* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Chapter 11 - The Importance of Being in Control Part 2
Control, Ginny had decided after she returned to her flat after work, was the most important thing, that which she had been missing for so long now. Looking about her messy, cramped room with the giant pile of neglected textbooks on her desk, she had decided that she needed to regain control over her life, and the first step would have to be her schoolwork. It had been piling up for a few weeks – the trivial assignments that were more time consuming than challenging. Hermione’s prodding had kept her up to date on her major essays or tests, but Ginny still felt a suffocating panic whenever she thought about her uncompleted assignments, as if they were piling up on her shoulders and pushing her head under water. Then there was the state of her flat… Taking off her robe and rolling up her sleeves, she’d set about obsessively cleaning and organizing her room. After a few hours and the successful massacre of all dust-bunnies visible to the naked eye, she’d settle down and began powering through her outstanding homework.
By 3 a.m., she’d finally succumbed to the horrible cramp in her hand from all the writing and her burning eyes and had collapsed into bed, satisfied that she had gained some grip of control on her life.
Even now, after sitting bleary-eyed through Snape’s class as he drilled questions about that week’s chapter at her, she felt elated despite her exhaustion, as she’d been able to proudly fire the correct answers right back at him. The glorious feeling of power and control – it was delicious and Ginny felt a renewed sense of purpose and accomplishment.
Shaking off the overwhelming desire to skive off her afternoon classes to run home to her immaculate room and crawl into bed and fall into a blissful afternoon nap, Ginny gathered her books and exited the classroom, in a hurry to avoid all the attempts of eager classmates trying to befriend her to take advantage of her new prestige as the supposed girlfriend of Draco Malfoy. She’d already been cornered, again, by the girls inviting her to visit All Hallow's and had, in her exhausted state, unwittingly agreed to go out with them Thursday night. Which meant she’d have to ask Hermione to switch shifts with her, which she wasn’t entirely happy about as any favour owed to Hermione usually turned into a long day spent in the bookstore.
But, as she walked towards the Great Hall for lunch, she felt a surge of confidence. Control, she reminded herself, today was the day that she was going to regain control of her life, and to do that, she was going to studiously ignore Draco Malfoy. She’d decided that the best way to regain control over that particular aspect of her life was to stubbornly ignore it until it disappeared.
Or at least, that had been her plan, until she’d been commandeered by two of his thugs who had been waiting for her in the hallway. They had been standing with rather blank expressions on their faces, until they saw her, and perked up. Sensing that this could only mean trouble, Ginny attempted to back-track and avoid them, but they zeroed in on her and sandwiched her between them.
“Malfoy demands that you come with us,” Crabbe said, rather genially, despite his words. Ginny frowned and glared at him.
“You can tell Malfoy that I am under absolutely no obligation to give in to his demands,” Ginny answered haughtily. She was about to storm off, until Goyle stopped her with a hand on her shoulder.
“Malfoy figured you’d say that, and his response is that he condescends to acknowledge your protest and that it’s fine by him if you’re too much of a coward to face him, and that he just didn’t expect that behaviour from a such a self-righteous Gryffindor as yourself,” Goyle prattled off, imitating his friend with rather startling accuracy. Ginny scoffed in outrage.
“He called me a coward?” she demanded, her eyes blazing with the challenge to prove him wrong. “That ridiculous bastard, I’ll show him! By all means, minions, show me the way!”
They led her down a hallway, away from the Great Hall and up a few flights of stairs. As they walked down an endless series of corridors, Ginny remarked to herself how large the school truly was, and drank in the sight of these different parts of the castle that she rarely ever saw. After leading her through some strange ritual of pacing back and forth down this one specific hallway, they led her through a door she could swear hadn’t been there earlier, which opened to the very last place she ever expected to find in the school.
It looked like some sort of lounge or den. There were desks and chairs, but also a handful of sofas and armchairs, gathered into groups. It was more like a café or the old dormitory common rooms than anything else – or at least, what she could glean the common rooms had looked like from the old photos her parents had shown her. There was even a fireplace in the far corner. Ginny stared about her, unsure of what to say. The choice of colours in the décor – all black, green and silver – indicated that it was definitely an exclusively Slytherin area of the castle.
A small group of senior Slytherins were gathered together around a coffee table, playing Exploding Snap and lounging as they ate. They all stopped talking as she entered, staring at her expectantly. She spotted Malfoy, sitting off the side at a table, books spread out around him, and looking up, he casually waved them over to where he was sitting.
She heard a few whispered mutterings as she was lead towards Malfoy by his thugs, herding her forward and she had decided to ignore it and just march forward with her head held high, until one of Pansy Parkinson’s followers, Danielle Keyes, shot Ginny a disgusted look, before leaning over and loudly whispering to the boy sitting next to her.
“What are they doing, letting such trash in here? She’s no better than a filthy Mudblood.” Everyone in the room heard it and paused. Ginny felt her face grow hot and there was a strange buzzing noise in her ears as her temper ignited. A quick glance at her surroundings, and even before she was aware of what was happening, she had dumped a cup of tea that had been sitting so innocuously on the table into the girl’s lap. Danielle jumped up, shrieking in surprise and outrage.
“Which one of us is filthy now?” Ginny asked coolly, glaring at the girl. Before their confrontation could progress any further, Goyle was nudging Ginny along, even as Danielle shrieked to have her thrown out of the room.
Malfoy was standing as she approached him, and there was a rather focused look on his face – except that he wasn’t looking at Ginny, he was nodding in Crabbe’s direction and glaring at Danielle. Crabbed turned and walked away, as if he’d been given a command. Ginny watched, open-mouthed as he then gathered Danielle’s belongings and headed towards the door. She stopped her outraged ranting and frantic attempts to wipe the tea stain from her blouse.
