Unofficial Portkey Archive

Highrollers by InTheStars



A/N: I basically just vomitted this one out tonight. In like, five hours lmao. I was in the shower and just imagined some of their exchanges in this chapter and basically rushed out to start keyboard smashing it into existence, mostly because I've been angsting over this chapter like a... angsty person and didn't want to lose it. Mmm descriptive language. I'm a master of it. This was my riveting author's note.


The last person Ginny wanted to deal with today was Colin Creevey. Well, the last person she wanted to deal with was Draco Malfoy, but in all actuality she was beginning to have doubts he could hold a candle to Colin's expertise in popping up when she least desired it. Only that aside wasn't true at all, not one bit, she told herself. Just because the last two weeks had been disturbingly Malfoy-free didn't mean she was having withdrawals or something ridiculous like that. She wasn't. She was simply worried for her well-being again, perhaps. He had done this ignoring-her-existence thing before, and then came back to torment and harass her when she least expected it. So she was just practicing some constant vigilance, scanning for his pointed face in every crowd and glancing over to the Slytherin table in the Great Hall, where surely he would try to attack her in front of hundreds of witnesses.

Oh gods. If she was going to entertain these kind of thoughts, she would rather be accosted by Colin. The fellow Gryffindor seemed to be campaigning for The Most Annoying-est Nice Boy Ever Award lately, following her around like a puppy waiting for a treat. She suspected he was attempting to be gentlemanly, asking to hold her books and help with her studies, but really it was excruciating. It wasn't as if Ginny disliked Colin; on the contrary she rather liked the boy. They were in the same year and had always been rather friendly, having dinner together here and there and hanging about in the common room when the trio couldn't be bothered with the extra company. But during the passing autumn things had changed for Colin without Ginny noticing until it was too late. Really, she was usually quite oblivious to these sorts of things in the first place. If it weren't for Lavender Brown pointing it out to her she might never have realized until he popped the question.

The point was Ginny had a suspicion Colin was going to ask her on a date soon enough, and perhaps that was why she was feeling so dreadful over the situation, because she had no idea how to reject him and it frustrated her that she was going to have to figure out a way. She didn't want to hurt a friend.

It wasn't as if doing so was difficult. She just had to say no nicely but firmly. Ginny thought she had been abundantly clear lately, declining invitations to dinner, declining help with Potions, declining help with her books, and not being very talkative. She was friendly at first, but she was just a friendly person because it was polite. Now she was afraid he had found that encouraging. Plus she hadn't suspected anything in the beginning of his impromptu courtship a few weeks ago, and now she was stuck looking up into his hopeful eyes every time he tried to strike up a conversation.

She was just going to have to tell him in no uncertain terms when he asked. If he asked. Even if he didn't ask.

Which was why she was at the library and hiding in the stacks, hoping he hadn't spotted her at the tables when he walked in. Gods, she was a coward. An awful Gryffindor, no doubt, getting up and darting behind a shelf of books the moment his dirty blond head appeared. She peeked between two rows to check on her success and immediately felt her heart jump into her throat. He was walking her way with a warm smile, scratching at the back of his head.

She straightened and steeled herself, letting out a resigned sigh and pulling out a random book. Can't hide forever, Ginny, she told herself.

"Hey there, Ginny," he said in a soft murmur as he approached, checking for a sign of Madame Pince.

She gave him a tight smile and flipped open her book. "Hey, Colin," she whispered back. Looking at him now, he wasn't entirely lacking. He had filled out some the past few years and stopped following Harry around. (Something they had in common, she thought wryly.) He was taller than her by a nose, with broad shoulders and sandy hair. He had a shy, goofy sort of smile and a sweet sort of look that she could understand some girls finding adorably attractive. Plus he was quite a gifted photographer. He was an artsy type. That was something to appreciate. Yet he hunched a lot. Even now his hands were in his pockets and he was looking at the ground more than at her. His eyes were hazel and quite plain anyway. Not stormy or compelling, some captivating color like grey-

Oh dear Merlin. She blinked quickly and looked down as well, trying to shake off the vision of Draco Malfoy's silvery eyes watching her. She hadn't yet forgotten the day in that abandoned classroom when he had looked at her so strangely for a moment, vulnerable in some way. Or not. Perhaps she saw nothing. She hated herself for reading into it, seeing more than it was. It was practically a forever ago in any case, nothing to concern her now.

