Warning! This story does contain slash. If you are unaware of what slash is or if it's just not something you have a care for, you probably clicked on the wrong link. Sorry. Life sucks, get a helmet. Anyway! Feedback and reviews are always appreciated and flames are mocked and the source of my endless amusement. All standard disclaimers apply. (What's mine is mine and what isn't, well, isn't.) This story contains spoilers for all four books. You have been warned.
Quick Note Regarding Formatting: There are many POV switches in this chapter so three stars (***) marks the beginning of a new character's perspective within a scene, otherwise, it's a new scene.
The Losing Side
A Harry Potter Fan Fiction
Chapter Ten - Perspective
"You've picked the losing side, Potter! I warned you! I told you you ought to choose your company more carefully, remember? When we met on the train, first day of Hogwarts? I told you not to hang around with riffraff like this." He jerked his head at Ron and Hermione. "Too late now, Potter! They'll be the first to go, now the Dark Lord's back! Mudbloods and Muggle-lovers first! Well- second- Diggory was the f--" Draco Malfoy (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The silence between them was long, but surprisingly comfortable. The fact that there could be such a thing as a comfortable silence between them was strange enough, Harry reflected as he stared up into the darkness. When you added in the fact that they were also lying side by side in Harry's bed after a rather awe-inspiring fight, it seemed impossible. Yet here they were and the only sound between them was the snores of Harry's roommates.
Harry frowned, turning to the side to reassure himself that Draco was indeed still there. The blond boy lay curled on his side with his head tucked against his bent arm, his leather-clad legs making soft squeaking noises when he moved. His sharp, pale features were probably as relaxed as Harry had seen them since the last time Draco had shared his bed. Of course, the last time Draco had shared his bed, Harry had still been fairly convinced that he hated Draco and was just trying to do the right thing. Now he... he just wasn't sure.
Sighing, Harry turned to gaze up at the darkened canopy that draped over his bed, frowning a little in concentration. He still found Draco to be confusing, infuriating, hateful and a million other descriptive adjectives, none of which were exactly complimentary, but all of which were irreversibly true. Yet he'd found himself adding more descriptions to the already exhaustive list during the past few hours. Words like funny, interesting, and a damn fine kisser...
Harry winced, his nose wrinkling as his thoughts and his gaze turned towards Draco's face once more, catching on the scar which lay darkly against the Slytherin's cheek. It was at that moment that Draco's eyelids pulled back to reveal the menacing gray depths of his tired gaze. "Are you having angst, Potter? If you keep flopping about like a fish out of water, and don't lie still, I'm going to spank you."
"That's a lovely mental image. Thank you, Malfoy." Harry sighed, a smile tugging at his lips. His gaze darted to the scar once more, and he slowly lifted his hand, giving Draco plenty of time to back away. Much to his surprise, the blond stayed in place and allowed Harry's fingers to smooth across his cheek.
"Where did you get this scar?" Harry asked softly, tracing the slim line of Draco's scar with his fingertips.
"I don't think that's really any of your business, Potter."
"I'll tell you a secret if you'll tell me about this," Harry replied easily, never taking his eyes from Draco's pale face. "Anything you want to know, Malfoy."
"My father gave it to me at the beginning of summer," Draco responded shortly.
Harry frowned at the explanation. He could tell that Draco was telling him just enough to answer his question without really telling him much of anything at all. Harry made a mental note to be more specific in the future.
Draco smirked, obviously quite satisfied with himself. "So tell me, Potter, why didn't you tell Granger and the Weasel the naughty little details of your meeting with the Dark Lord?"
"They didn't need to know," Harry stated simply, a smirk dancing on his lips that put Draco's to shame.
"That's a bullshit answer, Potter." Draco grumbled, sounding thoroughly annoyed.
"So was yours, Malfoy. Want to try again?"
"You're such a bastard."
"Must be a result of spending too much time in your company."
"Hmph. Fine." Draco replied, his voice slipping into dull tones that reminded Harry a bit of Professor Bins. "He used a letter opener. It was a silver dagger, a present I gave him on his birthday two years ago. It wasn't sharp like a regular blade. Just sharp enough to cut, but dull enough to hurt like hell. I stood and let him do it. I let him cut me, because I knew if I didn't I would regret it. He told me it was for my own good. My features were too pretty, the scar would give me character. Do you think it gives me character, Potter?" Draco's voice betrayed a hint of bitterness at the end, his eyes narrowed and dark with emotion.
"I'm sorry," Harry murmured, removing his fingers to press his lips briefly to the scar. "I'm sorry."
"Don't pity me, Potter. I don't want your pity." Draco hissed, slithering out from beneath Harry's lips as if they burned.
Harry chuckled softly; it wasn't a nice sort of sound. "I don't pity you, Malfoy. Hate you, maybe. Like you more than I want to, probably. Feel guilty that I made you answer that question, definitely. But I can't pity you, Malfoy. There's too much hatred and anger left between us to allow for it."
Draco relaxed visibly at Harry's words, lying back against the pillows once more. "Fine. Answer my question now."
"I... didn't want them to know. Things were bad enough even when they didn't know the full extent of what happened in the graveyard. They spent months watching me like I might just take a flying leap off the nearest tower if they took their eyes off me for too long. If they had looked at me with any more concern in their well-meaning gazes I probably <I>would</I> have given them something to be concerned about."
Draco didn't speak; instead, he slipped closer to Harry in silence, curling up against the side of Harry's body and pillowing his head against the dark-haired boy's arm. Harry stiffened at the closeness, not quite sure how he was supposed to react to this change. Draco suddenly seemed so... gentle, not at all Draco. Was this a trick or.... Draco slipped an arm across Harry's chest, his voice a rough whisper,"One-time offer, Potter."
Harry relaxed, nodding as he wound his arms around Draco, burying his face in the Slytherin's shoulder. Draco answered the embrace with one of his own, shoving an arm beneath Harry's body so he could curl both arms tight around Harry's chest, pulling the Gryffindor tight against the length of his body. Harry sighed and leaned into him, enjoying the press of Draco's slim body against his own. It was comforting to be held like this by anyone, and to be held like this by Draco.... It was amazing and dangerous and confusing as all hell, but it was also just... nice.
He knew perfectly well that he wasn't the only one seeking comfort in the embrace, but if Draco wanted to act like he was doing him a favor that was just fine. Draco's confession had disturbed him as much, if not more, then his own. He'd seen Draco arguing with his father at the end of their fifth year, but it was somehow different to hear the reality from Draco's lips beneath the cover of darkness. "Malfoy..." Harry murmured softly, tightening his arms around the boy whose name was a sigh on his lips.
"Nothing should feel this good," Draco replied softly, unvoiced laughter a gentle undercurrent beneath his words. It was shaky and uncertain, but real nonetheless.
He held Harry a bit tighter and Harry winced as pain shot through his back. "Ouch. Careful."
Draco loosened his grip and drew back slightly, giving Harry a strange look. "What's wrong with your back?"
"I've still got those nasty wounds from the Quidditch match just like you do, Malfoy." Harry replied, wincing as another sharp pain shot through his back for no apparent reason.
"Let me see," Draco murmured, drawing away from Harry slowly.
"Wanna pour some salt in the wound, Malfoy?" Harry replied irritably.
"No, I want to dig at it with my wand. Just shut up and let me see."
Harry sighed, but struggled out of his robes, pitching them towards the end of the bed. Draco smiled slightly, taking in the tight black t-shirt with an appreciative gaze. Harry frowned at that,"What?"
"Nice. I haven't seen you out of your robes since second year. No wonder the girls adore you."
"Too bad that girls don't do a thing for me," Harry sighed, lying down on his stomach with his arms folded beneath his chin. "Life certainly would be easier if they did."
"Hm," Draco murmured. It wasn't really an answer, but Harry had a feeling Draco agreed with him wholeheartedly. He didn't say anything else as he straddled Harry's jean-clad hips and pushed the t-shirt up away from the bandages beneath. He peeled the bandages away slowly to peer at the wound underneath, "Looks like a dragon did a tap dance back here."
"You always know just what to say to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, Malfoy."
"I call them as I see them, Potter. It looks like dark magic, but the Dark Arts aren't big on protection spells... especially protection spells which work on two people at once without killing one of them." Draco traced a fingertip across the wound and drew it away slowly, "Strange."
Harry winced, but managed to keep still beneath Draco's prodding fingers. "What's strange?"
"The wounds look raw, open, but they're smooth like scars to the touch. The wounds are what? Three days old? These marks are probably permanent."
"You seem to know a lot about this."
"Dark Arts and Potions are my areas of expertise, Potter. Whatever this is, it's definitely dark magic." Draco replied with the matter-of-fact detachment of someone who knew exactly he was and what he was good at. The Dark Arts had been outlawed in England when they were children, but Draco spoke of them as if they were as ordinary as biscuits and jam. As if it were such a normal thing that he should know all about them. Which, Harry supposed, was actually pretty accurate when he thought about it. He'd known for years that the Malfoy family were probably as deeply entrenched in the Dark Arts as Voldemort. Of course, it wasn't until recently that he'd really given a damn what the Malfoys were involved in as long as they didn't practice on him or his friends.
Draco smoothed the bandage back in place and pulled the dark material of Harry's t-shirt down once more. "I'll see what I can find out about it."
"Why are you being so helpful all of a sudden?" Harry inquired, casting a glance back over his shoulder at the Slytherin sitting on his hips.
"These jeans are horrid, Potter. If you'd actually decided to throw yourself off the astronomy tower I would have hoped you'd have been sensible enough not to wear these trousers, otherwise Granger and Weasel would have been worrying needlessly. With these things on you'd float gently to the ground and land without so much as a scratch." Draco pulled irritably at one of the too large belt loops.
"Stop trying to change the subject, Malfoy. Why are you helping me voluntarily?"
"You're not the only one who got caught up in that spell, Potter. I'm not helping you, I'm helping myself and you just happen to be reaping the benefits of my survival instincts."
"Fine, whatever. So, in the interests of helping yourself, why do you think someone would cast that kind of spell on us?"
Draco shrugged, crawling off Harry's legs to lie down beside him once more. Harry immediately tucked his arms around the Slytherin, pulling him closer. For some reason, holding Draco made him feel better. He was solid, real, and possibly the only person as fucked up as himself. There was something strangely comforting in knowing that you weren't alone: misery loves company and all that. Draco snuggled a bit closer, turning his gray gaze to meet Harry's at last. Harry could see the obvious puzzlement there and the irritation it caused written across his sharp, pale features.
