Summary: A chance encounter tangles Ginny Weasley's life with that of the most unlikely of people - Draco Malfoy.
Disclaimer: Not mine. No profit being made here, no infringement intended. Please don't sue me?
A/N: This was supposed to be a little one-off Ficmas story. Then it got big and developed a plot of its own, and now it's...well, it's a big story with a more complicated plot. And it's not a Ficmas. Many thanks to everyone who looked over this for me, particularly SWMF, who emerged triumphant in the Great Comma War of '03.
Dark Directed: Part One
WHEN most I wink, then do mine eyes best see
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow's form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.
- Sonnet XLIIL, William Shakespeare
It started with the book.
The book showed up in Ginny's cauldron at the beginning of her first year, an innocent blank journal tattered and bruised with age, with the words "T. M. Riddle" stamped on the cover and an incalculable evil lurking in its pages. Had she known about Tom at the time she never would have written in it, but she was a child and her parents didn't tell those sorts of stories to their children. Dumbledore said no one really knew about Tom Riddle and who he later became; it was a well-kept secret, one that seemed terribly wrong to keep, in Ginny's mind.
Ginny knew a thing or two about secrets. She used to be an open little girl, talkative and outgoing, but that changed when she met Tom. One of the things Tom showed her was how to keep secrets. She learned about having things to hide; at first the things that Tom had made her do, and later, her true thoughts and feelings, behind a mask of calm. Tom had taught her a lesson, and she'd learned it well.
After her first year was over, her parents and brothers gratefully forgot about the whole incident, but Ginny never did. She simply didn't bring it up, seeing it was easier for everyone if she didn't mention it, if her family thought there were no lasting consequences. All her brothers - Percy, the twins, even Ron - seemed to think that she wasn't old enough for secrets, even though for her whole first year she'd had the biggest one of all. Harry had solved the mystery, but she had held the answer in her heart for eight long months. And he had stayed in her heart, deeper than anyone knew - that was just one of her secrets.
The nightmares were another. They started up right after Ginny's third year; that was the year that Harry entered the Tri-Wizard tournament and very nearly ended up dead, the year He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named returned, the year the real terror began. It was as though before You-Know-Who came back, Tom had lain dormant. But now he had returned with a vengeance, and Ginny sometimes woke up two and three times a night in a cold sweat, gasping and shivering, the echo of a smooth voice in her ears, the feel of a scratchy quill and grainy paper under her fingers.
The first time it happened she had crawled out of bed and down the hall to curl up in Bill's bed, and let his warm bulk and the sound of his breathing lull her back to sleep. Ginny woke up before him to creep quietly back to her own bed, and Bill gave her a small hug at breakfast and didn't mention it to anyone. It started to be a habit for her: whenever she had one she'd go bunk with one of her brothers and be back in her own bed in the morning with Mum and Dad none the wiser. Thankfully she had a lot of brothers, and she didn't think any of them caught on to how often she needed the security of another presence in order to sleep at night.
Ginny did a special project about night terrors for Defense Against The Dark Arts class in fourth year to see if she could find a way to stop the nightmares, but never managed to find one. Professor Delacour gave her top marks on her essay on the subject and Dad was full of praise for her grasp of DADA, but praise, however gratifying, didn't help. Ginny eventually accepted that the dreams were simply something she had to live with, a remnant of the ugliness of her first year that she wouldn't - couldn't - talk about. She learned spells to place on her curtains at school so that she wouldn't disturb the other girls in her dormitory, and taught herself to make a tiny light that would burn all night, so she'd never wake up in the dark.
It was because of the nightmares that she was feeling weary and drained; probably not the best way to begin her first day of fifth year at Hogwarts, but there was little to be done about it. The dreams were always worst on the first day back to school. Her trunk was packed and settled at the foot of the stairs, next to Ron's and Harry's and Hermione's. Ron's friends had come to stay the last few days before start of term, and they were all traveling together to King's Cross to catch the Hogwarts Express.
"Ginny! Ginny, come down and eat!" Mum's voice rose up the stair, and Ginny set a bookmark in her Muggle Studies text, dragged herself off her bed and went down to the kitchen.
Ron, Harry and Hermione were already there, as was Percy; he hadn't yet moved into his own flat because he was trying to save up a nest egg before he got 'round to proposing to his long-time girlfriend, Penelope. Fred and George had moved out at the beginning of summer, buoyed by the success of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes and much to Mum's dismay. Ginny slid into an empty chair and helped herself to a slice of toast. "Morning, Mum," she said as a helping of scrambled eggs appeared on her plate.
"Good morning, dear. You look tired...didn't you sleep well?"
"I slept fine, Mum." Ginny smiled at her mother's concerned glance. "Just - you know. School."
Mum accepted the deflection and reached over to whack Ron's hand - he'd been reaching for one of the toast slices resting on the edge of Harry's plate.
"You're not looking forward to the new year?" Hermione asked. She had a book tucked between her mug and the edge of her plate, and was reading it page by page between talking to Ron and Harry. "I can't wait. We get to start on all sorts of interesting new subjects this year."
"Yes, but you're mad," Ron said. "Utterly barking." He hooted with laughter as Hermione threatened him with her fork.
Ginny smiled and settled into her scrambled eggs, listening to Ron, Harry and Hermione chatter with half an ear. Ron and Harry stopped harassing Hermione in favour of talking about the upcoming Quidditch season at Hogwarts. Ron had made the team last year as a keeper, replacing Oliver Wood, and he and Harry had been planning game strategy all summer long, often rallying Ginny, Hermione and whatever brothers happened to be available into running through their ideas in the air.
"Well, we've got to get going if we want to make it to the station on time," Mum said as Ginny finished her breakfast. She snatched Ron's playbook out of his hands and picked up Hermione's text, closing them both and handing them back to their respective owners. "You'll have hours on the train to plan Quidditch strategies and if we miss it, I don't know how you'll get to school, with your father already at work. Come along."
The trip to King's Cross was uneventful, and soon they were milling around on Platform 9 3/4 with the other Hogwarts students. Ginny greeted her friends Colin and Zoë happily, and hugged them both as Ron, Harry and Hermione met up with their house-mates.
"We should go find ourselves a compartment," Zoë said earnestly - Zoë tended to do everything earnestly. Shorter than Ginny, with mouse-brown hair, she was a half-Muggle Gryffindor from Wales and a good friend to both Ginny and Colin. "We don't want to have to share with some Slytherins or something."
