“Six students,” Hermione exclaimed, slapping the latest edition of the Daily Prophet onto the kitchen table. “Six! All of them Muggle-borns, and it’s not even on the front page.” She threw herself into the chair across from Harry, who was sitting with his elbows on the table, his hands digging back into his hair. “This is outrageous,” Hermione continued fiercely. “Unbelievable. We have to do something!”
“What?” Harry asked tightly. “Exactly what are we supposed to do right now? We don’t know where they are!”
“The manor, probably,” Draco said idly, from where he was sitting on one of the counters and sipping a cup of tea. “Where else would my father haul them off to?”
Harry shook his head. “We don’t know that your dad is behind it,” he said, and Draco rolled his eyes.
“Why haven’t they started evacuating the Muggle-borns out of Hogwarts?” Ron asked, taking a seat at the table next to Hermione.
“One of them went home.” Hermione flipped to another page in the Prophet and then shoved it toward Ron. “His entire family was murdered. The Dark Mark was found above their house two nights ago.” She swallowed thickly. “The student was a first year.”
Ron went pale beneath his freckles and cursed under his breath. “And not even that made the front page?”
“Please,” Hermione scoffed. “The front page is all about the important changes being made within the Ministry.” She leaned forward, rubbing the bridge of her nose. “Most of these students’ families probably aren’t even aware their kids are in danger. They won’t get this news like the rest of the Wizarding world will. And they can’t really grasp the concept of some all-powerful wizard trying to take control of everything. It sounds like something out of a children’s movie.”
Harry frowned thoughtfully. “By Disney, probably,” he said, and Hermione shot him a look that said he was missing the point entirely, which he wasn’t. Harry just wasn’t sure what she wanted him to do about all this. He sighed. “Hermione,” he said, in what he hoped was a placating tone. “They will be found. Remus’ last owl said Kingsley was going to try tracing their magical signatures. And besides, there must be a reason Voldemort wants them, whether it’s – I don’t know, for ransom or leverage or…well, I have no idea, but…” He trailed off awkwardly, and Draco snorted.
“Oh, sod off,” Harry mumbled, dragging a hand over his face. “Snape would have said something–”
“I don’t think he would have, actually,” Hermione interrupted. “In fact, I’m almost certain he wouldn’t. Snape knows exactly what you would do if you had any idea where they were, and he seems pretty adamant about you staying put.”
Harry favored her with a faintly exasperated look. “And yet here you are, demanding we take action!” he said, and Hermione blushed a little.
“I’m just worried,” she snapped defensively. “It feels like he’s clearing all the – the dirty blood out of Hogwarts. And if we were still there, I might be one of these missing students!”
“The hell you would,” Ron said loudly. He reached across the table and grasped Hermione’s hand. “I wouldn’t let you out of my sight.”
Hermione looked momentarily pleased, if a bit embarrassed. Ron’s words seemed to calm her some, though, and she took a deep breath. “I’m sorry,” she said to Harry. “I just – I don’t like this.”
“None of us do,” Harry said softly. “We can’t do everything, though. Especially not when we don’t have a bloody clue where they might be.”
“Because we’re doing so many other important things right now,” Draco grumbled. “Sitting around being clueless like we are.” Harry shot him a glare and Draco held his hands up defensively. “Just saying. I’m telling you they could be at Malfoy Manor, but if you’d rather just stay here…”
“I’d rather not risk Snape’s wrath again, actually,” Harry admitted. “And I think maybe giving this whole not diving blindly into action thing a try would be a good start with that.”
Draco looked incredulous. “What kind of Gryffindor are you?”
Harry frowned, but he was saved from answering by the sound of someone coming through the Floo in the other room. He and the others glanced at each other.
“Neville, maybe?” Ron suggested.
Hermione shook her head. “He should be in class.”
Harry straightened up. That meant it was probably– “Professor Snape,” he said, his eyes widening as the other man appeared in the doorway.
Snape folded his arms over his chest. “Oh good,” he said blandly. “You’re still here.”
“…Where else would I be?” Harry asked slowly, his eyebrows drawing together in confusion. Somewhat bitterly, he added, “You told me not to leave.”
“You seem to make it a habit to thoroughly ignore what I tell you to do, Potter,” Snape drawled. “With the…disappearances from Hogwarts, I thought for sure you’d charge off to look for them.”
Harry scowled. “Well, we don’t know where they are, do we?”
“The manor,” Draco muttered, and at the same time Hermione blurted out, “Are they okay?”
Snape glanced briefly at Draco, and then turned his attention to Hermione. “I wouldn’t know,” he admitted. “I’ve not been involved with that particular endeavor.”
Hermione seemed to wilt at his words, and Ron’s hand tightened around hers. “Any idea why he’s doing it, at least?” he asked.
