Disclaimer: All characters belong to the ABsolutely FABulous J. K. Rowling.

A/N: Okay, I couldn't resist another one. Work on this one will be sporadic, but I hope to finish it before Christmas.

Ginny Weasley kissed her mum and dad goodbye and boarded the Hogwarts Express. Ron, Hermione and Harry had already boarded, and, for once, Ginny didn't care if she got in the same compartment or not. She had finally given up on having Harry notice her. In fact, because of a strange happening this summer, only last week in Diagon Alley, she was interested in someone entirely different.

Ginny walked along the train, looking for an empty compartment, or at least some of her friends. She was pretty certain the same people who always teased her from previous years would do the same again this year, most notably Draco Malfoy and his gang, so she wanted to be ready. Amazingly, near the end of the train, there were still a few empty compartments. That was great. Ginny dragged her trunk into the compartment, shoved it out of the way, and flopped onto one of the seats. Then she started planning her strategy.

Even as she planned how to get the interest of her young man, she smiled ruefully at herself. If her family knew what she had in mind, they would just flip. She already had a good idea how to approach him, and how to act with him, so she let her mind wander to what had happened last week.

Ron, Ginny and their parents, along with Harry, had gone to Diagon Alley to pick up last minute supplies for school. When they got there, though, Mr. Weasley had told them that because of his recent promotion and raise (and no doubt because all the boys except Ron were now out of the house) they could afford to get not only new robes, but a pet each (as long as it wasn't too expensive)! Ginny had been ecstatic although Ron had mumbled that he'd rather have the money instead of an animal. Considering his previous bad experiences with the rat, Scabbers, (the story had taken Ginny months to piece together from the bits she overheard Ron and his friends discussing) Ginny could readily understand his feelings. But she was thrilled to be able to get a pet.

After all their shopping was done, they went to the pet store. There were rats and mice, frogs and toads, puffskeins, turtles, and some rare magical birds. But Ginny was drawn immediately to the cats. There wasn't a very wide selection, and most of them were older cats with bad attitudes. But right next the cats was a small cage holding a rather unusual creature. It was catlike in appearance, but had oversized ears. That wasn't the only difference, either. Instead of a long, bushy tail the creature had a tail quite like a lion's; smooth with a small tuft of fur at the end. It had spotted fur of orange, brown, white and black, but couldn't be called 'calico'. Indeed, it defied description. One of the overlarge ears was chewed and mangled looking, and the fur was tattered. It was a tiny creature, possibly the runt of the litter. But she wasn't a cat; she was a Kneazle. Kneazles were close enough to the common feline that they could interbreed, but a pure Kneazle was unusual enough to require special licenses for ownership, and the use of special charms any time the creature was taken into the Muggle world. The charms, illusion charms, made them appear, to Muggles, just like ordinary cats. This particular Kneazle kitten was particularly pathetic looking. Ginny glanced at her, and almost turned her back on the tiny, fuzzy mess, but the kitten let out a pitiful little mewling sound. In spite of herself, Ginny reached into the cage and pulled the little Kneazle out. It was older than most feline kittens were when they got adopted, but its tiny mewl tugged at Ginny's heart. And when she looked into the large, amber eyes she immediately fell in love. The kitten might be ugly as sin, but her eyes were beautiful.

The feline eyes seemed to say, "Just gives me a chance; I'll be the best friend ever!" Ginny couldn't resist. She hugged the Kneazle to her breast and headed for the counter. As if sensing that she was now safe, the kitten nuzzled Ginny's neck, curled up in her arm and purred contentedly. Ginny sighed. She knew she would be teased about the creature's appearance, but she didn't care. She'd been teased often enough about her own bright red hair, freckles and somewhat threadbare robes. She would protect the kitten the best she could and love her anyway.

Kneazles were difficult creatures to place since they were much more independent and selective of whom they would keep company with. The old witch at the counter was so glad to get rid of this one that she gave Mr. Weasley a huge discount and threw in a few kitty toys. She offered Ginny a cardboard carrier, but Ginny decided to hold the kitten.

"She'll be frightened of the floo powder if I don't hold her," she explained to her mum.

When they left, Ron and Harry headed off to find Hermione and Ginny and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley made for Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Emporium. They were almost to the small ice cream shop when they heard a commotion behind them.

"What in the world?" Mr. Weasley murmured as he turned to look.

Suddenly, a huge boarhound bounded through the crowd.

"Fang!" Ginny exclaimed, instantly recognizing Hagrid's huge, cowardly pet dog. And if that wasn't enough to cause a stir, Hagrid was lumbering along in Fang's wake, bellowing for the beast to heel; a command that the dog was blithely ignoring.

Fang was running headlong between the shops, but when he heard Ginny's voice, he veered right at them. The kitten, which had been dozing comfortably in her arms, suddenly woke up and screeched when she saw Fang. In a flurry of fur and claws, she was out of Ginny's arms and streaking away up the street.

