For the Blue Shirt Day Challenge.

Blue Shirt Day is dedicated to standing against bullying.

AN: I tried so hard to fit this into cannon, but logistically, the time line is a little backwards, mostly due to the last couple lines.

"An Odd Sort of Meeting"

Derisive laughter.

It's a sound that he's far more familiar with than he'd like. It sends cold fingers of dread down his back.

After the summer he's had, everything has negative connotation, but this is getting ridiculous. He can't spend his whole life dreading everything – it's just not practical.

He sighs. It seems the only course of action is to actually do something, which is also the course of action that always seems to lead to pain.

A tendril of rage flashes through him. This isn't fair; this isn't right. This summer, the summer that his life fell apart in front of his eyes, it makes him angry.

And to think, he was once excited about the return of the Dark Lord. From the stories his father wove, he was expecting… not this. Because Lucius Malfoy used to tell stories of a great and powerful wizard who had his head screwed on straight and knew which wizards were worth associating with.

Lucius was as shocked as Draco was at the creature that emerged from that cauldron. The Dark Lord was no longer the charming, charismatic man Lucius once knew. Nor was he as cool, as calculating.

He seems to always be teetering on the edge of brutal rage, and it's this that scares Draco the most. He's unpredictable, even for Draco, who's always been good at analyzing people.

And Lucius fell victim to that rage, and now the responsibility sits on Draco's shoulders, and he doesn't know if he can handle it.

What he's doing now isn't working. Yes, he's muddling through, but he's going nowhere fast. He's jumpy and irritable and snappish and stressed. Everything goes wrong, all the time.

He's so sick of being afraid. Maybe tackling one demon will help with the rest.

Sighing again, he turns around and walks toward the derisive laughter. It's voices now, harsh and demeaning.

"Please. You honestly think he could love you? Pitiful, plain, unremarkable you? He's Ron Weasley! He's Harry Potter's best friend, one of the most well-known boys in the school! And you? You're just Lavender. That's all you'll ever be. Just Lavender." The voice sounds somewhat familiar – it's one of the Gryffindor Chasers, but he's not exactly sure which one.

His voices slides out from behind the corner as he rounds it, silky smooth, the way it always gets when he's tearing someone apart.

"Just Lavender's not such a bad thing to be. Lavender is the color of royalty, after all, or a shade of it. And the plant by the same name is fragrant and idyllic." He sneers at Katie Bell, the owner of the voice. "But of course, you're right. It's much better being named Katie – pure – when the whole school knows you aren't."

Bell gapes at him, offended. He smirks. It's his patented "Don't-you-dare-mess-with-me-because-you-so-can't-handle-it" smirk.

Bell has no response.

He nods. "Mhm. That's what I thought." She huffs and walks away.

Lavender is staring at him like he's from another planet. Abruptly, she pokes his cheek. He recoils.

Smiling a bit embarrassedly, she says, "I was just making sure you weren't a hallucination."

"Have those often, do you?" he drawls. Lavender flushes.

"Not exactly. It's just rather surprising, you, of all people, standing up for me."

Draco concedes this point.

"Why'd you do it?" she asks curiously.

He looks down, before meeting her eyes.

"Because everyone deserves to matter to someone."

He's got a far-away look in his eyes, and his tone is enough to tell her he speaks from his own life. On instinct, she throws her arms around him.

Draco stiffens immediately. His fists clench and he pulls away as fast as he can. Lavender smirks, and he wonders if she has a bit of Slytherin in her after all.

"Sorry," she chirps, not at all remorseful. He scowls, but there's a infinitesimally small glimmer of what could possibly be respect in his eyes, as though some part of him is acknowledging that there is more to Lavender Brown than meets the eye.

With one last haughty, disdainful sneer, he stalks off.

And maybe he gave the necklace to Katie Bell on purpose. Maybe that was one plan he wanted to fail. Maybe. He's not telling.