“It’s all part of his new regime,” Snape said. “Even as we speak, he has laws in the making at the Ministry that will prohibit Muggle-borns from attending Hogwarts.”
“What about half-bloods?” Harry asked.
“Safe. For now.” Snape frowned. “But from this point on, it will, of course, be against the law to…procreate with a Muggle.”
Hermione made a frustrated sound. “Why aren’t you doing anything to help the students that were taken?” she cried. “You have to know where they are! Haven’t you told the Order? Can’t they find them?”
Snape’s eyes narrowed. “I have given the Order what information I could,” he said tightly, sounding like he was none too appreciative of Hermione lecturing him. “Unfortunately, my hands are a little full trying to keep the other hundreds of students at Hogwarts safe to be able to do much else.”
“Really,” Hermione said doubtfully. Her lips pressed together in a thin line, as though she was having a hard time holding back the torrent of criticisms that desperately wanted to escape her. She eventually settled for spitting out, “Six students. Six, Professor! And an entire family killed!”
Snape exhaled harshly through his nose. “They were not killed, Miss Granger. Merely…relocated.”
“…What?” Hermione said faintly. “But – the Prophet–”
“You of all people should know not to trust anything that appears in that rag.” Snape rolled his eyes skyward in clear exasperation. “The article you’re referring to was meant to be a threat to anyone else thinking it might be wise to try to escape Hogwarts. The house in question was the right one, and the Dark Mark spotted was real, but the family was not there.”
Hermione rested her free hand against her chest. “Oh,” she said, clearly relieved. “Thank goodness.”
“However, that doesn’t mean the other missing students are not in danger,” Snape reminded her. “But that’s for the Order to handle, and it’s not why I’m here.” He turned to look at Harry again. “The Dark Lord was in Hogwarts again last night.”
“Not surprised,” Harry said, lowering his gaze and eyeing the Daily Prophet that still lay open on the table in front of him. And Neville must not have noticed again – Harry was really beginning to doubt the veracity of the Marauder’s Map. Neville hadn’t spotted any other names that weren’t supposed to be there, either, but that didn’t stop the number of missing students from rising. Unless the Death Eaters had somehow found a way to keep themselves from showing up on the map–
Harry blinked, his eyes going wide, and he had to force himself to pay attention when Snape spoke instead of letting his thoughts run wild. “That’s not why he was there,” Snape said, also glancing at the Prophet. “As if he would do such menial tasks himself.”
Ron looked confused. “Then why…?”
“I believe he might have…left something behind,” Snape said slowly. “If I’m not mistaken, that’s why he’s been making his way through the castle recently.”
“To look for a place to hide something?” Hermione asked.
Harry’s eyes slid shut and he had to hold back a groan. “A Horcrux,” he said. “Just like we thought.”
“Is it the sword?” Draco spoke up. “You know – that thing someone here said he wouldn’t be able to turn into a Horcrux?” Harry scowled, but Draco ignored him.
“You know as much as I do now,” Snape said, though it seemed to pain him somewhat to admit it. He looked as though the words had left a sour taste in his mouth. “I don’t know where he would have hidden the Horcrux – although several places come to mind, but I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what they are.”
“The Room of Hidden Things,” Draco said.
“Or the Chamber of Secrets,” added Ron. He shuddered. “Don’t really fancy going back down there again.”
An intrigued look washed over Draco’s face. “Oh, I’ve wanted to see the Chamber of Secrets since second year! Can I check there?”
Harry bit his bottom lip, but Snape cut in before he had to answer. “Of course not,” he replied brusquely. “You’re not to leave the house, remember?” He turned to leave, and Draco’s jaw dropped.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” he spluttered. “I’m not going to sit here on my arse while this lot is out running rampant through Hogwarts!”
“I beg to differ, Mr. Malfoy,” Snape said, in a tone that brooked no arguments. He glanced at Harry again. “Tomorrow. While everyone is in class. Don’t allow yourself to be seen.”
Draco stared after him in disbelief as he walked away. “I’m not going to stay here!” he called. “Professor! I’m not. I refuse!”
“Oh, shut it, Draco,” Hermione said, releasing Ron’s hand so that she could rub at her temples in small, circular motions. “Unless we want Voldemort to know we’re there, you can’t come with us.” Draco looked at her angrily, but Hermione paid him no mind and glanced across at Harry instead. “Professor Snape only ever gives us specific timeframes if there’s something else going on that he doesn’t want us involved in.”
Harry sighed. “Yeah, I know. But I don’t think we’ve got much choice but to listen to him.”
Hermione nodded once. “Just thought I’d mention it. I don’t want to see you throwing a tantrum later if you find out the Order was doing Merlin knows what and you weren’t invited,” she said, and Harry made a face at her.
“We should probably get the map back from Neville,” Ron said. “It’d be handy to have tomorrow.”
