Something More Scary by aprilmoon92

Summary: Harry Potter lives an undeniably eventful existence. With a Dark Lord hunting him, he doesn't need a little ferret bothering him, and challenges him to a duel. However, not everything is what it seems. Could there be something more scary?
Rating: PG-13
Categories: Alternate Universe, SIYE Challenges, The Duel (5-2006) Challenge
Characters: None
Genres: None
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2006.10.19
Updated: 2006.10.19

Something More Scary by aprilmoon92

Chapter 1: Something More ScaryAuthor's Notes:

Disclaimer: If I owned the Potterverse (which I don't), I'd make everyone celebrate Cheese Day! (12th October)

Dedication: Happy Birthday Hannah and Keshia (will you even read this?)
A/N: I'm back!!! (even though this is in the middle of my Common Tests) Just want to wish everyone a Happy (Belated) Cheese Day, and wishing all my friends the best for their CTs (or the results if I take too long to write this). Enjoy :)c
It becomes AU somewhere in the middle of Book 5, but the events at the Department of Mysteries still takes place.
The section at the end details how I fulfilled the requirements of the challenge.

A blur of red flashed past in the corner of Harry's field of vision.

There! he thought, spinning his Firebolt around with practiced ease. As the wind whistled and whipped by, Harry couldn't but marvel at the feeling of euphoria that struck him every single time he took to the air. The sheer joy of flying coupled with the excitement of the game was something Harry lived for, and right now, he was in the zone... The score was 140 points in favor of Gryffindor, and it was time for Harry to do his thing.

Even before the he had completed the turn, he leaned forwards slightly, willing himself towards his target. With a 'whoosh', he sped towards the fluttering crimson form, his eyes stalking its movement like a panther tracking its prey. It was moving too quickly for him to get a good look, as the object of his attention sped around the pitch, swerving gracefully as it flitted in-between players. Warmth flooded Harry's body as the sunlight caught the scarlet gossamer strands... casting a million different fiery shades against the pale canvas of her skin...

"Oi! Harry, what are you doing?" Ron's voice tore through Harry's concentration like the wind through a spider's web, "Malfoy's seen the Snitch!" A horrified look on his face, Harry did a 180 degree spin, swooping into top speed immediately as he caught sight of the green blur that was Draco Malfoy's robes. In a flash, he was off, even the roar of the wind forgotten with his singular purpose in mind.

Get your head in the game, Potter! We nearly lost because of your hormones. he berated himself.

He was now flying parallel to Malfoy, who wore an equal look of concentration on his face.

You should have had your eyes on the Snitch, not on her hair...

They were now side by side, the tiny golden ball just a dozen meters ahead...

...but her hair's so beautiful, and the way it curls around her face... a tiny voice piped up.

Anticipating some kind of sabotage attempt, Harry was quick to respond as he saw Malfoy smirk in the corner of his eye. Putting in a quick burst of speed, Malfoy's pitiful attempt to kick him off course missed entirely, overbalancing its originator so that he lost precious moments.

Traitor... the first voice muttered darkly as Harry closed his hand around the struggling Snitch. At the word, it seemed as if someone had turned the sound back on, and sudden deafening roar of the crowd nearly knocked Harry off his broom. Recovering quickly, a huge grin spread across Harry's face as he realised that his first match as Captain had been a hit. As the crowd thronged onto the pitch, the two teams slowly went for the ground to greet their supporters.

"Harry!" a familiar voice cried, causing Harry's grin to turn into a full-blown smile as he braced for impact. With a solid thump, Harry was nearly unseated for the second time that day as the mass of warmth and scarlet hair that was Ginny Weasley slammed into him. Feeling her arms wrap around him, he quickly obliged her as her pulled her into an air-borne post-game congratulatory snog. Still wrapped in each other, the two star players of the year's Gryffindor Quidditch Team lowered themselves slowly to the ground.

Breaking away, Harry leaned into the curtain of her hair and took a deep breath. Even sweaty and muddied, she still smelled wonderful to him. Sighing contentedly at the hints of grass, peach, flowers and the musky scent of her sweat, Harry held her close once more and placed a tender kiss on her brow. Gazing into her soft, chocolate eyes, he couldn't help but wonder why it had taken him till the past summer to notice her. Admittedly, he was a little thick, but it was probably a new record that a girl as amazing as her had to risk her life with him on two separate occasions before he realised how much he had missed, thinking of her as "Ron's little sister". All that had changed, however, the moment Draco Malfoy had handed him that blasted Potions text in the middle of his fifth year.

Over the course of the first half of their fifth year, Harry and Ron had made it a tradition to debate about at least one Quidditch play over breakfast every Sunday morning. Once in a while, Ron's little sister Ginny would join the discussion, and it soon became clear to Harry that Ginny was as much a fan of Quidditch as they were. Before long, she started joining in every Sunday and proved time and again that she knew much more than Harry had originally expected.

Harry's exposition on the Hawkshed Attack Formation trailed to a stop at the look of confused alarm that Ginny was shooting over his shoulder. Before he could ask what the matter was, his question was answered.

"Here Potter, Professor Snape asked me to pass this to you."

Harry's head jerked up at the familiar drawl to see Draco Malfoy's familiar pale face looking even paler despite the morning sunlight. Harry shot a quizzical look at the Slytherin, only to be met with an oddly passive expression. Feeling a little apprehensive, Harry reached out to receive the battered-looking Year Six Potions text. The moment Harry's fingers brushed the surface, he knew something was wrong. Clenching of his stomach in anticipation, Harry's doubts were shattered as the familiar jerk behind his navel marked the activation of the Portkey. With a rush of displaced air, Harry felt himself crumpling onto a patch of dry ground. Leaping to his feet, Harry was surprised to see a shaken but otherwise unhurt redhead on the ground beside him. As he leaned down to help her up, Ginny's wand arm shot out suddenly.

"Immobulus!" she hissed, sending a bolt of grey light past Harry. Confused, Harry turned to see an immobilized Draco with his wand pointing directly at Harry. Turning back, Ginny had already regained her feet and was now scanning the trees surrounding the clearing they were in. Quirking his eyebrow, Harry assumed that she had been in contact with him when the now-forgotten Portkey was activated. Just as he was about to mention this, a familiar voice floated into the clearing.