They ended up in a compartment near the end of the train, with Colin's friend Sanjeet and little brother Dennis, playing Exploding Snap and talking about the year ahead - Zoë and Ginny were both taking Arithmancy and Muggle Studies, so they compared summer assignments and shared horror stories about Professor Vector's homework until the train reached Hogwarts station.
In another compartment, Draco Malfoy sighed and rested his forehead against the cool glass of the window, staring out at the rolling hills of Northumbria as the Hogwarts Express wound its way toward the school. His parents had seen him off with the usual warnings about being careful and only talking to the right people and the importance of maintaining the appearance of civility to Harry Potter. Mother had once again denied his request to transfer to Durmstrang, saying she couldn't bear having him so far away, not that she ever did more than send him candy or the occasional book anyway. It infuriated Draco. He was sick of Hogwarts, bored with the idiotic charade his father insisted on, tired of waiting for things to happen - the promised war, his promised place as a Death Eater, getting out of this stupid school and dealing with these stupid people.
And right on cue Crabbe and Goyle showed up, shoving into the compartment and taking up too much room, grunting in their dull voices about terrorizing the firsties. Draco rolled his eyes and ignored them utterly; he traced a lazy pattern in the condensation on the window and sighed again. Only two more years, he thought, this one and the next, and then I'm done with this stupidity. I can get on with real life.
Real life seemed a long way off today, with the slow chugging of the train setting the tone for the whole day. Sluggish, tedious, with nothing in sight to break the endless monotony. He couldn't even go bother Potty and the Weasel to amuse himself - Father had made it perfectly clear this year that he wasn't to go around making more of an enemy of Potter than Potter already was. Their position right now was too delicate for 'childish games', so Draco was deprived of one of his few sources of amusement until Father lifted the ban. No getting Potty in trouble, no tormenting his ridiculous friends, no harassing Hagrid, no trying to get anyone expelled or fired or even detention. It was going to be a long and boring year. Draco understood the reasons behind Father's decision, but faced with the prospect of spending 6 hours in a compartment with no one but Crabbe and Goyle for entertainment - and then a whole year at Hogwarts with more of same - the restriction chafed.
"I'm bored," Crabbe rumbled after a while. "Can we go find something to do, Draco?"
"I'm not stopping you, am I?" Draco snapped. He didn't bother to lift his head from the window. "Just remember what I told you about bothering Potter. If you do, I'll get in trouble with Father."
Crabbe and Goyle lumbered off, leaving Draco to his brooding. All through last year, Draco had been deathly excited; the Dark Lord had returned, things were changing, and despite Potter's continued existence, life was good. But then, nothing had happened. And nothing kept happening, all summer long. At least, nothing that Father would tell him about. Draco got the sense that Father was keeping things from him, hiding the real details of what Lord Voldemort was doing out of some sort of desire to protect Draco until he felt Draco was ready. Draco couldn't prove it, but he could sense it happening. He was being excluded and it was infuriating.
Draco sighed again and rolled his forehead against the window. This year was going to be horrid. Just horrid. Dull and boring, and nothing was going to be any fun, and he'd probably spend the whole year losing to that stupid four-eyed git at Quidditch and it'd just be one more thing he'd have to justify to Father. Draco was already in a foul mood, and the year hadn't even really begun.
Ginny slid into the seat next to Zoë at the Gryffindor table, craning her neck to see over Colin and his friend Sanjeet. "Why'd you boys have to sit right there?" she joked. "I can't see the firsties."
"Not that it matters," Colin said. "No Weasleys this year. Just think of the poor teachers, year after next, when they'll have none of you gingers in their classes!"
Zoë laughed. "They'll probably be thanking their lucky stars! After a decade of her brothers?"
"Oh, they're not that bad," Ginny said, staunchly defending her family name. "We're just...high spirited."
"That's one way to put it," Colin smiled. Ginny was saved from more teasing as the other girls in her year, Adrienne and Shelley, descended on their seats in a giggling wave. The Welcoming Feast was punctuated by bits of gossip and tales of how everyone had spent the summer, and Ginny let herself be carried along by the other girls' enthusiasm, swept up to their dormitory amidst enthusiastic talk about boys, Quidditch and the latest hair charms. Ginny was happily exhausted when she finally dropped into her bed and set her charms on the curtains.
The school year began in earnest the following day, as their professors tried to make up for the lost summer months by assigning twice as much homework. Colin, Zoë and Ginny staggered back into the common room that evening loaded down with books and parchments. Colin shouldered his bag onto the nearest table with a resounding thump. "This is insane!" he groaned. "They're trying to kill us!"
"They're not," Ginny said. "This happens every year, and every year you complain about it. It's no more work than we ever get." She slid into the seat across the table and pulled her Transfiguration text out of her bag.
"Says the girl who's taking on an other special project for DADA this year," Colin said to Ginny. "Haven't you got enough to do?"
Ginny shrugged without looking up from her book. "I like it."
"Because you're mad. We've got prep for NEWTS already, and Snape's got it in for us this year for potions, you can just tell by the essay he's assigned us already, and you're picking up extra work. You are mad."
"Oh, stop," Zoë said. She poked Colin with her quill. "It'd go quicker if you'd stop complaining and start working."
"Well, I'm going to be busy enough this year without loads of homework! Hey, Gin, I asked Harry if he'd let me take pictures of the team this year, and he said I could. Isn't that brill?" Colin beamed at the prospect.
"That's wonderful, Colin," Ginny said absently. She flipped back and forth through the first chapter of her textbook, looking for the reference she needed for her assignment, only half-listening to Colin and Zoë as they chattered. Colin still hero-worshiped Harry, though he was more subdued about it than he had been in Ginny's first year. It was one of the reasons they'd become friends in the first place, but Ginny's own crush on Harry had faded to a shadow of it's former self. She kept herself too busy to think much about boys.
The first few days back at school were always the hardest, as Ginny readjusted to being back in the castle, settling the memories enough so that they wouldn't bother her. The second night back in the dorm Ginny shut her curtains early, leaving the other girls to their usual late-night chatter about boys and robes. She didn't often take part in those discussions, though she'd usually leave her curtains open and listen in as Adrienne and Shelley dissected their favourite subjects - Ginny just wasn't that interested.