“…Yeah,” Harry said slowly. His forehead scrunched up in thought. “The map...”
* * *
Harry was still going over the implications of his half-formed conclusion later that night as he washed the shampoo out of his hair in the shower. Was it possible the Death Eaters had found a way to keep themselves from showing up on the Marauder’s Map? It would explain why Neville never seemed to find anything out of the ordinary when he was keeping an eye out. After all, Wormtail would know how damning the map could be. He’d been found out because of it years ago.
There was also the problem that if Voldemort did have a working copy of the Marauder’s Map, then it wouldn’t matter how invisible Harry’s cloak made them or the fact that Draco wasn’t coming. They could be spotted not five minutes after they got to Hogwarts, and that would be the end of their opportunity to search the castle.
Harry sighed, tipping his head up into the spray of the showerhead. He really needed to mention all of this to Hermione–
The bathroom door opened suddenly, startling Harry out of his thoughts. He paused and glanced at the shower curtain uncertainly. “Er – I’m in here!” he called out, although, really, there were only three possibilities of who the person barging in on Harry might be and none of them caused him any immediate concern.
…Except maybe for Hermione, because that would just be awkward.
Luckily, it was Draco’s voice that answered him. “Obviously,” he drawled, standing on the opposite side of the curtain from Harry. “Why else would I have come in?”
“You could have been one of the others,” Harry said, eyeing Draco’s silhouette and watching as he grabbed the bottom of his shirt and pulled it up over his head. A thrill shot through Harry and there was a sudden pounding in his ears. He swallowed and continued faintly, “Could’ve been Ron wanting to…brush his teeth. Or…something.”
Draco snorted. His hands dropped to the front of his trousers. “I have something a little better in mind than that.”
“Oh,” Harry said. “Well. That’s – good.”
“Always so eloquent, Potter.” Draco stepped out of his pants, seemed to hesitate for the briefest second, and then he reached out and pushed the curtain aside. “Mind if I join you?” he asked, his gaze lowering to trail slowly down Harry’s body. He smirked abruptly, and when he looked up again one of his eyebrows was lifted. “Did I interrupt something?”
“Er…” Harry glanced down at himself and realized with a sort of detached embarrassment that he was already half hard. He felt his face flush and wondered if he could blame it on the heat of the water, and then gave Draco a sheepish grin. “No. Was just watching…” He waved a hand absently in Draco’s direction.
Draco rolled his eyes. “Well, step aside, then. Give me some room.”
“Oh – right!” Harry scrambled back, keeping his eyes glued to Draco’s naked body as the other boy stepped into the shower. He was close enough now that Harry could better make out his features, and he drank in the sight eagerly. After a moment, Draco cleared his throat, and Harry dragged his eyes back up to meet Draco’s.
“It’s nothing you haven’t seen before,” Draco pointed out, pushing wet hair out of his face.
Harry shook his head. “Not like this.” Not standing before him and completely on display, no blankets or sheets or pieces of clothing they’d been in too much of a hurry to tear off blocking his view. It was just Draco, and he was pale and probably too skinny, he had that scar on his chest that Harry winced every time he saw, the Dark Mark was emblazoned on his arm, harsh and ugly, and nearly his entire hand was black now – and he was still somehow the most gorgeous person Harry had ever seen. “…Come here,” Harry said, reaching for Draco as he spoke, and the two of them gravitated toward each other and met in the middle, Harry’s mouth landing on Draco’s with a sort of desperate, hungry energy.
Draco groaned and pressed closer, his body plastered against Harry’s from chest to stomach to hips, their legs tangled together. Harry pushed him up against the shower wall and Draco’s mouth opened beneath his as Harry brought his hands up to thread into Draco’s hair. The steam from the shower curled around them, and Harry gasped as Draco jerked his hips forward.
“Hey,” Draco murmured, slipping an arm around Harry’s waist and letting his hand spread out against his hip. Harry mumbled some sort of reply, but he was too busy lowering his head to suck at the skin beneath Draco’s jaw to say anything coherent. “Potter,” Draco said, a little more insistently.
“Focus, I want to ask you something.”
“’M listening.” Harry ran his tongue over the reddish mark he was leaving on Draco’s skin.
“Liar.” Draco tipped his head to the side to give Harry more room, breathing in sharply when Harry nipped at him. “Look, I – Potter, fuck – how can I convince you to let me go tomorrow?”
Harry stilled abruptly, and after a few seconds he pulled back to look at Draco, frowning. “Is that what this is?”
“No,” Draco said quickly, and at Harry’s skeptical look he said again, “No, it’s not! I just–” He scowled fiercely, and the arm he had around Harry tightened. “I don’t want to be left here!”
“It’s not like we’ll be gone long,” Harry said. “And you know why you can’t come.”
“But that’s such an utter load of shit,” Draco whined.
“It’s the way it has to be, Malfoy, I’m sorry!”
