Three weeks before the beginning of term
"Hey! We got our letters!" Ron Weasley exclaimed as he removed two thick envelopes from a panting owl's leg.
"Yes! We don't have potions with Slytherin this year. Gin, what'd you get?"
"That's none of your business Ronald Weasley." The redhead said trying to brush past him and out of the room.
"No way are you getting off that easily." He said, plucking the letter from his sister's grasp. Silently Ginny cursed genetics for giving her a six-foot-something brother while she barely reached 5'6". Her brother's eyes widened.
"Ginny, this isn't- this can't be- are you sure this is your schedule?"
"It has my name on it doesn't it?" She snapped, grabbing the letter out of his hands, and trying once again to get away from him.
"But it's a- a seventh's year schedule. This say say's your in Advanced Potions AND Magical Healing."
"So," She sniffed.
"So you're only in sixth year."
"Show's what you know. Dumbledore has allowed me to skip a grade."
"But that never happens."
"Well it did okay, and please don't go mouthing off to-"
"-Mum." The redhead finished gloomily.
After the Start-of-Term Feast in Dumbledore's office
"Miss Weasley, I would like to start out by giving you my congratulations, very few students get the opportunity you've been given."
"Thank you, sir."
"I will warn you, however, you will be expected to do everything any other seventh year would be expected to do, there will be no free rides. And if for some reason your grades slip or you are unable to complete the work assigned you will go straight back to your proper year."
"Don't worry, sir, I can do this."
"I have no doubt that you can, Ginny. Now, down to business." He said handing her a long piece of parchment. Curious, she unrolled it.
Standard Brass Cauldron Size Nine
Essence of Narcisence
"I don't understand. Are these...potions ingredients?"
"Quite right, my dear."
"You, if I am to understand correctly, are enrolled in Magical Healing. These are the necessary supplies and this," He paused handing her a small leather pouch, "Should cover the extra expense."
He eyes widened as the bag opened to reveal almost twenty galleons. "I can't- I can't accept this."
"Miss Weasley, it has always been the policy of this school to provide for those students in need. You have a gift, that much is obvious if you were talented enough to get into Magical Healing. Madame Pomfrey and Pro. Snape hand pick those students who get accepted based on their test scores and their healing aptitude. Only two students this year have been accepted. It would be a shame to waste such a gift over a few gold coins, wouldn't it?"
"Yes, thank you, Headmaster." Ginny said felling a rush of affection for the old man. He may have been a crazy, old nut, but at least he was a kind, crazy, old nut.
"Magical Healing, like all advanced courses doesn't start until next week, so you'll need to go to Hogsmeade before then. I'll arrange a trip with either the Head Boy or Girl. Is Wednesday evening a suitable time for you?"
"Yes, that's fine."
"You may go then. It's your first night back and I'm sure you'd rather be with your friends then here. Besides," He added with a wink, "I think I'll head down to the kitchens and see if they have any leftover pumpkin pie."
The horses trudged on carrying their wagon, unaware of the mayhem within.
"I'm going to need new books." A silent nod, "And new robes." Another nod. "And then I'm going to light my hair on fire and run around the pub like a lunatic." A third nod.
"Mmhh, sounds good."
"Are you even listening, Malfoy?"
"As a matter of fact no. I was trying to pretend that you didn't exist, but you make that hard, what with your blathering on."
"I hate having to do this as much as you do-"
"I doubt that."
"-but we're going to have to live with it. The quicker I get my stuff the quicker we can leave."
"Tell me why you were made Head Boy again?
"Because I'm the best one for the job."
"What a sad, scary thought."
"Remind me to strangle Granger when we get back to the castle."
"It's not her fault she had plans. Although somehow I doubt her SPEW meeting will get huge crowd."
"What on earth are you talking about?"
"SPEW is, well never mind. But it's really important to her."
"Is that supposed to mean something to me?"
