CHAPTER ONE - Back to Normal

The next morning Draco woke up and found nearly two feet of parchment of what must have been the introductory letters to his group. They ranged from brief little tidbits, like his had been, to paragraph after paragraph of hilarious fodder. How could he help but smile? This was going to be a lot of fun. Though he'd never admit that to anyone else.

Putting on his trademark sneer so as not to confuse any of his housemates, he headed down to the common room, where an abnormal amount of noise greeted him through the dormitory door. It seemed that many other Slytherins were playing and were in the middle of trying to guess who the others’ characters were when he entered. To avoid such little annoyances, Draco left the room almost as soon as he entered it. He’d be early for breakfast but anything was better than lolling around in there with those twits.

The buzz over breakfast was much louder than usual. People all over the Great Hall were carrying around the designated roll of introductory letter parchment and the mood was very cheerful. Casually as Draco buttered his toast, he looked over at the Gryffindor table to watch Ginny. She was, of course, laughing with her friends and rereading the intro letters in front of her. Every member of every game group received all the intro letters and he could tell that players from all over the hall were trying to guess who was who. Ginny was no exception. Draco forced himself to look away, wondering silently which group she had ended up in.

After breakfast, as some of the students were beginning to get up, Dumbledore quickly rose and made one final announcement before classes officially began.

“So, our magical role playing game is now underway. You have all had your introductory letters from your fellow players and your brief history from your Head of Game. Now what happens is up to the cast, following classes of course. Have fun and have a good day!”

To say the day went slow would be an understatement. During Arithmancy, Draco silently composed his first letter to his fair maiden. Professor Vector could tell he had lost most of the class, so he let them out early. Draco had been on his way down to the dungeons, as he’d left his Transfiguration homework in his dorm, but as he came down the staircase, he saw a graceful red head bob out the main door and down the steps onto the grounds. He decided homework could wait and he followed, albeit at a distance. He ended up parking himself far enough down the path that he didn’t think she noticed him, but close enough to watch her as she leaned against the Hawthorn tree by the water’s edge.

Deciding now was as good a time as any, he grabbed a piece of parchment and began writing the letter he had written in his mind already. He knew that there were three simultaneous games going on, and that the odds of both of them playing in the same one were slim, but he still imagined it was Ginny he was writing to, when he wrote to his fair maiden.

My Dear Lady,

I know you are scared and do not know why you’ve been taken. It is my hope that this will become clear to you (and me as well) over the next few months. Just know that I would certainly never cause you harm intentionally and I hope that someday you’ll see that I kidnapped you only to keep you safe.

Bleddri

“There, first one down,” Draco thought to himself. As he looked up at Ginny he saw the ‘Golden Trio’ lumber past him and towards her. She covered her parchment in an obvious attempt to hide whatever she was doing. Draco could see Potter lean down and flash her a smile, while the bigger Weasley said something to her. Draco noticed she didn’t go red when Potter grinned at her. “It’s about bloody time,” he thought. “She’s finally gotten over that ridiculous crush on him. Hmm … come to think of it, she’s been dating a lot of other guys. Who’s she dating now I wonder?”

As if reading his mind, Ginny’s voice was suddenly loud and angry as she rebuked her older brother. “Oh, Ron! My love life is none of your business, but if you must know, I broke up with Sean at the beginning of the summer and I’m really not interested in dating anyone right now, you know, NEWTS. And even if I was interested … I would not go to you for romantic advice. Look how long it took you to tell Hermione how you felt. Now, just shove off!” And with that she pushed past her brother, hitting his shoulder as she stomped past him. She hardly noticed Draco as she rushed by, but when she did see him out of the corner of her eye, she turned beet red, looked away and rushed up to the castle even faster than before.

Draco felt a funny feeling wash over him. It was relief, but also regret mingled with a little excitement too. “Stop it!” He told himself. “She’s a Muggle-lover remember? She’d never look at you twice! But why did she turn red when she saw me sitting here?” He picked up his own bag and quickly made his way up to the castle before the trio decided to rear its ugly heads and ask why he had been perched so close to the little Weasley. As he walked up to the castle, he noticed a bit of parchment crumpled at the base of the rubbish bin at the top of the steps. He didn’t know what possessed him to pick up rubbish, but he picked it up and smoothed out a pretty good likeness of himself. The boy was on a horse and the metal outfit was all wrong, but there was no denying it, the boy dressed as a knight was him, right down to the gray eyes. There was a little GMW in the corner and Draco knew that this was what Ginny had been doing before the trio bombarded her. If he didn’t know better, he’d say Ginny was as taken with him as he was with her … but that couldn’t be right. Why on earth would she draw him as a knight? Folding the parchment and placing it in his bag, he walked the rest of the way to the dungeons, thinking of how on earth she could know he was a knight in the game ….

Pansy Parkinson and Millicent Bulstrode were waiting for him as he closed the blank stone wall that served as the doorway into the common room. Thankfully, since she’d started dating Goyle, Pansy hadn’t really spoken to him much, but tonight she’d decided it was time to say her piece.

“Draco Malfoy. What in bloody hell is wrong with you lately? I noticed it last year but let it go, thinking that over the summer you’d get back to normal, but obviously you’re weirder than ever before!”

“Pansy, I have no idea what you’re shrieking about,” he returned with arrogant indifference.

“You’ve been quiet, haven’t insulted a Gryff this year, let alone anyone else, and now that I’m actually thinking about it, I don’t think you’ve had an actual date since the Yule Ball in 4th year, just random snogging partners. Did I ruin you for all other women?”

“Well, you certainly are ugly enough to turn anyone gay!” he sneered at her. His paltry attempts at being the 'old' Draco notwithstanding, he admitted the insult was pretty weak. “And my love life is none of your business anyway, so sod off!” He smiled slightly at the deja vu feeling he was having and then excused himself to go to the 7th year boys’ dorm. He didn't want to talk to anyone, so he pulled his bed hangings down and just lay there until supper.

At six, as he walked up to the Great Hall with Crabbe, he stopped two Hufflepoofs mid-argument, took points simply because they pissed him off with their noise, and managed a good mock-up and points off Longbottom, whom he’d caught snogging some blond Ravenclaw with what appeared to be radishes for earrings around the corner from the Hall in an empty classroom.

He strode into the Great Hall with his classic smirk back on his face.

“I’m back baby!” he said and sat down at the table, telling himself not to look over at the Gryffindor table, even though it was a useless warning … he knew he’d look.

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