A/N- Good Lord, has it really been this long since I updated? Sorry everyone, I didn't mean to leave it this long, honest! For anyone who reads my other stoy, Listen With Your Heart, I'm sorry to say I won't be continuing it. I have a severe lack of inspiration for it, and its too difficult for me to try and write two fan fics at once, in between all the other projects I have in the works. Hopefully if I just concentrate on Nil Desperandum, I'll be able to update more often. But for now, on to the messages.
susan "bunnie" russ- Okay, I promise not to kill Remus. Maim possibly, but not kill ;) Unfortunately, I can't get rid of Malfoy as easily, he's too involved in the plot.
Paige- Hehe, you know you love the cliffies! They make things more interesting.
greeneyed*redhead- Thanks! There's even more Draco/Dita stuff in this, with a little Pansy thrown in to disrupt everything. As for Sirius and Remus, you'll just have to wait and see.
Vereniel Greenleaf- Yup, Draco is questioning, but he's at least smart enough not to voice those doubts.
Alynna Lis Eachann- Thanks, I'm glad you like it! Hope you like this chapter jsut as much (now that I've finally updated)
Sabrina Potter- Hey, no killing the main charecters, that's my job! You know you'd miss the cliffies if they were gone ;)
Darkness hid most of the scene from view, but what was visible was more than frightening enough to qualify as a nightmare. A huge snake slithered around the floor, which looked stained with blood, circling a pale man in a black cloak. Red eyes, the only color on his face, gleamed maliciously at the darkness which surrounded him. The snake gave a low hiss, continuing its wanderings around the floor, its tongue flicking out to taste the air. It was as moist and oppressive as everything else about the scene.
"Patience, Nagini." the man said in a high cold voice that chilled the bones. "He will come. Or else."
A 'pop' of someone Apparating was the only sound that disturbed the stillness of the scene.
"You called, my lord?" said the figure who just appeared, bowing. He was masked, but cold grey eyes were just visible through the slits.
"Have my Death Eaters been sent to capture Black yet?" he asked without preamble.
"Yes, my lord." The man drawled. "They have just started to attack."
"Good." Voldemort sneered. "I trust they are amply prepared to deal with the werewolf as well?"
"Yes." Lucius Malfoy replied. "Pettigrew is with them. That hand of his shall come in handy."
"Good. Wormtail just might redeem himself for his blundering in France." Voldemort mused. "At least his stupidity didn't lose me the Maderia wing skin you were sent to find. He would have paid dearly if that had been the case."
"Yes, my lord." Malfoy replied bowing. "We were fortunate enough to be able to salvage the situation."
"Yes, with your quick thinking to have the woman killed." Voldemort said with a smirk, knowing perfectly well that Malfoy was only trying to promote his worth in the eyes of his lord.
"Pettigrew won't fail us again." Malfoy said. "Our 'insurance' at Hogwarts will make sure of that."
"Good." Voldemort said simply. "He may be useful to me for now, but he is still just a traitor, and I don't trust traitors. Especially not ones I create myself. They have already proven they are easy to manipulate."
He was silent a moment, staring into the blackness of the night, thinking.
"Go back and make sure Wormtail doesn't foul things up again." Voldemort ordered. "Kill them both if necessary, but keep them from getting away."
"Yes, my lord." Malfoy bowed deeply, and with another 'pop' he Disapparated.
Harry awoke with a start in his bed, looking around frantically. A moment earlier, he had been standing in the cold night air, watching and listening to Voldemort ordering Malfoy around. It had been so real, far more real than any dream should be. Snores sounding from all sides told him that his roommates were still sleeping peacefully. He wished he could do that; to sleep without having to worry that he would be visited by nightmares. Harry pulled his knees up, resting his chin on them and pressing his palms against his eyes, straining to remember the details of the nightmare.
They had been talking about Death Eaters, he could remember. They had been sent to do something. Attack someone. But who? Harry squeezed his eyes shut even tighter, trying to bring back the details through sheer will. It was like trying to hold on to a handful of said. The harder he tried, the more the details slipped away. Pettigrew had been mentioned, and in insurance at Hogwarts, but what did that mean? Did they have a spy in Hogwarts? If so, who? And who had the Death Eaters been sent to attack?
