Bent

By Hannah Davenport (slytherin_punk@hotmail.com)

Rating: PG

Summary: Abused by his father, his mother unable to protect him, Draco Malfoy is a lonely young man. He is lost in a twisted world of his own fears and desires, his only solace - perhaps - lies in his cousin, who takes over the DADA position - yet that doesn't even work. It is another story, though, when Ginny Weasley tries to befriend a troubled Draco and tries bringing him into a better world.

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J. K. Rowling. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. It's just fan fiction!

Author's Note: Just so you lovely people know, I am clinically insane. Muahahahahahahaha! Er, okay, I'm dedicating this story to the wonderous Gypsy, and my sister's kitten, Bernie (whom I think should have been named Padfoot or Moony). Thanks!

~

< >"Lucius, can't you just leave the poor boy alone?" Narcissa asked, trembling at the rage of her husband.

< >"Shut up, woman." He snapped in response.

< >Draco watched in fear as his father glared at him, their features so alike . . . He seriously hoped he didn't look like that when he was angry -

< >"What did you just say to me, boy?" He asked, looming over his son like an indignant tower.

< >"I - I said - I said shut up, and leave me alone!" Draco yelled, ready to die fighting. "You don't have to be such a - a miserable git!"

< >Lucius swelled, and Draco knew immediately that he had said the wrong thing. "Please," He muttered under his breath. "Please - help -I promise I'll never tease another living soul if someone helps me - oh please, help me...!" He watched as Lucius flexed his fingers, as though itching to place them around Draco's neck...

< >"You obviously don't know whom you're speaking to, Draco." Lucius replied vehemently. "Let me remind you."

< >Smack. Thud. Crunch.

~

< >"Draco, what happened to your face?" Crabbe asked as he and Goyle ran up to him on Platform 9 and 3/4.

< >"Yeah, you look awful," Goyle added fervently.

< >"Shove off," he said briskly, turning his head slightly so they couldn't see the bruise as much. "I want to be alone. I'll let you know if I need you, just go away."

< >"But --"

< >"Go away." Draco repeated. They looked at him in bewilderment. "You know," He said, frustration mounting inside him. "Leave me alone. Go and sit with someone else."

< >Comprehension finally dawned on both of their faces, and they set off, having found some people they could bully.

< >Draco, meanwhile, loaded his trunk into a compartment, and sat down. He took a mirror out of his pocket, and looked at himself. He really did look awful.

< >As more and more people started boarding the train, Draco realized he had left his compartment door open. And as he stood up to close it, he heard what was quite possibly one of the most unwelcome voices in the world.

< >"I wonder where Malfoy is?" it asled as it drew nearer.

< >Draco recognized it immediately, and if Potter saw him looking like this, why, there would be no end to it. So he did the most logical thing he could think of. He hid behind the wall of his compartment.

< >"I know," Weasley chimed in. "But, hey, maybe he's been expelled!"

< >Draco felt himself redden at this, and had a hard time containing himself.

< >"I don't think so," Granger announced. "He was made Head Boy for this year. I don't think he could possibly be expelled."

< >"Blast it," Potter and Weasley said in unison.

< >After they had passed, Draco walked to the doorway, and was just about to close the door, when -

< >"Are you alright? You look like you're in a lot of pain."

< >He looked up from the ground to see who had spoken, and saw a girl. Her waist-length red hair was pulled into braided pigtails. Her freckled face wore a look of deep concern, and her eyes were behind a pair of rectangular wire-frame glasses. She was about five inches shorter than he was, and was reaching to close the door of her compartment as well. His jaw dropped.

< >"Are you alone?" She asked curiously. "Because if you are, you should probably ask someone for some medicine, or something. A bandage, maybe?"

< >He was completely speechless. No one had ever shown any concern for him at all. Not that he could remember, anyway. And his life had been so - awkward - that he could remember every detail.

< >"Er --" He stammered, unable to find the right words.

< >She walked over to him, sat him down in his compartment, and closed the door. She then began examining his beaten face, staying silent all the while. When she had finally finished doctoring him, she smiled.

