A/N: This goes with Half-Blood Prince canon, so there are book 6 spoilers. If you haven't read book 6, you might want to do that. Unless, of course you know who dies and all that rot. Cheers!

This chapter is a replacement chapter go to along with HBP. Over the next couple of days I'll replace chaps 2, 3, and 4 to also go with new canon. Any mistakes grammar, etc. are mine - this version has not been beta read.

XXXXXXX

Chapter One: A Most Unlikely Detention

XXXXXXX

Ginny sat in the library, her Muggle Studies book opened in front of her. Her eyes scanned over the words, but she wasn't absorbing any of it. The sky was so dark outside that it was almost black. The clouds were grey and heavy, looking as though they might break at any moment, which, in turn, made the outside air moist. In the far distance, the crackling sound of thunder could be heard every few minutes. The nasty weather outside made it the perfect day to study and work on essays so the library was filled with students.

'Can I sit?'

Ginny looked up. Hermione stood next to the table with a stack of books in her arms. Her hair was as wild as ever, the humidity outside making it frizz more than usual, and a quill stuck out behind her ear. Since it was Sunday, Hermione had on a light pink Muggle sweatshirt with a Muggle brand named labelled across the chest in big letters. Her jeans were faded and fit her very well. Ginny wondered if Ron had noticed how well Hermione's jeans fit. He probably had.

'Sure.'

Hermione dropped her books on the table and sat down across from Ginny. 'I've been trying to find out what's wrong with Harry.' She sighed. 'All these books and nothing.'

'Is that why you've been spending so much time in the library?'

Hermione nodded. 'Yes, you noticed?'

'Ron noticed. He was raving like a madman in the common room the other morning,' said Ginny. 'He doesn't see you anymore.'

'He sees plenty of me.' Hermione flipped through one of her very-thick books. 'Why does he need to see more of me?'

'Because he's in love with you, probably.'

Hermione snorted. 'Right.'

'You know it's true. Don't pretend that I haven't see you two hold hands.'

Hermione blushed. 'Well, we're not—'

'What? Together officially?' Ginny rolled her eyes. 'For all intensive purposes, you two are together. No one else has touched you, have they? Or tried?'

Hermione didn't answer.

'It'll happen, he'll as you out – oh, speak of the devil now.'

Hermione didn't look up as Ron sat down next to her. He had his Potions book in his hand and he looked at Hermione as he opened it. She was engrossed in whatever book was in front of her and seemed completely unaware of Ron. He sighed loudly and turned to his sister.

'What's that? In your hand?'

'A ball point pen?' said Ginny. 'It's what Muggles use to write with, so that's what my professor makes us use. Why?'

Ron shrugged. 'I dunno.' He looked at Hermione again. 'What're you working on?'

'Hmm?' Hermione didn't glance up from her books.

'Hermione?'

'Hmmm?'

'I don't think she's listening,' said Ginny. 'I think I've studied myself out for the day. I'll see you back in the common room.' As Ginny picked up her books, she stood up and was bumped from the side. She tripped over the leg of her chair as she tried to right herself, and fell to the floor. 'Ouch!' she cried out. Looking up, she saw that Draco Malfoy had knocked her over and Ron had jumped to his feet.

'Apologise to her!' he cried.

Malfoy smirked. 'Yeah right. I do not apologise to Mudblood lovers.'

'Take that back!' Ron shouted.

The already quiet library went completely silent. Ginny picked herself off the floor and narrowed her eyes at Malfoy. He was staring at her brother and Hermione, who had also got up, with hatred-filled eyes. Ohh, where was Madam Pince?

Malfoy snorted.

'I said, take it back!'

'Ron, it's all right,' said Ginny. 'Just let it drop.' She looked at Malfoy. 'I wouldn't want the apology of a babbling ferret anyway.'

Ron and Hermione both laughed.

'You think your words hurt me? I don't take the words of a slag seriously.'

Ron launched himself across the table at Malfoy. He grabbed the other boy by the collar and they both crashed into the bookshelf behind them. Ron punched Malfoy in the mouth; Ginny yelped. She had to do something! So, she grabbed Ron's shirt to pull him off Malfoy, just as Malfoy's fist came up. As Ginny pulled at Ron, Malfoy's fist connected with her jaw. A sharp pain shot through her jaw and her eyes blurred.

'You hit my sister you fucking git!'