She woke in the night with whispering susurration of massive scales on stone still in her ears, making her dizzy with fright until she identified the noise as the wind from the open window pushing at her curtains. Ginny sighed and sat up in the dark, groping for her wand. There was no way she'd get back to sleep tonight, so she might as well give it up and see if she could get some work done. She pulled on her robe and stuffed her feet into her slippers, tiptoed cautiously across the dorm and slipped out the door.
When she had first arrived back at school, Professor Delacour, the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, had given Ginny a key to the DADA classroom. Ginny had tacit permission to use the room for research or just as a quiet place to study. Professor Delacour had originally come to Hogwarts as a member of the Beauxbatons Triwizard Tournament delegation and had returned in Ginny's fourth year to take over the DADA position. The beautiful young Frenchwoman was the first DADA professor Ginny could remember who'd lasted more than a year. Ginny quite admired her, in fact, and she wasn't the only one. Ron seemed very taken with her, though Hermione had said a great many rude things on the subject when Professor Delacour took the position.
The DADA classroom was one of Ginny's favourite places, full of weird and interesting things from dried out mummy's hands to strange, malformed creatures pickled in neatly-arranged jars. Bookcases and wardrobes lined the walls, full of even more oddities that Professor Delacour used in her lessons. Ginny smiled as she unlocked the door and shut it carefully behind her, inhaling the slightly musty air happily. This place was her refuge, more than any other room in the castle, where she didn't have to be afraid, where she knew she could handle anything. She settled down with her book bag and quills, and set to work on her essay.
That night went quickly, as did the first few months of the year, with only the odd trip to Hogsmeade or Quidditch match to break up the regular monotony of school. Gryffindor was doing well in the Quidditch cup, as usual; Ron's and Harry's incessant strategizing over the summer was paying off, and they hadn't lost a single game. It was nearly Christmas now, and the DADA classroom was quite chilly despite the warming charms Ginny had placed on the bench she was using as her research station. Her project this year was a research paper on vampiric history, and Ginny gratefully wielded it tonight as an excuse to escape Gryffindor Tower and the endless talk of boys and robes and hairstyles that had taken the fifth year girls by storm. She would much rather immerse herself in the history of vampires than sit and listen to Zoë, Adrienne and Shelley bemoan their single status and blather on about hair charms. She liked the other girls, she really did, but she simply couldn't stand that sort of thing on a regular basis. It was so frivolous, worrying about hair charms when You-Know-Who was getting more powerful every day.
Ginny flexed her cramping fingers and closed the book she was taking notes from. She stretched out her back and lifted the heavy book, carrying it back to re-shelve it and choose a new one. Ginny rested her hand on the wardrobe beside the bookcase, standing on her toes to slot the old book carefully into place. Her fingers drifted over the other titles - Vampires and You, A Revised History of Vampires, Bloodsucking for Fun and Profit! - Ginny paused and giggled at that one before she drew out Professor Delacour's copy of The Dance of Dracul. She returned to her desk and dropped the heavy tome, refreshed her warming charm and settled herself back down to her research. She was so engrossed in her reading that she barely heard the snick of the wardrobe door as it came unlatched, the soft creak as it opened.
It was his voice that turned her attention away from her essay, that voice she knew better than her own. Smooth and strong, as strong as his will, it snaked through the room in a sibilant whisper. "Ginny..."
Ginny thought her heart would stop. Her quill slipped from nerveless fingers as she spun around, rising out of her seat in shock. She stared at the apparition standing in front of Professor Delacour's wardrobe in horror - his fine-boned face, his soft black hair, the deep brown eyes she had once thought held the secrets of the universe, the boy who'd been as much a part of her heart as Harry had, all those years ago. The boy who was the embodiment of her worst nightmares.
This could not be happening.
Ginny stumbled away from the desk, unthinkingly moving to put distance between her and him. Her mouth worked but she couldn't seem to find her voice - it was lost somewhere behind the impossibility of Tom, standing here in her safe, normal DADA classroom and calling her name.
"It's been so long since you've written me. So long. I've missed you." Tom took a step forward, one elegant hand rising as though to reach out and caress her hair. "I missed you so much, and you left me all alone." There was the barest hint of anger in that silky voice, the tiniest suggestion of reproach. "Ginny."
Ginny sank to her knees in the aisle, her legs unable to bear her weight. "Please..." She shook her head, scrabbling at the floor in a vain attempt to get away. "Please, no." She couldn't move, couldn't think, couldn't breathe, and he was coming closer and closer, just like her dreams, just like the Chamber, and there was nothing she could do to stop him. She could feel her eyes growing heavy just as they had then, no matter how hard she tried to fight it, terrified of what would happen if she took her eyes away from him, even for a moment.
And then a voice cut through her terror, firm and commanding. "Riddikulus!"
There was a sharp crack, and her eyes flew open as Tom vanished in a cloud of smoke, leaving her half-terrified and half-bereft on her knees in the empty room, blinking up at her rescuer with astonished eyes.
Who was staring at her with a faintly shocked expression. "Weasley?"
Ginny sagged with relief. It was all she could do not to break down completely and launch herself at him, pathetic impulse though it was; she wanted to fling herself on him in gratitude even though she hated him, and he hated her and her brothers and all her family, and would probably rush off to the dungeons to wash her touch from his body if she dared it. As it was, the tears that had threatened from the minute Tom - the boggart - had slid from the cupboard were welling up and spilling down her cheeks. She still couldn't move, couldn't stop shaking long enough to get her feet under her, and Malfoy just stared at her as though she'd gone mad.
"Who the hell was that?" he asked sharply, taking two long steps into the room.
Ginny shook her head, unsure if her voice would even work. She drew one shuddering breath and then another, willing her heart to slow, willing herself to calm. Malfoy frowned impatiently, swaying slightly on his feet as though he were fighting an internal battle, curiosity warring with his desire to just leave her there. Finally he strode toward her and grabbed her by the arms, hauling her bodily to her feet. "I asked you a question, Weasley," he said sharply, giving her a small shake. "Who or what was that?"
She shook her head again, lips moving silently, trying to form words. "Tom," she finally whispered. "Tom." She breathed in deep and let it go slowly, letting the air settle and steady her just as Professor Delacour had taught her. It worked, too; she already felt less wobbly, and she managed to get her feet under her. "It doesn't matter," she said, distantly pleased that her voice wasn't shaking as much. She pulled away inch by inch. "Thank you for getting rid of it."
Malfoy frowned, his long hands tightening on her arms. "It was only a boggart, Weasley," he said contemptuously. "What is it about this 'Tom' that frightened you so badly you couldn't remember the counter-curse? That's something you learn in third year."
