The Pilgrim's Badge

A note of Pilgrims' Badges: Pilgrimage is a tradition that goes way back to the Greeks, who would make a yearly pilgrimage to the Oracle at Delphi, or to the Oracle of Zeus. A great diversity of religions practice this tradition, making a yearly voyage to a place that contains special significance to them. This journey was often long and arduous, and the longer and harder; the greater the pilgrim's devotion.

Particularly in the Middle Ages, pilgrimage was considered a responsibility and obligation of faith. Many of the Lords and nobles of the time would make their yearly trip; yet the peasants and workers often could not afford this luxury. A peasant would be ambitious planning even one trip in his or her entire lifetime, and any of the laity who managed such a trip were counted among the most devoted and pious in the community, and well blessed for being able to do so.

It is unclear when, but there came a practice of collecting souvenirs from the destinations to which pilgrims traveled. These became known as the pilgrim's badges, as they were generally some kind of ornament or broach, which could be displayed as evidence of their journey. They would often represent the relic or symbol of one of the saints of the Catholic faith, or just a message that had specific significance. Crosses dedicated to a particular saint were especially popular, but the badges existed in a wide variety of design and significance. In this way, pilgrims were supposed to be able to carry the lessons they had learned during their journey with them always, especially the peasants who were only able to make the trip once in a lifetime. Also, for peasants, the pilgrim badges were passed on to other generations, so that present may learn from the past, and remember the long, hard journey their ancestor had made, and what they had learned from this experience.

– Compiled with files from

Chapter One: Casting a Stone

He was already mildly irritated that afternoon, and when his friends had caught him staring at her again, while she sat with the rest of her crowd, across from him in the Three Broomsticks, it just increased his temper. It had been going on for weeks; he found himself watching her. There was something compelling about her laugh, and the sparkle in her eye that captivated him, and he started to watch her more and more – it had become an addiction. He couldn't understand how someone with her lot in life – a Weasley, poor, surrounded by holier-than-thou Gryffindors all day long, that red hair! – could smile and laugh so easily, and frequently as she did.

After they had noticed he wasn't paying attention, and had discovered what had pulled his focus, he'd silenced their comments with a thunderous glare, and stormed away. After wandering the street of Hogsmeade for a good hour, his temper growing darker with every step, he decided that it was time to gather his group and head back to the school – heckling a few first years might exorcise his terrible mood. The day was far too sunny for him, and it was harder to spread misery in the sunshine.

He figured that they were all hovering around the Shrieking Shack; it had become their pseudo-territory during Hogsmeade weekends, and without a leader, he doubted that they would have enough imagination to consider any other possibilities. He spotted Crabbe and Goyle, with the rest of the Slytherin guys, standing in a half-circle with their backs to him. He was about to join them, when a flash of light blinded him.

He blinked, trying to clear his eyes, when the light flashed again. Scanning the area, he tracked the source, and scowled. He took the few steps left between him and the group, and listened to their conversation, and his anger flared again.

"If you'll excuse me, you big gits, you're blocking my way," the youngest Weasley snarled. Her eyes were blazing with anger, and she was clutching her wand in her hand, prepared to hex anyone should they give her any trouble.

"What's a Gryffindor like you doing here all by her self?" Goyle questioned, in what he supposed was a Malfoy-like sneer

"The pleasure of your company was just too much for me to handle," she said brightly, with an acerbic bite to her voice that made it clear that the exact opposite was true.

"Where's your precious Potter?" Crabbe demanded, as the rest of the Slytherin guys burst into laughter. The icy glare she gave him stopped his laughter in his throat, and the memory of what the Bat-Boogey Hex had done to Malfoy crossed their minds.

Draco Malfoy pushed his way through the group; tossing his Housemates aside as he made his way to the front of the group, right in front of Ginny Weasley.