< >"That should be better," she said, sitting down across from him.

< >"Er, do I know you?" Draco asked, feeling that he sounded very stupid.

< >"I suppose," she replied thoughtfully. "But, I'm not surprised you don't remember me. I mean, you haven't spoken to me since your second year." He looked at her in a confused manner, and she continued. "The last thing you ever said to me was, 'I don't think Potter liked your valentine much!' Does that remind you of anyone?"

< >He concentrated hard on that sentence, and the image of a very shy, very nervous girl came into his mind. "Ginny Weasley?"

< >She nodded. "Don't worry, I've grown used to people being unfriendly," Ginny replied comfortably as he raised his eyebrows at her. "I try to be nice to everyone. Especially people who aren't nice to others, Mr Malfoy."

< >A sinking feeling hit the pit of his stomach, and he ran a hand through his hair.

< >"Well, thank you for your service," he said awkwardly, not wanting to sound too friendly. "It does feel better now."

< >"Any time, my dear sir," Ginny said as she stood, and curtseyed. "Any time at all. I heard you're the new Head Boy," she giggled. "Good luck, sir." She saluted him, smiled genuinely, and went back to her own compartment, tossing her hair behind her.

< >When Ginny had left, Draco punched himself in the head. If she still remembered that day, that horrible Valentines Day... "Blast," He said aloud. 'I'm turning into Lucius. Blast, blast, blast!"

~

< >"Abbot, Jennifer!"

< >"RAVENCLAW!"

< >"Bronwen, Madeline!"

< >"GRYFFINDOR!"

< >Draco stared lazily up at the ceiling as the Sorting began. He had quite a bit on his mind, and not enough room to fit it all inside.

< >"Carlson, Samuel!"

< >"RAVENCLAW!"

< >There was too much going on. Too much to worry about, too much to do...

< >"Carlyle, Ethan!"

< >"HUFFLEPUFF!"

< >He lost himself completely in the stormy, gray-and-purple sky. He slowly felt himself begin to relax, and indulged it. After all, when you had too much to think about you, obviously, don't think at all. You just, are.

< >"Emmet, Fiona!"

< >"GRYFFINDOR!"

< >He watched Potter, Weasley, and Granger applaud as a girl with curly brown hair joined them. Then he looked at Ginny.

< >"Holmes, Katrienne!"

< >"SLYTHERIN!"

< >Draco clapped as Katrienne joined the Slytherin table, but he was still looking at Ginny. Just then, she turned in her seat, and looked him straight in the eye.

< >"Iverson, Derek!"

< >"HUFFLEPUFF!"

< >She smiled, and gave him a small wave, which he returned. She really was a very nice person. He would have to start acting like her, at least, a little bit.

< >"Kline, Victoria!"

< >"GRYFFINDOR!"

< >He was snapped back into reality by Pansy Parkinson grabbing his hand. He didn't try and shake her off, as badly as he wanted to. Mostly, because people would wonder what the matter was. And people weren't supposed to wonder about the Malfoys.

< >After what seemed like hours, the Sorting had ended, and Dumbledore stood up to make his usual announcements. "Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts!" He said proudly. "Now, I have a few notices. As usual, the Forbidden Forest is forbidden. And we have a new Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher! Please welcome, Professor Rhiannon Malfoy!"

< >Draco's jaw dropped at what he saw. His cousin, Rhiannon, was sitting at the staff table. How could he not have seen her?!

< >"And," Dumbledore continued, stopping the applause. "We have a new Head Boy, and Head Girl. Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger!" Draco smiled as applause began for Granger and himself. He knew most of it was for her, but he didn't really care.

< >After dinner, as he made his way down to the Slytherin common room, someone called his name.

< >"Draco!"

< >He turned to see Rhiannon, her silvery hair flowing behind her as she quickly walked towards him. "Hullo, Annie," he greeted halfway-warmly as she approached. Unlike most of his Malfoy family, she was friendly. In fact, she was the only relative that he truly liked, but his response still reflected his sour mood.

