A/N – I really am sorry for how long these chapters keep taking, but I was CRAZY and took a TON of English courses, so now I’m writing so many papers for school (on top of the normal workload), that I’m having an extremely hard time of it.
And thank you so sooo much for all of your fantastic encouragement! When I’ve been staring at this screen so long that everything starts blurring together, your reviews keep me plugging away anyway haha.
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Chapter 10 — Found Out
Draco woke up early the next day, before the sun and definitely before breakfast. A dream did it, but he couldn’t remember much aside from a vague memory of flying and the color red. He groaned softly in annoyance, having a good idea where the unusual dream came from. It seemed that Ginny Weasley even invaded his subconscious now. Just lovely.
The Seventh year boys’ dormitory still maintained night’s glorious quiet, interrupted only by the occasional snore or garbled mumble. Pitch black still blanketed everything. The dungeon room never enjoyed a sunrise, of course, but enchanted torches would flicker to life in time with the sun, and not a one so much as glowed yet. Wrapped in the hush and dark of early, early morning, Draco’s thoughts meandered where they chose with little control from him.
Mostly, he thought about the day before. He chose not to consider the more freakish occurrences, like laughing with Weasley and every other decent thing that popped into his mind about her, but he did remember one very important detail: he had beaten her. A surge of excitement coursed through him, and the sudden urge to share his accomplishment soon became irresistible. And he knew just who he would tell.
Restless now and given up on the prospect of sleep, Draco silently pulled aside the bed curtains, swung his legs off the side of the bed, and padded over to his trunk. He shrugged on whatever set of robes happened to be lying on top and left without another thought to his appearance, something in and of itself an anomaly.
No one else graced the echoing halls at this ungodly hour, and Draco belatedly remembered Pierce’s warning about curfew. Technically though, the way he figured it, he wasn’t really breaking curfew, as rather than being out late, he was out very, very early. That would be his story if anyone caught him, at any rate.
Pierce’s quarters were not far from his dormitory, meaning he reached them fairly quickly, but once there he paused, wondering for the first time at the wisdom of this decision. He cocked one ear towards the door, hoping to hear some sound from inside signaling the professor was up and about anyway, but the silence only stretched on. He debated for another few seconds, then shrugged and rapped on the door.
Several minutes dragged by, and Draco was just considering leaving when the door creaked open to reveal a still bleary-eyed Professor Pierce. His sandy-blond hair, nearly shoulder length by now, stuck out at odd angles, his clothes consisting of black trousers and a white shirt with the sleeves rolled back to the elbows.
“Mr. Malfoy?” he asked around a yawn. Suddenly, he seemed to grow alert all at once and straightened, tugging down the sleeves of his shirt almost violently.
Draco’s eyes instinctively followed the abrupt motion, catching a dark something on the man’s skin just before the fabric covered it. His gaze lingered for just a moment, then peeled away with a slow shake from his head. “Sorry to wake you, sir. I just wanted to talk.”
Pierce frowned, rubbing at his face. “Everything all right?”
“Yeah, it’s nothing bad.”
“And it can’t wait?” He looked around, peeking down the deserted corridor. “What time is it, anyway?”
Draco shrugged. “Early. I’m not sure exactly. This is worth it, though. I promise.”
Pierce heaved a sigh, twisted around — assumedly in an attempt to read the clock behind him — then mumbled, “Right, come in then.”
This was not Draco’s first time in these rooms. When Snape lived in them, he had visited quite frequently, but he had to admit that they were considerably changed from those days. More furnished now, and a bit more comfortable. Snape’s décor always made him feel vaguely cold, even in summer’s heat.
Pierce closed the door and gestured to one of the two leather sofas. “Can I get you anything?” Draco sat, declining the offer with a polite head-shake. Pierce took the couch opposite. “What can I help you with, then?”
“It’s about Ginny…about Weasley, I mean.” He halted a moment, surprised at his own slip. Where had that come from? “Anyway, I went to see her last night like you said.”
Pierce’s attention obviously perked up at that. Draco had the fleeting thought that the professor seemed too interested in all of this Weasley business. “Something happened, I assume?”
Draco nodded. “Something definitely happened. I beat her.”
The older man raised an eyebrow. “You…beat her?”