'I was aiming for you,' spat Malfoy, spraying a bit of a blood as he talked, 'not the baby Weasel.'

Ginny's vision cleared as the pain went from sharp to dull. Ron aimed for Malfoy again, but Ginny reached for him and successfully pulled him away. Malfoy scrambled up and pulled out his wand and pointed it at Ron.

Ginny was quicker.

'Silencio!' she cried and Malfoy's mouth moved, but no sound came out.

Just then, Professor McGonagall came running into the library, anger flashing in her eyes. Slughorn followed in her wake.

'Students coming to tell me a fight broke out in the library,' she panted. 'In the library. I should've known it would involve the two of you. Mr Malfoy, what happened.' It didn't sound like a question.

Malfoy opened his mouth, but nothing came out.

McGonagall rolled her eyes. 'Who hexed you?'

'I did,' said Ginny meekly.

'Miss Weasley? Undo it, please.'

Ginny waved her wand at Malfoy.

'Now, Mr Malfoy, let's hear it.'

Malfoy shrugged. 'I don't know.'

'He insulted Hermione,' said Ron. 'Er, and my sister.'

Slughorn arched an eyebrow. 'So you decided to make one another student bleed?'

At that, Malfoy's hand flew to his mouth where he fingered his lips. When he withdrew his hand, Ginny could plainly see several drops of blood on Malfoy's fingertips. Ron must have hit him really hard.

'Detention. All of you. Mr Weasley, I'm sure Argus Filch could use some help dusting the trophy room again around eight o'clock. And Miss Weasley, why don't you and Mr Malfoy go see Professor Slughorn tonight. Madam Pomfrey needs her medicine cupboards refilled and I'm sure Professor Slughorn would rather have someone else do the job. And you'll do the job until it's finished.'

'Dungeon number four, eight-thirty,' said Slughorn. 'And you best get up to the hospital wing, Mr Malfoy.'

Malfoy stalked past Ginny without looking at her, but she couldn't help but watch him walk away. His blonde hair fell into his eyes and he smooth his back with his clean hand. His black trousers made a slight swish sound as he walked, his button-down shirt tucked neatly into his waistband. He seemed so pale and thin lately – lifeless.

'Gin?'

Ginny whirled around. Her brother had walked over to her and had his hands on her shoulders. Hermione walked up next to him. They were both were looking at her with concern in their eyes.

'What?'

'Your jaw,' said Hermione. 'It's all red. It's going to bruise.'

Ginny raised a hand to her jaw; it hurt. She shrugged. 'Nothing's broken. I'll be fine. But Ron? Next time you want to beat someone up for us? Don't. We have wands. We can take care of ourselves.'

XXXXXXX

Ginny sat at one of the desks in Dungeon Four, waiting for Malfoy. It was cold in the dungeons, water dripped down the stone walls and made small puddles in the corners of the classrooms. Slughorn had written a set of instructions for several potions on the blackboard before retreating to his quarters to do... well, to do Merlin knows what.

'You're late,' said Ginny as Malfoy walked into the dungeon. His lip was completely healed, whereas Ginny knew her jaw was blue and still a bit swollen. Hermione had looked up a healing spell that took away all the pain, but did nothing for the bruise.

Malfoy shrugged. 'Couldn't start without me?'

'Slughorn said it wouldn't be fair if I didn't wait for you.' She grinned. 'Think he still fancies me a powerful witch – wants to keep me in his good graces in case I become largely successful after I leave Hogwarts.'

'If there's even a Hogwarts next year.'

Ginny frowned. It was true. Hogwarts was barely open this year; only a fourth of the students had returned since the fiasco of the end of last year.

Malfoy looked up at the board. Ginny watched as he gathered ingredients for the potions and spread them out over the tops of several desks. He took his wand and lit a small fire underneath his cauldron.

'Well, stop staring and get over here. If you chop up all the herbs, I'll add them to the potions.'

'I have to do all the chopping?'

'Well, I've got top marks in Potions. Do you?'

Ginny frowned. 'No.'

'Well, then I should be the one to add in the ingredients since I'm the one who knows what he's doing.' Malfoy turned back to the cauldron. He pointed to a thick bouquet of flowers tied with a string. Ginny glanced at them. He was indicating that he wanted her to chop them up, so she did. The silence dragged on through eight different herbs and plants and fifty minutes. The quiet of the dungeon was enough to drive her mad, but Ginny was stubborn. She wouldn't break the silence.

