This story takes place in a completely alternative universe.
In this universe, there is no Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, and the prophecy that helped to influence Voldemort's downfall was never made. The first war never ended, and Voldemort is in control of the wizarding world. There are still a few factions working to fight against him, namely Dumbledore and his Order of the Phoenix, but they have gone completely underground and have become more myth than reality to the majority of wizards. Dumbledore himself has disappeared, and many believe that he has been killed.
Hogsmeade has become a huge city, the centre of all wizarding activity, more populous even than Diagon Alley in London, still existing beyond the knowledge of Muggles. All of the richest and most prestigious wizarding families live there and send their children to Hogwarts.
Hogwarts has undergone a number of changes after Dumbledore's disappearance. It only accepts pureblooded students, and has been known to even reject purebloods whose families are considered 'undesirable'. For example, none of the Weasley boys were accepted, and had to be sent to school elsewhere. Money, support for Voldemort and bloodlines are all taken into consideration before a student is accepted. The house system still exists, although most students wish to be sorted into Slytherin, where the most popular and powerful always seem to end up. To be a Slytherin to be an elite member of society.
Gryffindors are becoming few and far between, and are generally ignored by the other three houses. Students no longer board at school, the government powers fearing that grouping such young and impressionable minds together would provide the opportunity for those resisting the new order to start some kind of coup. It is no longer the diverse and accepting school that it was before Voldemort began to assume power, but a place where power and money are the most important attributes, and the sons and daughters of the most important families are worshipped by other students, and favoured by teachers because they are the ones that will be assuming the positions of power once their education is complete.
Ginny Weasley is the only Weasley of her generation to be accepted. Her parents, both working grunt jobs at the Ministry, pushed her to go, vowing to do whatever necessary to spare the expense for her to go, knowing that an education from Hogwarts will be invaluable to her future. She boards in a very small one-room apartment over Honeydukes, and works part-time as a waitress at The Three Broomsticks, to help pay her tuition, which is unreasonably expensive - a measure to help limit the 'type' of students who are able to attend, and her living expenses. She is in her 6th year, and has been counting down the days until she can graduate and rejoin her family again, escaping the phoney and pretentious world of Hogwarts.
Anything that conflicts with canon is probably not a result of sloppiness or mistake, but a change that I've made in order to develop the AU in which this story takes place. Also, a great deal of the premise of this story has been inspired by the manga/anime/live action series called Hana Yori Dango. The entire time I was watching it, I could only think that it felt exactly like a D/G fic brought to life, so I decided to attempt to write that D/G fic.
Chapter 1: Nearing the edge
Ginny Weasley ran, as fast as she could while carrying her book bag, her broomstick and her extra set of shoes. She was incredibly late, and it had rained the entire 15-minute flight to school, so she was completely soaked. Cautiously creeping through the Great Hall, she quickly located the corridor where her cupboard was, stored her broom, changed her muddy boots to the standard black shoes required for her school uniform, and tried with futility to make herself somewhat more presentable. Drying her hair with her wand didn't seem to help much - she still looked rather wild. Yanking the hair tie from the end of her long braid, she loosened her hair and quickly rebraided it, in an attempt to tame the curling whisps of hair that had rebelled due to the humidity and rain, but it was to no effect. After checking her watch, she decided that wasting more time would just get her into more trouble that it was worth, considering that her ministrations weren't really improving her overall appearance. Everyone would know that she had flown there in the rain, and had been in an enormous hurry.
Shouldering her bag, and cursing herself for being ridiculous enough to pick courses with the biggest textbooks, she made her way through the empty halls, hoping to keep from rousing any of the figures sleeping in the portraits. She wasn't sure why it had happened, but she'd managed to upset quite a few of them hanging in the main hallway that she had to take to get to any of her morning classes, and they took a great deal of pleasure in creating a ruckus whenever she crept in late. The very last thing she needed was for Professor Snape to catch her creeping around the halls, late for her morning class, yet again.
She rounded the corridor leading to her class, having reached it without incident, and felt slightly relieved. Professor Flitwick, the only teacher she really enjoyed, hardly ever noticed when she arrived late, often just waving her to sit in the back. As long as she made very little noise, kept up her marks and slipped him the occasional complimentary Gillywater whenever he came to the Three Broomsticks, he made very little fuss over her habitual tardiness.