Ginny shrugged, her eyes sliding away from his. "It doesn't matter." She backed up another step, so that he had to either let her go or follow.
Malfoy dropped his hands and crossed his arms over his narrow chest, watching her closely as she collected her books from the desk and shoved them into her bag. "Have it your way, Weasley. What are you doing hanging 'round in deserted classrooms, anyway? Get out of here, before I take points from Gryffindor for loitering."
Ginny bit her lip and glanced up at him, his thin mouth marred by an unattractive sneer. She hesitated, torn between feeling grateful for his assistance and wanting to smash his over-bred face for being a bastard - of all the people who could have encountered her paralyzed with fear by a boggart, stuck-up, horrible, mean Malfoy was the very last one she would have chosen. She ducked her head again under the weight of his disapproving gaze and sidled out of the room, fleeing down the hall toward the safety of Gryffindor Tower.
She felt as though his cold eyes were fastened on her all the way there.
Draco Malfoy didn't know what to think.
He frowned at the library stacks in front of him while he reflected on Weasley's boggart, the same thing he'd been reflecting on since coming across the girl in an empty classroom after supper yesterday. A part of him chastened that he was taking far too great an interest in the stupid thing, that there was no real reason why he should care that the little chit had been terrified out of her mind by a stupid bogeyman, but it was an intriguing subject nevertheless. Far too interesting to pass up, especially as he had precious little else to entertain him since Father's imposed ban on Potter-bashing. The little Weasel wasn't a Potter, after all - not yet, anyway - and he badly wanted to know what it was about that boy that had scared her so thoroughly.
The boy had obviously been a Slytherin prefect, for Draco had caught a glimpse of an oddly striped green tie and a well-polished prefect's badge before he'd blasted the boggart into shreds. The thing was, Draco knew all the Slytherin prefects from his tenure at Hogwarts and Tom, whoever he was, wasn't one of them. At least knowing that the boy was a prefect gave him a place to start looking, and armed with this scrap of knowledge Draco strode further into the stacks toward the place where the old school memorial books were kept and yanked a handful out.
Hours later he was still at it, sitting tailor-fashion on the floor with piles of books around him, heedless of the damage he was doing his trousers. The book he held open on his lap was dated '1945', and staring up at him from the page for Head Boy that year was Weasley's mysterious Tom.
Tom Riddle was his full name, and he was a Slytherin prefect - or had been. He was listed as Head Boy in the 1944/45 school year, which made Draco furrow his brow. How had the little Weasley had managed to encounter a teenaged Tom Riddle, and often enough that he'd be her greatest fear? There wasn't anything in the boy's list of accomplishments, arranged in neat columns below his picture, that bespoke any reason to fear. And the list was impressive. Head Boy, Quidditch captain, awards for special service to the school, honours for top marks, honours for magical merit, honours for everything under the sun, really. By all accounts Tom had been a model student, handsome, brave, upstanding and good. Much like Potter, Draco thought, his lip curling. Wonder why he wasn't in Gryffindor, the goody-goody.
And as though conjured by the thought, Scarhead himself chose that moment to come 'round the corner of the bookshelf and stare down at Draco in astonishment, both his sidekicks peering over his shoulders. Draco stiffened as much as his undignified position allowed and glared at them all. "What are you looking at, Potter?"
"What on earth are you doing, Malfoy?" the mudblood asked, while Potty and the Weasel gaped at him. She was a prefect this year too, and seemed to think it was her right to poke her nose into people's business, just like she was doing now.
"None of your business," he snapped, closing the book on his lap with a thud. He rose to his feet, dusting briefly at his trousers. The three of them exchanged glances, then turned identical sets of wary eyes on him.
The mudblood raised her eyebrows in that supremely irritating holier-than-thou expression and pursed her lips. "Researching anything in particular?" she asked, enunciating her words carefully, as though Draco wouldn't be able to understand her otherwise.
"I wouldn't tell you if I were, mudblood," he drawled, and smirked as Potty and the Weasel flushed with predictable rage. The mudblood herself went white and pulled herself up to her full, not-very-impressive height.
"Five points from Slytherin for being a gigantic waste of space, Malfoy," she spat.
Draco smiled slowly. It was almost too easy, really, but he certainly couldn't let that slide. He let his eyes drift contemptuously over the curve of her full hips, the swell of her breasts beneath her jumper, and sniffed. "Five points from Gryffindor for precisely the same reason, Granger."
It was well worth it. Granger's face crumpled, Potter went white and Draco had to nimbly dodged the pile of books on the floor as the Weasel lunged at him, wrestling his wand out of his tattered robes with an incoherent cry of rage. They were so predictable. Draco danced out of range of the Weasel's fists, readying his wand just in case Potty and the mudblood, who had latched onto the Weasel's arms like limpets, didn't manage to hold the bastard back. Luck was with him today, though; with her usual impeccable timing, Madam Pince rounded the corner of the stacks to tell the Weasel off for making noise. Draco slipped his wand out of sight and smiled as nastily as possible in the background as the trio got booted from the library.
He dusted at his trousers again and apologized charmingly to Madam Pince, who muttered and scowled at the books on the floor, but desisted when he offered to help her re-shelve them. Draco had learned over the last year or so that the old adage 'you catch more flies with honey' held true, and he tried to cultivate good relations with the few professors who weren't hopelessly bent against Slytherin. In fact...
"Madam, I was wondering if perhaps you'd be able to help me with a small project I'm researching," Draco began, flashing her another integrating smile. "I'm looking for information on an old Hogwarts student. Tom Riddle."
Madam Pince blinked at him, tilting her head to one side. "Tom Riddle? Never heard of him."
"I hadn't either, actually, but I'm writing an essay on Hogwarts Prefects for extra credit in History of Magic, and thought I'd choose him," Draco lied. "He was an exceptional student, but unfortunately all I've found of him is this school memorial book. I was interested in knowing what he's done since he graduated, since he seems to have vanished from the public eye."
Predictably, Madam Pince lit up at this evidence of scholarship, and beckoned Draco to follow her back to the reference desk. "Well, there are several books we can look at..."
Draco nodded in all the right places and left the library armed with a mountain of books with which to start his search. He ensconced himself in a wingback chair in the common room with a mug of tea and a pile of chocolate frogs, and snarled at anyone who dared ask what he was doing. This Tom Riddle business would probably be good fodder for attacks on the whole lousy group of Gryffindors, if he ever got the chance again; the whole thing reeked of complex magic and he was going to solve the little Weasel's mystery if it was the last thing he did.