"Well, Malfoy, I know you wouldn't know much about it, but that's what friends do. Take interest in one another. Support them and their interests."
"Friends? Is that what you call them? They don't care about you; they never had and never will. You'll always just be Weasel's love sick, little sister."
"Is that really what you think? Then I feel sorry for you, Malfoy, I really do."
"Why didn't you get quills when you went shopping before?"
"I don't know, I guess I forgot."
"That's quills, parchment, and a new cauldron you forgotten so far. Quite the little absentminded little thing aren't we? When shopping with Potter, then, did you? Too distracted by his lovely visage to pay attention?"
"Actually no. I haven't seen Harry the whole summer, not that it's any of your business."
"Well you know what they say; absence makes the heart grow fonder."
"I'm starting to see the truth in that. I'd certainly like you a lot better if you weren't here."
"That hurt." He said placing a hand over his heart.
Ginny had to gather every shred of self control she had not to lose her temper. So far Malfoy had been mildly tolerable (for a Malfoy at least) and she didn't want to ruin that.
"Why don't we go someplace you want to go, Malfoy?"
The blond, for a moment looked slightly taken aback, "What?"
"Listen, I'm not us to be all buddy-buddy or whatever. I just want to get through the day so just take this as an offering of peace at least until we get back to the castle." He still looked slightly unsure. "Hey, I've drug you around the whole town, isn't it only fair for you to do the same?"
"Fine." He smirked (she hated it when he did that) and grabbed her sleeve and towed her along through the crowd.
"Malfoy, when I said 'dragged' I didn't mean it literally. Malfoy! Slow down!"
Instead of heading her request he moved faster until they were nearly running down the street.
"Where are we going?"
"Where ever I like." He took a sharp turn down a dimly lit alley, causing Ginny to almost stumble. Hanging from one of the walls was an old sign hanging crookedly from one chain. Red ink reflected the light, making Ginny think of blood. It read simply "Knockturn Alley", but those words alone were enough to make Ginny wince.
Hesitant to step further into the alley way she asked, "What are we doing here?" Unfortunately he still had hold of her robes and was considerably stronger then she was.
The smell of stale water and rot wafted in the air. Ginny wrinkled her nose, a wave of nausea coming over her. She had heard of this place from both Harry and her parents; she knew it was not the most savory place nor did it draw the most pleasant crowd.
"I have business to attend to."
They mounted a half flight of stairs, where the alley opened up, but only slightly.
"Are you coming or not?" No response. "What, are you scarred?"
"And Weasley, you might want to change your robes."
She looked down at her dingy black robes. They were simple and unadorned except for her Gryffindor and Prefect patches. "Why?"
"Somehow I doubt that the people here will take kindly to a little Gryffindor kitten." He took a step towards her. Instinctively she tried to pull back but he still gripped her shoulders tightly. A warm feeling crept slowly over her body and when he stepped back she examined her new attire she found her robes were now a deep emerald green.
"I look like a Slytherin." She said sadly examining her badges that, too, had changed.
"Forget that, you know it's the best you've ever looked, and considering the rags you normally wear, the best you ever will."
"Whatever. Let's just get what you need and get out."
"I thought you wanted me to have fun." He said innocently.
"I don't think 'fun' means what you think it means."
"Come on, Kitten." He opened the door and entered the shop, apparently expecting her to follow. She considered staying outside and making him wait...but no. That would mean staying outside, by herself, in a dark alley. Although somehow she got the feeling she wouldn't be much safer with Malfoy. Darn the Weasley pride.
She trailed after him reluctantly. Ginny studied each oddity she saw with great interest but was careful not to touch anything. Not that she thought her prudence was undeserved; Harry had told her of the ghastly things he had seen here.
"Stay here and don't touch any- on second thought, Weasley, touch whatever you like." She rolled her eyes at his retreating back.