"Ah, look who we have here, girls. Hello, Weasley," a female's voice called out. Ginny sighed heavily and with the air of one about to face the firing squad, turned to greet the three girls hovering in the corridor, mustering as phoney a smile as she could.
"Hello, Pansy," she said brightly. The older girl smiled coldly, casually flipping her long, black and silky hair over her shoulder.
"Having a little broom trouble again, Weasley?" she asked condescendingly, with a sly look to her two brainless followers. They erupted into giggles. "It must be so horrible to have to ride that thing to school, every day. You know, other than you and some little first year Hufflepuff, the entire school arrives by carriages, or they just pay the fee to Apparate in the Great Hall. It's not that much, you know. Perhaps if you pull a few extra shifts at the bar you work in, you'd be able to arrive looking a bit more presentable."
"I'll take your advice into consideration," Ginny said, biting back what she really wanted to say. Keep cool; Ginny had to keep telling herself. Pansy Parkinson, a seventh year Slytherin, was not someone who you wanted to make an enemy of.
"You really should. The appearance of every student affects the reputation of Hogwarts, and having a student look as... sloppy as you is a real problem that I, as a prefect, have decided to address. I understand that you're poor and have to work just to go here because your parents can't afford the fees, but it's no excuse for bad hygiene," she said, smiling icily before turning to walk away.
"Of course," Ginny said, her temper reeling, and every fibre of her being screaming at her to say what was really on her mind. She was just about to make a face at the older girl's back when she paused and turned back to Ginny.
"You know, Ginny, a girl with your limited height should really consider shoes with a little bit more of a heel - preferably a delicate heel. It will make you look less..." Pansy trailed off as her eyes surveyed the length of Ginny's body. "Less stubby. A decent heel can really create the illusion of height and elegance."
At her words, Ginny looked down at her own footwear - a simple pair of black leather, square-toed shoes. She knew they were ugly, but they were comfortable and practical. While the dress code called for black, polishable shoes, it was rather open to interpretation. Most girls chose to sport designer-label high heels, trotting around like a bunch of vapid fools who didn't need to consider comfort, as they didn't spend 6 hours a night on their feet, serving tables at The Three Broomsticks.
Looking back up at Pansy Parkinson's smug expression, feeling slightly stung by the girl's obvious insult, she noticed for the first time their difference in height. Pansy had a good six inches on her, minus the heels. Staring up at her and feeling short and clumsy by comparison, Ginny realized for the first time why so many other girls were intimidated by her.
"Also, I see you made it past the main hall without the portraits screaming again. What did you do to upset that old Arcturus Black? He's been completely horrible ever since," Pansy asked, her eyes glinting maliciously.
"I simply asked him a question about his family tree, and he became extremely defensive, and has been causing a scene every time I walk past," Ginny answered with a shrug, hoping Pansy wouldn't inquire any further about what exactly she'd said to the painting. It certainly something she didn't want to be common knowledge among the top circle of rich and powerful pure bloods. She just wanted to finish school, escape under the radar, and put all the hard work and sacrifice from the members of her family to use. She didn't want the fact that, annoyed one day by all the pureblood propaganda that Arcturus Black had been spewing to the other portraits, she'd inquired about the members of his family tree who had been erased – there were a few Squibs and "blood traitors" among his descendants, after all. She'd tried to ask it innocently enough, but the man had become so enraged that she'd embarrassed him in front of the other portraits, that he'd started targeting her, and had enlisted a few others to keep tabs on that "subversive Weasley girl."
"It's too bad he didn't catch you. I love to see Professor Snape so angry, you really know how to upset him!" Pansy remarked, and Ginny forced herself to smile and NOT roll her eyes like she really wanted to do. "The day's been rather boring so far, I was hoping for some excitement."
"You just may get it, Pansy! Didn't you hear about Michael Corner? He spilt his potion all over Draco Malfoy yesterday, and we've all been waiting for him to get a Howler. It's bound to happen before the end of the day!" Millicent Bulstrode, one of Pansy's followers, spoke up.
