. The stones were cold. He reached up to be sure
of his hair. No Gryffindor was going to cause him an undignified entrance into
his own common room, least of all some stupid girl who had the indecency to
attach herself to Potter. He didn’t want her. How could he? She was
thoroughly contaminated by Potter; she had been his, first. And Draco would
have nothing – nothing – that had once belonged to Potter. Potter, who had won another match. Potter, everyone’s brave,
endangered golden boy. Potter, who had gotten himself a date to the Ball and
tossed blind devotion aside in the process.
Well, Potter was a simpleton.
Devotion had its definite advantages.
He knew exactly what he’d see
when he entered the Slytherin common room, and as he stepped into the greenish
glow of the hanging lamps, his expectations were fulfilled. There, sitting at a
small table near the elaborately carved fireplace, was Pansy. She was slumped
over the table in a very dejected manner, staring down at the book in front of
her with a morose expression that looked more like a pout than anything else on
her pug-nosed face.
Before the dungeon door even
closed behind Draco, she lifted her head and turned to face him, as though she
could just sense his presence. She was always anticipating his every
move, and usually Draco found it severely annoying. But at the moment, it was
only gratifying. Here was devotion. Unlike Potter, he knew what
it looked like. And it did indeed have its advantages. Even after he had
shunned her at dinner, here she was, smiling a bit tentatively, and waiting for
him. Because she had been waiting for him, there was no doubt about
Draco narrowed his eyes,
inspecting her face by the light of the fire. She wasn’t pretty, she never
would be. Her hair was limp and dull, possessing no inner life, no fire. Her
face was hard-angled and pasty, no expressive smile, no spatters of color. And
of course, there was very little pleasing about Pansy’s personality. She wasn’t
insolent or brave or captivating like….some people. But what did it matter? In
the end, Pansy was one thing – she was ambitious. And her one real ambition was
He wasn’t Potter. He wasn’t
going to walk around like a moron, oblivious to someone like Ginny Weasley and
the utter devotion she offered him. He wasn’t Potter. And there was no Ginny
here. But there was devotion, and that, he told himself fiercely, was something
he deserved. Far more than Potter. At least he
could see it. And he knew how to use it.
Pansy’s weak smile had
faltered under his long, cold inspection. But when he strode across the common
room directly toward her, she straightened in her chair and replaced the smile,
looking up at him with wide, expectant eyes.
He didn’t even give her time
to speak. He stopped directly in front of her table and looked down at her.
"My dress robes have silver this year." He said flatly. "Be sure
you don’t clash."
Her face lit up instantly.
Her smile widened, a flush touched her cheeks. She beamed up at him. She
positively shone. Just as Ginny - no, Weasley.
Just as Weasley had for Potter.
So be it.
Pansy said breathlessly, the happiness evident in her suddenly high voice.
"I already picked them out to match!"
Draco gave a curt nod of
approval and then turned his face away. He didn’t want to talk to her. He
didn’t want to look at her right now. But neither did he want to go upstairs
alone, where he’d lie awake on his bed and think of another face, another voice…
So he sat down, in a seat
facing the fire, the table between himself and Pansy. He kept his profile to
her, and tried to ignore the sound of her continued, cheerful chattering. She
could carry on a conversation quite well without his help.
He watched the fire. He
stared into the heart of it, the purple ripples of color that streaked along
the wood, trying not to think about how the surrounding orange flames brought
other things to mind. No. Fire burned. One did not reach out for fire, no
matter how mesmerizing. But he watched.
Draco sat in silence, and
watched the fire burn for a very long time.
Rom: Is she a Capulet?
O Dear account! my life is my foes' debt.
Ben: Away, be gone, the
sport is at the best.
Rom: Ay, so I fear, the
more is my unrest.
& Juliet, Act I, Sc. V