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Chapter 20: Chapter 20
Suffice to say I didn’t have the best week following the match. I sat away from Fred, away from everybody actually. The only person I talked to outside of Gryffindor tower or the D.A. meetings was Hermione, and that was only during Ancient Runes or Arithmancy.
That wasn’t the only change at Hogwarts though, Hagrid was back and Tuesday he led us deep into the Forbidden Forest carrying half a cow. I tried not to look at it, worried about why Hagrid would even need it in the first place. When we arrived at our destination he dropped the cow and let out three shrieks to call whatever creatures he had planned on showing us. The trees were very close together making it dark. I couldn’t see far into the woods but I could feel something. Whatever that something was, it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. While most of the class was looking around for the creatures, I was looking around trying to figure out just what I was feeling.
“Oh, an’ here comes another one!” Hagrid exclaimed, gathering everyone’s attention. I didn’t see anything and apparently I wasn’t the only one. “Who can see ‘em?” I glanced around, only four students had their hands raised – Draco, Harry, Neville, and Nott.
Feeling that my own issues were more important than invisible creatures, I looked away. I was so sure that something or somebody was watching us. If only I could see a bit further…
“The only people who can see thestrals are people who have seen death,” Hermione said.
Alright, thestrals, invisible creature mystery solved. That didn’t solve the pressing issue though. I strained my eyes, trying to peer into the darkness of the forest. Nothing.
I probably would have spent the whole class period staring off into the woods if Umbridge hadn’t showed up. She treated Hagrid like he was a bumbling oaf. I didn’t know my hatred for her could increase, yet it did. The Slytherins savored her inspection, insulting Hagrid and his class as much as possible. Someone really ought to have punched Pansy Parkinson in the face by now.
Umbridge leaving would normally have been a blessing but my mind had other ideas. I couldn’t shake the memory of the last time I’d been in a forest this dark. It was ridiculous really, I wasn’t alone here. It wasn’t the middle of the night. There were no werewolves ready to attack. This was nothing like Durmstrang. Then why did it feel so similar? He’s in prison, you dolt. He was, he most definitely was. I was perfectly safe here.
I missed most of what Hagrid said and it wasn’t until I was nearly at the greenhouses for Herbology that I stopped, confusion dawning on me.
When had Draco ever seen somebody die?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
December was going well enough. I had adjusted to most of my days in solitude and appreciated the mornings Fred and I spent alone even more. I was just waiting for Christmas to pass so I’d be sure to have a few more months before worrying about being dragged back to Malfoy Manor.
I’d managed to avoid Nott for a while and it seemed as though Draco might have actually settled down some too. (That or nobody was mentioning what a bully he was because of how much Umbridge favored him.) D.A. meetings were a nice break from the dozens of essays. Harry was, Merlin I might regret this, he was actually a good teacher even if he didn’t have the vast well of knowledge Hermione had. Fred and George were, or at least pretended to accept their Quidditch ban with grace. Fred never mentioned it to me and I thought it would be more polite to not bring it up.
There were a few times though, I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling anxious and worried. The feelings were so strong it prevented me from going back to sleep. Snape thought it wasn’t anything serious, although he said he’d look into it. Likely it was just me being, he hadn’t said the word, but I knew he thought I was being paranoid. Yet overall, I was really doing ok.
And then December fourteenth rolled around.
I should have been expecting it. I should have walked in the opposite direction without saying a word. Unfortunately I never thought that clearly while ticked off. And nobody knew how to tick me off quite like Theodore Nott.
“Lestrange,” Nott called out as I was walking back to Gryffindor tower alone. I ignored him at first, determined to control myself this time. He didn’t get the hint and fell into step beside me. “Honestly, so rude,” he stated. “I know perfectly well that you can hear me.” I picked up my pace but he kept going. “Is that really how you’re going to act? Trouble in paradise got you down?” he asked mockingly.
“Shove off, Nott.”
“I’ve noticed you and Weasley aren’t so affectionate anymore. Finally gotten rid of him?”
“Like I said, shove off.”
“Always so moody. Here I’m trying to be a friend –”
“You,” I said, stopping suddenly and glaring at Nott, “have never and will never, be my friend.”
“I suppose if I was a blood-traitor or mudblood you’d be more willing to accept my friendship.”
“You could be the last person on this planet and I still wouldn’t like you. Now why don’t you run along before you get hurt? There are no teachers to stop me from attacking you this time.”
“I’m touched you care so much about my wellbeing.”