“You can’t be serious!” she cried, looking around her, as if trying to gather support. The room became deathly silent. “A Gryffindor with her background, over a fellow Slytherin?”
She was greeted with blank stares and an awkward silence. Goyle stood over her intimidatingly, until she threw down her napkin with a huff.
“Fine. Choose the blood-traitor, by all means,” she scoffed shrilly, stomping her way out the door, grabbing her things from Crabbe as she passed. Ginny watched in shock, unable to believe the extent of the Slytherin’s herd mentality or the fact that Malfoy hadn’t even said a word and his authority had been absolute. She’d always wondered how it happened, that he and his friends wielded so much power in the school, thinking it had something to do with Malfoy’s aunt being Headmistress, but this instance had exposed the extent to which he was obeyed by all of those around him.
Of course, she was also dealing with the unsettling fact that he’d just had one of his inner circle tossed from the room because of what she’d said about Ginny – the student that everyone enjoyed harassing the most, who was particularly loathed by the Slytherins. She turned to glance at Malfoy, but he was too busy glaring intimidatingly at the others in the room, as if to challenge them to protest.
He didn’t even like her – he’d told her that she was just a convenient way to distract his parents while he plotted something else. At least, that’s what she thought he’d meant, but then he’d launched into all that Blaise Zabini nonsense and that stuff about her “belonging” to him. When he finally stopped glaring at the people who were supposedly his friends, and looked at her, it was with a rather neutral expression.
“Sit down, weasel,” he ordered gruffly. Ginny glared as he himself sat down, then, in the spirit of defiance, she took her time before complying with his order, all the while wondering how he could react so strongly when someone else insulted her, but seemed to have no reservations about calling her 'weasel.'
By the time she was seated, Crabbe and Goyle had returned and sat themselves down on the couch opposite of Ginny and were looking at her as if she were mental for making such a production of something as insignificant as sitting down. She smiled sheepishly at them, deciding that a gruff “what are you looking at?” wouldn’t be the most proper thing to say, given that they’d just removed the girl who’d used such a horrible insult.
“Well,” she chirped brightly, surprising those sitting with her, “what’s the occasion, boys? Well, more importantly, where am I and why am I wherever it is that I am?”
“You prefer eating lunch in the Great Hall, with all those annoying gawkers?” Malfoy asked blithely. At that moment, a set of trembling house elves appeared, carrying trays which they set on the table in front of them, pushing aside some of Malfoy’s books. “You should eat, who knows the type of food someone like you must have to endure.”
“Someone like me?” she demanded through gritted teeth. An uncomfortable silence followed until Ginny decided she’d tortured him long enough. “OH, you mean someone who isn’t spectacularly wealthy?”
She snatched a glass of water, her throat going dry at the amused smile Malfoy shot her after her blustery comment.
“Hey, Weasley, who was that man you were with the other night?” Crabbe asked suddenly, causing Ginny’s throat to catch.
“What man?” she sputtered nervously. She was the worst liar in the world when it came to direct questions. She was much better with hyperbole, bluster, evasion and skirting the truth. But, she certainly did not want anyone to know she’d been meeting with Sirius, not if he’d went through all the trouble of using his Animagus form while he was in Hogsmeade. He said they would be looking for him and she would never willingly betray him. “I wasn’t with any man last night.”
“We saw you, though, on the corner of Salazar Boulevard, hidden behind the building in the alley. It’s rather shady place to hang out, you know. You should be more careful,” Goyle commented, and Ginny blessed the fact that Crabbe and Goyle weren’t exceedingly bright, and that Malfoy seemed otherwise distracted, studying his textbook rather intensively.
“Oh! Were you meeting another boy behind Draco’s back?” Crabbe suddenly asked, his eyes wide, his voice teasing. Before she could declare how ridiculous that suggestion was, Malfoy spoke up.
“Don’t be such an absolute idiot. Weasley’s not that kind of girl,” Malfoy shot out angrily, and Ginny felt something deep within her flutter in reaction, as he spoke out in her defense. He seemed furious at the suggestion, for a least a brief moment until he spoke again, that infuriatingly mocking tone of voice he used whenever he teased her. “Don’t you remember that prim little speech she gave us about the state of her virtue?”
“It was just a friend of my family’s. He was dropping off a message from my mum, and I just expected it would be a Howler, and you really don’t want any of her Howlers going off in a public space,” Ginny explained, with a weak laugh, feeling unsettled.
“It’s a good thing you weren’t sneaking around behind his back,” Crabbe said conspiratorially to Ginny, leaning closer to her, dropping his voice. “He’s very possessive and incredibly jealous. And when he gets jealous, he acts very rash and stupid.”
“His last girlfriend, the only girl he’s ever been serious about, cheated on him. You do not want to know what he did to the other guy,” Goyle added.
Maloy’s head snapped up, and his dark look had both of them sitting back and looking apologetic. He turned his attention back to his book, and as soon as they felt he wasn’t paying attention any more, they leaned forward again, both smiling secretively at Ginny as they continued to gossip about their friend.
“It’s because he’s a dragon,” Crabbe said knowingly.
“I’m sorry, a what?” Ginny asked, amused.
“He’s just like a dragon – possessive of the things he considers ‘his’ and quite dangerous if you try to steal anything from his hoard,” Crabbe explained.
“When he found out about her cheating, he went on a bit of a rampage. Surely you’ve heard the stories? It’s quite famous. And he didn’t even really love her all that much, he was just furious because she was ‘his’,” Goyle added. Malfoy, looking quite annoyed, glanced up from his textbook. As his eyes locked on hers, his words echoed through her mind: You belong to me. She suddenly felt a warm thrill creeping up her spine. And all the confusion that she’d felt after their conversation, for that one moment, vanished and it was crystal clear where he stood. But only for a moment.