"What's the deal, boys?" he asked his friends, looking around. The shinning light blinded him yet again, and he focused his sight to a pendant tied around the Weasley's neck with a length of white ribbon. It was a Galleon-sized, blue-tinged silver medallion, embossed with a large letter 'A', surrounded by an elaborately engraved design. He stared at it, as it glinted in the sun, and he thought he saw some strange shadow moving within it.

"Just your minions acting mindlessly as always, Malfoy," she quipped, her wand raised threateningly. He tore his gaze away from her pendant, and took a good look at her – Gryffindor-ish bravado aside, there was a hint of fear in her eyes. She was surrounded by five, older and larger Slytherins, and quite alone.

"What does the 'A' stand for?" he found himself asking, without really knowing why. She started, a bit surprised, looking down at the necklace.

"What's it to you, Malfoy?" she asked, suspiciously. He could feel the eyes of his Housemates on the back of his neck, knowing that they were incredulous at hearing the first thing he'd ever spoken to a Weasley that wasn't an insult, and he that he'd better recover somehow, or be forever disgraced.

"Curious as to how a poor little Weasley like yourself got her hands on something like that, that's all," he said, snidely. Her eyes widened, sparkling in fury, and her cheeks turned pink.

"Family heirloom, Malfoy. Much like that whole 'arrogant-evil-git' thing is passed down through your family, so is this," she spat

"Well, then it must be pretty worthless if your family hasn't sold it yet, to pay for new robes…obviously, that's something you've never had," he said spitefully, casting a look up and down her body. She stared at him, frozen, for a second, before she lunged forward, catching his jaw with a vicious fist. As he fell backwards, she jumped on him, thrashing wildly at him with an uncontrolled rage.

"Stop it! Stop it this instant!" the sharp voice of Professor McGonagal cut through the shocked yelling of the Slytherins as they watched the littlest Weasley pummel their friend. "What in Merlin's name is happening here? Ginny Weasley, get off of him this instant!"

She was wrenched away from him, arms still swinging, the sound of her outraged cries punctuated by McGonagal's disapproving voice.

"Imagine, one of my own House, attacking another student! Ms. Weasley, a Prefect!"

"Ask him what he said! About my family and me! Prefect or no, Professor, no one says anything like that and gets away with it!" the little red-headed powerhouse snarled at the teacher, who was flustered by the lack of contriteness on the student's part. She looked around the scene, spotting the five Slytherin seventh-years, and making note that she was the only Gryffindor.

"Weasley, Malfoy, both of you shall report to the Headmaster's office as soon as we get back to Hogwarts," she declared shrilly.

"But Professor, she attacked me!" Draco protested, outraged, while trying to stem the flow of blood gushing out of his nose. She'd probably broken it with her second swipe at him. The teacher took a second look at him.

"Malfoy, go to the Hospital Wing right now. As soon as Madame Pomfrey is finished with you, you shall report to Professor Dumbledore's office immediately," she said, with an air of finality, as she strode away, pulling the Weasley briskly along with her.

Standing in the darkest corner he could find, he glared at the Headmaster, who was sitting calmly in front of them, encouraging the Weasel to help herself to the bowl of sweets on his desk. The old man's eyes glanced at Draco, before he looked back to address the huffing Professor McGonagal.

"Are you sure I can't offer you a Fizzing Whizzbee? They are rather delightful, Ms. Weasley," he said. Ginny Weasley smiled at him, but shook her head. Her hands were still shaking with her suppressed anger, and not even the kindness of the Headmaster would be able to alleviate that. She really needed to knock another few blows to Malfoy's head before she'd start to feel better.

"Albus, I found these two students brawling in the middle of the town! They need to understand that this behavior is not acceptable in any case, and especially not from two Prefects!" Professor McGonagal began her disapproving ranting once again, pausing to fully glare at the redhead, as if to express her extreme displeasure that she was a Prefect of her own House. Draco ignored all the conversation circling around him; he was busy staring – once again – at the redhead.

"Perhaps you could tell me what started this whole ordeal, Ms. Weasley?" Dumbledore asked.

