Aplogies for the delay of this chapter. We've got exams coming up, so revision is taking up most of our free time. Thanks to my beta Mornings-broken-angel. Disclaimer;These stories are based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. š Every New Year at Hogwarts brought the guarantee of two things. Two things Draco Malfoy looked forward to very much. One: Peeves would choose a ‘poor ickle firstie’ to decimate with water balloons on his or her way to the Sorting Hat. And two: One of the annoying little brats would faint from fright when they were seated on the stool. Invariably, the fearful little snivellers ended up in Hufflepuff. How appropriate, Draco sneered to himself. Lounging at one end of the Slytherin table, lazily admiring himself and feeling just a tad smug, Draco knew all of this and didn’t give a flying pig about any of it. The reason for his mood being his recent conquest, one Rosanna Ducelle, to whom he had devoted much work to over the summer. A fifth year Ravenclaw with a razor sharp wit and a body to die for, Ducelle had proved a hard nut to crack but had seemed to be succumbing to his wide selection of charms over the course of the previous week. He eyed her contemplatively across the benches. She was casually flicking through the pages of Das Kapital and brushing her pepper-black hair away from her face. She seemed aware of his attention and raised her darkly shadowed eyes to his before giving a conservatively flirtatious smile and returning to her book. Draco grinned inwardly; he was definitely gaining the edge. “Hey. Malfoy.” Draco turned his head to his left. Across from him, a couple of feet down the bench sat Blaise Zabini, toying with his Caesar salad and regarding him pointedly. His expression was as coolly impassive and unreadable as ever. “Yeah?” “Pass the salt.” He raised an eyebrow. “It’s right in front of you, Zabini.” Blaise shrugged. “You know how much I like bugging you, Draco.” Draco snorted, returning his gaze to Ducelle. “Wanker.” “If I can’t distract you from your ogling, what can I do?” “I’m a Malfoy,” replied Draco, a little ruffled. “Malfoys don’t ogle.” “Leering, then.” “She’s a good-looking girl. Can you blame me?” “If I wanted to. But that’s not the point. It distracts you from more important things.” “What?” Blaise inclined his head slightly. Draco looked up, turning his gaze on the entrance to the Great Hall where a girl had just entered, her head tilted upwards towards the brilliant moonlight sky that passed for a ceiling. “Ginny Weasley,” he mused. “So they decided to bring her back here. I’m surprised they’re bothering – she probably doesn’t remember half of what she learnt here.” “You know what happened in the autumn?” “I read the papers; I’m not a complete hermit.” “Then I don’t need to tell you about the sorting?” Draco looked vaguely curious. “She’s being sorted again?” “Well, she is a new pupil. Or might as well be, for all she remembers. Not really worth it, I suppose,” remarked Blaise. “Weasley, Gryffindor. It’s interchangeable really.” They watched her for a few moments as she made her way up the hall, stopping briefly at the table where her brother and his friends were sitting. If anything, Ron seemed almost more nervous than she did and she seemed to recognise this, giving him a small smile. She continued along the rows, an occasional face turning to look at her as she passed by. There was a sudden clamour from the far side of the hall. “About time,” said Draco and he looked down at his plate expectantly. Within a few seconds his dessert materialised, a geometrically perfect slice of lemon cheesecake delicately drizzled with raspberry coulis. A few seconds later, Blaise’s also became visible. Draco felt a smirk coming on. Just like Blaise. Always talking about cholesterol and egg whites and saturated fat... and now this. On his plate rested the darkest, most sinful looking wedge of triple chocolate gateau he had ever seen. Blaise looked at him darkly as if to warn him off commenting and set to, ladling a fairly generous portion of double cream on the side. “Hello boys.” Pansy Parkinson had appeared at his elbow and was in the process of tying up her newly highlighted brown hair in a purple scrunchie. “Pansy,” acknowledged Draco reluctantly, knowing immediately where this would lead. His only comfort was that she hadn’t appeared with one of her giggly friends; that would have made the whole thing ten times worse. Pansy, despite her numerous good qualities, was not known for her shy and reserved character. “I missed you,” she said in an affectionate manner, spooning up a plateful of pasta salad from one of the numerous platters on the table. “I didn’t see you on the train going up.” “Prefects compartment,” he replied shortly, lifting a forkful of dessert to his mouth. “Oh. Did I tell you that Rob Hall got made Prefect-” “Yes. You did.” Draco concealed a sigh. This was Pansy’s ever so subtle way of telling him that she was again very unavailable. No doubt having lots of fun making out with that prize berk. A few months after which, she’d no doubt dump him unceremoniously and move on to the next in the string of good-looking classmates. Not surprising really; he’d operated that way for a while himself and probably would again if he got a bit closer to Ducelle. Pansy looked a little peeved, noticing the direction of his gaze towards the Ravenclaw table. It was a reasonably well-known fact that the two had dated briefly during their fourth and fifth years. Due to the bonanza of attractive ex-Beauxbatons who had applied for permanent exchange to Hogwarts after the Triwizard Tournament, they had both long since moved on. Pansy, however, still retained what might be called an interest in her ex’s love life. She made an effort to distract him. “We’re going to have the thing tomorrow night, you