It was shaping up to be Slytherin's year. We were at the top of the house leader board with an over 100 point lead on the house in second place; Ravenclaw. And Quidditch wise we hadn't lost a single game this year. The team had played a game today against Hufflepuff and the poor opposing team made up of mostly new players had no idea how to defend themselves against our experienced team. Halfway through the game I almost began to pity the poor badgers who were being slaughtered on the field. Almost.
The game had ended with an overwhelming win for Slytherin; 360 to 50. After the game, the team retired to the common room for a well-deserved celebration. The house-elves had been distracted and the kitchens raided. Slughorn had been in such a good mood that he even turned a blind eye when he managed to catch some of the Slytherins on their way back to the common room.
And now, the captain and keeper was addressing the entire common room from atop a sofa as he held his drink aloft. Whatever he was saying was met with cheers from the house. When he reached the end of his speech Evan Bletchley clambered unsteadily back to the ground.
"Malfoy," he crowed loudly, spotting me in the crowd. Approaching me quickly, he slung a heavy arm over my shoulder and I winced slightly at the impact. "Did you enjoy the game?"
"I almost felt bad for the poor puffs," I admitted with a one shouldered shrug, watching as Bletchley staggered slightly on his feet. "Merlin's beard, how much have you had to drink?"
"Not a lot," he said, words slightly slurred. "Only one glass, but," here he leaned in close to whisper in my ear, "it was a glass of Black's secret recipe."
"Why would you even drink that poison?" I said exasperated, watching as Bletchley raised the glass to his lips again. "You know that stuff is powerful enough to make Hagrid drunk after a couple of glasses."
"Because I needed to forget!" he exclaimed loudly as I pushed my way through the crowd and dragged him long with me. "She dumped me! For one of those godforsaken puffs! So, we needed to kill them on the pitch today. She said I didn't love her – have you heard anything so stupid? Just because –"
"Sit here and be quiet," I ordered, cutting off his rambling before he could go into full on lover boy mode. Settling him on the sofa beside some of his teammates, I watched as his head fell onto one of the chaser's shoulders. He hiccupped slightly, mimicking that he was zipping his mouth shut. "You better not complain to me tomorrow about having a headache. This was all your decision."
"How's he holding up?" someone asked, coming up behind me.
I turned, glancing over my shoulder at Black as he walked through the crowd. It parted for him, giving him an easy path through the common room.
"He's completely trashed," I said with a shake of my head, "and you're the one responsible."
"Hey," he protested, pointing to Evan who was spouting some rubbish to the chaser who nodded mechanically. "He's the one that wanted to forget for a while."
I rolled my eyes, tucking some of my hair behind my ears. "Good game, Black."
"Thanks," he said with a smile that was just on the right side of arrogant as he raised his glass to his lips. He watched me over the rim of his cup and had I not been a Malfoy I would have shuffled on my feet. But I was a Malfoy and I wasn't going to let anyone make me feel unnerved – on the outside anyway. "Malfoy, have you heard anything about Slughorn's little club?"
"The Slug Club?" I rolled my eyes as I said dryly, "I've managed to avoid having to go to those ridiculous meals and parties since the beginning of the year. Although, rumour has it that you're one of his favourites."
"So are you," he said back just as smoothly. "Old Sluggy's rather disappointed that you've never been to any of his dinner's. They're really not that bad."
"Spending an evening with Slughorn isn't my idea of fun, Black."
"You should come along to the next one. It's good to try new things, Malfoy." He reached out to twirl the hair at the end of my braid and I watched him cautiously, drawing away from him. His eyes flickered up at the action, a smirk flittering around the corner of his mouth. "I'll even keep you company at the next one if you want?"
There was no way that he was asking me what I thought he was asking me. Not when he'd shown no signs of being liking or even being attracted to me. What was he up to?
I gave no answer to his question. Instead, I watched him in silence to see how he'd recover from the subtle rejection. He played it off completely, acting as if he hadn't asked me in the first place. Instead, he reached into his pocket to withdraw the snitch he'd caught during the game. My eyebrows rose in surprise when he held it out for me to take.
"For you," he said after I made no move to accept it.
"I'm not even going to ask how you managed to get that," I said finally, glancing away from him. "But you should keep it Black. You were the one to catch it and if you're so keen to give it away, hand it over to one of your fangirls."
