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Disclaimer: You guessed it. Sadly, I don't own any character except Cordelia. All Harry Potter characters belong to the genius mind of JK Rowling...

A/N: Sorry it's short this time, guys, but I decided to divide this chapter up into two parts, so this is the shorter of the two. Don't forget to review: every writer has room for improvement (obviously I could use some) so don't hesitate to tell me what you think.

"Hey, Ron,” Cordelia greeted the handsome redhead as she took a seat next to him at the long wooden table designated for Gryffindor. “Hey, Harry,” she said without looking away from Ron. “How was your day?"

“I dunno…alright, I guess,” Ron mumbled through a mouthful of mashed potatoes and fried chicken.

“It could have been better,” Harry muttered. “Why were you late for potions?”

“She was doing me a favor,” Hermione answered smoothly as she took a seat next to him, glancing nervously from Harry to Cordelia, aware of the unspoken tension.

“Yeah, Hermione needed me to get something from the library for her,” Cordelia agreed, taking a big bite of a roll to avoid having to lie. Harry wasn’t buying it.

“Really? What book?”

The Unforgivable Poisons,” Hermione said quickly. “I thought she’d be allowed to get it without permission because it’s obviously in the restricted section, but Madame Pince—”

“Clearly wasn’t buying my ‘the professor wanted me to get it for him’ excuse,” Cordelia finished. “Honestly, I’m not a very convincing liar to begin with, but it’s even worse when I’ve got no sort of truth to blend in with it.” She smiled sardonically. “I’m just too good hearted to be bad.”

Harry looked suspiciously from the beautiful brunette to the captivating blonde, scrutinizing their every movement. It did not escape his attention that they kept looking at each other, their eyes sharing a secret that they clearly didn’t want the boys to know, and the observation infuriated him. “And I suppose Draco Malfoy just happened to be mentioned in this book, then?” Harry asked.

“Draco?” Cordelia asked, laughing nervously. “What in the world does Draco Malfoy have to do with poisons?”

“I heard you say his name, just as clearly as Hermione did in Potions,” he clarified.

“Oh, that,” Cordelia said, smiling in what she hoped was a sincere and convincing manner. “I ran into Draco before I went into potions. He needed to get some stuff off his chest, but he wasn’t ready. I didn’t even get to speak with him much.” That’s partially true…we didn’t do much talking…and I did run into him before I went to potions. There was enough truth that Cordelia’s lie came off comfortably.

“Oh, so you just used Draco’s name because he’s a favorite of Snape,” Harry concluded, smiling happily for the first time that morning.

“Come off it, Harry,” Cordelia scolded. “Severus isn’t that bad. I don’t have to use name drops. But I thought it might keep him from taking points from Gryffindor, since that seems to be the group I identify most with, even though I’m not really a part of any house any more.”

“Whatever,” Harry said, not caring to listen to the age old lecture. “He loves you because you were in his house for six years. There’s a bond there.”

Cordelia glowered at him, but decided not to rise to the bait in hopes of getting rid of the awkward gap that had formed between the two since the previous night. “So Ron,” she started, hoping to get up an animated conversation. “I hear you’re keeper this year, and co-captain of the Gryffindor quidditch team. Think you can stay alive without the human bludgers around to protect you?”

“Well, those two new boys are only third years, but they’ve got amazing potential, don’t you think, Harry?” Ron asked, interested.

“I wouldn’t have picked them otherwise,” Harry defended, smiling. “They’ve got good strong grip and natural ability. I think it comes from that muggle game they used to play, you know, polo. By the time the first game comes around, those two will be almost as good as Fred and George.”

“Uh-oh, any conversation with those names is bound to be trouble,” a female voice came from behind. Ginny Weasely walked over and took a seat next to Harry, smiling more warmly than necessary for someone who had seen him just that morning. “Should I put in ear plugs to protect myself from future incrimination?” she joked.

“Not at all,” Cordelia smiled, laughing gaily. “We were discussing our new beaters, and naturally Fred and George’s names came up. There is no rule breaking to be done this day to honor their memory.”

Ginny turned and shot Cordelia a scathing look so venomous she actually felt ill for a moment. “Our new beaters?” Ginny asked snidely. “You’re not a Gryffindor, Cordelia, you’re a dirty Slytherin.” Ron, Hermione, Harry, and Cordelia’s jaws dropped in shock at the sudden attack, completely unprovoked.

“I am no longer a Slytherin, Ginny,” Cordelia said lightly, trying to ease the tension she felt suffocating her. “Ask Dumbledore: I don’t live in any of the houses.” The girl’s rage swept over Cordelia like a tidal wave of darkness, drenching her every thought with a powerful emotion so dark it drew her, despite her wish to avoid it. Ginny’s jealous of Harry’s love for me! She thought suddenly, realizing the rude comments and unjustified verbal assault.

