Author's Note: This chapter was finished much more quickly than I had initially anticipated, but I guess it makes a lot of sense. The good part of tragedy is that it makes me think harder and write faster. The bad part is that no matter how hard or fast, it just doesn't come off as "real" anymore, so I'm having trouble making this as convincing as I want it to be. All I can say to my readers is thank you again for all of your wonderful support, and I hope that you have better success than I in relating to my little slice of Hogwarts.
I stared hard at my reflection as I played with different hairstyles. Malfoy's words played like a song stuck deep into my brain. Oh, and try to look nice, won't you? I threw the long curtain of black around my shoulders doubtfully. I didn't even know what 'look nice' meant to myself, let alone Draco Malfoy. Nervously, I traced at the phantom slash across my cheek.
Madam Pomphrey had me fixed up in mere minutes, but my face still prickled vaguely with the ghost of the wound. Pansy Parkinson had been another matter. Within the same moment the kindly witch discovered the girl was still lying in a heap in the middle of the hall, she was suddenly there, moaning pathetically about the suffering she had endured at my malicious hands.
After reiterating my story to both Professors Snape and McGonagall, subjecting my wand to Prior Incantato, and missing the rest of the day's classes as a result, the issue was finally wiped away as an unfortunate accident. Pansy, for her part in the drama, remained stubbornly "unconscious" as droves of concerned Slytherins rushed to her side. For the time being my fate amongst my peers was still up for debate, though there were definite whispers that Potter's help proved I was not "one of them."
Quietly, I slipped away from the crowd and back to the Girl's Dormitories, off to study my ransacked trunk in solitude. My heart pounding, I dug through the scrambled contents. Finally, my fingers brushed against something hard hidden amongst the extra fabric. Impossible, and yet there it was. East of Eden.
"Sorry, Pansy," I whispered, lovingly holding the book to my chest, "I'm afraid you just didn't dig quite far enough."
The book nearly slipped from my fingers as I heard the soft sound of the door hiding the Slytherin Common Room open and close.
"Ravenway," a cool voice reverberated against the stone, "are you in here?"
Practically falling over my feet, I shoved East of Eden under my pillow and scrambled upstairs.
Draco was waiting for me, his posture utterly relaxed as he sank slowly into the cushy armchair set closest to the fireplace. He did not turn as I slowly made my way to him, my hands trembling slightly as I realized that Crabbe and Goyle were nowhere to be found. I had never felt so completely naked.
As the silence threatened to swallow us whole, the blonde boy spoke first. "How's your face?"
The firelight twinkled against the metallic cast of his eyes as they slowly made their way over my awestruck expression. "You don't honestly believe that I didn't hear what happened, do you?"
I blushed with vibrant shame. "Th…That's not what I meant! I just thought everybody was checking in with Pansy right now. I didn't think anyone was really worried about me… I thought they all knew I was fine."
The boy shifted ever so slightly in my direction, the faintest flutter of a smirk playing on his lips. "So many assumptions, Ravenway. You think I care about Pansy Parkinson's little game of pretend? Please. I had better acting in my third year, and with better results, at that."
"The hippogriff incident," I recalled, my throat strangely dry. I had thought Draco's suffering was a bit exaggerated, but it still came as a shock. "That poor beast nearly…"
Malfoy shrugged, "Call it what you will. That oversized fool nearly killed the lot of us. But that doesn't matter. As I was saying before, I couldn't care less about Pansy and what you did or didn't do to cause it. I just wanted to be sure you were still coming to Hogsmeade."
The boy's callousness was almost frightening. Hadn't he and Pansy been joined at the hip only days ago? "…I'll be there," I said softly.
"Good," he said evenly, rising from his chair and making his way back to the door. "Oh, and that reminds me." With a disapproving curl of his lips, the boy reached into his robe, pulled out a heavy leather-bound book, and dropped it carelessly on one of the small coffee tables littering the room. "Potty was meaning to give this back to you. Apparently you have more friends then I thought...Ebony."
My eyes stayed glued to the textbook's surface. Home Life and Social Habits of British Muggles. It couldn't be worse. "I…I can explain! You see, I was—"
"Explain later. I don't really care right now," Draco carefully ran his fingers through his white-gold hair as he made his way back into the dungeons. "Until I decide what to make of you, it's all just part of the fun." With one last smirk at his own ingenious game, he left me alone with that final piece of contraband, Harry Potter's fingerprints accusingly smudging its surface.
