Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Ah yes, the biting wit of the Malfoys. Draco lay still, nerving himself to open his eyes, trying to decide if he felt more sixteen or more dead. He always knew Pansy made a mean margarita, but last night she had really surpassed herself. And then Blaise had had some kind of potion….
"Urrghhh," Draco reiterated, and managed to pry his eyes open, wincing at the muted morning light filtering through the drapes covering his windows. It took barely a second of thought to make him choose not to sit up yet. His stomach still felt ready to turn inside out at any moment. He didn't dare swallow or move his head just now.
Time passed as he lay still and let his mind drift, and eventually he felt he could move without disaster. Slowly and cautiously he clambered out of bed and headed for the bathroom. A shower, a hangover potion, and a brushing of his teeth brightened his morning beyond all measure, and he dressed feeling the full return of his birthday mood.
"Good morning, Draco," his mother said with a small smile when he arrived at the breakfast table. "I rather expected you to sleep a little longer."
"Good morning, Mother." Draco said with a spine-cracking stretch. His mother didn't insist on rigid formality from him at all times. "No, it's too nice a day. I'm going out."
"Your father wants to speak to you this morning," she told him, and returned to her breakfast. Draco consumed his own bland meal in a haze of speculation, naming his shakiness anticipation instead of nervousness.
He couldn't tell from his mother's tone or look whether the summons was in anger or not. Really, though, there was no reason to borrow trouble. (At least, not unless his father had more ways of keeping an eye on Draco than Draco had supposed).
Now that he was sixteen, his father would surely take an interest in teaching him the more specialised things he would need to know when he became Lord Malfoy. That shouldn't be a cause for trepidation. The butterfly feeling in his middle was only because of the lingering traces of his hangover. Perhaps his father would even give him a gift to mark his increasing age and readiness for responsibility. Firebolt? Access to another family vault?
Lucius Malfoy was waiting for Draco in his study. He smiled as Draco came in and motioned him to the couch before the fireplace. Draco swallowed a sigh of relief; an invitation to sit on the couch usually meant his father was not displeased with him. Displeased meant the unforgiving chair in front of the desk.
"I trust you enjoyed your delayed birthday celebration," Lucius said, coming to sit in the plush armchair to Draco's right.
"Very much," said Draco, banishing a sudden memory of stinging liquid sliding down his throat and the sensation of someone's hands on his body as the world blurred and whirled around him. Merlin, he hoped those hands had belonged to someone he at least knew; there had been a lot of strangers at that party.
"Good. You're becoming a man. It's time to focus on making sure you also become an acceptable Malfoy," said Lucius. Draco winced internally (become?), but didn't let his face so much as twitch. Even in a good mood, Lucius would leap on any crack in his composure and pry at it until it bled. "This summer you will receive advanced tutoring in certain Arts which are shamefully neglected at that school. If you do well, you will receive a reward before the start of the new term."
"Thank you, Father," Draco murmured, now seething with curiosity. He would prefer his rewards – and punishments, too - to be clearly defined, but Lucius did not believe in unnecessary details before time. He enjoyed keeping people off balance; not even his family was exempt.
"Certain associates of mine will be watching your progress with great attention," Lucius added.
"I see," said Draco, concentrating on keeping the words strong and steady. He knew which associates his father meant; he didn't like to admit the thought was more off-putting than not. "Thank you, Father."
"Make me proud," said Lucius. He smiled coolly at his son. "Your tutor will be here Monday next. You may have the week to prepare yourself."
"Thank you, Father," Draco repeated. Lucius nodded and waved him out of the study.
Draco went out of the house and into the grounds behind the Manor with his mind churning. The interview had succeeded in casting a chilly shadow over his appreciation of the beautiful day. He'd been hoping that as he got older he would learn things that would make the prospect of joining the Dark Lord's ranks more attractive. He'd hoped he would be able to focus on the reshaping of the wizarding world that would see purebloods receiving their rightful due from everyone from Muggles to the almost-pureblood wizards. The Dark Lord would make that world a reality, and the Malfoys were and would be at his right hand.
The thought should thrill him. He was deeply unsettled that it didn't, much.
Instead, resentment rose. Wonderful. School during the holidays. Obviously his father knew that despite Draco's best efforts, there were wizards out there superior to him; perhaps even that Draco had doubts and questions about the course laid out for him.
Draco frowned at himself and shook his head. With a deftness born of a lifetime of practice, he shoved away the gloomy thoughts and doubts. They wouldn't change anything, anyway, and it was true that he loved to learn. Advanced tutoring would mean he returned to school with more and better skills than his schoolmates. I could come back and finally have the best of Potter…
Also with a reflex born of long practice, he smacked himself in the head as that thought registered.
Dammit! That was what, three hours without thinking about him? What is wrong with me? I'm a Malfoy! He's dust beneath my feet!
Just because he's a Parselmouth, and he faced the Dark Lord without dying, and he's brilliant at Quidditch, and the whole school is dying to shag him… Draco squared his shoulders and set his jaw. This is unacceptable. I'm going to learn something this summer that will put that Muggle-loving Golden Boy in his place.
As he continued to wander the more isolated sections of the Manor's grounds, Draco occupied his very vivid imagination with scenes of Potter finally in his proper place, thoroughly aware of the superiority of Draco Malfoy in every way.
I could put him under Imperius and make him lick my shoes in the Great Hall at dinner…or use magic to tease his Mudblood girl until she cries…she's pathetic! I see her cosying up to him, all smiles even while she glares everyone else away… The last thought annoyed him even more than memories of Quidditch defeats at Potter's hands. After all, no one won against Potter unless he was actually incapacitated.
Hmmm. I could zap him with butterfingers every time he came near a snitch! Or – or make him quit Quidditch – no. That would be boring. I could send invisible boggarts to follow him everywhere…
By the time he returned to the house, these thoughts had returned him to his earlier buoyant mood.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Draco's afternoon was enlivened by a fire call from Blaise Zabini, who looked him over with a gaze even more peculiarly intense than usual.
"What is it, Blaise?" Draco demanded. "You look terrible."
"Thanks," said Blaise. "You don't. I guess you didn't have a hangover this morning?"
Draco shrugged. "I did, yeah." He took note of the sudden widening of Blaise's eyes. "I meant to talk to you about that; didn't you give us all hangover potions last night?"
Blaise nodded rather jerkily. "But someone didn't get theirs. I had one vial left, and a vial of something else missing. I've been checking on the guests all morning, but it looks like you're the one."
The chill that invaded Draco's belly grew claws. "What was the missing potion?"
Blaise blinked. "Just an experiment. I was trying to brew a potion for – " He broke off, possibly at the sight of Draco's expression. "But you're fine," he added after a minute. "No pain? You're not sick?"
"Not now," said Draco coldly. "Because when I woke up I took a potion. What were you thinking, leaving your experiments about where anyone could pick them up? And what exactly is this potion of yours supposed to do?"
"It doesn't work," said Blaise placatingly.
"What is it, Blaise?" Draco growled.
Blaise swallowed. He couldn't really turn pale, per se, but he looked as though he'd be paper white if he weren't so dark. "It's a Legilimency potion," he said. "With a touch of Imperius thrown in. But I told you, it doesn't work. The spells don't seem to translate well to potion form. I have to try a new combination of ingredients."
Draco took a deep breath and pinched the bridge of his nose. "You'd better send me a copy of whatever notes you have," he said. "I want to make sure to head off any side effects." He glared at Blaise, trying to channel Lucius' expression of freezing contempt.
Successfully, it appeared. Blaise actually backed away from his Floo before squaring his shoulders and picking something up from beside him. "I have them here," he said, leaned forward again, and handed Draco a parchment through the fire. Draco took it and doused the fire immediately, before Blaise could say anything else.
"Damned idiot," he muttered through his teeth, striding down to his potions lab. "How could he be so careless? If he's poisoned me…" A number of increasingly horrific fates for Blaise spun through his mind as he arrived in the lab and began to analyse the notes Blaise had given him. He focused on those thoughts, rather than on the more upsetting ones about what might be happening to him.
At the end of an hour, he was slightly baffled. As far as he could tell, there was no reason Blaise's potion shouldn't work. All the properties of the ingredients were right, and took the magical charge he sank into them just fine. Happily, none of them were poisonous, and the combination didn't seem to be, either. Draco wasn't going to die or anything, if this was the potion he'd gotten.
He looked thoughtfully at the russet liquid seething in his cauldron and tried to decide if it looked familiar, but his memory of last night was just too hazy. Then he sniffed it and reeled back, rubbing his stinging nose.
Oh, yes, this was what he'd drunk!
A Legilimency potion, with a touch of Imperius thrown in…hmmm. Blaise must have tested it, or he wouldn't be so sure it didn't work. Draco gave the batch he had made another speculative glance, then shook his head and decanted it into a bottle. He'd find out how Blaise had tested it before he tried anything himself.
Blaise, when applied to via fire call, said, "I tried it on Dozy."
"You fed it to a house-elf?" Draco said, incredulous. "What if it had worked?"
Blaise shrugged. "What if it had? Dozy isn't going to use it against me. Anyway, it didn't work."
"It should have, though," said Draco. "Your theory is sound. I made a batch here, even."
Blaise looked surprised and gratified. "You think it could work?"
"It should. House-elves are a lot different from wizards, you know. It might just not affect their magic."
"I started over, with some different ingredients –" Blaise began.
"Let me know how it goes," Draco said rather absently, and ended the call in the middle of Blaise's sentence.
Legilimency, with a touch of Imperius. I won't even have to cast an Unforgivable. I could get right into Potter's head and…
Dammit! Pansy's right, this is getting ridiculous.
Pansy. I could get into her head and…
He shook his own head. "First things first," he said aloud, glancing at his watch. "See if the dose I already took works. Izzy!"
A house-elf appeared, cringing and pulling its ears. "Yes, Master Draco?"
Draco stared into its enormous eyes. It stared back, looking more and more nervous as the silence stretched. Try as he might, though, Draco had no inkling of anything the elf might actually be thinking. Testing the Imperius bit on a house-elf was, of course, pointless anyway.
"Go away, Izzy," he growled, and the elf disappeared, looking cautiously relieved.
"So…maybe it just doesn't work with house-elves, full stop," Draco muttered, scribbling on Blaise's notes. "Their tiny little brains can't handle it or something. Or do I have to know how to cast Legilimens properly?"
This inspired a trip to the Manor library for a certain spell book. Draco had come across it the previous week when researching for his DADA essay. He'd meant to get back to it, but then his birthday party had come along, and he'd been side-tracked.
"Spells of the heart, spells of the voice, spells…of…aha! Spells of the mind," he muttered, flicking pages. "Occlumency – that looks useful. Illusory thought…Imperius. Legilimency!" Quickly he read the instructions.
"Shouldn't be too hard," he decided, after a while.
"What shouldn't be too hard?" said his father's voice from the doorway.
Draco started violently. "Uh – just a spell," he said, turning to face his father and schooling the shock out of his face. His father required an emotionless demeanour.
"What spell would that be?" Lucius Malfoy asked, glancing at the book half-hidden at Draco's side and then back up, one eyebrow lifted.
Should he confess? Draco dithered for a heart-stopping moment over whether his initiative in researching a spell that could be used to bring one's inferiors low would balance against the fact that his father didn't like him using the library without permission. Lucius guarded his secrets jealously.
"Draco." The cold voice broke the momentary silence.
"Legilimency," said Draco, bracing himself unobtrusively.
To his vast relief, Lucius gave him a small wintry smile. "I see. You're thinking ahead. Well done, Draco. My Lord will be pleased."
Wonderful, Draco thought. I can kill two house-elves with one stone. "Thank you, father," he said aloud.
Lucius nodded and came further into the library, going to his desk. Draco took this as his cue to leave, still clutching the book.
He had time to put the book in his room, and then he had to change for dinner. Dinner in the Malfoy household, when there were no guests, was a silent and formal affair. Draco spent it plotting ways to try out Legilimency on people instead of house-elves. "Pansy and Blaise, thank you for volunteering," he said to himself with an inner grin.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
That night, once ready for bed, Draco picked up the spell book for a more thorough perusal of the Legilimency spell. It seemed simple enough: eye contact, a flick of the wand, a murmur of "Legilimens," and a sort of mental push, and you were reading somebody's mind. You could look at surface thoughts, or file through old memories. The more emotional your target was, the easier the spell would be.
And everyone knows Potter wears his heart on his sleeve…
But who am I kidding? I know whose mind I really want to read…and if I can throw in a touch of Imperius…oh, the possibilities!
He pushed from his mind the vague memory of a rumour that Potter was able to throw off the Imperius curse. It couldn't really be true anyway; the whole point of Imperius was that no one could resist it. Draco still cringed inwardly at the memory of his own behaviour under Moody's Imperius in fourth year.
He read on. Occlumency was the art of resisting mental intrusions, and seemed to consist mainly of clearing one's mind and holding it clear. Draco was good at that; he had long perfected the habit of ignoring things he found unacceptable. He certainly found the idea of someone rummaging about in his head unacceptable!
He flicked his wand experimentally. "Legilimens!" A short dizzy spell ensued, he supposed because he hadn't had a particular target in front of him when he said the charm. The wand movement was easy enough. This would be simple to learn, and then Potter would truly be at his mercy. Draco's father would be pleased, too, and that was a circumstance not to be scorned.
He drifted off to sleep, thinking of his father's proud expression when Draco showed himself the master of Potter.
Hours later, deep in the night, he sat up in bed, feeling a vague push at the back of his mind. Was there somewhere he needed to be? Was he late? He climbed out of bed, then glanced back to retrieve his robe from the foot of it and saw – himself. Lying on his side, peacefully asleep.
He looked down his body. He looked perfectly solid. He swung a hand at the bedpost, and watched without much surprise as it went right through.
He was out of his body, obviously.
The push became stronger. Draco drifted ahead of it, and found himself leaving his room and heading down the hall at a swift glide. He had been out of his body before and wasn't too worried…yet…but he did cast a quick "lumos," just to be sure he could use magic in this state. He was quite relieved to find he could.
Now he was approaching a door, at speed. He flinched reflexively as he flashed through it, his pace picking up alarmingly. His surroundings were blurred by the speed, but he was pretty sure he recognized his parents' bedroom. This had hardly entered his mind when his progress took on a sudden plunging rush, then stopped dead.
Draco opened the eyes he had squeezed shut and looked around.
He was in a clearing in a forest, standing next to a bonfire. Looking down at himself once more, he saw that he was wearing a dark cloak and gloves. Lifting his hand to his face, he discovered the slight interference with his vision came from a mask.
Robe and a mask…with a jolt, he looked around and saw several other people, also robed and masked, standing around the fire with him. They seemed to be waiting for something. His stomach knotted in anticipation…but not fear. He just knew that whatever was about to happen would be something good for him. He basked in the warmth of the fire against the slight chill of the night air, and smiled a little.
After a few minutes there was a stir near the fire, and a balding man who seemed to move with a permanent cringe appeared. He was cradling something in both arms; Draco saw the gleam of silver.
Wormtail, he thought to himself. Miserable beast. Hardly deserving of the great honour the Dark Lord bestows upon him. I don't know how my Lord can even stand his company.
The air stirred again, and a tall thin figure appeared beside the man Draco had so inexplicably identified as Wormtail. It was swathed from head to foot in a luxurious black cloak.
Ah, so he appreciates my gift, Draco's thoughts continued, and a glow of pride made him stand up even straighter. He will appreciate me even more when he sees how well Draco is doing in his training. The Malfoys' place at his right hand after his victory is doubly assured.
With a sort of mental wrench, Draco realised he was in his father's head – his father's dream, to be exact. That must be Voldemort, then – the Dark Lord in person. Draco peered eagerly at the tall figure, but he could make out no details because of the cloak. That was disappointing; Draco was quite keen for information about the Lord who was going to rid them of the pervasive Muggle presence in the Wizarding world.
Then the figure spoke. "Lucius Malfoy," the Dark Lord said. The voice was high and cold, but Lucius – and therefore Draco – was not put off by this at all. "I hear you have good news for me."
"Yes, my Lord," said Lucius' voice. Draco touched his throat curiously.
"I have obtained the last ingredient you required for the Adamant potion," said Lucius, drawing a crystal vial out of the pocket of his robe.
"Ahhh," breathed the Dark Lord. "Well done, Lucius, my most faithful servant."
Servant? A Malfoy?
"You shall be rewarded," the Dark Lord continued. "Come, stand beside me."
Lucius moved to Voldemort's side. Up close, Draco could see a red gleam of eyes far back in the darkness of the cloak's hood. That wasn't half creepy.
Lucius took no notice, though. "Thank you, my Lord," he murmured. Draco felt an anticipatory thrill running through him as Voldemort gestured to Wormtail, who set down the bundle he'd been holding and began to unroll it.
"Mmmm, darling," Draco heard suddenly, and without warning he was looking at his mother's face at close range. Her eyes were closed. He actually felt her press against Lucius' body in her half-sleep, and Lucius' reaction as he woke up a little more. The book hadn't said anything about this feature of Legilimency!
"Aaaack! No!" Draco cried aloud, horrified, as he felt the curve of his mother's shoulder under his father's hand. "Stop!"
The stroking hand stopped. Draco felt a wave of confusion, which after a moment he worked out was being felt by Lucius.
Was this the Imperius bit at work? Could he give commands to his father?
"Um – order raspberries tomorrow morning," Draco babbled, trying to push the command into his father's mind. To his horror, Lucius sat up in bed, drawing his wand and glaring around the room. Draco saw through his eyes as he inspected every dark corner, then looked back down at Draco's mother.
Her eyes were open, and she was smiling at him – at Lucius – in a very sultry way. "Bad dream, darling?" she purred, reaching up.
"I suppose," Lucius murmured, lowering his wand and reaching for her.
Draco, who could still feel everything his father was feeling, squawked. "Oh no! I can't watch this! Get me out of here!"
Nothing happened, except that Lucius kissed his wife. Draco cringed. Merlin, he was going to be scarred for life!
"Finite Incantatem!" he shouted desperately. To his immeasurable relief, he felt a repeat of the plunging rush that had landed him in his father's head, and moments later he bolted upright, in his own head and his own bed once more.
"There will be no end to the therapy," he whimpered, flopping back down on his pillows and wiping his brow.
Now he just had to wait and see if Lucius, who hated raspberries, ordered them for breakfast. And, of course, find some way to scourgify his memory of being Lucius.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Draco awoke the next morning with a headache that felt exactly like a railroad spike being driven through the crown of his head by a mountain troll. He was afraid to move with the way his stomach lurched, and opening his eyes was clearly out of the question. This was worse than any hangover he'd ever had.
"Izzy," he croaked.
The pop as the elf appeared reverberated through his skull. "Yes, Master Draco?" the elf squeaked.
Draco moaned through clenched teeth. "Painkilling potion and hangover potion, quickly, Izzy."
Izzy scurried off, returning moments later to raise Draco's head tenderly from the pillow so he could down the two potions. There was an awful moment when Draco was sure he was about to turn inside out, but the potions kicked in and the horrible feeling subsided. He eased back onto the pillow with a gasp of relief.
"Is Master Draco better?" Izzy asked.
"Yes, Izzy," Draco murmured. His head no longer hurt, but it felt tender, as though quick moves would still be a bad idea.
"Master Lucius and Mistress Narcissa are waiting at breakfast," Izzy told him, and Draco bolted upright. His head spun for a moment, but he ignored that and staggered out of bed toward the bathroom.
"Let them know I'll be right there," he told Izzy as he began to wash. He barely heard the pop as Izzy vanished.
His parents were at the breakfast table when he arrived there fifteen minutes later, properly dressed but aware he was not looking his best. His mother gave him a slightly worried look. She was dressed in deep pink robes this morning. One might almost call them –
"Good morning," Draco said faintly, dropping into his chair. "I apologise for my lateness. I overslept."
"Are you unwell?" his father asked in tones of mild interest.
"No," said Draco, looking down at his plate as Boppy (named by Draco himself at the age of two) placed it in front of him. The pancakes were indeed garnished with raspberries.
Draco looked up swiftly at his father. Lucius' pancakes were garnished with blueberries, for the most part, but Draco spotted a few raspberries mixed in. He gulped. He'd actually Imperio'd his father!
"Breakfast is lovely this morning," said Narcissa, daintily swallowing a raspberry.
"Indeed," said Lucius, frowning slightly as he chewed a raspberry of his own.
"Mmmm," said Draco, who loved raspberries.
"Did you sleep well, Draco?" Lucius asked suddenly, turning a piercing gaze on Draco.
Draco nearly choked as he controlled his instinctive gasp and flinch. "Mmmm," he repeated, since his mouth was full. His father was frowning, which always boded extremely ill.
"You were not disturbed at all?"
Draco swallowed the mouthful of pancake, which suddenly felt as big as his own hand, and shook his head, trying to look puzzled rather than terrified. "Not at all," he said. "Why, were you?"
"I could have sworn someone intruded last night," said Lucius, returning to his breakfast. "But the wards were quiet."
"Perhaps you just had a bad dream," Draco suggested, cursing his boldness when his father's sharp gaze returned to him.
"Perhaps," Lucius said slowly, giving Draco a keen look. "Still, be alert. I will be strengthening the wards, as well."
"Thank you for letting me know," said Draco in a more subdued voice. "Ah – Father, I meant to invite Pansy and Blaise here for lunch. Will that be permitted?"
"Yes," said Lucius after a moment. "They are hardly a danger to us."
Draco decided discretion was the better part of valour, and offered no more conversation during the rest of the meal. His mother, too, ate in silence. She looked slightly more tired than usual. Draco's mind shied away from the probable reason for this, as well as his father's vaguely smug air.
He fire called Blaise directly after breakfast. "Come here for lunch," he ordered. "Bring all your notes on that potion, too."
Blaise frowned at him. "Why? Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Now," said Draco. "I have some more questions about your potion. We wouldn't want some unexpected side effect to show up and damage the Malfoy heir, would we?"
"No, no," said Blaise hastily, eyes dropping. "See you at lunch."
Pansy was perfectly happy to come to lunch, so Draco went down to his lab to gather his own notes and record his conclusions before he saw his friends.
Doesn't work on house-elves
Takes user completely out of body
User employs subject's senses
Subject appears unaware of user's presence
Is blood alcohol a factor? Must test.
Remains in system for 24 hours
Produces unbelievable hangover on 2nd morning!
He was pretty sure the potion was out of his system. It was a particularly dark colour, after all…
He still intended to test the Legilimency on Blaise and Pansy, though.
Blaise and Pansy arrived promptly for lunch. After the meal, at which raspberries were again served, Draco dragged them down to his potions lab. Blaise inspected the potion Draco had brewed, even sniffing the fumes wafting from the cauldron. Like Draco, he jerked back and sneezed.
"This is it," he agreed. "Have you tested it?"
"In a way," said Draco, twitching Blaise's notes from his surprisingly strong grasp and riffling through them. Blaise believed blood alcohol levels higher than normal would damp the effect of the potion. Hmmm.
Draco eased his wand out of his pocket and aimed it discreetly at Pansy. "Legilimens," he murmured.
"What was that?" Blaise asked, looking up from Draco's handful of notes to his face, and frowning.
Draco shook his head. Absolutely nothing had happened. Had he not pushed hard enough? Pretending to look through the notes again, he said "Legilimens," again, while concentrating on Pansy as hard as he could.
Pansy looked up from her idle browse of the open potions book he had been doing his homework from, and scowled. "What are you doing?"
"Nothing," Draco snapped, slipping his wand back into his pocket. "Blaise, what can we do about the hideous hangover this stuff gave me this morning?"
"24 hours later? That's interesting." Blaise snatched his notes from Draco and began muttering over them.
Pansy said, "So what does this potion do, anyway?"
"Combines and boosts Legilimency and Imperius," Blaise said, without looking up.
"And you took it?" she went on, looking up at Draco, who did not like the expression dawning on her face.
"By accident," he stressed. "And I paid the price this morning, all right. Blaise'll have to fix that if he wants anyone to take this voluntarily."
"Uh huh," Pansy ignored this gambit and closed in. "You were trying to cast on me just now, weren't you?"