"It doesn't make sense," Draco answered finally, before turning his face into Harry's shoulder.
"So little does these days," Harry replied dryly, closing his eyes and leaning in closer to Draco's warmth.
The door closed and he was alone. Alone in the darkness for a second time. His body ached with the fresh wounds inflicted across his ribs and back, but it wasn't enough to distract him from the desperate nature of his situation. He was trapped. Locked away in this small, tight space and its suffocating darkness. He contemplated screaming, but he couldn't give them the satisfaction of knowing the depths of his terror. So instead he lay in the dark with his knees tucked in tight against his battered body and trembled.
He could hear them just beyond his dark prison.
Laughter. The creak and groan of the rusted hinges of cell doors. The weak sound of rattling chains and the gibbering half-formed words of those who had already lost their minds in this darkness. And above it all that horrid screaming.
They were screaming again. He wanted to scream along with them. Echo their cries and their pain with his own.
He bit down hard on his bottom lip as he felt the sharp edge of panic rise up within him, the metallic taste of blood filling his mouth as his teeth cut through the skin. It was enough, at least for now, to keep him sane. Pain and the taste of blood. It was enough to make him remember who he was and why he was here. The old admonitions came again, a swirling wind of broken thoughts in his troubled mind.
Shouldn't have watched.
Shouldn't have seen.
Shouldn't have screamed.
Draco jolted awake, panting, his brow wet with sweat. He went still as his eyes searched the darkness; for one moment the memory of the dream was too vivid and he wondered if he was back in his prison once more. Then he felt the warm body beside him shift, and arms tighten around him, and he remembered. He was at Hogwarts, and the body tucked so tightly around his own was Harry Potter.
He swallowed hard, forcing himself to calm down as he lay still and rigid in Harry's sleep-slack arms. He was fine. Fine, damn it. He wasn't fool enough to think a dream could hurt him. Dreams were nothing but fragments of life or the secret desires of the heart. They were nothing real. Nothing tangible. They were simply smoke and mirrors, illusions of reality.
Over a year had passed, yet he still found himself thrust from his sleep too often with fresh terror searing through his mind. How they would laugh to see him in such a state even now. How proud they would be to see how effective their punishment truly had been.
"Damn you," Draco murmured into the darkness, hoping they would somehow hear his words. "Damn you all."
Shoving the memories away, Draco contemplated returning to his own room now that he was awake, but he simply couldn't summon the will in the wake of his nightmare. He wanted to stay in this warm darkness, which was so different from the suffocating darkness he'd once known because of the presence of the boy at his side.
Shuddering, Draco turned slowly in the circle of Harry's arms to look upon the face of the boy who lay beside him. Dark hair fell in tangles across his pale forehead, the scar which made him so famous almost invisible behind that thick veil of hair. Draco wondered idly if that wasn't the reason that Harry kept his hair so long. To hide the very thing that made him entirely unique, special.
Not that he cared, of course. The boy who lived was still the boy who lived, after all. Only...
Draco cut the thought off abruptly and turned his back on the sleeping boy. He couldn't think that way. It was bad enough that he was still here. It was bad enough that he was lying in these arms and enjoying it. Better not to question it for now. Better just to rest and worry about his growing attachment to this boy during the lighter hours when the darkness and the nightmares were not so close at hand.
He could feel the pull of sleep heavy against his eyelids as he tugged Harry's arms tighter around himself. It was rather marvelous, he decided, how well Harry functioned in place of a blanket.
With that thought forming a smile on his lips, Draco drifted into a thankfully dreamless sleep.
When Draco was awakened some time later, it wasn't by nightmares, but a quiet snuffling noise against his ear. He almost chuckled as he realized those noises were coming from Harry, who curled as tightly around his body in a manner that was reminiscent of that imagined blanket from the night before.
Draco remembered having been rather surprised to discover that Harry Potter was a snuggler when the dark-haired boy had fallen asleep curled against him as he was now. Not that he was complaining, it was just... very different from the last time he'd slept in this bed. Of course, the last time he'd slept in Harry's bed they hadn't exactly been on snuggling terms. How things changed....
Harry made another soft snuffling noise, bare feet slipping beneath the cuff of Draco's trousers to rub against his bare ankles. Draco closed his eyes and relished the sensation of being held by the marvelous boy who lived. He really couldn't delay leaving this bed any longer, but a part of him wanted to. That same part that wanted Harry to win this little game. It was a small, evil, traitorous part, but it was still terribly tempting... tempting to stay like this, tucked in Harry Potter's warm embrace. It felt deliciously good, too good to be true or to last.
Wincing at the thought, Draco carefully lifted one of Harry's arms aside, intent on escaping before the Gryffindor...
"Not a chance, Malfoy." Harry growled, renewing his vise-like grip on Draco's waist and pulling him back against his chest.
Draco sighed irritably, his fingers lingering on Harry's wrist, "You can't make me stay, Potter."
"Watch me," the Gryffindor replied with equal irritation, pressing his sun-chapped lips against Draco's neck. His tongue licked across the sensitive skin and the blond boy gasped, stiffening in Harry's embrace as desire swept through him. Harry chuckled, lifting his lips away from the moistened skin to speak. "Shut up and stay put, Malfoy."
"Or what...?" Draco asked, his eyes fluttering closed as Harry's warm lips and tongue traced a path from his neck to his ear.
"Or you'll wake my roommates and end up with a room full of annoyed Gryffindors busting in on this little party." Harry replied evenly, nibbling at Draco's earlobe as he spoke.
"I can't stay, Potter. I shouldn't have stayed this long..." Draco argued weakly, reluctant despite himself to end the cease-fire between them so soon. "This isn't playing fair, Potter."
Harry snorted, "Of all the things I expected to hear from you this morning, that definitely wasn't one of them. Awful funny to hear the master of lies and deception accusing me of not playing fair."
"I'm so glad to be the source of your amusement. Now, let go of me before your roommates..." Draco paused, turning slowly in the circle of Harry's arms to face the Gryffindor. "Does it seem a bit too quiet to you?"
Harry blinked, realizing for the first time that he couldn't hear Seamus' snores in the background of their conversation. What he could hear, however, was the sound of bare feet shuffling across the stone floor and the barely stifled giggles of his roommates closing in on his side of the bed. "This could be bad," Harry muttered, releasing Draco and turning his gaze towards the noise.
Draco rolled away from him and promptly fell off his side of the bed with a loud thunk. Harry winced at the sound, but made no comment as the tall, lanky figure of Ron flung the curtains open and the bright, cheery light of early morning flooded in to smack Harry straight in the face.
"What?" Harry grumbled, flinging a hand against his face to ward off the sunlight, so that he could better give Ron and the boys crowded in beside him the nasty glare they truly deserved.
A slightly embarrassed smile from Ron. Disappointed glances from the other boys. "We thought you were sleeping," Ron murmured, flushing to the roots of his red hair. "We... um... heard a thump and... um.... Did you hit your head on the board?"
"Don't change the subject. You thought I was sleeping. And so I suppose it would be safe to assume that pitcher of water Seamus is holding was meant for me?" Harry inquired, raising a dark eyebrow in Ron's direction.
"Um.. well..." Ron muttered, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly and taking a small step back.
"It was all Neville's idea," Seamus volunteered quickly. "He made us do it. He's the evil mastermind." It was amazing how sexy Seamus could make phrases like 'evil mastermind' sound. It was almost obscene. Plus, those words reminded him of another evil mastermind who was no doubt hiding beneath the bed at this very moment.
"It was not!" Neville exclaimed, flushing in a way that made Harry wonder if it might not have been Neville's idea after all. Neville had actually managed to think up trouble all on his own. Bully for him, Harry reflected silently, a tired smile tugging at his lips as he sat up. "Mind closing the curtains? If I get back to sleep, you might get another chance at it."
"Yeah, but it wouldn't be the same." Dean replied mournfully, shaking his head. He was always one for a good prank; of course, he rather had to be since he was Seamus' best friend and all. "The shock factor is gone."
"With ice water, the shock factor is always there." Harry responded, his lips quirking slightly as Dean's expression brightened.
"Aren't you coming down to breakfast, Harry?" Ron inquired, and Harry noticed for the first time that the other boys were all already dressed.
"Yeah, I'll be down in a bit. You lot go on ahead." Harry responded, smiling as he thought of the pale-haired Slytherin who was tucked under his bed cursing his existence as he chatted with his roommates. As if it were really his fault Draco Malfoy had decided to spend the night in his bed. It wasn't as if he'd chained the idiot to the bedposts.
Ron made a face, "You sure? I can wait for you if you want."
"No, don't worry about it. You go on and take Bebe's kids with you," Harry insisted, earning himself a strange look and a shrug from Ron. He didn't get the joke, but then Harry had hardly expected him to. Dean, however, being as terribly in tune with all things Muggle as he was, gave Harry a wide grin to indicate that his humor had not gone completely unappreciated.
"Fine. Hurry up," Ron finally responded, as he ushered the laughing group from the room.
Once he could no longer hear his roommates' laughter from beyond the heavy wooden door, Harry turned his attention to more important matters. "You can come out now, Malfoy."
"Not happening," Draco called, his voice muffled by the mattress between them.
"Are you simply going to stay under there all day?" Harry inquired, smiling slightly as he crawled across the bed to where Draco had fallen. He drew the drapes open enough that he could drop his upper body over the side of the bed to peer at the Slytherin beneath. Draco's gray eyes gazed back out at him, glittering like the edge of a blade in the darkness beneath the bed. "Hm?"
"Yes. I plan to stay here until I rot and then you'll have to smell my rotting corpse until the day you graduate," Draco grumbled, and Harry noticed that the blond was blushing. He would have laughed, if he hadn't been absolutely certain that Draco would make good on his threat if he did.
"You bloody well know why," Draco growled, glancing away. "If you must insist on looking at me then come down to this level and stop hanging upside down like that. You look ridiculous."
"I'm not the one hiding under the bed like a five-year-old," Harry replied easily, making no move to follow Draco's suggestion.
"I'm hardly hiding," Draco scoffed quietly.