< >"Are you as excited as I am," she asked sarcastically, "or are you just pretending?" They smiled at each other and she put a hand on his shoulder. "How are you, Draco. You look awful! What happened?"

< >He had expected this. What else could he expect? "Well," he sighed, relieved to have someone to talk to who knew. "I was smart enough to tell Lucius to shut up while he was berating me for one of my thousands of faults."

< >"Oh, I really am sorry," she told him sadly, biting her bottom lip. She rubbed his shoulder and he nearly hugged her. He knew she, nor anyone else, could help him - for Lucius was more than a terrible man - but at least she was there for him, whereas his mother was not nor ever had been.

< >"It was worse than this," he replied calmly. "Someone fixed it up a bit for me. But, you know, I've had much worse than last night. Much, much worse."

< >She put a hand on his shoulder, and sighed. "I really am sorry." She was silent for a moment. "Anyway, your first lesson is with me, tomorrow." She smiled. "And since there are hardly any sixth years, they're with you, too. Slytherin and Gryffindor. That should be fun."

< >"Talk to Professor Snape," Draco said with a smirk. "He'll tell you how truly delightful it is for us all to be in one room together."

< >She laughed. "Well, I'll se you tomorrow then," And she turned around, and headed down a corridor by the kitchens.

~

< >"Granger, Hermione?"

< >"Present."

< >"Potter, Harry?"

< >"Here."

< >"Weasley, Ron?"

< >"Sorry?"

< >"Weasley, Ginny?"

< >"Oh, good morning."

< >"Malfoy, Draco?"

< >"I'm in the front row, for goodness sakes!" he exclaimed in exasperation as he looked up at Rhiannon who glanced at him. Her face was expressionless but he saw the twinkle in her eyes. "Well, it's not like you can't see me, Annie," he added, feeling completely undaunted. A few people glanced at him, as though he were doing something horribly wrong. "She's my blasted cousin," he said to Potter, who looked a tad confused. "I think she can recognize me if she sees me."

< >"Quiet, Draco, or I'll disclose something about you as child," Rhiannon said calmly, giving him a sideways smile. Everyone laughed. "Now, today our lesson is going to be on the Undetectable Curses." A few people gasped. "I'm sure you've heard of the Unforgivable Curses? Well, the Undetectable are just as bad, except there's no possible way to tell when someone's been put under one. There are five in all. The Veritas Curse, the Imobilus Curse, the Oblivious Curse, the Felispo Curse, and the Painudum Curse. Can anyone tell me what any of these do?"

< >Draco raised his hand, and said. "The Veritas Curse is like the truth serum, Veritaserum. The Imobilus Curse paralyzes you, somewhat like Petrificus Totalus, except for the Imobilus Curse uses pain. The Oblivious Curse is the most powerful memory charm in the world, and the Painudum Curse is - is the most powerful torture curse in the world."

< >He stopped talking, and everyone watched him, completely amazed. He chewed his tongue, and stared at the ground, hoping beyond all hope that no one had found that suspicious.

< >In his hurry to get away from Rhiannon after class, he accidentally ran into someone, and the both fell to the ground. On all fours, he looked over to the person next to him. She lay on her back, a foot away from him. It was Ginny, and her glasses were shattered. He stood up, and the whole corridor went quiet with apprehensiveness. He then walked over to her, and held out a hand. Some people gasped, and Weasley, Potter, and Granger were staring, open-mouthed, at the peculiar sight.

< >And Ginny took his hand, watching blindly as her glasses fell onto the floor as she was pulled upright. Draco took his wand out of his pocket.

< >"Oculus repairo!" he muttered, and the glasses mended themselves, and flew into his hand. Draco set them on her face gently, then gathered her books with a swish of his wand.

< >"Thanks," She said with a smile.

< >"Just consider it your payment for the train yesterday," He whispered back, and then louder, "Any time. See you." And he strolled off to his next lesson, which happened to be Potions, in a far better mood than you would normally expect, everyone still gaping after him.


Part Two

< >"I don't get it, either. I mean, Malfoy's never nice. Never."