Draco opened his mouth.
"Dammit, Draco!" Pansy snarled.
He shrugged without apology. "It didn't work," he said. "You should be grateful for that thick-headed stubbornness of yours."
Blaise did look up at this. "You were trying to cast Legilimens on Pansy?" he asked with a small frown.
Draco lifted an eyebrow at him. "Would you rather it was you?"
"Frankly the idea creeps me out," said Blaise. "But in any case, you were doing it wrong."
"You need eye contact," Blaise explained.
"Ah." Another difference the potion made, then. Draco turned an evil smile and his wand on Pansy, looking directly into her eyes. Before she could even blink, he said "Legilimens!" and pushed.
This time it worked – after a fashion. He didn't leave his body this time. This time a series of images flashed past his inner eye: Mrs Parkinson shouting, Mr Parkinson sweeping through a door in a cloak and mask, a letter Draco couldn't make out, his own face…
Tears ran down Pansy's face. "No, no," she whimpered. Draco could sense, but not actually feel, her fear.
"Finite Incantatem," he said, feeling annoyingly guilty. He handed Pansy a handkerchief. She gave him a hostile look and removed herself to the far side of the room. "Well, that wasn't what the potion did before," he went on.
Blaise was staring. "Did you just read her mind?"
"Yes," said Draco. "Although I didn't get much. It was much less involving than with the potion."
Blaise nodded, looking uncomfortable. "Then I guess we should try it with the potion." He reached for the flask.
Draco lifted it from under his hand. "I'll take that," he said coolly, and slammed back a good half the flask. It tasted like liquid cayenne pepper. Blaise watched him gasp and grimace with a certain amusement.
"Urrrgh," said Draco, wiping his watering eyes. "You definitely want to work on the flavour, Blaise."
"Clearly," said Blaise, with an apprehensive look as Draco turned to face him straight on. "Uh, be careful, Draco. And – and don't make me do anything too embarrassing."
Draco smirked but didn't answer, just pointed his wand at Blaise and said "Legilimens!"
One dizzying rush later, he was looking down from a lofty vantage point at his own body crumpled awkwardly on the floor.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Pansy let out a short scream and darted forward, dropping to her knees beside Draco's fallen body and lifting his head onto her lap. Blaise knelt down quickly and straightened out the crumpled limbs, then peeled back Draco's eyelid. Draco himself peered with interest into his own blank grey eye before Blaise let go.
"He's not in there," said Blaise. "It's sent him out of his body again."
"So…that means he's in your head?" Pansy asked, running her fingers through Draco's hair. Draco rather wished he were in his body to feel it; he loved having his hair stroked. Also, it was a bit unnerving to be out of his body when awake.
He turned his attention to Blaise. Draco could feel what Blaise was feeling and think what he was thinking. It was much easier to retain his awareness of himself than it had been during the experience with Lucius, though, and everything seemed to come to him much more clearly than it had from Pansy. One reason might be because he and Blaise were both wide-awake, he thought. He would make a note of that.
"Draco?" Blaise said aloud.
"I'm here," Draco said, still watching Pansy stroke his body’s hair. The floor looked pretty far away, with Blaise being so tall. It made Draco feel a bit dizzy.
Blaise did not react at all to Draco’s words. "Draco?" he repeated.
So I can't just talk to him, Draco realized. After a moment he fixed a (hilarious) image in his mind and spoke in his most commanding tone.
Blaise immediately stood on one foot and put his hands on his head, exactly as Draco had pictured. Pansy looked up and giggled. "I'd say he's in there, all right," she said.
Draco caught the burst of uneasiness from Blaise. Oh no, what if he…Blaise was thinking.
Naturally, Draco focused immediately on the thoughts Blaise was trying to suppress. It didn’t even take much effort; Blaise didn’t have a shred of Draco’s powerful mental discipline. His family wasn’t – Draco shoved this thought away. He had better mental focus than Blaise; it didn’t matter why. It was an advantage.
Blaise’s mind was full of one girl. The emotions Draco picked up from him included lust, resentment, grudging admiration, sorrow…he thought it was hopeless…he was shocked at himself…Argh, no wonder! Draco thought, as one of the nearer images swam into focus. Ginny Weasley? That ragged little Gryffindor who won't look anywhere but at Potter? Draco would never be able to un-know this. What is wrong with Blaise?
He could tell that Blaise was wondering the same thing, although a quick sift through Blaise's memories and impressions of the Weaselette caused Draco to admit – grudgingly – that the attraction was not entirely unreasonable. She was far more appealing than her obnoxious brothers. Of course, it wasn’t as if that was difficult.
Still. A Gryffindor blood-traitor. Even if it's just lust - Ugh.
Draco left those thoughts behind and had a quick look around in Blaise's head. He noted Blaise's respect for him with approbation, and frowned when he found Blaise's doubts about the wisdom of continuing to work with him on this potion. No nerve, Draco told himself. The research was going beautifully (now that Draco was in charge of it), and the potion was sheer genius. He was frankly surprised that Blaise had managed to come up with the idea; he wasn't normally particularly gifted at potions theory.
He then noticed Blaise's anticipation about meeting the Dark Lord, something which was apparently slated to take place quite soon. What? Blaise gets to meet him before me? Why? Draco was outraged.
Blaise’s unease increased. Perhaps he could sense Draco's surge of anger. Well might he quail; Draco's wrath was no light thing.
This potion was for the Dark Lord. It was one the Dark Lord had specifically requested, in fact. Why had Blaise been trusted with it? Everyone knew Draco was better at potions, and his father was the Dark Lord's right hand! What was going on?
Blaise's heart was racing. Enough of this. Draco said, with his most intense focus, "Tell me everything you know about this potion and your involvement with the Dark Lord. Tell only me. Finite Incantatem!"
The dizzying rush returned, and a moment later he felt Pansy's fingers stroking through his hair. He opened his eyes and glared at Blaise, who still had one foot in the air and his hands on his head, blinking until he came into proper focus.
Blaise returned the glare. "I see it worked," he said. "What are you so angry about?"
Draco smirked, sitting up. "Just remembering the hangover I'm going to suffer from this. You'll definitely have to work on that before you let – anyone else – take the potion." Blaise's eyes widened a little. "Oh, drop the pose," Draco snapped, and Blaise did, shaking out his wrists.
"There seems to be a little quirk with the Imperius part," he said. "I assume you used Finite Incantatem to get back to your body."
"But I was still stuck like that until you told me to stop," Blaise went on.
"And you didn't say Finite Incantatem again to let him relax," Pansy put in. "Is he still Imperio'd?"
She and Draco looked hard at Blaise, who shifted his feet, frowning. "I don't feel like I am," he said after a minute. "It feels nothing like Moody's class. But I didn't feel it before, either…"
"Hop on one foot," said Draco, lifting a brow.
Blaise immediately started hopping, only a little unsteady. "Oh, bugger," he said feelingly.
"Hmmm," said Draco, smirking. "The possibilities are delicious. But go ahead and stop that."
"Prat." Blaise put his foot back down and reached for his notes.
"You're never getting near me with that spell," said Pansy. Draco turned the lifted brow on her, and she glared. "I mean it, Draco."
"I know you do," he murmured, and turned to look over the potion notes with Blaise. "So, let's see what we have here…"
They spent the remainder of the afternoon adding to the notes, which Draco was careful to claim before Blaise left, grimly defeating Blaise’s attempts at resistance. "I'll be talking to you later," he said, as Blaise sulkily prepared to Floo home. Blaise nodded without looking at him and vanished into the fire. Pansy kissed Draco's cheek quickly and followed.
There were raspberries at dinner too. Draco realised there would probably be raspberries at every meal until he told his father to stop, but he wasn't ready to do that yet. After all, he loved raspberries, and he never got to eat them during the summer. Also, it was heady knowing his father was under his command. Not that Draco intended to command him to do anything else; he wasn't stupid.
I'll talk to Blaise tomorrow, he decided. I've got the hang of this now. Tonight I'll find Potter and get into his head!
Keeping his evil laugh carefully to himself, he retired extremely early that night.
Chapter 6: 6.
Draco never had any trouble picturing Harry Potter in his head. He spent so much time watching the – strangely compelling – prat that the image formed immediately once he lay down and closed his eyes. Potter took shape in his mind, from the top of his tousled hair to the toes of his unfortunate trainers. Really, he shouldn't be allowed to shop for his own clothes; he obviously had no grasp of fit, fashion, or colour.
"Legilimens," Draco murmured, banishing the digression, focusing on this mental picture, and swishing his wand. At once he was sucked out of his body and straight through the wall of his bedroom. As he rushed through the night, he exulted. At last, he was about to have Potter right where he wanted him!
Well, not right where he wanted him. That would put Potter at, well, much closer range. Draco was more than a bit uncomfortable with these persistent lusty thoughts about the Prat-Who-Lived. But he didn't actually like him or anything. He just wanted to shag him six ways to Sunday. Maybe the potion would help with that not-so-little problem; if he could make Potter do anything…
This was taking a long time. For Merlin's sake, did Potter leave the country every summer? Draco tried to pay a little more attention to the landscape through which he was speeding. He couldn't catch many details, at the rate he was going. He seemed to be traversing Muggle suburbia, though. Potter did live with Muggles, Draco knew that much. He might even find it within himself to feel sorry for Potter.
His speed increased, arrowing him toward a very small house in a row of identical very small houses. As he involuntarily braced himself, though, he suddenly arched up and away, soaring in reverse so fast that only a moment later he was back in his own head.
Not fair! How could it not work?
Gritting his teeth, he focused on his mental image and tried again. The same thing happened. This time he barely got close enough to see the house he had approached before he was bounced back. This was just not on.
However many times he tried, though, he never got any nearer. At last, deep in the night, he sat up in bed, panting with rage and frustration, and flung his wand across the room. "Unbelievable!" he shouted.
Izzy appeared beside the bed. "Master Draco?"
"Get out," Draco snapped, and the elf cringed and vanished again. "Accio wand," Draco said next, and caught his wand as it flew into his hand. He regarded it thoughtfully for a moment before putting it on his bedside table.
Potter obviously had some excellent wards. This would take a bit more effort, but Draco was determined. No matter what, he was getting into Potter's head. Even if he had to wait until school started, there was no way Potter would escape from him.
Draco thought about paying a little visit to Blaise or Pansy, but decided against it. In truth, his brain felt a little bruised from all his efforts to get at Potter. He got up, got a drink of water, lay back down, and fell asleep.
He approached the little house again, flying slowly this time. He drifted up to one of the upstairs windows, the only one covered with thick iron bars. He peered in through the bars and saw, across the room, a cage containing Potter's white owl. Then he spotted Potter himself, sitting bent over a book at a spindly desk.
Draco knocked on the window. Potter looked up and broke into a wide smile at the sight of him. He came over to the window immediately and opened it.
"Draco!" he said happily, reaching through the bars to clasp Draco's hand. His fingers were warm and rough with broom calluses.
"Harry," said Draco, returning the clasp. "Are you going to let me in, or what?" he asked with a smile.
"Of course," said Harry, and pushed on two of the bars. They moved aside, so that Draco could slip between them into the room. "Get in here, it's been way too long…"
Draco drifted through. Even before his feet touched the floor, Potter was in his arms – this dream was so real – warm and solid, arms going around Draco's back as their lips met. Potter tasted like chocolate, and Merlin, he knew how to use his tongue.
"Too long," Draco agreed breathlessly, when they pulled back for oxygen. His hands slid down Harry's back to his ass and squeezed, lifting the shorter boy up and into him. Harry groaned and wrapped one leg around Draco's hip, arching into his body.
Draco attacked Harry's neck, wanting to hear more of those groans. Harry tipped his head back, pushing even harder against Draco, and gasped, "Don't – stay away – so long – next time."
"I won't," Draco muttered, nibbling on Harry's Adam's apple. "I can't." He sucked in a breath as Harry's hands dropped to his hips and squeezed. Merlin, Harry smelled so good. "I want you."
"I want you too," said Harry, backing up just enough to tear his T-shirt off. Draco latched onto one of his nipples at once; Harry arched with a cry, hands once more clenched on Draco's hips. They fumbled around to the fly of Draco's trousers, rubbing against the bulge there; Draco swore and pushed into the pressure, accidentally biting Harry's nipple a little harder than he meant to.
Harry snarled and shoved at him. About to apologise (!), Draco realised where Harry was taking them and backed up willingly, dropping onto the narrow, hard bed a moment later. Harry fell on top of him, wriggled up and ripped Draco's shirt open. Buttons flew, but Draco didn't care, because Harry was sucking one of his nipples and twisting the other, all the while squirming against him.
Draco seized Harry's ass again and thrust up hard against him; they ground together and both boys groaned.
"AH—that's so good," Harry gasped, levering himself onto his elbows to thrust down harder against Draco. "Uhh…don't stop…"
"As if," Draco grunted, squeezing harder. His world had narrowed to the hot body crushed against him and the spiralling pleasure in his own body. He could feel everything in him focusing on the rush of pleasure. "Harder!"
Harry thrust harder and faster. "Come on, come on…uhhh…" He dropped his head and bit Draco's ear.
The tiny pain sent Draco over the edge, actually screaming as his whole body seemed to explode. A second later he felt Harry freeze, and then the spreading warmth of his orgasm.
They collapsed to the bed, panting. Draco struggled to unlock the fingers clenched on Harry's ass. They unbent reluctantly, and he rested his hands flat. "Merlin, Harry," he gasped.
"Yeah," Harry answered. He was sprawled bonelessly on top of Draco, whose feet were hanging off the side of the bed. "God, I miss you."
Draco stroked the heaving back. "I miss you too. You're such a good shag." He grinned when Harry lifted his head far enough to give him a half-hearted glare.
Harry smirked. "As are you." He thrust lightly against Draco again, and Draco could feel himself taking a renewed interest. "Let's get naked."
"Yeah!" They got properly onto the bed and took off their clothes, groping and kissing in a languid sort of way. As soon as Draco's pants were off Harry slid down and swallowed Draco's cock.
"Harry!" Draco shouted, snagging his fingers in that soft ebony hair…
And woke up.
He lay there for a moment, panting, then smirked and slid a hand down his body. He just couldn't wait to get into Potter's…head.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
When he woke up for real later in the morning, Draco's expression was less smug, despite the absence of the crushing headache he had been fully expecting. What in Merlin's name had been all that lovey behaviour in his dream? "I miss you," "I can't stay away," "Too long." Calling him Harry!
What had happened to his perfectly good fantasy of patrolling the corridors at Hogwarts late at night, finding Potter wandering about as usual, and dragging him into a nearby classroom to coerce a (really excellent) blowjob out of him? Or what about the quite superior one of cornering Potter in the Quidditch showers and shagging him against the wall?
Whatever that had been last night – and Draco had to admit it had been hot – it was not acceptable. There were NO sweet feelings for Potter, just hot ones. Potter did have that slender, toned body, those vivid eyes, that wild hair…that chemistry. But Draco didn't like him in the least. He was way too Gryffindor!
Disgruntled, Draco got out of bed, dressed, and headed for breakfast. This morning there were raspberries with porridge, a less fortunate combination than Draco might have thought. Also, his father kept giving him long considering looks, as though measuring him for something. It was unnerving.
"Father?" he ventured, when the silence and the stare had stretched on for rather a long time. "Is something wrong?"
"Nothing," said Lucius, not looking away. "How is your research coming along?"
"My – oh. Very well, thank you, Father. I anticipate an excellent mark for my DADA project," said Draco.
"And have you had a chance to practise the spell?" Lucius inquired blandly.
Draco's brain scrambled for a moment. Should he admit it? Would his father be angry–?
His father would be angriest if he didn't answer, though. Draco took a fortifying gulp of coffee and said, "Yes, sir. Blaise and Pansy visited yesterday." He added a smirk for good measure.
To his relief, Lucius smirked back. "Well done. And were you successful?"
"Yes, sir," said Draco. "Not that I discovered any deep dark secrets I hadn't already, but it was an illuminating experience."
Lucius' smile widened slightly into his look of wintry approval. "Good. You'll be sure and share any – news – you encounter concerning mutual friends, I trust."
"Of course." Such as the fact that Blaise gets a task from the Dark Lord before me?
"And use the spell judiciously, Draco," Lucius continued. "Don't get ideas above yourself."
Draco's smirk collapsed into a sullen glower. "Yes, sir," he muttered. Shows what you know! Even as he thought this, Lucius spooned a raspberry into his mouth with a little grimace.
Silence descended on the breakfast room once again. Draco finished his meal and went off to summon Blaise. He needed to get a grip on this situation as soon as possible.
When Blaise arrived, he met Draco with a glower. "Take this Imperius off," he demanded.
"Manners, Blaise," Draco said. "What's the matter, don't you trust me?"
"Take it off, please," Blaise said. "I can't believe you left it on yesterday. This is ridiculous."
"Well, come in and have something to drink," said Draco. "Izzy!"
In short order, Blaise and Draco were ensconced in one of the solariums, tall glasses of iced raspberry punch in hand and biscuits on the table. Draco bit into a biscuit and gave Blaise a prompting look. "Well?"
Blaise looked around and spoke in a low voice. "Well… it's not really for my potions project. Or not originally. I think if I turn it in, though, Professor Snape will have a few hundred points for Slytherin on the first day of school."
"Undoubtedly," Draco murmured. The potion was genius. More genius than Blaise, in fact. "Why were you working on it, then? I saw your summer project notes; that potion was complicated enough. This one --"
Blaise gave Draco a sideways look. "My father told me that if I get it to work properly, he'll take me before the Dark Lord this summer instead of making me wait until after graduation."
So Blaise either didn’t know that Draco had been able to learn that from his thoughts, or he’d recently experienced an exponential surge of subtlety. Draco found that possibility unlikely. He raised his brows. "Really."
Blaise nodded. "Yeah. He said the Dark Lord really wants this potion, although I don't know why he would. He can already do Legilimens and Imperius better than everybody."
"More power is never a bad thing," said Draco vaguely, and narrowed his eyes, studying his friend’s expression. "So you worked this potion out all on your own?"
Blaise opened his mouth, but seemed to realize Draco had caught his mildly shifty look. After a moment he shook his head. "No – he gave me some notes to work from. Basically I followed them, and juggled proportions. The hawthorn was the only substitution I made."
"Hmmm." Draco drank punch in silence for a few minutes. "Why isn't Professor Snape brewing this potion, if the Dark Lord needs it so much?" he mused at last.
Blaise shrugged. "I didn't ask. How could I turn down this opportunity?"
"How indeed? You know it still needs work," said Draco. "Although I didn't have the terrible hangover this morning, so that's something."
"Not really," said Blaise. "If it follows the course it did before, the potion will flush out of your system during tonight, and you'll have the hangover tomorrow."
"That's right!" Dammit, he’d thought he’d escaped it.
"Maybe you can ward it off if you take a hangover potion before you go to bed," Blaise suggested. "You have all my notes. Any other bright ideas?"
Draco looked at Blaise until he saw his minute squirm. "Are you expecting me to help you for nothing?"
"I've already been a test subject," Blaise snapped.
"Oh, but no, it's the other way around," said Draco. "You've managed to avoid the hangover and everything, and believe me that's worth a lot. No, you'll not be getting sole credit for this one, especially considering who it’s for."
And why was Blaise developing this potion and not Draco? Draco couldn't leave that question alone. He knew he had the highest potions mark at Hogwarts, not to mention extra practice with his Godfather Severus whenever he wanted it.
Blaise snarled at him, but there was really nothing he could do, and Draco could see he knew it. "Fine. Take the Imperius off," he repeated, his voice tight.
Draco raised the Malfoy Eyebrow. "Manners, Blaise," he said in his father’s ‘dry but slightly amused’ tone, which he knew would infuriate Blaise. "That's no way to talk to your – partner."
Blaise emitted a strange hissing noise through his teeth, and Draco laughed and waved a hand.
"Never mind," he said, and looked hard into Blaise's eyes, lifting his wand. "Finite Incantatem Imperius."
Blaise blinked. "Did it work?"
"Stand up and clap your hands," Draco suggested.
Blaise stayed put. After a minute he smiled. "It worked. Thanks, Draco. It’s good to know the spell part works properly." He spoke with the same tone Draco had used.
"Right," said Draco, after an assessing moment. "So, there are things to tackle then. Izzy!"
The house-elf brought them the notes, and they got to work. Of paramount importance was eliminating the hangover the stuff produced (the Dark Lord would certainly never tolerate it) but Draco was almost as equally committed to improving the taste. His throat still burned slightly from his dose the previous afternoon.
They made a fair amount of headway, and retired to the lab to mix up the new formula. It had to simmer overnight, so Blaise left then. Draco made sure to retain all the notes, though he allowed Blaise to believe he’d sneaked a copy out with him. Noticing that it was nearly dinnertime, Draco hurried back to his room to change, still ticking off points in his mind.
"Half the world is allergic to knotgrass pollen, can't use that. What about sweetgrass? Hmmmm…"
There was raspberry compote with dinner. Draco was willing to admit the whole raspberry thing was getting a bit ridiculous – but how was he going to take the compulsion off his father? He could just imagine Lucius' reaction to Draco's looking deep into his eyes and saying "Finite Incantatem Imperius." He didn't want to, but he could.
He'd just have to do it while Lucius was asleep.
Chapter 8: 8
Before going to bed, Draco went down to his lab and brewed the very strongest hangover potion he could devise. He had no intention of ever being in the condition he'd been in the last time this potion had left him. He was stirring industriously, thinking of nothing in particular, when Izzy appeared at his elbow. Draco started. Hot potion splashed onto the house-elf.
Izzy flinched slightly, but otherwise ignored the burn. "Master Draco, Master Lucius commands you to see him in his study," he squeaked.
"Very well," said Draco, and handed the stirring rod to Izzy. "Stir this counter clockwise for eight minutes, then lower the flame and let it simmer." Izzy took the rod; Draco spelled the splashes off his own clothes, caught up his robe from where he'd left it flung over a chair, and went up to his father's study.
This time he was directed to the straight-backed chair in front of Lucius' desk, and sank into it with a nervous jolt to his stomach. "Yes, Father?" he asked.
Lucius leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. "I expected to hear more about your experiments with Legilimency," he said in a neutral voice.
"I'm – sorry, Father," said Draco. "I've been reviewing the theory after my initial experience with Blaise the other day." And not at all chasing after Potter or messing about in your head, Father…
Lucius' eyes narrowed fractionally. "You learned nothing from Zabini, then?"
"I learned he has a secret project this summer," said Draco, his resentment over this momentarily taking over, even showing ever so slightly in his voice. He saw his father’s eyes narrow just a tiny bit, and forced the emotion out of his tone, swallowing. "Something for the Dark Lord. He anticipates being brought before him this summer, in fact."
"Indeed?" Lucius murmured, lifting a brow. "This makes you angry?"
"I wondered why it was Blaise, and not myself, who was approached for this task," said Draco, cursing himself for giving his father even a minute glimpse of his resentment. It was a weakness, and he knew his father would remember, and would use it against him whenever he saw fit.
"We do not question the Dark Lord," Lucius said.
Why not? Draco wondered, even he snapped his mouth shut. "Oh," he said after a moment, relieved that the word came out calm.
"You must think these things through,” said Lucius. “A Malfoy is not ruled by emotion. A Malfoy causes others to be ruled by emotion."
"Yes, Father," Draco murmured. He wondered what effect his help with the potion would have on Blaise’s reception, once Draco made sure it was known to the right people.
"Continue your research," Lucius said. "Knowledge is always an excellent tool. Report your discoveries to me."
"Yes, Father," Draco repeated.
"You may go."
Draco went back down to his lab and found Izzy watching the simmering potion with a nervous but attentive eye, standing well back from the cauldron. He sent the house-elf away and finished the potion quickly, then took a decanter of it upstairs with him.
It was too early to go to sleep, though. Draco left the potion in his room and headed for the library. He needed to find more information on wards, as well as Legilimency. He was determined to have mastered this skill completely by the time he returned to school at the very latest.