“In Quidditch,” Draco quickly explained. “She wanted a quick game, so I agreed. And I won.” He felt the accomplishment flood through him at finally getting to say the words out loud. He had to admit it — he always was something of a bragger.
“Really? Fantastic! How did you do it?”
“That’s the thing…I’m not really positive.”
“Well you must have done something differently,” Pierce reasoned. “Or else she was just having a bad day.”
Draco scowled at the latter theory. “She wasn’t having a bad day. In fact, I’m not even sure it should be possible to make a broom move as fast as she did hers.”
“Then that leaves you having done something different.”
“I couldn’t tell you what.”
Pierce leaned back, resting his chin on his index fingers. “May I venture a guess?”
Draco shrugged. “Go ahead.”
“Were your feelings towards Miss Weasley a little less…critical?”
Draco opened his mouth to say that his thoughts had been as uncomplimentary as ever, but then the memory of his unusual reactions to her ripped through the wall he’d put up against them and flooded his conscious. He scowled. “Actually, yeah.”
Now Pierce leaned forward with feverish intensity. “How much less? Be specific.”
“I don’t know. She just didn’t bother me last night, lord only knows why. During the match itself I sort of forgot about her, really.”
Pierce had a look of absolute triumph in his pale hazel eyes, and a sly grin gradually seized his features, touching every centimeter of his face. “I would tell you that I hate to say ‘I told you so,’” he drawled, “but that would be lying.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “It might not have been that.” An almost desperate feeling was creeping over him — before now, despite Pierce’s conviction, it was always his secret belief that his relationship with Weasley wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference. The beginning destruction of that made him uneasy, tearing him further from his comfort zone by the second.
Pierce nodded indulgently. “That’s very true, Mr. Malfoy. But tell me this: what else was different? What other explanation is there? How else do you explain it?”
“All right, all right, I get it,” Draco snapped. “It’s…likely. Satisfied?”
“Very nearly,” Pierce admitted, still grinning. “I would like to know how you feel about her now, though.”
He wanted to say that he hated her as much as ever, but the sudden memory of her curled up with laughter flashed before his mind’s eye and halted the words. He glowered, running a hand back and forth through his hair in frustration. “I don’t have a bloody clue,” he finally spat.
Pierce sat back again, folding his arms loosely across his chest and wearing a pleased smile. “Then we’ve come a long way.”
Draco looked up, more annoyed with the man now than he could remember being with anyone in quite some time. He hated not knowing where he stood. Pierce was mixing all different shades of gray into his life, and all he wanted was to get things back to their usual, clearly defined black or white. “Glad you think so.” Bitterness rang clearly through his tone.
Pierce chuckled softly, then cocked his head a bit as the sounds of students’ shuffling feet and quiet chatter seeped into the room. “Sounds as if breakfast is about to start,” he observed. “You should probably go get something to eat. There’s that game with Ravenclaw today, and you’ll need all the energy you can get.”
Still in a foul mood, Draco got up without comment and walked towards the door.
“Mr. Malfoy,” Pierce called after him.
Draco stopped and looked back over his shoulder.
“How did it feel?”
“Beating her,” the professor clarified. “How did it feel?”
Draco couldn’t help the evil smile that stole across his lips. “Brilliant.”
Pierce’s smile exceeded his own in mischievousness. “Then consider that your motivation.”
Draco didn’t need to ask what he meant. Pierce was telling him to remember that feeling whenever he got overly frustrated with this whole business. Walking up to breakfast, he found that, surprisingly, the strategy worked. Anything was worth the triumph he experienced the night before.
He strode into the Great Hall light at heart, ignoring the stares of his housemates. He picked a seat as far from them as he could get and still be at Slytherin, then started heaping his plate with food. That morning’s emotional roller coaster worked up quite the appetite.
A fork piled with fried potatoes froze midway to his mouth when the doors opened and Ginny Weasley walked quietly into the room. Her appearance raised such conflicting emotions in him that it was all he could do not to hold his head and squeeze his eyes shut.