“Bollocks.” Draco shifted his arm, moving until he had both hands grasping Harry’s hips instead. He let his feet slide farther apart and then tugged Harry forward, fitting him between his legs until they were flush against each other. The skin on skin contact made them both draw in sharp gasps of air. “Just – let me come with you!”
“No,” Harry grunted. He rubbed up against Draco without even thinking about what he was doing, and then exhaled noisily and dragged his hands down over Draco’s arms until he was clutching his elbows. “You can’t,” Harry muttered, leaning in so that his breath ghosted over Draco’s lips as he spoke. “It’s too dangerous.”
“Fuck it being dangerous!” Draco exploded. “I don’t care–”
“Shut up,” Harry interrupted swiftly, and then he closed the distance between them before Draco could say anything else and kissed him relentlessly, almost forgetting to let him up for air until Draco’s fingers dug so hard into Harry’s hips that he was sure they would leave bruises.
Draco ripped his head back and gulped down a breath, practically growling at Harry as he recovered. He pushed him back and, before Harry could even blink, Draco had switched their positions and had Harry pressed up against the wall. His cheeks were flushed a darker red than Harry normally saw them, his eyes glittered dangerously, and he just stared – or glared, rather – at Harry for several long moments. Both of them were panting. Harry returned the look, refusing to budge, and eventually Draco growled again, buried his hands in Harry’s hair, and crushed their mouths together. “Fine,” he snapped when he pulled back, fingers tugging at Harry’s hair in a decidedly not gentle way. “I’ll stay here, oh Chosen One. Merlin knows the last thing I want to do is make things inconvenient for you.”
Harry heaved a huge sigh, trying, and ultimately failing, not to roll his eyes. He opened his mouth to comment on Draco being such a bloody drama queen–
But then Draco abruptly lowered himself to his knees and Harry momentarily forgot how to use the English language entirely.
“–Malfoy,” he choked out after a few startled seconds. “Wait, you don’t – what–?”
“Shut it, Potter, I want to,” Draco said, staring intently at Harry’s cock. It twitched under his gaze, and Harry let out a breathless, nervous laugh that did nothing to hide the sudden apprehension building in his gut.
“You won’t change my mind,” Harry said. He groped blindly along the wall, looking for something, anything to hold onto. Something told him he would soon need the support, but all his hand could find was more slick tiles. Harry flattened himself against them like he thought it might actually help, but then Draco smirked up at him and Harry’s knees went weak and he realized he was probably doomed.
Draco kept on smirking and brought a hand up to grip Harry’s pelvic bone. The other one curled gently around Harry’s cock. “We’ll see,” was all he said, and then he was leaning forward and parting his lips and it was all Harry could do to keep from coming right then and there when Draco’s warm, wet mouth closed around him.
“…Bloody – fuck,” Harry said faintly, still scrabbling at the wall. His free hand was quite suddenly in Draco’s hair, even though he didn’t remember putting it there. Draco made an annoyed sound and batted it away, and it landed on Draco’s wrist instead; the one Draco was using to keep Harry pinned to the wall. Draco didn’t object this time, so Harry took that as permission to clutch at him desperately.
Harry lost himself to the sensations after that. He tried to keep the noises escaping him to a minimum, but that proved to be nearly impossible and he couldn’t help whimpering and moaning as Draco’s head bobbed up and down over him. This wasn’t the first time he’d had this done to him – far from it, even. But it had been awhile and it was the first time it was Draco doing it and the sight of his mouth stretched over Harry’s cock, the concentration in his eyes, the feel of that hot suction had Harry trembling all over. He watched, wide-eyed, unable to look away as tension coiled his belly and a slow-burning fire consumed him from the inside out.
Draco backed off slightly, dragging his tongue along the underside of Harry’s cock and then sliding it over the slit, and Harry’s hips bucked forward before he could stop them and he tossed his head back with a loud gasp.
“Jesus – Malfoy!”
Draco just raised an eyebrow as he looked up at Harry, jacking him almost lazily and affecting an air of nonchalance as he said simply, “Yes?”
Harry made a frustrated sound. “Don’t stop, you tosser!”
“What – Malfoy – I’m not going to beg!”
“No?” Draco stilled his hand and leaned forward just enough to suck the tip.
Harry thrust his hips forward again, letting out a flurry of curses that ended with a pleading, “Draco, come on!”
Draco paused. He glanced up at Harry. “...Say that again?” There was an odd tone to his voice.
“What?” Harry asked distractedly. He looked down, meeting Draco’s eyes, and drew in a shuddering breath.
“…My name.” There was still something about Draco’s voice… Harry tried to pinpoint what it was, but most of his brain was occupied with complaining about the lack of friction and heat and the fact that nothing was happening to his cock at the moment.
Confused, he said, “Malfoy?”