“Well I’d hate for your father to have to hear about how his loser of a son got beat up by a girl…again.” Nott narrowed his eyes, making me smirk.
“You did not –” Nott began through gritted teeth.
“Have a nice evening,” I cut in before walking away. I’d gotten a dozen steps before Nott collected himself.
“You never answered my question about Weasley,” he said in a rough voice.
“It’s not any of your business.”
“So he’s fulfilled his purpose then?” Something about Nott’s arrogant, knowing tone made me halt.
“His purpose?” I asked dangerously, turning back to Nott who’d caught up to me. Now he was the one wearing a smirk.
“I always wondered what you saw in him. Even for a blood-traitor like yourself, the Weasleys are far below you,” he sneered. “For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why you would ever go to the Yule Ball with filth like that. Then it came to me one day. Who does Draco Malfoy hate the most in this school? Potter obviously, but he’s far too much effort with that mudblood Granger always hanging around him. So who else? The Weasleys of course. Ron Weasley’s too much of an incompetent twit, you’ve got to have some standards, right? Those twins though…I bet they would work perfectly.”
“You’re absolutely nutters,” I told Nott.
“You think I don’t see how he looks at you?” Nott whispered furiously. “Malfoy’s been watching you for years. You should have seen him third year, half the house thought he was losing his touch. He made a better effort in the beginning of last year but I could tell his heart wasn’t really in it, no matter what kind of show he was putting on for the others. And then the Yule Ball rolls around and he loses it. I don’t think it actually set in until after the Ball to be honest. It was like he had to get over the shock of seeing you with a Weasley. Then when classes started up again and you and Weasley were practically glued at the hip, Malfoy went jinx crazy. Hell, he even hit a couple of second years for playing chess too loud in the common room. Trust me, you did not want to get on his bad side. Course he was always just discreet enough to slip past Moody.”
“Know what helped me put all this together?” Nott asked. “Over the summer I thought for sure he would tell his old man about you and Weasley, but no, he never said a word. Not a single word about it until I told my father. He reported it to the Dark Lord at once. I don’t think it went well for either Malfoy after that. And then we get to the beginning of this year. You and Weasley acting all cozy as Draco used his precious little prefect badge to push around even more people. I thought maybe you’d both reached the end of your ropes. Maybe you’d just ignore each other outright. You did something even better than that. I will admit watching you punch Draco Malfoy in the face was definitely one of the best days of my life. The way you two looked at each other. I knew there was still something there, even if the both of you pretended there wasn’t.”
“I don’t think you realize just how much you were hated in Slytherin that week, how much they all wanted to curse you. They were furious you’d hit him. But you know what Malfoy did? He told everyone to shut their mouths about it. Threatened to assign detention with Filch to whoever mentioned it again. Everyone thought it was an ego thing or he was embarrassed, well I guess maybe it was partially that. The other part was rage, pure fury.”
“And somehow, in a stroke of brilliance I never would have expected from Malfoy, he used that rage to write that little song of his, Weasley is our King. The rest of the school thinks it’s about that moronic Keeper of theirs but you, me and Malfoy know better, don’t we? We know which Weasley that song is really directed to. Then like usual Malfoy lost the game to Potter, and that fight afterwards? How shocked you must have been to see your boy toy teaming up on Malfoy. Well you couldn’t have that, could you? Did you ditch him that night or were you considerate enough to wait until the next morning?”
I waited a minute before responding. “You are,” I said slowly, “the most…idiotic person I have ever had the misfortune of meeting.” Had I really stood here this long listening to Nott? What a complete waste of time. I turned back around and began walking away. Nott wasn’t going to accept that and he started following again, unwilling to admit defeat.
“You know what I don’t get?”
“It would be easier to make a list of things you did get,” I replied sarcastically.
“Whatever happened to you two?” A spark of annoyance shot through me. “You two were virtually inseparable. So what happened? He break one of your toys? Transfigure one of your dolls into a cockroach? Not share his Christmas candy? Did he break your heart?” Nott asked insultingly. “Or…” he continued thoughtfully. “Was it your fault?”
I stopped and saw red. Fury pumped through me and the next moment I had slammed Nott against the wall and pinned him there. He looked shocked for a fraction of a second before a look of satisfaction spread over his face.
“I think I’ve struck a nerve,” he said proudly.
“I will break every bone in your body if you don’t shut your mouth,” I threatened. He’s not worth it.
“Do you really think I’m afraid of you?” Nott whispered. “Like you said before, there are no teachers around. So go ahead. What’s stopping you?”