"Excellent. He's been walking around a bit too proudly lately, ever since Ravenclaw won that Quidditch game a few weeks ago," Pansy exclaimed, her dark eyes gleaming with excitement. "We have to make sure people like him know their place, and how important it is not to step out of line. I wonder how long he'll last before he's run out of the school."
With that thinly veiled remark, which Ginny knew as partially directed towards her, Ginny excused herself from their conversation, her mind spinning with the news. Another Howler. Another chance for the power hungry idiots to try to prove their infinite superiority to their terrified underlings, Ginny thought to herself. It made her furious.
She crept into class, smiled as Professor Flitwick waved for her to sit down, pulled out her low-quality parchment paper and cheap quill, and tried to focus on the lesson. Her scholarship was dependent on her marks, after all, and losing that little bit of financial assistance would surely damage her ability to remain at Hogwarts. But as much as she hated this school, where she spent all her energy trying to be someone she wasn't and escape under the radar of the rich and powerful, not graduating after all the sacrifices her family had made was just not an option. She had to graduate, not matter how horrible her first five years had been.
It was just before lunch, and she had just stashed her books in her locker and grabbed the sandwich she'd made herself earlier that morning, and was trying to decide whether she was going to suffer dining with her fellow students, or if she was going to find some comfortable and solitary corner of the library so as to avoid the spectacle that would surely be happening during the lunch hour, when she spotted the new transfer student walking around as if she were hopelessly lost.
"Feeling a little lost, Claire?" Ginny called out to her. Claire Carmichael, a new sixth year, who'd attracted quite a bit of attention from most of the boys as she'd transferred in from Beauxbatons, turned and smiled with a blush.
"I should know my way around by now, I guess, but I can't get used to these moving staircases and the doors that decide to close and never open again," she said, looking sheepish. Ginny grinned.
"Come on, the Great Hall's just this way," she said, and the tall, blond girl nodded, a big (and seemingly genuine) smile on her face. "How are you adjusting to your new school?"
"Oh, it takes some getting used to. Everything is so very different here than it was in France, I have trouble remembering all the differences," Claire said seriously.
"Well, you've only been here a few days, and the term only just started, anyway. You'll settle into the routine soon enough, and become just as cynical as the rest of us," Ginny sighed, thinking about what kind of scene was probably about to unfold in the Great Hall, but feeling slightly happier, feeling that maybe - just maybe - she'd come across a genuinely nice person with whom she might even find a friend.
Lunch had passed almost completely without incident. Ginny kept a sharp eye out, waiting for the owls to arrive, but kept getting distracted by the stories Claire was telling about life at Beauxbatons, and laughing like she'd never done while on school grounds. But, she knew the instant the owl had flown into the room, as silence swept over the entire place. Mostly everyone was watching in anticipation as the owl flew around the room. As it swept lower and lower, Ginny noticed a few students holding their breath, as if afraid it would stop near them. Finally, it swooped low near the table closest to the windows, and dropped a blue envelope in front of a startled seventh year. Michael Corner picked it up with trembling hands, looking around desperately, hoping that it had been some mistake.
"He'd better hurry up and open that, it only gets worse when you wait for it to explode!" an excited student sitting a few seats down from her exclaimed.
Michael Corner held the envelope out in front of him, and with a resigned air, he ripped it open. The instant the paper ripped, the deafening sound of sinister laughter filled the air, and a bright light blinded everyone in the room. When Ginny was able to open her eyes again, she saw that the envelope had disappeared in a cloud of smoke, and the sweater of Michael Corner's uniform - usually black as required by school regulations - was now blue. He'd been marked.
"What was that all about? It seemed like a Howler, didn't it? But I've never seen one that's blue before!" Claire gasped, leaning forward to whisper to Ginny, as the room was now silent.
"It was a Howler. It was sent by the Slytherins. Well, at least by a few of them - the most important ones. It's their way of being clever," Ginny said wryly. Pandemonium had just erupted, as the eager students rushed forward, surrounding Michael so he couldn't get away, and pushing him towards the front of the room, where the seventh year Slytherins kept court. "It has a spell that turns your uniform blue, and it never goes away, so you always stand out. It's their way of telling you that you're dead. Because when you die, your lips turn blue."