It took Ginny longer than she thought it would to regain her equilibrium after the incident. A whole day later, and she was still shaky and nervous, jumping at shadows and unable to concentrate. She'd slept terribly the night before, couldn't pay attention in her classes, and had Zoë and Colin convinced she was ill. Ginny finally resorted to a long, hot shower and an extended lounge in front of the common room fire with an embarrassingly trashy romance novel, losing herself in what Hermione dubbed 'brain candy' in order to avoid thinking about the encounter with Tom. And with Malfoy - Ginny couldn't quite decide which was worse. Having Malfoy know her deepest fear was practically an engraved invitation to teasing - he still trotted out the old saw about Harry and dementors whenever he could, and just last year Malfoy had deliberately dumped a live spider down Ron's shirt because he knew Ron was afraid of them.
Ginny glanced up from her book as Ron, Harry and Hermione stormed into the common room, looking like thunderclouds. Ron was muttering to them, the occasional loud, heated phrase making it clear that they'd had another run-in with Malfoy. An uneasy spike of nervousness shot through her, and Ginny wondered if it would be too obvious of her to move closer in order to hear what had happened. She desperately hoped that Malfoy hadn't used her encounter with the boggart against her brother. She didn't really want Ron or Harry to know that Tom was still her greatest fear, four years on; she could just imagine what Ron would say about it. Ginny bit her lip and watched as Ron alternated between red-faced rage and obvious solicitousness over Hermione, who seemed dreadfully upset.
Seamus came through the portrait hole then and solved Ginny's problem for her. "What's wrong, Ron?" he asked loudly, flopping down on the empty couch next to Ginny's chair. "You look mad enough to spit nails."
"It's Malfoy of course. Who else?" Ron replied heatedly. "He insulted Hermione in the library today, the bloody sod. Somebody ought to break his slimy face for him, teach him a lesson!"
Seamus made an appropriate noise of sympathy and agreement, and Ginny breathed an inaudible sigh of relief. Malfoy must not have said anything about her after all.
Ron continued to grumble as Hermione calmed back to her normal, logical self. "I don't know how Malfoy can live with himself," she said. "He's so nasty all the time, you'd think he wouldn't have any friends at all. I wonder what he was doing in there anyway."
"Hanging about and waiting for the chance to be a huge git, most likely," Ron muttered.
"He was looking at the school memorial books," Harry said suddenly. "The old ones, from the '40s." He and Ron and Hermione exchanged significant looks, while Seamus and Ginny looked on, bewildered by the non sequitor.
"But how could he know?" Hermione asked practically. "I mean, it isn't as if he knows about - "
"Well, his dad might have told him," Ron replied. "After all, he's the one who had it."
Hermione nodded thoughtfully, and they all exchanged those looks again.
Seamus turned to look at Ginny. "Do you have a clue what they're talking about?"
Ginny returned Seamus's integrating grin faintly and shook her head. But it was a lie...she did know, in this case. Of course she knew. How could she not?
They were talking about Tom.
Ginny watched as the three of them piled out of the common room, apparently intent on going back to the Library to find out exactly what Malfoy had been researching. She felt a stab of jealousy as the portrait swung shut behind them; she could guess what he'd been looking for, guess what they would find if they went looking for his research subject. She bit down on the urge to follow and stop them, to find Malfoy and tell him to leave off. He's mine, she thought, resentment curling in the pit of her stomach. Tom was mine first. He was my friend, what can you hope to find out about him from some dusty old books? I knew him best.
She whipped her head around; Seamus was looking at her worriedly. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, I'm fine," she said quickly. "Just - you know." She waved a vague hand at the portrait. "Think I'll go upstairs, finish my book and head off to bed. G'night!" She smiled brightly at the bewildered Seamus, and fled the common room.
The next morning at breakfast, Ron, Harry and Hermione were huddled together whispering to one another - nothing new, but this time Ginny had a good idea of what was going on, and she didn't like it one bit. They kept casting dark looks in the direction of the Slytherin table, where Draco Malfoy was sitting with a large book ostentatiously propped up in front of his goblet. Every so often he would glance at the trio and smirk nastily, slowly turning a page as he did so.
Ginny bit her lip in frustration. He was researching things about Tom, she knew he was, the horrible wanker. Of course he'd think it would be something to use against Harry and her brother, never mind that it had been her encounter with the boggart that had led Malfoy to Tom in the first place. Though why he'd have to research anything was beyond her. One owl to his father would give him anything he ever wanted to know.
Ginny jerked her head around and stared at Colin. He blinked owlishly back at her, a worried expression on his face. She had the uncomfortable feeling he'd been saying her name for a while. "You feeling all right?"
She looked down at her hand, which was clenched around her fork so tightly she was amazed she hadn't bent the utensil. She made herself uncurl her fingers, one by one. "I'm fine."
Colin looked skeptical, but he let it drop. "Come on, then, we've got Muggle Studies. We'd better go."
Ginny nodded and followed Colin and Zoë to the main entrance of the Great Hall. Neither Ron, nor Harry, nor Hermione looked up as they passed, which wasn't really surprising. They were like that when they thought they were on to something, and all their attention was focused on Malfoy right now anyway.
Malfoy, who was watching her.
He smirked at her, the nasty, smug smile he usually reserved for Harry, and gave her a little wave. Ginny turned her head sharply, aware she was blushing furiously, and stared at Colin's back. She sagged in relief when they made it out into the Entrance hall, where she didn't feel as though Malfoy's eyes were drilling a hole in her back.
"Ginny, are you sure you're all right?" Zoë asked. "You look pale."
"I'm fine," Ginny insisted. "I really am."
Zoë didn't look as though she believed that, but she too let it slide. "So long as you're sure. We're doing television in Muggle Studies today...have you read about them yet?"
"Oh, yes, of course. And I've even seen one. Hermione showed one to me and Ron last summer. Dad was thrilled." Ginny summoned up a genuine smile, and let Zoë and Colin drag her off to class, grateful to have something to focus on that wasn't Tom, or boggarts, or Malfoys.
But Malfoy didn't want to stay unnoticed. Ginny thought he'd give up if he didn't find anything out immediately, but he didn't. He just kept on digging around in the library and watching her. Not all the time, granted, since she didn't exactly have many classes with the sixth-year Slytherins. But every time she was in the Great Hall or the library, in the halls or going to and from the Quidditch pitch, if Draco Malfoy were within sight his cold, gray eyes stayed fixed on her.