Finally giving up any notion of trying to sleep again, Harry climbed out of bed, dressed, and headed down to the Common Room. Maybe if he didn't think about the nightmare so hard, the details would come back. Sitting by the fire sometimes helped to clear his head. To his surprise, someone was already sitting there. A quick glance at the clock revealed that it was barely six. Why would anyone else be up this early?
"Ginny?" he asked, moving closer. She gave a small jump of surprise and turned to see who had spoken.
"Oh, Harry, its you." she said, calming down. "You scared me. I didn't expect anyone else to be up this early."
"I couldn't sleep." Harry said, joining her by the fire. "What about you?"
"I'm always up this early." she told him. "With six brothers in the house, being up this early is pretty much the only time I can be awake and have peace and quiet too. They couldn't get up this early if their life depended on it."
"I know. I've had to get Ron up for class." Harry laughed.
"I believe it." Ginny laughed also. They lapsed into a long silence before a new set of footsteps began to approach. Turning, they saw Hermione appear from the staircase.
Both Ron and Harry knew that she was on speaking terms with Perdita now. Harry had been angry at first, but had lately taken to pretending the whole fight between him, Ron, and Ginny had never happened, and that Hermione had not told them off. Ron was barely speaking to Hermione now, acting as though she had performed some heinous act of treachery by speaking to Perdita. Of course, Hermione comparing Ron to Malfoy hadn't helped things at all.
"Early risers anonymous meeting?" she joked.
"Something like that." Ginny smiled. Hermione joined them by the fire.
"I thought I was the only one who ever woke up this early." she said.
"Nope, I'm always up early." Ginny said. "Harry here just couldn't sleep."
"You couldn't?" Hermione asked. Harry saw the familiar look of worry cross her face. "Why not?"
"I just had a bad dream." Harry shrugged, trying to make it sound like no big deal.
"About what?" Hermione persisted. Harry sighed. He knew her far too well to hope that she would leave well enough alone.
"It was about Voldemort." he said. Both girls flinched at the name, but said nothing to interrupt him. "He was talking to Malfoy's dad, about something the Death Eaters had been sent to do, but I can't remember what. They were attacking someone."
"Attacking someone?" Hermione repeated in a scared voice. "Who?"
"I can't remember." Harry said. "The details aren't clear anymore. I remember Wormtail was mentioned."
Both girls were still at the mention of Perdita's father. Neither really wanted to pursue that line of questioning, which would undoubtedly bring them around to how Harry treated Perdita. Harry stared into the fire in silence, trying in vain to remember who the Death Eaters had been sent after. It frustrated him to no end. He clearly remembered the word redemption, though. Wormtail had ruined one of Voldemort's plans, and he was making up for it now. But what had he done?
"Was it like the other dreams you've had before?" Hermione asked after a long silence. "When you've had glimpses of what You-Know-Who has been planning?"
"That's exactly what it felt like." Harry said quietly. "Someone is being attacked, maybe as we speak, and I don't know who."
"Harry, even if you knew...what could you do?" Hermione said tentatively. "If they've already started attacking this person-"
"I could tell Dumbledore." Harry interrupted her. "He'd know what to do."
"But even so, you'd probably be too late to save whoever it is." Hermione pointed out.
"So you're saying its not important?" he asked accusingly.
"Of course she isn't." Ginny broke in. "But she's right. There's nothing you can do now, and you'll only give yourself a headache trying to remember."
Harry looked at them both for a moment, angry and frustrated, but he wasn't sure whether it was directed at them or himself. Finally, he sighed and looked back at the fire.
"Its just frustrating." he mumbled.
"We know, Harry." Hermione said sympathetically. "But you aren't alone in all this."
"That's right. You have us, and that idiot brother of mine." Ginny added. Harry finally managed a laugh. Footsteps again interrupted them, and all three turned to see Perdita come down the stairs.
" 'ello 'ermione, Ginny." she smiled, but it abruptly faded when she saw Harry. He wasn't glaring at her, or even looking at her at all now, but she still felt that he didn't want her around. Hermione bit her lip, seeing the abrupt change in Perdita. She really wasn't bad at all, once you got to know her. A little quiet maybe, but there was nothing wrong with that.
"I'll see you down at breakfast." Perdita said softly, heading towards the Portrait Hole.
"Perdita, wait." Hermione said, after a moment of indecision. Perdita paused, looking apprehensive. Hermione got to her feet, going to join Perdita. "I'll go down with you."