"Draco, have you stunned him yet?" the oily voice sent shivers down Harry's spine. As quietly as possible, the two teens spun to face the direction the voice had come from, wands at the ready. The leaves rustled noisily as two masked and hooded Death Eaters emerged from the tree line, another lagging slightly behind.

"Answer me you imbecile! The Dark Lord wants him as- " Snape's voice was cut off as he saw the immobilized Draco. His eyes widened, but before he could speak, a bolt of red light flew past Harry's shoulder and connected with his chest, sending the Potions Master to the ground. Taking Ginny's cue, Harry fired off a spell of his own at the remaining Death Eater, who, forewarned by his comrade's falling, hastily conjured a shield which deflected it. Blasting a bolt of orange light, which Harry easily ducked, the Death Eater spun around and ran back into the forest, his other comrade no where to be found. As he was about to give chase, he heard a muffled cry of pain as the curse hit Ginny in the arm. With a sickening series of cracks, he heard the bones in her left arm shatter. Realising that he would stop to help her, Ginny cried out.

"No! Chase after him, I'll take care of myself..." With a nod, Harry sprinted out of the clearing, soon closing the gap between himself and the Death Eater as his smaller frame could more easily maneuver in the foliage. With a grunt of effort, Harry gasped a Stunning Hex which hit the Death Eater just as he was about to leave the forest, sending him plowing into the undergrowth. Satisfied for the moment, Harry started jogging back to the clearing to help Ginny. All of a sudden, a distinctly female scream cut through the forest, causing Harry to draw on his reserves and sprint full-tilt. Even as his heaving body burst into the clearing, he heard another familiar voice mutter with glee.

"Avada Ke-"

Harry had barely taken in the scene before his wand began its agonizingly slow journey towards the traitorous piece of filth. Ginny's bloodied form lay sprawled against the tree, obviously having been thrown there by some sort of curse. Her arms were a mass of bloody scratches where she had smashed into the rough bark, and her wand lay a half-dozen feet away. It seemed, however, that Wormtail had not taken her easily. Despite her injuries, she had apparently fought hard, and his clothes were a mass of holes, with burn marks all over his legs. Most curiously, his face was bloodied with dozens of oozing wounds, each looking like claw-marks from one of Hagrid's pets. Welling up his need, Harry felt the rush of magic speeding into his arm.

"EVERTE STATUM!" he roared, sending a huge blast of silver light at the Death Eater before he could fully incant the Killing curse. With a whoosh, Wormtail was knocked off his feet and hurled bodily into a stand of trees. Even as he sunk to the floor from magical exhaustion, Harry heard the satisfying crack as his parents' deaths were partly avenged. With his last traces of strength, he conjured Prongs and willed him back to the school to get Dumbledore. Even as his eyes slid shut, Harry gazed at the feisty redhead whom he had never before truly noticed as an individual... Ginny...

From that incident onwards, she had become a close friend. The moment he had looked passed his label of "Ron's little sister", he had realised that Ginny was much more than that. She was a strong, witty and feisty individual who had more than proved her worth... and... the more time he spent with her, the less she was "Ron's little sister", and the more Ron became "Ginny's brother". When the end of the year rolled in, Ginny had steadfastedly followed him with the others, risking life and limb to rescue Sirius.

By time he had been moved to Grimmauld Place by the new Potions Master, Professor Slughorn, who had after a half-year of service become a trusted member of the Order, Harry was deep into his depression. Only Ginny had been able to bring him out of his moods, and soon, she became his closest confidant. Cooped up in a small house with not much to do, Ron and Hermione had apparently admitted their feelings for each other. With the only similar-aged people in the house besides Ginny being Draco Malfoy & Pansy Parkinson, Harry had quickly fallen into the routine of spending all his time with her. It had begun with innocent touches while doing the dishes or reading; but soon the two best friends had developed something more, and consciously sought out the other's comforting touch. Before long, they had realised their feelings and had gotten together just before the new school year began.

Now, a few months into the year, they had gotten even closer. They found no problem spending time together, whether doing common interests like Quidditch, or doing their homework. As the time had passed, Harry and Ginny had also come to better understand each other, and they often sought comfort from the other when things got too tough, or old memories resurfaced. Harry's peaceful reflection was suddenly at an end as a Draco's haughty voice cut through the air.

"You should've done that in the air, would have made catching the Snitch much easier for me," he said, flashing a smirk at Ginny, he continued, "but considering how much of a tease the Weaselette, over here, is... you were already doing a pretty good job." Feeling like strangling the git, Harry turned, his hand itching to pull his wand. Draco's joining the Order had done nothing to relieve their mutual hatred but the thing that stung the most was that what he had said was true. Seeing that he had touched a nerve, the Slytherin sneered and went in for another go.

"Can't hear anything against your girlfriend, Potter? Everyone in the castle knows she's a loosed-legged sl-" Draco's face suddenly contorted in pain.

Unknowingly, Harry had drawn his wand, but what surprised him was that the curse had not been fired by him. As if in explanation, seven giant winged-bogies heaved themselves out of the pale young man's nostrils and began tearing at his face with vicious claws. Despite seeing the insufferable arse scream and run off, Harry still felt that he ought to have been the one to protect his girlfriend's name. Despite that, he turned and planted a firm kiss on her lips. Soon, he was lost...

A moment or a year later (Harry wasn't sure how long the kissing had lasted), they were interrupted by a firm cough. Breaking apart, they turned to see a cowering Draco Malfoy being manhandled by his girlfriend, Pansy Parkinson. Seeing that she had their full attention, Pansy began to speak.

"I go to the changing rooms looking to quietly spend the rest of the afternoon with my boyfriend, and I find him running around hysterically and squealing like a little girl. Turns out, my little ferret here doesn't know how to keep his mouth shut. Anyways, he has something to say to the two of you." Draco winced as Pansy squeezed his shoulder threateningly. Looking as if it was taking all his willpower, Draco began speaking, nervously rubbing his elbow in a very undignified manner.

"I er... want to... OW!" he cried, as Pansy's muscled finger worked their magic again, he finished hastily, "I want to apologize for insulting Ginevra just now..." Turning, he glared at Pansy who finally released her hold on him. As the pair walked off, Ginny remarked.