Draco welcomed back with incredible relief his initial reaction — that familiar hate, returned to him like a long lost friend. Unfortunately (though he was sure Pierce would find it incredibly fortunate) other ideas almost immediately clashed with it. Foremost of these, he couldn’t help but appreciate the way her brilliant hair, loose today, led the eye perfectly down to the curve of her breasts, her side, her hips. He watched her smile at Creevey, remembered that same smile directed at him, and felt a pang of jealousy—actual bloody jealousy — rip through him.
It was the confusion of last night, only quadrupled. He still despised her. He knew that for certain, which was more than he could say yesterday, but forgetting the things from last evening proved impossible despite that. He couldn’t forget the fire in her that refused to let her give in no matter the challenge. He couldn’t forget the intelligence he noticed, nor the wit or even the compassion that he simply could not wrap his head around.
Then he experienced the most startling epiphany of all. He realized that he was bored. He realized that he wanted more than anything to talk to her, even if it was just to argue, because then at least he would be feeling. She was the only one with the power to get him just angry enough, or defensive or competitive enough, to do that anymore.
But underlying all of that — he still wanted to best her in every conceivable way, on the pitch and off of it.
It was too much for him to process all at once. It was like a physical pressure building in his mind, honestly making him fear that his head might explode of it. Muttering a curse under his breath, he hastily shoved a couple fried eggs and some bacon between two pieces of toast and stalked out of the room.
He finished the improvised breakfast in only a few bites, too annoyed to really taste the food anyway. At least he had his old feelings toward her back. Now he just wanted to know where the hell all these new ones were popping up from.
He resolved to just forget it for now. The match would begin in a few hours, and he wanted to warm up a little first. Last night’s win against Weasley went a long way in bolstering his confidence, but he also recognized that over-confidence could hurt him too. All this hassle with Weasley would do him no good if his team fell out of the running before he ever got a chance to play her.
The wind felt exhilarating as it rushed over his skin, going a long way towards clearing his troubled mind. It would be a good game. He could feel it. Nevertheless, he made sure and go through all of the basic exercises, plus a few of the trickier ones. Time flew alongside him, and before he knew it, Madam Hooch was blowing her whistle and waving her arms, signaling he needed to get off the pitch so that she could start setting up.
Chatter buzzed around him when he walked into the changing rooms for his uniform, but he managed to mute it for the most part. His mind balanced on a perfect but precarious state of concentration, and he did all he could not to lose that perch. He succeeded, too, even when he flew outside and the crowd exploded around him. Even when the Snitch sped off and the game began, and even all through the commentary. He maintained that perfect balance the whole time…which was all well and good, but midway through the game, with no sign of the Snitch in sight, he realized a focused mind was useless if he couldn’t spot that elusive gold first.
His concentration cracked, just a little. For the first time, he allowed himself to look around. The Slytherin stands screamed out a constant roar of encouragement, the Ravenclaw ones likewise for their own team, and the Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors only really made themselves heard when Ravenclaw scored. Typical.
He flew down lower, having no luck up above, and made a slow circle of the pitch. He was soaring gently by the Gryffindors when he heard the commentator announce a point for Slytherin. The students in red and gold either stayed quiet or booed, but to his astonishment, one cheer broke away from the trend and called out in approval.
His head whipped around, and he almost fell off his broom when his eyes fell on Ginny Weasley. He actually stopped in midair, staring dumbly in utter disbelief.
She caught him looking, flashed an enormous, impish grin, then cupped her hands around her mouth and shouted, “Come on, Draco!”
He would have been suspicious. He would have hovered there, mentally listing all the possible motives behind her inexplicable and highly unorthodox actions. He would have puzzled through her hidden agenda. He would have done all those things, except that at that exact moment, he saw a smear of gold in front of her face. He never took his eyes off it again to look back at her.
His broom changed direction effortlessly, propelling him forward in a burst of speed that only the ridiculous sum of money spent on the thing made possible. The Snitch raced forward quickly, almost faster than his eye could follow, but his reflexes were sharp from this morning’s practice, and the chase ended in seconds. Slytherin won the game.
He blocked out the ensuing chaos, ignoring even the congratulations directed a him. The stands erupted into a madhouse, emotions varying from ecstatic to enraged, and no one would sit still. It took several frustrated minutes before he found her, talking patiently with that boy she used to date. Dean, did she say? Whatever his name was, he looked furious, his arms waving around above his head incessantly. Draco smirked — he could guess what the loyal Gryffindor boy was so miffed with her about.