'Er,' said Malfoy, 'did I do that to your jaw?'

Ginny stopped chopping and turned her body so that she was facing Draco. They were on the same side of the desk, Malfoy divvying up the ingredients to the potions in perfect piles ready to be added, in an old black jumper, already stained with sap from the branch of Elder Tree, and a pair of Muggle blue jeans kept up with a black belt. He must have changed out of his usually nice clothes, knowing that he would get dirty from potion ingredients and sweaty from the heat of the fire. Even in a room filled with steam and heat, Malfoy managed to look put-together and perfect. Ginny knew she must look a sight. She'd pulled her hair back into a sloppy ponytail halfway through the detention thus far and beads of sweat had formed at her temples. Her blue t-shirt had holes in the elbows and sap on the sleeves and had come untucked from her jeans. It wasn't only her ponytail that was sloppy; her whole self looked that way. And Malfoy looked... so...

'Yes,' said Ginny, answering Malfoy's question.

'I was aiming for that git you call a brother.'

Ginny nodded. She refused to break eye contact with the great sod in front of her. His eyes looked cold and vacant, as if the boy in front of her was living, but not really alive.

'Well, you missed. Not that I expect anything more from a Malfoy. I'm sure you were brought up that hitting a girl is all right.'

Malfoy stopped stirring the potion. 'I'm not apologising,' he said.

'I wouldn't expect you to.'

'But I don't hit girls.' He sniggered. 'Not on purpose, anyway.'

'What?' breathed Ginny.

'Look,' said Malfoy, beginning to stir again, 'I don't like you or your family, but I don't hit girls. Even if a female Muggle was hacking me off I wouldn't hit her. Some things do not make you dignified.'

'Ah,' said Ginny, 'so it's all about appearances.'

Malfoy clicked it tongue. 'As if you understand anything about appearances.'

'Can I ask you a question?'

'No.'

Ginny ignored his answer and continued, 'If you think that hitting a girl is wrong, then why are you a Death Eater?'

'I'm not a Death Eater,' said Malfoy very slowly.

'Not yet, anyway. I know you have to be seventeen for that, so you're on your way to becoming one. Your father is one.'

'Yes, well, my father is a lot of things. Death Eater just happens to be on the list.' Ever since his father had been arrested for being a Death Eater and had since escaped, Malfoy hadn't been shy about admitting the fact that Lucius was an avid follower of Voldemort; everyone in the wizarding world already knew anyway.

Ginny tapped her foot against the stone floor. 'Well?'

'Well what?'

'Death Eaters use the Killing and Cruciatus Curse on women all the time.'

'Aye,' said Malfoy. 'Death Eaters curse everyone. I'd curse Granger and her rabbit teeth if it wouldn't get me stuck in detention when I have far better things to do.'

'But using the Cruciatus Curse... isn't that a bit like hitting them? You're still abusing them one way or another.'

Malfoy shrugged, but didn't verbalise an answer.

'Are you going to be a Death Eater once you're seventeen?'

'I am seventeen, but I don't believe that is any of your business, baby Weasel. You talk a lot. I'm sure you drive your friends mad with it.'

'I don't understand the Death Eaters,' said Ginny, looking up at the blackboard, but not really reading any of the instructions. 'I mean, you all hate Muggles and Mudbloods—'

'Hate is the wrong word,' said Malfoy. 'There's a hierarchy that you don't seem to understand. Purebloods are simply better than Muggles or any half-breed because half-breeds have tainted blood. Even you are better than a common garden worm, yeah? Yet, they're slimy creatures that make girls scream. Still, do you hate them?'

'No. But I thought you hated Muggles and the like?'

'As I said, hate is the wrong word. They don't belong in the same ranks as purebloods. We've worked very hard to keep ourselves pure. To keep magic within the family. What good would the world be if everyone could do magic? There would be no separation. Everyone would be filthy.'

Ginny watched him add in the sap of Elder Tree, which was used in several healing potions. He wouldn't hit a girl and yet he wanted to join the ranks of Death Eaters who cursed and tortured women for sport. Well, he did want to join the ranks of Death Eaters, didn't he? Didn't Harry say last year that Malfoy had the Dark Mark on his arm?