Claire stared at her with round eyes, obviously startled by the events happening. Poor girl, she was still new enough to the school to be naive. The jeering cries had increased, as they began pushing Michael roughly from side to side, wearing him down as he tried to escape, and Ginny had to speak louder. She grabbed Claire's hand, guiding her around the melee in the middle of the room, to a place where they could observe from a safe distance.
"Now, I'm going to tell you this, not to scare you, because it's the most important part of the education you'll get here at Hogwarts; it's what you'll need to survive. Do you see that group, standing near the head table - where in any normal school, the teachers would be seated? Whatever you do, do not upset them or offend them in anyway," Ginny said, pointing out the group.
"Why is that? Who are they?" Claire whispered, obviously frightened.
"They are the children of some of the most powerful families around. They're all Slytherins, all seventh years. Look, the extremely large one? That's Vincent Crabbe. His father owns the patent for the new Firebolt series of broomsticks, as well as three of the major Quidditch teams. He's notorious for spending huge amounts of his father's money on older women, whom he likes to seduce away from their husbands and then dump just as they start to get serious about him. And that one, the shortest of the group? That is Gregory Goyle. His father doesn't do anything special, he just inherited all his family's money, and he's the financial backer of just about every important politician. Their family owns most of Diagon Alley. Goyle isn't the brightest one out there, but for some reason that I haven't been able to discern quite yet, he goes through girls like you wouldn't believe," Ginny explained, pointing them out in turn. She paused to scout out the rest of them.
"Oh, and there - that is Pansy Parkinson. Her mother is a famous designer and her father is reknown for his line of beauty potions. She sets out to destroy any of the girls who get too close to the boys she considers 'hers', which is pretty much any male Slytherin whose parents are rich and important. Behind her is Millicent Bulstrode, who is completely vapid and does whatever Pansy tells her to do. You definitely don't want to upset her, she's fairly vicious," Ginny warned.
"I've met her already. She seemed fairly nice!" Claire protested weakly, as the noise in the hall grew to a fever pitch as people started through the remains of their lunches at Michael.
"That one lurking in the corner - that's Blaise Zabini. He's the only heir to his father's empire, which specializes in adopting Muggle products to suit the wizarding world. No one really knows anything about him, actually. He's really quiet and keeps to himself for the most part, but he's Draco Malfoy's best friend, so you should watch out for him. Plus, he's number two on Pansy's list of potential husbands, so you really don't want to go near him, if not just to keep her off your back," Ginny said, staring curiously at the stoic Slytherin. There was no mistaking how handsome he was - his dark, serious eyes being his most outstanding feature - and his mysterious nature definitely drew more than a few wistful sighs from the girls in the school. He was watching the scene before him unfold with the same serious expression that he usually wore. To Ginny's surprise, he shook his head once, almost indiscernibly, and then walked out of the room and away from the jeering crowd.
"That's enough! Where is Somerby?" a voice called out, casting the room into complete silence. The tall, blond Slytherin stepped forward, the crowd parting way for him.
"That...that is Draco Malfoy, and I suggest you be as careful as you possibly can around him. He's essentially the ringleader of the Slytherins; they all follow what he says. His father is Voldemort's right-hand man, and his family owns Gringotts' bank, among other things. He's arrogant, vicious, conceited and worst of all, completely stubborn. Anyone who offends him, he makes it his duty to run them out of the school and essentially, destroys their lives. He has all the teachers in his pocket, because of his father's money and power, and he gets away with whatever he wants. He's definitely someone you don't want to notice you in any way," Ginny said. She was starting to feel as if she were over-exaggerating, but as the crowd of students pushed a terrified Hufflepuff forward, she knew very well that she was just speaking the truth.
"What are they doing to these boys?" Claire asked, her eyes wide and worried.
"The one who got the Howler - he accidentally spilt his potion on Malfoy during their lesson yesterday. So, the Slytherins sent him that blue Howler, and that means that he is the new victim. Everyone in the school will pick on him, torture him and make his life so miserable that he'll drop out, all because Draco Malfoy says so, and they're afraid of him. Michael Corner has been marked - he really is as good as dead," Ginny said grimly.