For the rest of the day the Common Room remained fairly deserted, the majority of the Slytherin House dutifully monitoring their fallen comrade's progress until Madam Pomphrey at last shooed them out the door. They took very little notice of me whether it be positive or negative. After all, Potter had disarmed the poor girl for no reason at all, and it had been Potter who broke her wand. No, my only sin was Malfoy's interest in me, and, as long as I retained his good graces, I could not yet be punished for that.
Much to my own amazement, the next day came without further incident, and I was free to piece together my new "look" in privacy.
I suppose this would be the best time to explain the problems that posed. I have read enough to know that a good physical description is often poetic. Unfortunately, however, my appearance does not invoke much in the way of elaborate metaphors. The girl that stared back at me had a gaunt facial structure, watery blue eyes permanently ringed in a bruise-like purple, and a pale, sickly skin tone. My build was small, scrawny, weak; my expression feeble. There was very little in the way of prose and imagery to be had.
My one asset was my hair, my ebony namesake. It hung around my plain features, falling in front of my face when I wasn't permitted to advert my eyes. I wrapped my hands around the thick strands, slowly twisting them in and out of braids. I wanted to see Willow badly…to hear her opinion on how a proper Slytherin would dress. Still, it was no good. She disliked the whole mess. Defeated, I threw my hair into a bun, painted my lips and eyes as best I could, and made my way to Hogsmeade.
Malfoy was at my side from the moment I entered the Great Hall, though it was nearly impossible to tell if that was coincidence or intentional. After a short greeting of "Ravenway," the boy did not seem to notice me at all. Instead he guided his loyal cronies behind him, always casually matching my stride or leading me with a two or three step advantage. It seemed that Parkinson's recovery did not need to be monitored at the expense of missing a party, and, with the exception of a very small handful, nearly every Slytherin of importance decided to make an appearance.
"So where did your folks set up the bash?" one of the sixth-years asked.
"The Three Broomsticks, of course," Draco said in his usual impassive drawl.
"No way! They're always packed! How'd you manage to get them to close off the general public?"
Malfoy laughed ominously, "Galleons speak louder than threats."
There was a huge crowd guarding the entrance to The Three Broomsticks as Draco led his guests inside. It appeared most of them were outraged at being barred entry, while others were simply curious onlookers. A flash of bright hair caught the corner of my eye as I was pushed inside, and it appeared that Ron Weasley was giving the guard a particularly profane piece of his mind.
My eyes raked the redecorated surroundings with awe. Had I not seen the outside of the building, I would never have believed it to be the same pub. The inside had been expanded, its familiar bar replaced with a stage, and the floor bare with the exception of a few small tables bordering the main stage. A uniformed waiter stood respectfully to the side of each table as the area was slowly filled to its brim with excited Slytherins.
"Would you like a seat, Ravenway?" the boy asked, following my eyes. "Food and drink are free, of course. My family doesn't believe in doing anything unless it's done all the way."
I followed his motions in a daze, waving away offered appetizers as the lights dimmed.
Celestina Warbeck walked onto the stage, her famous green-skinned banshees taking their place behind her. The crowd roared with approval as she wailed to the music, her notes fluctuating from glass-shattering screeches to a whisper soft baritone. I watched in embarrassment as the students broke into pairs at the start of "You Charmed the Heart Right Out of Me."
"Enjoying yourself?" Draco called over the music, his grey eyes appraising my expression carefully. "I would have asked for the Weird Sisters you know, but after the Yule Ball… Well, it doesn't create quite the same sensation if it's been done before, does it?"
"It's wonderful," I said dutifully, forcing down a glass of butterbeer in an effort to appease the waiter hovering over me.
Malfoy frowned vaguely as Crabbe and Goyle ambled toward a pair of particularly trollish girls. Drumming his fingers impatiently against the table, he watched for a moment as I nervously squirmed in my seat.
"Let's dance," he suggested, grabbing my hand and forcing me from my place.
"N-No, wait," I stammered, trying to disengage my limb from his as I was dragged forcefully to the dance floor. "I don't know how!"