He cut a path through the air directly for her, the fact that he was about to approach a Weasley in public not even occurring to him. Her back was to him, but the irate Gryffindor boy saw Draco’s approach early and snapped his mouth shut with a glare, slowly lowering his arms.
Before Weasley could turn around, Draco drawled, “So, did you have money on me, or what?”
Now she did spin around, raising her eyebrows, then giving a slow smile. “Hullo, Malfoy. Good game.”
“Ginny!” that Dean boy suddenly exploded behind her. “What did I just get done saying?! He’s…he’s…”
“An obnoxious prat?” she supplied sweetly.
“Exactly! So why are you encouraging him?”
Draco cleared his throat angrily to remind them that he was, in fact, still standing only feet away. They ignored him.
“Dean,” Ginny said in a sigh, “Can we please discuss this later? In private?”
“No, we bloody well cannot!”
Draco’s impatience hit its peak. “Yes, actually, I believe you can,” he snapped. Grabbing Weasley’s wrist, he added, “Don’t worry, this won’t take long.” Then he stalked off, the startled girl in tow.
When they reached the outskirts of the pitch, she dug her heels into the grass and wrenched free. “What was that all about?”
“I didn’t feel like waiting for you to politely handle the situation.”
“You certainly didn’t bother with manners, did you?”
“Exactly my point. Now, you never answered my question.”
She turned back from looking concernedly towards the crowd, tilting her head up at him. “What?”
“Did you have money on me? Or did you just lose a bet.”
She laughed. “Oh, you mean the cheering?”
He rolled his eyes. “No, I mean the heartfelt love letter I received from you this morning.” She actually looked alarmed for a moment before she realized he was joking, and the look on her face almost made this whole affair worthwhile. “Yes, I mean the cheering.”
She sighed, ever so put-upon, and placed a hand on one cocked hip. “Why do you think, Malfoy?”
Draco glared. “If I knew, would I be talking to you?”
She shook her head. “Looks like I gave you too much credit.” Before he could formulate a proper retort, she went on, “I like challenges. It’s what makes life interesting.”
“That’s lovely. But it doesn’t answer my question.”
Weasley actually reached up and delivered a light smack to his forehead. He was so stunned at the audacity of it that he didn’t even respond, but stood there staring incredulously. “Use your head,” she admonished. “You’re one of the few people who can challenge me in Quidditch. I want to play you for real, but that’s not going to happen if you don’t stay in the running long enough.”
He wanted to laugh. The girl was that barmy. “And you thought yelling my name and distracting me was a good way to do that, did you?”
She shrugged. “Well, you are a self-obsessed egomaniac. It seemed to fit.”
Draco ran a palm down his face, not sure if he wanted to snort in amusement or snap at her. He suddenly removed his hand, remembering something. “You called me Draco.”
She blinked. “What?”
“When you were ‘cheering.’ You said Draco, not Malfoy.”
“Oh. Yeah. I suppose I did.”
When no further explanation seemed forthcoming, he prompted, “Well, why?”
“I know people don’t use it very often, but that is your name in case you forgot.”
He lowered his face and pinched the bridge of his nose, taking a deep breath in an effort to regain the scattered remains of his patience. “Weasley,” he said a little too calmly, “you know what I mean.”
Something in his voice must have convinced her to stop testing him, because she answered honestly, “I just know I wouldn’t get very motivated by ‘Weasley.’ The personal touch makes all the difference…for me, at least.” She shrugged. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
He chuckled quietly despite himself. “Do you find yourself saying that often? ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time.’”
She glared. “I knew last night was too good to be true.”
His chortles abruptly cut off. Oh Merlin, last night. He sort of hoped she would forget that whole fiasco. And anyway, what was she trying to get at? He voiced the question out loud, saying, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You were…well…bearable. Decent.” She frowned a little. “Really weird.” Her frown transformed into a playful smile. “Are you sure no one drugged you? Didn’t eat or drink anything before coming out, did you?” She started to laugh at her own joke, but stopped when she saw the dark look that suddenly surfaced on his face.
“What did you just say?” he demanded, taking an unconscious step forward.
Weasley’s eyebrows knit together in concern, but she didn’t back down. “I was only making fun. Calm down.”