"Oh, no!" Ginny cried and took off at a run to catch her kitten.

She saw the small creature dart down the street and disappear into the crowd. Ginny followed as quickly as she could, but was nowhere near fast enough to keep up. Luckily, she had only to follow the trail of indignant pedestrians who had nearly stepped on or tripped over the tiny feline. Ahead, the crowd thinned and Ginny watched the kitten slip into a side alley. She followed, panting and holding her side. Fortunately, there weren't very many people in this street and she could now easily follow the kitten. The kitten was slowing a bit, but still looked ready to panic, zipping back and forth, hissing at the people she passed. Ginny was tiring even more, and was afraid she might lose sight of her pet. Then the creature took another sudden turn, into an even smaller alleyway. Ginny turned the corner and felt her stomach lurch. She looked around and realized she'd run into a bad section of the Diagon Alley shopping area. She was in Knockturn Alley!

Ginny swallowed, knowing the reputation of those who patronized the shops in this area. The kitten seemed to sense something, too, for she slowed, then stopped and cringed.

"Thank the fates," Ginny breathed, holding her side to ease the stitch that had developed. As she slowly approached the frightened kitten, the creature mewled miserably, then stood and started creeping back toward Ginny. She had only taken a step or two when a tall, cloaked figure stepped out of a doorway, crouched, and scooped her up. The Kneazle yowled and hissed, then the figure seemed to swallow her up in the folds of the dark, heavy cloak.

"Here!" Ginny yelled and hurried over to claim her kitten, ready to do battle if necessary. She stopped as the figure turned toward her. A long, pale, strong-looking hand was gently stroking the kitten, and the kitten seemed to have calmed down a good bit. She was leaning against her captor in ecstatic kitty bliss. Ginny glanced from the kitten to the figure holding her. The hand stopped stroking and lifted to the hood of the cloak. She had only a second to wonder what in the world anyone would be doing in a cloak in the summer heat when the hood was pushed back and the thin, pale face of Draco Malfoy was revealed.

Oh, no, she thought. Couldn't it have been anyone but HIM to rescue her new pet? He'd probably have some nasty remark or other for her, and she'd have to listen if she wanted to get her Kneazle back. She nervously approached, not liking Malfoy, not wanting to have to ask him to give her her friend back, but ready to fight him if he looked like hurting the tiny kit. She was surprised, then, to see him cradle the tiny creature gently under his chin and again stroke her fur comfortingly. As Ginny finally reached him, he looked up at her, his cold, gray eyes taking in her flushed face, messy hair, and worn robes. Ginny braced herself for the usual nasty comments.

"This is a bad place to be lost, Weasley, even if you're a small kitten," he said in his customary silky drawl. "Or just a little weasel."

Ginny looked up quickly, wondering whether she'd actually been insulted or not. He wasn't smirking as he usually did, but he had just called her a 'little weasel', hadn't he? Frowning, she brushed the hair from her face and concentrated on the tiny creature cradled so comfortably in his arms.

"I-er-my Kneazle was frightened and she ran off. I was just trying to catch her," she answered quickly, reaching for the kitten.

"You should take better care of her," he remarked. But he didn't seem in any hurry to return the creature. He lifted the kitten and took a good look at her. "Such a tiny thing," he murmured, then looked back down at Ginny.

That was when Ginny realized with a shock that he was nearly as tall as Ron! He was taller than Harry now, and although it might have been the bulky cloak, he seemed to have filled out a bit in the chest and shoulders, too. She was startled out of her thoughts when he cleared his throat rather loudly.

"Tiny, fragile creatures don't last long in this neighborhood, Weasley," he said, his voice suddenly hard. He practically shoved the creature into her arms. "Best toddle back to where 'nice' little Gryffindor girls belong."

Ginny opened her mouth to snap at him. No one told her to 'toddle' anywhere! She didn't get a chance as another voice interrupted her.

"Well, well, Malfoy, what have we got here?"

Ginny looked to the doorway Malfoy had stepped out of. A large, brutish- looking young man, probably four or five years older than her was standing there, leering at her. He looked vaguely familiar but she couldn't recall his name. She glanced at Malfoy, feeling that perhaps he was right. She was suddenly frightened and unconsciously moved closer to the young man she'd always disliked. He turned to the other young man and stepped slightly in front of Ginny, seeming to be blocking her from his view.

"This doesn't concern you, Flint. Go back inside. I'll be back in a few minutes."

Flint? Marcus Flint? Ginny finally placed the face. He had been the captain of Slytherin's Quidditch team her first and second year in Hogwarts. He'd been creepy then, with a nasty reputation of coming on to girls even when they were obviously not interested. He seemed creepier now, with the way his eyes were trying to find her through Malfoy's bulk, and the way his gaze had seemed to crawl over her face and body for the few seconds she'd looked at him.