"He was just being a bigger git than normal, so I figured that it was my duty as a Hogwarts Prefect to try to knock some sense into that thick head of his," she said, with a smile on her face. A high-pitched noise, mingling shock and outrage, was emitting from McGonagal's throat, and Draco had to hand it to the girl – she certainly wasn't afraid of pushing anyone's buttons.

"I see. Ginny, I assure you, knocking sense into people serves only to knock even more of it out of them – something I've tried many times with my own brother. And Draco, have you anything to say? Perhaps you could explain what it is you said to provoke Ginny?"

"Just the truth, Professor. Some people aren't quite as capable of dealing with it as others," he said, without looking at Dumbledore. From the angle he was at, he could make out that strange pendant the Weasley was wearing, and once again, he was drawn to it – it could make out some strange pattern of shimmering light that was moving across it. He was so entranced with trying to figure out the mystery behind it that he didn't see the Headmaster's long look in his direction, and the slight shimmer of recognition that flashed in his eyes as he followed Draco's gaze to spot what he was staring at.

"I see…" he said, his voice containing a certain quality that made Draco uneasy, causing him to snap his head away, and noticed a completely unsettling twinkle in the old man's eye. "I see that we are at a bit of an impasse. I suppose that if I were to ask you to reconcile and become good friends, it would be a fate worse then death?"

"It would be a fate worse than the one that comes after death," Ginny responded quickly. Dumbledore smiled, but after catching McGonagal's disapproving sniff, his face became neutral again.

"Since that is the case, I will restate that fighting, dueling, hexing, jinxing of any student for any reason is forbidden in this school. I'll let your respective Heads of your Houses deal with the details of your punishment, and leave you with the warning – the next time there is fighting between you two, I will insist upon friendship and complete amiability," he said darkly. Ginny frowned at him curiously, wondering just how he could ensure that two enemies would spontaneously become friends. Then, remembering his reputation as the most Power Wizard Our Time, she figured that he would have ways of ensuring that came about.

"Are we dismissed?" Draco asked snidely. Dumbledore nodded, and watched as he stormed out of the room.

Sinister was the only word that could describe his mood. His day had taken a complete downturn, and there was no hope of reversing the decline at this point. His meeting with Snape had gone quite as he'd expected it to – he'd been berated for fighting another student (although his proclamations of innocence did not fall on death ears), but most importantly, for allowing a girl half his size, and a Gryffindor to boot, to pummel him so completely as to have him fall to the ground, helpless. After a lecture about House pride, he'd been sentenced – three days' detention. He was well aware that it wasn't for cornering the Weasley or provoking her, but because she'd been successful in nearly breaking his nose.

Upon returning to the dormitory, he found the Common Room bustling with his fellow Housemates, and unable to bare the thought of facing them and listening to the obligatory, inane "we'll get the Weaslette next time, Malfoy, huh huh huh" grumblings, he planned on taking a detour straight to his room, when one of the minions called out his name.

"Malfoy! Hold up!" Nott called, chasing after him. He was holding a package in his hand, causing Draco to stop and wait for him. His eyes, however, should have struck fear in the heart of every mortal in the room – as they reflected his mood exactly. "This came for you, just a few minutes ago, from your father, through the usual means. He also wanted me to pass a message along, about how this will be a great tool for the Dark Lo—" he was saying before Draco thrust his fist into his stomach, cutting off his speech.

"Perhaps we should discuss this where there aren't so many people listening," he hissed softly, dangerously, wanting to howl in frustration over his dimwitted Housemates. No wonder the Boy Who Should Have Died and his friends were always winning their little battles – his people at least knew how to keep a secret.

Nott looked up at Draco as though he were brilliant, and followed him along, wincing slightly in pain as he regained his breath.

"Now, tell me about the message," Draco said. Since the year his father had been thrown into Azkaban, there had been a secret system of delivering messages put into place in the Slytherin dormitory. Only a select few students were aware of it, and monitored it carefully, lest it be discovered. It wouldn't do for Dumbledore to find out that Voldemort's spies were in fact his own students.