“Stop muttering all that nonsense. Unless you mean to imply that I’m green, covered in scales and reek of sulfur, I am hardly dragon-like and it’s decidely unwise for you to suggest otherwise,” he said angrily, looking extremely annoyed.
“He’s a little sensitive about it. We used to give him a hard time because of his name when we were younger,” Goyle said with a smile. Ginny was a little surprised; she never thought there was more to their relationship with Malfoy than just the fact that they were his followers who did whatever he asked, but they seemed to genuinely be friends – friends who were comfortable enough around him to be able to tease him.
Malfoy jumped up, slamming his textbook down on the table.
“Enough!” he growled. He then trained his eyes, still dark with his anger, on Ginny. “Weasley, I’ll see you at the Quidditch game Friday. Please ensure that you don’t embarrass me with any shoddy flying and you’d better not lose to Hufflepuff or I won’t be able to be seen in public with you for at least a month.”
“I’m no longer ON my house Quidditch team, thanks to you, remember?” she said sharply. He just smiled knowingly as he gathered his books.
“Just make sure you win. Malfoys certainly don’t date losers,” he said with a sly grin, before making his way towards the door. Ginny jumped up, feeling frustrated with the fact that her “gain control by ignoring him” plan had gone so completely awry.
“We are not dating!” she shouted after him.
* * * *
"Tell me again why you agreed to go out with these girls tonight?" Hermione said, glancing warily at Ginny's outfit, as the redhead fussed through her closet.
"Because they ambushed me, the crafty minxes, while I was distracted with other pressing concerns. Such as why..." she answered, trailing off as she reached further into the tiny closet, "they were talking to me, and whether or not I was going to turn around and find a mountain troll or something equally terrible waiting behind me and that it was all a clever ruse to distract me from their devious end-game."
"I don't even know what to say to that," Hermione answered with a frown, sounding a little exasperated. "You are honestly that paranoid?"
"I begged Claire to come along, thinking it would be best to have an ally, just in case this was a ruse and they have some kind of plot I haven't even thought of yet in the works, but she couldn't make it. Okay, what do you think? Tarty enough?" Ginny asked, turning around to revela the outfit she'd chosen. It was nothing more than a short denim skirt she'd borrowed from Hermione and a filmy top with a tank top underneath, but it wasn't a combination she normally wore. She'd evene smeared some of the Muggle cosmetics Hermione's mum was always sending her in an effort to convince the girl to appear more fashionable, and it had given her eyes a dark, smudgy look Ginny had decided fit the image of what club attire should look like. Hermione appraised the outfit seriously for a moment.
"Tarty enough to fit in, but not so bad that you wouldn't want your mum to see you," she concluded.
"Excellent! Thanks again for covering my shift tonight, I promise I'll repay you with magical theory textbooks," Ginny said, gathering her bag and cloak together as she prepared to leave Hermione's flat, as it was almost time for Hermione's shift to start. She'd come running to her friend's after tearing apart her own closet and finding nothing she deemed suitable, begging for help.
"Have you managed to be successful in any of your attempts to tell Malfoy to bugger off yet?" Hermione asked, with an amused grin. Ginny sighed with exasperation.
"And I thought I was stubborn, but he brings a whole new definition to the word. Then again, he also waited outside in the snow for hours on Saturday, so I really shouldn't be all that surprised," Ginny remakred. That day still had an unrealistic quality to it for her - so many events that seemed too impossible that if she hadn't experienced them, she wouldn't have believed they had actually happened.
"Uh, Ginny? He didn't wait out in the snow," Hermione said. "At least, not more than about ten minutes. After that, he came into the restaurant and sat at the table near the window. When you ran to meet him, he just apparated behind you when he saw you."
"What??" Ginny demanded tersely.
"Maggie, the hostess that was on that day, told me all about it when I went there later that night to pick up the book I'd left behind. He caused a bit of a spectacle, demanding the table and disappearing so suddenly. Everyone was talking about it," Hermione said disapprovingly.
"That manipulative bastard!" Ginny cried, her eyes blazing with fury. "To think I felt guilty when he got sick, for making him wait out in the cold!"
"Have a good time tonight, if possible," Hermione said, as they'd reached the street. Ginny grinned viciously.
"Oh, I'm going to have a good time, alright. It's the last time those girls, or anyone else at that school, will ever talk to me, because after they see what I do to Malfoy, they won't want to come near me. I'll teach him to manipulate me and make me feel guilty, when really, he's practically admitted to the fact that he's just using me to make his parents angry. And that he'd let me go if Blaise Zabini ever came back, but then he has the nerve to tell me that I 'belong to him'! Even if I did - and I most certainly do not - you don't 'let someone go', you fight for it, no matter what!"
"Ginny, you're rambling," Hermione said calmly, but Ginny was too lost in her runaway thoughts to hear her.
"People have this ridiculous romantic notion that if you love someone, you should let them go. If that isn't the most ridiculous piece of rubbish I've ever heard! If you truly care about someone, if you truly want them, then you fight to keep them with everything you have. I think that's by far the more romantic option, to fight, don't you think?" Ginny ranted angrily.
"What are you even angry about right now?" Hermione demanded. "Because you're auto-twittering a lot of nonsense that has nothing to do with Malfoy leading you to believe he'd waited for you all afternoon in the snow."
"I'm angry because he said I was his, but that he'd also 'let me' see another person - his best friend! And he doesn't even like me, and is just using me to upset his parents. He's just... all these damn mixed messages. He's horrible and awful one minute, then he's human and teasing me and saying nice things about me and smiling at me, like I'm the most amusing thing he's ever seen. Can't he just be an incorrigible jerk and make it easier for me? The jerk!" Ginny gushed out, all in one breath. Hermione just shook her head, appearing a little dizzy.