Draco was feeling especially good about himself as he watched the startled girl. She had been purposefully annoying him all day. 'Malfoy I need quills. Which will do you like better the blue or the black? Malfoy, which parchment do you think will go better with those lovely black quills we got? White, off-white, or sandstorm?" Not even a Weasley could be that dumb.
It was obvious she had been doing it just to annoy him, so when she had offered him his chance at revenge he had taken it gladly. After all he was a Malfoy, and a Malfoy was never one to be made a fool of.
He was actually surprised she had actually entered the store; he had, after all, expected her to refuse after she realized where he was going. He supposed in some weird way she was trying to uphold the family honor, not that there was any.
The shopkeeper was still in the back room looking for Draco's newest request, siren's talon. He knew, of course, that the old, balding man would never find any, which made the whole experience even more fun because now he had an excuse to throw a fit and make Weasley wait even longer.
His eyes fell back on the redhead. He smiled unconsciously at the item she was examining. He knew it well as it, along with many other things here, had come from Malfoy Manor. It was the Capsell-Amorea, a beautifully engraved locket that when given as a gift made the wearer fall instantly in love with the bearer. She wrinkled her nose in distaste, completely unaware of the slate grey eyes watching her from across the small store.
"Mr. Malfoy-" Draco turned suddenly at the sound of his name. The shopkeeper, a short, nervous man, had returned and was twitching slightly.
"Did you find it?" Draco inquired, knowing the answer before he asked.
"I'm sorry sir, but no."
"What do you mean no? I come with a simple request for siren's talon and you refuse me? You say you have none?" The man was twitching more then ever and looked pained. Draco was deeply disgusted at the man's lack of spine; he hadn't even touched the man yet. "I am most displeased. In fact, I think I shall have to have to tell my father that the quality of this shop has been slipping. Maybe he-" Draco was pouring his anger out in the rant. All his annoyance at having to spend a day with the Weasley, all the anger he'd harbored over the summer at his father, all his start of term stress. Sure, it was probably unfair to take his anger out on this man, but it was sure making him feel better. So in that case hello misplaced aggression. "He shall have to find another establishment to take his business to. And if he get's really perturbed he might have to tell his friends to do the same."
"Oh, no Mr. Malfoy, I could-" The older man's whining was cut short by a loud shriek. He recognized the voice immediately as the Weaselette's. He scanned the store for her and instantly saw her red hair, a flaming beacon in the shadowy shop. She was flanked by two men-on each side- who appeared to be in their early twenties. One, a tall, thin man with pale skin and blond hair, stood behind her while a darkly colored one stood beside her, one arm placed tightly around her waist.
"I'll have my wand back now." She said, her chin raised defiantly.
"Oh don't worry. You're okay with me." The blond said.
"Yes, princess, your in safe," Here the second one paused and pulled Ginny closer to him, "Hands with us."
"Somehow I highly doubt that. Now hand over my wand before I'm forced to hurt you."
"I was hoping we could get to know you a bit better." The man's glaze, Draco noticed, was positioned in a rather improper location. The Weasley girl's face was flashed a deep red, whether out of anger, fear, or because she too had noticed the inappropriateness of his glaze he wasn't sure.
One thing he was sure of, however, was that it was time to intervene. He may not have been a nice person, but there were some things even he didn't do and harming an unarmed woman was one of them. Though it would have been nice to see the Weaselette get hurt. After all emotional cuts hurt so much more then physical pain, and no one knew that better then he did.
But no. Even he wouldn't sink to that level of inhumanity. He might have hated the girl, but that didn't make him slim.
"Let go of me now or-"
"Let's just go for a little stroll then, shall we?" Said the man as he lead her towards the door, both arms now securely around her.
"I believe the lady said no, you low down disgusting, scum." Draco said a little more arrogant (if that was even possible) then normal.
"And what do you intend to do if-" The men turned to see that they were facing the Draco Malfoy. "Mister Malfoy, I'm sorry. I was just trying to teach this girl that it's dangerous to wander the Alley alone."