"He delivered this package, and said that I was to give it to you directly, and that you were to keep it safe. It's supposed to be a great tool in the fight with the Dark Lord, and that it's really important that you keep it with you, and don't let it leave your sight. He said that they think it the best plan to hide it in plain sight – it took them years to find it, and now that they have, it is your greatest duty to make sure nothing happens to it after all the work they went through to get their hands on it," Nott rambled on, excitedly. Draco surveyed the small box he handed him – it was rather too small to be a 'great weapon', but with magic, you could never be certain. At least Nott was a complete fool and hadn't opened the package before turning it over to him.

Nott leaned in as Draco started to open the box. He glared at Nott, until the other boy took the hint, scowled and left the room, leaving Draco alone. He ripped the packing paper off the box, and eagerly lifted the lid.

And saw, white ribbon and all, Ginny Weasley's pendant lying on a bed of cotton at the bottom of the shallow box. The silvery-blue 'A' glinted up at him infuriatingly. He shut the lid quickly – how could that possibly be an important weapon? The Weasley's worthless 'family heirloom'? He surely must be mistaken. The knock she'd given him to the head must be addling his brain.

He looked again, cautiously sliding the cover off the box. He looked down, and blinked. And there it still was, shimmering blue on that infernal bed of cotton. Inspecting closer, he looked for the stranger light pattern that had been reflecting off of it earlier in the afternoon. And he saw nothing, just the letter 'A' staring up at him.

In disgust, he buried the box in his trunk, and flopped down on his bed, fuming. It had been a rough day, after all.

He awoke, a few hours later, with his heart pounding furiously, as if it wanted to beat itself right out of his chest. He sat up, gasping. There was a throbbing in his head, and he was filled with emotions he didn't understand – lost, desperation, anger, and sorrow. A need he couldn't describe propelled him forward, as he crawled out of the sweaty, tangled bed linen, over to his trunk. Whipping open the lid, not caring who he woke with the noise, he tore through it in the dark until his hands grasped the small box that had arrived that evening.

He ripped off the lid, and with shaking fingers; he lifted the pendant and held it up for closer inspection. It was glowing; emitting a faint blue glow that cast an eerie shadow over the room. He wrapped his fingers around it, and squeezed it as tightly as possible – as if someone were about to come along and tear it from his grasp, and he was squeezing desperately to keep it in his possession.

Holding tightly to the pendant, he stood up, still feeling shaky with residual nervous energy from the dream. He need to get out of the room; there was so much feeling within him that the room walls couldn't possibly contain it all.

He quickly ducked around a corner, as he saw a flickering light moving along the hallways, and heard the accompanied footsteps. He listened quietly, and as the footsteps approached, he peeked around and saw the other late-night hall-wanderer. Holding her lit-up wand, Ginny Weasley was walking through the hall, her head down, scanning the floors for something. He tightened his grasp on the pendant the closer she came, guessing what she was looking for.

"Uh-oh! What have we here? A little Gryffie, out of her bed!" the unmistakable voice of Peeves rang through the hallway.

"Peeves! Be quiet!" she hissed, dulling the light from her wand as the malevolent spirit drifted closer.

"Haven't given me a reason to, little Gryffie! What would Filch say if he were to see the red Gryffie that set off the Dungbombs wandering around the hallway?" Peeves said, his voice taking on his sing-song tone.

"He won't say a bloody thing, Peeves, or I'll tell him where you hid your bag of balloons for your water bombs," she threatened quickly. "I've lost my badge, I'm just looking for it."

"Badge? She has a badge? What badge do you have, Gryffie?" Peeves asked, suddenly interested, forgetting all about telling on her.

"My pilgrim's badge. You know very well which one I'm talking about, you keep stealing the ribbon I wear it on!" she snapped, knowing now that her threat had worked, and that Peeves wouldn't alert Filch to her whereabouts, and beginning her search of the floors. Draco was reluctantly impressed by how well she was handling the spirit. It showed a certain cunning he was very certain that Gryffindors didn't possess.