"Apparently not. In any case, have a good time tonight, and don't forget to bring your Standard Book of Spells to work on Sunday. I've already finished the last one you gave me."
"But you just started it!"
* * * *
Cynthia, Sheryl and Rose had just returned from the dance floor, out-of-breath and with eyes shining from their excitement. They were obviously having the time of their lives.
"Why don't you come dance?" Cynthia shouted over the pulsing music. Ginny just shooke her head and shrugged, choosing not to explain over the loud music that she was incredibly bored with the whole night and would have rather spent the night hanging out with Hermione in her own flat in her pajamas. She took another sip from her iced tea and watched the group of girls she'd come with scout the crowd, searching for any cute boys to dance with. Three of the girls had stayed behind with Ginny, attempting to pump her for gossip about what it was like to be Draco Malfoy's girlfriend, and after sputtering incoherently about how horrible it is and that she was not Malfoy's girlfriend, Ginny had been practically immolated by the firebolts shooting from their eyes. She was relieved that they appeared eager to join Cynthia, Sheryl and Rose as they headed back towards the dance floor. Ginny bit back a yawn and the urge to check a clock to see what time it was and how much longer she had to be there before she could go home.
"OOh, look over there!" Sheryl cried, pointing to someone standing by the bar, conversing with the bartender. "Doesn't he look like Blaise Zabini?"
Ginny's ears perked up at that commnet, and she struggled to see who they were pointing to through all the bodies. After catching a glimpse of a tall dark figure, she felt her heart skip a beat in excitement.
"Oh, he really does! Let's go ask him to dance!" Cynthia cried, before turning to Ginny. "Would you mind watching our stuff, since you're not dancing?"
Before Ginny could answer, six purses were thrust into her arms, nearly spilling her drink and they were well on their way, pushing through the crowd, their arms linked together so as not to lose anyone in the crush of bodies. Ginny sighed exasperatedly while attempting to juggle six handbags and her own drink.
"Three Broomsticks not paying well enough, so you had to get a job here? I didn't realize they offered purse-minding services here," a snide voice commented, her tone just shrill enough to be heard over the bass of the music. Ginny grimaced to herself before turning around, completely unsurprised to see her favorite person in the world, Pansy Parkinson, standing before her, looking completely ridiculous in a short leather contraption that made Ginny force herself to choke back her laughter.
"Pansy, I know you're fond of me, but this stalking just has to end. I just don't feel the same way about you, and no matter how many hours you wait outside my window or how many places you follow me to, that just isn't going to change. I'm sorry," Ginny said, mockingly apologetically, taking a small amount of pleasure as Pansy's face, even in the dim light of the club, turned a deep shade of furious red. She lunged forward, invading Ginny's space, leaning over her to glare down at her, using her height to her tower over Ginny.
"Listen, you status-grabbing pauper, don't you dare think that just because you've managed to trick Draco Malfoy into taking pity on your pathetic existence, you can speak to me that way. Because, once he's through with you - which will be fairly soon, I guarantee it, his meaningless flings never last very long - I am going to personally make you regret every ill-advisded and uppity comment you've ever made," she spat. Ginny stared at her, trying to figure out why she was so determined to keep Ginny in her "place" and why she was so desperate to keep Draco all to herself. All she could see was Pansy's anger.
"Is this girl bothering you? I could have security remove her for you," a deep and authoritative voice asked. Their confrontation had drawn the attention of at least one spectator. Ginny glanced at the person speaking, ready to protest that she hadn't been doing anything to warrant being removed, but two things surprised her so much that she couldn't speak. Firstly, the person speaking was addressing Ginny and not Pansy Parkinson as Ginny had naturally assumed, and secondly, she was looking at the boy who had held such a striking resemblance to Blaise Zabini that the girls had pointed out earlier, and he was glaring at Pansy rather sternly.
Pansy, meanwhile, looked completely aghast as she stared in shock at the person who'd confronted her .
"Do you have any idea who I am?" she sputtered furiously.
"No, and it wouldn't matter even if I did. I suggest you just walk away instead of making a scene," he said. Pansy looked at him with disgust, before turning to flounce away. Ginny watched in shock, and, still clutching all of her 'friend's' purses, turned to examine her defender.
"Thank you. That was entirely unnecessary, and you probably should have just stayed out of the situation because she's an incredible harpy that will try to find some occassion to extract revenge, but I still appreciate the effort," Ginny said. She thought for a moment, before continuing. "I really could have handled her all on my own. The angrier she gets, it means I'm wining."
"I hate that bloody girl. My uncle is the club's owner, and she's always demanding special treatment because she thinks her parents are important. I did it more for myslef than anything else," he responded, and Ginny had to laugh. It seems she'd found a kindred spirit in the last place she'd expected. "You're the first person I've ever see stand up to her."
"Pansy and I have a long, sordid history together. It really stems from her disgust in my choice of footwear," Ginny laughed, glancing down. She'd worn her pair of ugly yet practical black school shoes, the ones with the ugly square toe. "It offends her fashionable sensibilities."
He looked at her, as if surprised, before laughing with her as she giggled.
"So, what are you doing, just standing around here? You should be off dancing with the rest of your friends," he said, leaning casually against a high ledge that acted as a separator between the dance floor and the rest of the bar area.
"Oh, why would I waste my time dancing when I could be standing here, holding onto their things? Consider this 'taking one for the team'," Ginny said with a laugh. His dark eyes flashed in lights from the dance floor, and she could tell he was smiling at her - that same amused smile that she was so used to seeing on Malfoy when she'd said something ridiculous because her temper had gotten the better of her common sense.