"C'mon, Malfoy, aren't you even going to introduce me to your little girl friend?"

Ginny shuddered, uncertain which was worse: Marcus Flint trying to undress her with his eyes or being called Malfoy's 'girl friend'. She dared a quick peek around Malfoy's back and saw that Flint was walking toward them.

"This doesn't concern you, Flint," Malfoy repeated, this time his voice like steel. Ginny shivered at the sound.

"Go back inside and I'll be right back."

He turned back to Ginny and grabbed her upper arm in a tight grip. She barely had time to see Marcus Flint giving Malfoy a venomous look before she was propelled, clutching her kitten, back up the alley. She could almost feel Flint's eyes on her back and was so relieved to be getting away from him, she didn't really mind Malfoy's manhandling her.

When they turned the corner, Malfoy pulled her to a stop and glared at her.

"All joking aside, Weasley, what the hell are your parents about, letting you down here? There are hundreds of characters like Marcus Flint, just itching to find some ignorant little innocent like you wandering about! I'm walking you back to the main street, then you're on your own!"

Ginny was a bit angry, herself, at being called an ignorant innocent. She bit back the obvious comment about how Malfoy should be classed in the same category as Flint. Instead, she pulled her arm from his grasp.

"Not that it's any of your business, Malfoy, but I already told you! My kitten was frightened and ran down here. Thanks for all your help," she snapped sarcastically. "I think I can handle it from here!" She turned quickly away from him, but he grabbed her arm again. The kitten hissed, not liking being jostled around like this. She immediately stroked it to soothe it, cooing and comforting.

"Which way are you going to go, Weasley?" Malfoy demanded, although he kept his voice low and calm.

Ginny felt a stab of irritation that her kitten was responding as much to his voice as to hers. Trying to ignore his questioning gaze, Ginny glanced around. She was chagrined to find that she hadn't any idea which direction she'd come from. She looked back at Malfoy, seeing the hated smirk on his face.

"That's what I thought," he jeered softly.

Ginny considered just striking off on her own anyway, but a large, dangerous-looking man shoved past them at that moment, knocking against her arm and causing the kitten to mewl pitifully again. Ginny shivered as she looked around the dark, depressing alley.

"All right, Malfoy, you win," she said with a sigh. "I'd definitely appreciate it if you'd show me how to get back to Diagon Alley."

She tried to ignore the curl of his lip as he took her arm again. "This way, little weasel."

He led her quickly and surely through the twisted maze she hadn't even realized she had entered. To be perfectly honest, she only remembered making two turns, three at the most. But he seemed to know where he was going. The people they passed watched them curiously, but didn't interfere. He didn't talk, just pulled her along with him. When he finally stopped, Ginny could hear the dull roar that indicated a large crowd nearby. They were standing near the end of a short alley without shops, but Ginny could see people walking past the mouth of the alleyway. She looked questioningly at him.

"Is that Diagon Alley?" she asked.

He wasn't looking at her, he was scanning the alley and the passers by. He shook his head.

"Make a left at that corner; Diagon Alley will be just ahead. You should come out by Flourish and Blotts."

He finally looked at her, the expression on his face suddenly strange.

"Stay out of this place, Weasley," he said. "These people eat tiny things like you for lunch."

Ginny shuddered again and watched him turn to go. Without thinking, she reached out and grabbed his arm.

"Malfoy, wait!" she said quickly, stopping him.

He turned back to her and crossed his arms. Brows lowered, he waited.

"I-er-that is, I just wanted to thank you," she explained.

He rolled his eyes. "Forget it, Weasley. And forget what you saw. Just stay out of here."

Before he could leave, though, Ginny stepped up to him and stood on her tiptoes. Holding the kitten firmly in one hand, she wrapped the other around his neck and pulled his face to hers. Even as his brows shot up and his mouth opened in surprise, she planted a firm kiss on his slack lips.

"Thank you, Draco," she whispered, then spun and fled.

Ginny had been shocked at her actions, and now, a week later, she was still shocked. But it had happened so quickly, she hadn't been able to stop herself. And she was glad, too, in a way. Oh, she was smart and realistic enough to realize that Malfoy (Draco, she thought to herself, trying out the name as she had for the last week) had probably laughed all the way back to his meeting with Marcus Flint. But she was just idealistic enough to think that maybe something besides not wanting to be interrupted in his meeting had prompted Draco to escort her back to Diagon Alley. She wanted him to be a hero, because that would explain why she had felt compelled to kiss him, and why that brief instant of his lips on hers had been so much more exciting than the few fumbled kisses she shared with Neville, Colin or even Harry. And he'd seemed so protective of her when the other man had come out of the doorway. Ginny shuddered again as she remembered the look on Marcus Flint's face as he looked at her. Flint was definitely someone she would avoid at all costs. Not that she would ever see him again, with him being so much older than she. Thank all the fates and stars and any other entity she could think of; she never wanted to be in the same city with that creep, let alone as close as she'd been in Knockturn Alley.