< >Draco stared deeply at the floor as he walked behind the trio. They were talking about yesterday, and he really wished they wouldn't. After all, it wasn't any of their business, now was it?

< >"Maybe he's ill," Potter suggested. Draco could feel anger seeping in him.

< >"Maybe he's just decided to be nice for a change." Granger added hopefully.

< >"Oh come on, Hermione." Weasley said with a laugh. "It's like I said before. Malfoy's never nice. Why would he start to be now?"

< >"I dunno," came a new voice. "Maybe he's just miserable, and he's trying to shield himself with cruelty to others."

< >"Ginny," Potter said quietly. "Malfoy isn't miserable, unless you're talking about to be around."

< >Weasley laughed.

< >"Shut up, Ron. Shut up, Harry," Ginny said hotly. "We don't know what his life is like, so let's just leave him alone about it."

< >Draco quickly passed them, making sure to knock Weasley and Potter into each other as he did.

~

< >Draco sat in the Slytherin common room that evening, staring absently into the fire as he pretended to acknowledge whatever it was that Pansy was saying. "That sounds really interesting, Pansy. Really, really interesting."

< >"Draco!" she exclaimed, looking distraught. "I just asked if you wanted to go to the Halloween Ball with me!"

< >Draco turned and looked at her, confused. "Oh, are we having one of those this year?" he asked vaguely.

< >"You haven't been listening to me, have you?" She replied sulkily.

< >"No. I haven't. I think you're boring." He went back to gazing into the fire, and she began to cry.

< >Pansy stared at him for a moment, then - "You don't like me anymore!" she wailed, covering her face with her hands.

< >Draco didn't answer. He was thinking about something, though he couldn't decide exactly what it was. Whatever it was, it was nagging at the back of his mind, and it was getting annoying. Then it came to him. There was a Gryffindor vs. Slytherin Quidditch match the next day!

< >He jumped to his feet. "Blast." He said aloud. "Blast. Goyle," He looked straight at Goyle, who was halfway through a chocolate frog. "Goyle, we have a Quidditch match against Gryffindor tomorrow. Did you know that?" Goyle choked, and started hollering for all the people on the Slytherin team to get their brooms, and be out on the Quidditch field in five minutes. Draco himself went and grabbed his own broom, and headed out onto the field, silently cursing his memory.

~

< >"Men," Draco said heavily, looking at every face in the Slytherin changing rooms. "This is my last chance to get the Cup for Slytherin. My last chance. Do whatever you have to out there, because this is a matter of life or death." He paused, and then added very quietly. "My life or death."

< >Then he shouldered his broom, and led his team out onto the field, glaring at the large section of the crowd that were dressed in red and gold.

< >"Captains, shake hands," Madam Hooch commanded, and Draco walked forward to meet Potter. He held out his hand as he had done on their second meeting, and Potter took it, rather hard.

< >"I don't know what you're doing to Ginny," Potter muttered under his breath. "But when I find out, I'll - I'll --"

< >"I'm not doing anything to her," Draco replied with a smirk. "There's no need to get edgy. After all, it's not my fault she's friendly."

< >"Mount your brooms. On my whistle then, three... two... one..."

< >The shrill blast of the whistle ended the tense silence that had fallen, and as Draco soared through the air, he felt calmer than he had in ages.

< >As he darted around above the real match, he tuned out the commentary. He didn't need to hear it, after all. As long as he caught the Snitch...

< >Whoosh. A Bludger hit by none-other than Ginny herself narrowly missed Draco's nose. He turned to look at her, and saw that she was smiling. He raised an eyebrow, and then continued his quest to find the glimmer of gold.

< >It all depended on him. All on him... He let the commentary in for a moment.

< >"And it's Slytherin in the lead, 50 points to 10..."

< >He smirked. And then he saw the most unwelcome sight in the world. Potter was diving. And at least fifty feet below the diving hero, was the blasted Snitch.

< >Draco put on a spurt of speed, and dove as well. He couldn't let Potter win again. Not this time. Not today. He leaned forward against his broom, and narrowed his eyes. Potter was going to get it. Potter was going to win again - but Potter had pulled up a bit too early, and the Snitch was still floating three feet above the ground - Potter struggled to turn around and dive again - Draco gathered all his courage, and reached a shaking hand out to grab the Snitch - and he caught it. For the first time, he had caught the Snitch while playing against Potter!

