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disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot and Draco's food ;)

A/N: I'm so so sorry I took so long to get this chapter up. To be honest, this was finished at the same time as chapter 19 but I was too tired to put up two chapters at that time. I didn't realise it would take so long for me to find the time to edit and publish this chapter and again I apologise. Also, please excuse how it gets slightly OOC towards the end. Like I said, I was really tired. Don't worry, it won't spoil the story. I'd just like to say that I had a lot of fun making up the spells mentioned in this chapter. Yay for broken Latin ;) haha. And just to pacify some of you who keep pestering me to update thinking that I'm not continuing this story, worry not. I have the entire story in my head, I know exactly how it's going to end. I'll just need a lot of time to put my ideas in words but it WILL all eventually end sometime. Thanks for the reviews and encouragement, let's hope I don't get too busy to put up the next chapter! :D

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KARMA
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"Hey..hey Malfoy! Are the rumours true? You're a homeless beggar now?"

"Aw look he's all alone now. Not feeling too superior now, are you, now that you've lost everything?"

"How does it feel now, Malfoy, being lower than low? Pretty crummy, isn't it?"

"Here's a knut Malfoy, it might be just enough to buy you some reality!"

"OH SHUT YOUR BLOODY TRAPS ALL OF YOU!"

Stunned silence greeted this outburst, shortly followed by the soft plink of a bronze knut bouncing off Draco's robes onto the floor where it rolled a little before stopping right next to his right heel. The boy's eyes flashed with anger as they bored into the eyes of the one who had tossed that knut at him. His right hand was stretched in front of him, wand tip pointing dangerously close to the other boy's face. A series of hexes flashed through his mind's eye but before he could find one fitting enough to use on the other student, a different thought crossed his mind. 'What's the point?' he sighed inwardly. While being mercilessly teased and taunted the moment that accursed article appeared in the Daily Prophet, it went without saying that he probably deserved it. The strange thing about karma, what goes around eventually comes around. Undoubtedly he was now paying the price for being such a heartless bully in all his years at Hogwarts.

Shaking his head slightly, he turned sharply on his heels and stalked away from the group of taunters. It had been a whole week since he had last confessed his love for Hermione and things had, if not for his knowledge of the curse, unexpectedly taken a sharp turn to the worse. He was now nicknamed The-Boy-Who-Lost by his crueller schoolmates and with the strange turn in events came a startling revelation. His housemates hated him. Sitting at the Slytherin table for meals had slowly become a routine torture for him such that he had taken to sitting at the corner alone to avoid the most of the malicious glares and pranks sent his way.

Three days into this horrible treatment however, he nearly crumbled and it took him all of his willpower not to send hexes and jinxes all over the house table. The eighteen-year old then resorted to confiding in Hermione, who reacted rather strangely, asking if he would like to accompany her to tickle a pear. He had only to raise an eyebrow for her to grab him by the arm and dragging him all the way down to where he assumed must be under the Great Hall until they were facing a certain painting which had eventually led them into the kitchens. From then onwards, with the help of his former house elf who seemed rather ecstatic upon seeing him again, Draco went down to the kitchens during mealtimes and if he was ten minutes late, food would be sent to their common room where he could devour his food in peace, comfort and occasionally with the warm company of Hermione.

As with all problems, not all could be solved all at once. Draco was still forced to face the spite of the rest of the Slytherins during classes. The practical jokes played on him started out subtle in the beginning, like weight charms ("Ingravesco,") placed on his quills or parchment so that it was nearly impossible to pick them up. This barely ruffled him and the jokes became quite risque. During one noisy Transfiguration lesson in which Professor McGonagall had set the class to work on the impossibly complicated task of transfiguring part of their own physical appearance ("Inflecto imago,") Draco was hit by ache jinxes ("frendo,") at random intervals resulting in several angry bruises to appear on his body and a night spent in the hospital wing. The boy took comfort in overhearing snatches of stories how the students who had jinxed him got their just desserts when Hermione forced a truth spell on them where they had no choice but to blurt out their evil deeds aloud in front of the very angry Head of Gryffindor house who wasted no time in giving them a week of detention and a night of disembowelling frogs sans magic for Professor Snape.

Cursing inwardly at nothing in particular, Draco muttered the password upon reaching Rudolphus' portrait and was immediately allowed an entrance. Walking without hindrance and his mind wrapped around several trains of thought, the boy effortlessly made his way into his room, tossing his bookbag onto his bed. He then proceeded to enter his bathroom, cleanse and dress himself carelessly before grabbing his wand and carving footsteps towards the kitchens for his dinner.

"Mister Malfoy, young master Draco, sir! Oh, Dobby is most glad to be seeing you! Dobby thought something bad is happened ... but Dobby has been thinking wrong! You is here for dinner, yes?"

'That's just something I will never get used to,' he thought as Dobby greeted him the moment the elf caught sight of his ex-master. 'Father ill-treated him so much, it's amazing how kindly he takes to me now ... poor wretched creature.' A tired shadow of a smile loomed upon his face. "Yes, Dobby, I'd love to have my dinner now, if you please."