"She isn't alone. The girl is with me. Now let her go if you value your life." His steel gray eyes flashed treacherously causing Ginny shiver.
The blond, who had been mostly quiet throughout this exchange, pulled his wand with lightning fast speed.
But Draco was too quick for him. Before he even finished the word he lied unconsciously on the ground. Ginny took this moment of uncertainty to her advantage and did the only thing she could think of; punched her captor, hard, in the jaw. Draco was rather shocked at the girl's courage. The second man now, too, lay still on the ground. He knelt down and checked the man's pulse. It was slow, but steady, he was obviously unconscious. Looking at the redhead, he could see she was shaking violently.
"Wait outside. I'll be right there." And to his surprise she didn't argue.
Draco found her several minutes later outside leaning against a grubby brick wall. She met his eyes for only a second before turning her head.
He couldn't help notice the redness of her eyes. And was that a tear she was wiping away?
"Did they hurt you?"
"No." Her voice was muffled and distant. He grabbed her shoulder and forced her to look at him.
"Did they hurt you?" He repeated.
"No, I'm okay. Thank you, Malfoy."
She was still shaking, he realized suddenly. "It's getting cold. Take this," He said wrapping his cloak around her. She looked up at him in shock, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears.
"Thank you, Draco."
The name sounded weird coming out of her mouth. She looked uncomfortable and squirmed under his skeptic look. The weird thing was, it sounded right.
"Come on, let's get some food, it will clam your nerves."
A good meal seemed to cheer the little Weasley up. A good thing too because Draco had no to how to deal with a crying girl, especially a crying girl who happened to be his sworn enemy. And that was the problem wasn't it? He'd shown his enemy his weakness, that he wasn't the stone faced Malfoy he'd work so hard to convince everyone he was. He couldn't have the girl go and blab to Saint Potter, now could he? He needed someway to insure her silence. What he needed was-
"Hey Malfoy, Knut for you thoughts." The object of his plotting said, flicking a small bronze coin in his direction. With his well toned seeker skills he caught it, then handed it back.
"Keep your money, goodness knows you Weasels need it." She, probably with thought of his recent chivalry in mind, took the jab in good humor. But still she stared at him expectantly. What? Was this little Gryff more mental then he thought? Was she actually trying to have a conversation with him? Well that wasn't about to happen. Yet somehow against his will he felt his mouth open.
Don't you dare, Draco Malfoy. You close your mouth right now.
"Quidditch." He heard a voice that sounded suspiciously like his own answer.
"Come on, Weasley, even you can't be that slow. You know, Quidditch, that game where you with four balls and the bats and you fly around on brooms..."
"Don't be stupid Malfoy-"
"Wouldn't dream of it."
"-I meant like, professional quidditch, school quidditch..."
"I was just thinking how Slytherin is going to crush Gryffindor this year."
"Don't be so sure. This year we have a secret weapon."
"Yeah? So what's this so called 'secret weapon'?"
Ginny smirked (a smirk even a Slytherin would be proud of), "Me." She said, her eyes sparkling mischievously.
Draco, much to his companion's annoyance, simply laughed. "You? You made the team? Know I know we're going to win."
"You're just jealous. I could out fly you any day."
"You just keep telling yourself that, love."
"Malfoy, I used to dislike you. Now I really dislike you."
He put is hand to his heart in mock offence, "That hurt, it really did."
"There, there, Ducky. You really need to come up with better comebacks."
"Fine. Shut up you unbearable git."
"Greasy haired, egotistical, prat of a Slytherin. The only reason your big, fat, head doesn't float away is because it's so weighed down with gel. You are a pompous, overbearing-"
"Hey! No fair, you said more then one word!" He pouted, sounding very much like a five year-old.
"So, had I known we were allowed to say more then one word I would have called you a redheaded little Weaselette who's so poor she can't even afford her own school supplies. You Mudblood loving freak that you are have probably contaminated me."