In a way, just being observed that way was even more nerve-wracking than out-and-out teasing. Ginny felt as though she were under constant surveillance, just waiting for Malfoy to find what he was looking for and attack her. Ignoring him didn't work, and trying to stare him down only resulted in Colin and Zoë teasing her so mercilessly that she worried Ron might notice. There seemed to be nothing she could do about it but try to avoid doing anything too embarrassing in public and hoping no one twigged to Malfoy's sudden interest in her.
Ginny took to coming late for meals and leaving early. She sat with her back to the Slytherin table so she wouldn't have to watch Malfoy watching her, and spent her off-hours in the common room studying for her OWLs or working on projects. If Zoë and Colin noticed her growing more reserved, they didn't mention it. She'd always been fairly reserved, since Tom.
Ron, for his part, didn't notice at all, too caught up in whatever scrape Harry had dragged his two best friends into this year. Hermione spent half the time frantic with worry over her NEWTS; they weren't for another year, but Hermione had never let a little thing like that stop her from fretting about tests. Ginny viewed the approaching summer with a feeling of intense relief - with luck, Malfoy would forget about their meeting, and next year could go on without this endless scrutiny.
Draco carted the books Madam Pince had lent him around for the greater part of a week, watching with amusement as Potter and his sidekicks haunted the school memorial section of the library and spied on him. Whatever it was about Tom Riddle, they obviously knew something, and his interest in the subject was driving them batty. Draco took an unholy delight in poring thoughtfully over the texts he'd borrowed, furrowing his brow and jotting down copious notes whenever they were around, simply to see them squirm. And it not only bothered Potter and his sidekicks, but to the little Weasel too, who stared at him with wide, frightened eyes whenever she thought no one was looking. Draco made a point of watching her back whenever he could, just because it was such a delight to observe her fear.
Unfortunately, the books Draco was consulting left a lot to be desired in terms of information about Riddle - whoever the boy was, he hadn't exactly left a mark on the wizarding world. Was Riddle a previously unmentioned Hogwarts ghost? Was he a former student gone bad? Had one of Potter's ridiculous scrapes of previous years involved Tom in some way? It seemed that the longer Draco looked, the further he got from any definitive answer. The Hogwarts Library, which carried books on every subject under the sun and was the repository for the memoirs of every witch or wizard who ever set quill to parchment - or so it seemed - was remarkably deficient when it came to one Tom Riddle. Clearly, drastic measures would have to be resorted to once he returned home.
And so Draco kept up his hunt for knowledge into the sticky heat of summer, poring over the endless Dark Arts books in the Manor library in search of scraps of information to add to his collection. He was getting quite good at researching, really, but dogged determination and the famed Malfoy collection could only go so far.
And in this case, it wasn't far enough. Draco lay on his bed with the last of the books open before him, frowning down at the dusty page. He'd gone through every book he could think of, and was still barely closer to an answer than he had been at the end of the school year.
Draco slammed his current tome shut in frustration and rolled onto his back, blowing out a noisy breath. He stared into the darkness of the canopy above his bed, pondering what to do next in order to solve this mystery. Scholarship was getting him nowhere, obviously, and he didn't think Father would take very kindly to extending Draco's allowance to cover mail-order of expensive and obscure history volumes from the Continent without a full explanation of why he wanted them. And although he felt sure his father would back his project if he were told about it, this was something Draco wanted to do on his own.
Although.... Draco rolled back over and looked at his notes again. It was clear that Tom Riddle had left Hogwarts in 1945, traveled to the Continent - and vanished. But he knew from bouts of tedious family history that Father had started at Hogwarts in 1944.
Which meant that Father would have had to know Tom Riddle personally.
He would have to pick his time carefully, wait until Father was in a good mood, then ask what he wanted to know. There was no guarantee that his father would tell him anything, but Draco would bet galleons to gargoyles that his father knew. After all, Father had started at Hogwarts a year before Tom finished, so he had to know something about the boy.
And as Draco was learning, knowledge was power.
His opportunity came just before the end of July - Father was mellow and quiet over dinner, a sure sign of a good mood. He retired to his study after the meal, and Draco waited half an hour longer, time enough for Father to have his first glass of brandy, before he went down to ask. Draco stopped in front of the solid oak door, inhaled deeply to steady himself, and knocked.
After a long moment, a voice from within said, "Come." Draco let out his breath in a whoosh and slowly pushed the heavy door open. He let it fall shut behind him and moved to stand in front of Father's desk. There were two chairs, heavy, leather wingbacks set in front of the desk, and Draco stood between them. He didn't sit down; he hadn't been invited.
Father was lounging in his chair, everpresent cane to one side, holding his brandy glass up to the firelight and watching the reflection of the crystal filtered through the golden brown liquid - it was almost exactly the colour of Ginny's eyes, Draco realized, and the unbidden thought startled him so much he almost missed his father's sharp question. "What do you want?"
Draco dragged his attention back to where it should be. "Who was Tom Riddle?" he asked steadily, and waited, cringing inwardly as his father went utterly still and his hopes for an answer died. The silence was so complete that Draco felt he could hear the stones of the Manor settling into the earth. Finally, Father's elegant head turned imperceptibly, and his fingers flexed on his cane.
A question Draco had anticipated. "We've been assigned a special project for History of Magic class, to do research on a former Hogwarts student. He seemed like a good choice," he said glibly.
Father turned to look at him full on, the lazy, dangerous eyes drifting over him. "Did he indeed."
"Yes, sir," Draco said. He was thankful for the long sleeves on his robes - he was afraid the slight trembling in his fingers might give his nervousness away. "Apparently he was a popular and intelligent student, a Slytherin, but he seemed to have vanished after he graduated. In 1945." So you would have known him personally, he didn't add.
"Why not choose a different prefect. I'm sure there are others who are easier subjects." Father's mouth twitched in a faint smile. "I was one."
"Yes sir, but I didn't think it would be wise to do this project on family," Draco replied. "Information about Riddle might be scarce, but that will make it clear I've done more work and better research."
"Indeed." Father turned to face him fully, his steel grey eyes pinning Draco. "I think you should pick a different student for this...project of yours. There is nothing about Tom Riddle that is of any interest to you."
"But sir - ."
"What did I just say, boy?" With a cold flash of eyes, Lucius raised his cane and pointed it at Draco. "Out!"