"Pansy's really matured in the past year. She's a good influence on Draco... but sometimes he's just too much for her to handle all the time..."

"Yeah, that really explains why he poisoned me last year..." Harry muttered mutinously, watching as the two Slytherins returned to the castle. As Harry and Ginny turned to go to the changing rooms, Draco looked back and mouthed something before turning back to Pansy who had apparently missed his action.

"Why that little a-" Harry bellowed, moving to go after Malfoy. He was stopped by a firm pull from Ginny. Looking outraged, he turned to her for an explanation. Despite the fire in her eyes, her voice was calm and measured.

"Leave it, Harry... You can't do anything about it now," she said as she pulled him towards the changing rooms. Despite this, Harry didn't feel like letting it drop. There was only so much a guy could take, and Malfoy had just reached that point. He would think up something to teach the ferret a lesson.

Even at a hundred yards, the word had been unmistakable. Slut.

A soft murmur ran through the great hall as everyone gorged themselves on the good food. He knew the routine of the evening meal and waited for the right moment. As soon as the headmaster pushed his pudding away, Harry stood up.

"Mr. Potter?" Dumbledore acknowledged the young man's tall presence in a sea of sitting students.

Harry stood up on his seat, raised his voice, and said, "Malfoy, you have taunted me since we both started school here at Hogwarts. You have cursed me, sabotaged my schoolwork, tried to kidnap me for your master Voldemort, and even tried to kill me on more than one occasion. After this afternoon's incident, this ends now. I challenge you to a duel to take place at noon, this coming Saturday, on neutral Hogwarts grounds by the lake."

"Students duelling on school grounds is forbidden." Headmaster Dumbledore said starting to raise his voice above the startled students in the Great Hall.

"Then the open courtyard in Hogsmeade. What say you, Ferret Face?" Harry continued, staring at Malfoy. The silence in the Great Hall was nearly palpable as they awaited his answer. A shocked-looking Draco opened and closed his mouth, looking strangely like a goldfish, but yielded no words. Harry got a strange sense of satisfaction as he watched Draco's cool exterior shattered, being caught so off-guard. Harry was about to sit down and let Draco face the shame of not accepting the duel; after all, it would probably be enough to make him keep a low profile for a long time. He still could not forgive the little ferret for some of the things he did. Imperius or no. Just then, a shaky voice cut through the renewed chatter of the Great Hall.
"I'll do it."
With three words, the students of Hogwarts School were cast into silence once more. Smiling with satisfaction, Harry gave a curt nod and sat back down. Ignoring the gobsmacked looks of his friends, Harry was just about to get back to his Yorkshire pudding when he heard a muffled sob by his elbow. Turning to look at Ginny, he saw that she had tears streaming down her face. Her entire frame shook as she tried to contain the sobs, and as Harry tried to put a comforting hand around her, stood up suddenly and fled down the aisle and out the doors.
What was that about? Harry's mind reeled at the strangeness of what had just happened. Without even looking at his other friends, he jumped out of his seat and chased his distraught girlfriend out of the Hall. As the two teenagers left, a bit of laughter sounded from the Slytherin table.
Mr. Malfoy seems to have regained his bravado... Albus Dumbledore thought to himself as he observed one of his most worrisome students, two such headstrong boys, this could really lead to a problem. But what do you put against two headstrong boys... All of a sudden, the Headmaster's face lit up. There was something he could do, and he thought that it would probably teach the two boys a good lesson. Turning to the Transfiguration Mistress, he adopted his normal tone of voice, despite the bubbling excitement coursing through his veins.
"Minerva, could you ask for Ms. Parkinson and Ms. Weasley to see me in my office during the first period after break tomorrow? I understand that they are both free then..." At her nod of assent, Albus returned to his dinnertime contemplation.
Mr. Malfoy hates Harry because he blames him for all the wrongs he has encountered here... at this, Dumbledore shivered with age-old fear, as he remembered how the man he had trusted so much had so easily betrayed him, but he is gone now, and so Draco blames it on Harry, for Snape would not have acted like that if not for the need of his capture... Being cursed by someone he had trusted, and then used as the scapegoat. Malfoy had neither been at fault nor been implicated for those deeds, but rumours were more than enough. The poor boy had been cursed by Severus, but he, the greatest Light Sorcerer of the age had not noticed, and by then, Dolores had seen enough to convince Fudge to replace him... Thinking the best of everyone indeed...
Mr. Potter also stands to gain a lot from this. If this works, he will see that Malfoy isn't everything he thinks. Perhaps if they work together for once? If it works... but then, trust Ginevra and Pansy... As the plates finally cleared themselves, the wizened Headmaster smirked to himself. He hadn't done something this deviously-nice since he was a students; and, by Merlin's pointy hat, he was going to thoroughly enjoy watching it...

"Caseus Fastus!" Harry cried, skidding round the corner, just as the portrait hole was swinging closed. With an irritated huff, the Fat Lady obliged him and swung open once more. With a cry of thanks, he leapt through the portrait hole and sped into the Gryffindor Common Room, only to see Ginny reach the stairs to the Girls' Dormitories.

"Ginny! What's wrong? Just tell me!" he cried out, feeling his heart clench with her every sob. Why is she crying? He had never been able to deal with crying girls- dragons? Check. Dark Wizards? Check. A sobbing female? Uh uh. As he skidded to a stop by the base of the stairs, the pounding of her footsteps on the oaken floor came to an abrupt halt. With dangerous slowness, the redhead turned on her heel, looking down at him through narrowed eyes. As her cold gaze settled on him, Harry suddenly realised that that might not have been the most intelligent thing to say. Backing away slightly, he hit one of the large armchairs and came to a stop. For a moment, the Common Room was perfectly still, just before she started descending the stairs.




Somehow, Harry felt like a cornered hog right now, Defender of the Light or no... As Ginny reached the bottom of the stairs, the firelight caught her face and Harry could see her reddened eyes smoldering with righteous anger. This wasn't looking good. He was right.