"I beg to differ. Don't make me crawl under there and fetch you out- I promise you won't like it." Harry hissed, suddenly and inexplicably annoyed by Draco's behavior.
"Fine," Draco grumbled, sliding away from Harry's gaze. Harry sat back up on the bed in time to see Draco emerge from the other side and stand, slapping irritably at the dust bunnies which clung to his clothing. "Happy now?" Draco raised one sharp eyebrow in Harry's direction.
"Ecstatic," Harry responded drolly, shaking off the last traces of lightheadedness which clung to him and slipping off the bed to stand staring at Draco with the bed between them. "You stayed the night with me."
"The master of the obvious as usual, Potter." Draco grumbled, still dusting at his trousers with great annoyance. "Fine idea that was. I can't very well go back to my common room dressed like this now, can I? Bloody hell, I might as well have stayed beneath the bloody bed."
"Here," Harry murmured, crossing quickly to where his trunk sat at the foot of the bed and pulling out a set of robes. "You can return them to me after you fetch your own."
Draco frowned, but took the offered robes. He shook them out with a quick jerk and immediately noticed there was something strange about them. They looked a bit worn around the edges and the black seemed to have faded a bit over time. Not to mention that they were several inches too short. "Been taking a cue from the Weasel and shopping at the second-hand stores? You can't expect me to actually wear these." Draco inquired, raising a incredulous gaze to Harry who was smirking. Damn him.
"I'm going to pretend that you didn't just say that. For the sake of the truce and all."
He studied Harry intensely, taking in the black t-shirt and too-large jeans, belted tightly around his waist. Harry looked tired, disheveled, rumpled, and terribly... sexy. Draco dropped his gaze to the robes in his hands, his cheeks reddening with embarrassment. He was weak... weak for curling up in those arms last night, weak for staying when he knew he should have gone, weak for wanting to seek that comfort once more despite himself. He was going to end up getting himself killed because his hormones were out of control and, judging from the look in Harry's eyes the night before, he wasn't the only one. They'd been trading secrets and when Draco had spoken of how he'd obtained the scar on his cheek, Harry's eyes had seemed to light with some terrible fire. As if he were angry for the pain that scar had caused Draco. As if he cared.
He could still feel the ghost of Harry's lips pressed against the scar. Such a gentle touch. It had conveyed so many things that Draco simply didn't have the words to describe. As if Harry had wanted to protect him, heal him. Hell, the Gryffindor would probably chase him down into the flames of hell in some foolhardy attempt to save him.
That thought still in his mind, Draco fixed the Gryffindor with a murderous glare. "The bloody truce is over, Potter."
Harry frowned, anger rising instantly more from years of habit than anything else, and he returned Draco's glare with one of his own. "Thanks for the warning, Malfoy."
"Just didn't want you to be surprised when I poison your food at breakfast," Draco replied nastily, slipping the robes over his head as he spoke -- and was so caught up in his anger that he put an arm and his head through the same hole and had to wrestle about with the cloth for a full minute before he managed to get it on correctly. Harry had to bite down hard on his lower lip to keep from bursting out laughing at the sight. "Not a word," Draco hissed, straightening the robes with quick, frustrated tugs.
"Oh, I wouldn't dream of saying anything. A picture is worth a thousand words, Malfoy."
"It's not funny."
"So you say."
"I hate you," Draco spat, his cheeks burning as he stormed from the room. He'd actually got out the door and down the stairs before he realized that he'd left his wand lying somewhere on Harry's bed. Cursing under his breath, the Slytherin turned back to find the hated Gryffindor standing at the head of the stairs, dangling his wand from his fingertips.
"Forget something, Malfoy?"
"You're a jerk," Draco grumbled, stomping back up the stairs and snatching the wand from Harry with more force then was strictly necessary.
"Just trying to keep up with the competition, Malfoy."
"Gladly. See you at breakfast, sugarlips." Harry watched Draco's nose wrinkle at the sarcasm-laden endearment, knowing full well that Draco hadn't the foggiest idea that it was an endearment at all. Having spent your entire life locked away from anything Muggle certainly put him at a disadvantage whenever Harry used Muggle terminology. Harry filed that little tidbit of information away for later use.
"I hate you, Potter. I really, really hate you."
"And yet you seemed pretty bloody comfortable when you were curled up next to me last night."
"Things aren't always what they seem." Draco hissed, stepping up until he stood on the same step as Harry, one leg braced on either side of Harry's, their bodies pressed almost as tightly as they had been the previous night. "You trust me. You care about me, Potter. You shouldn't because I'm going to be the death of you. Just. You. Wait." Draco's stomach twisted as he watched the certainty in Harry's eyes weaken and crumble around him. He wanted to take back his words. He wanted to wrap his arms around that slim, muscled frame and squeeze him until he broke into pieces around him.
If someone had asked Draco Malfoy at that moment what it was like to desire and hate someone simultaneously, he might have told them that it was a lot like eating an caramel apple when you knew there were razor-sharp blades embedded beneath the soft flesh. Like the sharp metallic taste of the blade against your tongue as it bit through the muscle. It was like blood and steel and sticky sweets. It was dangerous pleasure and unimaginable pain. It was dying and being reborn on a breath.
On second thought, he probably would have just cursed the fool asking the question until they screamed for mercy.
"I'm waiting, Malfoy." Harry murmured, his gaze as dark and unreadable as Draco had ever seen it. Whatever was going on behind those eyes, it definitely wasn't good. "Better make it worth the wait."
"Think you'd stand a chance of beating me if we ever did really have it out, Potter?"
"Maybe. Maybe not -- but either way, you can bet your life that if I went down, I'd take you with me."
"We'll see, Potter, we'll see."
Pansy Parkinson was not a stupid girl.
She realized that many people thought of her as such, but that was fine by her. Always had been. Underestimating one's opponent was a weakness and it was a weakness she knew how to exploit to its full potential. It was in her nature to be able to exploit any weakness to her advantage. She was, after all, very much her father's daughter, just as Draco was his father's son. It was through these similarities that they became... not friends exactly, but as close to friends as was truly possible for people such as they. A certain closeness grown from the seed of their mutual hatred for their lot in life.
Certainly there were people who had it worse then they did. After all, a starving man locked away in Azkaban would probably envy them for their freedom. They could walk under the blue sky and watch the beauty of life happening all about them; they just couldn't make their own choices. It was a small price to pay for being alive and relatively free.
However, it was hardly pleasant to know you could never have truly trust anyone because at any given moment they might turn around and stick a knife in your back. Serve you up on a gilded silver platter, complete with garnish, to save their own necks from the chopping block.
Pansy and Draco were old blood: their parents descended from a long line of pureblooded wizards and followers of the Dark Lord. It had been made very clear to both of them at a very young age that such things as love, friendship, kindness, and trust were the tools of fools. They were not encouraged to display any of these emotions; in fact, they were encouraged to suppress them or cast them out. Nobility and courage were points of weakness to be exploited at every possible opportunity. She'd once heard a Muggle boy accuse Draco of having been potty-trained at gunpoint. It was funny how close to the truth that boy had been. Instead of a gun, it had been a wand and a parent with Avada Kedavra on their lips- and it had been pointed at them both since birth.
Pansy sighed heavily and curled closer to her would-be boyfriend's pillow, to which his musky scent still clung, and bringing the article to her face. He was gone now, of course. He had to keep up the pretense of having spent the night alone by going down with the rest of the boys to breakfast. She would have to go down soon as well, but for now she had a few moments to relax in his empty room and curl around his still-warm pillow and think.
She still couldn't decide which was worse: lying here in his bed for a few stolen nights each month, tucked away safe and warm in arms dreaming of the life they could never have, or lying in her own cold bed, alone and aching. It was a hard thing to choose between the reality and the illusion. For their relationship was indeed an illusion: she was old blood and old blood could use new blood to their advantage, form alliances with new blood, but never could it marry new blood.
And, of course, those thoughts always brought her back to thinking of Draco Malfoy. After all, he was the reason they were together in the first place and the only reason she had the relative freedom to sneak into her boyfriend's bed in the middle of the night now. She remembered that sunny afternoon in the park on Valentine's Day so well, even after all this time. It had been nearly six years now and, though they'd grown older if not necessarily wiser, they were all still essentially the same people they'd been on that day.
Pansy had been seated at a small picnic table at the edge of the playground, surrounded by a group of smiling, giggling girls that was the same group of smiling, giggling girls that she sat with during every trip to the park. She was supposed to be making friends with these girls, but for the life of her she couldn't even remember their names. Not to mention how difficult it was to stomach their inane chatter. However, if they had ever noticed her silent hatred, none of the girls had ever given any sign of it. Every afternoon spent with them always passed in the same manner. They would chatter on about something or other and Pansy would nod or murmur a soft reply in the appropriate places and then, eventually, her governess would come and fetch her and they would return to the Manor.
Valentine's Day had started out in much the same manner. The girls had been going on about who had received what valentine from whom while Pansy, who had never received a single valentine in her life and didn't really care, gazed about the playground in search of something interesting to watch until her governess deigned to get her fat arse off the park bench and fetch her home.
Pansy's gaze slid across the children running around the slide without really seeing them. Her gaze paused for a moment on the swings, noting that Draco Malfoy was starring daggers at something. Frowning slightly, Pansy followed that gaze to a small group of boys half-hidden behind a rocket-shaped slide. There were four boys, of which she only recognized two from her many trips to the park: Vincent Crabbe and Arnold Somethingorwhatother. She watched with a frown as Arnold snatched something from Crabbe's hands; it made her wish she could hear what was going on.
"Pansy? Did you hear a word I said?"
Pansy's frown deepened as she turned her attention to the blonde-haired girl sitting across from her. "No, I didn't. Sorry."
"That's okay, Pansy. I was just saying that..."
The girl's voice seemed to fade to a quiet buzz as Pansy turned her gaze back to the small group across the playground. Draco had left his swings and was standing near the group telling Arnold something. Whatever it was that he was saying was definitely not to Arnold's liking, for the boy turned several shades of red before turning on his heel and stalking off with the other two boys at his heels.
Pansy started and turned back to the blonde girl again, "What?!"
The girl blinked, obviously shocked. "I... um... that is... I..."
"Well? If you don't have anything to say, stop calling my name." Pansy murmured, smiling sweetly as her gaze turned back to the boys only to see Draco Malfoy approaching them rapidly, a piece of red paper clutched in his pale hands.