"Contaminated you? With what? Is wittle Malfoy afraid of cooties."
"Oh, now who needs to come up with better come backs?"
"The only reason I didn't respond is because you were being so utterly stupid that I decided not to grace that with a response."
"Which is just a really pretty way to say I win."
"Think whatever you like, Weasel."
"Grrrr... do you realize how infuriating you are?"
"Careful Weasel, have you had all your shots?"
"And you would know all about being a rodent wouldn't you, Ferret Boy?"
"That was uncalled for. That whole ferret thing really hurt my fragile psyche."
He didn't reply and she seemed quite intent to just glare at him. He gave her his most endearing smile; she rolled her eyes and resumed eating. She's pretty enough, he thought studying her from across the table, for a Weasley. The most striking feature of her heart shape face were her slightly upturned green eyes which were accentuated by her emerald robes.
Wait- Emerald robes?
Draco smirked at the redhead; obviously she had forgotten she was still in Slytherin robes. He considered telling her but quickly discarded the idea. He wanted to see how long it would take her to notice. He stifled a laugh as he pictured Potter and Weasley's faces if they could see the little Weaselette all done up like a Slytherin princess. Unfortunately the chances of any member of the 'dream team' sneaking into Hogsmeade on a Wednesday night and risking the chances of a week's detention were, like, nil.
"What's so funny?" She asked eyeing the Slytherin with unveiled suspicion.
"Nothing, Weasley." This earned him another eye roll.
"Whatever. You ready to go?"
"Do I have a choice? Dumbledore made me your babysitter for the day, remember?"
"So. You don't have to stay with me. The only reason I insisted you did before was to hopefully save me the time of going to look for you, but now, there's not much of the day left anyway so I guess it doesn't matter. Meet me at the robes shop in exactly one hour."
"An hour, Malfoy. Don't be late."
"Would I ever do that to you?" He asked innocently.
"Yes. Don't be late."
He was late by about twenty minutes, he noticed, but made no move to slow up. In fact, he might have even slowed down. His trip to Honeydukes had taken less time then he'd expected so, to insure his tardiness he had walked all the way to Zonko's, on the other side of Hogsmeade, and then back. He had a smug sense of satisfaction as her opened the door to Henrietta's Robes for All Occasions. To his surprise he did not find the Weasley girl sitting grumpily in a waiting room chair as he'd expected. Instead, he found she was still standing on the small stool, apparently getting fitted.
"Oh, Malfoy, thank goodness you're here. Let's go before she gets back." She took a step forward and tripped on the measuring tape that hung haphazardly around her shoulders. She stood back up and continued towards him. Only she didn't sound mad; she sounded relieved. "For Merlin's sake, hurry!"
"Before who comes back? Weasley, you're acting more strangely then normal."
Just then a well dressed woman in her early thirties came in holding an armful of robes. On her own maroon outfit there was a gold name plate that read 'Daisy'. She smiled, revealing two rows of straight, white teeth.
"Hello there, sir, you must be the laddie-love she's been waiting so impatiently for. Have a seat." She summoned a chair from the front room for him. He sat down, unsure of what was going on.
"I told you he's not my boyfriend!" An exasperated Ginny, clad in violet robes, exclaimed.
"When way are you waiting for him?" But before the redhead could answer she retrieved her measuring tape from where Ginny had thrown it to the ground. "Oh, dear that does look lovely, doesn't it? What do you think, love? What, you don't like it? I fancy blue myself." Then Daisy pointed her wand at Ginny and instantly the robes she wore turned blue.
Ginny rolled her eyes. She complained, "She's been at this for the last hour!"
The saleswoman ignored the comment. She was searching a nearby rack for yet another robe. On the seat near where Ginny was standing he saw a mountain of discarded robes. Daisy extracted a set of pale yellow robes from the rack.
Daisy cried, "Reponere!" and squealed delightedly as the blue robes were replaced by the yellow ones.