"Light reading, eh?" he asked, pulled her from her thoughts.

"Oh, uhm," she answered, for the first time glancing at the pages. It was some history book, that she could tell. "Something for History class, maybe." She fibbed and closed the bound pages, taking her time to slipping it back on the shelf. "What brings you here? You don't have your bag or anything."

Ginny had her suspicions, which was why she found it hard to meet his gaze.

"Oh, I was actually looking for you," he said after a deep breath. Ginny watched him blush and felt heat in her cheeks as well. Here it was. "I'm uh - well, I might as well just say it. Would you like to go to Hogsmeade with me tomorrow?"

She nibbled on her bottom lip and flushed harder. "Like a date, Colin?" she inquired dreadfully.

"Yes, well..." He trailed off, then set his shoulders and said resolutely, "Yes. Like a date."

"I, well... I just-" She was about to do it, about to lay down the truth. I don't see you like that Colin, I'm sorry. But movement over Colin's shoulder distracted her and she paused at the sight of Draco Malfoy strolling into the library as if he owned the place. He was tall, regal as always, his book bag slung over his shoulder. Pansy Parkinson was walking at his heels with one of her pleased and twisted simpers, leaning slightly forward to whisper something to him.

He rolled his eyes, impatient as ever, and the gesture brought his gaze startlingly enough to hers. Ginny nearly jumped out of her skin - she just hadn't been expecting him, or his attention after so long, which she immediately realized was silly of her. This was the library and he was allowed here. He could frequent here as much as he liked. She tore her eyes away, but not in time to miss the way Draco lazily lifted an indifferent eyebrow at her.

"Ginny?" Colin prompted, looking unsure. He shifted on his feet nervously. She blushed when she met his unremarkable, warm eyes.

"Sorry, I - Colin, I'm really flattered and everything..." She frowned and felt a pang of guilt when his face fell.

"Oh. Well. Well maybe we could go as friends or... I mean, I like being friends with you, Ginny," he assured her hopefully, and with a sweet smile. Ginny restrained herself from reaching to squeeze his arm or anything like that. She had given him enough mixed signals lately, however unintentionally. He really was brave and kind, clearly let down but taking it in stride. Ginny felt a rush of admiration for him.

She smiled. "All right. We'll meet up at The Three Broomsticks for a butterbeer? As friends," she added with a warm look.

"I'd like that." He grinned.

The next day started cheerfully enough. The sun was a warm yellow in the blue sky, bathing everything in bright light. It was a bit chilly, which didn't bother Ginny much at all. She always rather liked the cold. All the same, she put on a sweater for the trip into Hogsmeade, some soft plum-colored number that she always felt attractive and snug in. It was the nicest piece of clothing she owned, apart from some of her dressier robes.

She headed into Hogsmeade with Luna after a bit of breakfast, armed with a set of gloves in addition to her autumn cloak, just in case. They took a thankfully empty carriage there and on the way talked about the coming Halloween feast, about classes, and about the new Quibbler issue and quidditch. Ginny felt relaxed and content. Life without a particular blond Slytherin was proving to be much simpler and she appreciated the seamless flow back into the old way of things.

Even Luna commented that Ginny seemed in better spirits lately while they were browsing some shops, which both pleased and aggrieved her. She felt pangs of guilt for pulling away from Luna in the wake of all that trouble. She had shut out her only true friend.

"Yes, about that..." She sighed softly, playing with some enchanted trinket. It was of a Holyhead Harpy player on a broom. "I'm sorry, Luna. Really, if I behave oddly again, I give you permission to confront me. Even slap me around a bit."