"Malfoy," Pansy murmured in greeting and the girls surrounding her fell quiet, listening intently.
Draco frowned at them, the smallest sign of his displeasure. "A moment of your time?"
"Certainly," Pansy replied, flicking her hands as if to shoo the girls surrounding her away. True to form, they rose and moved away, their disappointment at not being allowed to stay for the exchange obvious in their eyes. Once they had finally ambled away, Draco took a seat across the table from Pansy and slid the mysterious paper across the table's surface. "It's from Crabbe."
Pansy took the valentine, careful not to touch Draco as she slipped it from beneath his fingers and turned it over in her hands. It was a large construction paper heart with a smaller white heart pasted on top of it. The white heart could have been made of lace, with its inticately cut designs; emblazoned across it in red paint was a simple 'be mine,' painstakingly overlaid with gold glitter. It was a bit crumpled around the edges, but she found that it was made all the more lovely by those tiny imperfections. "It's beautiful," Pansy murmured finally, tracing the lacy white heart, memorizing the feel of it beneath her fingertips. "Tell him, I love it."
"Tell him yourself. I'm not your messenger boy," Draco replied, pushing himself to his feet and giving Pansy a last measuring look before striding away.
Pansy stared after him with a frown. She watched as he strode quickly towards the playground nearby, children scampering to get of his way as he crossed the park. It was the way it had always been. Draco Malfoy comes towards you, you get out of the way. It had been that way as long as she could remember.
Every Sunday from the time she was only five or six, she'd been taken to this park. At first it had been her parents who had taken her, then her nanny and later her governess. Pansy darted a quick glance towards her governess, Ms. Shelfield, who was sitting on a bench in the distance thumbing through a large book.
Temporarily free of the woman's usually watchful gaze, Pansy rose from her seat and walked quickly to where Crabbe stood with his shoulders hunched, toeing his trainers against the dirt at his feet. A hint of a smile curved her lips as she watched him. He was actually kind of cute in a way, and she could tell how much work he'd put into the valentine still clutched in her hands. "Crabbe?"
Crabbe glanced up, his eyes widening as Pansy came to a stop a few feet from him. He watched her with surprised eyes, obviously shocked by her sudden presence, but he winced as he took in the familiar heart she held. His jaw worked for a moment, "He... he took it to you."
"You didn't ask him to?" Pansy inquired, her gaze narrowing in confusion.
"Nah, I... I didn't want to give it to you. It's stupid," Crabbe replied, his gaze dropping to the ground once more.
Pansy felt her heart tighten as she gazed at the boy in front of her. She'd never really spoken with him before, but she suddenly had a strong urge to slap Arnold Whatevertheheckwashisname silly for making him think that the valentine was stupid. Maybe it was a little childish, but no one had ever even thought to give her anything like this before. It was... sweet.
"It's not stupid. I like it. It's... beautiful. Thank you." Pansy murmured, holding the valentine protectively against her chest.
"Really?" Crabbe raised surprised eyes to Pansy's face, smiling when he saw the sincerity there. "I... I'm glad you like it."
"I love it." Pansy repeated firmly, hugging the valentine closer as she cast a furtive glance over her shoulder to where her governess sat, still throughly engrossed in her book. She turned her gaze back to Crabbe, taking a moment to just look at him. He was bigger than she was, at least a head taller than she was and wider as well, but he had a kind air about him that made him different from any of the other boys she'd met. Her father had always dismissed kindness as a weakness, a weakness which could be exploited, but maybe... maybe he'd been wrong.
Of course, she didn't really believe that her father was wrong about kindness being a sign of weakness. It was weakness and for someone like Crabbe, a boy from a family of lower-class Deatheaters, it could prove a fatal weakness. It made her want to protect him. It was an odd feeling to want to protect someone nearly twice your size, but Pansy decided that that's exactly what she was going to do. She couldn't answer his feelings, her parents would never allow it, but she could protect him and see to it that he was happy.
That thought in mind, Pansy forced herself to change the subject. She swallowed hard and turned to the safest topic she could think of at the moment. "Why would Draco...?" She hesitated, trying to find a way to ask her question without sounding too insulting. It wasn't that she disliked Draco, but he wasn't the sort of person to do anything nice without some ulterior motive. "Why would Draco bring this to me, do you think?"
Crabbe seemed to understand her and shook his head slowly, "I don't know." His dark gaze strayed to something across the playground. Pansy followed that gaze to find the blond object of their conversation sitting alone on a swing across the way.
Children she didn't know ran back forth through the swings and slides, playing a frantic game of 'catch the witch,' but they seemed to give Draco a wide berth... as if they knew instinctively that he would not want to be part of their exploits. As a result, even though he sat in the middle of a crowd of children, the small pale-haired boy seemed completely alone and isolated from them all. A frigid, almost pretty statue amidst a sea of chaos.
Even those who knew him would not disturb him uninvited, it just wasn't done. Draco Malfoy didn't have 'friends.' And if anyone had asked Pansy's opinion a mere five minutes ago, she would have said that he liked it that way. That he had no use for such frivolous things as friends or games. She'd always thought of him as cold, mean, a bit scary, but perfectly fine on his own. Now...
She looked at him, not for the first time, but for the first time without the years of assumptions and other people's opinions to determine what she would see. She looked at him and decided, with something close to shock, that Draco Malfoy looked... sad. Sad and lonely and so very, heartbreakingly... human. No longer the frigid statue of moments before. No longer merely a Malfoy. Just a small, sad, blond-haired child sitting all alone, swinging gently in an unseen breeze.
Yes, that had been the moment she'd begun to care what happened to Draco Malfoy, virtually the same moment she'd started to care for Vincent. And once she'd begun to care, there didn't seem to be any way to make it go away. All she had been able to do was keep it hidden. So she had. She had always been excellent at hiding her feelings and emotions, which explained why she'd been able to date Vince for so long without a soul knowing except Draco, and his being aware of the situation had been an absolute necessity. After all, she and Draco had been 'dating' for a few months towards the end of the previous year: a terribly clever ruse of Draco's invention which had kept their parents from becoming suspicious of either her too-close relationship with Vince or Draco's general dislike of the vast majority of humanity, the female half especially.
The door opened abruptly, snapping Pansy from her thoughts, and she peered surreptitiously out through the bedcurtains to find Draco Malfoy leaning back against the wooden door, breathing as if he'd just finished a marathon. He looked exhausted and unsettled, though the average person wouldn't have been able to tell. Compared to Draco's, even Pansy's masking skills were hopelessly inferior. Draco was very, very good at what he did.
He looked around the room warily before stepping away from the door. As he stepped further into the room, Pansy surveyed the other Slytherin, taking in his robes and noticing the trousers peeking out from beneath them.
"A bit early for leather isn't it, Draco?" Pansy inquired, a small smile curling her lips. The average person might not have recognized the trousers for what they were, but Pansy knew better. After all, she'd been the one to buy them.
Draco jumped, turning to level the girl who was pushing aside Crabbe's curtains with a scathing gaze. "Bloody hell, Pansy. You scared me half to death."
"Glad to know I can still surprise you." Pansy smirked, rescuing her boots from their customary hiding place beneath the bed, and tugging on one of the heavy black monstrosities before propping her foot against Goyle's bed to do up the lacings. During the entire ordeal, she managed to keep an eye trained on Draco. "You never came in last night. Dare I ask whose robes you're wearing?"
"Don't start," Draco grumbled, pulling the robes over his head in one elegant motion and tossing them onto his bed before turning to walk to his trunk.
Pansy let out a quiet whistle, taking in Draco's outfit with appreciative eyes, "Very nice. Those trousers were worth all the effort after all. How furious was your father when you wore them in front of him for the first time?"
Draco shrugged, pulling fresh robes and clothing from the now open trunk. "Livid. He told me I was to destroy them immediately. I told him to sod off."
"That probably wasn't the smartest thing you could have done, love. Is that where the scar came from?"
"No, but I had a nice imprint of the back of his hand on the other cheek to take some attention away from it for until the end of June," Draco chuckled derisively before seating himself neatly on the edge of his bed and unlacing his own boots. "Did you and Crabbe have a nice night?"
"We always do, my dear cousin. He's cuddly."
"I'll have to take your word for it."
"I should hope so." Pansy responded, wrinkling her nose slightly at the thought.
"And don't call me cousin. It's creepy. Besides that, we're barely related."
"True, but it's fun to watch that little shiver of revulsion creep up your back. So, tell me, that outfit of yours only goes with violence or sex. Which was the order of the night?"
"I don't know." Draco murmured, suddenly finding the removal of his boots the most interesting thing in the world.
"You don't know? Sounds lovely. Too bad it wasn't sex, you need to get laid more then anyone I know... with the possible exception of myself."
"There are worse things then being unable to have sex, Pansy."
"Yes, I suppose, but when I'm curled in the arms of the boy I love... it doesn't seem that way." Pansy replied, a wry smile curving her lips. "There are days when I'd give anything to have your sexual freedom."
"There are days when I'd give it to you. I'm certainly not getting any use out of it." Draco chuckled softly at the old joke. Pansy Parkinson was old blood, pure blood, just as he was, but being a woman meant she had to stay chaste to ever have a hope of marrying well.
"Don't think I don't appreciate the offer, Draco." Pansy slid off the bed and walked across the room to stand beside Draco, careful not to touch the blond boy in any way. Her expression became suddenly serious, "You have to be careful, Draco. Zabini noticed you weren't in your bed this morning, and if he suspects where you've been sneaking off to, you know he'll tell everyone just to spite you."
"Zabini, I can handle." Draco replied, glancing up at Pansy with dead, emotionless eyes.
It wasn't the first time she'd seen him shut down his emotions, but it still chilled her to the depths of her soul whenever he did it. His eyes seemed darker then their natural gray, almost black, as if dropping his emotions had bled the color from his eyes as well. It was almost as if everything that she'd come to define as uniquely Draco was gone, leaving only an empty husk in his place. Though she'd never met the Dark Lord, she imagined that his eyes looked a bit like that as he was whispering the Killing Curse. She shivered and Draco was Draco once more. She almost smiled in relief, but that would have just made him angry.
Draco's eyes were normal, if a bit cold, as he spoke: "I'm Slytherin for a reason, Pansy. Deception is as much second nature to me as it is to you. I am perfectly capable of handling Zabini's little power plays."