Malfoy interrupted her thoughts as he said, 'In case you hadn't noticed, I haven't raised my wand to Granger in two years unless it's in self-defence. But that's more because I don't want to dirty-up my hands.'

'You are so infuriating,' said Ginny. 'How can you say such things when you're precious Dark Lord is a Mudblood himself?'

Malfoy dropped the spoon he had been using to stir the cauldron. He spun around and looked at Ginny square in the eye. 'You're full of shit.'

'I am not. I know the Dark Lord.'

'I'm sure.'

'It's true. I met him when I was eleven. He's very charismatic. He tried to possess me and when he did, we shared a link to one another. I know his secrets. He lived in an orphanage when he was a kid because his Muggle father abandoned him. It's the reason he hates Muggles.'

'The Dark Lord is not a Mudblood.'

'Not a Mudblood? Well, all right, but he is a half-blood.'

XXXXXXX

Draco's breath hitched. This little baby Weasel surely had no idea what she was talking about. This slag of Hogwarts. He hadn't meant to hit her. Several years ago, he wouldn't have cared. Slap her, kick her, who gives a shit? But then he walked in on his father backhanding his mother. Draco heard her beg him to allow Draco to come home over the Christmas holiday, but his father demurred because of some activity going on with the Dark Lord. When his mother continued to plead, Draco went into the room just as his father took his hand to her face.

She looked broken... but Draco realised he had seen that look on her before. Her eyes sad and wide, blinking wildly to keep back tears. How long had this gone on? Draco was almost a man, now. He was as tall as his father and surely as strong. He should have protected her. She gave him twice the love he needed to make up for the lack of attention from his father. And she should never have to be struck. Ever.

Since then, Draco kept his hands and his wand to himself. He never passed up the chance to do something to Potty or the Weasel, but he only pointed his wand at Granger when she pointed her wand at him first.

Still, he hadn't meant to punch the baby Weasel and now she had a large bruise on her face because of him. He wasn't going to apologise. After all, he was aiming for her stupid git of a brother. Then she had to start going on about the Dark Lord and how he was Muggle. What shite...

Right?

'The Dark Lord is not a Mudblood.'

'Not a Mudblood? Well, all right, but he is a half-blood.'

'I don't believe you.'

Ginny shrugged. 'Believe what you like, but how many times have you met him?'

Draco opened his mouth to answer, but then closed it. Well, of course. His father told him all about how he'd given her the diary. Draco could hardly believe that the baby Weasel had set the Basilisk on the school. Heir of Slytherin indeed. And by some bizarre happenchance, no one had died. Although, Granger had come close. Draco had been relieved though that she'd ended up all right – not because he cared, but because he enjoyed bantering with her and watching her face twist up with hurt as he called her a Mudblood. He didn't get quite the same satisfaction calling anyone else a Mudblood as he did her.

'You're just a poor witch with tattered clothes. What do you know anyway? Your father is a disgrace amongst wizards. I hardly believe you are privy to as much knowledge about the Dark Lord as I am.'

Ginny smiled. What was wrong with her? Draco hadn't intended on making her smile. He wanted her to get hacked off. He wanted her to scream or rant or something. But definitely not smile.

'What?'

She shrugged. 'I feel sorry for you, that's all.'

'Sorry for me? My family's wealthy and powerful and I'm in the top of my class. What are you?'

Ginny picked up another branch of Elder Tree and drained the sap into a large bowl. 'I don't have to be defined by my family,' she said. 'I find it rather sad that you have to constantly reaffirm who you are by who your family is. I'm not at the top of my class, but I don't really work at it. I'm okay with being average in school. But are you really the top in your class? Perhaps the top student of Slytherin? I don't really see how you could be top of class... didn't you get detention from several teachers last term for not doing your homework? And anyway, my family is wonderful, even if they're poor. Each of my brothers has a very, very unique gift that makes them stand out. They don't have to use the Weasley name to be known in the wizarding world. You are only defined by being a Malfoy.'

'It's disgusting that you're even allowed to talk to me this way.'

'Why? I'm a pureblood,' said Ginny, standing up straight. 'Technically, we're equals.'

Draco went back to stirring the contents of the cauldron. Two minutes and thirty four seconds later, their first potion was finished. He tapped his wand against the cauldron, sending its contents to several large flasks with labels. They were to go to Madam Pomfrey. One potion down and seven to go. They would never get them all done before breakfast.

'And you're forgiven.'

'What?'