Draco frowned. “No,” he said flatly, dropping his eyes. He started moving his hand again and Harry’s back arched off the wall. He groaned loudly, but something niggled at the back of his mind and kept him from completely giving into the feelings threatening to overwhelm him.
“Draco,” he gasped out this time, and Draco’s eyes snapped back to meet his.
“…There you go.” He grinned, and it was like he had stuck his hand into Harry’s chest, grabbed hold of his heart, and squeezed.
Eager to keep that expression on Draco’s face, Harry said it again. “Draco.” And again. “Draco.” Draco’s grin turned wicked and he let go of Harry entirely so he could swallow him whole, letting his hand fall to his own lap instead. Harry’s head banged off the tiles behind him. “Fuck – fucking – Draco! Draco, Draco, DracoDracoDraco–” Harry lost track of what he was saying, but it seemed to be the right thing because Draco kept sucking and swirling his tongue around him and moving in ways that made Harry’s already blurred line of sight distort even further. His toes curled against the shower floor and the tension in his gut reached an all new high. “Shitfuck, Draco, gonna – I’m–”
Harry thought he would pull off, but Draco did the opposite and took him in even deeper than before, his cheeks hallowing out as he sucked a final time – and then Harry saw white and felt as though something inside of him had exploded as his orgasm finally hit home. He thought he felt Draco shudder, too, and then he did back off, coughing and spluttering as he did. Harry’s knees buckled and he found himself sliding down the shower wall. Draco scrambled out of the way, dragging the back of his hand across his mouth, and Harry let himself drop the rest of the way down until his bum hit the bottom of the tub. Above them, the shower continued to hit them with what was slowly becoming lukewarm water.
“Bloody hell,” Harry eventually said when he finally managed to get his brain working enough to form words.
Draco beamed, and then immediately tried to rearrange his expression into something that more resembled a smug smirk instead. “Yes, quite,” he said, lifting his chin a bit. His voice was slightly hoarse, Harry noticed. He snorted, and then suddenly found himself crowded up against the wall as Draco scooted forward and kissed him. It started out fierce, his tongue sweeping into Harry’s mouth and tangling with Harry’s own, but the passion behind it quickly faded into something simpler and yet, somehow, more intimate at the same time.
Something bubbled up in Harry’s chest, a giddy feeling that he couldn’t quite put a name to, and he grinned against Draco’s mouth, bringing his hands up at the same time to push the wet hair out of Draco’s face. Draco's hands wrapped around Harry’s wrists, and he broke away, grinning back at Harry and keeping their foreheads pressed together.
“Draco,” Harry murmured, the name rolling off his tongue more easily now. He lowered his eyes. “Do you want me to…?”
“Uh – no,” Draco said, sitting back and going a bit shifty-eyed. His already flushed face went a darker pink. “That’s unnecessary.” He paused. “…Harry.”
Harry’s breath caught in his throat at the use of his first name, but he didn’t comment on it. Instead, his brow furrowed for a moment until he realized that Draco didn’t want him to do anything because there wasn’t actually anything to do. He looked back up at Draco with a slight smirk. “Took care of yourself, did you?”
Draco scowled. “Well!” He waved a hand around absently. “You were very – and I’m impatient.” He looked away and crossed his arms, mumbling, “Couldn’t be helped.”
Harry hummed lightly. “Next time, then,” he said. “I’ll just have to get to you first.” Draco raised an eyebrow, glancing at Harry out of the corner of his eye, and Harry grinned.
Draco huffed. “Well, if you insist.”
“I do,” Harry said immediately. And then, in a softer tone, he added, “But this didn’t change my mind.”
“Oh fine,” Draco said, glowering at him. “I didn’t really think it would. I just – I wanted to do it.”
“You really won’t be missing much,” Harry said. “It’s not like there’ll be fighting or anything, just a lot of sneaking around.”
“In the Chamber of Secrets!” Draco cried, but then he took a deep breath and visibly calmed himself down. “Whatever, Potter – Harry – it’s not a big deal. I guess. I’ll live. Somehow.”
Harry snorted and then shivered suddenly, noticing that the water had gone past lukewarm and would soon be reaching uncomfortably cold temperatures if they didn’t turn it off. He pushed himself back to his feet, swaying for a moment before offering Draco a hand to pull him up, as well. “Hope no one else was planning on showering tonight,” Harry commented, somewhat guiltily.
“A little cold water never hurt anybody,” Draco said. He reached out and shut off the shower, and then pushed the curtain aside so he could step out and grab a towel. He handed a second one to Harry.
“Thanks. Can you get my glasses?” Harry asked, rubbing the towel vigorously over his head and causing his hair to stand up in every direction even worse than usual. Draco gave the shaggy mop a disdainful look, and then sighed in a longsuffering kind of way and pressed Harry’s glasses into his outstretched hand. Harry put them and promptly looked Draco over from head to toe. “Much better,” he murmured, leering when Draco went a dull pink.