"I realize that, Draco, but you shouldn't underestimate him. I think he suspects that you saved Potter on the Quidditch pitch on purpose. In case I haven't made it clear how <I>stupid</I> it was to do something so blatantly obvious..."
"You've made it perfectly clear more than once, Pansy." Draco replied, his tone making it clear that he was done with this conversation.
Pansy sighed, resisting the urge to pat Draco's hair as she took a step away from him. "Fine. Just keep that in mind. I'm going to go down and get changed now. I would suggest you do the same." Pansy murmured, her expression grim as she gave Draco a final glance before leaving him alone in the silence of his bedchamber.
Harry trudged down to breakfast as if he were truly carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders which, in a way, he was. Draco's words hung about him like a shroud, forcing him to see his surroundings through a fog of stillborn emotion. He hated this. Hated the way they were at each other's throats one moment and curled up in each other's arms the next. One moment he was positively livid, murderous fury throbbing through his skull, and the next he was spellbound by forbidden desire. As if it weren't bad enough that he should have death threats and cryptic warnings swirling about him, without having to try and figure out if he wanted to strangle Draco Malfoy or shag him rotten.
He dragged himself down the last flight of stairs and slouched into the hall with a frown marring his features. Ron waved to him enthusiastically as he entered and Harry steered himself to the table, plopping down in the open seat beside Ron and directly across from Hermione.
Harry felt her glare on him the moment he hit the seat, like a stake being driven into his skull. He glanced up and found that he was right about the glare. Hermione sat with her arms crossed firmly over her ample chest, her long dark hair hanging in neat braids on either side of her head. She looked pretty, but Harry was pretty sure she wouldn't appreciate the compliment in her current state of mind. In the end, he gave her a weak smile, "Morning."
"Harry. You look like hell," Hermione replied tersely, "And you're late."
"Are you having nightmares, again?" Her voice softened with concern as she let some of her irritation fall away.
"You could say that," Harry responded bitterly, dropping his head against the table, barely missing putting his head in a bowl of chocolate pudding which really had no business being at a breakfast table.
"This is about Malfoy, isn't it?" Ron asked, his voice heavy with suspicion.
"Why do you say that?" Harry replied, talking more to the table then to Ron.
"He's the only thing that ever works you up like this."
"Indeed." Hermione agreed, exchanging a knowing look with Ron as Harry slowly raised his head from the table and glared at them both.
"Sometimes I hate that you know me so well."
"Well, yes, there is that." Hermione responded, reaching across to pat Harry's black, still-damp locks with a gentle hand. "Cheer up, Harry. Ron and I went on a field trip last night and we found out a few things that I'm sure you'll find very interesting."
"Oh?" Harry responded, his expression conveying just how little Hermione's words did to cheer him up.
"Oh, for the love of..." Hermione began, her expression twisting with frustration. "Would you like me to go over there and belt him one right now? I don't mind. I've been looking for an excuse to hit him again for years."
"It won't help," Harry sighed, offering Hermione a weak smile. "It's as much me as it is him...."
"Tsk, fine. It's a standing offer. If you should finally come to your senses, feel free to let me know and I will be more then happy to make him a <I>very</I> sorry little boy." She stood up suddenly, annoyance still radiating from her in palpable waves. "Ron and I have a meeting. When you've finished eating come up to the Prefects' Lounge and we'll talk." Hermione sent a parting glare in the direction of the Slytherin table before snatching up her books and stomping out of the room.
"She's scary when she's mad," Harry murmured, exchanging a glance with Ron, who nodded in mournful agreement.
"This is nothing. You should have seen her that night you and Malfoy had the big blowout. I'll see you in a bit, eh?"
"Yeah, I'll be up."
"Great," Ron replied, gathering his scattered books and hurrying after Hermione.
"So, how's your shoulder, Malfoy?" Goyle asked, eyeing his smaller friend with a concerned gaze.
Draco shrugged vaguely, nudging his potatoes from one side of the plate to the other with his fork. Goyle narrowed his eyes slightly at the listless, distracted look in his friend's eyes. He'd known Draco for years and, though he knew they weren't truly friends in the conventional sense, he still couldn't help being concerned about the other boy. Before fifth year, Draco had always been, well, not cheerful exactly. Draco Malfoy was many things, but cheerful wasn't one of them. Still he'd been pretty happy; satisfied with his life in general and he had always carried that superior, proud air around him as if it were his best defense and greatest weapon. Then... then it had all changed...
"Malfoy... are you okay?" Crabbe inquired, his dull brown eyes narrowing slightly as he stared down at the boy beside him who was now glaring intently at his untouched breakfast.
"I'm bloody perfect," Draco murmured, a sinister smile curving his lips as he picked up the knife beside his plate and stabbed viciously at a biscuit as if the bread had offended him in some way.
"Uh... right," Crabbe replied, noticing that Draco's knuckles were white as he stabbed at the biscuit again.
"Malfoy, I think the biscuit's dead." Millicent chuckled from across the table earning herself twin glares from the large boys which flanked the blond.
"Shut it, Bulstrode--" Crabbe growled, instinctively leaping to his quiet friend's defense.
"--Or we'll shove that biscuit down your throat," Goyle finished nastily.
"Think you're so tough?! Won't be when I slam a Bludger through that fat gut of yours, Goyle!" Millicent spat, her fingers digging into the tabletop as she returned the boys' glare. It was quite a task, considering, but Millicent pulled it off beautifully.
"I'd like to see you try it, Bulstrode! The only reason you even got to play at all was because Crabbe was out sick!"
"Yeah!" Crabbe chimed in, still a little bitter that Draco had decided to bench him for the first game of the season.
"You bastard! I'll have your head for that!" Millicent shouted, shooting to her feet and grabbing for her wand which she'd carelessly tossed next to her books when she'd sat down-- only to find the seven-inch oak gone.
"Sit the fuck down, Bulstrode, and shut the fuck up before I really give you something to shout about," Draco hissed, lifting his furious gaze from his food and brandishing his knife in Millicent's direction. Her wand was lying on the table beside his plate, though no one assembled had seen him grab it. "If you ever threaten either of them like that again, I promise you that the nightmares of what I will do to you will haunt you for the rest of your days."
Millicent Bulstrode was a Slytherin through and through; her birth was steeped in the same darkness which spawned all children of the Dark Arts. She'd been raised on poison and bred from lies. She was strong and nothing she had seen on this earth frightened her... except, perhaps, the look in Draco Malfoy's eyes.
Her father had schooled her well throughout her childhood in preparation for her tenure at Hogwarts. During those years he had told her many stories of the infamous Malfoy rage, lessons he had learned the hard way at the hands of Draco's father, Lucius. She hadn't actually believed there was any truth to those stories, just as no one actually believed in the Grim Reaper until he'd sneaked up behind them and ripped away their souls. She discovered in those moments, as Draco glared at her with death in his eyes, that her father's words paled in comparison to the real thing.
It had been a mistake to try and tease Draco. She should have read his mood better. It was a mistake that she would not make again. She also should not have allowed her emotions to get the better of her when dealing with Crabbe and Goyle. Certainly they had no right to talk to her in such a manner as they were only Slytherin because of their devotion to Draco, but she had had no way of predicting Draco's violent reaction to her threatening them. Certainly they were just tools to be used and disposed of when the time came... weren't they?
"I... I... I'm sorry, Malfoy," she murmured finally, lowering her gaze meekly as she sank back into her seat.
"As you should be," Draco responded, inclining his head as he watched her, eyes glittering with malice. "Now tell Crabbe and Goyle that you're sorry."
"Uh... yeah... sorry." Millicent managed, choking back a wave of rage. This was too much, even for Malfoy, who was infamous for his strict punishments of those who raised his ire. To make <I>her</I> apologize to <I>them</I>. It was mortifying and Draco knew it.
Perhaps Blaise was right, after all. Perhaps Draco was losing his edge if he was favoring lesser allies such as Crabbe and Goyle over her, especially in public. Blaise might not be as powerful as Draco, but he had his strengths. She had been holding out on choosing sides between him and Draco because she feared the Malfoy family, however, she couldn't allow this slight to go unanswered. No, this was too much. Millicent ground her teeth together to keep from speaking any of her thoughts aloud and making matters worse. Losing his edge or not, Draco Malfoy was still a very dangerous person to cross.
"Well done. Now gather your things and go where you are wanted." Draco commented lazily, using his knife to flick Millicent's wand across the table to her. The irate witch gathered her books and wand and quickly fled down the length of the table to sit with Blaise and a couple of fifth years.
"Thanks, Malfoy," Goyle murmured, staring in awe at his leader. He'd defended them. He'd made Millicent apologize... to them.
Draco shrugged, returning his attention to his breakfast as if nothing had happened. To him, his actions had probably meant nothing, but to Crabbe and Goyle, who continued to stare at the blond boy with silent adoration shining in their eyes, they meant everything that mattered.
They'd known Draco Malfoy all their lives. They were Draco's guardians from birth and had been told, since the moment that they were old enough to understand, that protecting Draco was their sole purpose in life. They were expected to protect the Malfoy boy from harm. To follow him and do his bidding, but also to watch him. To spy on him and notify their own fathers and Draco's father if Draco were to ever demonstrate any odd behavior. It was their fathers' wish, but it wasn't their real reason for standing beside the other Slytherin; and it certainly wasn't the reason they had informed their fathers of Draco's bizarre behavior over the last two months.
For Goyle, it was a memory of a seven-year-old Draco pitching stones at a large, black wolf. It had been Draco's idea to go into the woods in the first place. Most of the trouble they'd gotten into as children had been as a result of one of Draco's bright ideas. They'd been having a good time at first, exploring this and that as they trekked through the trees. Then they hadn't been able to find their way back to the Manor. Goyle remembered being frightened at that point. Frightened that he would fail in protecting Draco and be punished. He might have cried, but Draco had been the logical one, finding landmarks he remembered passing and leading them homeward. They'd been almost out of the forest when the wolf attacked.
To this day, Goyle still wasn't sure why the wolf had attacked them, but it had nonetheless. He'd picked up Draco and had helped him climb a nearby tree when the wolf had reached them. It had run at him, hitting him full-force in the back of the knee, snapping it. He might have blacked out for a moment or two, because the next thing he remembered was Draco standing on the ground in front of him. He'd been so small and yet so fearless, intent on keeping the beast from doing any further damage to the boy cowering behind him. In the end, the wolf had been too intent on having them for a meal and had charged them.