"You want to know what's wrong? You want me to tell you what's wrong?" she began in a low whisper, a growl entered her voice as she continued, "I'll tell you what's wrong! What's wrong is that you keep having this- this... Arrogance! Arrogance that makes you think you won't die! Arrogance that makes you think you can take on anything! Arrogance that makes you think it's always your duty to go and be the hero! Now this...this- ridiculous duel! Don't you remember what happened the last time you took a stupid risk? ...but no. Nothing can stand in the way of Harry Potter.That is what's wrong." By now, her voice had tempered itself with an icy edge.

"Year One. You get it into your head that the Darkest Wizard of all time has entered the school," she made a small step forward, causing Harry to try and back off once more, to be met by the chair, "What do you do? You take it upon yourself to go fight him!"

"Year Two. You go down into the Chamber with my git of a brother. You risk your life, for what? For a little girl you don't even know," even as he thought to protest, the voice died in his throat.

"Year Three. You single-handedly attempt to accost a mass murderer, take on a hundred Dementors, and attempt to alter time. Keeping in mind, that there is a Werewolf on the loose!" Harry felt a stirring of anger, not because of the fact that he had not volunteered for any of that, but because of the jab at Remus. She was now less than a foot from him, and he couldn't tear his emerald eyes from her cinnamon ones.

"Year Four. You enter a stupid competition and not only do you get attacked by a DRAGON of all things, you nearly DROWN as well! To top it off, you get captured by the same Dark Lord and portkeyed to a-" she was abruptly cut off by a stinging slap to the cheek. As the echoes of flesh on flesh faded from the Common Room, Ginny looked back up to see her outrage mirrored in her boyfriend's eyes.

"I didn't enter!" he whispered frostily, teeth baring as he thought of Cedric's still body by his side, speaking slowly, he continued, "...and don't ever speak of that place again..." As he finished, his eyes took on a deadened look, and he turned as if to walk away. He stopped as he felt a wand tip jabbing into his chest. He looked up to see the arm holding it steady lead to a red-faced Ginny, who was glaring daggers at him.

"Harry James Potter, don't you dare go and sulk again! You think you are the only ones with dark memories? You think only you carry a burden on your shoulders? Who was it that lived with Lord Voldemort in her head for over a year? Me. Who was it that trusted and followed you as the leader of the DA despite always being left out of the loop? Me. Who was it that fought with you when Snape tried to capture you? Me. Who was it that went along with you to the Department of Mysteries to rescue your Godfather while Malfoy went to warm the adults? Me." Twisting her wand as if to remind him of her prowess, she finished, jabbing her wand into him with her last, whispered words, "...and who was it that waits every time you go out... waiting and not knowing, whether you will get hurt. Die. Whe-whether... Whether I will every see you again..." As she finished, she burst into tears, her wand clattering soundlessly to the floor as sobs wracked her body. Seeking comfort for her fears, she threw her arms around him, clinging desperately...

"I don't want to risk you again..."

As she fell into him, Harry automatically wrapped his arms around her form, his anger gone in an instant. Holding her close, he murmured soothing words into her hair, gently stroking her back as she calmed down. Even with her ruffled hair, wrinkled clothes and blotchy eyes, he still thought she was beautiful. As she raised her head to look at him, he placed a tender kiss on her brow, cradling her with his body.

"Promise me... promise me you won't go..." she whispered. Looking into her soul, he knew that he could not keep that promise. He had made a commitment to face Draco, and he was bound by his word as a wizard. Lowering his eyes, he exhaled, only to feel her go limp in his arms as distress gave way to exhaustion. With a sigh, he moved his right arm down till it was supporting her knees, before lifting her in a one-armed hug and moving slowly towards one of the large couches by the fireplace. Laying her softly onto the cushions, Harry leaned to brush a stray strand of her auburn hair off her face, and planted a soft kiss on her nose. Standing back, he was struck by how peaceful she looked lying there.

"Ahem..." a soft cough broke the silence of the tower and Harry's reverie. Turning around to face the Portrait Hole, he was met by Ron, sporting an embarrassedly-red face, backed with what seemed like all of Gryffindor tower squeezing in the space behind him. Giving him a rueful grin, Ron stepped forwards, allowing the rest of their house mates to enter. Feeling his cheeks heat, Harry turned and sat by Ginny's side, waiting for Hermione to come bring Ginny to her dorm.

"How much did you hear?" Harry asked later, as he and Ron sat on his four poster up in the dorm. Ron colored slightly and cast his eyes down as he replied.

"Wasn't only me, mate... Most of Gryffindor heard that; kind of lucky that I entered first, eh? Came in around the part where she was shouting about Snape and the portkey." he muttered, seemingly embarrassed for having witnessed his best mate and sister having a spat, continuing, he said, "What was she so upset over anyways? She seemed right pissed to me." Mulling it over in his head, Harry took a moment to collect himself.

"Well, she started on about how I was always going and doing stupid stuff and taking stupid risks... Which is kinda true... sometimes. Anyways, she worked herself into a right rage, going on about all the dumb decisions I'd made since I came here and how I always just went back to my 'saving people thing'. You heard the rest, didn't you? She was right. I've never really thought about how those back here might feel, it's always been like... in the spur of the moment?" Looking up, he felt a tiny glimmer of regret in him as Ron nodded empathetically, "I can't imagine what she's felt like all this time, being left behind... now I've gone and done something stupid again. I don't know what possessed me..." Bringing his hands up to cup his face, Harry tried to get his mind into some kind of order.

"Well mate, I'd not say that. I know Malfoy's been a right pain in the arse since we got here... He's always had it in for you, can't really say why though," Harry looked up to see Ron pursing his lips in thought, Harry grinned slightly at the oddness of the situation... Ron thinking...

"He's always been upset that most teachers seemed to like me more, though I can't see why that'd bother him much. He's got everything he wants, what with his allowance every month being more than I've spent since I was eleven..."

"But it's got to be more than that! I mean, remember what the furry little ferret did last year? He nearly killed you mate, got you thrown off the team too," Harry smirked again as Ron's love for Quidditch over-rode even the memory of the portkey attack, but Ron continued to speak unabated, "..don't know what the old toad was doing, banning you like that. Everyone saw him hex your broom, he even gloated about it all over the place! Bloody snake would have succeeded too if not for Ginny's spell work... Umbitch was bad enough without another rotten snake trying to hex you all over the place. I was damn glad when Dumbledore came back... else we wouldn't have out star seeker, hmm?" He finished, slapping Harry playfully on the shoulder.