“She’s just as much a Gryffindor as I am,” Harry retorted in a deathly quiet voice. “The hat wanted to place me in Slytherin, but I told it no. She never approved of sorting in the first place, so she wouldn’t have bothered arguing.” Ginny turned a deeper shade of red with every word Harry spoke, feeling completely ashamed of having unintentionally insulted him. But she wasn’t about to apologize.

“Only a true Slytherin would date Draco Malfoy,” she proclaimed, glaring daggers at the beautiful blonde she so clearly envied. “As long as she’s dating Draco, she’s a Slytherin, no matter where she lives or who her friends are.” Ginny rose swiftly and tossed her waist length ginger hair over her shoulders, her green eyes flashing with an anger none of the four had ever seen. “The cold hearted are attracted to the cold hearted.” With that she stormed off, joining Seamus Finnegan at the very end of the table.

Silence fell over the foursome as Ron and Harry stared in shock and disbelief at Cordelia, who felt as if she would rather be a pint of pumpkin juice at the moment. Hermione couldn’t seem to find a place to stare, not wanting to make eye contact with anybody, and decided to look in awe at the enchanted ceiling. Cordelia stared from one boy to the other, unsure of what to do or say. Finally, she laughed.

“Well, there’s something you don’t see everyday,” she giggled nervously. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so upset before. Those O.W.L.s must finally be catching up to her…a few months later.”

Ron gawked at her, mouth agape, trying to decide if she was a raving lunatic or very unhappy with the unjust accusations Ginny had just flung in her face. “Are…I’m sorry…Are you dating Draco? Or is Ginny just taking the mickey?”

Cordelia searched every bit of her mind, trying to find a way to word the truth so that it didn’t sound as bad as it was. Unfortunately, there was no way to make it sound different without lying outright, and she couldn’t bare the thought of it, so she smiled happily and took a deep breath. “Yes, Ron, as a matter of fact we are.”

Before Ron could get out one word the cups on the table started rattling. Hermione and Cordelia glanced at each other in fright, knowing full well what was happening. “Harry,” Hermione pleaded, putting her hand on his arm. “You have got to control yourself. If you’ll only give her the chance, she’ll explain everything she can to you!”

He didn’t seem to hear her as his eyes stared into Cordelia’s, his pain seeping from his eyes in such a flooding river that she nearly collapsed from it all. “Harry, please stop,” she begged, tears leaking from her eyes blazing like blue fire. “Please…stop hating me, I can’t live with it!”

The goblets began to fly across the room, spraying innocent passersby and bystanders with pumpkin juice and water. Platters went next, and Ron and Hermione, along with several other students, ducked for cover under the table. The other houses looked on, confused and intrigued by the sudden earthquake like action taking place in the Gryffindor section. Only Harry and Cordelia stood in the mess, engaged in what appeared to be a staring match. No one could guess that Cordelia was trapped.

Pain, despair, anger, desperation, and hatred soared through Harry’s soul, driving straight into the heart of Cordelia like some sort of evil Cupid’s arrow. The solid wall of emotion felt like a slug to the face, and she cried out in pain as the waves kept coming, like an army of vultures picking at her until there was nothing left. She sank to the floor, trying desperately to break eye contact but unable to look away, and Harry stood there, force feeding her like an angry parent.

“Somebody get Professor Dumbledore!” Hermione shrieked, jumping from the table at the sounds of anguish from Cordelia. “He’ll kill her if he keeps this up!” She shook Harry, digging her nails deep into his skin to try to pull him away. He didn’t seem to feel or hear, his only object of focus being the source of his torment.

“Harry!” Cordelia shrieked in agony beyond anything she had ever felt. “Stop! Please, just look away! You’re hurting me!” The wild look of murder in his eyes terrified her, knowing full well that he intended to hurt Draco very soon.

Suddenly she was pulled away, strong arms encircling her fragile waist and a gentle hand clasping itself over her eyes. The spell broken, she fainted. Draco Malfoy held her in his arms, cradling her in such a loving way that for a moment nobody knew what to say. “What the hell are you trying to pull, Potter?” he roared, glaring from Harry to the sweet girl in his arms. “You were killing her! Don’t you know what she is? How she works?

Harry snapped out his trance like state and took a look around him, noticing for the first time what he had done. Instantly, he felt remorse and looked at Cordelia, self-hatred consuming him heart and soul. “I…I don’t…” he began, reaching out to stroke her cheek in apology. Draco backed away, and Harry’s hand closed around air.

“Don’t you touch her, Potter,” Draco seethed, his own anger rising. He turned to the shaking Hermione, white with fright. “Why didn’t you close her eyes? Or cover his?” he demanded. “They say you’re smart! What good are you in any kind of emergency if you can’t keep a cool head?” His voice echoed throughout the dining hall, capturing the attention of every student present.