At once, a pile of dishes appeared on the little side table that had been his dining table the past few days, brought hurriedly by several eager little elves. The young Malfoy thankfully sank into his seat as the elves bowed before him. His eyes crinkled in amusement. A year ago, this behaviour would have been seen as perfectly normal to him but now that he finally learnt the meaning of humility and placing everyone or thing as equals, he was rather overcome by shame. Draco felt he was in no position to deserve 'slave labour' as he had heard Hermione mutter one too many times. He nodded lightly.

"Thank you, all of you. I'd like to have my meal in peace now, please," his comment caused the elves to scurry away, tumbling over themselves in their hurry.

Dobby however, blubbered senselessly, wiping his large bulbous eyes vigorously with the edges of the bright orange scarf he wore around his neck which clashed terribly with his maroon jumper, green knitted hat and mis-matched socks. "You is most kind, sir! Dobby thought young master never learns to say pleases and thank yous!" A short pause, then his already huge eyes widened in horror. "Oh... oh oh no, Dobby is saying bad thing about young master! Bad Dobby! Bad, bad bad Dobby!"

The little elf proceeded to grab the nearest empty, and coincidentally the largest, pot on the stove and began banging it onto his hat-covered head, howling incessantly the entire process. Draco mentally slapped himself at the elf's antics and rushed to separate suicidal elf from banging pot. After ensuring that Dobby was safe and sound and back to his business of attending to dinner which was going on in the Great Hall at the same time, Draco went back to his meal while silently observing the bustle of the kitchens around him. It was only after he ate the last morsel of food on the table before him, thanked the elves yet again and made his exit did his disturbing thoughts come back full force to him. So absorbed was he that he barely noticed himself taking the shortcut to his dormitory through the hallway the Slytherins usually passed by en route to their common room.

"Well well, if it isn't everyone's favourite prince-turned-pauper."

'Crap,' he thought as he looked up to see Pansy smirking cruelly at him, flanked by Crabbe and Goyle. If it wasn't for his utter dislike for the girl, he would have been rather amused at the sight. Seeing Parkinson voluntarily hanging around Crabbe and Goyle was like seeing Potter and Snape skipping down the hall hand-in-hand. Draco blinked the mental image away and raised his eyebrow.

"What's the matter, Malfoy? Lost your tongue as well? Or did you have to cut it off and sell it to buy your overlarge ego?"

"No but that would be a good idea for you wouldn't it? Try investing in looks and brains for a change, Parkinson, you'll be doing some good to the world at the same time."

"I have no use for goodness as you well know it, Malfoy. I also happen to think that it's high time you learnt your lesson for leading me on."

"You're delusional, witch. The only time I will ever lead you on will be you on a leash and muzzle to protect others from your rabid self."

Pansy's eyes narrowed to dangerous little slits as she raised her right hand, flicking her wrist as she motioned for Crabbe and Goyle to move in. The two boulder-sized fools simultaneously pointed their wands at Draco, who simply repressed his urge to laugh at the incredulity of the situation. It was common knowledge that Crabbe and Goyle could barely manage a decent spell to save their lives and as though proving his point, the two goons cried out a jinx and hex at the same time. Their aiming, being so off the mark, caused their spells to collide but before they could reach him, Draco heard a third spell being cried out from somewhere behind him.

"Expelliarmus!"

"Hermione! Why'd you go and do that for?-"

"Oh shut up Ron!"

He had hardly time to process what was happening. One moment Pansy had ordered Crabbe and Goyle to hex him into oblivion and yet the next, Hermione had her wand pointing squarely at Pansy's flat nose, both girls wearing similar expressions of pure fury.

"If you EVER attempt injuring ANY other student I will personally make sure your prefect status will be revoked, Parkinson. And trust me, there will be a HELL lot more coming to you than that."

Watching Pansy crumble under Hermione's anger was entertaining and he would have enjoyed hearing the girls battle it out with words but to his disappointment, Pansy merely lifted her chin in defiance, sniffed snottily and left closely followed by the other two blumbering Slytherins. He turned to look at Hermione and his eyebrows raised in alarm as he noticed her wand arm shaking lightly as she lowered it, tucking her wand safely into her robes. Before he had any chance to question her health however, annoying Weasel butted in.

"Why the hell did you defend that stinking ferret?!"

'Here we go again..'

"Keep your voice down, Ron.."

"NO! .. No, Hermione I've been trying to ignore it but it's been getting so obvious lately. I don't know what's going on with you and ferret-face but I don't like it!"

"Gee, Ron, for something you say is obvious you sure as hell are clueless."

"You still didn't answer my question, why the heck did you defend him just now?"

Abandoning all pretence, Hermione glared at Weasley, her entire body shaking although Draco doubted it was from her anger. His eyebrows creased with worry. "Because I love him, Ron. Was that what you wanted to hear? I love Draco! I defended him because I love him, you stupid, mental git!"

And with that outburst, the frazzled witch left in a flurry of robes leaving the two boys staring disbelievingly at her retreating figure.

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