He’s not worth it. I wanted so badly to hurt him. To watch him quiver on the floor like the pathetic coward he was. He’s not worth it. There was nothing stopping me. I could cause Nott a whole lot of pain before anyone found us. I could put an end to Nott’s harassment right now. I knew enough spells to cause some serious harm to this obnoxious git.
He’s not worth it!
I let go of the front of Nott’s robes. “You’re not worth it,” I muttered. I turned around yet again to leave.
“Nobody’s worth it, right?” Nott asked scathingly. “How do you think Weasley would react if he knew the real reason you dated him? That he was nothing more than a pawn to make Draco Malfoy jealous?” Against my better judgment I stopped again, thinking Nott’s words were quite odd. It almost sounded like… “That’s the only person who matters, right? Just Malfoy and you. Everyone else is a pawn or rubbish.” Did Nott–? “I saw it ten years ago. It was only ever about you two and how much you meant to each other.” Bloody hell, he actually did.
I couldn’t help it. I let out a laugh. Nott seriously thought Draco and I were in love with each other. It was so completely absurd that I couldn’t stop myself from laughing more.
“Is that really what this is all about?” I asked, turning back to Nott. For the first time he looked confused, not understanding what I found so amusing. “Have you really put this much effort and time into justifying why I never liked you? Why I rejected you immediately? Why I would rather date Fred Weasley than you? You want a straight answer? Instead of fabricating some elaborate theory, why don’t you just look in the mirror? Despite the fact that you think you’re above everybody else in this school, nothing could be further from the truth. You are, and have always been, nothing but a self centered, egotistical, obnoxious git who was arrogant, is arrogant enough to believe you’re better than everybody else. You mock the muggle-borns in this school but the truth is the only filth here is you.”
This time when I turned around, I didn’t stop and I didn’t head for Gryffindor tower. I had two things on my mind, Draco Malfoy and Fred Weasley. I was pretending like I wasn’t dating Fred because of what Draco would do, how he would react, but there was also a part of me that didn’t want to hurt Draco by being so open with Fred. That had to stop. Snape had been right, Draco was responsible for his own actions now and I wasn’t going to shun Fred because Draco would act immature. I loved Draco, I really did, he would always hold a special place in my heart but I would not push Fred aside. It wasn’t fair to him at all. Fred Weasley meant a lot to me and I wasn’t going to hide it anymore.
I spotted Fred talking to George on the third floor. ‘Sorry.’ I mentally apologized to the Snape in my head, knowing he would not appreciate what I was about to do. I marched up to the twins and dragged Fred away without saying a word.
“Er…see you later?” George called out as we left him there.
“What’s wrong?” Fred asked, sounding very worried.
I didn’t answer. I just pulled him into the room around the corner, which happened to be a boys’ bathroom. As soon as I closed the door, I kissed him before he could say another word. I pulled back after ten seconds and Fred stood there, looking dazed.
“Er…what?” I reached up to kiss him again but after two seconds he moved back. “I’m very confused,” he admitted, eyebrows furrowed. “I thought we weren’t –”
“I’ve changed my mind.”
“What about –?”
“I don’t care.” I reached up for another kiss that lasted longer than the first before Fred stepped back again.
“You’re sure about this?” he asked cautiously.
“Very sure,” I replied before jerking him down for a long kiss that he did not interrupt.
After we pulled away from each other, Fred had an adorable grin plastered on his face and I was feeling quite pleased with myself as well. Then a slight movement caught our attention and we turned to find a small Hufflepuff boy by the sinks. He was staring up at us with wide eyes. I felt my face flush while Fred swung the door open and jerked his head. The boy glanced at the open doorway, then back at us before he scurried out in between us. Fred closed the door and let out a snort of laughter.
“Poor kid’s probably going to be scarred for life,” he said laughing.
“Mhmm,” I absentmindedly agreed, moving back towards Fred. I squashed down that small bubble of anxiety that seemed to have settled in the pit of my stomach over the past week.
“We’re going to be in trouble if he tells anyone,” Fred reminded me.
“Bring on the detentions,” I responded, wrapping my arms around his back.
“I like the way you think,” Fred replied, bending down for another kiss…or two…or ten.
A/N: Nott got it wrong. Fred wasn’t the one who attacked Draco, George was. Also, don’t get the wrong impression, Nott isn’t attracted to Jade. He’s arrogant. The idea that she would simply not like him is crazy to him. And Jade and Draco are not in love. At all. It’s just so wrong.
Hagrid’s thestral class and the quotes are from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 21, The Eye of the Snake.