Fangs to all the goffik…ok I can't do it, thanks to all the awesome people – Bird That Flies At Dawn, StupidityNowOffersWisdom, thisisforyou and No-Dai But Today – who have reviewed so far – it's given me a lot of encouragement to keep writing. Ok, on to Chapter 3!
It was half seven. The GHDs were broken, I'd only gotten as far as concealer make-up wise, and Raven looked ready to use every single pair of the fifteen stilettos I'd tried on but then discarded as makeshift daggers.
"For God's sake, Ebony!" She jerked an impatient thumb at her wardrobe; clothes spilled from the doors, which had been flung wide open an hour ago, and pooled on the floor in a variety of colours. "If there's nothing in that lot that you don't like, then there's something very wrong with you. I mean, you refused to wear my Vera Wang – I've never known anyone to turn down designer!"
"Yeah well, 'designer' for muggles is more 'bin bags' in Malfoy's opinion." I muttered, snatching up the foundation. Choosing clothes always made me irritable, and this was no exception.
"Look, you need to pick something now; he's expecting you at eight and knowing the pretentious bastard if you're even a few seconds late he's never going to let it go until the day we leave Hogwarts." She held the Vera Wang against herself and pouted. "Try the dress again just for me?"
I hesitated. "Actually…I was thinking about wearing something from my wardrobe."
Raven froze. "Now Ebony, we've talked about this haven't we – none of your clothes are suitable for first dates, so whenever you go out with anyone, be it Malfoy, Crabbe or Severus Snape, you are to report directly to me for suitable clothes-ware."
"Yes but…he said the band was like Good Charlotte."
"So, wouldn't my stuff be more suited for that kind of thing?"
Raven practically jumped up and down in frustration. "But this is your first date; you don't want to go messing this up, especially Draco Malfoy. If he sees you in your clothes – or the things you call 'clothes' – then you'll never hear the last of it, and the rest of Slytherin house will be the first to find out."
I chewed on my bottom lip. "I suppose but…it's worth a try."
She flung up her hands in a gesture of despair. "Alright, fine, but on your own head be it. I hope you know what you're doing."
At the time I did, but by the time eight came round and I was making my way to the Entrance Hall Raven's warnings were echoing in my head, and I was having doubts about my dress sense. Rounding the corner I saw Malfoy, his back turned to me, checking a fob watch before slipping it back into his pocket. The flickering light cast by the flaming torches turned his hair gold, a stark contrast from his charcoal suit jacket, which seemed to be absorbing all the light in the room. I suddenly felt very self-conscious – he looked so smart, whereas I…well, it was too late now. Taking a deep breath, I stepped slowly into the Entrance Hall. The click of my stiletto lace-up boots alerted him to my approach and he turned on his heel. "So, you are capable of arriving on time. After the amount of lessons you've arrived late for…" His voice faltered and trailed off as he took me in. "Oh."
I fiddled with a lock of hair that had fallen from my messy bun. "I wasn't sure what to wear, so…is it ok?" By my standards it was fine: ripped crimson fishnets with similar fingerless gloves and black mini-dress with a leather corset and lace skirt, puffed out like a tutu. But from Malfoy's emotionless expression, I may well have misjudged how well my sense of style would be received. Shit, maybe Raven had been right…but a small bemused smile suddenly appeared on his face.
"Well, it's not what I expected, or what I'd generally class as fashion, but…it rather suits you."
I grinned, suddenly relieved. "You really think so?"
He rolled his eyes. "No I think it's perfectly hideous and that's why I'm saying that you look absolutely stunning. I mean – " He coughed, suddenly flustered, and moved towards the doors that would lead onto the grounds. "Oh, forget it. Come on let's go."
"Certainly, Draco." I smirked, following him outside. So much for Raven and her fashion advice! "So how are we going to get to Hogsmead? Walk?"