'For hitting me. I forgive you.'

Draco felt his eyes narrow in confusion. He'd never taken any notice to the baby Weasel, but now that's all he could focus on. She was so different from her brother. When had that happened? All he really could remember about her was how she used to drool over Potter and follow him and her brother around like an abused puppy. They never paid much mind to her. That wasn't the girl standing in the dungeon with him at all. This girl was completely different.

'Is this Milkmead?' she asked from across the room, picking up a white flower.

Draco nodded.

'I used this once in a bouquet that I gave Fleur – remember her from the Triwizard Tournament? She began dating my eldest brother and none of us liked her at all.'

Draco blinked.

Ginny laughed to herself. 'I pretended that I didn't know Milkmead makes you break out in blue hives. Bill was rather upset, Fleur cried, but the rest of us got a good laugh. We thought she was only dating him because he's good-looking... or, er, was good-looking, but apparently she really loves him. Imagine.'

'Why are you telling me this?' asked Draco.

'I don't like silence. It makes me go mad. It's only me and Ron left in the house now and he visited Harry and Hermione over summer holiday. Of course I went, too, but not the entire time... I talked or sang to myself because otherwise things were too quiet in the house.'

'You sound barmy.'

'I probably am.'

Just then, Slughorn walked into the dungeon. He looked at them; his fat face had a calculating look about it.

'How many potions have you completed?' he asked.

'Just one,' said Ginny.

'Only one? You can do better than that, Draco,' said Slughorn. 'Do another one tonight and finish up the rest tomorrow after dinner. I don't want to keep you here all night. McGonagall is very insistent that you finish up these potions for me and Poppy as your punishment. Hurry it up, now!'

'But I have Quidditch practise tomorrow night,' said Ginny.

'That's too bad,' said Slughorn, 'but my hands are tied. What potion is next?' He looked at the board. 'Ah, Sleep Draught. Yes, don't try to hurry through that one. One wrong ingredient and students might not wake up from their sleep.'

'Ah,' said Draco once Slughorn had left, 'we'll label our batch of Sleep Draught "Gryffindor" just to be safe.'His eyes slid over to Ginny where she stood looking at the blackboard.

'Sleep Draught? That'll take at least three hours to make. We won't get out of here until after midnight.'

'Ah, yes and you definitely all the beauty sleep you can get,' said Draco.

She didn't take the bait. What the fuck? I thought all Weasleys had tempers! Draco thought. She should be yelling at me, threatening to hex me.

'I was more thinking that I need to finish my Muggle Studies essay. That's what I was doing in the library before I got punched in the face.'

'What a wasteful subject.'

'It's fascinating. Muggles are so very different from us. The things they've learned how to do without magic. I respect their effort.'

Draco resisted the urge to roll his eyes. What a flake. She was nothing but a bit of red fluff.

'It's too bad you hate everyone,' babbled Ginny. 'I'm sure you could put all that energy into something else. Too much time is wasted on hate.'

'I said before, hate is the wrong word.'

'Well, your father hates.' Ginny turned and handed him a leafy herb chopped up very fine.

'Yes.'

'He doesn't really have a right to. What does he have? Money? Money is nothing.'

'Money is everything.'

'Money can't buy you family or comfort or love.'

'Who needs those things? I have everything I want and I'm happy.'

Ginny stopped and turned. Draco's stomach flipped and churned. He refused to meet her gaze. He sprinkled the herb she'd handed him in the cauldron.

'You're not happy. I can see it in your eyes.'

Draco finally looked up at her. What a slag. Why was he even listening to her? What did she know?

'They're lifeless. Don't you live for anything, Malfoy?'

'I live for plenty. Now shut up and hand me that sap,' he barked.

Ginny didn't move. 'I'm not scared of you.'

'All right.' He had no idea why she was telling him this.

'And since I'm not scared of you, I'm going to tell you exactly what I think. When I was eleven I was terrified for the entire year and for every term after that I kept on being scared until I realised it was such a useless emotion and I quit fretting over everything. And since I'm not scared, I'm going to tell you that you have a mind of your own and you're very smart – or so I've heard. At least in Potions, anyway. Every time you open your mouth it's like a bunch of word vomit escapes. Stop vocalising everything that your father has told you and start believing in what you believe in.'

'You shouldn't be allowed to talk to me this way.'