< >The handle of his broom ran straight into the ground, and he did an odd sort of tumble as he landed. But when he stood, the smile on his face was so evident that even Lucius saw it from the top row.

< >As the Gryffindor and Slytherin teams landed, Slytherin overjoyed, and Gryffindor extremely put out, Draco happily started half-screaming, half-laughing. This win meant far too many things that even he could not comprehend it at that moment.

< >Professor Snape came down to great them with the rest of the Slytherin's from the crowd, and awkwardly patted Draco on the head. He had never looked so human in his life.

< >Through the crowd of extremely happy people, Ginny appeared right in front of Draco, beaming at him. "Good game, Draco. Really excellent," She said happily. "I think you scared Harry out of his mind, though."

< >He was bewildered. He had absolutely no idea what to say to this, because he had never had anyone tell him 'good game' except Professor Snape and his "thugs." The most he could do was smile.

< >"Well, have a nice day," Ginny added, a little perturbed by his mere smile. With a salute like she had given him on the Hogwarts Express, she ran back to the Gryffindor changing rooms. He watched her leave, feeling he had to do something to thank her for being nice. No one had ever been nice to him, unless they wanted something, of course.

~

< >Halloween was approaching fast, and very soon, Draco found himself being stalked by girls who were too afraid to ask him to go to the Ball with them. One day, he had gotten very frustrated in Herbology, and decided he wasn't gong to take it anymore.

< >"Look," he said hotly as he turned to the group of five or so girls. "Don't think I don't know you're behind me everywhere I go. Can one of you just ask me to go with you, so that I can get this over with?" He watched as the girls shifted nervously, and then one girl stepped forward. "Not you, Pansy. I went with you last year."

< >Pansy skulked away, when another girl stepped forward. One he had never seen in his life.

< >"Excuse me," She said quietly, brushing her black hair from her face. "But I was sent to ask you by someone who was too shy. She said you two were friends..."

< >Draco raised his eyebrows. "Are you going to tell me who?" he asked expectantly.

< >"She said not to say," the girl replied. "But --" She held a trembling hand out towards him, in which was clasped a piece of folded, violet parchment. She looked very nervous to even be in presence.

< >He took it. "Thanks," He said emptily as he walked away. He found a small table in the farthest corner of the library, sat down, and opened it. It read:

My dear Mr Malfoy-
< >If my loyal servant has reached you, you will know what is being asked of you of you. And if you have any doubts, this is the rest of your bill from the train.
-Doctor Virginia Weasley

< >He smiled, and re-folded the letter. "Ginny," he whispered in amusement, "how brilliant you really are."

< >He then took a bottle of ink from his bag, and a fresh piece of parchment. And, hand shaking slightly, he wrote:

Doctor Ginny,
< >I would be honored to escort you to the you-know-what. Especially if I owe it to you. Don't tell a soul I'm taking you. It'll ruin my reputation and yours, and no one wants that. Who will want to be your patient, then, besides me?
Your servant,
Mr. D. L. Malfoy

< >He then found that girl who had given him Ginny's letter, and gave her specific instructions to deliver that letter to her. And, smirking, he went to Defense Against the Dark Arts.

~

< >"Now today," Rhiannon said as she sat on her desk. "I will be putting the Veritas Curse on each of you, and ask you a few questions that only you would know the answer to. Do I have a volunteer?"

< >Draco raised his hand. He hadn't quite forgiven Rhiannon for telling him to shut up in front of everyone and trying to embarrass him. It had been embarrassing, in fact. This was going to be revenge.

< >"Thank you, Draco," she said with a smile. Professor Malfoy raised her wand and pointed it between his eyes. "Veritas!" she said and Draco felt himself relaxing a bit. "Draco," Rhiannon began, "what is your full name?"