"Ah, I see. You don't know how to dance, that's why," he said knowingly. Ginny scoffed in mock outrage.
"Of COURSE I know how to dance, I mean, who doesn't? It's not like it's that hard anyway," she shot back, full of bluster, trying to mask how very close he'd gotten to the truth. Which was, of course, that she'd never had the chance to even try to dance, and because of that, she had no idea whether or not she could.
"Well, then come show me," he said, with a wink. Staring at him, feeling slightly put off by the utter cheesiness of that wink yet also charmed by it, Ginny searched for some way to get out of this situation and get away from this chivalrous person who had come to rescue her, for he looked too much like Blaise Zabini for comfort.
"I can't, I promised my friends that I'd look after their things."
"Come with me, I can help you with that," he said, grabbing her arm before she could protest. He wove effortlessly through the crowd, leading her over to the bar. He flagged down the server, and leaning across the counter, he spoke a few words to him, before signalling to Ginny to hand her array of hand bags over to the bartender.
"Matt is going to look after them for you. Remember, I told you my uncle owns the place, so you can trust me on this one," he said. Ginny opened her mouth to protest, but he was already taking a few of the bags out of her hands and passing them back behind the counter. Ginny glanced around her nervously, wondering how the other girls would feel about this new arrangement. Knowing her luck, they'd be more upset that she was talking to the one guy at the club that they'd all gone crazy over.
"Here, take this," he said, handing her a drink. She frowned, about to refuse, until he added, "trust me on this. You'll feel more comfortable if you have something to do with your hands. It's a trick of the trade for all new beginners.
She took it with a cautious smile, and waited until his back was turned before she sniffed it gingerly, and taking the tiniest sips she could manage. After that one experience she'd had with the punch the time Cho had invited her here, resulting in her scramble through the back alleyways of Hogsmeade and Draco Malfoy unintentionally coming to her rescue, she had no desire to try her luck with alcohol again. Relieved to find that it was just iced tea, Ginny then tried to keep her focus off of the fact that she'd just thought of Malfoy twice in the past ten minutes.
"Are you ready?" he asked with an eager grin. Sighing heavily in mock reluctance, Ginny nodded. He unabashedly grabbed her wrist, and led her swifty to the dancefloor, her stomache filling with butterflies as she took a second to observe the groups of dancing friends all around her on the dancefloor. While mostly comprising of girls laughing and having a good time, the few couples out there seemed to decided that personal space had gone way out of style, and looked more like a splinching incident gone horribly horribly wrong. She bit her lip nervously as he found a hole in the crowd, and stopped, turning to look at her, his dark eyes, so familiar even though he was a complete stranger, smiling at her as if he understood her the nervousness she would never admit to. "Just relax, and close your eyes, and you might find you'll actually have a good time. Trust me on this one."
Ginny scrutinized his face, and comforted by how familiar it was, decided that he was someone she could trust, despite having just met him.
* * * *
Her head was throbbing. Absolutely throbbing. There was a pounding in her eardrums that was vibrating through her skull, and some kind of horrid bright light had filled the room, threatening to sorch her eyeballs with its incredible brightness. Not to mention the fact that her left arm was asleep, and she couldn't move it, and her tongue felt as if it had been replaced by gummy sandpaper.
She rolled over, groaning as the world began to spin, squeezing her eyes shut against the horrible sensation of vertigo. She took a moment to wonder why her alarm hadn't gone off, and wonder what time it was and whether or not she'd missed McGonagall's morning Transfiguration class and how much trouble she'd be in if she actually had. McGonagall allowed only one absence per term, and it had to be completely documented and verified by three references in order to be classified as an 'excuseable absence'. Anything less than this would mean detention and potential grade reduction, and Ginny was just not in the mood to deal with that. Although, she mused to herself as she felt the stabbing pain of blood returning to her arm as she repositioned it from the awkward angle she must have fallen asleep with it at, she certainly felt horrible enough to pass for "adequately ill."
It was then that she almost was physically ill, because in a rush, as memories of the previous night came flooding back to her, she realized that she wasn't waking up in her bedroom. She was somewhere else. Feeling a jolt of terror mixed with nausea, she sat up, her heart pounding painfully, as she looked around the room, clutching the bedsheet to her body tightly, terrified of what she was going to find.
Her trepidation eased slightly as she saw that she was alone. But her heart stopped again, when she saw some of her clothing strewn about the floor of the room, and glancing down, she realized that she was only wearing her tank top and knickers. Hot tears began to prick at the back of her eyes as she struggled to keep calm.
"I am such an idiot," she breathed, her voice shaky and weak, feeling as if she were about to start hyperventilating. Moving slowly, her head still pounding, she freed herself from the bedclothes and went about gathering her own clothing, dressing quickly. As she moved, she glanced out the window, trying to figure out where she was. She breathed a sigh of relief as she saw the familiar sight of the town square, directly across from her. Another cursory glance at her surroundings and the decor of the room, and she assumed that she was in one of the rooms at the Avalon Inn, the nicer of the two inns in town.
As soon as she was dressed, she made for the door, wrenching it open, needing to get as far away from this spot as possible, not even willing to consider what may have happened the night before because she was too afraid of what the answer might be.
* * * *
Goyle sighed heavily, feeling the cold begin to creep into his dragon-hyde boots, and he shuffled his feet impatiently. Crabbe shot him a look that indicated that he felt exactly the same way, but as they were both accustomed to indulging their friend, neither spoke a word of complaint. Not that it would do any good, anyway, because when Malfoy got an idea in his head, he was rarely persuaded to let it drop. It was one of the things that kept the complicated friendship the three had interesting, and that was the reason they deferred to his authority so often - it usually brought about a good time.