Goyle still wasn't sure how it had happened, but the wolf had been dead before it ever got to them. It had just dropped dead at Draco's feet. He remembered Draco giving it a kick and laughing before he turned to help Goyle to his feet. He would follow Draco through the gates of hell even though the blond would never ask him to do such a thing. It was for the memory of that small, fearless boy that Goyle would keep Draco's secrets, fight to the death to protect him, and always watch over him, even if Draco never realized he was doing so.
For Crabbe, it was a memory of an ten-year-old Draco Malfoy telling off a small group of wizards who'd been making fun of the valentine he had made for Pansy Parkinson. He'd been on the verge of tears when Draco had stepped in and turning the tables on the wizardlings, using his frightening knowledge of each of them to send the boys crying to their nannies. If Draco had seen Crabbe's tears, he'd never said a word, merely picked up the wrinkled valentine and delivered it to Pansy himself on Crabbe's behalf. Draco was the reason he'd had the privilege of basking in the warmth of Pansy's love for almost half their lives and even though it would end someday soon, Crabbe couldn't help but be grateful for the time they had. That was his reason for following Draco's lead, for wanting Draco's happiness as much as he wanted his own: The memory of a small pale-haired boy, who had never so much as spoken to him before that day, smoothing out the crumpled paper heart that had represented his hopes and dreams for the future.
The name Malfoy instilled fear in all those who knew it well enough to know the dark history which surrounded it. People who had never met the heir to the infamous Malfoy name feared him on some deep level in which all prey fear the predators which feed upon them. However, for Vincent and Gregory, the name Malfoy didn't represent fear. For them, the name represented everything which they had grown to respect and admire in their leader.
But, of course, they could never tell Draco that. Draco was like them and so many others, a prisoner of his birthright. He wouldn't take kindly to such sentimental attachments. Sentimentality was not something prized in a Slytherin or a follower of the Dark Lord. Still, they knew how to keep secrets; they could keep their own as well as they kept Draco's.
And Draco Malfoy had secrets. So many secrets he probably didn't even know them all. However, Crabbe and Goyle had managed to puzzle out many of them between themselves over the years. It hadn't been difficult to figure out that Draco had been caught spying on a Deatheater meeting early in the summer following fourth year; their respective caretakers had let enough slip for them to piece that much together. Draco's appearance and attitude when he'd returned to Hogwarts the following year had confirmed their suspicions that he had been severely punished for his disobedience. He'd been so much quieter, deadlier than before, and he'd seemed even more distant then usual in the few moments they had managed to catch him off his guard.
That was the funny thing about Draco, though. The more he was hurt, the stronger he seemed to become. Yet, now, he was dangerously off-balance and, for the first time, they knew there was nothing they could do for him. Nothing but watch his back and make sure no one stuck a knife in it while he was busy making goo-goo eyes at the enemy.
Speaking of the enemy...
Harry Potter stood slowly from his seat at the Gryffindor table, casting a quick glance towards where Draco was sitting as he gathered his books.
Crabbe and Goyle realized that they weren't the only ones who'd been watching Potter when Draco pushed himself up from the Slytherin table, a smile creeping over his lips as he stepped back over the bench. "Looks like Potter's in a hurry to get somewhere. Let's go make sure he's late."
Crabbe frowned at Draco's comment. He didn't really think Potter looked as if he were in that much of a hurry. In fact he had was pretty damn sure that Draco was just looking for an opportunity to give Potter a hard time. Not that that was unusual in and of itself, at least it hadn't been unusual before fifth year. Before fifth year, Draco had always been looking for chances to get into it with Potter.
Making a note to discuss this newest event with Goyle and Pansy later, Crabbe rose and followed Draco from the table.
Goyle shook his head and shoved one last biscuit in his mouth before pushing himself up from the table, falling into step with Crabbe just behind Draco as they made their way across the dining hall. He didn't like this, but there was nothing to do but follow Draco. It was what he did best.
"Poor Potter, have your friends finally abandoned you?"
Harry winced at the sound of Draco's voice. It wasn't that he hadn't been expecting an attack, he'd just thought that it wouldn't happen until at least Care of Magical Creatures. He really hadn't prepared himself to trade insults with Draco just yet. It had been easy enough when he'd been angry, standing on the stairs and glaring down at the blond, but it was becoming more difficult to actually stay angry with Draco for long periods of time. It probably should have disturbed him to discover that he was no longer capable of holding a grudge against the Slytherin, but for some reason it didn't disturb him at all. It just made him feel a bit sad and more than a little tired.
Bracing himself for the insult war, Harry turned slowly, gathering his books against his chest. "They're prefects, Malfoy, they had a meeting this morning; I thought you'd know... Oh, wait. You weren't chosen as a prefect, were you?"
"Neither were you, Potter," Draco hissed, his hands clenching into fists at his sides.
"Didn't you hear, Malfoy? I could have been a prefect, but I turned the job down."
"Oh, too perfect to be a prefect, Potter?"
"Still recovering from the horror of watching Cedric Diggory die, I suppose?"
The world seemed to still around them and Harry found himself watching the events play out as if from a great distance. He saw himself turn back around to face Malfoy. Saw the wide grin on Draco's face melt away as he took in the expression on Harry's. He saw the soft fear which colored Draco's eyes a darker shade of gray. Books spilled from his arms, falling to the floor as his hands reached forward of their own accord, gripping Draco's robes firmly and pulling him forward. "Do not ever speak his name again in my presence, Malfoy. You haven't earned the right."
"I'm not the one who let him die, Potter." Draco hissed, the fear vanishing from his gaze as if it had never been there at all.
"Do you want me to hit you, Malfoy? Getting smacked around by your father not good enough for you anymore?" Harry spat, releasing his grip on Draco's shirt and thrusting the blond away from him.
Draco paled, "You <I>bastard</I>."
"Did you think I'd just take everything you were dishing out without giving you something in return?" Harry replied coldly, bending to pick up his books without taking his eyes off Draco's angry face. "Don't start the game if you can't finish it, Malfoy."
With that said, Harry tucked his books against his chest and stood, giving Draco a tight smile before turning on his heel and striding from the room.
It didn't really come as a surprise when Harry heard booted feet pounding up the stairs after him several minutes later. He turned as he reached the top of the fifth floor stairway, and sat down on the top step to await his pursuer. No sooner had he set his books down beside him then Draco Malfoy came into view, his face flushed from running up five flights of stairs and down three corridors to catch up to Harry. Surprisingly, the blond was alone.
"Did you want something, Malfoy? Or were you just out for a morning jog?"
"Very... fucking... funny... Potter," Draco panted, resting his hands on his knees. "Are we... alone?"
"Yeah, no one comes up here except prefects at this time of day... and they're still in their meeting as far as I know," Harry warily responded.
"Good," Draco replied, straightening now that his breathing was once more under control. He climbed the remaining steps between them more slowly. Then, "How did you know?"
"I'm sorry -- what?" Harry responded, honestly confused by Draco's question.
"You said that my father smacked me around. However did you know that, Potter? I never told you that my father hit me."
Well, fuck, Harry thought realizing his mistake too late. Draco hadn't actually told him anything about that. "I didn't... um... well.... Bollocks. I'm not as good at lying as you are."
"Bloody right you're not. Try the truth, that comes so much easier to you Gryffindors. Honest, courageous bastards that you are," Draco replied, easing down on the top step although, Harry noticed, he still kept as much distance between them as possible as he leaned back against the opposite railing.
Harry cleared his throat nervously, "Well, the thing is-- I overheard a conversation between you and your father at the end of last year."
"You were spying on me."
"I was spying on you," Harry admitted, feeling his cheeks flush with embarrassment.
"Right, so you sneaked into the Slytherin common room wearing your little invisibility cloak and <I>spied</I> on me. How did you manage to get past my wards undetected? They should have gone off the moment another person came into the room."
"Well, I wasn't actually in the common room."
"All right, you weren't actually in the common room, but you managed to overhear a private conversation I was having in the common room. Well, that's a bloody brilliant piece of work, Potter. Why don't you tell me how you managed it?"
"I'll tell you, if you tell me why you fell off your broomstick last year."
A reluctant smile tugged at the corners of Draco's lips and he shook his head slowly, "You're getting good at this game, Potter. I don't think I like that."
"I want to win, Malfoy."
"That's two questions, Malfoy. Do you really want to answer two of my questions?"
"My life is an open book, Potter. Ask me whatever you like."
"What happened to you at the end of fourth year?"
"Except that. Never that." Draco whispered, his fingers bloodless where they clutched at his knees. "Never ask me that, Potter."
Harry frowned, his expression softening in the face of Draco's pain. "All right. Sorry." He took the chance and scooted a bit closer to the boy at his side. When Draco didn't move away, Harry slipped an arm around Draco's waist and laid his head against Draco's trembling shoulder. "I'm sorry."
"Why am I doing this, Potter? What do I want from you?"
"Why are you asking me? I've never understood why you do the things you do, Malfoy," Harry answered tiredly.
"We've known each other for five years, Potter, I would have thought you'd have managed to work it out by now."
"Well, you thought wrong. I have a couple of theories on the subject, but that's about it."
"You turned me down, Potter. I offered you friendship and you turned me down. You were the first person I've ever offered my friendship to." Draco confessed, leaning against Harry's warmth with a soft sigh.
"You were being a prat, Malfoy." Harry replied, lifting his head from Draco's shoulder in order to look the blond in the face. "When we were getting fitted for our robes you insulted Hagrid, who was the first person to ever be kind to me. Then on the train you insulted Ron, who was my first friend...."
Draco pushed Harry away irritably, retreating closer to the banister in order to put a little space between them. "He laughed at me! Or did you miss that part of the conversation? I said my name and he laughed like it was some wonderful joke. He started it!"
"I know," Harry sighed, folding his hands in his lap and staring down at them like they were the most interesting things in the world. "It didn't seem like it at the time, but I've been thinking about it a lot lately. Ron was my friend and you weren't anything to me except some snotty blond kid who reminded me a bit of Dudley."
"Oh, thank you for that lovely bit of insight." Draco commented drolly, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring at Harry. "I remember hearing you talk about him during fifth year. Snotty, spoiled git who's the size of a small planet or something of the like."