"Thank you, 'ermione." Perdita said, trying to smile a little.
Harry watched Hermione leave with Perdita. Hermione threw him a glance as they left, but it was impossible to tell whether she was angry with him or not. Her expression was completely neutral, but he felt badly nonetheless. Her words from the argument they'd had still echoed in his head. "We've been treating her the same way Malfoy treats me." He wasn't treating her that badly, was he? All he was doing was trying not to be around her. He wasn't calling her horrible names or going out of his way to be mean to her. He didn't know what to think anymore. She seemed nice enough, but he'd also heard from Hermione that she was hanging around Malfoy. If she liked Malfoy, how nice could she really be?
"You are such a prat, Harry." Ginny said exasperatedly, getting to her feet as the Portrait Hole swung closed. Harry blinked at her in surprise, wondering where that had come from.
"What are you talking about?" he asked, standing up also.
"After all the times I've heard you ranting about how Snape is unfair to you, or how horrible Malfoy is, you turn right around and act almost the same way towards Perdita." she snapped.
"I didn't say a word to her!" he protested.
"You didn't need to." she said. "Did you know that she's afraid to be around you now?"
"She's what?" Harry asked blankly. He couldn't imagine anyone being afraid of him. He didn't think he had given her reason to be afraid anyway. All he had done was ignore her.
"She's afraid of setting you and Ron off. She knows perfectly well that you two don't like her, though she hasn't the faintest clue why." Ginny replied. "All she knows is that you were nice to her during the summer, but once you got here, everything changed. She doesn't want to be around you because she's afraid you might do something even worse than ignore her."
"I wouldn't hurt her. Just because I don't want to talk to her doesn't mean I'd curse her or anything if she stayed in the room with me for too long."
"Well, she certainly seems to think that's the case." she retorted.
"Malfoy's probably been filling her head with lies about me." Harry muttered.
"This has nothing to do with Malfoy." Ginny cut him off. "But since you brought him up, is it any surprise she hangs around him? After all, its natural to want to make friends, especially in a new school, and he's one of the few people who has given her a chance. To be honest, he treats her a lot better than you do."
"Its not my fault she hasn't made friends. I'm not stopping anyone else from talking to her." Harry said. This was true. He hadn't done anything to stop Hermione from being around her, just so long as he didn't have to also.
"Nobody else will talk to her because you won't." Ginny said, as though this should have been obvious to him. "It's a good thing Colin and Neville started making friends with her before your little cold shoulder routine started up, or they probably wouldn't have given her a chance either."
"What are you talking about?"
"Harry, wake up." Ginny sighed, exasperated. "People look up to you. They follow your example, and if you don't like someone, chances are they're going to go along with it. And before you say it, this isn't all about you being famous for stopping You-Know-Who as a baby."
Harry shut his mouth. He had just been about to say those exact words.
"They look up to you for different reasons. You've been saving the school since your first year here. You're a star Seeker. You even won the Tri-Wizard Tournament for Merlin's sake. That's what they notice. You're a leader, whether you try to be or not, and people look up to you. They'll follow your lead, and when its obvious that you don't like someone, they're not going to like them either." Ginny continued. "I don't care if you're friends with her or not anymore. I'm so angry with you and Ron at the moment, I almost don't want you to be friends with her, because quite frankly, she deserves better than that. Anyone does. But what I don't want is you treating her like she's the scum of the Earth just because you don't like her father. That's no reason to hate her."
"I never said I hated her." Harry interjected, starting to lose his temper now.
"Well, you certainly don't like her. And you said so yourself: you don't like being around her."
"You want to know why I hate being around her?" he asked in a sudden flare of anger.
"Yes!" Ginny yelled back. "Because its not fair to her!"
"Its not fair to me either! I can't even stand to look at her, and do you know why?" Harry asked furiously, going on without waiting for an answer. "Because every time I do, I remember why I don't have parents. Every time I have to talk to her, I think of how her father betrayed my Mum and Dad. I think of all the times I was treated like dirt by my Aunt and Uncle because I was different than them. I think of Sirius suffering in Azkaban for twelve years because he trusted that two-faced slime. I remember how Cedric looked when her father murdered him. All because of Wormtail. No, its not fair to be hated for something you had nothing to do with. But neither is growing up with a family that hates you because your parents were murdered."