'Shouldn't I? Deep down, I don't think you really want to be a Death Eater. They curse women and children and from what little you've shown of true self tonight, I know you think that's wrong – perhaps you have some dignity after all. If you want to be happy, you shouldn't listen to anyone else but yourself.'

'You don't know what you're talking about.'

'Oh, Malfoy,' sighed Ginny.

'Malfoy is my father,' said Draco, not knowing why he was saying it. 'Only people in this dreadful school call me Malfoy.'

'Do you want me to call you Draco instead?'

Draco didn't answer. Baby Weasel should not be calling him anything. She should not even be talking to him. He turned back to the cauldron. Fuck this, he didn't want to think about the girl standing next to him What a waste of space. Mudblood lover. Not worth his time or his thoughts.

XXXXXXX

'How was detention?' cooed Pansy at the breakfast table.

'Get off me,' snapped Draco, shrugging her off his shoulder. 'It was fine. All I did was make potions.'

'You poor thing,' said Pansy. 'I'm sorry you had to do that. I tried waiting up in the common room for you, but I got too tired and went to bed. Slughorn gave you detention? I cannot believe it.'

'McGonagall gave it to me. That old, wrinkly bat.'

'You didn't deserve it.'

Draco snorted and shrugged away from Pansy's grip again. 'Of course not.'

'Did you have to serve it with that awful Weasley girl? She's so plain.'

Draco let out a short laugh. For someone who looked like a smashed cow, Pansy certainly had a lot to say about other people being plain or unattractive. And the baby Weasel wasn't ugly... Draco shook himself. He should not be having thoughts like this. Better Ginny Weasley than Granger. At least Ginny was pureblood. Of course, Draco had dated Pansy in the past... sort of. He let her ooh and ah over him to gain snogging privileges. He began to ignore her, though, halfway through sixth-year; she was too submissive.

'Are you listening to me?'

'If you have to ask, then you have your answer. I'm going back to get my books. I'll see you in Herbology.'

Draco got up from the Slytherin table and walked out of the Great Hall. He adjusted his green and silver tie before shoving his hands into his pockets. His shoes made soft, padding noises as he went down through the winding corridors to the dungeons.

'Salazar,' he said to the portrait covering the doorway to the Slytherin common room. He walked in and looked around. It was empty but for one third-year doing his homework at a table near the fireplace. Everything in the common room was green, dark, and cold. The tables were long with sharp edges. The sofa was thick and made of green leather. The floor was stone and mostly exposed, but for a few corners where green carpets sat. For five and a half years he had loved this room. He had loved his entire house. His dormitory with the velvet drapes surrounding his bed with the silk sheets his mother had sent him from home. His desk with a serpent carved into the back of his chair.

Draco sighed. Somewhere in the middle of sixth year he began to tire of all these things. Nothing ever changed. It always stayed cold in the dungeons and he never seemed to be able to cast enough warming charms on his blankets to stay warm throughout the night.

Fuck, he thought to himself. Ginny was right. He wasn't happy. He was discontent. Even if he was home at Malfoy Mansion he wouldn't be happy. He had no idea what would make him happy, but it definitely wasn't in the Slytherin common room. With another sigh, Draco climbed the stairs to the boys' dormitory. He went into the room where the seventh-years lived.

'You missed breakfast,' said Draco upon entering. Blaise was buttoning up his uniform shirt slowly. Large bags hung underneath his eyes and he looked as physically tired as Draco felt emotionally.

'Yeah. I was up all night finishing that essay for McGonagall. She's a right old hag when it comes to marking our essays. NEWT level Transfiguration and all that rot. When am I ever going to need to know how to transfigure my owl into a settee, I ask you!'

Draco smirked. 'I don't know. Never.'

'Exactly.'

'I finished the essay last week.'

'Bully for you.'

'You could have got it done sooner if you didn't spend all your time gallivanting around with Daphne.'

'But she gives such great head.'

Draco didn't respond. He gathered up his books from his desk and headed back out the door. Blaise was right behind him.

'You know, I'm surprised you haven't taken Pansy up on any of her offers.'

'What makes you think I haven't?'

'Pansy and Daphne share a room,' said Blaise. 'She told Daphne she thinks you're a fairy.'

'Oh, really?' Draco stopped on one of the stairs and turned around and looked at Blaise. 'I am not a fairy and I'm sure you know that.'

'Oh, I know,' said Blaise, 'but Pansy doesn't.'