He chuckled quietly, appearing unaffected by my words and stuffed the snitch back into his pocket. "I don't have fangirls, Malfoy."
He did have fangirls. The fangirls that he had, had mostly been his brothers. But, when the older Black had left school last year the heartbroken fangirls had instead turned their sights onto the younger Black. To prove my point, I gestured to the group of third years in the corner of the room who were watching him and giggling between themselves. Black, not believing me, turned to glance at the third years who turned red at his gaze.
Taking the chance to slip past him, I hurried away from him and towards my friends. I found them in the middle of the common room and when she spotted me, Mary handed me a glass.
"It looked like you needed it," she explained.
"Thanks Urquhart," I said with a thankful smile before taking a sip.
"Anytime Malfoy," she responded with a grin. She glanced over my shoulder in the direction I had appeared from. "So – what did Black want?"
"I think he asked me out?"
The day following the after party saw me sat in potions besides a very hungover Bletchley. From the moment I'd walked into the common room and found him sat on the sofa, he had begun pestering me about getting him a dosage of my pain potion for his headache. Why he didn't just ask one of the other girls I had no idea. But I was definitely not going to give him mine. It was time that he learnt not to touch any of Black's concoctions.
Even now, as we sat in potions, he would let out a groan whenever someone talked too loudly. So naturally I made the best of it by settling my cauldron down on the table with a thud. Bletchley had been too busy recoiling to glare at me.
My potion was bubbling away, looking the way the potion's textbook said it would, when Black turned to face me. I should have noticed that something was odd when he didn't settle into his usual seat at the back of the classroom and instead settled into the seat in front of my own. But I'd dismissed it without a second thought. And now, as he turned towards me, I knew that he'd done it with an ulterior motive.
He leaned back against my desk, piquing Evan's interest. Evan pretended to flicker through his potions textbook as he waited for his potion to come to a boil.
"What do you want Black?" I asked as I stirred some Acromantula venom into the potion.
"You never gave me an answer about my offer to take you to the next Slug Club meeting," he said without missing a beat. From the corner of my eye I caught Evan pause in his motions.
Again, I said nothing. Instead I raised my eyes to Black's waiting ones and wondered whether he was being obtuse on purpose. He held my gaze steadily and I glanced away from him to add the next ingredient to my potion. When I looked back to him he was waiting patiently for my answer.
"Black," I began, leaning my hip against the table as I assessed him closely. "Are you interested in more or something?"
"Malfoy," he copied, "what if I am?"
How could he say that so casually as if he was discussing nothing more interesting than the weather? My eyes strayed from his, but only to glance behind his shoulder towards his potion which he'd left unattended for too long.
"Your potion's bubbling over," I pointed out.
Black hurried away back to his desk, trying to save his potion. Satisfied that he wouldn't bother me, I went back to my own potion which was almost complete. I just needed to wait for it to thicken up and it was only a matter of time until –
"You have a habit of avoiding having to answer me."
With a sigh, I looked up at him and rolled my eyes. "Doesn't that say something to you?" I glanced back to my potion which was finally the correct consistency. As I began to spoon some into the vial, I couldn't help but add, "Lucius is engaged to your cousin and when they eventually marry, she'll become a Malfoy. Won't that make us related in some way?"
He scoffed, watching as I place the stopper on the vial and began to write my name on a small scrap of paper. "Aren't all purebloods related in one way or another?"
"We're all creatures of inbreeding," I murmured dryly, tying the label onto the potion vial.
"Besides, your brother approves of me."
My mouth dropped open in shock, my head snapped up to look at him and my blood pressure was beginning to rise. Black raised an eyebrow at me.
"You asked my brother?" I hissed, straightening up to my full height. He had the nerve to nod. "What gave you the idea that my brother has any say in who I date?"
I had some more colourful words for Black but I swallowed them when I caught sight of Slughorn approaching us. Black was unsurprised when our professor stood between our desks, looking between the pair of us. With a sigh, I was tempted to massage my temple; I was going to have to send Lucius a howler. Just because he'd gotten himself a Black, why was he so hell bound on getting me one?
"The pair of you seemed to be so engrossed in conversation. I just had to see what it was you were talking about," Slughorn explained with a slight laugh. I shuffled slightly on my feet, fiddling with the potion vial. "Now Miss Malfoy, there's no need to look so worried. What were you talking about, my dear?"