He found three books on spells of the mind, though only one was devoted entirely to Legilimency and its defence, Occlumency. There were so many books on wards he had trouble making a selection, finally choosing an encyclopaedic tome as a place to start. He could narrow things down when he had a better idea of the sort of wards he was dealing with, he reasoned.
After dinner and the shortest amount of “family time” he could get away with, Draco was comfortably ensconced in bed with his books and a mug of green tea, searching for references to the sort of behaviour Potter's wards had displayed. He had every intention of revisiting Potter tonight, and he wanted to be ready.
He did find some useful things, and made notes so that he could find some more in-depth books the next day. Finally he decided it was late enough to have a chance of sneaking into his father's dreams again, so he drank down the hangover potion. Then he turned down the lights, settled himself, fixed his mind on his father – first things first, after all – flicked his wand, and said "Legilimens!"
It was immediately apparent to him that his father was still awake, as his headlong out-of-body rush took him in the opposite direction of Lucius and Narcissa's bedroom. He hoped this wouldn't be a problem; Lucius was sure to have more mental defences to bring to bear when awake.
Draco hardly had time to form this thought before he flashed through the door of his father's study and straight into his father's head. Lucius was at the desk, writing a letter. As Draco oriented himself, he realised that Lucius had dropped his quill and was peering around the room. Draco remained as still and unobtrusive as he could, and after a moment Lucius picked up his quill again and looked back down at his document.
Don't be ridiculous, Draco read. Of course Pansy will not be granted equal control over the Malfoy fortune after she and Draco are married. I am surprised at you for suggesting it. She will receive a generous monthly allowance and whatever gifts Draco chooses to give her. And before you get any clever ideas, Draco will not have the power to sign any portion of the fortune over to her exclusive use. She gets what every Pureblood wife gets, and had better be grateful for that. Do not think I am unaware of her activities at school, Simon...
Draco stopped reading for a moment, as Lucius dipped his quill and seemed to consider what to add next. Awake, his thoughts were separate from Draco's and harder to read. Draco scarcely cared at the moment, though, being taken up with what he had read.
Once she and Draco are married… How immediate was that event? They had less than a year before Pansy came of age; her seventeenth birthday was this coming April. Draco himself would be seventeen before the beginning of seventh year. Would they marry before they finished school? Draco wasn't too keen on that idea. He wanted a chance to get out and see the world – on his own – before he married.
Also, he too knew what Pansy got up to at school. He didn't begrudge her her string of lovers, as he had no particular sexual interest in her, but he didn't like the idea of coming to his marriage bed so much less experienced than his wife, even though that was more due to choosiness than lack of opportunity. He and Pansy were friendly, but not close enough for him to entertain any thought of being so vulnerable with her.
Lucius was writing again. I will expect your signature on the documents by return owl, Simon. This delay has gone on long enough. The children's future must be settled and their inheritances safeguarded.
Draco kept his peace while his father rolled up the parchment, sealed it, summoned a house-elf, and told her to owl it immediately. He wanted Lucius as relaxed as possible. Once the house-elf had left, Lucius poured himself a brandy and went back to his desk, pulling another roll of parchment toward him. Clearly he intended to make a long night of it.
Draco was not willing to wait around until Lucius tired and went to bed. Sometimes the man worked all night, and Draco wanted another go at Potter yet tonight. So he turned his attention away from whatever his father was reading (it was in French anyway, and whomever had written it had terrible handwriting) and into his subconscious. He focused on the fixed idea of raspberries that he was able to separate out, and said "Finite Incantatem Imperius."
He did not, as he had half feared, return immediately to his own head, not knowing if it had worked or not. He saw the little knot in Lucius' stream-of-unconscious-thought smooth away, and cheered to himself.
As he turned his attention outward again, making a face at the taste of brandy filling his mouth, he glanced down at his father's parchment. He absently translated 72 of the filthy Mudbloods… and was just getting interested when pain as though someone had skewered his left forearm to the desk with a white-hot poker roared through Lucius and thus, Draco.
Lucius' breath caught and his muscles tightened, but Draco knew if he hadn't been inside his father's head he'd have had no idea Lucius was in pain. Draco himself was less stoic, but nervous of making too much commotion in Lucius' mind. He gritted his teeth and tried to swallow the pain back far enough to focus his magic as Lucius ordered a house-elf to bring him his cloak and a small box. As soon as the cloak was fastened, Lucius put his hands to his face and then flicked his wand.
At once Draco felt physically crushed. His whole self, body as well as mind, was being compressed into something tiny enough to fit through the eye of a needle. In panic, he tried to gasp out "Finite Incantatem!" but the pressure did not let up. Just as Draco was sure he was trapped, though, the pressure vanished.
He was still in Lucius' head. His father had arrived in a forest clearing much like the one Draco had seen in the dream, and was looking about him disdainfully even as he checked that the mask was properly fitted to his face. (Draco shook his head derisively; what point was there to the mask, when Lucius’ distinctive hair was clearly visible). Other cloaked and masked figures were appearing all around him. It was a sultry night, and there was a bonfire lit in the centre of the clearing, but Lucius had obviously cast a cooling charm on his cloak. He shed not a drop of sweat.
The tall, shrouded figure of the Dark Lord appeared. "Welcome, my loyal Death Eaters," he said. This time Draco shivered, thoroughly creeped out by the high, cold voice. It sounded unnatural coming from such a tall figure. "I have called you here to witness my retribution upon some who dared to try to stand against me. Their fate shall be the fate of all who oppose me!" (Not “us,” Draco noticed.)
The assembled Death Eaters cheered, though, Lucius included. Draco had plans of his own and a sense of something about to happen that he shouldn’t see, but curiosity had always been a weakness of his, and it kept him locked in place.
Two Death Eaters (whom Draco recognized without trouble, despite the masks) approached the Dark Lord, dragging two people with them. As they came into the light, Draco saw that the prisoners were men, dressed in business robes but looking haggard and terrified. He had no idea who they were. Maybe Ministry employees?
In any case, not for long.
"Crucio!" screamed the Dark Lord, flinging an arm toward them. The sleeve shrouded the wand Draco knew he must be holding. Even the Dark Lord wasn’t powerful enough for wandless magic.
The two men folded at once, shrieking and writhing. It was entrancing, in a disturbing kind of way, Draco thought. Like watching a Bludger accident; he just couldn't look away.
This curse was going on for a long time, he realised. It had to be two full minutes before the Dark Lord dropped his wand arm. The screams died down, but the two men continued to writhe and gibber.
"Never again will you obstruct my plans," The Dark Lord said in an eerily calm voice. "Avada Kedavra!" The entire clearing blazed with green light, and the two men went still and silent. Draco swallowed, goosebumps prickling all over his body.
"Well done, Lucius," said the Dark Lord, and Draco couldn't contain his gasp. He immediately went still, but Lucius didn’t seem to notice him. "I know I can rely upon you to discover traitors and enemies."
"Yes, my Lord," said Lucius, bowing. Bowing! Draco still couldn't believe it.
He felt a bit shuddery, actually, and decided it would be best to leave now. "Finite Incantatem," he whispered, and welcomed the dizzy rush back to his own body. He opened his eyes upon his bedroom ceiling with a small gasp of relief.
That had been intense. He knew the Dark Lord had no mercy upon those who got in his way, but it was one thing to know that and another to see it. He felt unsettled; agitated and scared all at once. Thank Merlin Draco and all his friends were Purebloods and would never have to go through that.
He almost decided to call it a night, but he was pretty sure he could get past Potter's wards, and he didn't want to leave that until he could drink more of the potion. Neither he nor Blaise had really looked at long-term side effects yet, after all. Draco wasn't going to take another dose of this stuff without a lot more information.
He did get up and have a drink of water, and generally try to settle himself down before once more reclining on the bed, focusing on his mental image of Potter (it formed much more easily and clearly than his image of his father, but Draco chose not to dwell on that), and casting the spell.
This time, as he left his body, he tried to pay as much attention as possible to his surroundings. He wanted to know where Potter actually was. There was no question the information would be gratefully received in – certain quarters. Once Draco had had his fill of Potter, of course.
Countryside, countryside, suburbia, suburbia…he flew through the night. This time he got nearer to the little house than he had in the dream, close enough to see that the window he was approaching did indeed have bars across it, before the wards rejected him.
"Oh, no you don't," he snarled to his silent bedroom, and promptly cast the spell again. This time as he approached the wards he muttered a charm from his book as fast as he could. To his delight, he got right up to the window and was able to peer inside. To his wrath, he was unable to pass through the window. Not even the charm helped with that, but at least he was not being repelled. He looked eagerly through the window.
The room was darkened, but there was some moonlight coming through the window, and Draco was able to get a pretty good view. Directly across from the window was a stand with a large owl cage on it, empty. Next to that was a spindly desk. There was a wardrobe to the right of the window. The room extended a bit to the left of the window; it was darker over there, but Draco made out the outline of a person lying on a bed. Potter! He seemed to be squirming a lot. Draco smirked; soon he would be in Potter's head, and the four-eyed git would definitely be squirming a lot!
A steady but insistent pressure from the wards began to make itself known, pushing Draco away from the window. He fought to stay where he was, cataloguing as many details as he could, but eventually the wards prevailed and he was flung back to his own head. He woke up with a satisfied smile.
It faded just a little at the realisation that Potter's room had been exactly the way it was in his latest Potter-starring erotic dream.
Chapter 9: 9.
Draco woke in the morning gasping, his body still throbbing in the aftermath of the dream he'd had once he was back in his own head. As he lay catching his breath, he smirked to himself. The return of his familiar dream about cornering Potter in the Quidditch showers had been very welcome. Potter's new cooperativeness had only made it hotter. Draco wondered idly why he had never dreamed Potter such a good kisser before.
Once he was up, washed, and dressed, he went down to breakfast feeling quite smug and cheerful. He had absolutely no trace of a hangover, let alone the paralysing agony he'd experienced last time. Not to mention, it was a beautiful day. Draco had no intention of spending the whole day closed up in his lab.
But I haven't had any other symptoms of the potion cycling out of my system, his brain piped up.
He shushed it. I feel fine.
But hadn't he remembered that the berry juice in the hangover potion might interact with the powdered runespoor egg in the Legilimency potion? He had to figure out what they did when combined! He'd already drunk both potions!
After I fly, he told himself firmly. Fresh air would get his brain working at top capacity.
Firm in his decision, he gave his mother a smile as he sat down at the breakfast table and a house-elf filled his coffee cup.
"You seem happy this morning," she said, with a brief smile back.
"Things are going well," said Draco. "And it's a beautiful day. I'm going for a fly after breakfast."
"That's lovely, dear," said his mother. "Just don't forget about the tea party this afternoon in the gardens. You'll be Pansy's host."
Dammit! He had forgotten. Escorting Pansy during one of Narcissa's oppressively elegant tea parties was not high on his list of Excellent Ways To Spend An Afternoon. Pansy actually seemed to enjoy it. Perhaps it was a female thing.
His mood rather dimmed, Draco collected his Nimbus from his room and flew it right out the window. The day really was glorious. As the Manor dropped away below him, a rush of exhilaration filled him instead. This was just what he needed. Who cared about the tea party? It was hours away.
Draco flew for hours, practicing all his best stunts, releasing and catching a professional practise snitch his father had procured for him, and finally just drifting aimlessly over the Malfoy lands. He was quite startled when one of the smaller Malfoy owls accosted him in midair. The note attached to its leg said simply GET HOME RIGHT NOW, YOUNG MAN! He could practically hear his mother's icy tones.
He flew the broomstick speedily back through his bedroom window, flinched at the sight of the clock, cast several hurried spells on himself, and swept down the stairs impeccably dressed and groomed for an afternoon garden tea. Narcissa, Pansy, and Mrs Parkinson were waiting at the foot of the stairs.
"There you are, darling," Narcissa cooed. Her smile came nowhere near her eyes. Draco bowed over her hand, trying to convey apologies via some kind of mother-son telepathy. "I was sure you'd just become absorbed in your studies."
"I beg your pardon, ladies," said Draco smoothly, taking his cue. He bowed over Mrs Parkinson's hand – Merlin, had the woman never heard of hand cream? – and offered Pansy his arm. "I'm afraid I was quite caught up. Shall we?"
"Studying?" Pansy murmured, pinching his arm in a friendly way.
"Oh, you know," he murmured back. "Were you waiting long?"
She shrugged. "Not long. How have things been going?"
"Fine…" Making small talk, he settled Pansy at one of the canopied garden tables with a cup of tea and a plate of her favourite scones. He acquired a rather more substantial plate for himself; all that flying had left him ravenous. Pansy made no comment, although Narcissa gave him an exasperated look when she and Pansy's mother joined him and Pansy at the table.
Draco ate without apology, devouring sandwiches of paper-thin cold cuts and watercress while Mrs Parkinson brought up the topic of his and Pansy's wedding. He and Pansy traded a look when she mentioned choosing a date.
"I didn't think we were at that stage, Mother," said Pansy. "Aren't there still papers to sign, arrangements to be finalized?"
"Oh no, dear," said Mrs Parkinson. "Your father tells me he sent back the last of the signed documents this morning. Now we can really get down to plans, and not a moment too soon." She smiled at Narcissa, who smiled back slightly distantly. "It's going to be beautiful, you'll see. The Manor is so lovely with everything in bloom." She beamed at the surrounding gardens, which were indeed a riot of colour and scent.
Draco swallowed a gulp of tea. "While nothing could be higher in my ambitions than marriage to Pansy –" Pansy kicked him under the table, and not lightly, but the sarcasm in his voice seemed to sail right over their mothers' heads. Well, maybe not Narcissa's; she gave him a sharp look. "– we do have to be of age, don’t we? That doesn't happen for another year."
Mrs Parkinson gave him a rather pitying look. "Of course, dear. We'll need a year to get everything arranged. That's why I've been so frustrated that the paperwork was taking so long. But it's all right now. Pansy and I have already ordered dress designs from Madame Malkin."
Draco raised a brow at Pansy, who shrugged. "Weddings are a lot of work, Draco," she said. “It would be awful not to have everything ready in time.”
"I suppose so." He pushed back his plate, starting to feel claustrophobic. "Pansy, would you care for a stroll through the gardens? The roses are looking particularly fine today."
"I'd love to." She dabbed her lips daintily with her napkin, rose, and took his arm. "Lady Malfoy, Mother, you will excuse us?"
"Of course," Narcissa murmured. "Enjoy yourselves." Draco was sure he was the only one to catch her faint air of resignation as she turned to Mrs Parkinson, who had produced a parchment from somewhere and was clearly anxious to discuss whatever was written on it.
Draco and Pansy strolled off into the garden. When they were out of earshot of their mothers, Pansy let out a rather strangled giggle. "She's driving me mad already," she said, passing a hand over her eyes.
Draco patted the hand she had on his arm, but said nothing. His good mood from earlier was rapidly draining away.
"Draco," said Pansy, stopping suddenly and turning to face him. He noticed that she looked him directly in the right eyebrow. "Do you really want to get married this soon?"
"What does it matter? It's not up to us," said Draco resentfully. What, did she not want to marry him so soon?
She huffed. "I’m sorry, when did you turn into someone who lets other people dictate his life? You're Draco Malfoy. You're ruled by no one – I seem to recall you making quite a speech about it when Dumbledore –"
"That's different," Draco interrupted. "This is Family. I know my duty to the Pureblood line."
"Are you saying I don't?" Pansy snapped, flaring up.
"You brought it up," said Draco. Inwardly he wondered why they were having this argument. He didn't want to marry her so soon – perhaps not ever, and Pansy actually seemed to feel the same way. What was he getting so worked up about?
"I know my duty," said Pansy coldly. She avoided Draco's attempt to look her directly in the eye. "Let's go back. This obviously isn't going to get us anywhere."
They started back toward their mothers’ table. Draco heard her mutter "Should've known I couldn't talk to you like an actual human being…"
"What do you mean by that?" he snapped.
"By what?" Pansy snapped back. "Don't talk to me in your House-Elf voice, Draco Malfoy. I'm going to be your wife, and I'll tell you right now you'd better not think you get to treat me like some kind of minion."
Draco ground his teeth. "Well, if you don't see me as a human being, why should I bother?"
She stared at him. "Where did that come from?"
"You said it just now!"
"No, I didn't. I didn't say anything. Do not blame your mental wanderings on me," she ordered.
His temper flared higher, but before he could reply they had arrived back at the table. Both of them plastered on smiles, and the rest of the afternoon was occupied with talk of wedding details. Draco thought his brain might melt before it was over. He was very glad to see the Parkinsons into their coach late in the afternoon, and turned to flee at once for his lab.
"Just a moment, young man," his mother said, dropping a restraining hand strong as a veela claw onto his shoulder. Resentfully, he turned back.
"I really must get back to my lab, Mother," he tried. "I left an experiment at an awkward stage…"
She raised the Black Eyebrow, even more intimidating than the Malfoy Eyebrow. "You disrupted my party."
Resigned, he bowed. "I most humbly apologise, Mother," he said, kissing her hand. "It will not happen again."
"See that it doesn't," she said, and let him go.
He headed back to his lab still seething over the argument with Pansy. How dare she not want to marry him as soon as possible? He was the best catch in the Wizarding World! Boys and girls alike competed for his attention at school – just because he was too choosy to take any of them up on their offers did not mean he lacked ample opportunities…who did Pansy think she was?
There is dub-con sex in a dream in this chapter.
Draco’s mood did not improve as he meticulously measured powdered runespoor egg and berry juice into beakers. His life had been just a little too upheaved lately. First the thing with Blaise and the potion, and now Pansy.
Pansy had always been extremely possessive of Draco, making sure all the girls he might conceivably date knew that ultimately he belonged to her. Draco had made a point to be seen to indulge this behaviour, rather than be ruled by it, because while he'd had no special interest in any of the people Pansy warned off, it wouldn't do to have people thinking Pansy got to dictate his social life – especially as hers was so very active. Draco thought probably nearly every boy in their year and above had had a go with his future wife, with the possible exceptions of Crabbe, Goyle, and the Gryffindors. And come to think of it, there had been rumours about Dean Thomas…
But Draco and Pansy had always been on reasonably good terms, and both had known they were to be married since either of them could remember. They had been betrothed since birth. Why was she bucking the traces now? And why did he care? It wasn't as though he wanted to marry so soon – or at all.
He shivered at the traitorous thought. Of course, as a pureblood, there was no question that he'd have to marry and provide children to carry on the Malfoy pureblood line. His personal reluctance didn't come into it.
Draco scowled and measured three drops of his own blood into another beaker. Then gave it a beady-eyed look at the unusual magical tang it gave off. His heart sank as he checked his other beakers and quickly prepared a few different samples to view under the thaumaturge.
As far as he could tell, Blaise's potion in combination with the hangover potion had changed his blood permanently. A shiver went down his spine. Never mind how this would impact him, would it affect any children he fathered? What would his father do if Draco's ability to provide the family with pure children was ruined?
That sparked a colder shiver. All right, that was it. That was really all he could be expected to deal with in one day. Somewhat in a daze, he cleaned up his lab – having learned the hard way not to leave that to the house-elves. Then he went up and took a long, hot bath, changed into his oldest and most comfortable cotton pyjamas, and made Izzy bring him hot chocolate and shortbread cookies. Now was definitely the time for comfort food.
Once Izzy had gone, he even extracted from a secret and heavily charm-guarded compartment in his bed frame a very old, tattered and well-loved stuffed dragon.
He wasn't going to think about this tonight, he decided. He needed time to process. He would indulge in the activity that always cheered him up the most: planning for the inevitable day when Potter would be completely in his power.
He wasn't especially surprised, when he finally fell asleep, to find himself slipping into one of his favoured Potter dreams.
He walked into the Hogwarts kitchens, secure in the knowledge that, as a prefect, no one would punish him for being here, even after curfew. The same could not be said of the skinny, bespectacled Boy Who Lived, though, and Draco laughed as he saw Potter jump up from a table where he'd apparently been enjoying cocoa with the house-elves after hours.
"No, no, Potter, don’t get up," he drawled, drawing his wand. Potter eyed it resentfully and sank back into his chair.
"What are you doing here, Malfoy?" he demanded.
"Why, that’s none of your business, Potter," said Draco with a smirk. "I am a prefect. I can be anywhere I choose. You, on the other hand –"
"Piss off," said Potter, starting to get up.
"Petrificus partialis," Draco snapped, flicking his wand. Potter slumped back in his chair, muscles lax, unable to move. He glared.
Draco twirled his wand between his fingers and grinned at his victim. "Look at you, all mine," he said cheerfully. "Whatever shall I do with you? Turn you in to Dumbledore? Or…the Dark Lord?"
There was a flash of something in those annoyingly green eyes.
"I could just let you go," said Draco, and Potter's eyes showed surprise. It was followed swiftly by suspicion. "Not for free, you're right about that… but for, say, a favour…" He came closer and ran the fingers of his free hand through Potter's hair. It was very soft.
"Ungngng," said Potter; all he could say with the amount of control over his jaw the spell left him.
Draco ignored this, running his hand down over Potter's cheek, which was faintly rough – again annoying, as Draco's seldom was– and to the hollow of his throat. He could feel the pulse there start to speed up. Potter's pupils dilated.
"Who knows," Draco murmured. "You might even like it." He very carefully restored some muscular control to Potter's face and throat, so that he could talk.
Potter swallowed. "You're mad," he said.
"Oh, I don't think so," said Draco. "Not when it's this or the Dark Lord. And quite frankly, Potter, unless I'm…satisfied…it's this and the Dark Lord."
Potter's eyes narrowed. "I don't trust you."
Draco laughed. "And quite right, too. But you're in my power, Scarhead. What choice have you got?"
Potter's eyes flicked desperately around. Except for the two of them, the kitchen was now somehow deserted. "I –" he said.
"Yes?" said Draco, running his wand down Potter's throat to the gaping collar of his T-shirt. The ridiculous thing was big enough for two of Potter; the material gave under Draco's quick cutting spell and fell off him, leaving him in nothing but pyjama pants. Potter gasped and goose bumps rushed over his skin.
"Potter?" Draco prompted, fingers sweeping over Potter's shoulders and down his chest. Potter shuddered.
"I d – don't," he stuttered. "Um –"
"Do this," Potter managed.
"Oh, now that can't be true," said Draco. "Not the Boy Who Lived. Three quarters of the school is gagging for you and we all know it."
Anger flared in Potter's eyes. "Well, it is true," he snapped. Then his eyes dropped. "I've been –"
"Been what? Waiting, Potter? For true love?" Potter's face went red. Draco laughed. "Well, time's up. It's your arse or your life." He flicked his wand again, and suddenly Potter was naked on the chair. "Not bad, Potter."
Potter snarled at him, still unable to move more than his face.
"That won't do," Draco murmured. A few charms later, Potter was struggling against ropes that fastened his arms and legs to the chair he was sitting in. Draco pulled off his own clothes and took aim with his wand once more. "Try this," he said, smirking, and cast one of his own favourite charms.
Potter froze. His breath hissed in, and he shuddered all over. "What is that?" he gasped.
"Just a charm, Potter," said Draco. "Feels good, doesn't it?"
Potter nodded in a dazed way. Draco knew what he felt, knew the sensation of little licks and nips currently working down his chest. Potter's nipples peaked even as Draco watched, and he flicked his gaze down. Good.
He moved to the chair and stood beside it; Potter craned his neck around to watch him. Draco ran his hand back through Potter's hair and pulled him close to his own chest. "Your turn," he said.
Potter immediately snapped his teeth. Draco jerked back, laughing, then flicked his wand so the charm inflicted harder bites. Potter twitched and swore.
"That's right," said Draco. "Be careful, Potter. Remember what I told you. Make it worth it to me to keep you to myself." He pulled Potter's head closer to him again. Merlin! Potter may not "do that," but he knew how to use his mouth. He even knew the right way to bite… Draco's senses blurred until all that remained was touch, and his head spun.
Then, somehow, Potter's arms were free and wound around him, moving him gently in front of the chair so Potter didn't have his neck at such an awkward angle. Draco's vision cleared, and he looked down as that unexpectedly talented mouth slid down over his abs, going up slightly on tiptoe as Potter's tongue dipped into his navel.