Harry gave him a tired smile, "Well, it's true, you did remind me of him. Take out the planet bit and that's exactly what I thought of you. You were an annoyance, the bane of my existence. I started hating you somewhere between you tattling to McGonagall about the dragon and that whole Heir of Slytherin situation. You were a bastard at every possible opportunity. Then... Cedric..."
"And I was a bastard about that too. I know." Draco breathed, pulling his knees against his chest and settling his arms against them. "Father didn't appreciate my coming home covered in hex marks."
"I'll bet," Harry murmured, shaking his head slowly as he continued. "I'm sorry about that for what it's worth, but that... you went too far. Then all those rumors you started fifth year... they were too close to the truth. I've spent the last year replaying that night in my head, wondering if there was something I could have done. What if I'd figured out what was going on just a little bit sooner, if I'd touched the cup on my own..."
"Shh..." Draco whispered, reaching out to cup Harry's chin in his palm. "Don't. I've seen the Dark Lord's power and there was nothing you could have done. ...I don't believe I'm saying this. You're a bad influence on me, Potter."
"I could say the same thing about you, Malfoy." Harry replied, closing the distance between them and laying a gentle kiss against Draco's lips.
"I could have gone my entire life without seeing that and died happy."
Draco and Harry jumped apart at the sound of Ron's voice, both slamming backwards against the stair banisters with enough force to send two resounding cracks through the otherwise silent hall. "Ron! Damn it!" Harry exclaimed, glaring up at his red-haired friend who was standing at the entrance to the Prefects' Lounge, grinning like an idiot.
"You're just lucky it was me and not one of the other prefects." Ron replied, still grinning madly at the identical looks of horror on Draco and Harry's faces. "Let me guess: you two finally decided to kiss and make up."
"Very funny, Weasel," Draco spat, anger and embarrassment finally overriding the horror of being caught. He turned his attention back to the boy sitting across from him, "Why the bloody hell is he acting like he knew about this?"
"Because I told him."
"You told him."
"He's my best friend, you git, I couldn't very well keep him in the dark forever. He'd have figured it out eventually. I'm not as good at the cold-as-ice facade as you are." Harry grumbled, folding his arms across his chest and returning Draco's glare defiantly.
"I suppose there wasn't any time you could have mentioned this before now?"
"When I was I supposed to mention it, Malfoy? When you were hiding under my bed this morning? Or maybe I could have mentioned it last night when you were snuggled up against me?"
"I was not snuggled up against you!"
"The hell you weren't!"
"When exactly was he hiding under your bed, Harry?" Ron inquired, raising an eyebrow at the bickering boys and receiving a nasty glare from them both.
"You! Stay out of this!" Draco spat, jabbing a finger in Ron's direction before turning his angry gaze back to Harry.
"Don't order him about like he's one of your goons, Malfoy," Harry growled, immediately turning his attention back to Draco.
"He's probably right, Harry. This isn't really..." Ron began, only to find himself on the receiving end of another vicious glare from Harry. "O-kay. I'm just gonna go back to the lounge and... um... get Hermione and... yeah... going now..." He edged backwards until he reached the opening behind him before turning on his heel and practically running through the entranceway. The clock which guarded the entrance slid back into place, and the two boys were left alone once more, glaring at each other through the silence that surrounded them.
"Why?" Draco asked finally, his voice calmer then it had been.
"They're my best friends, Malfoy. I needed to talk to someone about... everything. Dumbledore called me up to his office yesterday, before I saw you in class." Harry told Draco exactly what Dumbledore had told him during their meeting the previous day and, surprisingly, Draco listened intently. He interrupted occasionally to ask questions and Harry realized with something like unease that Draco was asking pretty much the same questions that Hermione had been asking the previous day. For some reason, he'd never thought of Draco as particularly intelligent. At least not in the same way that Hermione was intelligent.
"So Granger and Weasel found something of interest during their little midnight excursion to the library?"
Draco nodded and stood, straightening his robes as he did so. "Well then, I suppose we should go find out what's so bloody interesting."
Harry frowned, "You're coming with me?"
"This does concern me as well, in case you've forgotten." Draco replied easily, leaning against the banister as Harry gathered his books and stood.
"I hadn't forgotten - it's just... Do you really think you can manage to sit in a room with Hermione and Ron without starting a fight?"
"I'm capable of restraining myself, Potter. However, if they start anything, I'll be more then happy to finish it." Draco smiled, and Harry didn't find the smile the least bit comforting.
"Fine. Let's go then."
The guardian for the Prefects' Lounge was an ancient grandfather clock. Or, at least, that's what Harry had thought it was when he'd first seen it over a year ago. It was mahogany and a gold pendulum swung at a leisurely pace behind a thick pane of glass. The face, however, was actually a human face carved of the same dark wood which made up the rest of the clock. It chuckled as Harry and Draco walked towards it, its lips fluidly pulling back to reveal a row of sharp golden teeth. "Who's that with you, boy? Looks a bit like Lucius Malfoy, but I can't imagine he's aged that well."
"Draco Malfoy. He's Lucius Malfoy's son," Harry replied tiredly, giving the clock a weary smile.
"Ah, that would explain it. I'd heard tell that Lucius married the Parkinson girl. You have the look of both of them, you do. Sorry about your father, boy."
Draco frowned, regarding the clock suspiciously. "What about my father?"
"He's lost, boy. We lost him somewhere along the way. Sad thing that. You have the same look to you. You'll be lost as well. Mark my words," the clock replied with a sinister smile. "Time will tell the tale, boy."
"That's enough," Harry replied, stepping in front of Draco to obscure the clock's view.
"Right, right. Well, hurry it up then, boy, what's the password? I haven't got all day to stand about waiting for you, you know."
It was an old joke, one which Harry had heard many times over the past year. "Can't stand without legs, can you?"
The clock chuckled, "Well, there is that. Password?"
"Pickle," Harry replied softly.
"Right. Never did understand why the girl wanted to use that password. Some kind of joke, I suppose?" The clock responded, sliding to the side to reveal the small dark passage hidden behind it.
"That's what she says. I'm not sure I want to get the joke." Harry smiled and slipped into the darkness of the passage, pulling Draco with him. His eyes adjusted slowly to the dimness as the clock slid back into place behind them. He'd been here often enough that he should have been able to find the room at the end of the passage blindfolded, but the passage often seemed to have a mind of its own, and a wicked sense of humor which made it change its shape at awkward moments. He'd tripped over quite enough loose stones, and run into enough moving walls during the last year, to teach him to always wait until his eyes had adjusted before making his way to the Prefects' Lounge.
"What was with that clock?" Draco grumbled, pressing closer to Harry now that they were beneath the cover of darkness.
"I don't know. Just ignore it, Malfoy. It told me the same kind of thing the first time I came up here as well."
"It told you that you were going to be lost?"
"No, it told me I had the look of the Riddle boy."
"Tom Marvolo Riddle, Malfoy. Don't you know who he is?"
"No, I've never heard the name before."
"'I am Lord Voldemort,'" Harry replied softly, the words Tom's diary shadow had uttered years ago following unbidden from his lips.
"...Nice. That clock would burn rather nicely if I tossed it in my fireplace, don't you think?" Draco responded, reaching out in the darkness to thread his arms around Harry's waist and pull the dark-haired boy back against his chest. "So, Voldemort was the Heir to Slytherin?"
"Yes," Harry whispered, leaning back against Draco for a long moment. "The Heir you would have so gladly assisted."
"I don't want to know how you know that, Potter. I really, really don't. Now, let's get going before your little friends come looking for us."
Once he could distinguish stone from space, Harry began the short journey down the passage, one hand trailing along the left wall to keep himself oriented as he negotiated turns and twists. The other hand was firmly locked with Draco's, pulling the Slytherin behind him as he stepped carefully over jutting stone and around sudden corners. They finally came to an abrupt halt as the passageway ended. Harry faced the dead end and put his free hand against the wall, fingers dancing over the surface to press the stones which would open the panel. <I>Center, down two stones to the left, three stones right, four stones up, and the last stone at eye level.</I>
The wall before him slid open to reveal the Prefects' Lounge. It was a large room, littered with comfortable chairs and had a notable lack of paintings; apparently no one wanted any talkative portraits overhearing what went on in this room. Instead, the stone walls were enchanted to give a lovely view of the school grounds, which was still disorienting even though he'd been in this room many times over the last year. It was like walking out to find the lawn filled with chairs and desks.
"I'm rather glad I didn't become a prefect now." Draco murmured, stepping from behind Harry to get a better look at the room, still grasping Harry's hand firmly in his own. "There's a room at my house like this. My mother loves it, I can't imagine why."
"It's not bad once you get used to it," Hermione commented, standing up from her desk near the far wall, which had a lovely view of the dark forest and Hagrid's cabin.
"I have no intention of staying here long enough to get used to it, thank you very much." Draco replied, scowling as a bird flew overhead.
"Suit yourself," Hermione shrugged and took her seat once more, her gaze lingering on Harry and Draco's joined hands for a long moment. She wondered vaguely if the two even realized they were still holding hands as if it were the most natural thing in the world. As if they weren't Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy at all. "I can't say that I'm not surprised to see you here, Malfoy."
"Potter thought I should come along since this concerns me as much as it does him," Draco replied, releasing his grip on Harry's hand and stepping past him into the room. He took the chair closest to the door, smoothing his robes as he sat stiffly as if he expected that he might have to make a fast getaway. Harry cast him a look which clearly implied that it hadn't been Harry's idea at all that Draco come along to this little meeting.
Interesting, Hermione thought as she watched Harry take a seat in a chair beside Ron, purposely putting his back to the blond Slytherin. Much to Hermione's amazement, Draco gave an exasperated sigh and stood, striding across the room to flop down in the seat beside Harry. Funny how a movement which would have seemed careless coming from anyone else looked graceful and elegant when Malfoy did it. As if that wasn't bizarre enough, Hermione would almost swear that Malfoy was actually pouting. The thought would have been laughable if the situation itself hadn't been so serious.
"Well," Hermione commented finally, looking back and forth between the two boys in front of her. "If you two are quite finished with this round of musical chairs?"
Draco's cheeks turned a light shade of pink and he slumped down a bit further in his chair, but said nothing. It made Hermione wonder if Harry had set up some sort of guidelines before agreeing to bring Draco along.