"The next Slug Club meeting, sir," Black piped up, gaining the older man's attention.
"Is that so?" Slughorn was positively beaming as he turned to address me. "Your spot is still open Miss Malfoy. It would be such a pleasure to have you join us for an evening of good food and splendid conversation."
"I'll check my schedule, professor," I said with a small smile, wondering which illness I could use this time to get me out of it. Last time I had claimed to have bad period cramps and the man had assured me it was fine before I'd even said the men in menstrual cycle.
"I was just in the midst of trying to convince her to accompany me, sir."
Slughorn turned to Black with a hearty chuckle and slapped him on the back, completely missing the way I narrowed my eyes at him. The two shared a grin and I sighed internally.
"Good luck to you, my boy." He leaned in closer to Black and spoke quietly, assuming that I wouldn't hear him. He was wrong. "Don't lose your confidence Regulus. She'll come around soon enough. Miss Malfoy's only playing hard to get."
"Of course sir," Black said politely, eyes flickering towards me. He knew that I'd heard it all.
Slughorn drew away from Black and cleared his throat. "Speaking of the Slug Club, the next meeting is after the holiday. It would be wonderful for the pair of you to come together."
The holiday was drawing closer and with it came the official announcement of Narcissa and Lucius's engagement. The news, unsurprisingly, took that castle by storm with everyone vying for an invitation to the engagement party that was to be held in the manor over the holiday. Little did they know that they were barking up the wrong tree. I didn't have the power to invite anyone to the party that was sure to be unnecessarily extravagant. That power was in the hands of my mother and Narcissa's mother.
I was settled at the Slytherin table for some breakfast when the owls arrived, dropping letters throughout the hall. A letter fell in front of me, bearing our family seal. I reached out to pick it up, vaguely listening to whatever Evan and Mary were talking to me about and broke the seal on the back of the envelope.
The letter was short. It was from mother and she wrote that she had ordered my robes for the engagement party so I had no need to worry about what to wear. She went on to write that until the engagement officially took place during the party, I needed to get along well with the 'Black heir' lest my behaviour towards him make him convince Cissa to back out of the engagement. Clearly mother was already going senile.
She finished the letter by asking me to personally extend an invitation to said Black heir and I groaned, folding the letter back up again. Scribbled on the back of the letter was a note from Lucius who wrote to remind he that he wanted Regulus there so I was to be extra nice to him. Since our potions lesson Black thankfully hadn't mentioned the Slug Club meeting again but it was slightly awkward around him because he liked to ask probing questions that I had no answer for.
"What's the matter?" Mary asked, accepting the letter when I held it out for her to take. Evan read the letter from over her shoulder. Reaching the end of the letter, they both looked to me with expectant expressions. "Well? What's the problem?"
"I don't want to have to ask him," I admitted.
"Let me tell you something about boys," Evan said with a roll of his eyes. "If you don't make a big deal of this then he won't make a big deal of it either. Trust me on this." He gestured to the entrance where Black was exiting the hall. "Give it a go."
"You better be right," I muttered, rising to my feet to follow Black out.
My footsteps quickened as I tried to catch up to him and called out his name when we were in the hallway. He stopped in his steps at the sound of my voice, waiting for me to catch up to him. When I was at his side, I went to speak when he beat to me to.
"What do you think you're doing?" he snapped coldly, taking me by surprise.
"I'm sorry?" I questioned quietly. Why was he acting so differently?
He crossed his arms over his chest, tapping his foot impatiently. "I don't have time for this Malfoy, what do you want?"
"Are you feeling unwell?" I asked, stepping closer to him.
"I don't see how that's any of your concern."
His tone had me snapping my mouth shut. And this was why boys weren't worth my time. I drew away from him without a sound and if I saw the regret flicker through his features then I said nothing about it. Letting out a breath, I straightened up and addressed him with my coldest expression.
"Listen here, you useless waste of pure blood, I don't know why you're acting like a 12-year-old that's on her first period, but I'm going to say this once so you better pay attention." Crossing my arms over my chest, I raised an eyebrow when he went to intercede and spoke before he could. "My brother and your cousin are having their engagement party at the manor sometime during the holiday. Your family will get their formal invitation but I was told to invite you personally since we're in the same castle. If you're going to be such a twat during the party then it's probably best you don't attend but do be sure to tell Lucius about it. He's the one that wants you there the most. He said you had business to deal with."