Malfoy was leaning pensively against the gate of the school, staring down the path from the city when he wasn't moodily shifting his feet through the drifts of snow. All three heard footsteps coming towards the school, shoes crunching noisily in the fresh layer of snow, and looked up to see the short redhead trudging along, looking as if the very devil were on her heels. Her head down as she marched along, she didn't even look up as she passed. Goyle shot Crabbe a secret smile as they both noticed the way Malfoy perked up, his eyes zeroing in on her.
"Skipping class? Doesn't seem like the type of activity that a typical Gryffindor would undergo," Draco called out as she walked through the gates of the school. Weasley jumped at his words, letting out a strangled yelp of surprise before twirling around to face them. She attempted one of her patented fierce looks, but the overall effect was rather weak, as her face was pale and drawn and her eyes seemed glassy and red.
"Why are you standing out here?" she demanded, her voice hoarse and hardly threatening at all. She seemd twitchy, as if she were walking on eggshells and someone had threatened to kill her puppy if she broke any of them.
"Just enjoying the lovely weather, Weasley. Why are you late for school?" Draco said, moving towards her, his voice full of reprimand. Crabbe had to bite back a laugh, as he was obviously no one to question her punctuality for it was very rare that he even attended classes these days. He said he found them dull and that they were a waste of his time.
"That is none of your business!" Weasley snapped. "Why are you waiting out here?"
"I'm not waiting. As I said, I'm just enjoying the lovely weather," he answered gruffly. Goyle shot Crabbe a look, and wondered why Draco wouldn't just tell her the reason he was out there, that her pretty blonde friend, Claire or something, had run up to them, her blue eyes all wide with worry, saying that Ginny had missed McGonagall's class that day and she'd been out with the Ravenclaw girls who were notorious for their wild partying so she was really worried, and had they seen Ginny at all? Because it wasn't like Ginny to miss such an important class, not when she was a scholarship student. Goyle almost giggled as he remembered the brusque way Draco had brushed the girl off, before turning around and marching out to the gate, muttering angrily to himself about stroppy girls who can't look after themselves.
"I'm going to class," she said warily, before turning slowly and walking down the path towards the school's main building. Malfoy dashed forward, coming in step with her. Goyle watching as she shot him a nasty look, then ignored him the rest of the way the school, as if she thought that if she tried hard enough to ignore the fact that he was walking her to class, it wouldn't actually be happening.
"I'll see you at the Quidditch game after school, weasel," Draco called out, and Goyle made a note to have a talk with that girl. It wasn't very often that Draco was nice, and he certainly didn't extend common courtesies to most people, so she should really start reacting a little more congenially whenever he did for her. Usually, the only person he was remotely polite to was his cousin, and that was because he was a little bit afraid of her, no matter how much he tried to deny that he wasn't. The look of disgust on her face was definitely not the type of reaction she should be displaying. Taking a closer look as he approached the two of them, Goyle realized that it wasn't so much disgust as it was panic. He frowned, wondering if Draco was aware that there was something horribly wrong with the girl. Other than the fact that she was one of the only in the school who wasn't throwing herself at him or afraid to confront him.
"I'm no longer a member of my team, remember?" she said gloomily, before walking off to class, without the usual degree of bounce in her step.
* * * *
She had finally managed to stop breaking into hysterical crying fits by the time she reached the school. She walked the entire way there, needing the time and the physical exertion to keep herself calm. She was just so angry with herself. For letting her guard down, for trying to fit in and act as if she were a part of the world those around her lived in, but waking up in a hotel room without her clothes and having no idea how she got there was a definite example of the consequences of forgetting who she was and why she was attending Hogwarts in the first place.
She had been so overwrought when she arrived at the safety of her flat that she allowed herself no time to think, no time to agonize over the past night's events. She jumped into the shower, scouring her skin desperately as quickly as she could, and changed into her uniform before grabbing her books and dashing off to school. She needed to keep busy, to keep her mind occupied, or she would lose her mind with not knowing. The moment she allowed herself to think about it, while she was still in the safety of her flat, had caused her to start crying, curled up into a ball as she pondered the irony of her pact earlier that week - that she was going to take firm control of her life. How cruelly that effort had turned out, resulting in a complete loss of control. After managing to calm herself down, she'd forced herself to leave her flat, and vowed that she would act as if nothing had happened.
Ginny had cursed her luck when she'd run into Malfoy before she got to the school door. She tried to get away as quickly as possible, feeling far too fragile to even face him, but the blasted idiot had followed her, no matter how she tried to ignore him. She couldn't deal with the confusing mess that he was in her life, and she certainly didn't want to admit that deep down, she felt guilty, as if she'd done something to betray him in some way. She kept telling herself that she didn't owe him anything, but it was proving to be a rather useless effort.
She had no idea how she made it through the rest of the day. As she dragged herself from her last class - Snape's, of course, although he'd been uncharacteristically civilized and chose to simply ignore her instead of antagonizing her the entire time, she found herself cornered by the captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, who was awkwardly apologizing for the injustice of having kicked her off team, and who was begging her to come and play that afternoon.
"It was a big mistake, and the other Chasers just can't keep the same place as you. We're going to get killed out there unless you come out and help us," he was saying, looking anywhere but at her. She felt a very small thrill at the thought of being able to play Quidditch again - especially now, with her new broomstick, but she shook her head sadly.
"I'm afraid that I can't tonight. I'd love to rejoin the team, but I don't have any of my equipment here, my Quidditch robes or my broom, and there's not enough time between now and when the game starts for me to run and get them," she explained with a heavy sigh. A good deal of physical exertion and the rush of freedom that came with flying through the air would have been exactly what she needed.