"I know... it's just that..." he ran his hand through his unruly black hair in frustration, "He seemed to be getting better, y'know? Ever since he joined the Order... but, he's just been a right pain even with Pansy's good influence..."

"I know, mate. Especially with those rumors he spread about Sirius. Could've killed him myself at the time, but I was glad to see Parkinson deal with him; never knew she was good at transfiguration, never seen a whiter ferret before." Ron said, sniggering as he remembered how Pansy had dealt with Draco after finding out that he had started the rumors. That Christmas, she had periodically cursed Malfoy whenever he got too comfy, and a little white ferret was often seen around Grimmauld Place, cowering in the corners away from the big stamping feet. At the mention of the rumors, Harry's temper immediately flared, remembering how Draco had let loose the word that Sirius had been killed fighting for the Death Eaters at the Department... Harry could not walk around the castle without people shying away from him for a week, each worried that the godson of the infamous mass-murderer would strike out.

"That's another reason why I challenged him tonight, I guess. I never got him back personally for insulting Sirius' memory like that... I'd like to rip the throat off that snake come Satur-" the passion suddenly fled Harry's voice as he remembered Ginny's sobbing form against him, "...but Ginny was so upset by it. I can't take that again, she'll go berserk. Besides... I can't go off gallivanting. You heard what she said, about not knowing whether I'd come back..."

"Could you be more pessimistic? Could she be more pessimistic- I mean this is Malfoy we're talking about! He ain't got nothing to you, right? ...and he deserves it, after all. Even if he was under the Imperius, he still nearly killed the two of you. I can't understand why Ginny seems to think there's more to him than that, or why she's always protesting on his behalf..." Ron said, looking out the window to discover that the moon had risen, and it was already pretty late.

"Yeah, 'specially after he called her a slut..." Harry muttered thoughtlessly, lost in his introspection. He didn't see Ron's eyes widen, and ears redden. He didn't see Ron spin around. He did feel it as he was shaken by the shoulders. He definitely heard it (as did most of Gryffindor Tower), when Ron began shouting.

"HE WHAT?" Ron exploded, face turning steadily redder, "THAT LITTLE... argh-!" He let out a string of expletives as Harry's hand clamped down over his mouth. When his chest finally stopped heaving, Ron nodded slightly, and Harry removed his hand. Looking suddenly ominous, Ron jabbed a finger into Harry's shoulder.

"Tell you something, Potter. You did right this evening. No one gets away with calling my sister a-a... calling her you-know-what without getting what he deserves. You got to do what you set out to do, mate; Ginny's objections be damned. You're going to go out there this Saturday, and you're doing to defend her honour. Got it?" he finished, his eyes drilling into Harry's.

"Got it." Harry said seriously, his face a mask of determination. As the two boys sat there in companiable silence, each thinking about the task Harry was going to take on, something popped into Harry's mind. Turning, he nudged Ron in the shoulder.

"Ron, are you thinking what I'm thinking?" he said, biting his lip.


"Ginny's not going to take this well, is she?"


"Thought so..."

A couple of minutes passed as they tried to think a way around this pretty little problem.



"I've got an idea..."

"Spit it out..." Harry replied interestedly.

"Well... Ginny can't get angry if she doesn't know, right?" he started.

"Right, but she's not dumb, mate. She'll be all over us in no time. Besides, when she sees me going on Saturday, she'll stop me anyways..." he said dejectedly.

"No, no. You got me wrong. She won't know... if she doesn't wake up, right?" Harry raised an eyebrow quizzically at Ron, "We just have to use a long-lasting sleeping draught. Hermione'll probably think she's sick or something, come to think of it, I'll tell 'mione that Ginny told me she was sick..."

"Hmm, that might actually work... A day and a half is probably about a vial or so of potion... but where are we going to get one at this hour?" Harry asked, before he grinned.


"Scared, Malfoy?" Harry asked of the pale-faced boy standing before him. Before they had even arrived, a crowd had gathered in the noon-time sun to await the duel. Earlier, Harry had been afraid that the noise of the crowd might have caused him to be distracted, but the moment the two wizards had stepped into the circle, they had fallen silent.

Everything had gone according to plan up till this point. With Dobby's help, they had smuggled the light sleeping draught into Ginny's bedside water pitcher. Presumably, she had taken a drink that night, because she had not come down for breakfast the next morning. As planned, Ron had told Hermione that Ginny was ill, and she seemed to have accepted his story without a problem. That being so, Harry had still felt very guilty for drugging his girlfriend, and he knew that he would have to make it up to her after this was over. With that in mind, he had non-chalantly followed Ron and Hermione to Hogsmeade, but snuck away quickly while they were occupied in Honeydukes. With only a few hours till noon, Harry had quickly scoured the town, looking for the perfect apology gift.

About ten minutes before he was due to meet Draco, he struck gold in a small and dusty shop, off in one of the small alleys. After picking out something suitable, he had rushed to their meeting place with the small, brown paper-wrapped gift snug in his inner pocket.

"You wish..." he replied, an ironic smile on his face as they both remembered the Dueling Club in second year. With the customary bow, the two teens spun around, and stalked three steps towards the edges of the ring. Having expected Malfoy to shoot off a hex while his back was turned, Harry was vaguely surprised when he got safely to his position. Maybe he really has changed... he thought, as he turned back to face Malfoy, raising his wand into a defensive stance. Malfoy, on the other side, was now looking calculatingly at Harry, his wand in an overhead offence position. With both of them now in position, they bent their knees, lowering their center of gravity, before the combatants began prowling around the edge of the ring. As they kept their opponents squarely in their line of fire, Harry couldn't help but notice that Malfoy seemed well balanced and at ease. Apparently he had learned something since he had joined the Order last year. The tension in the ring was now almost tangible, as the crowd watched on, wondering who would strike the first blow.

"So, what did you do to the Weaslette to make her run out from dinner that night?" Malfoy said as he continued to prowl, he had an odd expression on his face.