< >"Draco Lucius Malfoy," he replied in a monotone. In all truthfulness, he was fighting the Curse off. His father had used it on him so many times to find out what Draco thought of him that he had learned how to control himself a bit. The night before school started had been a night where he could not control the Curse.

< >"What do you think of this class?"

< >He smiled inwardly. "I think it's absolute rubbish, and you are an awful teacher."

< >He distinctly heard her gasp, and then ask the next question, becoming suspicious of his words. "Who do you like, Draco?"

< >He had to stop himself from laughing this time. She was even smarter than he thought. "It depends on the day, time, and month," he replied. "But most of the time, I can't decide exactly."

< >Rhiannon raised her wand again, and said, "Finite incantatem!"

< >The state of relaxed ease melted away, and Draco looked innocently up at his cousin's flustered face. The rest of the class went like that, everyone going up and saying their full names, their birthdays, and things like that. He only became remotely interested, when Ginny was induced to the Veritas Curse.

< >"What's your full name?" Rhiannon asked.

< >"Virginia Abigail Weasley." Ginny replied rigidly. She was staring out the window as though it held the secret of life.

< >"Who is your best friend?"

< >"I don't have friends," Ginny said quietly. "None at all, so how could I possibly have a best friend?"

< >Rhiannon looked taken aback, before asking another question. "What do you see when you come near a dementor?"

< >Draco dropped his book, because he knew what the answer was going to be. "Annie," He said quickly. "Annie, take the spell off of her, now. Annie, if you don't --"

< >But Ginny had already began to answer. "I see the Chamber of Secrets, and Tom. Tom is always laughing at me when I see him. He thinks I'm stupid,"

< >"Tom who, Ginny?" Rhiannon asked softly.

< >"Tom Riddle, of course," she said, still gazing out the window. "He tells me things, you know. Things I miss out on when I'm alone..."

< >"Finite incantatem!"

< >Draco was now standing, his face flushed slightly, and rage coursing through him. Ginny snapped out of it, seemed to recall what she had said, and began to cry. The class was staring at the scene, open-mouthed.

< >"I told you to take it off of her," Draco said vehemently. This was now not a question of defiance to a close relative that he could chide or anything like this. Now this was a question of a student defying a teacher with more anger and resentment than what was really conceivable. And with a few very quick, very coordinated movements, he helped Ginny up, grabbed both of their things, and swept her from the classroom. Rhiannon tried to stop him, but he glared at her. "I'm taking her up to the hospital wing," he said firmly. "And you stay to finish teaching your class."


Part Three

< >"You were very smart to bring her to me, Mr Malfoy." Madam Pomfrey said as she examined Ginny. "What did you say happened to her?"

< >"Well," Draco began awkwardly. "Professor Malfoy was putting us each under the Veritas Curse, and she asked Ginny what she saw every time a dementor got too close. You do remember her first year, don't you?"

< >"Goodness me!" Madam Pomfrey exclaimed. "And she told the whole class!" She looked sympathetically at Ginny, who was still crying. "Poor thing. I think she had best have some rest."

< >She then bustled away for some sort of dreamless sleeping potion.

< >Ginny looked up at him, her face stained with tears, and her glasses wet. "Draco," She stammered between sobs. "Thank you for trying to stop Professor Malfoy."

< >"It wasn't a problem, even though I didn't succeed," he replied quietly.

< >"It was still very thoughtful of you," she continued softly.

< >"Well, I couldn't just sit by and do nothing while you told the whole school that you see Tom Riddle. I know more than you think I do about all that." Draco shifted in his place uncomfortably.

< >Just then, Madam Pomfrey came back in. "I'll give her this," She said, showing Draco a bottle full of pink liquid. "And you had better get to lunch."

< >"All right," he replied stiffly. "But - when she wakes up, will you come and get me?"

< >Madam Pomfrey gave him a weak smile. "Of course, Mr Malfoy. Now, run along so she can have some peace."

~

< >All throughout lunch Draco wondered how she was doing. After all, she was, in a way, his friend. When time for Charms came, he still wondered about her.