“Bloody pervert,” he said, turning up his nose.
“Takes one to know one.”
“Your witticisms slay me, Potter.”
“Harry,” said Harry automatically, having apparently decided that he liked the way his name sounded coming from the other boy.
Draco blinked at him, and the corner of his mouth turned upward. “Forgive me. Harry.”
They got dressed in their pajamas and were just exiting the bathroom when Ron stepped out of Hermione’s bedroom, holding his own bundle of clothes. Harry stopped abruptly, causing Draco to bump into him, and the three of them blinked awkwardly at each other until Harry figured he should at least attempt to explain.
“…Er,” he said helpfully, and then Draco rolled his eyes and shoved him to the side so he could take a step forward.
“I swear, Weasley, do you just lurk around outside of bathrooms waiting for us to emerge together?”
Ron gaped at him. “What? No! I don’t – why would I – hang on, were you just talking again, or…?” He looked back and forth between the two of them interestedly, and Harry spluttered.
“Ron!” he exclaimed. “That’s hardly any of your business!”
“…Right, well, there’s my answer,” Ron said, grinning.
“Well, you know how much Potter loves kinky shower sex,” Draco said dryly.
Harry groaned and grabbed Draco by the wrist. “We’re going to bed,” he announced loudly, pulling Draco past Ron. He pointedly ignored the amused look on his friend’s face. “Goodnight, Ron.”
“Did you remember to cast a Scourgify when you were done?” Ron called after them in a teasing tone, before apparently hearing what he’d just said and eyeing the bathroom door warily.
They hadn’t. Harry felt his face go red. “It’s a shower, it cleans itself,” he said, pushing open their bedroom door and entering without looking back.
“…Ew – Harry!”
“Oh, grow a pair, Weasley, you’ve showered in a boys’ dormitory before!” Draco tossed over his shoulder. He disappeared into the bedroom, too, but then stuck his head back out and added cheerfully, “Also, you’ve a wand of your own. Use it!”
Ron gave the door a moody glare as it clicked shut. He barely refrained from sticking his tongue out at it, and instead turned toward the bathroom again and braced himself. “Scourgify,” he muttered under his breath, practicing the wand movement that went along with the spell. “Scourgify, Scourgify, Scourgify!”
* * *
“Did somebody decide to give the bathroom a thorough cleaning last night?” Hermione asked the following morning when she met the other three in the living room where they were waiting for Neville. She was frowning slightly. “Only, I swear the sink was actually sparkling just now.”
Draco slapped a hand over his face and Harry glanced toward the ceiling and huffed in exasperation. “The sink?” he asked, turning to Ron. “Really?”
“One can never be too sure,” Ron said seriously
Hermione blinked. “What’s this now?”
“Nothing,” Harry said quickly. “Don’t worry about it.”
Hermione looked doubtful, but she didn’t push it and instead cast a quick Tempus charm. “He should be here any minute,” she said, and sure enough, as soon as the words left her mouth the Floo flared green and seconds later Neville was stepping through into her living room.
“Morning,” he said, brushing himself off. “Am I on time?”
“Exactly on time, mate,” Ron said, clapping him on the shoulder.
Harry stepped forward to greet him, as well, and couldn’t help noticing out of the corner of his eye how Draco’s mood was quickly turning sour. The other boy had only scowled at Neville’s sudden appearance and his arms were crossed tightly over his chest. He seemed to be somehow shrinking into himself more and more with each second that passed. Harry gave a mental sigh. “You’ve got the map?” he asked Neville.
“’Course.” Neville patted the bag he had slung over his shoulder. “It’s in here. Hang on – I know you’re in a hurry.”
“Thanks,” Harry said. Neville started digging around in his bag and Harry glanced at Draco again briefly, chewing on his bottom lip. “Hey, Nev…” he started slowly, shoving his hands into his pockets and trying to look casual. “Do you have much going on today?” Draco looked at him sharply, but Harry carefully avoided his gaze.
Neville laughed lightly. “Besides classes, you mean? No, I suppose not.” He found the map and handed it over. “That thing is dead useful. Can’t believe you’ve had it all these years and never said anything. Anyway, why do you ask?”
Harry smoothed the map out carefully, feeling unaccountably relieved to have it back in his hands again. “I was just wondering if you could stick around here for a bit.”
“Potter!” Draco snapped, while Neville blinked.
“…I guess I can,” he said, looking back and forth between Harry and Draco. “Why?”
Harry shrugged, still looking at the map. “Draco can’t come with us.”
Draco went white, his hands falling from his chest and clenching into fists at his sides. He looked furious. “Potter!” he snapped again. “You stupid arse, I don’t need a bloody babysitter!”