"Oh, don't worry about that. We've already got it all here. It's waiting for you in the change room," he said with a dismissive wave. Ginny stared at him incredulously.
"HOw did you get it? It was all locked in my flat!" she cried. The very last thing she needed was the knowledge that her apartment was easily accessible.
"Oh, it was all Malfoy's doing. Even managed to convince your landlady to let us in so that we could get what we needed," he answered eagerly. "So, will you play?"
"Malfoy did what?" she demanded angrily.
"Well, you are his girlfriend, and he told us how much you wanted to play, so we were happy to accept his suggestion that we'd be a much stronger team with you on board," he explained.
"I am NOT his girlfriend!" Ginny protested, and her frustration with the situation only increased as he nodded mockingly.
"Right, sure you aren't. Anyway, Weasley, hurry up and get to the pitch, we'll be waiting for you," he said, before he dashed off, flagging down another team member who had just passed them in the hall.
"He's manipulating me again," Ginny cried out to no one in particular. Control. She needed some control, any kind of feeling of control. Thinking about the team's offer to take her back, and knowing that she could find no better sense of power and control than being up in the air, flying freely through the sky with the wind whipping her hair into a frightful maelstrom that would give Pany Parkinson heart palpitations, Ginny found herself walking down to the pitch.
* * * *
The exhilaration of the game was so powerful that it didn't fade as soon as her feet touched the ground again. Instead, it lasted straight through the congratulations that her team shared with each other, and the playful banter between them and the losing team. It was only after the excitement of the crowd and the single focus of getting the Quaffle and putting it through the hoop to score points was completely gone did the overwhelming sick feeling of fear and vulnerability creep back.
The pitch had emptied out rather quickly after the Snitch had been caught, for no one liked to see Gryffindor triumph, and Ginny hovered away from her team as they made for the change rooms. Stealing a moment alone in the expansive space that she often used as a refuge, she clutched her hand to her stomach and wished the nausea would dissipate, and that the nightmarish quality of the entire day would just fade away so that she could stop agonizing over the events of the night before.
She didn't remember anything after she started to dance with the owner's nephew. Everything else was a blur of colour and sound, and none of it had any meaning for her at all.
"I am such an idiot," she muttered, wanting to collapse to the ground, but it was wet and soggy from all the snow. She should never have agreed to go out with those girls.
"Yes, but an idiot with some rather adept flying skills," Malfoy said, his voice both quiet and amused, almost gentle. She closed her eyes, breathing deeply, trying to quell that nagging feeling of guilt that had been following her around all day. She turned, and looking up, realized that he had been standing right behind her. "I see you received your broom without any trouble."
"I suppose you expect a thank you for this," she said with a slight grimace as she heard how weak and soft her voice sounded. It's like she wanted him to know how vulnerable she was at that moment, so that she would no longer be isolated and alone in her knowledge of the horrible secret.
"Absolutely not. In fact, I'm expecting you to try to knock my head off again, for daring to interfere and charm your rather simple landlord into letting your teammates into your flat. I imagine you're quite furious about that," he said, with that annoyingly charming smirk and arrogant swagger that indicated that even if she tried to deny it, he knew that he was right.
"I was furious," she said pointedly. Looking away, she bit her lip, trying to figure out how to say what she wanted to say. She remembered the heartening flood of excitement that her first lap of the pitch had brought and how, without even knowing it, he'd given her an hour respite from the crushing weight of horror that had been bearing down on her shoulders since she had woken up that morning. "But... as it turns out, this was exactly what I needed today... so, I am going to say thank you."
"Impressive, weasel," he said slyly, although the surprised light in his eyes indicated that he was completely taken off guard by her words, which only caused that nagging guilt to flare up again.
"But, if you ever do something like that again, I am going to try to knock your head off for it," she warned.
"Duly noted, but most likely willfully disregarded. I look after my own, weasel, even if they don't like the fact that I do," he said, his eyes locking on hers for a moment, a breathless moment that made her want to do nothing more than bury her face against his chest and weep while she unloaded her newest burden onto him. She almost ached the desire to do so. But she couldn't - wouldn't - let her guard down again, not after this morning. And so, she merely tore her eyes away. "Speaking of which, I didn't realize that weasels enjoyed rolling around in the mud so much. You are positively covered in it. Go change; I'll wait for you."
"Why would you wait for me?" she asked with trepidation.
"After a Quidditch game, we always go to The Three Broomsticks. You're coming," he said, as if it were common knowledge. She shook her head, wondering by what twist of fate had she collided with this particularly stubborn person, before trudging off to the change room, wanting nothing more than to return to her flat so she could lock the door behind her and hide from the world. Second to that, she supposed that spending a few hours arguing with Malfoy and watching incredulously at the ridiculousness of all his friends wouldn't be the worst thing. At the very least, it would be the more distracting of the two options. And the thought of trading barbs and insult with Malfoy actually made her smile a bit, so she figured that was a sign that she should go. She needed any and every excuse to smile right now.
* * * *
Frehsly showered and dressed once again in her uniform, Ginny carried her broomstick and her bag of Quidditch gear out with her, wondering where Malfoy would turn up, having never said where he would wait for her. She rounded the corner, expecting to see him and his crowd milling by the Slytherin stands and ran straight into Pansy Parkinson, who wearing a rather cruel smile on her face. Ginny instantly knew that something was horribly wrong just by the way Parkinson was looking at her.
"Look who has decided to join us, girls! Isn't this Draco Malfoy's girlfriend? The one who's been flouncing around the town like she owns it, using his name for her own benefit while she's been secretly slandering it behind his back with her dispicable actions?" Pansy called out, her voice soudning dangerously calm. She was smirking as if she knew something that Ginny didn't, and that this was something that was an incredibly dangerous fact for Ginny.