“I don’t know!” Hermione wailed, wringing her hands in utter bewilderment. “It never crossed my mind! Harry! How could you?” she bellowed, turning on her best friend in an instant.

“What’s going on here?” Professor Dumbledore demanded, running into the hall faster than any could imagine such an old man being capable of.   He looked at the unconscious Cordelia in Draco’s arms, the furious Draco, the enraged and guilty Harry, the frightened Hermione, and the dumbfounded Gryffindors taking refuge under the table. “Dear God, what happened?”

“Potter nearly killed Cordelia! That’s what happened!” Draco fumed, glaring murderously at Harry. “That idiot was killing her, professor!”

“It’s true, sir,” Hermione whispered, staring at the ground. “But it was an accident. He was blinded by rage.”

“Harry, I think you and I had better have a talk in my office,” Professor Dumbledore said kindly, placing a fatherly hand on his shoulder. “And Mister Malfoy, if you would please take the young lady to the hospital wing, Madame Pomfrey will be most helpful with reviving her.” Draco nodded and carried her in the direction of the infirmary, while Harry followed the headmaster to his office.

“He’s got some issues, that one,” Ron mumbled, staring after them.

“I have a feeling they’ll only get worse as the bond between Draco and Cordelia grows,” Hermione said, her gaze following Draco’s retreating form. “I only hope Cordelia learns to control what she absorbs from others. Harry’s problems may kill her.”

***

Cordelia’s eyes fluttered open slowly, and closed instantly as bright white light assailed the pupils mercilessly. Behind the wall of her eyelids colored spots danced in circles, making her dizzy as she lay still. “Where am I?” she groaned, sitting up slowly but not opening her eyes.

“In the hospital wing,” Draco answered. She jumped slightly as a hand brushed lightly against her cheek. “We’ve been quite worried about you: we thought maybe he had done permanent damage.”

“Who?” she asked, dazed.

“Harry Potter, of course,” Draco spat, sounding angry and almost frightening her. 

“He didn’t mean to,” she insisted defensively, recalling in an instant the events that had sent her to the hospital wing. “He’s got so much bottled up inside it was only natural for him to explode. I’m just upset it was me that caused the dam to break.” She wiped a tear from her cheek with a slender white hand.

“Don’t you dare feel bad for anything that set him off,” Draco ordered with mock severity. “Especially if it’s just because he’s jealous that I’ve won the love of the most beautiful, talented, sweet, intoxicating woman in the school.” He smirked at her blush and kissed her forehead lovingly. 

“You are a flirt, Draco,” Cordelia laughed, propping herself up on her elbows to stare at him. “An obvious one, at that: you don’t even try to disguise it.”

“Why should I?” he asked huskily, leaning his forehead against hers so that his eyes trapped her own blue orbs. “I like being able to tell you how I feel honestly: it’s such a nice change from hiding everything all of the time.”

Cordelia smiled shyly, placing a soft hand on his handsome young face. “You’re no Slytherin, Draco. I hope you understand that.”

“I understand that I’m a different person when I’m with you,” he said seriously. “But I’m a Slytherin when you’re gone. I hope you understand that.”

Cordelia sighed, a mix of frustration and satisfaction. “If I didn’t know any better I’d say you try to frustrate me on purpose,” she stated, smiling into his eyes. “But I do know better. It’s just part of your charm that you do it unintentionally.”

Draco laughed in surprise and pulled away as Madame Pomfrey bustled into the room bearing a tray of potions that looked revolting. “I thought you’d be awake by now,” she claimed as she sat the tray on the table next to the bed. “Draco was so worried. I tried to send the boy away and he just insisted that you might wake up and be frightened. Now, I suppose you’ll argue that you don’t need any of these,” she said as she indicated the tray.

“You’re quite right. I refuse them all, and you know you can’t make me take them,” Cordelia said stubbornly, crossing her arms over her chest in clear defiance.

“Oh, I know I can’t make you take them all,” she laughed good-naturedly, “But I don’t have to let you leave either. If you agree to take the pepper up potion at the very least, I’ll let you go. Otherwise, you’ll be here for the next week. Now you really don’t want that, do you?”

“I guess I can handle the pepper up,” Cordelia allowed, reaching to take the small cup the medi-witch offered. “At least it doesn’t taste like a bucket full of swamp water.” She downed the potion quickly; much like an expert drinker might take a shot, then placed the empty container on the tray. “Thanks, can I go now?”

The nurse smiled and waved her away, bustling to the next bed that housed a third year who looked as if he had been caught in the middle of a second year dueling session. Happily, Cordelia flung back the covers and leapt from the bed, twirling around in exhilaration. “Come on, Draco, we’re going to be late!” she whispered, taking his hand and pulling him towards the door.

“Late for what?” Draco asked. “You slept through all of our classes! It’s nearly five o’clock!”

“You’ll see,” she replied mysteriously. “You’ll see.”

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