“He’s not going to babysit you,” Harry said, finally looking up and meeting Draco’s eyes. “He’s just…” He trailed off helplessly.
“Just?” Draco repeated scathingly. “Just what?”
Ron and Hermione shared some kind of look that irritated Harry for some reason. And Draco’s attitude wasn’t helping. Harry frowned. “I just want to make sure you don’t do anything–”
“Stupid?” Draco interrupted.
“No – well, I mean, yes, but–”
“Yes or no, which is it?” Draco demanded loudly. “I told you I wasn’t going to follow you!”
“Look, I’m sorry, but I don’t know if I believe that!” Harry shouted back at him.
Draco’s eyes widened for a quick second before narrowing dangerously. “So you don’t trust me now, is that it?”
“No!” Harry exclaimed. “That’s not what I’m saying, of course I do–”
“Then what are you saying?!”
“God, Draco, would you stop–”
“Don’t,” Draco hissed. “Just don’t, you don’t get to – you can’t just–”
“Draco,” Harry said, softer this time as he took a step forward. “I’m sorry–”
“Oh, piss off!” Draco said, glaring. “No, don’t you come any closer – Potter, I swear, you move even one centimeter closer to me and I will bite your prick off the next time it gets anywhere near my mouth.”
Harry stopped abruptly, color flooding his face. He couldn’t help glancing in Neville’s direction, but Neville was studiously looking the other way and trying to act like he hadn’t heard anything, even though his blush could probably rival Harry’s. Behind him, he heard Ron cough, and when he looked at Hermione, she was frowning. “…Right,” Harry said shakily. “Fine. We’ll just go, then.” He turned to leave, but then paused. “Neville–”
“I’ll stay,” Neville said quickly.
Harry nodded once. He eyed Draco cautiously, but the other boy was turned away and apparently trying to glare a hole into the wall, so Harry just sighed and threw a handful of Floo powder into the fireplace. “We’ll be back soon,” he mumbled to no one in particular, and then he stepped through to Hogwarts with Ron and Hermione at his heels.
* * *
As soon as Harry ducked into the fireplace, Draco cursed under his breath and spun around. “Harry–!” he started to say, but by then he was gone, and Weasley was disappearing after him. That left Hermione, and she paused for a moment before sending him a small smile.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “We’ll be careful.” Her eyes narrowed the slightest bit, a knowing light entering them, and Draco found himself guiltily shifting his weight. “You do the same, alright?” And then she was also gone, vanishing in a swirl of green flames.
Which left him alone.
Draco glanced somewhat warily at the other boy. He was staring, of course, so Draco scowled at him and Longbottom quickly coughed and looked away. Draco rolled his eyes. “Right, let’s just get this over with,” he said. “Yes, you heard exactly what you think you heard. It’s hardly the end of the world, so just – get over it.”
“I’m over it!” Longbottom said, somewhat defensively. “It’s not as though I mind. I sort of thought… Well. Seamus will approve, anyway. And it explains Ginny’s mood at the beginning of term.”
“Yeah, she’s not very fond of me,” Draco said flippantly.
Neville gestured at the fireplace. “You did sort of steal her boyfriend.”
“I did nothing of the sort!” Draco put a hand over his chest in mock offense. “They’d been broken up for months by the time I stepped in. It’s hardly my fault she couldn’t keep her claws in him.” Longbottom just shook his head and plunked down on the couch, dragging his bag onto his lap. He started pulling out various books and parchment, and Draco frowned. “What are you doing?”
Longbottom looked up, seemingly surprised that Draco was still deigning to speak to him. “Er…figured I could get some studying done. I’ve a Transfigurations exam tomorrow.” He made a face. “I don’t think Professor McGonagall will appreciate me skiving off class today.”
“Well, by all means, feel free to take your leave at any time.”
“Harry asked me to stay.” Longbottom looked at Draco curiously. “Why is that, actually? Why couldn’t you go with them?”
Draco shrugged and fiddled with the cuff of the sleeve on his left arm for a moment, before sighing and pushing it up to his elbow. “This,” he said bitterly, thrusting his arm out. “I sort of spat a giant fuck you in the Dark Lord’s face the last time we saw him. He’s…none too pleased with me at the moment.” Longbottom squirmed a bit, clearly uncomfortable, so Draco pulled his sleeve back down. “He can track me through the Dark Mark.”
Longbottom’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh,” he said weakly. “That’s a pretty good reason not to bring you along, then.”
Draco snorted. “Hell if I’m staying here, though.”
If possible, Longbottom’s eyebrows rose even higher. “…I’m sorry, what?”
“I said, I’m not staying here.”
“But – yes, you are! I told Harry I would watch–” Draco shot him a warning look, so Longbottom quickly amended what he was going to say. “…I mean – I told him I’d stay here. And – and you are not supposed to leave, Malfoy! Where else would you even go?”