< >"Today class," Professor Flitwick said happily. We will be learning the time freezing charm, which is called the Derefous Charm. The incantation is simply --"

< >"Professor Flitwick?" Draco turned in his chair, to see Madam Pomfrey. She looked as though she had run all the way down from the hospital wing.

< >"Yes, Poppy?" Flitwick asked, looking a tad confused.

< >"Mr Malfoy is needed somewhere else, so may he be excused?" she asked, looking hopeful.

< >"I'm going to need an explanation before I can let him go," Professor Flitwick replied as a look of concern shot across his face.

< >"Well . . ." Madam Pomfrey paused. "There's someone in the hospital wing who's asking for him. It's very urgent. Perhaps you could have someone bring him his homework later?"

< >Flitwick looked thoughtful, and Weasley, Potter, and Granger shot Draco looks of confusion. "I suppose. Yes, Mr Malfoy, you may go. Can I have a volunteer to bring him his homework?"

< >Only one hand went into the air, and to Draco's frustration, it was Granger's hand. He quickly piled his things into his bag, and exited, following Madam Pomfrey up to the infirmary. "Has something happened?" he asked, panicking slightly. "Is she all right?"

< >"She keeps having nightmares, even after the dreamless sleeping potion I gave her. And she woke up, and told me she wanted to see you immediately," Madam Pomfrey answered quietly.

< >A knot formed in Draco's stomach, and a lump in his throat. When they reached the infirmary, Draco ran to her bedside, and dropped his bag on the floor next to a chair.

< >"Ginny, are you okay?" He asked quietly, looking at her imploringly. She sat up, put her arms around his neck, and began sobbing into his shoulder. Madam Pomfrey looked at the two of them with what seemed to be wistfulness, and then went back to her work. Draco was glad of it, because he didn't want to talk in front of Madam Pomfrey. "Are you okay?" He asked again. "Ginny, please answer me. You're scaring me really badly,"

< >"He's there, Draco. He's there," she moaned, her voice muffled by her sobs, and her face being pressed against his shoulder. "Tom is there, in my head. He won't leave me alone, Draco. You have to help me. Please... please Draco - help me."

< >He was vaguely reminded of himself on the night before his return to Hogwarts. He sighed, and placed a hand on the back of her head to hold her up. "I'll do anything I can to help you, Ginny." He replied. And he suddenly felt the need to change the subject. "Did you get my note?"

< >"Yes," She said through his cloak. "Yes I did, and I'm very excited to be going with you. I wanted to go with you, because you're nice to me, and I didn't want to get stuck with someone like Malcolm Baddock. He's an awful person."

< >"What happened to 'I try to be nice to everyone, even if they aren't nice to other people'?" he asked with a laugh. He knew she was somewhat getting back at him for what he wrote in the letter about their "reputations."

< >She lifted her head up, and narrowed her eyes. "Hold on," She replied, reaching over to a table on her left side. She put her glasses on, and looked at him in wonderment. "He's not a good person," She added with a shudder. "He doesn't do good things. It's not just unfriendliness that makes a person bad, Draco. It's what they do when they think no one is watching. And I don't like to be around people like that."

< >Draco swallowed hard. He felt strange. Like he was that bad person she described and his father was the watcher determining his wickedness . . . Was Lucius watching him all the time? No, He finally decided. If he were watching me all the time, I would probably be in a body cast.

< >"What color are your dress robes?" Ginny asked him, moving on. She wiped her eyes underneath her rectangular spectacles.

< >"Black," He replied. "Why? Do you have something against unfriendly colors?"

< >"No," She said with a giggle. "I'm going to color-coordinate. You know what that means, right?"

< >"Of course I know what that means," He said, raising his eyebrows. "I'm not stupid."

< >"Well, most boys don't know what it means. Somehow, they don't care if the girl is wearing silver, and they're wearing bright orange." she said with another giggle. "But, I'm glad you know what it means. I bet you look great when you go to parties,"

< >"I try to refrain from going to my father's parties." Draco said hurriedly.

< >"Oh."

< >Just then, the infirmary doors opened, and Rhiannon stood there, clutching a stitch in her side. "Draco, can I talk to you?" she gasped.