Potter glanced up, green eyes warm and smiling. Draco smiled back, and Potter winked, then slid out of the chair and onto his knees, his hands sliding up the backs of Draco's thighs to grip his arse as he leaned in. Draco flinched a little and gasped. Ohhhh. Potter really knew how to use his mouth!
His knees buckled. Potter pulled away long enough to ease him down onto his back, making sure Draco didn't crack his skull open on the stone floor, then dove right back onto him. Now unconcerned with keeping his balance, Draco writhed and moaned with abandon. Vaguely he realised this was not how the dream usually went, but he had very little brainpower to spare to wonder about that. This was better anyway…much better…
He came so hard he thought he might be paralysed for life. He murmured incoherently as Potter crawled up along his body and embraced him, and managed to fling his arms around the other boy. Potter stroked his hair and kissed the top of his head, and Draco cuddled closer, resting his head on Potter's chest and listening to his slowing heartbeat.
"Feeling better?" Potter murmured.
"Much," Draco said drowsily. "Thanks."
Potter chuckled. "Definitely my pleasure," he said. He stroked Draco's arm, soothingly.
Draco breathed in his scent, relaxing even more, the stone floor of the kitchen having somehow become a soft bed…somewhere. He could not remember ever feeling so safe, or loved.
And he jerked awake, automatically hiding the stuffed dragon underneath him and glaring at Izzy. "What!"
The elf cringed. "It's time to wake up, Master Draco," he squeaked. "Your tutor will be here in two hours."
The elf vanished and Draco flopped back on the bed. "Dammit," he muttered, as his heartbeat returned to normal. Very carefully he concealed the dragon again, then staggered off to get showered and ready for the day. Somehow, the feeling of reassurance Harry – no, Potter – had given him in his dream remained with him. H - Potter being with him willingly was a heady thing. Too bad when Draco finally did get his hands on the real boy, their interaction could never go like that.
He was sorrier about that than he thought was healthy.
"I expect you to do credit to the Malfoy name," Lucius said, over breakfast.
Like that was news. "Of course, Father," said Draco, and sipped his coffee.
"A Malfoy shows no weaknesses," Lucius went on. "No pain, no fear, no need for – comforting." His tone was quite even.
Draco's heart thudded. Damn Izzy, had it reported -? Would his father force him to give up the dragon? "Y-yes, of course, Father," he said, forcing the wobble out of his voice.
Lucius nodded sharply and said no more, so Draco swallowed the various questions he'd been meaning to ask about this tutor, such as who he or she was, and finished his breakfast. He'd been careful all through the meal not to look into his father's eyes, afraid that his desire for information would somehow inadvertently trigger a Legilimens incident. He could think of few things that would enrage his father – thus resulting in more pain than Draco had imagined possible for himself – more than that.
Would Draco even be able to cast Legilimens in its usual form anymore? Or would he always be sent out of his body? That would seriously undermine covert use of the ability, since it would be obvious whenever he used it. And Occlumency could still stop him.
He ensconced himself in the library to wait for the tutor, becoming engrossed in another book about wards as he waited. What he wouldn't give for a sample of Potter's blood, he mused. That would solve all this impenetrable ward nonsense right quick, and he could get on with things. All kinds of things.
"Master Draco," Izzy said, appearing with a subdued pop. Draco frowned at the elf over the top of his book. "Professor Silver is here."
"Alright," said Draco, putting down his book and getting to his feet. "Send him in."
Izzy opened the door, admitting a short figure in an enveloping black cloak. One clawed – but very feminine – hand protruded from its folds, grasping the handle of a lacquered black cane. The woman leaned heavily on this as she came toward Draco, who could feel the blood staining his cheeks. Excellent way to make a good first impression, he berated himself.
"Draco Malfoy," she said from the depths of the hood. Her voice was smooth and beautiful; unexpected coming from someone so clearly ancient.
"Professor Silver," he returned, bowing slightly. "Please, be seated. Can I offer you anything before we start?"
"Well, your manners are acceptable, at any rate," said Professor Silver, coming forward. "Tea would be welcome."
"Izzy," said Draco. "Tea for the Professor. May I take your cloak, ma'am?"
"No," said Professor Silver, easing into the chair Draco held for her. "These old houses are always chilly." She lowered the hood.
She looked to be about Dumbledore's age, with silver-white hair bound up on the top of her head and a thin, sharp face. Her eyes were a startling dark blue, and very keen. She studied Draco critically as he sat down opposite her at the library worktable.
"I've seen your OWL scores," she said abruptly, as Izzy reappeared with a tea tray. "White, three sugars," she added to the elf, then pinned Draco with her gaze again. "Not completely disgraceful, if second to a Muggle-born. Your Charms obviously need work, as well as Dark Arts. We will be covering politics and Advanced Potions as well."
Draco nodded, making sure to keep his emotions off his face. Damn Potter for making him mess up his Charms OWL! Advanced Potions sounded good, though, and so did Dark Arts. Draco would spend no more time as a slug.
Professor Silver slapped a parchment down on the table. "You'll need these books," she said. "For today, I'll be testing you. Have the books by Wednesday."
Draco nodded again; then, prompted by her gimlet gaze, said, "Yes, Professor."
"Very good," she said, and sipped her tea. "Now then, describe the Exsanguination Charm."
Rather taken aback, Draco answered automatically. She did not pause after that, but briskly took him through a list of charms and hexes that would have given any Hogwarts DADA teacher heart spasms. Draco was embarrassed that he only knew three-fourths of them, and had never performed most.
"That will change," said Professor Silver, making notes.
Draco cheered up slightly. He would be unstoppable after this summer!
She drilled him for an hour, then said, "That will be all for now. I am aware that the library here has a copy of Seraphine Slytherin's On Magical Education. Read the first three chapters and write an essay on your conclusions, to be handed in on Wednesday. All our classes after this one will be three hours – one and a half theory, one and a half practical."
"Yes, Professor," said Draco, resentment regaining the upper hand. Homework in the holidays! Especially now, when he had work of his own to do! He couldn't keep his tone entirely detached; Professor Silver twitched one eyebrow, but didn't comment. "How long would you like the essay?"
She waved a hand. "Long enough to do justice to the subject. I leave it up to you."
"Yes, Professor." Maybe he could take time for his own projects after all! At least until his father checked on his progress…dammit.
"Good day then, Mr Malfoy," said Professor Silver, and retrieved her cane from its resting place against the table. Draco jumped to his feet, helped her up, and summoned Izzy to see her out.
Then he fetched his broom and went sulkily out to fly. This tutoring business had better turn out to be worth it; it was going to put a serious crimp in his plans for the summer.
After a solitary lunch he went out again, this time to swim in the Malfoy's private lake. There was a tiny island in the middle of it, with a gazebo to which he repaired when he had worked off most of his ire by swimming laps. It was breezy and shady in there. Draco lay comfortably on the lounge and finally allowed himself to take a serious look at his current situation.
His blood was permanently changed. That meant he should have the abilities the potion gave him for the rest of his life – not such a bad thing at all. So far the only bad side effect of this seemed to be the vulnerability of his body while he was out of it, and there were ways to deal with that. He would have to attend to a Pureblood's first priority right away, though, and find out whether this would affect his children in any way.
Possibly he now had a valid reason to dodge marriage to Pansy! His glee lasted only a moment, though; he knew his father would never allow any question of Draco's ability to sire perfect Pureblood Malfoy children to occur to anyone. Given that, Draco didn't actually have a chance to escape. In fact, his obligation was greater. If Pansy found out, her mother would know, and it would be something the Parkinsons could hold over the Malfoys' heads. Lucius would not tolerate any weakening of his negotiating power. Like all Pureblood children, Draco had heard the stories about the fate of children who diminished their families' standing, the disappearances, the deaths. He knew Lucius wouldn't balk at any of that if he thought Draco was no more use to the family.
Draco pushed away the dread that tried to swamp him. He didn't even know yet if there was actually a problem there. First things first: he needed to decide what to say to Blaise. He wasn't inclined to be entirely forthcoming, considering Blaise's inexplicable first chance at meeting the Dark Lord in person. Especially as he suspected that Blaise was trying to use him to get the potion right so that he would find more favour with the Dark Lord than Draco. That was obviously out of the question; first in the Dark Lord's regard was the safest place for any family to be. His father would accept nothing less.
He had to tell Blaise something, though, so that he wouldn't realize Draco was on to him until Draco was ready. Perhaps tonight he would pay a little visit to Blaise's head, and get a better feel for what information to share and what to withhold.
But why wait to test the ability? It was the middle of the afternoon; surely Potter wouldn't lurk in that warded room all day.
You're weak, his brain remarked. It used his father's coldest voice.
"I'm not," he argued, despite the spike of uneasiness criticism from Lucius always produced.
You're obsessed. Blaise's scornful tones.
"Shut up! I'm not!"
Even though you can't go an hour without thinking about Potter… Pansy, sweetly vicious, a stab you didn't feel until it was too late.
"It's because I hate him! I want him in my power so I can make him sorry he crosses me!" Why am I talking to myself? Out loud?
You know it's true. His own voice, mocking.
"Shut up!" Damned if he would let his own mind drag him down! He snarled, called up his mental image of Potter, and snapped "Legilimens!" before he could get any more worked up.
The out-of-body rush seemed faster in daylight. Draco had just time to wonder belatedly if he would be visible in sunshine before he saw the poky Muggle house approaching. This time, instead of fetching up at the annoying window, he found himself zooming in on a dark figure in the back garden.
Potter was outside!
From his position sprawled full length on the painfully short grass, Draco stared up at Potter, who was tinkering with some sort of machine. He showed no sign of registering Draco's presence. Draco reached out, but his grabbing hand went right through Potter's ankle. Potter still didn't react. He was muttering to himself as he unscrewed bits from his machine.
Draco eyed the machine askance. It had a long, clawed arm that looked quite menacing. Dismissing it after a moment, he indulged himself with a good long close-up study of the Boy Who Lived in the bright sunlight.
He looked a lot scrawnier than Draco had expected. His cheekbones stood out sharply, as did the collarbones visible due to his far-too-large T-shirt, and there were dark circles under his eyes. His knees were knobby and grass stained under the cavernous cargo shorts he wore, and his trainers were falling apart. This, coupled with the wild hair and the ridiculous glasses, did not add up to a prepossessing figure.
Draco stood up and looked directly at Potter's eyes. They seemed dull and unhappy, clearly not registering the devastatingly handsome Pureblood staring into them, but no matter. This was it! "Legilimens," Draco repeated firmly, and felt himself move forward, only to strike some sort of barrier and be thrown right back.
This just was not fair.
Potter obliviously reassembled his machine, hefted it into his arms, and turned toward the hedge that bordered the property. He was shifting his grip when the back door banged open and disgorged the biggest teenage boy Draco had ever seen – Crabbe and Goyle included.
This one was rendered more hideous by the way he was clad only in an unfortunately too-small pair of swimming trunks. He was accompanied by a similarly clad but skinny boy with a face like a rat.
"Potter!" the fat one snapped. "Piss off!"
Potter lowered the machine and glowered at the fat boy. "Piss off yourself, Dudders," he snapped right back. "I've things to do."
Dudders? What kind of ridiculous Muggle name was Dudders?
"Not here, you don't," said Dudders, clenching his fists and advancing on Potter, who fell back a step. Dudders was easily twice his size, and Draco could see muscle along with the fat. "Piers and I want the garden. Get out before I make you get out."
Draco was glad to see Potter's spirit wasn't entirely broken – he wanted that honour for himself, didn't he? – when Potter's scowl deepened. Dudders took another threatening step forward, and the rat-faced Piers said "You tell 'im, Big D!" in tones of glee.
Potter's eyes narrowed, and one hand left the machine and strayed toward his pocket. "You can give me ten minutes – Big D," he said.
"It's broad daylight," said Dudders, to Draco and Piers's confusion.
Potter shrugged and started up his machine. It roared to life and the claws on the extended arm blurred into motion. Draco, despite his incorporeal state, stepped back smartly. Potter turned the claw machine on the hedge and swiped off a long swathe of greenery in one go. The end of the swipe swung the machine dangerously close to Dudders and Piers, both of whom flinched and then tried to pretend they hadn't.
"He's crazy," said Piers, eyes wide.
"Yeah," said Dudders. "You haven't heard the last of this, Potter!" he shouted. He and Piers retreated into the house.
Potter continued to prune the hedge, more carefully now, but Draco could see his body shaking too greatly to be accounted for by the vibration of the machine. His eyes were very big behind his glasses, the angry spark in them faded into unhappiness once more, which aggravated Draco. If Potter was unhappy it should be because of him!
He got right up next to Potter and poked his scar. Potter flinched at that, and a stinging shock sizzled through Draco, so he pulled his hand away and tried once more to get into Potter's mind. This attempt failed as well.
Potter must be an Occlumens.
Well, nobody's shield was perfect. Draco would just find the weakness in that one, that's all. Potter could not stand against a determined Draco Malfoy.
With a wicked grin, he poked the scar again to make Potter twitch, said "Finite Incantatem," and woke up on the lounge in the gazebo feeling pretty self-satisfied.
Blaise was at a club when Draco "dropped in" on him that night, and had clearly been enjoying himself for quite some time. Knowing Blaise's penchant for recreational potions, Draco was sure that alcohol alone did not account for the degree of incoherence he found in Blaise's head. He left a command for Blaise to come see him in the morning for breakfast, and left him to his girls and his swimming head.
Blaise's intoxication had left Draco rather dizzy and sick, so he took a hot bath and went to bed rather than try any further excursions that evening.
The next morning, he arrived at the breakfast table and found not only a wan-looking Blaise, but two Aurors drinking coffee and failing to make conversation. He had forgotten it was the Auror's weekly scheduled day of inspection – one of many conditions to his father's being allowed to stay at the Manor rather than Azkaban. Lucius and Narcissa were eating in frozen silence at their end of the table.
Draco gave his parents a nod as he took his seat and the house-elf served his coffee, and turned to Blaise. "Good morning," he said, voice slightly louder than strictly necessary. Blaise’s wince was faint but gratifying. "Rough night?"
Blaise managed to smirk. "Fantastic night. Once-in-a-lifetime, even. But I left the Pensieve at home." The house-elf delivered Draco's breakfast plate – scrambled eggs and sausages – and Blaise turned a little green.
Draco clicked his tongue, then dug into his sausages with malicious relish. "Shame. Still, I could use your help later with the potion."
Blaise nodded gingerly.
"What potion is that?" asked the elder of the two Aurors, looking up from the notes he had been making.
Draco favoured him with a Malfoy how-gauche-can-you-possibly-be look. "One of our summer assignments from Professor Snape."
The Auror only nodded and made another note. "We'll test it before we leave," he said.
Draco did not deign to reply to that, though he knew he hadn’t kept quite all of his feelings off his face. His father’s brow lifted just the tiniest bit, and Draco looked away, finishing his breakfast more quickly and without further conversation. Then he took his second cup of coffee and Blaise down to his lab.
"Oh, like that's not going to drive you insane all summer," Blaise observed, watching with interest as Draco zoomed around his lab, collecting the vials of Legilimens potion and all the notes thereof.
"Evanesco," said Draco, instead of replying, and the vial was empty and pristine. As Blaise opened his mouth, presumably to protest, Draco Banished all the notes.
Blaise clicked his teeth together as Draco began setting up the lab for brewing their potions assignment, working at top speed and mostly using his wand. "You didn’t destroy them, did you?” There was an interesting degree of alarm in his voice.
Draco gave him a look denouncing the idiocy of the question, and relief shifted across Blaise's expression before it returned to the Pureblood Calm default they were all supposed to use. “Where did you send them, then?" He ducked as a stirrer and a jar of something viscous sailed past his head.
"Your house," said Draco, pausing in his casting for a moment. Surely Blaise didn’t think he was going to keep such a thing here with Aurors infesting the house? "I don't need to be caught with it all here, do I?"
"I guess not," said Blaise. He dropped his robe over the hook by the door, dumped a handful of sunflower seeds into a mortar, and started grinding them up. "So, anything else you discovered about it?"
"Not really," said Draco, measuring drops of hippogriff saliva into the cauldron. "That hot-pepper flavour appears to be unavoidable. Everything I can think of to tone it down also tones down the potency."
"How about the headache?"
"I don't recommend mixing it with hangover potion," Draco said darkly. Blaise's brows rose. "Some severe side effects."
Blaise nodded, probably assuming all the details were in the notes Draco had Banished. Those notes did indeed include some detail, hopefully enough to put Blaise off the idea of trying the combination, but the exact effect the potion had had on Draco was conspicuously absent. He would keep that to himself as long as possible. After all, Blaise was keeping important facts from Draco.
They put together the rest of their assigned potion in silence. As they were decanting it into vials, the door opened suddenly and the younger of the Aurors swept into the room. Blaise started, and snarled as he spilled potion on the worktop.
"Let's have a look," said the Auror, without so much as an apology, and aimed his wand at the cauldron.
Draco stepped away from it, favoured him with a look of deepest contempt, and cast Evanesco at Blaise's spill. The Auror frowned slightly, checked the results of his scan, and said, "Perfect memory potion." He seemed disappointed. He turned and held out a hand to Draco. "Wand."
Draco raised the Malfoy Eyebrow. "It is, yes. Well spotted," he said. Blaise cleared his throat, not quite camouflaging a snicker.
The Auror scowled, ears reddening. "Give me your wand," he said, slowly and loudly, as though Draco were deaf, or stupid.
Draco didn't move, except to tilt his head a little, looking the Auror up and down. He made sure to convey how very lacking he found the man. "Because -?" he inquired, in the same cold voice.
"Because I need to test it,” the Auror snapped. “Priori Incantatem, you may have heard of it?" His attempt to mimic Draco’s scornful gaze was pathetic, really.
"Face it, Draco," sneered Blaise. "You're not going to get any manners out of him."
"So I see," said Draco, easily out-sneering his friend. "Here then. Try not to get fingerprints all over it."
The Auror snatched the wand and cast Priori Incantatem. They watched the Evanescos and levitation spells appear, then some silencing spells, locking spells (The Auror snickered), and a Lumos spell. Draco, who knew his last casting of Legilimens should be getting close, was relieved when the Auror cut off the Priori Incantatem at that point.
There was a knock on the door, and the other Auror looked in. The younger Auror glanced at him, then handed Draco back his wand without further comment. Draco took it in judgmental silence.
"Good day, gentlemen," said the older Auror civilly while the younger scowled, and the two men left.
"Definitely going to drive you insane," Blaise remarked, after a moment of silence. He refilled his potion vial and started to clean up the detritus of their brewing.
Draco stood where he was, glowering and turning his wand over and over in his hands. He was outraged to be expected to swallow this sort of treatment from such low-class people as those Aurors. On the other hand, his father clearly could not be expected to remain in the even lower-class environs of Azkaban. This was going to be a horrible summer, all things considered.
"You all right?" Blaise asked.
Draco tuned back in and realised that while he'd been sulking, Blaise had cleared up their whole work space. "I'm fine," he said. "Just suffering a little from Muggle-lover exposure."
Blaise clapped him on the shoulder. "I'm sure you want to bathe," he agreed. "I know I do. Tell you what; I'll see you this evening, say six-ish? You can help me with the next test of the potion."
"Oh, really, can I?" Draco said sarcastically. "I'm not taking any more of that stuff." Merlin knew what might happen to him.
"No, it’s my turn," said Blaise, unperturbed. "After all, we have to make sure we can use it on Mudbloods, don't we? My favorite sport." He grinned.
Draco grinned back, although he was uneasy at the idea of Blaise running around loose on the potion for two days. "It’s your blinding headache,” he said with a shrug. “I wouldn't miss it."
"Come by my place around six, then," said Blaise. He looked a bit worried at the mention of the headache, though. For values of Pureblood Wizard, he was blaring his thoughts and emotions everywhere. It was puzzling. "We'll make a night of it. You need a change of scenery."
"Assuming those ridiculous Aurors haven't made some rule about my not getting out and enjoying myself," Draco muttered resentfully. "I'll let you know."
Blaise clapped him on the shoulder again, and went off to Floo home. Draco went upstairs to take a long hot shower, hoping to soothe his ruffled nerves.
There is some non-con behavior in this chapter, not coming from either of our leading men, but it could be a trigger.
He was thwarted in his quest for a shower by Lucius, who called from his study as Draco passed, "Come in here, Draco."
Draco came into the study and found his father sitting behind the desk, face as blank as ever. His tentative move toward the chairs by the fire provoked a disdainful sniff, so he sank into the chair opposite the desk, swallowing the harassed feeling trying to tell him that everyone was against him.
"I trust you behaved as a Malfoy ought, with those –" another sniff " – Aurors," said Lucius.
"Of course," said Draco, even more annoyed. He wasn’t four years old anymore, after all. He could even keep the annoyance from colouring his tone. "Not that they behaved as Aurors ought."
"As you say," said Lucius. "One can expect no better from these Muggle-loving fools. They have dared – they have tampered with the Manor wards in order to add one of their own."
Draco’s spine went cold as the extent of his father's rage became clear to him. It seemed almost out of proportion, severe though the offense had been. He decided it would be wiser not to reply. He had no desire for his father to turn this rage on him in the absence of the proper targets.
"They told me there is too much evidence of 'traffic' to and from the house," Lucius went on, intensifying his sneer. Draco realized he could see up his father’s nose, and choked off a hysterical and highly ill-timed giggle. "They now demand that you and your mother register your destinations with them whenever you leave, and inform them when you leave and when you return." He made no mention of what the Aurors had said regarding him.
That cured the giggles. Draco stiffened. "What? Traffic? We’ve barely been off the grounds since I returned from Hogwarts this summer."
"They believe they can restrict and insult us at their will, and suffer no consequences," said Lucius. "They are, of course, incorrect, and they will pay dearly for this behaviour in due course." Draco recognized the lethal certainty in Lucius’ calm tone – those particular Aurors were even more doomed than the rest of the DMLE, once the Dark Lord placed the correct people (for example: Lucius Malfoy) into the appropriate positions of power.
Draco even felt sort of sorry for them, despite how galling his own Auror encounter had been. Only sort of, though; the behaviour of the Auror who had invaded his lab definitely required a sharp lesson in courtesy and respect. “Blaise wants me to visit him this evening," Draco said aloud, wondering now if the Aurors would try to stop him even going to Zabini House, let alone out into London. And how they would do it. His father had mentioned an extra ward…
Also, Draco didn’t believe for an instant that they were relying on his self-reporting to keep tabs on him. There would be at least one tracking charm placed at some point, but the actual time of placement was going to be important, if the Aurors used one more sensitive than the standard one he was sure he was already wearing.
Lucius waved a hand. "You needn’t allow these people to believe they can rule your life," he said. "Go with Blaise. Only be discreet in your choice of – entertainment." His wintry smile touched his lips.
"Yes, Father," said Draco, knowing he was being dismissed. He rose from the chair but paused before leaving. "Ah, Father?"
"Yes?" Lucius allowed the barest tinge of impatience to show as he glanced up from the document he had already begun to read.
"What sort of ward have they incorporated?" Would it register him leaving if he was out of his body, for instance? Would an extra or a more powerful tracking charm be able to find him then?
"Niamh's Woven Shield," said Lucius. "Quite simple to deduce; they do not think I am aware of what they placed."
Draco nodded. "Thank you, Father." Simple to deduce, maybe, but it was going to be fiendishly hard to extract from the Manor wards when the time came. The DMLE really was getting carried away with itself.
Lucius nodded back, and returned his gaze to his document. "You may go."
Draco ended up hurrying through the hot shower, anxious to get back to his research. Now he not only had to figure out how to get through the wards on Potter's charming summer hideaway, he had to be sure the Aurors wouldn't be tracking his leaving the Manor in the first place. Not to mention the reading and essay he had to do for Professor Silver. He spent the whole afternoon in the library.
Seraphine Slytherin had strong opinions on magical education. Interestingly, she said nothing in particular about Muggle-born wizards. Draco did a little research on the historical background, and mentioned in his essay that in Seraphine’s time the Muggle world and the Wizarding world barely intersected at all. To Seraphine, suggesting that a Muggle-born could have magic would be like suggesting an ordinary dog could. The essay ended up being three and a half feet long, as Draco compared standards of magical education in Seraphine’s time with current standards. The older ones proved much superior, in his opinion.