“I’m working on that,” Draco muttered. He eyed Longbottom’s bag. “You wouldn’t happen to have the Sorting Hat in there, would you?”
“The Sorting Hat?” Longbottom repeated, blinking owlishly. “Yeah, I’ve got it.”
Draco waited, and when Longbottom didn’t immediately hand it over, he asked impatiently, “Well, can I see it? I want to ask it something.”
“Oh! Sorry–” He reached into his bag again and gently pulled out the hat, dusting it off and giving it a scrutinizing look. “Don’t think it likes being shoved in there,” he said as he handed it to Draco. Draco didn’t say anything; he just took the hat, hesitated only for a second, and then put it on top of his head and waited.
It didn’t take long for a familiar voice to begin speaking.
We meet again, Mr. Malfoy.
‘We barely met the first time,’ Draco thought wryly. He wasn’t sure the hat had even touched his head before he’d been shuffled off to Slytherin.
You seemed fairly adamant about which House you should be put in. Given your family history, I deemed it appropriate.
Draco bristled slightly. ‘Did you not even look inside my head, then? You just assumed?’
Are you disappointed with my decision?
‘No!’ Draco thought quickly. ‘Of course not. Slytherin is where I belong, I just–’
You are wondering if there is somewhere else you could have gone.
More specifically, it seems you’re wondering if you have any Gryffindor qualities buried deep inside you. Draco stayed quiet, and the Sorting Hat made a considering sound. No, it said after a moment. You would not have done well in Gryffindor.
‘That’s a relief,’ Draco thought automatically, even as he felt a sinking sensation in his stomach that left him vaguely confused. It wasn’t as though he was disappointed.
‘What?!’ Draco’s shock must have showed on his face, because Longbottom suddenly gave him an alarmed look. ‘What do you mean, Hufflepuff? There’s no way I – I wouldn’t–!’
The Sorting Hat chuckled, and the sound of it reverberated inside Draco’s head. Have no fear, Mr. Malfoy. I would never have placed you in Hufflepuff. In an undertone, it added, I would never terrorize the others students so.
You are fiercely loyal, are you not? To those you consider worthy. In the past, your parents; now, your friends – old and new. Draco frowned, and the hat continued, You’re a hard worker, as well. Perhaps not very patient – the opposite, in fact – but that does not dispute the fact that you do possess some qualities that Helga herself would have found very appealing.
‘All these Hufflepuff qualities, and not one bloody thing Gryffindor would have approved of?’
I did not say that. I merely said you would not have done well there. It paused. You would have done well in Ravenclaw. Had I picked a House for you other than Slytherin, that would have been it.
‘I could have told you that,’ Draco thought, annoyed. ‘I know I’m smart. What I want to know is why you don’t think I’ve got any courage in me! I’m brave, I can charge off into battle as well as any damn Gryffindor, and I’ve done things half of them would never have the stomach to!’
Ah, said the hat. You misunderstand me. It sounded amused. Draco decided in that moment that he hated the sodding thing. Many people have that sort of bravery inside them, Mr. Malfoy. You included. Do you think those who are ambitious are not also brave? That the strong leaders born from Slytherin became who they are by taking no risks in their lives? This drive to prove yourself to those important to you has come at no little cost. You’ve put much on the line, and shown plenty of courage in doing so. You see, the world is not so black and white. There is a little of all four Houses inside everyone. The difference is in the actions people take.
Yes. For example… The Sorting Hat didn’t have what one would traditionally call a mouth, but Draco imagined it was grinning all the same. This thing you are thinking of doing. Were you a Gryffindor, you likely would have, as you put it, charged off already without thinking of the consequences. They’re headstrong, Gryffindors, and they strive toward the end goal often without thinking things through entirely. But being a Slytherin, instead you’ve been planning and scheming throughout our entire conversation. You’re cunning, and you prefer to have a premeditated strategy of attack, so you’ve been thinking of the least dangerous way to get in, get what you want, and get out safely. You have the courage to do this, Mr. Malfoy, if that was the original answer you were seeking. But how you go about it is far different than how, say, your friend, Mr. Potter, would. The hat chuckled again. You Slytherins are a very self-preserving folk, but never let it be said that there’s anything wrong with wanting to stay alive.
Draco thought about that for a moment. ‘…I wouldn’t have done well in Gryffindor.’
No, the hat agreed. I believe they would have driven you quite insane.
‘They would have,’ Draco thought. ‘They do. I’ve not even been living with this lot for a year and I think they’re already turning all my hair grey. And there are only three of them!’
The Sorting Hat chuckled a final time, and then fell silent.
Draco took it off and stared at it for awhile.
“…Well?” Longbottom eventually asked. “Did you get your answer?”
“I think so,” Draco said. He looked up. “Come on, Longbottom. We’re going to do something stupid.”