< >Draco shot her a very annoyed look, then nodded. "I'll see you later, Ginny." he said, and picking up his bag, he followed Rhiannon out into an empty corridor. "What do you want?" he demanded tersely.

< >"I just wanted to say I'm sorry for not listening to you," She replied quietly. "even if she is a Weasley, no one deserves to be that humiliated. No --"

< >"What do you mean by that?" he shouted, his chest heaving with emotion.

< >"Draco, you know what I mean..." she said, looking uncomfortably at her feet.

< >"Then I suppose you know Ginny is my friend, and I won't tolerate anyone saying anything like that about her," he snapped. "Not even you, and mark my words, you will pay for that."

< >Rhiannon walked over to him, and placed a hand on each shoulder. "Draco," She whispered. "Calm down. You're over--"

< >"I am not overreacting." Draco snarled, ripping away from her. "I have every right to be angry with you, Rhiannon Carlotta Malfoy. Every blasted reason. She is the first person who has tried to be my friend without wanting something in return. She's a nice person, and I won't let you disrespect her in any way."

< >He pulled out his wand just as she began to try and calm him down again. But he didn't want to be calmed down. He wanted people to leave Ginny alone. "Amphibius!" he cried, and where Rhiannon had stood, there was now a toad. A very nasty looking toad.

< >"Malfoy, what are you doing?" a voice shouted in alarm.

< >Blast, Draco thought as he turned to face Granger. Blast, blast, blast, and more blasted blasts.

< >"I'm trying out a new spell, Granger," he said coolly. "And my dear, sweet cousin, Rhiannon volunteered to be my guinea pig, so to speak."

~

< >"And you turned her into a toad, because?" Professor Dumbledore asked kindly as Snape and McGonagall waited in the background of the old man's circular office.

< >"Because she deserved it," Draco said with a smirk. "And I won't say any more unless McGonagall and Snape leave." Dumbledore looked at him questioningly. "Not a single, bloody word. So tell them to leave if you want to know what went on."

< >Dumbledore looked at McGonagall and Snape, and they both, rather reluctantly, left the room.

< >"Will you tell me now, Draco?" he asked apprehensively.

< >"She was being disrespectful to one of my friends, and I couldn't take it." Draco said flatly. "And the name of my friend is not to be disclosed."

< >"What I want to know," Dumbledore said quietly. "Is what Professor Malfoy could have said about Ginny Weasley that upset you so?"

< >Draco gritted his teeth. "It's not polite to read minds like that," he replied. "And besides that, it's unnerving. But," He paused. "If you must know, and since you are the Headmaster, you do, she seems to think that the Weasley's are less than the Malfoy's because of who they associate with. But Ginny isn't like that at all."

< >A smiled teased the corners of Dumbledore's mouth.

< >"I don't think much of the rest of them," he added as an afterthought. "Especially not Potter's friend, er, Ryan? But Ginny is a really nice person, and no one should say anything like that bout her at all. She's fantastic. She's --" He paused, and looked at Dumbledore's expression. "I really don't like you." He said stiffly, feeling very annoyed at the old, smiling wizard. "I don't know what you do to make people talk like that, but it's really, really obnoxious."

< >"I'm not doing anything, Draco," he responded cheerily. "It's hard not to think highly of Miss Weasley. She is a very wonderful girl."

< >Draco kept glaring. "Well, if you're going to punish me, it would just tear me up inside if Rhiannon had to stay a toad," he said hopefully.

< >"Not going to happen, Draco." Dumbledore said with a smile. "And I won't punish you. But I expect you should have a chat with Professor Snape about the things you just told me. After all, he is head of your house."

< >Draco's stomach lurched. Snape was the last person on earth he wanted to talk to about Ginny. The very, very last person.

< >"All right, Professor. I'm going to dinner now," he announced.

< >He stood up and did just that - and was pleasantly surprised, to see Ginny was sitting at the Gryffindor table when he got there. She smiled and waved, and he did the same. He was happy enough then not bothered when Pansy asked him, once again, to go to the Halloween Ball with her.


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