Draco Malfoy stared out the window of the Hogwarts Express. He hated taking the train. Lucius, his father, should have had enough power so he could arrive at school a different way. He wished he could Apparate, but Apparation was impossible on the school grounds. Draco sighed heavily as Crabbe grunted his name repeatedly. Finally, he humored him with a, "What do you want, Crabbe?" He turned to see the thick-headed goon staring blankly at him. "It better be something important, because I can't be bothered with some imbecilic commentary." Crabbe suddenly seemed to have forgotten what he wanted to say, as he turned away from Draco and murmured something to his companion, Goyle. Draco rolled his eyes. They were such idiot. But they did make good cronies. After all, he had to face that he was a rather slight boy and he needed them to throw weight around at Hogwarts. He could see the castle in the distance, with its lights glimmering in the many windows, and he frowned. It wasn't that he didn't want to go to school; he just preferred being at home. Though with his father around...

"Draco, we'd better change into our robes," Goyle said slowly. "We're almost there."

He stared at them. "Well, get out, then," he snapped. "Colloportus." Slowly, Draco put his robes on and was fastening his tie when someone began banging on the compartment door. "What?" he demanded, whirling around. Ginny Weasley was standing before him, looking dirtier and poorer than ever. He opened the door. "What do you want, Weasley?"

She rolled her green eyes toward the ceiling. "I'm not here to see you, Malfoy, if that's what you're thinking. "All of the Prefects are making their way to the front compartment, in case you didn't get the message."

"Sorry to trouble you," he sneered.

"You know," she began heatedly, "if you weren't such a little wart, some of the other Houses might have a little more respect for you."

"Well, it's a good thing I don't care about the respect of the other Houses then." Draco watched her with hard blue eyes as she swept out the door. When she was out of sight, he left the compartment and stalked down to the front of the train. He was dreading entering the compartment; all of the people he hated most would be there: Ginny and Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Pansy Parkinson, and Harry Potter. Potter, of course, had been made Head Boy. Draco had expected nothing less from Dumbledore, the old coot.

They were all there, he noticed, by the time he arrived. As always, he was the last to know. The Gryffindors frowned at him and Pansy Parkinson squealed, "Hey, Draco, how was your summer? Mine was a blast."

"I'm sure," Draco said sarcastically. He sat down next to her and waited for somebody to say something.

Ernie Macmillan was the first to speak. "Well, I for one think our aim as Prefects and such should be to dispel some of the rumors that have been flying around lately and also to lower the level of fear, especially among younger students." He smiled at Harry and Hermione. "And then I think we ought to give a round of applause to Harry Potter and Hermione Granger for making Head Boy and Girl!" He started clapping and the other Prefects joined in instantly.

Draco and Pansy, however, did not clap. "Everyone knows that Potter is old Dumbledore's favorite. It's no surprise he made him Head Boy."

Harry stared at him. "I suppose you're just jealous, Malfoy," he said. "And that's no surprise."

Draco smirked at him. "That's right, Potter, I'm jealous of you."

"You tell him, Draco," Pansy jeered.

Draco turned on her angrily, "Quiet, Parkinson. If I needed your help, I'd ask for it."

"Hmph!" Pansy crossed her arms and looked the other way, turning her nose up.

Suddenly the train slowed and came to a stop outside the station. "Well, let me offer my sincerest congratulations to you two," Draco sneered at Hermione and Harry, pushing past them and walking out into the aisle. He shoved past several younger students toward the door and jumped out. He wasn't in any rush, but he was hoping to get a carriage to himself. He was sure Crabbe and Goyle would try to follow him, so he slipped into one at the back. He drew the curtains shut, but held one so that he could peer outside. There they were, the bumbling oafs, lumbering up the road. He dropped the fabric as they passed by, hoping they hadn't seen him, but secretly knowing that they wouldn't have recognized him if they had.

Draco sat in the empty carriage for a good fifteen minutes before the doors opened and several students flooded in.

"Oh, great," Ron Weasley said. "C'mon, let's find another carriage--quickly."

"We can't--they're all full." Ginny stepped inside and sat opposite Draco, next to her brother.

"Well, where's the rest of the Potter fan club?" Draco asked, moving to the far right of the seat to distance himself from Ron's owl. "Keep that rabid beast away from me, Weasley."

Ron scowled and looked to his younger sister. "Are you sure there aren't any other carriages?"

Ginny nodded. "Positive. I checked. Hermione offered to squeeze us in, but I told her we'd find another."

"Thanks a bunch, Ginny," Ron said, straightening himself up.