His ward research went a bit more easily. He found a quite useful spell to render most wards visible, so that he could tell by looking where weaknesses might be. He committed that one to memory.
His research on Niamh’s Woven Shield was more disappointing, though. It apparently could register him going through while out of his body. He needed to work on a way to cloak himself as he travelled (probably a good idea in any case) before he paid anyone outside the Manor any more "visits."
At five he took a shower and dressed in some of his favourite clubbing clothes, then gritted his teeth and Flooed the address left by one of the Aurors that morning. He informed the woman who answered that he was leaving the Manor for Zabini House, and, after a short mental debate, that he and Blaise Zabini would then be going out. No, he didn’t know exactly where. Yes, (you insignificant worm), he would inform the Auror office when he returned.
Then he Flooed off to Zabini House, in a mood to cause some mayhem.
Blaise fed him a lovely dinner before they went out. He was home alone, his mother vacationing with her newest spouse, so the two boys enjoyed a lavish dinner, including two kinds of wine, completely at their leisure.
"Are you sure you should drink that?" Draco inquired lazily, when Blaise poured the first glass.
"The potion worked for you combined with alcohol," said Blaise, shrugging. "And this is excellent wine."
"Whatever." Blaise was right, it was excellent wine. Two glasses of it, plus two of the wine they had with dessert, did a lot to ease his anger at having to account for his movements with the Aurors. He did warn Blaise that they would have to be a bit sneaky about their evening activities. Just because he didn’t feel a tracking charm didn’t mean one couldn’t be there. Draco was not about to give the DMLE an opportunity to ruin his evening.
Blaise ordered a nearby house-elf to bring him a particular amulet from his room, which he said would jam tracking spells and charms for several hours. "It’ll be a great day when the Dark Lord rules," he added. "You’ll be able to squash all manner of annoying little bugs." He finished his wine, produced a potion vial, and downed its contents with a flourish. Then he spent five minutes wheezing and squawking while Draco laughed.
"Are you sure there’s nothing to be done about the taste?" he whinged, when he had recovered somewhat and the two were getting ready to leave.
"Only at the sacrifice of potency," said Draco, hanging the amulet’s chain around his neck and letting the amulet itself rest on his skin under his shirt. It itched a little, but Draco had had that reaction to different spells and charms before, and ignored it. "It’s your choice if the trade-off is worth it."
Blaise did not seem to think the trade-off would be worth it.
The two boys Flooed to the Leaky Cauldron and ordered butterbeer. Draco spotted red hair in a corner and realised half the Weasleys were congregated at a table across the pub from himself and Blaise. Miserable Muggle lovers. They probably knew exactly where Potter was. Probably saw him every damn day. One of them – one of the twins – looked up, spotted him, and sneered in his direction. He sneered back and pointedly turned away.
"Nasty clownish gits," he muttered.
"They’re hardly worth your notice," said Blaise. "Okay, I’m going to go; wait about five minutes and follow me." Draco nodded, and Blaise got up and wandered unhurriedly towards the door that let out into Muggle London. His exit went completely unremarked.
Draco waited, sipping his butterbeer. He was just about to get up when a sarcastic voice at his elbow said, "Chased away your friend, Malfoy?"
He glanced up. Ron Weasley was standing there, holding a half-empty pint glass and looking a bit glassy as well as belligerent.
Draco looked him up and down and raised an eyebrow. "Good Lord, Weasley, trying to play with the big boys?" he said mildly. "Looks like the bitter might not agree with you."
"Shut up, Malfoy," Weasley responded. "At least my friends stick by me."
"Why are we having this conversation?" Draco wondered aloud. "Run along, Weasley, I get enough of you in the school year." Weasley looked truculent, and Draco reached toward his wand. "Off you go, now."
"Come on, Ron, he’s not worth it," one of the twins called, and Weasley stomped back to his own table.
Draco got up, threw some money on the table, and scowled. "Standards are getting lower every day," he said, loudly enough for the Weasleys to hear over their raucous conversation, and stalked towards the door that led to Diagon Alley, since Weasley had noticed where Blaise had gone.
Dammit, now he had to get back through and out to Muggle London without people noticing. He was a Malfoy, he didn’t do unobtrusive. Curse Weasley – such a good idea, that – why couldn’t he mind his own business?
Draco was certainly not going to be thwarted by Ron Weasley. He smiled as an idea occurred to him, and headed without further hesitation into Diagon Alley. Ten minutes later he was exiting the Leaky Cauldron into Muggle London, swathed in a long leather coat and a large, enveloping hat.
He threw that hat into a waste bin the second he was away from the pub door. As a disguise was the only way he’d let such a thing touch him, he mused; it was tackier than the Sorting Hat. Now, where was Blaise?
Blaise had wandered a little way up the street and now came storming up to him. "Where the hell have you been?" he snarled.
"Getting past the Weasleys," Draco snarled back. "Drop it. I’m here now. Picked a target yet?"
"I thought we’d go into a Muggle pub," said Blaise. He pinched a fold of Draco’s new coat. "Nice coat."
"Hands off," Draco said, but more amiably. "Do you even know where a Muggle pub is?"
"Well, I had plenty of time to find one, didn’t I," said Blaise, and set off down the street. "This way."
It took about five minutes to get to Blaise’s Muggle pub. It was very like the Leaky, other than the lights being powered by elec-tricity and the average age of the clientele being about twenty, as opposed to a hundred and twenty. Draco and Blaise headed for the bar.
"Pint of stout for each of us," Blaise requested, when he had got the bartender’s attention. The man subjected both boys to a searching glare, then dropped his gaze to the Muggle bill Draco laid on the bar. His eyes widened, and he pulled their pints without demur, then made the bill disappear. Draco and Blaise turned to survey the pub.
"Nicely done," Blaise murmured.
Draco shrugged. "Who needs Imperius when you have money?" he quipped. "So, have you tried the potion before this?"
"No," said Blaise.
Excellent. "How do you plan to cover up your sudden collapse when you leave your body?" Draco wanted to know.
Blaise laughed. "You can hold me up and tell people it was my ninth pint of the evening," he said.
Draco laughed too. "Fair enough. Let me know when."
They sipped their pints and observed the Muggles around them. Draco found himself noticing that aside from the clothes and the relative youth, these people looked just like the ones who drank in the Leaky Cauldron.
There were groups gathered noisily around tables, solitary figures hunched over the bar, and men eyeing up the women in the place. Many of the women, and even some of the men, were quite attractive, too.
But they were Muggles.
He mentally shook himself and took a big gulp of his drink. He had a nice buzz on by now. It was clearly giving him strange ideas.
Blaise poked his arm. "Got it," he whispered in Draco’s ear, which tickled. Draco smothered a laugh and decided to slow down with the drink. "See that girl over there?"
Draco looked. The woman in question was sitting by herself at the bar, drinking something dark and fizzy. She was by far the most conservatively dressed woman in the room, wearing a snug sleeveless top and a short-but-not-too-short denim skirt. "Yeah?"
"That bloke –" Blaise gestured to a nearby man at their end of the bar – "has been checking her out all night. Watch this."
Thus warned, Draco set his pint on the bar and took Blaise’s arm, as Blaise touched the wand hidden up his sleeve and murmured "Legilimens." A second later, his body sagged in Draco’s grip. The inertia dragged Draco around until he was facing the bar again, and he spent a few moments securing his grip on his friend and swearing mentally, anticipating some kind of strange move from the man Blaise had indicated.
Meanwhile, the woman continued to sip at her drink, looking thoughtfully at the rows of bottles behind the bar. Then she seemed to shiver, and her head came up. She looked down the bar toward them; Draco registered that she was quietly pretty. Her gaze landed on the man Blaise had pointed out, and a slow smile curved her lips.
Draco narrowed his eyes. This had better not turn out to be what it looked like.
The man looked startled, Draco glimpsed in the bar mirror, but then smiled back and started toward her.
When he arrived, the woman turned toward him and laid a hand on his arm, murmuring something. Whatever she said widened the man’s smile and sent his body curving possessively over hers. He got the bartender’s attention and handed him some money, then took the woman’s hand and they started toward the door.
Draco gritted his teeth. There were times when Blaise was definitely a poisonous bastard.
"Come on," Draco said aloud, as the couple passed him. He hiked Blaise’s arm around his neck, not gently, and walked him out behind them. They paused outside the door, and the man pointed towards a small blue car parked nearby.
Blaise’s victim shook her head and stepped up closer to the man, shaking her hair back from her face and looping her arms around his neck. This left her on tiptoe, leaning on him for balance. She said something else; the man’s face became intent and he moved in for a kiss.
Blaise took his weight back on his own feet. Draco jerked away from him, ignoring his surprised look.
The sultry expression left the woman’s face in an instant, replaced by horror. She tore herself out of the man’s embrace, and her voice became audible to the two boys watching. "What are you doing?"
"What am I doing? You asked me out here!" the man exclaimed, stepping forward and getting a grip on her wrist. She tried to pull away, but his grip tightened. "Don’t be a tease now."
"I did no such thing!" she cried. "I don’t even remember coming out here. You – you must have put something in my drink!"
"I was nowhere near you," the man snarled, squeezing her wrist even harder. Draco watched with building anger. Blaise giggled. "You can’t come on to me like that and then just change your mind."
He started to jerk the woman back into his arms. She cried out, obviously scared, and Draco stepped up to the pair of them.
"Is there a problem here?" he asked coolly. He could hear Blaise spluttering behind him.
"It’s under control," the man snapped.
"Please," the woman said, sounding teary and frightened. "I didn’t mean to come out here with him; I don’t know what happened – please –"
Draco pinched a nerve in the man’s wrist until his grip on the woman loosened. "Looks like the lady changed her mind," he said as she wrenched free and scrambled back.
"What business – " the man started. Draco fixed him with his most terrible Malfoy Glare, and the man’s voice faltered.
"The lady changed her mind," Draco repeated. "Here. Go buy yourself a drink." He handed the man another Muggle bill and jerked his chin at the pub door. The man looked at the bill, gulped, and stumbled off.
"Are you all right?" Draco asked the woman, who was shivering a short distance away, scrabbling in her bag and gasping out cut-off sobs.
She looked at him with gratitude but also nervousness; she didn’t know him either, after all. "Yes – thank you –" she said, continuing to search blindly in her bag.
"It might be better for you to be elsewhere by the time he comes out," Draco suggested, staying out of arm’s reach and hoping that would make her calm down.
The woman nodded and pulled something small out of her bag, relief washing across her face. "I’ll call a cab," she said, brandishing the thing. "Again, thanks." Her mouth wavered into a smile.
Draco nodded and went back to the seething Blaise. He took his arm and marched him back to the Leaky Cauldron in silence. Once they had Flooed back to Zabini House, he rounded on him.
"What is wrong with you?" he demanded.
"Wrong with me?" Blaise shouted. "What’s wrong with you? They were just Muggles!"
"You don’t set a woman up like that," Draco ground out. "Even a Muggle woman."
Blaise snorted. "She was just a Muggle. You’re not suddenly going soft on Muggles, are you?"
Draco lunged forward and punched him in the jaw so hard that he staggered back and fell to the floor. "Shut up!" he shouted. "You know better than to do that to a woman! Any woman! And since that obviously means nothing to you, think about this - you know the Aurors are watching my family; I don’t know what kind of charms they might have put on me. You could have gotten me locked up!” His voice dropped into a furious hiss. “And you know what my father would make sure happens to you if that happens to me."
Before Blaise could get up or reply, Draco threw a handful of Floo powder into the fireplace, stepped in, and shouted "Malfoy Manor!"
Draco arrived back at Malfoy Manor in a confused tangle of arms and legs, off balance and sick to his stomach. All the different drinks were catching up to him, he realised, which was not doing anything to soothe his current anger. He didn't even know if he was angrier at Blaise for putting a woman in that position, or at himself for coming to the rescue of a Muggle, or at Blaise again for putting him in a position where he felt even the slightest urge to rescue a Muggle. Just on the average, he should stick to being angrier with Blaise, probably.
He was storming upstairs when Izzy appeared on the step ahead of him, cringing. "M-master Draco…"
"What!" he roared, grabbing the balustrade as the top of his head seemed to keep traveling after the rest of his body stopped.
"M-master must Floo the Aurors," Izzy reminded him, prudently hopping to a higher step, out of Draco's immediate reach.
"Oh, for -!" Draco turned and stormed back downstairs and into the parlour. No way was he Flooing the Aurors' office from his own private room. They'd poked about in his life quite enough already. He slung rather a lot of Floo powder into the fire and snapped "Aurors' office, Ministry of Magic!" The fire sent green flames halfway up the chimney, and he stuck his head in. His stomach lurched at the spinning disorientation, and he swallowed hard. He wasn't going to amuse the Aurors by throwing up, either.
"Mr Malfoy," said the witch at the desk. "Back home, then?"
"As you see," said Draco sullenly.
"Thank you," she said, making a note on a ledger. They were recording his comings and goings! As though he were some sort of criminal! When she looked up, she frowned slightly and peered more closely at him. "Are you all right?"
What? What did she care?
"It's – been a rough night," he said slowly, disconcerted. Then he nodded sharply and withdrew from the connection.
A hot shower, he decided, would improve things immensely, especially if preceded by a (mild) potion for his simmering headache. Accordingly dosed, he relaxed under the hot spray and tried to marshal his brain into some kind of order. He had no illusions that Blaise wouldn't be around to have a rummage in his head, so he needed to shore up the Occlumency shields he'd been practicing.
To do that, though, he needed to calm his currently pinwheeling thoughts. Had to get his seething emotions under control, and turn his mind to the featureless mist that drew an intruder into confusing circles until he or she could be led right out of his mind.
Easier said than done, that, at the moment.
You just didn't leave a woman at the mercy of a sexual predator. All Pureblood children were raised with that precept. There were too few Pureblood women left; their ability to produce healthy Pureblood children was too precious. It was a sign of Aunt Bella's insanity that she had sacrificed her childbearing potential to take a direct part in the Dark Lord's battles. (It had definitely put a dent in Draco's opinion of the Dark Lord when he learned that he had let her).
Draco must be drunker than he realised, to act as though that carried over to Muggle women as well. Although this one had been so confused and helpless…
He couldn't dwell on this. She was a woman, and she'd been dangled like bait in front of a predator against her will. That was not on. He'd just ignore the Muggle part. You didn't treat pets that way, after all, why should Muggles be any different?
Having sufficiently squashed his unease over tonight's behaviour, he finished his shower, pleased to find his headache fading and his stomach settling, and soon sat on his bed on top of the covers. Sinking easily into his meditative zone, he was able to clear his mind in a reasonable amount of time. Shortly he settled under the covers and drifted off to sleep.
Sometime later he was jolted awake by a shrill whistle and a sizzling noise. He started up in bed, looking around wildly, and clapped his hands over his ears as the whistle continued. He couldn't see anything out of the ordinary, but the noise continued to jab his head like an ice pick. "Izzy!" he shouted.
The house-elf appeared, wringing his hands. "It is the Aurors' alarm," he squeaked. "I cannot make it stop, Master. I am so sorry!" He began to bang his head on the nearest post of Draco's bed.
"Stop that," Draco snapped. The house-elf's cries of apology and pain made the cacophony worse, and somehow so did the jouncing of the bed. "Do you think I want you screeching and jostling me? Go down to the kitchen and hit your head there." Izzy nodded and fled. Draco flopped back in bed and covered his head with his pillow, but this was no more effective at muffling the piercing whistle.
There was a single knock on his door, barely audible over the alarm, and it swung open. The older Auror from this morning strode in and approached the bed, wand out. This was absolutely, positively not on! Draco leaped out of bed and confronted the Auror, barely having the sense not to draw his wand on him. "What do you think you're doing here?" he snarled.
The Auror, who to his credit had stopped as soon as he saw Draco, waved his wand. Draco flinched very slightly, but all that happened was the sudden silencing of the alarm. Draco's ears rang in the aftermath, and he dropped his hands from his ears, clenching them into fists instead.
He did not relax his outrage one iota, however. Damned if he was going to have these people traipsing in and out of his rooms at all hours. "What are you doing in here?" he reiterated in his most freezing tones.
"Making sure you're safe," said the Auror calmly. "Someone tried to get something in and tripped the wards. It seemed to be focused on this room."
They claimed to be protecting him? That put Draco a bit off balance. He had no doubt this incident was Blaise's fault; who else would be after him? "As you can see, I'm fine," he finally said stiffly. "I don't appreciate being hurled from sleep at all hours."
"I think you might have appreciated whatever this intruder wanted to do even less," said the Auror, unmoved. "I need to scan you for hostile magic, Mr Malfoy." He didn't wait for Draco to agree (which was fortunate, as Draco only huffed and crossed his arms), but swept his wand over him from head to toe.
"All clear," said the Auror. "Good night, Mr Malfoy. By the way, my name is Kingsley Shacklebolt. We'll be seeing more of each other."
Just lovely, Draco thought but didn't say aloud. Auror Shacklebolt didn't seem to expect a reply; he merely nodded and left, closing the door softly behind him.
So Blaise had inadvertently been useful once again. This did answer Draco's question about the safety of travelling outside his body through those extra wards. Dammit. Perhaps he could get Professor Silver onto the subject of wards during their session tomorrow. Doubtless she would have some good suggestions for where to find a way to get around this problem.
Breakfast that morning was consumed in chilly silence. Draco was under no illusions regarding the degree of his father’s wrath, and he had no intention of providing a target for its outlet. He ate quickly, keeping his eyes lowered, and drank more coffee than usual in an effort to address the remains of his headache. He had second thoughts, though, as his general tension built in the absence of conversation and the calculation under the affront in his father's expression.
He was just about to excuse himself with an inward sigh of relief when his father looked up from watching the house-elf prepare his coffee and said, "Draco." The neutral tone alarmed Draco more than a snarl would have.
"Yes, Father?" So much for a clean getaway. Draco made sure he was sitting up straight but not visibly tense, and that his voice was steady. He aimed for a tone conveying respect but not fear; showing fear was unbecoming a Malfoy, and Lucius wouldn't tolerate it.
"What can you tell me about that extraordinary disturbance last night?" Lucius asked, pinning Draco with a gimlet stare. Draco's throat tightened. He should have known his father would assume it had been his fault. (And, technically, it was).
"The Auror who burst in on me said someone tried to get something through the wards," he said, clenching one fist in the napkin on his lap and letting go immediately before the flex of his arm betrayed him. "He insisted on scanning me. He seemed to think whatever it was might have been dangerous."
"Was it? I was told the intrusive magic focussed on your room," said Lucius dispassionately. Narcissa looked Draco over and raised her brows; Draco nodded very slightly in reassurance.
"He said I was unaffected, that the wards had caught whatever it was. He did say the focus seemed to be my room, but he didn't tell me what the magic was meant to do," he said evenly, and allowed just a hint of curiosity to colour his expression.
Lucius sniffed. "The Auror who spoke to me said that one of their group had scanned the ward and determined that it had caught some kind of mind magic." Draco swallowed, and saw his father notice. "Is someone of your acquaintance exploring mind magic, Draco? Does that person feel the state of your defences would make this a worthwhile endeavour?" His voice slid further into ice with every word, even as the anger flared hotter in his eyes.
Show no fear. Draco shrugged one shoulder slightly. "It was likely Blaise. He told me he's been working on some kind of potion to affect the mind. Possibly he means it to work in conjunction with a spell. The experiment was typical of him; he always underestimates possible difficulties."
"I see," said Lucius, allowing his expression to warm slightly and leaning back in his chair. "You’ll obviously have a word with him about this."
"Of course, Father," said Draco with his most evil smirk. He might be able to slide past this after all. He had no desire to share details about the potion with his father. He knew there would be no escaping Lucius' invading his mind whenever he liked if he had the potion, which meant Draco's life would grow immeasurably less bearable. "He'll be quite clear on the severity of his mistake when I'm through with him." That seemed an excellent exit line, so he started to get up.
"Quite right," Lucius said. "And Draco – " Draco sat back down. "My study, this afternoon."
"Yes, Father," said Draco, cursing inwardly, and made his escape with decidedly less dignity than he'd been trying for.
Dammit, he definitely would have a word with Blaise. He couldn't be allowed to get away with a.) trying to poke into Draco's mind at all, b.) causing Draco's room to be invaded by an Auror in the middle of the night, or c.) causing Draco to have to endure Lucius' wrath and probable interrogation about the potion. Oh, yes, Blaise was going to suffer.
But first, Draco was going to go out and get a look at the wards on the house. Since it was now abundantly clear that he would be paying no more visits to Potter until he figured out how to get through them undetected, he was keen to get a move on. Accordingly, he grabbed his broom from his room and flew out to circle the house.
It was such a beautiful day, he couldn't resist a few recreational aerobatics, but eventually he pulled himself together and stationed his broom in the air a little way away from the house. Taking a deep breath, he invoked his viewing spell.
Five seconds later, cursing and blinking the horrendous glare out of his eyes, he tried again, this time with his eyes almost closed until he could accustom them to the light. There were a lot of wards on the house.
The topmost – and brightest – layer was the Niamh's Shield put on by the Aurors. They'd done a mighty thorough job, too; though Draco scanned the entire ward very carefully, he found no breaches or even weak spots. He'd have to find some way of phasing his ethereal form through it without setting it off, which would take more research and experimentation. How was he going to get the necessary wand work past the Auror's inspection?
Well, he'd worry about that later. Under the Niamh's Shield another ward swirled darkly. That one was also new. It appeared to be geared towards anti-Apparition, although it wasn't the standard spell for it. It was very dense. Lucius, for example, wasn't getting through that in a hurry when the Dark Lord called. Draco wondered momentarily if the Dark Lord's call would even get through that ward, then smacked himself on the forehead. The Dark Lord was the most powerful wizard alive. Mere wards would never be able to keep him out of anywhere he chose to use his magic.
This ward, which Draco dubbed the Dark Ward, was almost impossible to see through, especially with the way the energy was swirling, but Draco thought he could make out the topmost of the Manor's original blood wards underneath it. So probably the Aurors had only added these two wards. At least his research would be finite.
He cancelled the viewing spell and rubbed his eyes, then directed his broom out over the lake to the gazebo. Once there, he called "Izzy!"
The elf appeared with a pop. "Yes, Master Draco?"
"I want a snack – raspberry lemonade and biscuits," said Draco, then tilted his head, staring at Izzy thoughtfully. "Izzy, were you inside the house just now, when I called?"
"Yes, Master Draco," said Izzy, showing no curiosity at the question. "I bring your snack now." He vanished.
Hmmm. So those powerful wards had no effect on house-elf Apparition. How did elf Apparition differ from the Wizarding kind? Draco made a mental note to find out.
It really was a beautiful day. Draco lounged on the chaise and contemplated the lake as he relaxed from the morning's tension and enjoyed his snack. Perhaps he'd go swimming this evening, after he'd put the Fear of Malfoy into Blaise. What with his lessons, his meeting with his father, and the necessity of dealing with his annoying friend, it promised to be a stressful day. A swim would be a good way to finish it off.
Of course, tormenting Potter would be even better. Damn the wards! Although…
Draco got back on his broom, flew up until he had a good view of the entire estate, and invoked his viewing spell again. The property's blood wards flamed up, jagged with power, but they didn't concern him. Hadn't the Aurors warded the property as well as the house? He would, if he were an Auror.
They didn't seem to have, though. That made no sense to Draco, although it cheered him up. He scanned with extra care and four separate revealing and detection spells, just to make sure. Instead of swimming this evening, it looked like he could pay Potter another visit. He was dying to find out what the prat thought he was doing in some Muggle suburb wielding landscaping tools. It seemed an odd hobby for him to have taken up – more Longbottom's style, really.
Grinning to himself, Draco headed down to the house to prepare for his lesson with Professor Silver.
Professor Silver took his completed essay without comment, and said, "We will be working on various aspects of protection magic today. I am given to understand that you have mysterious assailants showing up in the middle of the night. There is no reason to allow such persons to deprive you of sleep."