"No more. Please, I'm begging you!" But once again the woman ignored her. She seemed to think she had found her very own life sized manikin, a role which Ginny had obviously been playing for the past hour. Draco felt slightly sick as he watched her robes change from yellow, to blue, to red, then back to blue. Twice the Gryffindor tried to step away but Daisy would firmly chastise her and put her back on the stool. She simply wasn't about to lose her favorite model.
"Do you like them?" She asked Draco again. This time he replied, a diabolical plan forming in his twisted little head.
"Oh, yes, lovely indeed! But wouldn't she look even prettier in these?" He said pointing to a set of silver robes.
"Owwwwww, you right!" Within a second the girl stood draped in the shimmering material of the robes.
"Malfoy..." Weasley said in a warning tone. But he wasn't about to stop, it was merely too much fun to see her annoyance.
"Oh, you look so cute, hon."
"Oh yes," He said, "Sooooooo cute. What do you think of this Daisy Darling?"
"Oh indeed!" She was now in a fury. He watched in unveiled amusement as she made Weasley's robes change first in color, then style. Her latest ensemble was of a pale lavender material. It's sleeves and hem were lined with lace. He laughed as he watched the redhead's face grow a deeper shade of red with each change of her robes. He heard Daisy gasp.
The Gryffindor stood draped in robes of flowing velvet, which appeared black, but at each crease where the light shone on the fabric he could see it was truly green. The dark color contrasted well with her pale, cream colored skin. He noticed for the first time that day she was more then pretty, she was beautiful. Not a classical beauty, not even a stunning beauty. No it was more subtle; it was in the soft curve of her chin and the high, dignified arch of her neck. Her hair tumbled down her back in a disarray of vermillion tendrils, the color of leaves in the autumn. Her green eyes, were enthralling, enchanting, and seemed to pull you deeper within and at the same time appeared to be so fully and completely her own that they seemed forbidden. He could see there was something there in those eyes...
"Enough!" The girl's voice shrieked, drawing him back from his thoughts. "Accio wand!"
"I'm flattered, really I am. But we must be going and I really only need work robes."
"Nonsense. You must stay for a few more minutes and-"
"NO! I, er, have to get back to the castle."
"No we don't." Draco interjected, bemused at his scheme.
"Yes we do. Unless, Drakie, darling, you would liketo try on some new robes." She said mischievously.
"You know, now that I look at the time I realized we probably should be going. Get the girl whatever she needs."
"And be quick about it!"
Sullenly, the woman changed the redhead back into her original robes and scurried off to another room. She emerged carrying a package which she handed promptly to Ginny. The girl looked inside, her eyes falling on green velvet.
"But-I-I can't- I could never afford these."
"Sure you can, Hon. It's only a Knut." The woman said smiling. She knew Daisy was lying; she had seen the price tag herself and knew the price was well into the three digit range.
"But the price tag said-"
"They went on sale. Anyone who looks that good in them deserves to have them."
All at once Ginny felt her hatred for the crazy salesperson melt away. "Oh, thank you!" She cried and hugged Daisy. Quickly she paid for her other purchases (two black work robes) and literally skipped out of the shop. Shaking his head, he followed her out.
Out on the street Ginny was singing the chorus of 'I Feel Pretty,' and waving at random people.
"Would you stop that, I'm embarrassed."
"Embarrassed of what?"
"To admit we're that same species, now come on."
"Not even you could make me mad right now, Malfoy."
"Well, I can sure try. Let's go."
"Right." She said pulling out a small ceramic circle. Malfoy had already pulled a similar one out of his pocket. When they put them together they fit perfectly together.
Nothing happened. "Er, Malfoy, what are we supposed to do-"
A bright flash of light interrupted. She felt the pull of what seemed like a giant invisible hand, pulling her. It wasn't painful really, but it sent tingles down her spine. She landed unceremoniously in a heap on top of the ground, and unfortunately, on top of Malfoy.