Ginny frowned at him and tied her flaming-red hair back into a ponytail. "It's not so bad. Draco has hardly said a word."

He stared at them, wondering why he hadn't kicked them out of the carriage. Actually, when it came down to it, Ginny was probably the least annoying Weasley, Ron being the most irritating, of course. Maybe it was because she actually appeared to live in a normal house. She wasn't nearly as much of an eyesore as the other Weasley children.

When they arrived outside the doors of Hogwarts, Ron jumped out, dragging his caged owl with him. Ginny giggled and gave Draco a small smile before stepping out herself. He narrowed his eyes and slowly stepped out after a moment. He saw Ginny running up the stairs to catch up with her brother, Harry, and Hermione, her too-long robes billowing out. Obviously, in an effort to save money, her parents had gotten robes that were too big in anticipation of a growth spurt. Apparently she hadn't grown enough.

He shook his head as he sat in the Great Hall later that evening. Why was he even thinking about this? He didn't care about Ginny or any of the other Weasleys. He ignored Dumbledore's droning voice and refused to stare into those piercing eyes behind the half-moon glasses. The old man would never die, it seemed. He'd figured Dumbledore would have snuffed it by now...he'd hoped it would happen.

"Draco. Draco, are you listening to me?"

He looked to his right. It was Katherine Williams, a black girl in her fifth year. "What is it now? Has someone put batwings in your pumpkin juice again? Or maybe they've bewitched your tie so it keeps choking you."

She quirked an eyebrow. "You're very amusing. I was trying to tell you that Dumbledore's finished talking and you can eat."

He glanced up at the head table where the professors were now eating and talking animatedly. "Oh. Thanks."

"So, you shared a carriage with the Weasleys?" she questioned.

"Kat, don't start with that," Draco said irritably. "I wanted a carriage to myself--away from Crabbe and Goyle, if you must know--and then they just burst in."

"Why didn't you just kick them out?" Kat asked. "Letting them stay is awfully uncharacteristic of you." She smiled. "Maybe you've gone soft over the summer." Her eyes lit up, as if she had remembered something. "I did think it was strange that you sent me a birthday card."

"It was a weak moment," he explained, taking a sip from his goblet of pumpkin juice. "When do you reckon he'll snuff it?" he questioned, nodding toward the Headmaster.

"Who?" Kat asked.

"The old man--who do you think?"

"What is with your preoccupation with him, anyway?" Kat asked. "I mean, he does favor Harry Potter a bit, but he's always been a good Headmaster." She watched him with wide hazel eyes under long dark lashes. "I don't mind him. You know, if I had been here when this whole Harry Potter rivalry began, I would have stopped you. I think it's gone too far now."

"Stay out of my life, would you?" Draco snapped. She turned away and started eating, now ignoring him. He rolled his eyes. After a few moments, he said quietly, "Sorry."

"You should be," she replied haughtily. "You know, I only try and make civil conversation with you."

"You should know by now that I don't often make civil conversation with people," Draco said a little forcefully. "We wouldn't even be friends if it hadn't been for your persistence. God knows my father doesn't approve of you at all. He knows you're Muggle-born, you know," he said, lowering his voice to a whisper. "I don't know how he found out."

"Well, I'm not too worked up about it," Kat said casually. "It really doesn't affect my day-to-day life as it does yours."

"I don't care about that kind of stuff anymore," he shot back. "I used to, but now I don't. Let's just drop it altogether, all right?"

She straightened in her seat and started working on one of the meat pies. Nothing ever seemed to bother her. He could call her a Mudblood a hundred times and she wouldn't flinch. He watched a lock of her dark hair swing out of place and hang menacingly close to her plate. Slowly, he reached out and tucked it behind her ear.

"Draco," she said loudly, slapping his hand away. "Don't touch my hair."

"Sorry," he said, taken aback. "It was about to land in your food. I didn't want you to mess up your hair." He couldn't believe it. He had finally gotten to her, and by touching her hair, no less. She gathered up her hair and put it in a ponytail. Kat glanced at him quickly, and then looked away. "You're lucky I didn't take your head off. I don't let men touch me. Of course..." She giggled and continued, "You're hardly what I'd call a man."

"Shut up." With a sideways glance along the aisle at the head table, he turned to her again and asked, "Do you want to get out of here?"

"And go to the common room, oh boy." She rose from the bench and grabbed her bag.

He looked at her for a moment, and then stood up and followed her. Behind him, he heard Crabbe question stupidly, "Draco? Where're you off to?" He ignored Crabbe's query, of course, and walked faster to keep up with Kat's quick pace.