"Yes, Professor Silver," said Draco with interest, and spent the next hour and a half taking notes on the structure of a class of shield spells he had never heard of before. They were mainly for protecting one's person, but could be attached to smaller inanimate things if necessary (such as bed curtains or even walls). He spent the second hour and a half learning to cast these shields, which Professor Silver tested by throwing some quite nasty curses at him. By the end of the lesson, he'd perfected the shields, but he had bruises and little cuts all over him.
"Pain is a great teacher," said Professor Silver unsympathetically, when he glared. "For our next lesson I want you to devise a shield of this class to be used on an inanimate object. Something…precious."
Draco barely managed to nod respectfully and escort her to the door. Once she had gone, he staggered up to his room and into the shower. Healing spells always seemed to help him more if administered under running water. Mindful of his father's summons, he hurried, and twenty minutes after the Professor had left he could be found, clean and healed and impeccably dressed, knocking on Lucius' study door.
"Yes," said Lucius, and Draco went in. "Ah, Draco. Sit down." He indicated the chair in front of his desk – no big surprise there. Draco sat down and waited as impassively as he could, concentrating on holding a bearing worthy of a Malfoy while tempering it just enough to show respect to the head of the Family. Show no weakness, but show no arrogance toward Lucius, either. It could be tricky.
Lucius said nothing for a long time, studying Draco with an almost imperceptible hint of challenge, but Draco knew better than to speak first. After several minutes, Lucius' wintry smile touched his lips. "Professor Silver tells me you are working on shield charms," he said.
"She felt it advisable," said Draco cautiously.
"Well, these are troubled times," said Lucius. "I'm disappointed, Draco. It appears that you are far better informed about this potion of Mr Zabini's than you saw fit to share."
Disappointed. That would cost Draco some pain. "I'm sorry, Father. The information has come to me in small bits." How had his father learned about this? It was clear he knew Draco had known a significant number of details that he'd kept from him; there would be no sliding around that.
Lucius sat back and steepled his fingers. "Summarise for me."
Draco resisted a nervous swallow. His father would notice, and it would make things even more unpleasant. "It's a potion designed to duplicate the effects of Legilimency and Imperius," he said plainly. "He discovered that the user leaves his body when he casts Legilimens, and enters the mind of the…target. It seems the target is unaware of this happening. The casting doesn't always require eye contact, but Blaise said he hasn't figured out why. When the user casts Imperius while in the target's mind, the instruction remains until the user uncasts the Imperius again. He didn't mention anything about what might happen if the user casts Imperious but not Legilimens." Draco should look into that himself, actually. He squelched the thought, his eyes flicking involuntarily to his father's cane, leaning against the side of the desk.
Lucius' eyebrow lifted. "I see. And?"
"Ah – the effect lasts 48 hours with one dose, and seems to be increased by combination with alcohol," Draco hurried on. "The taste is – extremely strong."
One corner of Lucius' mouth lifted. "Stronger than some of Severus' creations? I wonder."
Draco's lips curled upward a tiny bit, but any relaxation died quickly at Lucius' continued cold expression. "It – works on Muggles, but not on house-elves."
"No one needs to cast Imperius on a house-elf," Lucius snapped. "Any other effects?"
"A truly crippling headache when it cycles out of the user's system at the end of 48 hours," said Draco, with perhaps more feeling than he meant to. "Blaise is working on a way to ease the headache and improve the flavour. So far all his ideas reduce the efficacy of the potion."
"Ah. And this potion is successful enough that he could try to use it on you?"
"I suspect so, Father."
Lucius steepled his fingers and regarded Draco over them in a disturbingly considering way. "You know what you must do," he said.
"Yes, Father." Blaise wouldn't be able to use the potion to get a faster audience with the Dark Lord, at least.
"Get his notes and his supply of the potion. Obliviate him. Bring them to me," said Lucius. There was still only a tiny hint of emotion in his tone, not even enough to guess what emotion it was.
Obliviate him? The potion was that important? "Yes, Father." Don't look at the cane…
Draco rose, nodded respectfully, and turned for the door. He could feel his father watching as he walked, making his spine crawl. He focussed on the door, reminding himself that escape was right there, and hardly daring to believe he was getting out of this so easily. His father hadn't even mentioned the possibility that Draco might have taken the potion also. But as he went through the door –
"Crucio," Lucius murmured, and Draco's legs collapsed, dropping him to the hallway floor as agony spiked through his whole body. Even his hair felt like it was on fire; the plush carpet under his cheek scraped his skin like hippogriff claws. Vaguely he heard his father approach to stand over him. "I trust you will not attempt to keep information from me in future, Draco."
"N – n –o," Draco choked out, but once he un-gritted his teeth, screams poured out of him uncontrollably. They were high pitched and mindless, and increased the pain knifing through his ears and head.
As he lay there, gasping and shuddering and blind with tears, Draco heard his father's footsteps walking away. "For Salazar's sake, Draco, get up."
He couldn't. He crawled to the stairs and up to his room.
Chapter 16: Chapter 16
Draco Malfoy had not cried since the day after his sixth birthday, when he had discovered his beloved pet kneazle dead in its bed. He had never been allowed another pet.
He cried now, in gulping, unrestrained sobs of pain and anger and shock, as he soaked his aching body in a hot bath. His father had cast Cruciatus on him! Draco was no stranger to the back of his father's hand, or even (on occasion) the flat of his cane, but this was beyond anything he could have imagined. The pain in his body wasn't even as severe as the blow to his mind and his world.
He had no idea how long he wallowed in the tub, sobbing and sniffling and generally falling apart. The water was charmed to stay hot as long as he was in there, so he couldn't measure time by its cooling. But there finally came a time when he sagged, exhausted, against the edge of the tub, feeling as though he couldn't have one more drop of water inside his body. Also, he couldn’t breathe through his nose or open his eyes more than a small slit.
Holding a washcloth soaked in the hot water against his face finally enabled him to blow his nose. After that he spelled the cloth cold and held it to his eyes until he could open them more fully. At last he was able to climb, slowly and gingerly, from the tub.
Once again it was a night for his softest pyjamas and his stuffed dragon. Draco huddled under the covers in bed, still hiccupping and keeping as still as possible, and tried to pull himself together. He had to be ready for when his father had possession of the potion. Under no circumstances could he let Lucius know he'd been in his mind, had commanded his behaviour. Who knew what Lucius would do? Draco shuddered at the thought of more pain. His whole body felt like one exposed nerve. Even his cuddly pyjamas and silk sheets scraped at his oversensitive skin, his bones and muscles still felt achy and fragile, and he couldn't seem to stop shaking. Even his magic hurt, all the way down into its core.
His thoughts scattered when he tried to concentrate. The pain was too distracting, even drowning out his anger and fear and grief. He felt them as though from behind a gossamer veil, pathetically grateful for even that tiny reprieve. Eventually he succumbed to sleep, exhausted by pain and shock. The only thing he ever remembered from his dreams that night was paralysing fear.
When he woke the next morning, it was with grainy eyes and a splitting headache. It took him less than a moment to decide to have breakfast in bed today; he wanted his resources and defences built high and thick before he saw his father again.
He also needed to decide what to do to Blaise. Blaise had definitely been instrumental in making Draco's last few days horrible. On the other hand, he had demonstrated the problem of the Niamh's Shield so Draco hadn't had to trip it himself. Should that earn Blaise any leniency?
A smidgen, Draco decided, styling his hair. A tiny, even infinitesimal smidgen. No need to go overboard. That decided, he dressed to intimidate and headed downstairs to Floo to Zabini House.
When he stepped out of the Floo, however, he found himself in the Auror's office he'd seen when he – oh, damn, he'd forgotten to Floo them with his destination before leaving! He clenched his jaw with angry frustration, but immediately unclenched it at the pain remaining from having involuntarily ground his teeth so hard last night. Tightening his hands into fists had the same effect. Blaise's smidgeon shrank by the moment.
The Auror at the desk flicked a lock of fuchsia hair out of her eye and smiled at him. She looked vaguely familiar, somehow. "Going somewhere?" she asked.
Draco drew himself up, making a grab for his dignity. "Zabini House," he said, proud of how calm and distant he sounded.
She nodded. "Anywhere else before you come home?"
This was so humiliating. "No," he snapped.
"Settle down," she advised, her smile fading. "Things could be a lot worse. At least you can still leave the house." She made a note in her logbook, then gestured towards the fireplace behind him, lifting a brow (also fuchsia. Draco swallowed his moment of intrigue; fuchsia eyebrows! Really!) "Off you go. Mind you let me know when you get home." If she noticed any critical reaction to her vivid pink eyebrows, she didn't show it.
Another person with authority over him who had no interest in his opinions. Of course. Draco turned on his heel, tossed the powder, and snarled, "Zabini House." His mood was now absolutely perfect for tearing a strip off Blaise.
Blaise was annoyingly not home. Really, you could always rely on him for the maximum of aggravation in any given situation. Draco took it upon himself to search Blaise's rooms and his potions lab – neither of them anywhere near as good as Draco's – and help himself to all the notes and flasks of potion he could find. He even used a search spell to make sure he got everything. Then he banished all but one vial of the potion and had a quick look through the notes; they were all there and complete.
For a moment he contemplated editing them just a bit – just enough to keep his father from being able to use the potion. Then he shuddered. His father would find out. He always found out, and Draco was no longer at all dismissive of the consequences of his wrath. His whole soul shuddered at the idea of more Cruciatus.
Pulling himself together, he Flooed back to Malfoy Manor, and immediately contacted the Auror office. The instantly recognisable Mad-Eye Moody was in there talking to the pink-haired witch; Draco flinched a little as the man turned his gaze on him.
"Young Malfoy, is it?" Moody rasped. "What do you want, then?"
"Hi, Draco," said the witch, as Draco gritted his teeth and once again ungritted them immediately. "Back home, then?"
He made himself nod, keeping a wary eye on Mad-Eye Moody.
The witch made a note in her log. "Thanks for calling," she said. "My name's Tonks, by the way. Talk to you later."
"Good morning," said Draco stiffly, and withdrew his head from the fireplace. Who went around calling themselves Tonks, for Merlin's sake? Although he did have to admit that the pink hair was rather fetching.
He hardly had time to ruminate on this, for his father came into the room even as he was dusting himself off, and said, "Well?"
Draco held out the vial and the sheaf of parchment, struggling to keep his hand steady and only partially succeeding. The faint look of satisfaction that crossed Lucius' face when he glanced at the tremble made Draco feel sick. He cleared his throat and firmed his tone. "The potion and the notes, Father."
Lucius took them with a look that only increased Draco's uneasiness. "And Blaise?"
"He wasn't home." At Lucius' narrow-eyed glare, he hastened on. "I'm going back this evening to take care of him."
"See that you do," said Lucius coldly. He turned on his heel and stalked out. Draco waited tensely to see if he would turn back and curse him again, then sagged for a moment in relief before summoning his broom and heading out to the summerhouse. No need to wait until tonight, after all, when he could get into Blaise's head at any time.
He double-checked the wards on the property before settling down on the chaise. The Aurors really hadn't added to them that he could see, which seemed very strange. What, after all, was to stop Lucius from walking outside and Apparating wherever he wished to go, if he couldn't go from inside the house? It was too easy, and Draco was suspicious.
So he cast his newly learned shields around himself once he was ready to go. After some thought, he also cast an invisibility spell on himself; hopefully it would affect his astral form as well, and help him avoid tripping any wards he hadn't been able to detect. Then he built an image of Blaise in his head and cast Legilimens.
He'd forgotten the potion would be cycling out of Blaise's body this morning! He remembered now, though, as Blaise's agony slammed into his own head. It was as effective as Occlumency; Draco ducked out at once. He would try back later. There was no reason for him to endure Blaise's pain as well as his own.
What to do in the meantime, though? Draco grinned evilly to himself.
After some consideration, Draco cast a Disillusionment spell on himself before casting his Legilimens for Potter. During his ward research, he'd been interested to learn that the Disillusionment would affect his astral form, too, and thus fool any wards he'd not managed to detect, either around Malfoy Manor or around Potter's poky little summer place.
The rush toward Potter veered off in a new direction toward the end. This was, Draco discovered, because Potter was at a little play park on a different street, moping about on a child's swing. He really was awfully scrawny, Draco realised, looking him over critically. He'd not looked that bad at school; he must have lost a lot of weight in the short time they had been away from Hogwarts. It didn't do him any favours.
Potter swung, and glowered moodily into space. Draco gathered himself, focussed on Potter's eyes, and made a determined try to get through the annoying git's mental shield.
It bounced him back immediately. Potter didn’t so much as twitch.
Draco was nothing if not stubborn. He gathered himself for another try, this time aiming for the middle of Potter's forehead. Potter's Occlumency shouldn't be so strong, he fumed. Draco had learned from his useful book to enshroud invaders of his mind in a featureless mist, and then slide them out of his mind before they could focus. Potter seemed to have constructed thick, stretchy walls around his mind that permitted nothing through in the first place. A barrier like that had to be more vulnerable than Draco's method, Draco reasoned. It was not going to defeat him.
He paused, though, as a little girl approached the swings. After some consideration, she climbed onto the one beside Potter, and pumped her legs a few times without much success.
"Mister?" she said to Potter.
Potter started and looked up at her. "Yeah?"
She swung her feet illustratively. "Could you give me a push?" she asked, with a winning smile. It even had a tooth missing. Such a cliché, Draco scoffed.
Potter smiled back at her, even the clouds of depression in his eyes lightening. Draco swallowed. Potter did have a beautiful smile – Merlin, how girly could Draco be? It was ridiculous.
"Sure," Potter said, getting up and reaching for the girl's swing. He gave it a few good pushes, until it was travelling in a wide arc.
The girl shrieked with glee. "Thanks!" she cried.
"No problem," said Potter with another smile, and ambled over to a nearby wooden picnic table, settling onto it and watching the girl with the smile lingering in his eyes.
Draco followed him, and was just about to launch himself at Potter's shields again when a grown woman came up to Potter. Potter's eyes grew wary as he watched her approach, and his hand strayed down toward a pocket in the side of his baggy shorts. At least he seemed to have some faint shreds of self-preservation; he must have his wand with him. Draco had no trouble believing that the Ministry would grant the Chosen One exemption from the consequences of underage magic. No confinement to a Pureblood family home for his wand work! So unfair.
"Thank you," said the woman, adding, at Potter's puzzled look, "That's my daughter, on the swing."
"Oh," said Potter, King of Small Talk. The woman smiled at him and moved away, and Draco readied himself once more.
This time he was stalled by the arrival of a girl about his own age. These Muggles were a chatty lot, he fumed – although the girl was certainly more ornamental than either of the other two. She was dressed in a tiny white tee shirt that stopped just under her generous breasts and a pair of leather shorts that barely cleared her hipbones, leaving an endless expanse of tanned leg bared to view as well. Hmmm, if Muggle girls were allowed to dress like this, there might be something to recommend their culture after all.
The girl smiled at Potter with bright red lips. Potter smiled back, but his eyes were wary, and Draco noticed the way he leaned back away from her, just slightly.
"Hi," the girl purred. "I'm Cat. I like your hair." As well she might, though her short, green-tipped blonde succeeded at the just-rolled-out-of-bed look, whereas Potter still looked like the loser of a skirmish with an egg whisk.
"Hi," said Potter, after an awkward pause. "Um – yours too. I like it, I mean." Good grief, Draco thought, rolling his eyes. This was just embarrassing.
Cat stepped closer and put a hand on Potter's knee. Draco stiffened – how dare she touch what was his! – and Potter flinched almost imperceptibly. "Thanks," she said, tilting her head and regarding Potter from under her eyelashes. "Don't I know you?"
"Don't think so," Potter said. His expression abandoned surprise and became remote instead. Draco tried to swipe Cat's hand off Potter's knee, and of course couldn't do it.
"You're Big D's cousin, aren't you?" Cat went on, and Potter stiffened. He jerked his knee out from under her hand, too – good for him. Cat gave him a knowing wink. "The one who goes to St. Brutus', right?"
"Right," Potter said coolly, now self-possessed. Of course, he was a celebrity. He was bound to have some kind of technique for dealing with importunate fans. "You know my cousin, do you?"
Cat replaced her hand on his knee. "I just see him around. You know." She shrugged. "But I've heard about St. Brutus' boys." Her smile widened slyly, and she licked her lips. "And I like my boys bad."
This just turned into some kind of porn, Draco thought incredulously. And… Even the Muggles are gagging for him! Well, no one gets him until I've had my fill! He readied a Stinging hex.
Potter once again removed his knee from Cat's grip, and then returned her smoky stare full on, conjuring an iota of suave from some hitherto unsuspected resource. "I'm too bad for you," he growled, and Draco shivered. Merlin! Potter could be hot! When had that happened? It had to be recent – Draco would have noticed at school.
"Why don't you try me," Cat purred, reaching out again. Draco's attention snapped back to her, and to his irritation with her. He cast his hex, and she yelped and jerked her hand back.
Potter jumped to his feet, eyes gone flat and alert, ignoring Cat and scanning the park. He clearly knew that had been a hex, though of course he couldn't see Draco. Cat, looking – dammit – intrigued, was reaching towards Potter again when the huge teenager Dudders lumbered into view, followed by his rat-faced friend and a couple of other boys his age.
"Cat!" he barked, stomping forward. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Cat faced him, tossing her head. Her multiple earrings jingled. "What's it look like, then?"
Dudders arrived. "Looks like you're asking for trouble," he said, and turned to Potter. "I know you're asking for trouble. Stay away from her."
Potter raised his eyebrows. "All yours, is she?"
"I don't belong to you," Cat snapped, moving toward Potter. Potter turned a dismissive shoulder, and she stopped, her face reddening. Draco had no trouble noticing that the flush was one of rage.
"Like hell you don't," said Dudders, almost pleasantly. He reached out, faster than Draco had thought he could move, snagged a handful of Potter's shirt, and hauled him up in the air. Potter's toes actually dangled above the ground, but his face held no fear. "Stay away from her," Dudders repeated, and flung Potter away from him.
Draco cast the other Stinging hex he had readied, this time at Dudders' hands, and then lunged at Potter as he arced away from his assailant. It was plain what was about to happen – and Draco, of course, couldn't stop it.
Potter's head struck one of the metal supports of the swing set with a nasty clang. The next second, Draco came out of his lunge and found himself – at last - in Potter's mind.
Brief non-con behavior in here.
Not that Potter's head was a happy place to be at the moment, what with the ringing pain and the seeing double. Draco struggled to orient himself as Potter staggered, vaguely hearing shouts from other people in the play park and grunts of approval from Dudders' little gang.
Potter pulled himself together with surprising speed. Draco could feel his head pounding and his stomach lurching, and his vision was horribly blurred – no, wait, that was because his glasses had been knocked off. Good grief, why had Draco never thought to target Potter's glasses in Quidditch? A simple "Accio," and Potter wouldn't be able to see a foot in front of his face. He'd never catch a Snitch again.
In any case, the little girl from before was crying. Her mother was comforting her at the same time as she was holding something to her face and speaking into it. Draco had no time to waste on wondering what that was about, though, because Potter heaved himself to his feet, put his head down, and shocked everybody by running forward and ramming his head into Dudders' stomach.
Dudders went down hard, knocking over two of his friends in the process. The little girl's mother screamed almost as loudly as the little girl. Potter dropped to one knee, staggered up, and swung a fist blindly; it connected with Piers' jaw with a solid crack, and Piers went down as well. Cat added her screams to the din.
Potter's head was absolutely splitting, the pain and giddiness worsened by the bright sunlight and all the screaming. Draco pulled himself back, trying to dull his perception of Potter's sensations, at least until Potter sat down and got a headache potion. Potter did drop down flat in the grass right then, but Draco realised it was because he was so dizzy he couldn't remain upright any longer. Cat ran toward him, clearly preparing to kick.
That was not acceptable. Nobody got to torture Potter except Draco, and clearly Draco was going to have to stake his claim in no uncertain terms. He gathered himself to cast another Stinging hex, hoping it would work from inside Potter's head.
Cat's foot went back. Draco pulled power for the hex, faltering momentarily in shock at the volcanic surge that responded. In the moment it took him to reorient, however, something like a mountain made of ice slammed it back down. Draco cast his hex anyway, as hard as he could, and Cat shrieked and stumbled back onto her arse.
What the hell? Potter wondered. If the damn Order people are going to interfere, they might as well do the thing right. They can Obliviate people afterwards, after all.
There were people watching Potter? Even in bleakest Muggle-land? That gave Draco a chill. He tried to look around, but Potter had his eyes shut and didn't seem inclined to open them until someone laid a hand on his brow. Then they shot open, and Draco beheld the little girl's mother through Potter's immediate pained squint. She was leaning over Potter, offering his glasses in her other hand.
"Are you all right?" she asked worriedly. "Don't try to sit up. You probably have a concussion."
Of course I have a concussion, Potter thought, ignoring the admonition and starting to lever himself up. Draco suppressed unease at the ease with which Potter recognized and catalogued his symptoms. Quidditch aside, how often was Potter concussed, for Merlin's sake?
Meanwhile… "I'll be fine," Potter said aloud, but his wobbly arms were wobbling out from under him. He looked gingerly around the play park even as he sank towards the grass, despite the nausea and vertigo; Dudders and his friends had gone. "Where'd they go?"
"They saw me on the phone and ran off," said the woman. "Didn't want to deal with the police."
"The police?" Potter jerked upright; he and Draco both groaned at the spike of pain and the new wave of vertigo. Potter swallowed convulsively but remained sitting, rather to Draco's surprise.
"I said not to sit up," said the woman, putting a steadying hand on Potter's shoulder. Her daughter, not crying anymore but still hiccupping, peered around from behind her. "Of course I called the police. I'm surprised they're not here yet."
The Order probably intercepted them, Potter thought, sinking unwillingly toward the grass again under the pressure of the woman's hand. Can't have the Boy-Who-Lived questioned, maybe even removed from his lovely safe home.
Draco was stunned at the bitterness of that thought. Whoever these Order people were – and Draco had a vague memory of his father sneering about some sort of anti-Dark Lord Order in the past – Potter clearly wasn't an enthusiast. Nor was there much pleasant in his thoughts of his summer home.
Well, it was a poky Muggle house, after all.
"Just lie still for a few minutes," the woman said, starting to sound a bit exasperated. She had Draco's sympathy. Potter ignored her suggestion; he twitched his shoulder out of her grasp, and started to manoeuvre himself up to sit again. "They should be here shortly, and we can get some medical attention for you," she insisted.
"Ma'am, thank you," said Potter, steadying himself on locked elbows. Draco swore; he had seldom been this physically uncomfortable. In fact, this could probably only be topped by the Cruciatus his father had cast. His brain flinched away from dwelling on that in favour of being impressed by how well Potter was functioning despite his physical state. "But I'll be fine. I really just need to get home."
"But don't you want to have those boys charged?" the woman asked.
Potter obviously knew better than to shake his head. "It wouldn't do any good, ma'am. It's – I'll get in trouble if he's charged. Just – just leave it, please."
"It's not right," she said doubtfully (Draco shared this opinion), but she let go of his arm.
"I'm sorry," said Potter, which Draco thought was a ridiculous thing to say, and lurched to his feet. The little girl patted his hand, and he looked slowly down at her.
"Be careful," she said.
"I will," Potter said, actually smiled, and started off toward the gate. Draco tried to settle himself; in addition to uncomfortable, he was also confused by the things he'd learned just in this short time in Potter's mind. On the other hand, it had taken so much time and effort to get here that he was reluctant to leave just yet. And he was clearly about to see exactly where Potter's hideaway was.
When Potter was out of sight of the play park, he headed into an alley and leaned against the side of a building, breathing slowly and deliberately. Draco felt that geyser of power rise again, tossing the pain, nausea, and dizziness up on a hot wave where they began to dissolve. The cold pressure suppressed the surge before they could vanish completely, though.
This didn't seem to surprise or worry Potter. As he opened his eyes again, Draco saw a shimmer in front of him, and then the witch Tonks appeared, obviously from under an Invisibility Cloak.
