Chapter One

Chapter One

The Trip

    Ginny Weasley was happy to be back in Hogwarts. It was her sixth year and she would be turning sixteen in a month. For some reason, she was more excited about this year than any other. And she wasn't even one of the oldest students.

    Ginny felt like she'd grown up a lot in the past few years. First year (and even before that) she'd been obsessed with her older brother Ron's best friend, Harry Potter. Now she wasn't so lovesick. She still thought he was amazing looking. He'd gotten even cuter between the first time she'd seen him and the present. He wasn't so skinny any more, but more lanky. Ginny liked the lanky look much better than the muscle look most other boys had. She also found it incredibly sexy the way his inky black hair was always sticking in every direction, despite his half-hearted attempts to smooth it down. And, for some strange reason, he looked excellent in glasses. They seemed to emphasize his clear, bright green eyes.

    Yet Ginny had tried to move on and succeeded. It was true whenever Harry glanced at her that her insides felt all mushy. But she had gone out with a few other guys her age, who were actually interested in her, and had finally realized there were many other fish in the sea.

    During the Sorting, Ginny sat with her four friends Sarah, Rachel, Melanie, and Laura. She had become really close with them only a year before, but she'd been sharing a dormitory with them since first year. She really liked them even though they were sort of air-headed. But they always made her feel like her problems were small and insignificant.

    The only serious one in the group was Laura, who Ginny didn't like. She'd never really said it out loud before, but it was obvious Laura didn't like her either. They both pretended to like each other, because Sarah, Rachel, and Melanie seemed to like both of them equally. Laura and Ginny had an odd friendship, sort of an unwritten and unsaid agreement: Stay out of my way and I'll stay out of yours.

    "I got absolutely no tan this summer," Rachel whined, putting her arm against Melanie to compare skin colors.

    Melanie's parents had moved to England from Spain when she was just a baby. So naturally Melanie had darker Spanish skin than any of them.

    "Don't feel bad," Laura said coolly. "Ginny doesn't tan."

    Ginny resisted the urge to give her a glare. It was true, though. She had very pale skin, dotted with many freckles. When she was younger she had a lot of them on her face, but over the years they diminished so only the ones on her nose were visible. She was thankful for that at least.

    "But she's got the cutest freckles," Sarah squealed. She patted Ginny's head. "And dark skin with this gorgeous red hair? Uh-uh. Doesn't work."

    Ginny was used to compliments about her hair. It was the only thing she really liked about her appearance. Even though everyone in her family had the same flame colored hair, hers was the longest. It fell down to her shoulder blades. Since it was able to grow, it was wavy. Her hair was sort of thin, but she had a lot of it, so it appeared thicker.

    The Sorting of the first years ended, and they were able to eat. Ginny, who'd been starving, not having touched the dry roast beef sandwich her mother had given her to eat for lunch on the train, spent most of her time eating and not talking. She sort of listened to her friends' conversation, but it was full of complaints about how frizzy their hair had gotten from spending so much time in the sun.

    Ginny sighed, the happiness from returning to school fading some. Why did right now she feel as if her friends were making her problems seem worse, when before they'd made her feel as if nothing else mattered? Something is missing in my life, she thought, frowning.

    Across the Great Hall, Draco Malfoy sat at the head of the Slytherin table. His two "friends" Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle, sat on either side of him, eating their dinner as if they'd been starved all their lives. Draco watched them in disgust, his own appetite lost. After having not seen them all summer, he had forgotten how nauseating they made him when they were near food. I'll get used to it soon, he told himself, pushing his plate away and leaning back in his chair.

    He surveyed the Great Hall. Once again, the Hufflepuffs still had a bunch of losers. Their first years were no different than the seventh years ¾ all totally, helplessly stupid. The Ravenclaws . . . well, was there really anything to say about them? And then ¾ the Gryffindors.

    Draco sneered as he looked over in their direction. He didn't bother looking at any of the new first years. His eyes went right to Potter, Weasley, and Granger. The most idiotic of them all. The three people who somehow made Hogwarts fun . . . fun for Draco because they were perfect candidates for being picked on. Weasley, being incredibly poor. Granger, being a Mudblood. And Potter . . . well, for being Potter. For being the skinny, famous kid who'd come to Hogwarts and picked being friends with the sorriest people he could manage.

    "What are you staring at, Draco?" a disgustingly sweet voice said, very close to Draco's ear.

    He jumped, but only because he wasn't expecting it. Instantly he knew it was Pansy Parkinson. Or as some of the Gryffindors called her: (though never to her face; Draco only overheard some saying it in the library) Pansy "The Pug" Parkinson. It was true, she did sort of look like a pug, what with her nose upturned. And she'd gained weight since Draco had first met her.

    He'd dumped her in fifth year, but she had continued to act like they were still "together" since then.

    "Nothing," Draco snapped coldly.

    Pansy looked hurt for a moment, backing off. But then she smiled brightly again (she was the only person where smiles looked out of place on her face ¾ except for maybe perhaps Draco's own). "Trying to figure out how to ruin Potter's life, are you?"

    "Something like that," Draco muttered.

    "That's sweet," Pansy purred, slipping her arms around one of Draco's and hugging it.