"If you can see how unfair it is, why do you do it?" Ginny asked. Harry looked at her in silence for a moment. "None of that is her fault."
"Because I can't do anything else." he said softly, before leaving the room.
After dinner, Draco stood in the Entrance Hall, waiting for Perdita. He'd slipped out of dinner early, not wanting to be seen leaving at the same time as her. He still didn't want anyone knowing he hung around her. That would require more explaining than he wanted to deal with at the moment. At least Perdita seemed to trust him more now, ever since she had confessed the reason why she had transferred to Hogwarts in the first place. To his relief, she seemed to be starting to befriend Granger now too. It wasn't that he really wanted her to hang around the Mudblood, but it made him feel slightly better about the plan his father had laid out. If she was friends with Granger, Weasley and Potter would probably follow her example, given enough time. Those three always stuck together, in a sickening and sad sort of way.
"Hello, Draco." said a cool voice from behind him, drawing him out of his thoughts. He turned around to see Pansy smiling at him.
"Hello, Pansy." he replied, not exactly eager to talk to her. The longer he talked to her, the harder it was to make her go away.
Pansy was far too annoying for her own good, and the way she had been practically throwing herself at him since third year was just pathetic. She had mistakenly taken his asking her to the Yule Ball as a sign of interest. He'd only asked her because she was the most tolerable girl in Slytherin. It was either that, or go alone, and that certainly wasn't an option. He hoped she would be easy to get rid of this time. He didn't want her around when Perdita showed up. There was also the fact that talking to Pansy for any length of time made him want to gouge his eyes out with his wand. It would be less painful than continuing a conversation with her, he was certain.
"I haven't seen you all day." she said, fluttering her eyelashes at him.
"I've been busy." he said shortly. He usually spoke to her in short sentences, not willing to go into much detail around her. She and Millicent Bulstrode were the gossipmongers of Slytherin. Any bit of information they could find was usually a widespread rumor by the next morning, though Draco doubted they were brave enough to spread rumors about him.
"Well, if you aren't busy now..." she began, going closer and looking at him in an adoring way that made him tempted to get his wand out and go ahead with the eye gouging.
"I am, actually," he replied. "I'm meeting someone."
"Who?" she asked, sounding jealous. Bloody brilliant, he thought. Not only had he revealed more than he wanted to to her, now she'd probably try to turn it into the latest rumor at Hogwarts.
"None of your business." he said, in a tone that left no doubt that the subject was closed.
Unfortunately, Perdita chose that moment to walk out of the Great Hall. If she'd only taken a few more minutes, Draco might have been able to get rid of Pansy without her ever seeing Perdita. Perdita spotted Draco within seconds and walked over to him, as he started trying to think up possible lies to feed Pansy later as to why he was waiting for a Gryffindor. Unable to come up with anything, he was going through a list of possible threats that might scare her into silence instead.
" 'ello, Draco." she smiled, then noticed Pansy standing next to him. "Who is this?"
Pansy didn't even try to disguise her amusement and disdain for Perdita. So, he was meeting a Gryffindor girl, she thought. Interesting.
"Perdita, this is Pansy." Draco said, more to keep up the pretense of liking Perdita than anything else.
Gouging his eyes out was starting to sound better and better by the second.
"Pleased to meet you." Perdita said politely, holding out her hand. Pansy didn't shake it; she only sneered at Perdita.
"I'll see you later, Draco." Pansy said sweetly, walking away without a second glance at Perdita. She was already thinking of a way to turn this into the latest gossip. She knew she had to be careful, however. It wasn't a good idea to provoke Draco too much. It would certainly ruin any chances she had with him to spread gossip about him. Of course, there was always blackmail.
Draco glared at the back of Pansy's head as she left, surprised to find himself angry over the way she had acted towards Perdita. Then he reminded himself that he didn't care a bit about Pansy or Perdita. He'd have to do some damage control later, to make sure Pansy didn't go around telling anyone he was friends with a Gryffindor. Of course, he could always resort to a Memory Charm. That would solve the whole problem. He glanced away from Pansy to see that Perdita was watching her leave as well, an apprehensive look on her face.
"You'll have to excuse Pansy." he told her, sounding genuinely apologetic. "She has the personality of a basilisk."
"Is she a friend of yours?" Perdita asked as she and Draco began to walk down the hallway.
"Pansy?" Draco asked with a snort of laughter. "Hardly. She just stalks me."