Draco fled, barely making it through the heavy oak door before it shut hard on his heels.
So much for that.
The rest of the summer went by in a slow blur of luncheons and lawn parties, packed with Father's friends buzzing with all the things they loved to gossip about. Who was under suspicion from the Ministry, what the Dark Lord was rumoured to be doing, who had lost a fortune at the gaming tables because they couldn't hold their liquor. Even Draco's peers were caught up in the same sorts of gossip, focused on their own small circle. It was on a balmy afternoon midway through August that Draco leaned against the balustrade of the balcony, looked out over the Manor lawn covered with a sparkling carpet of the best and brightest of Wizarding society, and realized that he was bored out of his skull.
Pansy, who was leaning beside him trying to look alluring and fresh - difficult, since she was wearing a frothy yellow confection that made her look like an under-baked cake - was simpering and chattering on about something inconsequential. Draco had tuned her out long ago and was passing the time by counting the gargoyles on the outside of the Manor, just to have something to do. What he wanted to do was sneak back up to his room and immerse himself in his new book. He had research notes to go over, and the book he'd ordered from Borgin and Burke's behind Father's back looked promising. And Draco would have done it, except Father was sure to notice if he left the party this early. It would look too suspicious. So he stayed, leaning against the balcony and sipping at chilled pumpkin juice, watching the swirl of colour as the guests wandered the lawn beneath him. He was idly wondering if there was a way he could contact the Ministry in France to find out if he could get apparition records from the late '40s when Pansy poked him in the ankle with the toe of her shoe.
"What?" he demanded, yanking his head around to glare at her. Pansy, her yellow robes wilting in the muggy heat, glared right back.
"I said aren't you going to at least dance with me once. Honestly Draco, you'd think you weren't even paying attention!"
"I wasn't," he drawled. "And I've no intention of dancing." Draco smirked as Pansy's face fell, torn between fury and hurt. She stomped her foot like a child, pouting in a very unbecoming fashion.
"You're supposed to be paying attention to me. Not staring out at the gardens like some imbecile." She stopped short, flushinga deep pink as Draco turned his head to her and she realized what she'd said. "Oh, Draco, I'm sorry! I didn't mean it!" She reached forward to clutch at his arm, crowding him into the balustrade in her effort to make her apology sound as sincere as possible. "You know I didn't mean it!"
"I'm sure you didn't," Draco said, shaking her off his arm. "And I'm also sure you'll understand if I decide not to partner you in the dancing. Go bother someone else for a change."
Pansy slunk away with a hurt, angry expression, and the next time Draco spotted her, she was dancing with Blaise Zabini, who looked insufferably smug. Pansy kept shooting arch looks in Draco's direction; he guessed he was supposed to be upset that he'd lost her favour. Draco smirked back at her and retreated to the Manor library when Father wasn't looking, glad to be out of it.
Draco hadn't made much progress by the time school began again, but he did manage to smuggle a few books in under Father's nose. He had one with him today for the train journey to Hogwarts; it should go by quickly, with something interesting to do. Ignoring Pansy's whine for attention was easy enough, and Crabbe and Goyle were off somewhere, so Draco spent the whole trip engrossed in his book. It didn't really have anything to say about Tom Riddle, but the subject was fascinating enough on its own. He hadn't known that wizarding history was so dark. Not just He Who Must Not Be Named, but Grindelwald and Morgana and a whole other slew of dark witches and wizards stretching back as far as wizarding history did. It made for some chilling reading.
He was so engrossed that he barely noticed when Pansy left, in a huff about something or other, and it took him totally by surprise when there came a sharp knock on the compartment door. Draco jerked and looked up, scowling. "Hullo," said Blaise Zabini. The black-haired boy was lounging against the door frame, one eyebrow raised in an echo of Draco's own favourite expression.
"Zabini. What do you want?"
"Just thought I'd stop by to visit." Blaise moved into the compartment and sat in the seat opposite, lounging in much the same way Draco was. Draco eyed him with amusement, wondering how long the other boy had been copying his mannerisms.
"Well, I'm not very good company. I'm reading." Draco flicked one hand dismissively, noting the way Blaise's eyes followed the motion. No doubt the other boy would be off in a toilet somewhere within minutes, practicing Draco's elegant turn of wrist. Draco smirked at the thought and returned to his book, scanning for where he'd left off.
Blaise made an impatient noise. "What are you looking for, Malfoy? You've been neck-deep in whatever little project you're working on since before the summer. What could possibly be so interesting?"
"None of your business, Zabini," Draco said. "Now go bother someone else."
The other boy's dark eyes narrowed. "Well, I hope whatever it is is worth what you're giving up."
Draco looked up at Blaise, genuinely surprised. "Giving up? What am I giving up?"
"You know, Malfoy," Blaise sneered. "Nothing's ever hard for you, is it? You just get everything you want, and expect people to just go along with you. Well it's not going to happen forever. Some people are going to stop going with you if you don't bother to notice them once in a while."
Draco paused while he processed Blaise's words. "People are going to stop - wait. Zabini, is this about Pansy?" The other boy's tight expression was all the answer Draco needed. He laughed incredulously. "You mean, if I don't pay attention to her, she'll go away? Oh, what a pity." He laughed again at the sheer absurdity. Pansy was a nosy little hanger-on and always had been, desperate for approval and sulky and petulant when she didn't get it. The only reason Draco put up with her at all was because Father expected it.
Zabini bristled visibly, sitting up a little straighter. "She's a perfectly respectable girl, Malfoy, and she's got an excellent family."
"Yes, yes, she's got impeccable breeding and they're well off and all that," Draco said glibly. "Tell you what. Since I feel like being generous, I cede the field to you. You're welcome to Pansy and her excellent pedigree, so long as the lot of you leave me alone."
To Draco's infinite relief, Zabini took him up on his suggestion and retreated from the compartment, presumably to go in search of Pansy and tell her the good news. Draco went back to his book, only to be forced to set it aside 10 minutes later as the train pulled in to Hogwarts Station.
There was the usual scrum for carriages before the trip up to the castle, and the rush to the feast and Sorting in the Great Hall, which Draco watched with an air of jaded amusement. Once the thrill of glaring at the new Slytherin firsts had worn off, he set to examining the Hall, checking to see who was here and who wasn't. Some of the younger Slytherins had left Hogwarts for Durmstrang, but Potter and his cronies were still holding court at the Gryffindor table. Not that they'd have gone anywhere - after all, Potter didn't have anywhere else to go, and Draco doubted he or Weasley had the stones for Durmstrang. Draco glared at the back of Potter's head for a moment before letting his eyes drift down the table...and stop to rest upon the fiery red curls of Ginny Weasley.