"Somerby, Corner here is your friend, isn't he?" Draco Malfoy asked coolly, staring down at the trembling Hufflepuff, who was looking everywhere but at the tall boy lumbering over him.
"Y-yes," Somerby spit out, looking at the ground. Malfoy smiled maliciously.
"He ruined my robes yesterday. Do you still consider him a friend?" Malfoy asked, a dangerously soft tone in his voice. Somerby looked up at him, eyes wide and desperate. He didn't know what to say.
"N-no, of course not... He sh-should have been more careful," Somerby stuttered, looking up. Malfoy smiled at his response and the terrified boy nearly collapsed with relief. Michael Corner, who was looking decidedly worse for wear - his clothing covered with the food that had been thrown at him, and his lower lip swollen from where one over-eager guy had taken a swing at him – cried out as his best friend betrayed him.
"Stupid idiot, he shouldn't have ever said they were friends!" Ginny whispered. Watching the cruel glint in Malfoy's eyes light up at Somerby's words, she knew very well what was going to come next.
"Then you should hit him. Teach him that he needs to be more careful. As a friend, you should take a swing at him to show him where he went wrong," Malfoy declared. Ginny closed her eyes; he was just as evil as she thought. Corner and Somerby were best friends - it was widely known that they had been best friends since before even coming to Hogwarts!
Goyle and Crabbe grabbed Somerby by the shoulders and turned him around to face his fallen friend.
"I can't do that!" he exclaimed, as they released him to force the exhausted Corner to his feet.
"You'd better do it, or you're going to find a Howler of your own tomorrow," Goyle laughed. Somerby looked around the room, at the circle of faces watching him eagerly, and at the swollen face of his best friend, as if searching for a way out of it.
Crabbe pushed him a step closer.
"Make it a good one. Hell, if you manage to break his nose, I'll call the whole thing off, and take back his Howler. But if you don't, you can be sure there will be one waiting for you tomorrow," Malfoy declared. Staring at him, as if trying to discern if he was lying or not, Somerby then nodded, and turned back to his friend.
"Sorry mate," he said, before drawing his fist back and swinging it forward, bashing his best friend's nose. Everyone started cheering as Corner's nose began to gush blood, and Somerby stood there, stunned at his own actions and even smiling a little at his own daring. Malfoy pushed him out of the way, and leaned over to examine the injured Corner, who'd fallen with the impact of the punch.
"Tsk tsk, it looks like you failed, Somerby. You did a good job making it bleed, but you didn't break it. Your own best friend couldn't even hit you hard enough to save you, Corner, but he managed enough to save himself. Too bad for you," he said, pushing the injured boy back to the floor. He stood up, pulling a handkerchief out of his pocket to wipe Corner's blood off his hands. With an arrogant smirk, he threw it to the ground, and walked away from the cheering crowd, followed by all his minions, laughing at the scene. Ginny, by this point, was seething with rage, and needed to flee the room before that anger exploded and she said something she'd regret.
She turned and ran out of the Hall, leaving behind a bewildered Claire.
She burst outside, and kept running. She ran right until she reach the empty Quidditch pitch, the only place on the school grounds where she was sure that no one would hear her during school hours. By the time she got there, her legs were burning and her lungs were about to explode. But it wasn't going to stop her from ridding herself of her anger.
"DRACO MALFOY IS A SPINELESS, ARROGANT BLOODY IDIOT! ALL SLYTHERINS ARE BLOODY IDIOTS! STUPID COWARDS!" she screamed, gasping for breath. After a few moments, she regained control of her lungs, and began pacing as she ranted out loud to herself.
"Can you imagine? Making someone hit THEIR OWN BEST FRIEND? And then telling him that his friend didn't hit them hard enough to save him, but that he managed to save himself? What is the matter with that idiot, making best friends turn on each for his own amusement? BLOODY ARROGANT IDIOT!" she cried. After ranting, she felt better, as if the poison of having stood there and watched the entire thing, while completely helpless, had been extracted with her anger. She collapsed into the grass, breathing deeply, trying to calm her ragged temper. She lay back with a sigh. There's only two years left of this, she reminded herself.