"Nothing... I guess. She was upset about my dueling you, and other things..." realizing who he was speaking to, he quickly added, "Why do you care, Malfoy?" A smirk flitted across his features for a moment, before it was replaced by a nearly sympathetic expression.

"No reason, I just wondered-... Pansy was pretty upset with me too..." Draco replied, a touch of colour coming to his cheeks, "I had to sneak out here today, actually..." Draco's mask had slipped for a moment, and he seemed much more vulnerable than usual. Harry wondered at the sudden change in attitude, but was more confused at the sincerity he heard in Draco's voice... There might even have been a bit of guilt, Harry mused, it seems that Pansy's really done something for him... Shaking himself out of his thoughts, he realised the crowd had become insistent in reminding them that they were supposed to be doing. Over the low murmur of conversation, he decided to make the first move.

"Shall we begin?" Harry called across the circle, immediately, the crowd settled down. Taking a deep breath, Harry suddenly felt less sure about this. Too late to back out now...

"Stupefy!" he cried, sending a weak red bolt forward with a stab of his wand. Not even bothering to get out of his stance, Draco made a quick flick of his wrist, conjuring a very weak shield which deflected Harry's spell harmlessly into the ground. Crooking an eyebrow, he looked across at Harry, wondering why he had toned down the stunner so much. As was etiquette, Draco did not return fire immediately as it was the first shot. With Harry back in position, he opened his mouth to cry out his first spell. Before he could, however, he was interrupted.

"HARRY JAMES POTTER!" an unmistakably furious Ginny pushed her way through the crowd easily, entering the ring opposite from where he stood, her wand was in her hand, and she looked murderous, "YOU PROMISED ME YOU WOULDN'T FIGHT HIM!" At the sight of the angry redhead, Harry quickly dropped out of his stance, holding his wand behind him in a pitiful attempt to escape her wrath. As she started to advance towards him, Harry was shunned to the side as someone else entered the ring from behind him. Without having to turn, he could guess who the new person was, judging from the look on Draco's face.

"DRACO! WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?" Pansy Parkinson's voice boomed loudly in Harry's ears. At the sight of the two stunned and embarrassed would-be duelers, the crowd burst into amused laughter. In the chaos of the moment, Harry took the chance and slipped into the press of bodies.

Oh no... how'd did she get here? The potion wasn't supposed to wear off for another half day at least... worse yet, she's going to murder me when she finds me... Harry continued pushing his was through the mob, mortified as the other students held their guts laughing at him, tears falling from their eyes, lowering his head, he continued his escape, At least Malfoy's in trouble too... The thought was suddenly (and literally) knocked out of his head as he crashed head-first into the very man. Apparently, he had taken the opportunity as well. As their eyes met, they came to an unspoken understanding. With a nod, Harry moved past Draco, in the direction he had been heading before. With a last shove and apology, the duo finally broke free of the thinning mob.

"We don't have much time before the girls get out of there. Where should we head?" Harry asked the Slytherin quickly. Scrounging his brow, he seemed to run through a list of possibilities before he looked up again.

"Well, I think our best bet is to get back to Hogwarts. We can skirt the forest, go around the edge of the lake, and head for the Quidditch Pitch. From there, it's not a long way to a passageway which leads to the kitchens. From there, we can sneak to our dorms and we'll be safe..." he said. With a nod, Harry and Draco turned for the school and set off at a quick trot. Clearing the last of the village shops, they were nearing the huge black gates of Hogwarts before the first sounds of pursuit were heard.

"BOYS! You two better stop this instant of you're going to get it!" Ginny's angry voice only caused the boys to pick up the pace.

"When we catch you're going to have a lot of explaining to do!" Apparently the girls had teamed up as well. The odds were not looking good. Risking a quick look, Harry saw that the girls were gaining on them pretty quickly. Leaping through the gates, the two teenagers swerved to the left, keeping along the tree line of the forest. Despite his aching muscles and heaving chest, the sight of a flurry of weak stunners flying past him from behind inspired previously unknown stamina in Harry. Noticing that the pale boy by his side had noticed the girls' new tactic as well, he cried out.

"Draco?" They were nearing the edge of the lake.

"What?" the normally-unruffled wizard gasped out.

"RUN FASTER!" Harry bellowed as a new flurry of spells filled the air around them. The change of ground underfoot was quickly obvious as the lakeside mud squelched beneath Harry's trainers. A few first and second year students who weren't yet allowed to visit the village were sitting by the lake feeding the Giant Squid, Squidward. (No one knew who had named him, but for some reason the Muggleborns and Half-bloods often laughed when the subject came up...) As the boys sprinted past, the younger students laughed and waved, crying out with glee as they watched the girls chasing them. All of a sudden, Harry lost his footing in the slick mud.

"Argh!" he yelped as he plowed into the ground, twisting his ankle painfully as he did so. At his cry, Malfoy spun to a halt, a look of indecision on his face. Gritting his teeth, he quickly jogged back to help Harry to his feet. With a grimace, and Draco's aid, the pair hobbled towards a huge boulder near the end of the lake. Diving for cover, their panted heavily as they leaned against the warm, dry rock. With a muffled thanks, Harry dropped his head and busied himself trying to heal his ankle as best as he could. The pride and astonishment on Draco's face was obvious. Before he could reply however, the sound of the girls approaching cut him off.

"I wonder- where- they went..." Ginny sounded winded. With his wand still at work on his ankle, Harry shot Draco a look and gestured for him to keep silent. For a few tense moments, the boys stayed perfectly still, till they heard the girls towards the lake. Breathing sighs of relief, they relaxed against the hard surface. As Harry was about to thank Draco properly, his brow creased in confusion.

"Do you smell something fishy?" he asked, certain that he had caught a whiff of fish. Before Draco could answer, a drop of water plummeted from above and hit the ground in front of them, causing a small circle of earth to darken. Looking at each other in fear, the teens looked up simultaneously, to be met by an odd sight. One of the Giant Squid's tentacles hovered above them, bent at nearly a right angle. As they watched, it bobbed slowly up and down, almost as if it were... pointing!

"Squidward!" the boys cried in exasperation as they heard the girls approach.