"You're so slow, Draco," she commented, laughing. "You've gotten so used to walking with those huge oafs. What are they called--oh, yes, Crabbe and Goyle. I never liked them." She was beginning to sound like Hermione Granger, he thought, as she prattled on. "Of course, they used to bully me when I was a first year."

"They bullied you?" he asked, genuinely concerned.

Kat nodded. "Yes, but being the clever little witch that I am, I was almost always able to outsmart them."

Draco snorted. "That wouldn't take much."

"Crabbe and Goyle don't use wands, I found." She quickened her pace as they neared the dungeon Common Room. "It was pretty easy to slip past them--just a quick Leg-Locker Curse and they'd be down. I also found petrificus totalus quite useful." Draco smiled slightly as they stopped outside the portrait of Goodwin the Ghastly being beheaded. "Why have you been friends with them for so long?" she asked seriously. "I mean, I'd have dumped them long ago."

"They make certain aspects of my life easier," he answered vaguely.

"Are you going to say the password or what?" Goodwin asked impatiently.

Kat frowned at the painting and said clearly, "Grindelwald." The portrait swung open and they stepped inside. Kat smiled. "I love this place."

Draco understood why. He was positive the Slytherins had the most lavish Common Room in the whole school. Elaborate chandeliers hung from the ceiling, giving the room a fair amount of, but never too much, light. They had a library of ancient spell books and many on the Dark Arts. They were interesting, but nothing in them was of any danger to the students and, therefore, worth reading. Draco thought that was unfortunate, but all of the really interesting information was found in books in the Restricted Section of the library. Some of them had been nicked by Slytherins and brought back to their Common Room for further reference. Draco had stolen a few, himself, but they had turned out to be useless.

"You know," Kat said suddenly, "it's people like you who give Slytherins a bad name."

"People like me," he repeated slowly. "Well, there were a lot of 'people like me' before I was even born, so why don't you blame them? Slytherins have always been different from the other Houses...since Hogwarts was founded. Haven't you heard the stories a hundred times?"

"No," she answered shortly, "I haven't." She started up the steps to her dormitory. "You know, if you're trying to break the mold for a certain Gryffindor, you haven't made a very good start."

"What are you talking about?" he demanded. "If you're insinuating what I think you are, you've--"

"What, Draco?" she mocked. "Will you be angry with me? Will you torture me with your little wand? I have eyes, and I know you've changed." She disappeared up the stairs.

He sighed in frustration and stormed up to his own dormitory. The nerve of her! He did not like Ginny Weasley in any way, shape, or form. She was a Gryffindor--for God's sake, she was a Weasley! He didn't consort with Weasleys. He entered his dormitory and saw his raven perched inside its cage. Roughly, Draco opened the cage, and said, "Go on, Edgar, get out." The shining black raven hopped out of the cage and took to the air. Angrily, Draco kicked his bed. "Honestly. Ginny Weasley." He opened his trunk and started unpacking his clothes, forcefully shoving them into the dresser drawers. To his surprise, there was a folded piece of parchment laying inside his trunk. "Something Father forgot, no doubt," he said to himself, unfolding it.

Dear Draco,
I hope this letter finds you well and adjusted in your last year at Hogwarts. I do not recall if I have mentioned to you how proud I really am. At times, last year, I felt that you were slipping away. I hope that you will live up to my expectations and not disgrace the Malfoy name. I must stress the importance of not participating in anything suspicious this year as Harry Potter is itching to frame you. He believes me to be involved in the Dark Arts and would like nothing more than to involve you as well. Please heed my words, Draco. It would be best if you did not return home at Christmas, but expect another letter from me soon.
Lucius Malfoy

Draco rolled his eyes and tore the letter up. "Incendio," he said, pointing his wand at the parchment, and it burst into flame. He sat down on his bed and watched the paper slowly turn black. He sat there for at least another half an hour, long after the flames had died out and the paper had turned to black ash.

Crabbe and Goyle stumbled into the room, roaring with laughter. "You should've seen it, Draco!" Goyle howled.

"We got Potter real good this time!" Crabbe shouted with glee. Draco stared at them with a look of befuddlement on his face. Crabbe laughed and said, "We had him up in the air and spinning around like a top!"

"You should've seen it!" Goyle said again.

Draco snorted. He would have liked to see Harry Potter spinning in midair. At least he wouldn't be blamed for it this time. "You know he's just going to go running to Dumbledore."

Crabbe and Goyle appeared not to have thought about that, because their smiles suddenly disappeared. Quickly they jumped into their own beds and pulled the curtains shut. Shaking his head, Draco did the same, changing into his pajamas and going to bed.