He was pleased to hear her laugh at that, and found that some of the tension he'd felt ever since Pansy had shown up was lessening. Perdita seemed to have that effect on him. It was hard to be angry for long when he was around her. They started heading up a flight of stairs. There wasn't any clear direction that they were taking, they were just walking to have something to do.
"What about Crabbe and Goyle?" Perdita asked suddenly.
"What about them?"
"I see them around you a lot." she shrugged. "Aren't they your friends?"
Draco paused, thinking for a moment. He could hardly consider Crabbe and Goyle friends when they had the combined intelligence of a mud pie. If anything, they were more like really dumb House Elves. They did whatever he told them to, without question. He didn't even like them all that much, come to think of it.
"I don't really have friends." he said at last. "More like people I can tolerate for long periods of time."
"Oh." she said, and they lapsed into silence again. Finally, Perdita asked, "Am I your friend, Draco?"
Draco was quiet again, a bit startled. He knew the answer he should give, of course. If he was supposed to be gaining her trust, he had to make her think he was her friend. She was nice enough, and easy to get along with and talk to. She was certainly smarter than Crabbe and Goyle, and less annoying than Pansy (but then, so were leeches). Lately, he'd actually found himself looking forward to when he would see her next. She had a nice sense of humor, and he liked trying to make her laugh. He felt like a completely different person when he was around her.
"Yes," he answered her at last. "You're my friend, Dita."
"You 'ad to think about it, did you?" she teased, smiling.
"I was just trying to remember the definition of a friend." he replied, smirking slightly.
"You are very silly, Draco, did you know that?" Perdita laughed.
"Yes, I seem to recall you telling me that once or twice." he said.
They continued walking through the school, keeping to the areas the other students rarely went to this late at night. Staying around the classrooms ensured that Draco would be seen by fewer people. It was bad enough Pansy already knew he spent time around a Gryffindor.
"Well, where should we wander to next?" Draco asked, as they reached the top of another flight of stairs.
"I don't know." Perdita shrugged, looking around to see which direction looked more interesting. " 'ow about-whoa!"
Perdita cried out, stumbling as the staircase started to change directions. Since she was still standing on the top stair, and was not expecting the sudden movement, she tried but failed to regain her balance. Draco saw everything happening in slow motion. Perdita started to fall, when his Seeker sharpened reflexes kicked in. Not even pausing to think, Draco caught her arm and pulled her onto the landing. He stumbled slightly, falling backwards as he held on to Perdita. She half landed on him on the floor, still surprised that she wasn't falling down the stairs. Draco looked up and found himself staring into her eyes.
"Are you okay?" he asked softly.
"I think so." she replied. "You saved me."
"It was nothing. Really." he said, suddenly feeling awkward. Perdita blushed, suddenly realizing she had landed on top of him. She quickly got up, holding her hand out to help him up.
"It wasn't nothing." she told him. "Thank you."
"No problem." he smiled down at her. "Now, no more falling down the stairs, okay?"
"Okay." she laughed.
They picked a random direction and continued on their walk through the hallways in silence. Draco kept playing the events over in his head. Why did I help her, he wondered. I could have fallen too, pulling her back like that. I could have just let her fall instead of putting myself at risk like that.
No, I couldn't, he thought. She would have gotten hurt if I hadn't pulled her back. What do you care if she gets hurt, another part of him asked. You're only nice to because you're supposed to be bringing her to the Dark Lord's side. Since when do you care about other people, especially clumsy Gryffindors like her.
Well, he thought, if I'm going to get her to join the Dark Lord, she needs to trust me. Saving her from getting hurt would certainly do that. Besides, once I'm given my Dark Mark, and she's initiated too, we'll be on the same side anyway. It doesn't matter if I actually do like being around her or consider her a friend right now, we'll be on the same side eventually. Father already said she has a relative who is a Death Eater and just because she's a Gryffindor doesn't mean she's all good. Look at Sirius Black.
Then Draco realized that he had just admitted to himself that he really did consider her a friend. That wasn't supposed to happen, he thought. He was supposed to just make her think he was her friend. But, he reasoned, what was wrong with being friends with her, if he was planning to try to convert her to the Dark side anyway? As long as the goal was still the same, what did it matter what steps he took? He could be friends with her and convert her.
Just so long as the rest of the school didn't find out.