'She looks like a cow. I went to the Yule Ball with her just to shut her up and now she thinks I want to get into her pants. I don't want to be anywhere near her knickers. The thought sickens me.'

'It doesn't matter what she looks like. If you'd just take her up on her offer you wouldn't have to walk around the halls of Hogwarts a virgin.'

'Fuck off,' said Draco. 'What do you know about my virginity? I'm through with this conversation.'

Draco turned his back to Blaise and continued down the stairs. He didn't like Blaise Zabini in the least. However, ever since Draco had been unable to kill Dumbledore last year, Nott had begun to avoid him. Snape had told the Dark Lord that he had forced Draco not to kill the Headmaster. It was imperative that someone remain inside Hogwarts, to spy, and Snape knew he would not be able to take up post as professor the next year. The Dark Lord seemed somewhat satisfied with this answer and sent Draco back to Hogwarts at the beginning of the new term. Still, Nott, Crabbe, and Goyle seemed a bit hesitant around Draco – no doubt their fathers, dim-witted as they were – had vocalised to their sons their own suspicions about Draco's abilities to remain within the Death Eater ranks.

Blaise, however, was not a part of the Death Eaters, nor was his mother. They were, of course, pureblood, but not the least bit interested in the Dark Lord. So, somehow, Draco found it in himself to tolerate Blaise – just to have some semblance of a real friend at Hogwarts... as pathetic as that made him feel.

XXXXXXX

Ginny practically fell asleep during her classes. She ended up staying in the dungeons until almost one o'clock before retreating back to Gryffindor Tower. Once she had changed into her pyjamas and got into bed, she couldn't fall asleep. Her first few years at Hogwarts she'd spent her time avoiding Colin Creevey's advances while she lusted after Harry. Then, once Colin had got the hint she was never going to date him, he left her alone and she began dating Michael Corner. It felt good to date someone who didn't remind her of Harry. And when Harry began seeing Cho, Ginny didn't feel jealous. After all, Harry spent every summer with her, one way or another, and by the time her fourth year was over, they'd grown really close.

After Dean had ended things – well, in truth she had seen it coming for several weeks – Harry had comforted her. She fancied the idea of getting together with Harry, but after several feeble attempts at being together, Harry had ended things. Over the summer and beginning of the new term, Ginny had tried to talk him into getting back together, but Harry was stubbornly noble and refused – for her own safety. What rubbish.

Ron had done his part; he'd got angry with Harry, but that only lasted all of five minutes. Ron's own lack of advancement with Hermione seemed to show that he felt similarly. They were both so daft.

Living with six brothers had taught Ginny to stand up for herself. She learned the finer points of practical jokes from the twins and how to be a fantastic Quidditch player from watching Charlie and Ron. They helped shape her into the person she was now... but they didn't prepare her for Malfoy.

Ginny walked into dungeon four ready to work off the rest of her detention. There were still several more potions to make and Ginny already felt sleep deprived. Malfoy was there, in the same Muggle-looking jeans from the night before, but wearing a green sweatshirt.

Always green or black, thought Ginny as she strode over to the desk where he was waiting. He was lean with sharp features and fair skin. He probably would have been brilliant-looking if he didn't always look so cold and pale lately. Ginny wondered how Malfoy would look if he laughed or smiled. She imagined his entire face would change.

'You're late.'

Ginny shrugged. 'I skipped dinner to take a nap and I overslept.'

Malfoy didn't say anything. He simply stood up and used his wand to lit a fire underneath the cauldron.

'Slughorn said that he won't have the ingredients to finish the rest of the potions until Friday night. We need to come back then and finish the last few drafts and draughts for Madam Pomfrey then, but he wants everything done by Saturday night.'

Ginny watched Malfoy as he talked, even though his eyes never left the ingredients sitting on the desks. This time, there were several more herbs that needed to be chopped along with jars of pickled toad bowels and rat spleens. Ginny hoped she never had to go to the hospital wing and drink anything with toad bowels in it. She shuddered at the thought.

Ginny set to work, starting with the herbs until they were chopped finely. Then, she took out the rat spleens and cut them into fourths. It was very important that each piece of spleen be the exact same size as all the others.

'What you said last night,' said Malfoy slowly.

'Yes?'

'About the Dark Lord...'