With a brief shake of her head, Ginny dismissed the image of Marcus Flint and , with a bit more difficulty, dismissed the thought of Draco Malfoy as her knight on a charger, there to protect her. Then she rooted through her things for the book her father had given her this morning. She found it and studied the cover. It was a small, thin paperback. The front showed an abstract (at least it looked abstract to Ginny) drawing of a Kneazle. She couldn't imagine any creature looking as bad as the one pictured on the cover. Even her own kitten looked like a beauty compared to the drawing. The book was 'Knowing Your Kneazle' by Felina Knowles-Cattrall. It was, Ginny's father had said, a how-to book for new Kneazle owners. None of her friends had come by yet, so Ginny settled her kitten on her lap and opened the book. Before she could do more than peruse the title page, however, the door to the compartment slid open. The kitten jumped, hissed, then leaped off Ginny's lap. Dropping the book, Ginny reached for the kitten, but it was too late. The little creature was already rubbing against the ankles of the tall, thin blond boy standing in the doorway. Ginny flushed a bit, remembering that the last time she'd seen Malfoy, she had kissed him. Now she had to face him. It was time to put her new plan in effect. Ginny stood and smoothed the wrinkles from her robe.

"Well, if it isn't the weasel and the Kneazle," he drawled at her, a small smile curling his lips.

Ginny ignored his words and walked toward him. "Hullo, Malfoy. I see my kitten remembers her hero," Ginny said genially, giving him a friendly smile. Before he could answer, she stooped and scooped up the Kneazle. "She really seems to like you! Can't stand Ron, though. Odd, that, don't you think?"

Malfoy didn't answer right away. He'd given her a surprised look which he'd hid immediately, but now he studied the creature in Ginny's arms, an almost friendly look on his face. Finally he said, "I don't blame her. I'd say it shows she has remarkable good taste. Decided on a name yet?"

Ginny grinned. "Oh, yes. Her name is 'La Belle Femme Chat' or just Labelle for short. What do you think?"

Malfoy reached out to stroke the soft, scruffy fur on the Kneazle's head, but he gave Ginny an odd look. "Labelle, eh?" He looked down at the kitten again, meeting her large amber eyes. "Strange, but it fits."

He finally dropped his hand and glanced around the compartment. "Where are your friends, Weasley? Don't tell me they caught one look at your new pet and deserted you?"

Ginny's smile froze for just a second and Labelle gave a distressed mewl. "It's all right, sweet," she whispered to the kitten. "Its just Malfoy being Malfoy. He really does like you. Its just your mistress he has a problem with."

Ginny gently set the kitten on the seat and straightened, looking up into Malfoy's amused gray eyes.

"What?" he demanded, the amusement fading, when she continued to look at him.

Now it was Ginny's turn to look amused. She had decided how she would act with this unusual boy who made her angry and strangely excited at the same time, and now was the time to put her plan into action. Smiling broadly, Ginny spread her hands in denial.

"Nothing, Malfoy. I was just waiting. I mean, isn't it time for your usual run of insults? Or were you waiting for an audience? My mates should be here soon, if you'd like to wait for them?"

Ginny continued to watch Malfoy, noting the look of confusion cross his face. She could understand it. She wasn't supposed to be fighting back, she was supposed to be acting like a victim. He must be wondering how to best put her in her place. Well, Ginny wasn't about to let him think of a different attack than usual. She would keep him on his toes this year!

"What's the matter, Malfoy? Kneazle got your tongue? That's all right. You've got all year to insult me, so don't feel too badly that your first try didn't go well. If you're done here, it was lovely seeing you again, and all, but time for you to be off, right?"

Ginny had actually taken Malfoy's arm, tugged him to the door of the compartment, and gently pushed him through it. At her final words, she'd closed the door right in his amazed face. She couldn't believe it! She'd actually done it! And from the look on his face, Malfoy must not have believed that she'd actually kicked him out of her compartment with nothing more than words! Ginny leaned against the door, half-way expecting Malfoy to throw it open again and come storming in, demanding to know who she thought she was. She waited, but nothing happened. With a sigh of relief, Ginny moved back to where Labelle was curled up on the seat and sank down beside the small kitten.

"Well, Labelle," she whispered, "the first hurdle is past. We didn't do so badly, did we? Now, if only I can keep it up."

When her friends came in a few minutes later, Ginny greeted them happily, but kept the story of her encounters with Malfoy to herself. Maybe, in a few months, she would share. But right now, the experience was hers alone.