"We know you're behind there, and you're going to have to come out one way or another..." Pansy drawled. As she finished, the girls matched their threat as they fired another barrage of weak stunners at their hiding place. With a look of despair on his face, Draco turned to Harry.

"We can't hide here for ever!"

"I know, what should we do?" Harry replied, feeling helpless. They couldn't attack their own girlfriends!

"I'm going to turn myself in... maybe Pansy will go easier on me..." with a nod, Harry watched as the Slytherin cried out to the girls, "If I come out, will you stop firing spells at me?" In reply, the air cleared of the offending spells. Taking this as permission, Draco stood up, passed Harry and walked out from behind the rock.

"Draco, you've got a lot of explaining to do..." Pansy said, a menacing note in her voice. Having done what he could for his ankle, Harry peered around the edge as Draco stuttered out an excuse. A movement from the side caught his eye and he watched Ginny raise her wand once more, without Draco noticing. Without a thought, he shouted.

"You're bleedin' nicked, mate! It's a trap!" Even as Draco turned to dive for cover, Ginny's spell collided with his chest, sending him sprawling onto the ground. Draco cried out in pain as huge winged bogies clawed their way out of his nostrils. Wasting no time, Harry lunged for the shrieking boy and flung him across his shoulder. Grabbing his legs to keep him steady, he jumped up and started sprinting for the Quidditch Pitch; thankfully, Malfoy was quite light. The rain of stunners returned and Harry desperately sought a way out. The kitchens? Too far... Hagrid? Nah, even he'd be too scared to face the girls... Girls... That's it!

The Changing Rooms! With a burst of speed, he changed his course for the squat little building. Skidding into the entrance alcove, he heard the girls shout something before he quickly ducked into the boy's side of the building. Feelings the tingle of the wards, Harry grinned as he laid Malfoy onto one of the benches. With a quick flick of his wand, Ginny's infamous curse was lifted. Groaning, Draco sat up, wiping the blood off his badly-scratched face. Within a few tense moments, Harry's theory was confirmed. Although a barrage of low-power stunners flew through the door, the girls were locked out by the gender-sensitive wards of the Boys' Changing Room. As Draco cleaned himself up, Harry took the chance to speak.

"Draco... I just wanted to thank you for coming back for me just now. You may take it as an insult, but it was a very Gryffindor thing to do..." Without any snide remarks, the other boy nodded.

"Well, I've got to thank you as well, Potter. I actually appreciated your heroics this time," he said, before looking down, "...and all the times before that... I'm just sorry, okay?" Seeing that he was really repentant, Harry bit his lip and asked something which had been bothering him for quite a while.

"Then why did you always have something in it for me, besides the Book, I mean... why'd you have to spread those rumors about Sirius?" Draco looked him straight in the eye.

"I was jealous of you. You had so many people who cared about you, looked out for you... the teachers, the order, your friends... your godfather," he drew in a deep breath and Harry knew this confession was taking a lot out of the boy, "Even though I had my parents, they never cared. The only time mother paid attention to me was when she used me as a conversation topic at society gatherings. Dad always wanted me to grow up to serve the Dark Lord; he never cared what I felt. After a while, I realised it was easiest just to do what he told me to... My parents... they were always here, but they were never there for me... I just wanted to strike out at someone; then I saw you with your loving family, and I-" Draco sighed and lowered his head. Harry saw that the mask he had built for himself had shattered. He realised that everything Draco had done over the years had all been a facade to hide his own weaknesses.

"I'm sorry, Draco. I didn't know... and you're right. I've always had people around me supporting me since my own parents died, I never thought that someone else might be getting a worse deal," then Harry's face hardened, "but why did you lash out at Ginny? She never did anything to you, and you know that she's not a s-s-" He couldn't bring himself to say it. With his head still cradled in his hands, Draco replied.

"I'm very sorry for that as well. Seeing you and her so happy, well- it just seemed to highlight that so many people loved and cared for you. I've seen you together... she loves you and you love her, she knows about you, y'know? Anyways, I'm truly sorry... Pansy, well... she doesn't seem to care. Like Ginny cares for you..." Feeling suddenly happy that all scores were settled amongst them, Harry realised that the cold snake he had always assumed Draco was had been a lie, and now he was looking upon the real Draco Malfoy for the first time.

"You mean like now? When she's hunting me down?" Harry's joke brought a genuine smile to the other boy's face, he continued, "Pansy does care for you a lot, you know." Silencing Draco before he could retort, Harry explained.

"Do you remember that time at Grimmauld Place?"

Draco nodded.

"Do you remember how Pansy stayed with you the whole time when everyone didn't trust you?"

He nodded again.

"Do you remember how she would talk you through those times when you couldn't stand being stuck at Headquarters, knowing you had been cursed by someone who you had trusted?"

Another nod.

"Do you remember what happened to Pansy to bring her there in the first place?"

A half nod, and then Draco broke out into sobs. Her own father had murdered her mother for not wanting to serve Voldemort. Only chance had placed the Order in a position so that they could rescue Pansy before she, too, was killed.

"Despite everything that had happened to her, everything she was suffering through... she stood by your side. Whenever you doubt her affections, just remember that, Draco," he said seriously. In the companiable silence that followed, they noticed that the rain of spells had stopped. Just then, it seemed like the girls had finally found a way to get them out.

"Harry, if you aren't standing out here in the next thirty seconds, I'm not going to kiss you for a month!" Ginny shouted into the doorway.

"Same goes for you, Draco!" Pansy added. Looking at each other, the boys knew they had lost. With defeated looks on their faces, the two wizards stood and left the Changing Room. Stepping out into the afternoon sunshine, they were met by the sight of their two seething women. He locked gazes with Ginny and stood transfixed. He didn't even notice when a sputtering Draco was led away by the ear by Pansy. He stood transfixed by everything he saw in her soulful copper-colored eyes.

The anger...

The disappointment...

and the pride.

Without a word, we walked meekly towards her to receive his punishment. As they stood face to face, he felt the guilt and shame welling up within him; but more so, the sense of peace he had acquired after his talk with Draco. Leaning in, their gazes locked again as he planted a kiss on her soft lips.

He drew back.

She slapped him.

"I'm sorry... for everything." he whispered, ignoring the sting of the blow; knowing he deserved it.