"What are you on about this time, Parkinson?" she demanded flatly, not willing to put up with the hysterical girl's nonsense this afternoon.
"You can try to act as casual as you like, but it's not going to change the fact that I was right about you all along. You may have fooled everyone else in this school, but I've always seen you for exactly what you are. Girls like you give all of us a bad name," she said self-righteously.
"Look, Parkinson, I have no bloody idea what you're talking about, so can you just tell me what horrible sin I've committed so that I can get on with my day?" Ginny asked wearily. Pansy smiled as if that was exactly what she wanted to do, and Ginny felt a flare of panic, sensing that for once, the girl might actually have a reason to be attacking Ginny.
"Very well, then, but only because you asked," Pansy said sweetly, as she shoved an enveloppe into Ginny's hands. "These photos have somehow found their way into the lockers of every student here at Hogwarts, and what a startling picture they do create! By this time tomorrow, every single person will know exactly what you are."
Ginny opened the envelopped and felt her knees turn to water as she pulled out several large, glossy photographs that evidently were the missing pieces of her memory that answered the question of how she'd spent the previous night, or why she'd woken up in that hotel. Hands shaking as she felt the rise of bile in her throat, she struggled to swallow it down as she sorted through all ten 8'X 12' pictures, which told a rather disturbing tale, all frozen in time as they were Muggle pictures, not moving wizards' photographs.
There was one of her being escorted into the lobby of the hotel, practically being carried by a mysterious stranger as it appeared she could barely walk. She squinted, even as tears blurred her vision, trying to make out the identity of the person she was with. Flipping to the next photograph made her gasp and she almost doubled over and vomitted, only her sheer willpower and instinctual denial that what she was seeing was real keeping her from disgracing herself in front of such an audience. For it was a photograph of her, lying in bed with someone whose face had been cut from the photo. Without any clothes on.
She dropped the rest of the pictures, unable to continue. She looked up at Pansy, who was smiling coldly at her, and struggled to find her voice, to remain steady even as her legs threaten to give out on her.
"What is the meaning of this?" she asked, blinking furiously, her voice wavering as she demanded an answer. Pansy took one step closer to Ginny, sneering at her demands.
"I should be asking you that! Don't try to act all innocent when it's obvious to everyone what you've done!" Pansy yelled, pushing Ginny back as she yelled. Her legs gave out from under her, and Ginny landed in a heap in the wet, soggy snow that was covered with the scattered photographs of an event in her life that she wished was just a really bad nightmare. "What do you have to say for yourself??"
She struggled for words and against the desire to burst into pitiful tears, and looked up to see that a rather large crowd had gathered around them. She started to protest, to claim her innocence, but they had already passed judgement, something that became particularly evident as a snowball was whipped at her face. It struck her just below her left eye, and she shrieked in pain as it exploded. Gasping as she wiped the ice from her face, blinking gingerly, trying to regain her vision, she heard a commotion that caused her to look up.
"What the HELL do you think you're doing?" Malfoy was shouting furiously. He had grabbed Pansy by the arm and was staring at her with a very dangerous look in his eye.
"Defending your honour because of this deceitful little tramp! Look at what she's been doing behind your back, trying to make a fool of you!" Pansy cried, gesturing desperately to the scattered photos on the ground.
"No!" Ginny cried weakly. She needed to tell him, he needed to understand her side of the story befor he saw them, before he misunderstood. She remembered what Crabbe and Goyle had told her, about the first girl he'd been serious about and how she'd cheated on him and how angry he'd been. As much as she denied that they were even involved, she didn't want him to see those photos, to think that she was the same kind of girl. Not without knowing her side of the story. Malfoy suddenly released his hold on Parkinson, who stumbled backwards from the force of the sudden release, and he took a few steps forwards, his boots crunching in the snow. Ginny looked up at him pleadingly, hoping he would just walk away and forget whatever he was about to see. His eyes locked on hers for a moment, his expression completely unreadable, before he bent down slowly and picked up one of the photos.
He glanced at it for barely a moment, before his eyes shot up and met hers again. She could barely breath as she took in his expression at that moment. The accusation, the look of betrayal; seeing that look in his eyes made her tremble.
"No, it's not like that," she said desperately, trying to stand even as she still cupped her hand over the eye that had been struck by the snowball, that was still sensitive to the bright sunlight. He cocked his head slightly, as if waiting for an explanation. The picture was now crumpled in his hand. She tried again. "I don't know where those came from. I don't know how this happened!"
"Don't you see, Draco? Everything I've been telling you about her has turned out to be true. Are you going to believe her pathetic excuses, or what you see?" Pansy cried out. He stood up slowly, and Ginny's lungs were burning with the need to breath, but she couldn't, not when he was looking at her like that, like he had never done before.
"Don't listen to her. Just listen to me. I don't care what anyone else thinks about me, but you have to hear the truth," she said softly, her eyes silently pleading with him. But his face had turned to stone, she was too late. He dropped the crumpled photo on the ground, and as he turned and walked away from her, the crowd that had gathered closed in on her.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
From the HYD (dorama, mostly) plotline:
- The pictures from their "date" being in the newspaper and posted at the school, and Malfoy saying that it was true.
- Their meeting, and a lot of what was discussed - mainly that he'd let her go if Blaise came back, although a great deal of it is extremely different.
- Her night out with the girls, and what happens there.
- The pictures and the confrontation.
Bascially, almost all the EVENTS of this chapter.
As a side note, for those of you who DON'T know and watched and loved the Japanese version of Hana Yori Dango, there is a second season that is currently airing! It's fantastic! Feel free to email me or drop me a comment on my LiveJournal if you'd like to know where you can download it.
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