Ron grinned widely, clearly enjoying himself. "Better tell them what we found out. If Malfoy has to hold his tongue around us too long he might just explode."
"Don't," Harry warned, his bright green eyes turned to Draco who was now turning a very interesting shade of purple.
"I didn't say anything. Bloody hell," Draco grumbled, but he seemed to relax now that Harry was talking to him again. "Come on, out with it, Granger. What's this all about?"
Hermione nodded solemnly, keeping her amusement well hidden as she turned her gaze to the book open on the desk in front of her. "Dumbledore mentioned there had been other incidents like those which keep occurring between you and Harry, so Ron and I took a trip to the library last night to see if we couldn't find anything out." She indicated the book as she spoke, "This is a personal record of events written by Dumbledore which covers all strange events throughout his time as Headmaster of Hogwarts up through the fifth year of... um... Voldemort's reign. We found three incidents which seem to have something in common with whatever is happening between you and Harry. They all happened during the same year, all within mere months of each other. That in and of itself isn't unusual; what is unusual is that all these events took place between people who are connected with you and Harry."
"Who?" Harry asked softly, his gaze intense as he leaned forward to get a better look at the book.
"Maybe you should just read the entry, Herm," Ron commented, from his seat behind Harry.
"Oh, right," Hermione muttered, her cheeks flushing as she turned her eyes to the book once more. "'March 15th. An interesting event took place today for which I have yet to discover an explanation. James Potter, 7th year Gryffindor, and Lucius Malfoy, 6th year Slytherin, engaged in an altercation in the corridor outside the Great Hall following the Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Slytherin this afternoon. This in and of itself is nothing unusual, as confrontations between Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Potter have become increasingly routine occurrences since the two boys were named captains of their respective teams at the end of the past year. Students often gather to observe the altercations with great interest and today's fight was no exception. What was strange, however, is that none of the students gathered have been able to recount exactly how it was that Mr. Malfoy ended up with two black eyes or how Mr. Potter ended up with a broken arm. Each student in attendance has a different story ranging from the fantastical ('Lucius turned into a Sloth and knocked James down six flights of stairs'-Peter Pettigrew, 7th year Gryffindor) to the mundane ('I think they... um... hit each other or something'-Marcus Avery, 7th year Slytherin).'
"'I, myself am at a loss to explain this strange phenomenon and neither Mr. Potter nor Mr. Malfoy has been of much use in discovering the truth behind the matter. Both boys refuse to discuss the incident, insisting that they don't remember anything, even though several students have overheard them arguing about the incident since that time.'"
Harry took a deep breath and laid his hands against the arms of his chair, pushing himself to his feet before turning to face Draco. "Malfoy?"
"He never mentioned anything about that, Potter. I didn't even know that he knew your father at all. I've never even heard him mention your father's name," Draco answered quickly, "He's talked about you often enough, but never your father."
"Well, maybe you should ask," Ron grumbled, running a hand back through his hair. It was a nervous gesture, Hermione noted absently. Despite his jokes to the contrary, Ron wasn't the least bit comfortable with Draco's presence here.
"Don't you think I would if I thought it would be of any use?" Draco replied, his voice strangely civil as he turned towards Ron. "I'll try to get a peek at his journals when I go home for break, but he keeps them locked up tight in the library. I won't make any promises that I'll even be able to get to them or that they'll be of any use."
Ron blinked, obviously taken aback, "Do you realize that's the first time you've ever spoken to me without that annoying condescending tone in your voice?"
"If you don't watch what you say it might very well be the last time as well, Weasel," Draco spat, whirling back around in his chair to face Hermione once more.
"You said there were more entries, Hermione?" Harry cut in, hoping his interruption would stop any further comments from Draco.
"Yes, of course," Hermione replied gently, turning a few pages to another marked place in the large book. Harry dropped back into his chair, suddenly unsure if he really wanted to hear any more -- but Hermione was already continuing, her voice bringing life to words written over twenty years ago. "'April 23rd. Another incident similar to that which occurred on March 15th happened today between Lily Evans, 7th year Slytherin, and Narcissa Parkinson, 5th year Slytherin.'" Hermione glanced up from the book with a grimace. "I can't read the rest. It looks like someone spilled tea across the entry, but there's another entry...."
"Lily Evans... that's my..." Harry frowned, his mind trying to wrap itself around the idea that his mother had been in Slytherin House.
"Your mother was Slytherin?!" Draco exclaimed, voicing Harry's shock well enough on his own. "I knew my mother was, but..."
"Narcissa Parkinson is your mother?" Ron cut in, his voice incredulous. "Weren't you dating Pansy Parkinson?"
Draco sighed, swinging his gaze back to Ron once more. "Pansy's my cousin. My <I>very distant</I> cousin, not that's any of your business, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't go mentioning that around. It's rather important that no one knows about that particular connection."
"Okay. If you stop calling me Weasel, I won't say a word."
"Deal, Weasley," Draco replied, holding out one hand to Ron. His expression was incredibly serious as Ron took the hand in his own and gave one firm shake before releasing Draco's hand and slumping back into his chair. Draco turned his gaze to Harry almost immediately, "You are a <I>very</I> bad influence."
Harry managed not to smile, but it was a close call. Instead he merely nodded and slipped back around in his chair to face Hermione, who actually was smiling. "If you're not careful, Malfoy, I might begin to think you're not half as evil as you pretend to be."
"Oh, don't be fooled." Draco replied, turning to face Hermione, his expression serious. "This is all a show I'm putting on to incur Harry's trust. Once he trusts me completely I have every intention of betraying him. I am actually far more evil then I pretend to be."
"I can't tell if you're joking," Hermione murmured, studying Draco's face intently.
"You'll never be able to tell, Granger, that's the point. A part of you will always wonder if I'm just biding my time, waiting for the best moment to strike. You and I both know it, even if I'm the only one to say it aloud. You care for Harry and you want his happiness, but not at the cost of his life. So you'll be watching me, just as I will be watching you. Don't make the mistake of thinking of me as a friend, Granger. I am no friend of yours."
"I'll remember that," Hermione replied, sitting back in her seat, her expression as unreadable as Draco's. Harry watched them both carefully, noticing for the first time that Hermione and Draco were actually a lot alike. Both were intelligent, far more intelligent then they had probably given each other credit for, and it was as if they were both finally realizing exactly how worthy an opponent they had found in each other. And they were opponents, there was no mistaking the challenge between them. The proverbial gauntlet had been thrown, and now they were on opposing sides of some battle that Harry wasn't sure he even wanted to comprehend.
"Um... Herm... isn't there another entry that you need to be reading?" Ron interjected, glancing nervously between the pale-haired Slytherin and the brown-haired Gryffindor.
"Yes," Hermione replied, giving Draco one last measuring look before her gaze to the book once more and turning to the last marked entry.
"'June 12th. Yet another incident similar to the incident which occurred on March 15th. This altercation, however, took place between Lucius Malfoy, 6th year Slytherin, and Sirius Black, 7th year Gryffindor, and there was one very important difference. James Potter, 7th year Gryffindor, had the misfortune of being present at this particular altercation and was apparently strong enough to resist the effects caused by the altercation, and made the mistake of trying to break it up. Mr. Potter spent two days in the infirmary with a nasty concussion, and both Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Black were both visibly shaken by this new development. It is my understanding that Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Black have come to a truce of sorts, which should keep any similar mishaps from occurring during Mr. Black's remaining time at Hogwarts. I would assume that Mr. Potter has also learned a hard lesson from this altercation as well, since there have been no further incidents since that time."
Hermione shut the book and raised her gaze to Harry once more. "That's it. That's all there is. Sirius, James, Lucius, Lily and Narcissa. Rather strange that all those involved in these incidents are connected with the two of you, isn't it? I don't know what to make of it yet, but I thought you should know. Now, we've been here too long and class is about to start. If we don't hurry, we'll be late."
~to be continued~
Okay, first off, a gigantic 'I'm so fucking sorry!' all around for the delay of in getting this chapter up. There were many reasons for it, not the least of which was a nasty case of writer's block, personal problems, and finals. However, it's finally here and it's the size of a small country. (Topping out at about 17,000 words. Wahoo!) Oh, and if anybody has any ideas for a name for this chapter, please feel free to share. :)
Huge thanks to my betas-VanityFair and slightlights- for just being wonderful in each and every way. I'd get specific, but there's just too much to thank them for and I'd end up writing another couple thousand words doing it. They are both fabulous authors, as well as being wonderful people, so if there's anyone out there reading this who hasn't read VanityFair's Love Under Will or slightlights' Remember, I would suggest going and doing so immediately. (I'll put up direct links to these stories at the same time I put up the rest of my thank you notes. Promise.)
Mucho thanks to Connelly and Zoe for kicking me in my ass and getting me really moving on this chapter.
Huge thanks to Adi for being just the best all the way through the writing of this chapter (She had to listen to me bitch about Pansy's character, my roommate, my finals, my computer, and about a million other things over the last month. Plus, she gave me feedback on this chapter and she's my official artist and I absolutely adore her. :p).
Harry's too-short robes: I operate from the standpoint that Harry, having been raised in an environment where he had no money of his own, would probably keep his robes until he'd completely outgrown them. Hence the fact that he still has robes which are quite a bit too short for him.
The Pansy/Draco Relation: Another little mythology of the story thing. I spent a while thinking about the whole pureblood thing and decided that in order to have more then a very, very few pureblood families floating around there would have to be some mild inbreeding going on there somewhere. Pansy and Draco share a great-great-great -grandmother through Narcissa's side of the family. (Narcissa's maiden name is Parkinson, though that is not a widely known fact at Hogwarts amongst the students.)
Thanks Section! (Yeah, it's a section now. Bloody hell, I have a lot of people to thank and a lot of questions to answer this time around. Don't get me wrong though, I love every minute of it. Questions are wonderful and I really love knowing what everyone liked or disliked about the chapters. Okay, I do have notes and more then a few thank yous to write in this section. Really. However, I'm half-dead, it's 4:30am and I have two major finals to finish up tomorrow before I leave town. I just REALLY wanted to get this chapter posted tonight. I'll add in the rest of my notes and my thank yous later tonight or tomorrow. Until then, just a huge thanks to everyone who has reviewed, I really appreciate it more then I can say. Thanks!
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