"Then I'll lead you," Malfoy said promptly, clasping my hand in his before sliding his other arm around him waist. He grinned as the others stared and pulled me a little closer.
It was all for show. My cheeks burned with a strange disappointment as I followed his movements. But I had known that from the start, hadn't I? I stared down at the floor, hardly aware of the music as I tried to piece together my inexplicable frustration. Why did I care so much? Why, why, why…?
"Don't look at your feet," Draco instructed suddenly, calling my attention back to the matter at hand. "Even the worst of dancers will be fine if they trust their partner."
Reluctantly, I raised my chin to face him, only to be graced with his usual conceited smirk. Could I ever trust someone like him, even as a dance partner? I stared back up at the boy uneasily.
Without Crabbe and Goyle at his shoulders, Draco was actually quite tall. The dim lighting cast his features in sharp relief, and his hands were warm and comforting. I felt a small part of me flinch away from him. The Draco Malfoy I expected was meticulously groomed, distant, and had a tongue as sharp as a knife. Now, he almost seemed…handsome. His steely eyes and fair hair picked up the little light in the room and reflected it back tenfold. It gave his gaze that extra glow that broke through your soul and mercilessly divulged even the deepest of secrets. I turned my head away slightly, my cheeks hot with shame. I could only imagine what we must have looked like together: the pedigree purebred and the scruffy mongrel.
"Are you blushing?" Draco asked with amusement, switching positions as Celestina sang a speedier number.
"Wha—?! I...I'm not…!"
"You like me after all," the blonde boy said, the silver of his eyes practically dancing as they reflected my mortified expression.
I opened my mouth to deny the accusation, but found that my voice had once again betrayed me. And yet, I really didn't know how I felt. Could I really be falling for Draco Malfoy? Was I really that…foolish?
My thoughts were driven wildly off course as Malfoy leaned slowly towards me, his head bowed. My heart threatened to flutter to a halt as his lips moved closer and closer, as though falling to meet my own. I tried to deny my own disappointment as his mouth moved past mine and was suddenly at my ear.
"I'm glad, actually," he whispered, his voice coated with triumph. "It's good to see you behaving like a real Slytherin for once. For just a moment, I thought you might hold something for Scar-face. You know, after I saw him with your Muggle book…"
I didn't realize that I wasn't breathing until he pulled away. The air pierced my lungs painfully as he withdrew, and my heart gasped hungrily for sustenance. "This whole thing was about Harry Potter?"
Draco scowled as he disentangled himself from me further. "Like Potty could ever be compared to me! I told you before. I wasn't going to come to my own party alone, and Pansy had already proved herself unworthy. You were interesting, and there was no one better. That's all there is to it."
"But why? Why…me?"
"Why not?" Malfoy said with a shrug. "Our families are of the same mold."
I did not want to say it. I did not want to admit that I was not like the others. The four words fell unwillingly from my lips, tainting my name by the syllable. "You saw my book."
Much to my amazement, the boy looked amused. "What? The Muggle Studies book Potter was holding for you? Why should I care? You can take whatever classes you want. It's no different than studying trolls to me."
"I really don't see what the problem is, Ravenway. As far as I'm concerned, your odd little secrets only make you all the more unusual. Be grateful and drop it." With that, the conversation was over. Draco Malfoy wandered away to get a drink, as though expecting me to follow or be left alone on the dance floor.
I trembled slightly, fighting the impulse to burst into frustrated tears. He was interested in me, like I was a strange new toy to prop on display. Pansy Parkinson had no reason to be jealous. I had been right all along. It was all just a bloody game! But if I knew all of this from the start, then why am I so…hurt?
"Are you coming or not?" Draco called from the table, waving his butterbeer at me.
I pawed quickly at my eyes in an attempt to stop the tears from overtaking my face. "All a game," I whispered, staying where I was for a moment longer. The spoiled Slytherin kept his silver gaze trained on my miserable frame, tapping his foot impatiently all the while. Finally, like the loyal dog I was, I followed him.
"You really are quite cruel, Draco Malfoy."
Author's Note: Well, err…there you are. Finally got around to describing Ebony…yay. Not much for me to really say for now except praise and criticism is welcome.
(I noticed some authors make their review request bold. Does it actually work? Let's find out! )