Draco swore violently, turning his back to her and burying a hand in his hair.
“What?” she asked, trying to walk around and see his face.
He pushed roughly past her and stormed towards the castle, not even realizing that he left his broom lying on the ground. Pierce had gone too far this time.
The door to the professor’s office crashed open so violently that it ricocheted off the wall, nearly making Pierce fall out of the chair behind his desk from surprise.
“You drugged me?” Draco slammed the abused door behind him, but didn’t bother casting a silencing spell. At the moment, he didn’t really give a damn.
Pierce quickly regained his lost composure. “Mr. Malfoy, I don’t know—”
“Don’t even try that,” Draco snarled. “You did. You actually drugged me. That’s why the room was so hot, and why that ‘juice’ you gave me tasted off, and that’s why Weasley didn’t bother me last night.” Draco was breathing heavily now, eyes intense with raw fury.
For the space of no more than two heartbeats, Pierce sat silently struggling to decide how to answer the accusation. Then he rose slowly to his feet, lying his palms flat on the desktop, and said in a very low, very controlled tone Draco had never heard him use before, “Mr. Malfoy…Draco. I want you to listen to me. Will you do that?”
Draco only pressed his lips together tightly, matching the man’s stare with narrowed eyes.
Pierce apparently took that as confirmation. “Yes, I did drug you.” He quickly held up his hand to stave off any outbursts. “But I was only doing what I felt necessary. I never would have otherwise.”
Pierce looked at him frankly. “You saw and realized a lot of things about Ms. Weasley last evening. A lot of things that you actually found desirable. Do you really believe you ever could have gotten over your prejudice enough to do that on your own? Honestly, now.”
Draco thought of all the revelations concerning Weasley, now lodged irrevocably in his head whether he liked it or not, and knew Pierce spoke rightly. “You could have just told me,” he snapped, unappeased, “instead of tricking me.”
Pierce sighed. “You would never have agreed to it, and we both know it. There’s simply no way you would have trusted the potion or me enough.”
“How am I supposed to trust you now?” Draco demanded, a touch of his wounded pride creeping into his tone.
Pierce smiled faintly. “We’re Slytherins, Mr. Malfoy. We don’t trust.” He sat back down. “But as far as trust among serpents goes, I swear to you that your best interests are my only concern…even if the means aren’t exactly what you would prefer.”
“My best interests,” Draco repeated sarcastically. “Right, as long as they don’t conflict with your ambition.”
Pierce chuckled. “Ah, but that’s the beauty of our relationship. I can only further my ambition through your best interests.” He smiled, a little coldly Draco thought. “I never claimed innocent motives. What’s best for you just so happens to turn out best for me.” And Pierce knew that everything he just said was truer than Draco could possibly know.
Draco frowned, not particularly happy with the explanation, but accepting it as plausible at least. The man’s frankness earned him back some of Draco’s respect, if only grudgingly. “I don’t forgive you,” he said bluntly.
“It would shock me if you did,” Pierce assured him. “But can you at least admit that I helped our goal? Now you know she’s not all bad. It’s not a matter of convincing yourself anymore, just of getting over what’s left of that prejudice.”
“I think I’m going mad,” Draco muttered, more to himself than Pierce. “Absolutely bloody bonkers.”
Pierce grinned. “That, Mr. Malfoy, is the sign of a brilliant plan.”
“Or a complete disaster of one.”
Pierce shrugged. “I take my chances.”
Draco sighed, trudging exhausted over to a chair and slumping into it. “I take it back. I’m fine. You’re the mad one.”
Pierce laughed. “Like I said, it’s just a sign of brilliance.” He folded his arms over his chest and kicked his feet up onto the desk. “So…how was the game?”
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A/N – Well, when I planned this chapter out originally, I actually had an entire other scene in store. That would have been another like five or six pages though, and then it would have been another energizer bunny chapter haha. This was a logical spot to end it too though, so I had to decide between making y’alls wait even LONGER, or going with my original plan. I know lots of you liked the super long chapter last time, but I went ahead and decided to opt for speed anyway, b/c Lord only knows how long it would have taken otherwise. Hope that’s what everyone would want lol.
(And that scene will be in the next chapter, don’t worry.)
Thanks for reading!
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