"A!" Peeve sang loudly, prompting a fierce look from the Weasley. She looked back down, and he started again. "A – C – D – M!"

"Honestly, Peeves, do you not even know your proper alphabet? If you're not going to help me look for it, then shove off, so I don't get into trouble!" she snapped.

"Find it, find it, find it!" he sang, before his barely-visible image faded away, and swift gush of wind signaled his exit. The Weasley sighed contemptuously, before she took another few steps in his direction, looking down at the floor.

Draco was about to step away as quietly as possible, until he felt a rather strange sensation – as if someone or something was giving his rear-end a mighty boot – pushing him out of his hiding place, stumbling to keep his balance. He clutched the pendant desperately in his hand as he stopped in the middle of the hall, in full sight of one Ms. Ginny Weasley.

"Malfoy!" she cried, clearly shocked. "What in Merlin's name are you doing out here at this time?"

"I'd ask you the same thing, Weasel," he answered, coolly, as he took a moment to withdraw his wand from his pocket and cast his own light in the dim hallway. He ran his eyes over the Weasley; she was wearing a nightdress and a pair of fuzzy slippers, obviously woken in the middle of the night. He wondered what had done that.

"I asked you first!" she snapped viciously.

"Looking for something?" he asked snidely, in response to her confrontational tone. Her eyes were brown, the dim glow from their wands casting a soft glow on her face. They were also wide with worry.

"If you must know, I've lost my pilgrim's badge. The pendant you were so rude about this afternoon," she said, sighing, as she searched over the floor. Draco's eyes were snapped away from watching her when the pendant that was clutched so tightly in his hand started to warm up, rather considerably.

"That ugly old thing you were wearing? Surely it can't come as a great loss, Weasel, it couldn't have been worth very much," he laughed cruelly, watching her eyes narrow in anger.

"Some things are worth more than just money, Malfoy," she answered coolly.

"Answer I'd expect from a Weasley…most things you have wouldn't be worth any money, I guess," he hissed, as the warmth of the pendant grew almost unbearably warm, fuelling his anger. The longing and sorrow that he had felt when he'd woken that night seemed to be filling him again, combining with the anger, creating an incredibly unpleasant feeling. He gasped in sudden pain as the pendant began to burn his flesh.

"Malfoy? What the bloody hell is wrong with you?" he could hear her demanding, somewhere in the distance. The pain increased, and he tried to open his palm, to release the pendant, but his muscles contracted painfully around it, making it impossible.

As he stumbled to the ground, he managed to speak through the blinding haze of pain filling his senses.

"What does the 'A' stand for?" he gasped.

"My badge? Why do you want to know what it stands for? You took it, didn't you Malfoy! Give it back to me!" she yelled, her voice full of anger and hurt. The sound reverberated through him, as the waves of pain increased intensely.

"What does it stand for?" he croaked out, feeling as if the very flesh of his hand was burning away.

"Give it back to me, you bastard!" she yelled. Suddenly, the anger exploded within him, overcoming all sensations, even the pain, and he stood up, pushing himself off the ground effortlessly. Looking down at his shaking hand, he could only see red – the red of an incredible anger he wasn't sure he could control. He looked up at the Weasley, standing cautiously a few feet in front of him, her wand pointed at him threateningly. Her eyes were wide, still, but this time with fear. Meeting her eyes, he felt the anger well up again, and he cried out as he tried to contain it.

"Get out of here," he groaned. There must have been something in his voice that convinced her, because she heeded his command. She turned, and ran quickly away, as the burning in his palm returned, bringing him to his knees, as he cried out in pain.

His whole body was shaking, as the anger and the pain overwhelmed his system, until he couldn't control it any longer and he dropped to the floor, the world becoming black around him.

More to come!

Peeves is a hard character to write. Draco's in his last year, Ginny in sixth (just in case it wasn't apparent -- I don't mention it, but I 'allude' to it).

Any thoughts?