Ginny stopped chopping up the rat spleens and looked at Malfoy. His palms were flat against the desktop and he was leaning heavily on his arms, his elbows locked. He appeared nervous and unsure.

'You mean about him being half-Muggle?'

Malfoy nodded.

'What do you want to know?'

'I went to the library because I thought you were full of shite. I told Slughorn I wanted to look up some potions in the Restricted Section so he signed me a note.'

Ginny laughed. 'Ah, I've done that before. Not with Slughorn, though. Sprout never asks questions.'

'Whatever. Anyway, there's nothing about the Dark Lord's past in any of the books. It seems as though he just appears during the seventies.'

'That sounds about right. He was a prefect when he was at Hogwarts. I remember because I saw the badge on his robes. He was in Slytherin.'

'He couldn't have been part Mudblood if he was in Slytherin,' said Malfoy, almost sounding triumphant.

Ginny shrugged. 'The Sorting Hat wanted to put Harry into Slytherin. He told the hate he wanted to be in Gryffindor, so that's where he was put. Anyway, his name was Tom Riddle back then. He had really long fingers and black hair and he was really smart. He started Hogwarts in the late thirties... before Dumbledore was Headmaster. His ancestor was Salazar Slytherin – Tom, I mean, not Dumbledore. Not to mention,' added Ginny, 'that Snape's father is a Muggle.'

Malfoy seemed to pause at the mention of Snape being a half-blood, but he skipped over asking about him. 'How do you know this Tom Riddle fellow is even the Dark Lord?'

Ginny went to the board and picked up a piece of white chalk. She wrote the words TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE. With a flick of her wand, the letters rearranged themselves, as she had seen Tom do when he had taken her into the diary. When she turned around, Malfoy was staring dumbfounded at the board.

'If you go to the library you can find Tom in several books, mostly the ones about previous school prefects. He grew up in an orphanage before he was taken to Hogwarts. He still had to go back, though, during the summer holidays.'

'My father said you were possessed. You... opened the Chamber of Secrets... you could have killed half the school. How can you stand there and talk so freely about the Dark Lord?'

'It wasn't my fault. I didn't purposely set the Basilisk on anyone. I would certainly never do something like that on purpose. I've been forgiven by my friends who were Petrified. I'm at peace with it. And I'm telling you because I hope you'll change your mind about him. He's not someone to be respected or followed.'

'Not if he's a Mudblood, he's not.' Malfoy rubbed his eyes. He began working on the potions again.

'So, are you going to switch sides? Since the Dark Lord isn't what you think he is?'

'Don't be stupid. Fight for Muggles and Mudbloods? I don't care whether they live or die, although the less we have, the better.'

'You can't mean that.'

'Once, there was a time where wizards were in charge. Muggles respected them, lived under them, and followed the rules they set. Now, things have changed. We can't let the Muggles know magic exists. What rot. We should be in charge again. We should be ruling the world like we used to. Muggles used to fear us. Can you imagine having that kind of power?' Malfoy paused. 'Well, I'm sure you can't. You know nothing of money or power.'

'What do you know about power? You're a Hogwarts student, for Merlin's sake!' Ginny sniggered and rolled her eyes. 'If you left school right now and tried to make it out in the real world, you'd barely be able to get a house-elf to do your bidding, let alone anyone else. You're so full of yourself. Your arrogance makes me want to vomit all over you.'

Malfoy's eyes widened in surprise.

'You think that having people fear you puts you in power, but, really, it only makes you pathetic.'

'I cannot believe you are talking to me like that. Shut up.'

'Besides,' continued Ginny, 'you're not even a Death Eater. How scary can you be?'

'Not a Death Eater...' repeated Malfoy, an almost-amused tone to his voice.

Ginny nodded. 'Well, let me know when the big initiation is so I'll know when I need to start being afraid of you.'

'One letter to my father about your insolence and your whole family could be dead in a matter of days.'

Ginny swallowed. She didn't think Malfoy would actually write his father, but her family was all a part of the Order of the Phoenix... they were in grave danger already. She handed Malfoy the cut up rat spleen.

'I know you don't really care about what I have to say,' said Ginny, 'but if I found out that the wizard I was supposed to follow was half-Muggle, I wouldn't want to follow him. I'd lose respect for him... I'd think he was a hypocrite.'

That was all that was said. The rest of the detention passed in silence.

XXXXXXX

To Be Continued...

XXXXXXX