With those words, I turned on my heels and marched back to the great hall. Merlin, I couldn't believe that I'd left my breakfast to talk to him. And my tea was probably cold by now! What a pointless waste of time.
I distantly heard Black call out to me but I made no sign to indicate that I'd heard him and headed into the great hall.
The day of the engagement party finally arrived and with it came dozens of pureblood families wishing to extend their congratulations to the couple. All around the room the adults were playing their stifling game of pureblood politics, looking for the next match to make for their children who'd reached age and, as the only unattached Malfoy child left, I was doing my very best to stay out of it. That was the reason that I was standing at the edge of the room, talking to my friends who had arrived at the party with their parents.
"I hate these parties," Mary confessed, raising her glass to her lips. "I can't help but feel like every mother in the room is eyeing us up for their spoiled brat of a son."
"I get what you mean," I said with a roll of my eyes. "Whenever I see someone's father talking quietly in the corner to mine I can't help but think that he's trying to work out some sort of betrothal."
Evan leaned in closer to us and whispered conspiratorially, "Let me let you two beautiful roses in on a little secret; both of those hunches? They're true." He chucked seeing the disgusted look Mary and I shared. "I have no idea why they continue to try and work things out in that way. Most couples date in secret anyway."
"I guess those stupid traditions will have to die out when we become their age," I said, sighing a little.
Mary nodded thoughtfully at my words, eyes flickering around the room. She spotted something, nudging Evan with her shoulder, the action jostling him slightly and making him spill his drink on his shirt. He scowled at her before reaching into his pocket for his wand. When the stain was clear, he finally turned to Mary and followed her line of sight.
"Since when have they been so close?" Evan asked after a moment, looking to me for an answer.
"Who?" I asked, turning to see who they were looking at.
When I saw what it was, I rolled my eyes. Standing in the centre of the room was Lucius as he spoke to Black. The two appeared in a world of their own, speaking closely and paying no attention to the people around them. My stomach twisted uncomfortably as I couldn't help but wonder –
Lucius hadn't gotten Regulus involved that death eater stuff. Surely not. But that would explain the odd mood swings …
"Malfoy?" Evan called out to me, bringing me from my musings.
"I guess it's because they're going to be related soon," I murmured quietly, turning away from the pair.
"Speaking of your brother," Mary said, pointing in Lucius' direction. "It looks like he's trying to call for you."
Glancing towards Lucius again, I sighed. Sure enough, he was calling out for me. Turning back to face my friends I gave them an apologetic smile and began to delve back into the crowd. As I moved through the crowd I winced when I heard the murmurs, wondering whether I had a betrothal in the works. Everyone assumed that Lucius and Narcissa were arranged but they'd chosen each other. And now, now that Lucius was 'taken' their attention had shifted to me. Although, judging from the robes mother had picked out for me, maybe that had been the idea?
Salazar, some people were just far too nosey for their own good.
"What do you want Lucius?" I asked when I reached the pair of them. Briefly nodding towards Regulus, I turned my attention back to my brother who raised an eyebrow at the action.
"Regulus was just talking to me about you," he admitted, turning to the younger boy who did nothing but smile that arrogant smile.
"I thought we'd already had a conversation about you talking to my brother about me?" I questioned shrewdly, eyeing him from the corner of my eye.
Lucius chuckled slightly and I turned my narrowed eyes to my brother who silenced them instantly. The two pureblood males shared a look and I felt my stomach begin to sink. Merlin, I'd grown up with pureblood boys looking at each other like that and each time it meant trouble for me. Whether that was them trying to pin the blame for something on me when we were children, or them trying to 'woo' me over so I'd allow them to court me.
"What's happened now?"
"Regulus was just asking for my permission to take you to the next Slug Club meeting," Lucius confessed. "And I'm thinking of giving him permission."
"First of all, why is your permission necessary?" Looking towards Regulus with a raised eyebrow I demanded, "Shouldn't you be after my permission?"
"You would have said no," Regulus answered instantly.
"And that should have told you how I feel about you."
When he had no other words for me, I turned on my heels. Intending to return to my friends, I made a face when Regulus followed after me, using his long legs to catch up to me in a matter of steps. Salazar, could he not hear the stir that his public chasing of me was making amongst these old biddies?
"You're still mad at me," he commented casually, hands in his pockets.