"That's all right." Luna smiled serenely and plucked the merchandise from her hand, watching as the small figurine hovered off her palm and started flying in circles. "I'd rather not slap you, Ginny. I'm sure your anger at that would be something to behold."

Ginny laughed and pretended to be offended, although Luna was right, of course. Merlin have mercy on anyone who deigned to slap her around a bit. Soon enough it was nearing lunchtime, and Ginny headed to The Three Broomsticks to find Colin, leaving Luna to some errands the girl had.

Even though it wasn't too cold, Ginny was glad to be inside and in warmer air. Her nose was a bit numb, her hair windswept and most definitely a mess. She spotted Colin almost instantly; he was lounging at a booth to the side, his camera resting on the table. He had a book out and he was currently immersed in drawing something or other. This wasn't something new; Colin often drew sketches of staged photos he would like to shoot. Sometimes he tried to rope her into posing for him along with other Gryffindors.

She approached him, sliding off her cloak. "Hullo there, Colin," she greeted.

He looked up, clearly torn from whatever world he went off into while thinking about his art. Ginny's friendly smile turned a bit unsteady as his eyes lit up tellingly. Perhaps she shouldn't have agreed to come? They were friends and she didn't want to complicate that. "Hey, Gin." He grinned boyishly.

"Were you waiting long?" she asked as she sat.

"Oh no. I've been here awhile actually. Just drawing," he explained. There was a pregnant pause as he leveled an earnest look at her.

Ginny blushed under the attention, fidgeting slightly. "Well, I'm going to go to the loo and get a butterbeer. You want one?"

Colin smiled and lifted up his mug. "I'm good. Hurry back though," he called eagerly after her.

She walked away quickly, wincing and grateful to be away from the air of awkwardness. Yes, agreeing to meet here with Colin had been a bad idea. It wasn't a cup of tea at Madame Puddifoot's or something supremely obvious, but she had been pretty thick regardless. Stupid, she admonished herself, slapping her forehead with her palm. You're so foolish, Ginny.

She pressed her lips together and headed further into the back and towards the loo, cursing herself the whole way. She assured herself this wasn't a date, that she told him it wasn't a date. She would just have one drink and leave after. She did still have an epic Potions essay to write this weekend.

Mildly comforted, she turned into the small alcove that housed the restrooms. It was quieter, a bit cut off from the rowdy chatter and laughter of the main room. There were two doors - one for witches and one for wizards.

And it just so happened that Draco Malfoy was leaning his tall and imposing figure against the wall, right next to the door she needed to get to. She was surprised yet again - hopelessly startled, just as she had been at the library. She froze, eyes widening and skin flushing with color at he raised his icy, bored eyes to hers.

"What're you doing here?" she blurted out accusingly. What was this, really? He was nowhere to be found except at meals for nearly a month, and now she was face to face with him two days in a row? She just didn't like it and immediately bristled at the sight of him.

He looked at her in that infuriatingly bored way. His lips twitched in slight incredulity; his brow rose with too much innocence. Gods, how she didn't trust him one bit. He held out an arm, gesturing to the door, as if the answer was obvious. "Waiting for Pansy."

Ginny huffed at his explanation and set her jaw. Fine. He wasn't going to scare her away. She walked over to the wall opposite him and leaned against it, crossing her arms. She would just stand here and wait for Pansy to finish as well. And not say a word.

Or she wouldn't, if she had any sense. "You don't seem like the type to stand about and wait for anyone," she said with reproach, and maybe the barest hint of curiosity. He didn't, really. He certainly tried to order her about, didn't he? She met his steely eyes and tilted her chin up, pursing her lips. She wasn't intimidated, he had to see that. That wasn't the problem. There was no problem, besides the one currently forming as she glared at him.

He was dressed immaculately, his disgustingly expensive cloak hanging off his shoulders just so. Underneath he wore a pair of slacks and some casual azure sweater that made his eyes look less like a piercing grey and more of a soft blue. She was struck once again with how handsome he was, although not in the traditional sense. But all the same, she couldn't help but think it. His hair looked soft and beckoned to be fixed; it was perfect in its imperfection, mussed slightly by the winds outside. And on top of all that he had a commanding presence, an exuding charisma that lured not only her attention, but everyone else's for good or bad, not to mention the undying respect of his house.