know. There’s going to be a general party for the plebs in the common room ‘til about nine, but the rest of us are going to head to the Octagon room later if you want to go.” “Pansy, you know my opinion on these things.” “But you are coming, aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question, but a statement of fact. The idea of a Slytherin celebration of the beginning of term without their unofficial leader and Head Boy Draco Malfoy was simply unthinkable. “Yeah. I suppose so. As long as I get something strong to drink.” A trace of a knowing smile came to her face. “I don’t think that that’ll be much of a problem. Blaise’s Disillusionment Charms are very effective, and I think he managed to smuggle a fair amount in today, didn’t you Blaise?” There was no answer. Blaise seemed to have not heard and was staring up towards the high table. “Blaise?” Then she noticed. Along the Slytherin table, almost every student and even several of the floating ghosts within her sight were looking the same way, past her head and up towards the platform where the teachers sat. She also turned her head to see what they were staring at. On the platform rested the symbol that everyone recognised as that of a new year at Hogwarts. A crooked tri-cornered wooden stool and the battered old sorting hat upon it. And Ginny Weasley, walking uncertainly down towards the Slytherin table. š Ginny could not think straight. She could remember walking up the length of the hall, her brother and his friends’ smiling faces, the kind words from a teacher she struggled to recognise and a hat resting on a stool as if was waiting for her. But everything after that seemed to cloud. Sitting down at the stool, pulling the hat down onto her head and remembering what her brother had said to her; “It’s okay, Gin. You only have go up, put the hat on and come back down here when it shouts your house out. At least you know where you’re going.” Not so, it seemed. Because now she was heading towards the table at the furthest end of the hall. The one framed with fluttering green and silver banners and surrounded by students with haughty expressions and hostile eyes. She didn’t want to look at the table where her brother sat. She didn’t want to see his expression. Not after what she’d heard him say about the Slytherins. She tried to ignore the stares that followed her as she settled herself at the tail end of the bench. She helped herself uncertainly to a plate of cottage pie and began to eat, determined to ignore whichever inbred twat that tried to take the piss out of her. “Surprised?” Startled, she glanced up to meet the eyes of the speaker; a dark haired boy of about eighteen. Midnight blue eyes framed by black lashes regarded her with quiet amusement. Blaise Zabini, sitting opposite her raised an eyebrow appraisingly. A few tendrils of black hair fell out of place as he moved closer to her along the bench. She stared at him blankly. “What are you, deaf? I’m only trying to help.” His voice was coolly mocking. “Help me?” Ginny asked stupidly. “Help, collect gossip on, steal things from – yeah. There’s no need to be so suspicious; I try to keep the cousin-fucking pureblood snob side of myself from becoming too public. ” Ginny wondered if all Slytherins were like this. Perhaps it wasn’t too late to look for an escape route. “You are communicative, aren’t you,” he said, sighing. “Here I am, trying to welcome a fellow member of my house...” “From the looks I’ve been getting I’d assumed I wasn’t welcome,” said Ginny. Blaise shrugged. “What did you expect? We Slytherins don’t get out the welcome wagon for just anyone. Least of all for blood-traitors on the magnitude of your family.” “So I’m learning,” she muttered darkly. He gave her a slightly longer look than might have been comfortable. “So, do you think it’s a mistake?” “Think what’s a mistake?” “Oh don’t be naive. You know what I mean.” “So? What do you think gives you the right to interrogate me?” “Nothing. I’d just like to know before your initiation.” “Initiation?” “Oh yeah. Didn’t you know? Ritual oral copulation with a prefect before all house members; a bit of blood letting; nothing special.” Ginny gave him a dark look. Blaise shrugged. “Look, all I know is that you Gryffindors have your own ideas about how things should be done. You don’t have sudden changes of heart, you don’t value ambition above all else, and you’re all means instead of ends...” “I’m not a checkpoint list,” snapped Ginny. “Everybody changes.” “Not Gryffindors. And certainly not sixth generation Weasleys.” “I’m the exception, then.” He raised his eyebrow ironically. “Maybe. You might not be such a doormat as I remembered.” “Thanks, I’m sure.” “You’re welcome; there aren’t many people I compliment,” he remarked shrewdly. “And you might not be as scared shitless as you think you are either.” “Right. And who am I to thank for this advice?” He smiled sardonically, a glint of recognition in his eyes. “You’re a quick learner; that’s one thing you’ll need around here.” He stood up and glanced briefly to his left. Draco and Pansy were about to leave the hall, carelessly shepherding the scrum of first years down to their dorms. Blaise suddenly glowered. “Haughty little first years,” he remarked scornfully. “Those precious little buggers have been treated like royalty from the day they were brought into the world. They’ll learn soon enough.” Ginny looked at him derisively. “And you? You look pretty well taken care of yourself.” His face turned sour. “Oh yeah. Great upbringing. Ten years in Zurich and then my whore of a mother decides to jet off to Canada leaving me in this dump. Great.” Blaise grinned again. “Not all of us have the luck of the Malfoys or the Notts, Weasley. That’s one thing you learn when your name is Blaise Zabini.”

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