I scoffed, turning to him for a moment. "What gave you that idea? Do I seem like the sort of person to hold a grudge for that long?"
His answering smirk said enough. I went to brush past him again when he caught my arm, halting me in my steps. My eyes went to his arm instantly. His sleeve had been pushed up slightly and I saw the very edges of dark ink. And just like that, my heart was plummeting. I looked to his eyes before he could see my reaction and cleared my throat. He was waiting again.
"Your behaviour's been very confusing lately," I admitted quietly, trying to get my voice to sound like it normally would. But it was proving difficult when I was so concerned about him. "Are you in love with me or something?"
This time when he didn't answer me, I couldn't bring myself to get angry at him. Instead, I was left to wonder why the smartest men in my life all made such a stupid decision.
I'd have liked to have been able to claim that after the engagement party, after Regulus had walked out of the manor, that I hadn't thought of him. But I had. The frustrating boy had remained in the very centre of my thoughts as I tried over and over to convince myself that I was seeing things, that there was no way that he had done something so utterly stupid. And yet, I knew the truth. I had grown up seeing that mark imprinted onto my father's skin and later, onto my brother's.
"What's wrong with you?" Mary asked as she settled down at the Slytherin table for breakfast. "You keep sighing; you've been doing that since we came back from holiday."
"It's nothing," I dismissed quietly, biting my bottom lip until it became raw. Wincing at the pain, I touched it gingerly and sighed again. I ignored the look Mary threw my way.
"Have you noticed something about Black?" Evan asked as he joined us. He began to pile food onto his plate. "There's something weird about him."
"You've noticed it too?" I asked slightly more eagerly than I should have.
Evan paused halfway through buttering his slice of toast. He raised an eyebrow and wondered aloud, "But have we noticed the same thing Malfoy?"
"Why do you like to talk in circles?" Mary complained from his side. "Just speak clearly."
"Fine." Evan rolled his eyes, putting his slice of toast down and leaning across the table slightly. He spoke quietly, making sure no one else heard his words. "He approached me last night while I was getting ready for bed. He said he wanted advice –"
"About what?" I cut in, "Is he regretting a decision he made or –"
"Will you let me finish?" he snapped. "He wanted advice about how to get you to like him back, Malfoy."
"What?" I questioned incredulously. That was the last thing I expected to hear, especially since he'd gone and branded himself as one of Lord Voldemort's followers. Salazar, was that really his biggest worry?
"He asked you too?" Mary questioned, looking to Evan curiously. "He approached me a couple of months back."
The two of them shared a look before looking back to me to see what I would say. But I was so dumbfounded that I did nothing more than shrug.
"Does this mean he's been acting weirdly because of what the pair of you told him?"
"I didn't tell him anything," Mary defended, gesturing to Evan.
Noticing this, Evan raised his hands in surrender, "Well I didn't either! I told him that if he wanted to win you over then he needed to do it on his own or it wouldn't be sincere."
I dropped my head into my hands with a sigh, "So you're telling me that all of his flirty behaviour – it was serious then?"
At their twin nods, I rose to my feet determinedly. Ignoring their questions asking where I was going, I headed further down the table. If he was serious about this, about me, then what was the harm in humouring him. It was only one date after all.
I approached Regulus as he sat, talking to one of his dormmates and stood behind the pair of them. Clearing my throat to get their attention, I gestured for the other boy to move further down the table. He did with a slight grumble and I settled into the empty seat, looking to Regulus. He stared down at me with raised eyebrows.
"What are you doing?"
"What does it look like?" I questioned in return. "I'm here to talk to you obviously."
"Alright, what do you want to talk about then?" He looked like he was struggling to fight a small smile and I couldn't blame him. I was pretty cute.
"I'm assuming Slughorn owled you about the next Slug Club meeting, the same way he owled me?" He nodded, eyebrows furrowed in confusion. I sighed, for a smart boy sometimes he sure was slow. "You can pick me up from the common room."
He caught my hand I stood up, planning to return to my breakfast. His hold on my hand tightened slightly as I glanced down at him. Regulus's face was an expressive portrait of his confusion, the slight hope that he dared to feel and the disbelief.
"Spell it out completely Malfoy, before I get the wrong idea."
"I thought you wanted to go to this ridiculous Slug Club thing together?" He nodded and I smiled. "Well, like I said, you can pick me up from the common room."