She hated it.

Draco smiled at her moment, just barely. He copied her stance, although bore none of her tension. She had never seen him so calm and it disconcerted her. "I waited for you for an absurd amount of time," he drawled in a low voice, his look full of meaning.

Heat filled her cheeks. She wasn't quite sure if it was entirely with anger, and she hated that too. She tore her eyes away, annoyed at the comment, at the incorrectness of it, at the way he looked at her when he said it. "You didn't wait for me, Malfoy," she clipped out impatiently. How long would Parkinson take? "You attacked and then got angry when I didn't find it flattering."

"Perhaps," he murmured. She snapped her eyes back to his, furrowing her brow at the word, at his tone. Was he agreeing with her? His lashes were low, his smirk lingering as he rested his head back on the wall. Then he rolled his eyes at her continuing glare of disbelief. "Look," he said frankly, "in the interest of keeping my name pristine" (Ginny snorted there; he sneered) "you should know that I also cared little for those barbaric advances. I can assure you I won't stoop so low in the future." He ran his eyes over her body with his pointed words; irritation boiled in her chest at the slight. Her body heated with it and she clutched at her arms to stop from slapping him. Was this a Malfoy's twisted version of an apology?

"Is everything you say some disguised insult?" Ginny inquired harshly.

"Only to those befitting them," he retorted bemusedly. She nearly pulled out her wand and cursed the condescending look off his face. "I suppose, however, you can take my words in whatever light you prefer."

"What's that supposed to mean?" she asked incredulously.

"It means I'm done, Ginny Weasley," he said plainly. The indifferent way he said it, as if she was nothing but dust to brush off his shoulders - well, that hurt, much to her vehement annoyance. It made her even more angry. How could he be so flippant about everything? "You made it clear that despite... wanting me," he said those words slowly, as if savoring them, "you have no intention to act on it. Contrary to popular belief, I'm not a monster, Weasley. I suppose you're happy I'm not harassing you?"

"Ecstatic," she answered sibilantly.

"Good. I wouldn't want to harass you," he said. He even sounded sincere.

She let out a choked laugh and looked away for a moment, furious beyond the telling of it. How dare he? "You can't - this isn't - gods, you're such a prick," she spat out. "You torment me for weeks because what, Malfoy? You thought I looked good in my knickers? You got off on the fact I found you somewhat attractive? And now you're standing here telling me I should be grateful you've risen above being a complete and utter git, like it's some kind of accomplishment? Like it's not something the rest of us decent people do every day! Fuck you," she snarled, her nostrils flaring.

He blinked at her, unbidden emotion flashing across his pale, pointed face. It was the first of it she'd seen their entire conversation, perhaps only the second time she had ever seen it. She had seen him cold too often, angry and slighted just as much. She had seen his condescending sneers and the warmth of his lustful gaze. But she'd only once seen vulnerability and softness, and only for a moment before he buried it. It scared her, scared her more than his rotten mask ever could. Because it proved it - it proved that this face he showed her was a mask, and a terrible one at that. She could only guess at what went on underneath, only guess at the depth of his hatred and anger, of his cruelty. And worse yet, what, if anything, made him human.

And she saw a glimpse of it now. Fury at her words, his face contorting into a pained wince. He tensed, grew rigid. He was silent for a long moment, and Ginny felt perverse pleasure that she had done that to him, rendered him speechless. "Listen, Weasley," he finally said. "If you think I'm proud of myself for being so awful to you, you're wrong." The words took a moment to sink in and when they did she felt them like a slap. She straightened under the force of it. "The truth is-" he paused, struggled, said the words as if they physically pained him, but then they all started to tumble out in a rash deluge of sentiments. "The truth is you're a blood traitor and classless, sure, but you've - well you grew on me a bit, all right? I liked that you wanted me. And you're right, I was forceful because I was a prat. I just hated that you didn't like wanting me back. Does that apology make you happy, Weasley?"