Draco frowned at her, the familiar frustration at his lack of answers rising up again as he watched the girl pick at her food. She had her chin propped in her hand, her elbow resting on the table in a shocking display of bad manners. It was as though her family couldn't be bothered to uphold even the slightest shred of decency in public. Not that they had any appearances to maintain, of course, so perhaps it wasn't surprising that the girl didn't even try.
Something one of her ill-bred friends was saying made Ginny look up, and her tired eyes met Draco's across the hall. She ducked her head quickly, sinking lower in her chair as though ashamed to be looking at him. Draco smirked and went back to his meal. At least the little upstart knew her place. He wasn't going to bother watching her this year, not with enough research material to find out who Tom Riddle was on his own. He didn't need someone like her to tell him anything.
It didn't take long to get back to a normal schedule - Transfiguration with the Hufflepuffs, Charms with the Ravenclaws, Care of Magical Creatures and Potions with the Gryffindors. Potter and Weasley were as irritating as ever, but Father hadn't lifted the ban on teasing them and Draco was limited to sneering when they did things wrong. One advantage of spending his summer studying was that he was getting better grades, so Father would be pleased about that at least. He needed something for Father to be happy about; Draco had gotten a scathing letter from Father and a tear-stained one from Mother regarding his treatment of Pansy on the train. He didn't know why they were so concerned about her anyway. Good breeding notwithstanding, Draco couldn't stand Pansy for more than an hour at a time, and if his parents thought they could persuade him to ask for her, they were sorely mistaken.
Draco said as much to Crabbe and Goyle one day as they were leaving Transfiguration. "Can you imagine being forced to listen to her non-stop, with no way to escape? It'd be a fate worse than death." Crabbe and Goyle just grunted; Draco didn't know why he even bothered talking to them at all, except that sometimes it was nice to hear his own voice. God knew they weren't good for scintillating conversation. The two boys were like rocks - always there, but not necessarily something you had to pay attention to.
"Malfoy! Malfoy! Hey, Malfoy?"
Draco stopped so abruptly that Goyle nearly stumbled into him and looked down at the hand tugging at his robes. The owner of the hand, a short third-year Slytherin named Walter something or other, gulped as Draco pinned him with a stare and let go of Draco's robes quickly. "What?" Draco snapped.
"I'm sorry to bother you, Malfoy, but I'm late for Divination, and I'm lost!" the boy whined. He looked up at Draco with desperate, adoring eyes. "Please...please can you at least tell me where it is? I swear I won't ever ask again, I'll memorize the way! Trelawney will take points if I'm late, and I couldn't stand it if I lost points for the house!"
Draco glanced down the corridor and saw Professor McGonagall standing at the door of her classroom, watching their exchange with disapproving interest. The scathing reply forming on Draco's lips died as he met her cool eyes. He wouldn't put it past the old bat to talk him down to Snape for refusing to help a younger student - he was positive the Gryffindor Head wanted nothing more than to see him lose his prefect's badge.
"Fine," Draco said impatiently. He waved to Crabbe and Goyle to go on ahead, and motioned to the boy. "Follow me, I'll show you." He set off down the hall, Walter rushing to keep up with his long-legged stride. Draco refrained from sneering at the Transfigurations professor as he passed her; it really was beneath him to be leading pathetic little third years about, but he had his reputation to think of. What would Father say if he lost his prefect status?
Thankfully the little wretch didn't talk as he followed Draco up toward the North Tower, though that might have been because he was out of breath from racing up the staircases, trying to keep up. They reached the trap door that led to the Divination classroom and Draco stopped short. "Here," he said sharply. "And try to remember for next time."
"Thanks, Malfoy!" Walter tossed the words over his shoulder as he climbed the ladder into the classroom. The brat didn't even have the courtesy to be properly thankful. Draco rolled his eyes and turned back to the hall, making his way back to the staircase down. He was going to be late for Charms, thanks to that little horror, and it was even odds that Flitwick would take points from Slytherin. It galled Draco to know that he'd lose points when he had a legitimate reason to be late.
"Have you not yet found what you're looking for, Mr. Malfoy?"
Draco stopped short, halfway to the stairs, and turned to face the source of the thin voice. "Excuse me?
"You search. Over and over, in the same places, but you will not find your answers there." It was Professor Trelawney, the Divinations professor, standing beside the other window, one small hand clutching a lacy shawl around her neck.
Draco frowned at her. "How do you know I'm looking for something?"
Behind her ridiculous spectacles, Trelawney's eyes were huge and eerily blank. "If you wish to find the answer to your question, you will have to ask the one who knows it," she replied, her voice a rough, flat monotone that was utterly out of keeping with its wispy timbre. "You will find it no other way."
Draco jerked back, unnerved. He'd only encountered Trelawney once or twice, and had never spoken to the woman - how could she know about his search for Tom Riddle? If she was like this all the time, it was no wonder no one liked her. "If I wanted advice, I'd find someone better to ask than you," he said. "Old bat."
He flinched inwardly. That would be good for at least 20 points from Slytherin, however satisfying it was to tell her off. With the points he was sure to lose for being late to Charms, that would put Slytherin last for House Points - but Trelawney didn't seem to register his words. "Pride is a lonely country, Mr. Malfoy. You'd do well to remember that, when you go in search of your answers." Then she jolted, shook her head abruptly and blinked owlishly at Draco. "Are you supposed to be up here, young man? You're not in Divinations, are you?"
Draco gaped at her, confused by the sudden switch. "What?"
"Come on, now. If you aren't a student in my class, then you shouldn't be up here." Trelawney flapped one limp hand at him. "Go on. I'll not have students about, clogging up my tower with their muddy auras. Away with you, before I take points."
Trelawney fluttered off, trailing wispy scarves behind her as she disappeared around the corner. Draco stared after her, thoroughly bewildered. What was that all about? One minute she was dispensing unsolicited advice about his research, and the next she was acting as though she'd never seen him before! "What the devil is going on?" he demanded of the corridor in general.
The corridor didn't seem to have a reply, and Draco stomped down the stairs toward the Slytherin common room, brooding over the wispy Professor's words. Perhaps Trelawney knew something he didn't. He'd just have to go corner Ginny Weasley and see what he found out.