Malfoy snorted. "In your heels? I doubt that you'll get very far. No, we're using this method of transport." I peeped over his shoulder, and my jaw hit the dirt. There, right in front of us, was a sleek black vehicle that looked shockingly expensive and all too familiar.
"It's a car." I said stupidly.
"Not just any car. A black car that flies. And a Mercedes-Bens at that, although why muggles spend so much on them beats me." He opened the passenger door and gestured for me to get in, but I just stood there.
"Isn't this illegal or something? I mean, after those idiots from Gryffindor flew a Ford into the Whomping Willow the ministry kicked up one hell of a fuss."
Malfoy winced at the mention of 'those idiots', one of which I knew was his arch enemy. "Father caused most of it – he hates those Weasley muggle-lovers – but in reality he didn't think of it as that much of a big deal. When I asked him whether I could have one he immediately got one, top of the range."
"And can you drive it?"
"Of course I can drive it, if Potter and that Weasley can do it then so can I…so, are you going to get in?"
I finally slipped into the plush leather chair, sinking deep into the seat. God it was so comfortable, it beat a broomstick by a mile. Malfoy closed the door and walked round to the other side of the car, did up his seatbelt and pressed a blue button on the dashboard. With a soft hum the car hovered for a moment and then smoothly floated upwards into the night sky.
In a very short time that was filled with a silence that was comfortable rather than awkward, we had arrived at Hogsmead. Young witches and wizards flocked into the Three Broomsticks where the band was playing: a surly-looking man checked the tickets that Malfoy produced with a flourish from the inside pocket of his jacket before waving us in with an impatient growl. The inside space had been completely transformed, the tables and chairs stacked neatly along one wall in precarious-looking piles and a stage set up at the far end; it was also crammed with people. Malfoy closed his hand over mine and pushed his way through the crowd so that we were quite close to the front; I had expected people to complain or start a fight, but everyone let us pass without even looking us in the eyes. I realised why pretty quickly: Malfoy's father was known to have been a Death Eater, and reputation made people wary. That made me uncomfortable – I mean, what must they think of me?
"Looks like your kind of crowd." Malfoy commented. I thought he was being deliberately mean as usual, but then I could see that he was right: everyone was wearing similar clothes to me, which was a relief to me but not to him – with his smart suit jacket he stood out a mile among all the leather corsets and jackets. I laughed at how out of place he looked: he gave me an odd look but before he could ask what was so funny Caldron Fire came on and anything he could've said would've been lost in the screams of adoring fans.
They were good. Seriously good. The comparison to Good Charlotte was right, but they were so much better than that, the songs electrifying and compelling, sending shivers up my spine. However, the one thing that spoiled the evening for me was the lead singer: she had a beauty that matched her voice, with fiery red, perfectly straitened hair that streamed down her back without a strand out of place. As she sang, I couldn't help noticing that Draco was staring at her approvingly, almost adoringly. Ok, so it was a concert – everyone was looking at the singer – but the look on his face…I couldn't help feeling a sneaking suspicion that he was not looking at her face but at her chest, which seemed to be straining to escape from her corseted, floor-length gown. I was quiet on the way back to the car, Draco babbling beside me like an excited toddler, mulling over these thoughts.
"And she signed it! She signed my ticket; I mean, I got to meet and get the autograph of Gabriella Montez, lead singer of Caldron Fire – how cool is that?" He finally noticed my silence and turned to study my face, concerned. "Didn't you like them? Honestly, I don't know why I bothered, you with your trashy muggle rubbish…"
I shook my head. "It's not that, I liked them, but…"
"But what?" Malfoy looked exasperated. "Ebony, what's the matter with you?"
"Gabriella Montez." I said in a small voice.
"Her? What does Gabriella Montez have to do with – " The penny dropped. "Oh. Oh." His shoulders shook and he leaned forwards, his laugh resounding down the narrow alleyway that led to where he'd parked his car.
I stomped a foot. "Not funny."