"How are you feeling, Harry?" she asked anxiously.
"Just brilliant," said Potter sarcastically. Then he raised a hand in apology. "Sorry, Tonks, my head still hurts. Listen, the next time you guys want to take a hand in my little chats with Dudley, either don't, or use something more than Stinging hexes to make your point."
Confusion flickered across Tonks' expression. "What are you talking about?"
Potter tilted his head. (With no increased pain!) "Someone cast a couple of Stinging hexes at Cat and Dudley just now. It wasn't me, we all know the Ministry would be on me in a second for that. You're saying it wasn't you?"
"No, it wasn't," said Tonks, suddenly with a serious and professional air. "The area's been pretty wizard-free, except for you. I'll check it out. You'd better get back home and stay there until we figure this out."
"I was on my way back home," said Potter, not addressing the "stay there" part of her suggestion.
"Be careful," she said, and donned the Invisibility Cloak again. A moment later a dustbin crashed over onto its side, and Draco heard her muffled swearing.
Potter sighed and resumed walking.
After about ten minutes, during which Draco took strict note of all the street signs, Potter arrived at the door of Number Four, Privet Drive. He paused on the threshold, took a deep breath and squared his shoulders, and then opened the door almost silently and went in. Draco noticed the care he was taking to move as quietly as possible.
To no avail; a bony blonde woman put her head into the entry hall from the living room and snapped, "There you are! Get into the kitchen and get started on supper. Remember, Dudders has guests coming tonight, so make sure everything is perfect."
"Yes, Aunt Petunia," Potter murmured, to Draco's shock, and headed for the kitchen without a twitch of outrage. As though he were used to being spoken to like that! By a Muggle!
First, Potter laid the table, setting it for six. The china and flatware were both quite overdone and florid, in Draco's well-bred opinion. Then he started cooking, putting together a full three-course meal. Draco was impressed again; Potter was clearly expert at this. There were no wasted motions or signs of hesitancy, and only occasional glances at a recipe. The smells that shortly permeated the room were mouth-watering – even though Draco didn't currently have a physical mouth.
Why is he so terrible at Potions? Draco wondered. It's obvious he's not just blindly following a written recipe. He knows exactly how to tweak ingredients and combinations to get the best possible end result.
Uncle Severus would faint if Potter showed these skills in Potions class.
As Potter got the meal ready to serve, the doorbell rang, and Draco heard Dudders' voice greeting someone. A moment later Aunt Petunia, dressed in a rather unfortunate flowered dress and a frilly apron, came into the kitchen and inspected Potter's work.
"Well enough," she said. "Now get upstairs, and remember to keep quiet."
"Yes, Aunt Petunia," said Potter again, and headed out of the room and up the stairs.
Draco assumed he was going upstairs to change into some decent clothes for dinner, and then was distracted by the match of Potter's actual room to the room in his dreams. He only vaguely registered a rattling sound at the door after it closed, as though someone were locking it – a lot. He emerged from his thoughts to realise that Potter had flopped down on a bed that felt even harder than the one in his dream, and showed no signs of moving anytime soon.
Potter was famished; Draco could feel it. Why wasn't he going down to dinner?
Potter lay in bed for about an hour, listening to the murmur of voices from downstairs. When his owl started to squawk, he got up, shushed her, and carried her to the barred (barred!) window. Carefully removing one bar that appeared to have been sawed through, he let her fly out while Draco dealt with finding another match to the scene in his dream.
Draco turned his attention to Potter's thoughts, but Potter clearly had a great deal of worry on his mind right now. His thoughts raced by too quickly for Draco to get much of a grip on them. He did see several images of a man he recognised from wanted posters in his third year as Sirius Black, his mother's criminal cousin. Overwhelming sadness and guilt accompanied these images. How could Potter possibly have been involved with Sirius Black?
Draco was actually in Potter's mind. Why was he now more mysterious and confusing?
Footsteps shuffled up to the bedroom door, and Draco counted the sounds of eleven(!) locks and bolts being undone. Potter remained lying on the bed, but looked toward the door as it opened and Aunt Petunia came in. She was carrying a bowl half full of soup – not the soup Potter had made for dinner – which she plunked down on the bedside table.
"Go use the loo," she said, and Potter obediently got up and did so.
Draco took the opportunity to get a good look at Potter's assets. Not what you'd expect from someone that scrawny and short. His dreams hadn't done Potter justice.
As soon as Potter was back in his room, having cleaned up and brushed his teeth as well, Aunt Petunia went out and re-fastened all those locks. "You have ten minutes," she said though the door, and her footsteps could be heard heading away.
Potter wasted no time in slurping down the entire serving of soup (it was cold, and not supposed to be), practically licking the bowl. Then he laid the bowl down by the door and stripped quickly out of his clothes, leaving himself clad only in loose and threadbare boxer shorts.
Wow, he was skinny. Draco could count every rib.
When the ten minutes were up, the locks rattled and the door opened. A spherical man sporting a moustache that looked like a furry creature stuck to his face snatched up the bowl, flipped off the light, and slammed and locked the door, all without speaking a word to Potter. Potter lay in his uncomfortable bed and stared toward the ceiling in the dark.
This was much more than Draco had expected. He needed time to process all this. Besides, Potter again had a damn headache and showed no sign of intending to take something for it. Decision made, Draco focussed on returning to his own body and said, "Finite Incantatem."
Hours later, Draco finally let himself rest, drifting in the recesses of Potter's mind. He had exhausted himself to no avail; he was well and truly stuck behind Potter's Occlumency shields.
This was a disaster.
What would his parents do when he was missed? What would happen to his invisible (that had been stupid, Draco) body, still lying on the chaise in the gazebo wearing nothing but a skimpy swimsuit? How long would his body last before it refused to accept his astral form back?
Also, Potter was the world's most restless sleeper. He couldn't be still for two minutes together, always twitching and rolling and muttering. Draco's struggle to escape had held him mostly separate from the other boy's mind. Now that distance melted away, and he slid fully into Potter's dream.
Darkness surrounded him, but there was no sense of danger. Quite the opposite. The lack of vision magnified his other senses to an astonishing degree, and Draco plunged into a well of delicious sensation; the most erotic experience he had ever had even in the fevered reaches of his own imagination.
Afterwards, as Potter's body and dreaming mind slowly settled, Draco drifted until his ability to focus meandered back within his reach. At that point he remembered three distinct facts about the dream: one, the person writhing in Potter's arms had very definitely been male; two, though he was plainly taller and heavier than Potter, he had very definitely bottomed; and three, he had been very definitely blond.
Draco had had little chance to assimilate that – he thought his distant body had probably come, that dream had been so intense – when Potter flung himself over on his side, goose bumps rushing harshly over his skin. His mind began to fill with cold, somehow alien, fog.
This darkness did frighten Draco.
The fog thickened and chilled further, feeling somehow slimy. Draco wanted to scrub himself all over with pumice, regardless of his incorporeal state. He huddled into as small a presence in Potter's mind as he could. A confused tangle of voices began to reach him…
"Stand aside, you stupid girl…" (Didn't Draco know that voice?)
"Not Harry, please not Harry…"
Potter whined through his teeth in the blaze of green; Draco whimpered at the sudden vicious flare of the pain in Potter's forehead. Horror came with the realization of what he had just heard (he did indeed know that voice).
The green faded (though the pain did not). The dream swirled into a churchyard and an impossibly greater feeling of dread.
"Kill the spare…"
And Draco recognised Cedric Diggory. He tried to look away, but there was nowhere safe to look. The dreamscape was all-encompassing.
"Avada Kedavra!" (Draco knew that voice, too.)
Potter moaned, "No-o-o…" but didn't wake.
There was a sort of hitch, and then Potter – and perforce Draco, his mind now melded almost completely with Potter's – was bound to something cold and hard. There was a cauldron over a huge fire in front of them. The cringing little man Draco knew as Wormtail slashed at their arm; Draco hissed as Potter cried out at the pain. The agony in their head worsened still more.
The Dark Lord boiled up out of the cauldron – Draco, seeing him naked, gagged. This was what his father served? A Malfoy bowed down to this revolting thing?
"Imperio!" cried the Dark Lord, but Potter would not bow. Draco felt him push off the curse; not easily, but quite successfully. Now Potter was fighting – duelling the Dark Lord!
Both boys writhed and howled, struggling up out of the dream.
The door banged open, the light blazed on, and a meaty fist caught Potter a ringing blow on the ear. "Shut up, Potter, decent people are trying to sleep!" the hideous uncle bellowed.
Potter gulped and gasped and scrambled for the other side of the bed, but his uncle grabbed his wrist and dragged him back. Draco felt the bones in Potter's wrist grind and snap and his shoulder wrench almost out of the socket. Potter gasped, but made no other sound and didn't stop struggling.
"What have I told you about all this caterwauling?" the uncle demanded, flinging Potter over on his belly and holding him down with an arm leaning into his back. His free hand shoved Potter's face down into the mattress.
Potter struggled for air, unable to get the leverage to wriggle away. He was going to suffocate; what would happen to Draco if Potter died with him in his head? Given the clarity with which Draco felt Potter's sensations and thoughts, he had no intention of finding out.
Heavy footsteps, Dudders' voice: "Need the belt, Dad?"
"Good idea, Dudley," the uncle grunted, and the footsteps retreated. All too soon Draco heard them returning.
What in the world was Potter thinking? A simple Expelliarmus…
Though of course Potter didn't have his wand on him at the moment. The hand left the back of Potter's head and he surfaced like a drowning man, dragging air into a burning throat. Draco was starting to panic. Was Potter seriously going let himself be beaten by a Muggle?
Yes, apparently – the belt whistled down and pain exploded across Potter's back.
Draco was not having this. He focussed intently on the weight holding Potter down, reached for all the power he could find, and shouted "Expelliarmus!" He felt the fiery surge he had felt twice before rush up, and grabbed for it, pushing as much as he could behind the spell before the cold opposing force could crush it down out of reach.
An explosion of light and silence detonated around Potter.
After a few stunned moments, during which there was no sign of the uncle or Dudders, Potter creaked upright and fumbled his glasses onto his face. As he turned, a banshee wail shattered the air. Potter whirled, and Draco saw Aunt Petunia standing in the doorway, eyes widened as far as they would go, screaming. She had remarkable breath control, remarked the only part of Draco's brain not scrambling in shock.
The room was destroyed. The window and part of the outside wall were blown out, and half the hallway wall was gone as well. A chilly breeze wafted in, making Potter shiver. Dudders sprawled motionless near the hole into the hallway. There was no sign of the uncle.
Potter, shuddering and panting with adrenaline, was probably gaping like a fish.
Petunia's scream died momentarily as she gasped for breath. Then her focus snapped onto Potter and she lunged forward, going for his throat. "You've killed them, you freak!" she shrieked.
Potter staggered back, but she followed, getting her bony but really quite strong hands around his neck. Potter tried to pry them off, hampered by his broken wrist. Draco helpfully cast his Stinging hex, and she yelped and let go. A second later she cracked Potter across the face with all her weight behind the blow.
As Potter stumbled away, trying to hold her off as she went for his eyes, Draco lost patience and snarled "Stupefy." She dropped in her tracks. The silence rushed back, broken only by Potter's harsh breathing.
Draco could feel Potter's horror and confusion. He didn't let it slow him down, though; he lurched across the room and flung himself to the floor, scrabbling under the bed and – under the floor? Draco was preoccupied with the escalation of Potter's pain, but he felt Potter's hand close on a familiar shape. Potter grabbed his wand and wobbled upright, flailing a little for balance. His grip on the wand remained steady, though, even as he found and struggled into a threadbare and billowing T-shirt.
Jeans would be hopeless, Draco heard him think as he stepped cautiously over to Dudders. After a moment, during which Dudders didn't stir, Potter fumbled to find his pulse. He couldn't at first – Draco shared his momentary spike of panic – but then he felt it, very faint.
"Oh god," Potter said aloud. "Oh my god, what is going on?" His throat was aching, his head was splitting, and his back was on fire; clearly the uncle knew how to get the most mileage out of the belt buckle. Draco was frankly shocked that he wasn't incapacitated. Almost reflexively he tried to get out of Potter's head, fleeing the pain, but he bounced right back.
Then a voice at the door said, "Harry? Are you all right? What happened?"
Potter looked up, and there was Auror Shacklebolt, standing in the doorway with his wand drawn. The werewolf, Remus Lupin, was just behind him, keeping watch on the hallway, guarding his back. Draco heard other voices in the house and recognised Auror Tonks' and Mad-Eye Moody's.
"I – I'm not sure," said Potter after a minute, and slumped onto the floor beside his cousin.
Harry and Draco's dream has quotes in it from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (US edition).
Potter had not actually passed out, Draco realised. But he was shaking, and his injuries sent pain lancing all over his body. Draco was frankly nauseated, but Potter was alert to the room, clambering gracelessly to his feet. He kept his focus even then, though his mind reeled with the mix of confusing emotions. Draco added vertigo at the way Potter's thoughts spun to the pain-induced nausea. It wasn't as though Potter didn't feel the pain, either, just that his ability to function despite it was so strong.
Long-practiced, too, Draco couldn't help but notice.
Lupin approached Potter and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. Potter's flinch was so slight that the werewolf didn't react to it. His hand remained, probably in an attempt to reassure Potter, and Potter subtly bent his knees a little so that the pressure of Lupin's grip diminished.
Draco knew that trick; it was useful to a Seeker after a game, when the shoulders were strained from reaching and grabbing at odd angles. Still, he had to remember to do it, while Potter did it automatically. Did he have to live with this kind of pain as often as that? So often that he had coping measures ingrained into his muscle memory? Draco really, really did not like that thought. Potter was his. Muggles were damaging his Potter unchecked, with work and struggles too much for his scrawny body. Quidditch injuries at school were insignificant in comparison.
There would be pain inflicted by the Dark Lord and his followers, too, though. Intolerable.
Draco blanched. He was accustomed to the belief that no one but Draco should have the right to hurt Potter. Absolutely NOT to the sudden and powerful conviction that Draco would do anything at all, push himself and his power to the utmost, to stop anyone from hurting Potter in any way from now on. Even Draco himself.
As he thought this, something electric flickered throughout his mind and then spread to encompass his whole self. Not a Wizard's Oath - compelling him to protect Potter from all pain until one of them died - but something close, born of blended emotion and magic. And all he felt about that was a fierce satisfaction.
Meanwhile, Auror Shacklebolt had been inspecting the room. As Draco turned his attention outward again, he saw Shacklebolt discover the ungainly heap that Potter's Aunt Petunia had landed in. He checked her over swiftly, straightening her arms and legs, and then moved her to Potter's ridiculous uncomfortable bed. He didn't revive her.
"Harry?" Lupin asked, taking his hand off Potter's shoulder and starting to circle him. "Are you all right?"
"Y-yeah," Potter said, after a moment. "I think so, but I don't know what happened."
"It doesn't look like anyone got in," said Shacklebolt. "That won't last, though. Aside from the state of that wall, the wards are like tissue paper. A first-year with a borrowed wand could get through them."
Draco's thrill of horror (not elation, not anymore) contrasted sharply with Potter's wave of angry resignation.
Meanwhile, Lupin's nostrils flared. "You're hurt," he said, tilting Potter's face up for closer inspection. "You're bleeding."
"My back," Potter explained, moving his shoulders a bit and grimacing. The T-shirt was sticking to him in a couple of places; clearly the belt buckle had broken the skin. "Uncle Vernon –" He stopped abruptly at the change in Lupin's expression.
Lupin snarled and moved behind Potter again, gingerly pulling the shirt away from his body. Potter didn't flinch at the sharp sting. "What did he do?" Lupin demanded, though not as if it was really a question.
"He hit me with something," said Potter, fresh anger entering his tone. "A belt, I think."
Lupin looked up and caught Shacklebolt's eye. Draco sighed; their leap to the same conclusion was practically choreographed.
Shacklebolt came over and said gently, "Harry? I need to check your wand."
Potter handed it over, using the other hand to fend off Lupin's attempt to remove the T shirt. "Professor, I've only got my pants on under here," he protested. Draco could feel the blush taking over his face.
"I need to see your back so I can cast cleaning and healing spells," Lupin explained. His voice was soothing, but Draco could see in his eyes the wolf rising closer to the surface. It would take some kind of miracle to save Vernon from death at the hands (claws? More likely teeth) of the furious werewolf. Good riddance.
"It'll be fine," said Potter in a distracted tone. He was watching Shacklebolt cast Prior Incantato on his wand. Faint with age, the image of a locking spell appeared. "That's me locking my trunk right before I got on the train," Potter added. If I didn't use magic to get away from them, how did it happen? He wondered.
Lupin and Shacklebolt traded another look, but before they could speak, Auror Tonks peered around the ruined door frame. Her hair was now deep blue tipped with glittering silver.
"St. Mungo's Portkey is ready," she said briskly. "We've got to get Potter out of here. Anyone else need to go?"
Potter lurched to his feet, and Draco swore at the spike of worry as he realized Potter wasn't feeling it only for himself. So what if Potter's dreadful uncle was hurt? Served him right! Potter was hurt too, for Merlin's sake - what would make him sit still and shut up? Would he have to be killed first? The thought provoked exasperation as well as respect. Draco was impressed by Potter's ability to keep going when he was in such bad shape, but there had to be limits, for Merlin's sake. What was so terrible about St. Mungo's, anyway? Surely Potter would rate a private room away from prying eyes.
"We'll send those two," said Shacklebolt, indicating Petunia and Dudders, neither of whom had revived. Tonks came over to Dudders, tripping over a piece of fallen wall as she went, and gave him a quick, efficient once-over. Potter flinched when she squeezed his shoulder to keep her feet when she tripped, but again it was so slight that only Draco noticed.
"Broken bones and a concussion," she reported, and waved her wand. Dudders' body rose into the air and drifted through the destroyed wall into the hallway.
"What's – " Potter started – then a wave of chills washed over him and he threw himself flat just as a bolt of deadly green spell light flashed through the hole to the outside. It flew over his head and took out more of the bedroom wall. "Owwww," he complained, echoed more emphatically by Draco.
"Get him out of here!" Shacklebolt snapped at Lupin, while Draco was trying to recover from his shock. The ceiling now had an ominous tremble. There wasn't much to support it anymore. "We'll sort the rest of this out at Headquarters."
"Right," said Lupin, spinning around from where he had just fired a spell back through the hole. Without further ado he pulled something out of his pocket, seized Potter's hand and clamped it under his on the whatever-it-was, and said, "Headquarters!"
The Portkey jerked them away just as another curse blasted into Potter's room.
Potter folded up in a defensive crouch as soon as they landed, his belly lurching with fear. Fear that hadn't shown up when an Avada Kedavra had just almost gotten him in the head. How could a Portkey trip be worse than that?
"It's all right, Harry," said Lupin gently. "We're at Headquarters."
Potter straightened, embarrassed. "Right. Um – just don't like Portkeys."
"That's understandable," said Lupin, still in that gentle tone.
Why was that understandable? Portkey travel wasn't all that much fun, but it was safe and fast, and wizards used it all the time. Surely Potter must have, as well.
"Let's go have a look at your back," Lupin went on, a hand on Potter's shoulder (why did no one notice that Potter winced every time someone did that?), and started to steer him forward in the pitch darkness.
"Can't you get a light in here?" Draco wondered aloud. Of course, neither Potter nor Lupin responded.
"How long has this been going on, Harry?" Lupin whispered as they tiptoed. They were sure being stealthy for people in a haven.
"What?" Potter whispered back.
Lupin sighed. "Your uncle. Hitting you. How long, Harry? Why didn't you say something?"
Potter was honestly shocked. "There was nothing to say," he protested.
"Harry, we would have done something," Lupin said.
Potter's voice rose a bit. "He's never done that before!"
Like Lupin was going to believe him. Even Draco barely believed him, and he was in Potter's head and knew he was telling the absolute truth.
"Harry!" Lupin said, also raising his voice. "It's all right to tell. He has no right to do that to you. We'll sort him out, don't worry."
"He's never hit me before," Potter snarled through his teeth.
"Shhh!" Lupin said sharply, grabbing Potter's arm and clearly still failing to notice the faint flinch of pain at the sudden touch.
What in Salazar's name?
"FILTHY BLOOD TRAITORS!" screamed a harsh voice. Draco started, and wondered why Potter and Lupin weren't surprised too. "HOW DARE YOU DEFILE THE MOST NOBLE AND ANCIENT HOUSE OF BLACK –"
Black? Was that Draco's terrifying great-aunt? He peered wildly through Potter's eyes into the darkness.
"Dammit," said Lupin, letting go of Potter. "Lumos." As the light flared he went over to an unfortunately accurate portrait of the old woman and began struggling to pull its curtains shut. "Harry, a little help here?"
Potter took his fingers off his temples and came over to seize the other curtain. Draco could feel the spells on it tingle on Potter's hands.
"DON'T YOU DARE TOUCH ME!" shrieked the old woman. "VILE, TAINTED BLOOD, POISONING MY HOUSE –"
"SHUT UP!" Potter roared suddenly, the stresses of the night clearly catching up with him, and Draco felt the wild surge come up. This time the opposing force was just a little too late; magic blasted out of Potter and struck the portrait.
The old woman's eyes went wide, and she turned to run out of the portrait. To no avail; a second later the canvas was reduced to shreds, and the silence rushed back.
Potter gasped and backed away, stumbling, but he caught himself in the next moment.
Lupin stared at him. "Well – done, Harry?" he said after a minute, in a stunned voice.
Potter inspected his own hands. "S – Shacklebolt still has my wand," he muttered. "I don't know how this happened." Draco could tell he was deliberately keeping his gaze away from the ruined portrait. Why was he frightened now, when Great-Aunt Walburga's shouting had only made him angry?
"We'll ask Professor Dumbledore about it when I call him," said Lupin decisively. "He'll help us figure everything out."
Oh, great, Draco thought.
Oh, great, Potter thought. Just what I need right now, more freakish accidents for Dumbledore to not explain until it suits him.
Draco was stunned. Potter didn't want to go running to Dumbledore?
"Let's get you cleaned up," said Lupin, and led the way down to a basement kitchen. It was immaculate, and for some reason this surprised Potter. That was what house-elves were for. Why would he expect filth?
"Wow, what happened here?" Potter asked.
Lupin smiled. "Well, the house is yours now. Sirius left you everything." Spike of shock and grief from Potter, not enough to mask Draco's own anger. Why would Sirius Black leave Potter anything, especially a house that should rightfully go to Draco through his mother? "Let's just say Professor Dumbledore had a very eager volunteer to help get it ready for you."
"Oh," said Potter, still stewing with guilt. Then came disgust. "What about Kreacher?"
Draco knew that name, too, didn't he? Weird how Potter's life was tangled with his in ways he never would have guessed.
"He's disappeared. Actually, he does belong to you now; you could summon him. It would probably be a good idea."
More disgust, mixed with rage. "I never want to see that filthy little toerag again," Potter snarled.
"He knows a lot, Harry," Lupin murmured. Potter seemed struck by this, but said nothing. Lupin sighed. "Let's heal your back. Then you can have a bath while I alert Professor Dumbledore and the Order about the attack."
Just what I need, Potter thought again. He didn't say anything, though, just wormed his shoulders through the enormous neck of the T shirt and pulled it down until he was wearing it like a kilt. Goosebumps popped up all over him as Lupin gaped.
"When was the last time you had a decent meal, Harry?" the werewolf asked at last, moving around behind Potter. He cast cleansing and healing charms, and Draco sighed along with Potter as the pain faded from Potter's back.
"I haven't been too hungry recently," Potter said defensively, turning around. Draco could almost hear Lupin believing that this was confirmation of his conviction that Potter had been physically abused by his Muggle family to a far greater extent than was actually the case.
Lupin didn't say anything about that, though. He just smiled and said, "Go have a bath. I'm sure Molly will arrive and start cooking as soon as she hears what happened."
Draco's mood darkened as Potter's lightened. Great, now there would be Weasels in the house with him.
"This is all I have to wear," Potter pointed out, stopping in the kitchen doorway.