    "It would be even sweeter if you let me go," Draco told her. "What part of 'we don't date anymore' don't you understand?"

    "The 'date' part," Gregory said stupidly. Draco stared at him. Sometimes him and Vincent said the weirdest ¾ and most idiotic ¾ things.

    Pansy gave Draco a dark look. "Fine. I'll just sit over there."

    If she thought she was punishing him, she was doing the exact opposite. "Good," Draco said to her rather large retreating back.

    Draco sighed. His life was always the same. It was beginning to bore him. When would something exciting happen?

    The next day flew by fast for Ginny. She figured it was because she was adjusting to a new year at Hogwarts, and the professors spent most of the time talking about what they would be doing over the course of the year.

    After classes ended that day, Ginny lounged in the Gryffindor common room with her friends. None of them had any homework, being the first day back in school. So they just told about their summers.

    "Let's go for a walk," Laura said superiorly, standing up. It was about an hour before dinner.

    The other three girls stood up quickly. As much as Ginny hated to admit it, Laura was sort of the leader of their group. The other girls seemed to follow her like baby ducks to their mother. It was kind of annoying, but Ginny never complained. She was never the one to complain much (she was used to getting second best, since she'd grown up with six older brothers and nearly no money, everything being used by someone else before her).

    So they went for a walk around the castle. Nothing had really changed since the year before. They did find, of course, several staircases they'd never seen before and figured out ¾ the hard way ¾ that they were fake and led up to a solid wall.

    Laura stopped right in front of the girls' bathroom. The others stopped, too. Ginny noticed a rather nasty grin on Laura's face, and then realized they were standing in front of the girls' bathroom no one used. A very annoying ghost, Moaning Myrtle, haunted it so no one really wanted to use it and face her crying, whining about how her death wasn't any better than her life.

    "Let's pay Myrtle a visit, shall we, girls?" Laura asked.

    Melanie, Sarah, and Rachel looked at each other nervously. "Are you sure you want to?" Rachel asked slowly.

    "Don't join me then," Laura spat. "Chickens."

    Of course, they were right behind her as they all went in.

    Ginny didn't go. She stayed outside, furious that her friends didn't have opinions of their own. Didn't they see what a mean person Laura was? No, they don't, Ginny thought angrily. They only like her because she's so beautiful and they reckon she can make them popular. Well, it hasn't happened yet, and it's been six years. When do they think it will happen?

    She crossed her arms, her brows furrowed angrily. Then, she saw something glittering out of the corner of her eye. She turned, her expression softening. Down the hall, about five yards away, something lay on the ground. It reflected the light of the torches . . . and the way it sparkled it oddly looked like ¾

    "Diamonds," she whispered, approaching it slowly.

    She stood above it, staring down. On the red carpet directly below her was a necklace. It had a long gold chain and a gold amulet. The amulet was slightly bigger than a flattened Snitch. And it was covered with diamonds. Or rhinestones or some sort of white stone, she thought. It's really beautiful. It must cost a fortune.

    "Hey, come here, guys!" Ginny shouted over her shoulder in the direction of the girls' bathroom. For some reason, she hesitated touching it without someone around. It could be a trick necklace, she figured, and it might disappear as soon as I touch it. I want some witnesses to say that it's really there. "I found a diamond necklace!"

    That last sentence would surely draw them.

    Laura poked her head out of the bathroom. "What did you say?"

    Ginny stood aside and gestured at the necklace. "A diamond necklace," she said, somewhat proudly.

    Laura slowly ventured out, followed by Melanie, Sarah, and Rachel. "Is this some kind of joke?" Melanie demanded.

    "Look at it," Ginny said. "It looks real, doesn't it?"

    She reached down to pick it up. She'd almost touched it when someone called out.

    "No! Don't touch it!"

    Ginny straightened sharply, batting her hair out of her eyes. To her shock, she saw Draco Malfoy hurrying down the hall towards her. It was the first time she'd ever seen him not flanked by Crabbe and Goyle.

    He stopped in front of her, the amulet on the floor between the two of them. Ginny watched in mild surprise as Draco stared at the amulet, his jaw clenched. He looked almost angry.

    "Why can't I touch it?" Ginny demanded angrily, finally recovering from seeing him there. She did not like Draco Malfoy at all. He had never really made fun of her directly, but he'd always picked on her brother Ron about having no money. And she took offense to that, because she had no money either. "Do you want to keep it for yourself?"

    He fixed his gray eyes on her. They were unreadable, though is mouth twisted in a sneer. He really was a handsome guy, but Ginny knew what a horrible person he was and felt absolutely no attraction to him. "Maybe," he said.

    Ginny narrowed her eyes at him. Then, she swooped down and scooped the necklace up out of pure defiance. Her fingers touched the amulet itself, the chain flipping and hanging around her wrist.

    As she started to straighten, she heard Draco cry out, "No!"

    She saw him move, and by the time she was totally erect again, he had grabbed her wrist.

    Before she could even think of pulling free, she felt a tugging around her naval. The Hogwarts hallways melted and disappeared, and then the world molded itself back together.

    Only she wasn't in Hogwarts.

    She was standing in some filthy alley, Draco Malfoy still holding onto her wrist, the amulet still gripped in her fingers.

    "Portkey," she whispered.