"We're all bloody idiots, are we?" a deep and silky voice asked. Ginny, who'd closed her eyes in an effort to relax, opened them to find the dark and mysterious Slytherin, lying on the grass in front of the bleachers, holding a book. She sat up with a start, as Blaise Zabini didn't even lift his eyes from what he was reading. Her heart started beating wildly with panic, but then, upon closer inspection, she noted that he had a slight look of amusement on his face.
They sat in silence, and he flipped a page and Ginny stared at him . He really is beautiful, she thought. No wonder so many girls are in love with him! She indulged in the opportunity to stare at him, as he barely seemed to remember that she was sitting there, and decided, that despite the fact that he was a Slytherin and Draco sodding Malfoy's best friend, he was the best looking boy in school. His quiet and mysterious aura didn't hurt at all, either.
He suddenly flicked his eyes up at her, and she found herself staring at pair of big, dark and serious eyes. Startled and completely unsettled, she jumped up and, without another word between them, fled back to the school.
"Seriously? I can't believe your school. It sounds like there's no discipline there at all!" Hermione Granger cried out, later that day, as they set about preparing the Three Broomsticks for its dinner crowd. Ginny smiled, relieved at her friend's outrage on her behalf.
"The only discipline that exists is that of the Slytherins. It's absolutely horrible, the way we all just stand by and watch others be tortured by them, all of us helpless lest it's us that gets that blue envelope next!" Ginny cried out, wiping a table viciously with a bar towel.
"Why don't you say something? I remember all those times you stood up for me," Hermione said, with an uncharacteristically shy smile. Hermione, as a Muggle born, was often given a hard time from some of the less open-minded customers, and Ginny always put them in their place. After discovering her powers, Hermione had tried to find some wizarding school that would take her. The most she was able to secure was a correspondence course through Beauxbatons, a school that, while opposing Hogwarts stricter admission guidelines, was afraid enough of Voldemort and his cronies to enforce some limitations. Determined to learn everything she could about the wizarding world, Hermione had left her Muggle parents behind, moved to Hogsmeade and started working and living among wizards and witches. Every time Ginny started feeling sorry for herself, having to attend the horrible Hogwarts, Hermione always reminded her how lucky she was, and how much she'd like to go to the school she'd read so much about in that book she was always quoting.
"Every part of me wants to shout at them all and break snotty Malfoy's nose right off his face," Ginny confessed, and Hermione laughed. "But it's impossible. I have less than two years left - after that, I'll be a qualified witch who went to Hogwarts, and all the work we've done - my brothers and my parents - so I could stay in that bloody school will pay off. I can't do anything to jeopardize that."
"I don't understand why they let you in, but not your brothers. Seems rather strange, doesn't it?" Hermione said, as she efficiently arranged all the tables and chairs.
"My mum said it was probably because of their obsession with pure blood. While all of us are pureblooded, my family's a little... well, notorious, because of my dad's love of Muggle technology. My brothers weren't welcome - BUT I'm different because I'm a girl. It seems that they're starting to run low on appropriate pure-blooded females to marry off to their sons, so they're willing to let any pure-blood girl in," Ginny said, with an expression of distaste on her face. "Like I'd ever consider marrying any of them!"
"What about that handsome one you saw at the Pitch?" Hermione asked mischievously. Ginny's felt her face begin to blush slightly.
"He's a Slytherin, and they're the worst sort. Plus, he doesn't even know my name," Ginny mumbled. "But he does have the nicest eyes…and he doesn't seem to participate in any of that nonsense with the Howlers. He even left the room today!"
"It sounds a little like you like him!" Hermione cried, laughing as Ginny began to chase after her, waving her damp bar towel in an attempt to snap it at her friend. "Tell me more about these nice eyes!"
A/N: So, this is a bit of a crack AU fic that I was compelled to write after too many repeated viewings of Hana Yori Dango. If you're interested in learning more about the series, please check out my author's bio page, I have some links posted there that will hook you up with the fantastic-ness that is HYD.