Ginny gaped at him, took in the fierceness of his humiliated expression, the pink, angry dots on his cheeks. Did he just - did he just - he didn't. No, he didn't. He couldn't have. She sucked in a breath, not sure what to say with it, how to react.

She was saved, however, by Pansy Parkinson of all people. The girl exited the bathroom at precisely that moment, looking powdered up. She had on a curling smile that instantly died when she saw Ginny.

"Draco," she hissed, irritated. "Don't you think it's time we go back to the castle?"

Ginny closed her mouth. She had torn her eyes away from Malfoy when Pansy had appeared. Now she looked back at his penetrating gaze with wide eyes. He was still staring at her, straightening as his fervent look faded to a simmer and the color left his cheeks. He did it with such graceful control that she couldn't help but be in awe of it.

"Fine. Just be quiet, Pansy," he snapped. "I have a headache." He turned then and stalked into the crowd. Pansy gave her one last departing scowl before following.

The annoying rocking of the carriage didn't help Draco's mood and neither did Pansy huffing about and generally acting like a child across from him. He looked resolutely out the window and studiously ignored her anyway. He had much practice doing so anyway; it was like child's play.

His jaw was clenched, his elbow rested on the window's sill. He held his chin in his hands, barely seeing the scenery passing him by. For all intents and purposes, he was still back at The Three Broomsticks, standing across from that stupid, infuriating Ginny Weasley and her maddening honesty. He was still looking at her ridiculous messy hair and that awful purple sweater and steaming over how she had been there with Colin fucking Creevey. He'd done his research the past two weeks, oh he had. He'd wager he knew just as much about Colin Creevey as Ginny at this point. The Potter-worshipping, artistic little pounce.

Although if he were honest (and that was the problem here, wasn't it?) that wasn't entirely why he was in such a foul state at the moment. No, it all had to do with Ginny's insatiable need to lash out and tell him things about himself that he would just rather not have heard. He had been doing so well, had been so collected and she had dashed it all by opening that bow-shaped mouth of hers.

Gods, what had he done? Why had he told her all that? What was bloody wrong with him? He resisted the urge to kick the door, knowing it would garner attention from Pansy; she might decide to speak to him then. (It was a helpless annoyance he even had taken her to Hogsmeade; his father had written and told him Draco should treat her better and all that rot.)

He closed his hand into a fist, pressed his sneering mouth against it, deciding to use his damn mind and rationalize this. So he said some things. Some things like not hating Ginny entirely, some things that might lead her to believe he felt guilty or had a soul. A little voice whispered that this wasn't quite a disaster, was it? He wanted Ginny to give into wanting him. With all her laughable morals and goodness, having a soul might help. But even so.

He felt out of control and that - that - would not do. He was supposed to be manipulating her, playing her into his hands. If he wanted the clever witch to find out he had a fucking soul, it should be through his own devising, not out of some undignified outburst. Out of some inherent need to prove himself to her, to get through to her.

Draco closed his eyes and concentrated on breathing. Waiting so long to continue this game had been a bad idea. He saw that now. It gave him time to stew, time to think about Ginny, time to study her from afar and wonder over his attraction to her, over his lack of control around her. And that hadn't taken long to figure out, had it? Had he been so blind this entire time? So blind to how he had felt stirred by the way she looked at him before - fierce and curious all at once? Truthfully it was the envy that made him realize it, the envy he felt whenever her dirty Muggleborn admirer hung about her like a dog waiting for scraps. Ginny would smile at him, laugh with him, talk with him. Draco would admit to being possessive, being envious, but not like this. Not so consumingly to the point he couldn't think right, wondering what it would feel like to be on the receiving end of her affection. And there was the rub - he wanted Ginny for more than what he had set out for. He didn't know how or why or when it had became this, but it had.

His lack of control was only evolving into something much more dangerous, much more abhorrent. He must be insane, utterly mad.

His chest hurt suddenly. It constricted beneath his ribs.

He swallowed thickly, working past that pain.

There was no way he could go on like this.