"I know." she replied, pulling him in for another kiss. When they surfaced, she spoke again, softly.

"I'm disappointed in you for going out to fight him despite everything I told you. I'm angry that you tried to keep me out of this, by using a Sleeping Draught no less..." she glared at him, and he wilted beneath her gaze, "You shouldn't underestimate Hermione, you know. She realised I'd been drugged immediately. Lucky thing, wasn't it, that she came up to tell me that Dumbledore wanted to see me before Ron fed her that story?" By now, Harry felt about ten inches tall, and he deeply regretted even considering Ron's plan. It was plainly insensitive and stupid. In trying to defend Ginny, he had in fact hurt her. He hadn't cared about what she wanted.

The way she strung the next words caused Harry to look up into her tearful eyes.

"However, I am proud of you for working things out with Draco." At Harry's surprised look, she explained, ''That's what Dumbledore wanted to see Pansy and I about; he let me stay in his office for the day to keep the charade going. I'm glad you managed to look beyond the past, and really open your eyes, Harry... even if it took a running battle to make you do it." Seeing her teary smile, Harry cupped her cheeks and placed his forehead against hers. With this simple act of comfort, her tears stopped, giving way to calmness.

"I'm very sorry, Gin. I know that it was a stupid and pigheaded thing to do. I'm sorry I hurt you, and I'll do anything to make it up to you." Harry said sincerely, pulling her into a warm embrace. She pulled back slightly, looking at him with an evil grin.

"Anything?" she whispered, her eyebrow lifted. Something in his gut told Harry he had just gotten himself into trouble.

"Err..." he mumbled. Seeing his hesitation, Ginny leapt into him, pushing him heavily to the ground. With the breath knocked out of him, he couldn't do anything more than gasp as her fingers set to work, tickling his sides till he was bent double with laughing. Pawing at her feebly, he was helpless beneath the petite redhead.

"Say it like you mean it Potter!" she cried, her fingers still working mercilessly.

"Alright! Alright! I'll do- anything- to- make it up- to you!" he gasped, finally causing her to stop her cruel torture. As they lay in a heap, a mass of arms and legs, Harry couldn't help feel how warm her skin felt against his. Apparently, she had noticed too, because the triumphant conqueror's face had now done a remarkable job of mimicking a tomato. Hastily getting up, they were soon lost in a passionate kiss. Seconds, minutes or hours later, they were interrupted by a loud cough. Breaking apart, the two swollen-lipped teens turned to see Draco standing a few feet away. Without any preamble, he looked Ginny straight in the eye.

"Ginny, I'm sorry for acting like such a prat all this time... and I, er... just wanted you to know that I know that you're not a s-s-... that you're not loose... I'm sorry." His blooming blush, more than anything, made Ginny believe that he meant what he had said. She gave him a warm smile and nodded her acceptance of the apology. He looked very relieved to see this.

"Pansy and I were just going to head back to Hogsmeade to enjoy the last of the day before curfew... do you two want to come?" he asked. Replying that they wanted to just spend the remaining time at school, they watched as he scurried after his girlfriend, who now sported a wide smile on her face. Sighing contentedly, the two Gryffindors headed back to the castle, fingers intertwined intimately. Suddenly, Harry thrust his hand into his pocket and retrieved his gift. Holding it out to her, he urged her to take it. Unwrapping the simple package, Ginny let out a small breath as she saw the delicate gold heart locket lying amidst the soft tissue. With a gallant bow, he picked up the ends of the locket and lifted it up. Grinning happily, Ginny used both her hands to lift her mane of scarlet hair as he placed the locket around her neck. With his arms still around her shoulders, she turned to face him.

"Thank you, Harry."

"No, thank you. I realised something just now, and then something again when I was talking to Draco." he paused, letting the words sink in, "When I heard how little he had been loved, despite having both parents, I came to understand how much each of you cares for me. You, Ron, Hermione, Tonks, Dumbledore, S-Sirius... and I realised that I could think of something more scary than not knowing. I realised, that it was more scary than dueling Draco, or killing Voldemort. I realised that it was even more frightening than facing you, love. I realised that the most frightening thing I could ever think of was losing your love, and their love." Tears glimmered in the corners of his eyes at the raw emotion he was feeling.

"But still, I know I am nothing without love, and nothing if all I have is fear, no matter how scary it seems. And so I give you, Ginevra Weasley, my heart," he touched a finger to the locket briefly, "to keep, and to protect, for I cannot think of something more scary than losing you." As he completed the vow, the locked warmed against Ginny's skin, and she knew that his love had been bound. With tears now flowing freely from both their eyes, their lips met, soft, tender... loving. With no need for words, they linked hands again and continued towards the castle. Just before they reached the front door, Ginny spoke again.

"By the way, Potter, you aren't off the hook yet," she said with a grin, "you're going to be making it up to me for a long time..."

A/N: Whew, finally done. Its now after my CTs, and I decided to give the last push. So, hope you enjoyed that! Thanks for reading, now review :)

For the Challenge:

I had to remove the first line of the given text to facilitate my start of the story, but I still set it a few months into Harry's sixth year, so I hope this fulfills that particular requirement. I also used all 7 of the phrases, can you spot them?

The author's challenge is to write a story to include:

1. What was the "afternoon's incident" that ends now.
-Malfoy insulting Ginny after the match

2. Explain at least three situations where Malfoy tried to kill, harm, or discredit Harry.
-Portkeyed Harry to Hogsmeade (although he was under the Imperius Curse)
-Tried to knock Harry off his broom. (Attempts to harm or kill)
-Discredited Harry by telling everyone about Sirius.

3. Describe the help Harry gets from an unlikely source.
-Draco and Harry work together to evade the girls. (Considering this is a 'duel with Draco' Challenge, I can't think of a more unlikely source of help.)

4. Work the Duel around the Headmaster's disapproval.
-Dumbledore tries to use this as an opportunity to settle the rivalry between Harry and Draco.

5. Explain what does or does not happen on noon Saturday.
-Harry doesn't fight Draco. They are cornered and beaten in an (un)fair running 'duel' by the girls. Harry finds out more about Draco's 'hatred' for him, and they sort out their differences.

Copyright © Geoffrey Lim 2006

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.

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