"Girls and their tantrums…" He sobered up. "Seriously though, she's not all that. Great voice and all, but did you see what she was wearing? Needed to go up a dress size or several! And you should know by now exactly what I think of gingers." This time it was me who doubled over laughing; unfortunately that meant my sense of balance in my heels was compromised and I nearly fell, Malfoy chuckling as he held me upright. He brushed some wayward hair behind my ear and I felt my skin tingle. I became suddenly hyper-aware of how narrow the alley was, how close his body was to mine… "Ebony…" He murmured.
"…Yes?" I could barely get the word out, mesmerised by his lips and their close proximity to mine.
"When we get back to Hogwarts, please don't tell anyone that I acted like what muggles would call a 'fanboy'." He pulled away and started walking.
I swallowed down my disappointment and followed him. "Fine with me." God, I was such a paranoid bitch. He was acting like a totally different person to the boy I'd known ever since the Sorting Hat put us both in the same house. Surely that meant something, even though our relationship seemed so complex; him with his massive ego complex, me with my family background? But being paranoid wouldn't give me any answers; I'd have to find out how much I really meant to him all in good time. Thankfully when we got back to the car, there was something else to take my mind off of all that..
"What?" He raised his eyebrows when he turned from unlocking the car and saw me staring at the front bumper with a smirk on my face. I looked at him.
"It's just a sequence of numbers, what's so funny about it?"
I looked at his nonplussed expression. "666? The devil's number? You heard of it?"
"Stupid muggles and their superstitions, I should have known…" He clicked his tongue impatiently and opened the car door again for me. I got in feeling slighted, even though he hadn't been aiming the comment at me – I wished he wouldn't make comments like that about muggles and people who weren't pure-bloods like him, it was the one aspect of him that I didn't like. We drove in silence, but this time the silence seemed a little strained; Malfoy kept sneaking glances at me out of the corner of his eye as I peered out the window into the darkness, trying to ignore the fact that he was doing it. It felt a little unnerving, and after his comment I wasn't in the mood for conversation. When we were nearly back at Hogwarts, Malfoy stopped the car in midair so suddenly I jerked forward in my seatbelt and turned to look at me properly.
"God Malfoy, are you trying to give me whiplash?" I snapped, rubbing my bare shoulder where the seatbelt had dug in.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to." I ignored him. He sighed and tilted my face towards his. "Ebony, is it what I said before? About muggles and their superstitions."
"Give the boy a Galleon."
"Look, I'm sorry I called you a muggle if that's what's wound you up."
"It's not that, it's – " I looked at him; he looked so expectant, so concerned, that I couldn't do it. I couldn't tell him that it was because I came from a muggle family and that I felt insulted by all the things he called people like us. I couldn't tell him that somehow despite all this I'd been put in Slytherin and been hiding this secret the whole time I'd been here, while people like him talked of how people like me shouldn't be allowed to desecrate the halls of Hogwarts. I couldn't finish by saying that I truly loved him despite all this, and that I wanted to make this work. Instead I pushed his hands away and stared down at my lap, fiddling with the lace on the skirt of my dress. "Nothing. Just forget I said anything. I'm sorry I've been acting like such a bitch."
I could feel his eyes boring into me and I expected some kind of confrontation, but instead he nodded slowly, said abruptly "Ok." and started to drive again. I watched the twinkling lights of the school get closer and closer, dreading giving Raven the lowdown on how I'd fucked the night up. As we passed over I braced myself for the lurching sensation of landing – but instead the lights disappeared and darkness stretched out in front as Malfoy kept on driving.
"Draco? Draco, what the hell are you doing?" I tried to make out his face through the blackness. "Where are you taking me?" I could suddenly make out the outline of trees beginning to stretch out beneath us and felt the hairs on the back of my neck prickle as I realised exactly where we were headed even before Malfoy opened his mouth to speak.
"The Forbidden Forest."