"I'll leave some clothes outside the bathroom for you," said Lupin reassuringly.
"Thanks," said Potter, and went upstairs, holding his T shirt kilt snugly about his waist.
The bathroom was large and well-appointed, not as nice as the Prefects' bathroom at Hogwarts and definitely not Draco's own bathroom at Malfoy Manor, but not far off, either. Draco felt Potter's surprised pleasure at the cleanliness of the room and the thick towels lying ready, and wondered what the place had been like before.
"Dobby's a miracle worker," Potter muttered. And Draco knew that name, too! It was getting ridiculous. Whoever Dobby was, though, he'd clearly made a real transformation in here.
Never mind that! Potter had started the tub filling and was taking off his clothes!
Just as Potter got his pants off, there was a quick knock and the door swung open. Potter yelped and dived for a towel, then gaped up in horror at Professor Snape.
Shared dream in here.
Draco also gaped up in horror at Professor Snape. The man was a Death Eater – The Dark Lord's Left Hand! Could Lupin not protect Potter better than this? Now Draco's Potter was going to die – even worse, he was going to die with Draco still stuck in his head!
Professor Snape's hand went into his robe pocket. Potter tensed, and the boiling surge of his power returned, though he didn't seem so much scared as angry and embarrassed. Draco himself was nearly gibbering in panic. He readied a hex, since Potter definitely seemed to be falling down on that job.
Then Professor Snape withdrew a small cloth bundle from his pocket and stood with it in his hand, his eyes raking disdainfully over Potter's skinny frame. "I see that for once Lupin did not exaggerate," he drawled.
Draco's mind stuttered and then went through a slow and very disorienting one-eighty shift. This probably meant that Professor Snape was not actually in league with the Dark Lord. Draco wasn't stupid. Professor Snape would make an excellent double agent. If he was truly loyal to the Dark Lord, Potter would not have prevailed against all the Death Eater plots and assassination attempts he had faced over the years. It was an anomaly that had always nagged at Draco, to be honest. Potter couldn't be that good – especially not when he was eleven, for Salazar's sake.
He wondered if his father knew. He wondered – for a moment - why that thought worried him. Then he realized: his respect for his professor had just taken an exponential jump at this indication that the man did not bow before the deformed thing Lucius Malfoy called Lord. It was obvious what that meant about his respect for his father, and that was still a blow.
Not to mention the fact that Lucius was truly loyal to the Dark Lord. If he knew Professor Snape was not, it only meant he was waiting for the perfect moment to unleash the wrath of the Dark Lord upon the man. And Draco was no longer ignorant of what that would entail.
"Professor," Potter gulped, not relaxing in the slightest. Draco could feel his embarrassment and his dislike of the man – and also his lack of surprise at his presence in "Headquarters" and the total absence of any thought that Professor Snape might be here to hurt, steal, or kill him.
"Put this in the bath water, Potter," said Professor Snape, tossing the bundle. Potter's hand snapped it out of the air just as Draco registered it moving. Damned brilliant Seeker skills. Also, absolutely no expectation that the bundle might secretly be a Portkey, or – oh! Draco suddenly realised why Potter was leery of Portkey travel. "It will help you recover in a timely fashion. Let me see your wrist."
Potter held up his aching wrist. It was ringed with bruises, and by now hugely swollen. Professor Snape took Potter's hand in his cold dry one and pulled his arm out straight; Potter gasped but did not cry out. (Draco did.) The Professor then rested his wand on Potter's wrist and muttered something; there was a nasty crack as the bone healed, and Potter gasped again. Of course he didn't make any other sound at that vicious spike of pain.
Professor Snape dropped the wrist. "Since you hate Skele-Gro so much," he said coolly. "See me after you eat."
"Yes, sir," Potter muttered.
Professor Snape sneered at him and swept out, closing the door with a thump. Potter jumped forward and locked it, then sniffed at the cloth bundle he held.
Draco identified herbs for healing, pain relief, and soothing of mental trauma. Potter clearly did not; Draco could feel his continuing confusion. Nevertheless, he threw the bundle into the rapidly filling tub. Aromatic steam rose, and Potter took a deep breath and did relax. Then he took a few minutes to brush his teeth before climbing into the bath.
The hot water and the herbs combined to leach away all remaining pain from Potter's body – even the headache seemed to fade almost to nothing. Potter sighed and lolled back against the rim of the tub, rather lazily swiping a flannel over his body to get rid of the sweat and blood. Draco luxuriated in the bath quite as much as Potter; possibly more, since Potter seemed pretty accustomed to physical discomfort, which Draco most certainly was not.
After a while, Potter emptied the tub and refilled it with clean water, then lay soaking, his thoughts drifting. He was looking forward to some of Mrs Weasley's cooking, and happy to be away from his relatives' house.
As who wouldn't be, Draco thought to himself, gladly seizing on Potter's ruminations as a distraction from his own confusion. He was so off balance. Nothing was as he'd always known it was, and he wasn't ready for the sudden shift of his bedrock out from under him. If the Dark Lord was really the twisted, insane thing he seemed to be, if Professor Snape not only didn't serve him but actively worked against him…but Lucius was an intelligent man. Why would he pledge his loyalty and resources to the Dark Lord if the Dark Lord wasn't able to make good on his promises?
If Lucius was wrong to trust the Dark Lord's promises, was he wrong to share his beliefs? But wizards were clearly superior to Muggles, and Malfoys clearly superior to the majority of wizards, if not the entirety. How could those facts not be true?
Ugh. Better to focus on Potter's problems.
The awful uncle having hit him made Potter angry, but not particularly surprised. Draco wondered about that, until he realised that Potter saw it as a logical progression. Had to expect it sooner or later, Potter said to himself, what with me waking him up every night when it's so hot and hard to sleep anyway. Only Potter would make excuses for someone wanting to hurt him. He'd probably even done it for Draco, and the excuses probably involved some sort of insecurity on Draco's part. Ridiculous. (At the time, anyway.)
Can't have Moony making a giant fuss about it, though.
At least someone wants to make a fuss, Draco thought, suddenly bitter. Lucius had used Cruciatus on Draco, and no one would expect or feel obligated to ride to Draco's rescue.
Potter's thoughts drifted on, to a sort of surprised gratitude for the herb bundle Professor Snape had given him. "Never would have expected it from him," he said aloud, swirling his hands through the water and clearly enjoying the tickle of the current he created on his skin. "Is it time to admit the man has facets?"
He laughed a little at himself. "Maybe not. Maybe he just wants to impress Moony." He swirled the water some more and smiled at the sensation. "Slytherins in love." He laughed a little more. "Better Moony than me…"
What? What? Draco's brain was going to explode! Surely Potter was only speculating!
"Moony wishes anyway…must be the voice…" Potter rambled on, sweeping his fingertips lightly down his own chest. "Still, for hot Slytherins…"
An image of Draco himself, unmistakable and startlingly accurate, considering he was stark naked, drifted into Potter's mind. Had Potter been watching him in the showers after Quidditch or something? Sneaky little Gryffindor!
"Yeah…" Potter murmured, running his fingers over his chest again. His nipples peaked and he took a shuddering breath. Draco gasped, and then groaned as Potter shivered. It was weird to look at his own body yet feel only Potter's sensations, but Draco was willing to work with it.
"Look at you, Draco," Potter whispered. His fingers traced back up his body, over his throat, to his lips. The sensation was delicately electric. "Just want to lick you all over…" He licked the pads of his own fingers instead, and moaned a little.
This was definitely more enjoyable than dwelling on the uncertainties of life, Draco decided. On a whim, he approached the fantasy image of himself in Potter's head, and touched it curiously. The next moment he found himself in its place, with Potter's hands locked behind his neck and Potter's lips devouring his. Now the sensations were his own. Just as in his dreams, Potter tasted of chocolate.
Potter's mouth left his and ran down over his neck, biting gently and then fiercely at Draco's shoulder. Draco shuddered and gasped, throwing his head back. "Yeah, Potter…" he muttered.
The mouth left him. "What did you call me?" Potter asked, backing off and frowning into Draco's eyes.
"Uh – Harry," Draco corrected. He wanted those hands back on him. This did not feel like a fantasy at all.
"That's better." Not least because in a fantasy of Draco's, Pot – Harry would never be this assertive. His hands were all over Draco, burning everywhere he touched, and his mouth had returned to the base of Draco's neck, sucking fiercely.
"Uhhh," Draco managed, clenching his own hands on Harry's bony hips. Harry crowded him backwards, and suddenly, somehow, the bathwater was lapping warmly up over his hips and Harry was on top of him, squirming and running his mouth down Draco's chest to clamp on a nipple. Harry bit, not gently, and Draco howled.
He brought his hands up to grasp Harry's head, tangling his fingers in the damp, soft hair, but Harry pulled them away and pinned them at his sides instead. "Uh–uh," he said indistinctly, sucking on Draco's nipple. Draco writhed. "Don't move. Hands down."
No way was Harry going to top him – Harry's hands ran firmly over his thighs and between them. (Okay, maybe Harry was going to top him. Draco could be okay with that.) The strong hands, one on his cock, one on his balls, disappeared at once when Draco tried to move even the smallest bit. He subsided with a whimper, and the grip returned.
Not to move was so, so hard…his insides were burning, boiling. Harry was merciless, trailing kisses and bites all over Draco's body, his hands never stopping or leaving their place. Maddeningly, they slowed whenever Draco started to twitch and gasp too much, keeping him balanced on a razor-edge of pleasure 'til he thought he would lose his mind.
Finally, finally, there were fingers penetrating him. Draco shoved back onto them with a grateful moan, despite the way he would never ever allow such a thing in real life…and Harry allowed the movement, pulling with his other hand until Draco's hips cleared the surface of the water. He nibbled very gently at the edge of Draco's foreskin, and Draco howled again and nearly threw him off, writhing so hard.
"That's it," Harry muttered, eeling upward and taking Draco's mouth in a bruising kiss. Draco, sucking on Harry's tongue in dizzy bliss, felt Harry's cock slide into him, all at once, right to his centre. And wriggling only made it better.
"Harry!" he screamed, the faint taste of blood still in his mouth where he'd bitten Harry's tongue as he lunged to lock his ankles across Harry's back.
Harry groaned through gritted teeth, pulling back and thrusting again. It felt like his full weight was pushing on Draco's prostate. Unable to be still any more, Draco brought his arms up to clamp Harry even closer against him and his hips snapped up to meet Harry's next thrust.
He lost all sense of time, submerged in the encompassing ocean of pleasure, but it was definitely too soon that Draco was screaming wordlessly and so was Harry and they were both covered in Draco's come and Draco could feel the hot rush of Harry's inside him.
Afterward, they drifted in the cloudy water, Draco with a shaking body bereft of strength (except in his arms, continuing to clutch at Harry and keep him close) and a pounding heart, his breathing taking quite a while to slow to normal. He would have felt foolish, except that he could feel Harry also shaking where he lay against Draco's chest and hear his breathing taking just as long a time to settle. Eventually Harry lifted his head and kissed Draco softly, his tongue soothing the bitten places on his lips. Draco kissed back, loosening his arms and running his hands gently up and down Harry's back.
"Mmmm," said Harry lazily. He turned his head and nuzzled briefly into Draco's shoulder.
"Yeah," Draco murmured, not even shocked at himself yet.
"Wish this could be real…" Harry whispered, dozing, and suddenly Draco found himself clothed and no longer holding Potter in his arms. He shook himself, but couldn't bring himself to do anything at the moment other than doze as well. There would be time enough to panic later.
When the water turned cold, Potter woke up. Quickly he showered off and got dried and into the clothes Lupin had left out for him. He was starving-hungry.
Draco was still feeling a bit dozy and shocked, but he started to perk up as Potter approached the kitchen and delicious smells began to surround him. Potter threw open the door to reveal a moderate crowd; he had eyes only for one redheaded woman, however, and strode directly to her.
"Mrs Weasley, I'm so glad you're here," he said, hugging her. "That smells fantastic!"
Mrs Weasley laughed and hugged him back. "I'm glad to see you have an appetite, dear," she said. "Have a seat, and let's get you some food."
"How are you, Harry?" the Mudblood asked as Potter dropped into a chair between her and the Weasel. "We heard –"
"There was an attack at my house," said Potter, accepting the full plate Mrs Weasley handed him and immediately taking a huge bite of fried potato. Draco savoured the taste as much as Potter did; it was amazing. The Malfoy chef's version didn't even come close.
Potter swallowed quickly and stabbed into his serving again, holding the laden fork in mid-air so he could finish what he was saying. Draco was impressed by the way he kept all that food balanced on the fork while he spoke. "It's all very confused; Shacklebolt said the wards were really thin."
"That's not all we heard, mate," said the Weasel, running concerned eyes over Potter as he devoured more potatoes. "We heard your uncle attacked you first."
Potter took his time chewing and swallowing, and Draco felt how much he really didn't want to get into that part. "Yeah," he said at last. "He went sort of mad, actually. You know how hot it was last night, and I woke him up –"
"Harry!" The Mudblood interrupted in her shrill I-must-fix-the-world voice. She spoke at a volume more suitable for addressing everyone at the table, and indeed everyone looked over at them for a moment. Potter winced and hunched his shoulders for a moment before deliberately straightening his spine. Showing no weakness. "There's no excuse for what he did! If you'd just told us –"
"I just did." He shrugged and returned to his food.
"Before, she means," said the Weasel doggedly. "We'd've rescued you again, you know."
A warm feeling of affection suffused Potter, and he smiled up at the Weasel. "I know you would have," he said. "You didn't need to, though. This has never happened before."
"Harry, it's okay to tell –" the Mudblood began, but Potter cut her off.
"It's never happened before, Hermione," he said firmly, looking her in the eye. "I would have said something, I swear. It's not like you guys didn't know they weren't feeding me - " He broke off suddenly, looking around at the crowded table, obviously realising he had garnered everyone's attention again. Draco compared the discomfort he was sharing with Potter with his previous assumptions about Potter's love of the limelight, and sighed. He wasn't even surprised anymore when another thing he thought he knew about Potter turned out to be wrong.
"I knew it," murmured Lupin wrathfully. "Lily's own sister!"
Potter applied himself industriously to his meal, all too aware – and Draco with him – of the various shocked and pitying gazes of the Order of the Phoenix upon him.
For that was who these people had to be. Draco pulled himself out of Potter's uncomfortable emotions in order to get a better look around. There didn't seem to be all that many of them, really, and to his surprise he recognised most of them.
There were the Aurors Moody (Draco might have known), Shacklebolt, and Tonks. They were now conferring among themselves, Moody's nasty eye rolling towards Potter periodically, as if to measure how much he was eating.
There were the Weasel's parents, and also his rather terrifying older twin brothers. They were all blatantly watching how much Potter was eating. Mrs Weasley restocked the plate whenever the pattern on the china started to show. Her daughter sat across from Potter and watched him with a soft expression that in Draco's opinion made her look like an idiot. He sneered. Not a chance, Weaselette, he thought to himself. He's mine. You stick to Blaise, Salazar help him. There was a shady-looking character down at the end of the table, next to Professor Snape – Draco's mind tried to stutter at that, but he ruthlessly moved on – and of course Lupin.
Even more of course, at the head of the table sat Albus Dumbledore, his benevolent gaze also fixed on Potter's plate.
Conversation was stilted as everyone tried to navigate around the elephant in the room. After a while Potter pushed his plate back and said, smiling, "I may never have to eat again. That was great, thanks, Mrs Weasley."
"You're welcome, dear," said Mrs Weasley. "You just let me know whenever you're hungry, and I'll fix you something. He's certainly not going back to those people!" This last obviously addressed to the Headmaster.
"No, he's not," Lupin growled.
"Certainly not this summer," said Dumbledore. "We must ascertain what happened to the wards, and decide how best to repair them, before it can even be considered."
"It can't even be considered," said Lupin flatly. Draco looked at him in increased respect. "They starve him, Albus. His uncle hit him. He's never going back."
"It remains to be seen," said Dumbledore calmly.
Potter rolled his eyes. "It's no good, Professor Lupin," he said, a bit bitterly. "I've asked to go somewhere else every year, but the wards there are supposed to be the safest available. Blood wards."
"Clearly this is no longer the case," said Professor Snape silkily. "What could have damaged your blood wards enough to let a Killing Curse through, Albus?"
"Um –" said the Mudblood. "Could it be because Harry's uncle hit him?"
"It is a possibility," said Dumbledore, sighing. "Harry, perhaps you could tell us what happened?"
Even Draco bristled at the hint of disappointment in the old man's voice. What, did he think Potter walked up and spat in his uncle's tea or something?
"I was asleep," said Potter coldly, also angry at Dumbledore's tone. "I had a nightmare, and he woke me up when he grabbed me."
"A nightmare?" Professor Snape asked, leaning forward and glaring accusingly at Potter, like a nightmare was somehow going to be his own fault.
"Just a nightmare," Potter snapped. "He grabbed my wrist and pinned me down, and then Dudley suggested the belt."
Dudley? Draco supposed that was a better name than Dudders, but not by much.
Shacklebolt leaned forward next. "Is that normal behaviour for - Dudley, was it?"
"Dudley, yes. And yes, it was. He's a bully," said Potter. "He's been chasing me and hitting me whenever he caught me my whole life." He smirked even as the Weaselette's gaze became sad in addition to soft, and the Mudblood took his arm protectively. "He hasn't been able to catch me this summer, though. Why?"
"We found some spell residue on him," explained Tonks. "It looked sort of like the Imperius, but milder."
Shock jolted through Potter. "He'd hate that," he murmured. "He's terrified of magic; they all are." Louder, he asked "You think someone cast a spell that made him tell my uncle to hit me?"
"Suggested, perhaps," said Shacklebolt. "And perhaps not; the residue was very faint, and there was some evidence of attempts at removal. You didn't –"
Potter laughed incredulously, irritation returning. "I got a warning from the Ministry when a house-elf did magic in my house," he said. "You think they're going to miss messing around with Imperius?"
And fuck you, he finished in his head, echoed by Draco. Weren't these people supposed to be on Potter's side?
"No, of course not," said Shacklebolt soothingly. "I was thinking more of accidental magic, actually."
"Uh-huh," said Potter, sceptical. "Well, as I said, they busted me for Dobby's handiwork. If I'd cast on Dudley, even accidentally, you'd have heard about it when they dragged me in front of the Wizengamot."
Tonks laughed nervously, apparently catching – as the other adults seemed not to – just how angry Potter was. "They don't do that for accidental magic, Harry," she said reassuringly. "Not even for magic on purpose, when you're underage, unless it's Dark Arts or something."
"Not even then, if your name is Malfoy," the Weasel muttered.
Draco's anger at that coincided with Potter's own burst of added temper. "Really? 'Cause I saw them last summer over a Patronus Charm, you know. A charm that saved Dudley from getting Kissed, come to think of it."
"What?" echoed more or less in unison all around the table.
"Ask Professor Dumbledore; he had to come defend me," said Potter, jerking his chin sullenly at the Headmaster.
The incredulous gazes shifted to Professor Dumbledore, who nodded. "It is quite true. I think we can all agree that the Ministry can be unreasonable on the subject of Harry Potter."
I'll say, Draco thought, stunned. He remembered Potter's Patronus during the O.W.L.'s – who could miss a bloody great stag trotting around the room? – but he'd thought it was a fluke, or something just learned. Not that Potter was casting them right and left, and in the presence of actual Dementors.
"I didn't mean to imply that any of this was your doing, Harry," Professor Dumbledore went on. Yeah, right, Potter thought. "I'm simply gathering the facts. Does Dudley spend a great deal of time on his own?"
"Not really," said Potter slowly, accepting the apology too soon, in Draco's opinion. "He has a gang of two or three friends who are with him most of the time."
"Boys his own age?" Shacklebolt asked.
"And a girl. Yeah."
"Then it's probable they wouldn't notice a quick Charm cast on him, especially if it didn't make him behave unusually," said Shacklebolt.
"So what exactly happened?" the Mudblood asked with a touch of impatience. "How did the Death Eaters even find Harry's house?"
"I think your theory about the uncle is right. Those wards were tissue-thin," said Shacklebolt. "Plenty thin enough to find the house through them, as well as cast curses. My question is, who knew to target Dudley?"
A puzzled silence fell over the table.
"So what you're saying is, someone Charmed my cousin to what? Want to beat me up even more than usual?" Potter said. "Tell my uncle to beat me up?"
"A Death Eater wouldn't know how little persuasion he'd need," said Dumbledore in a regretful tone. "I believe the prevailing idea of your home life is a bit – rosier."
"Indeed," said Professor Snape coldly.
"How'd the Death Eaters even know who Dudley is?" Ron asked, swinging a suspicious glance onto Professor Snape. "And how come you didn't know about this plan?"
"This is not a plan of the Dark Lord's," Professor Snape stated. "I suspect someone is currying favour. All it would take is someone observing who picks Potter up from the train to identify the target."
"So they Charm my cousin – probably at King's Cross – and he eventually is so nasty, or gets my uncle to be so nasty, that the blood wards are compromised. Then they can track him and get curses in," said Potter in a tone of reluctant admiration. "It's a pretty good plan, actually."
"Harry!" the Weaselette cried.
"Hey, it did fail," he added, and must have grinned at her, judging from her besotted expression. Draco snorted.
"But we're not just looking at Death Eaters with kids our age," said the Weasel. "It could be any one of the little snakes."
I know of several Death Eater kids in Ravenclaw, Draco snarled in Harry's head, wishing he could make the Weasel hear him somehow. At least two in Hufflepuff, and another one in Gryffindor, you prat. Of course, realistically, the plan was too clever not to be originated by a Slytherin.
Blaise, for example, working towards his early initiation?
And not telling Draco? Draco ground his currently metaphorical teeth, though he couldn't decide if he was angrier that Blaise had been given the chance at early initiation, or that he'd been planning to hurt (kill) Potter without Draco's knowledge.
"That's a good point," Tonks was saying. "It wouldn't even need to be someone picking up their kid from the Express. Not like that's the only train coming and going from King's Cross. Not even the only wizarding train. Plenty of reasons for a magical person to be at the station." She looked over at Shacklebolt and Moody. "We'll work on that angle."
"What's Malfoy been up to this summer?" the Weasel growled.
"Ron, Draco Malfoy is not the originator of every evil plot," said the Mudblood in weary tones.
"No, sometimes it's Voldemort," said Potter, and his stomach was sinking. Draco's complicated mixture of anger and gratification (Weasel the strategist credited him with the devising of this simple but effective plan) ran up against Harry's angry hurt and disappointment. Potter's unhappiness at the idea that Draco might have plotted his actual death removed the gratification from the equation and replaced it with guilt. After all, as recently as a few days ago Draco had been plotting against Potter. Not his death! he reminded himself, and tried to ignore the faint voice of conscience pointing out that Potter would hate the idea of mental enslavement just as much.
"Actually, Malfoy's not been up to much," said Tonks. "He's stuck pretty close to home."
"I'll be seeing him tomorrow when we do our home inspection," said Shacklebolt. If Draco had been in his body, he would have had heart failure at those words. How could he have forgotten about that damned inspection? "We'll find out if he was in on this, don't worry."
Oh, no they wouldn't. That was hardly any consolation, considering that they would inevitably find out what Draco had actually been up to.
Draco ignored the outside world for most of the rest of the day in favour of his own concerns. It certainly wasn't as though he didn't have them; Blaise's probable perfidy, Professor Snape's shocking true allegiance, Draco's own duties in response to these things, and Draco's true priority: Potter's clear interest in him. Draco had thought his fascination and desire were entirely one-sided. It was disorienting and even a bit frightening to realise it seemed to be reciprocated. Until recently, Fantasy-Potter had always let Draco take the lead – Real-Potter, even in the confines of fantasy, never had and more than likely never would.
Although letting Potter take control, at least in fantasy, had so far not worked out as badly as loss of command usually did for Draco.
Even Draco realised he was thinking about that to distract himself from the most urgent problem he now faced - what was going to happen tomorrow when the Aurors visited Malfoy Manor. Draco didn't even know if anyone had found his body out there in the gazebo, although he assumed so, as he was no longer allowed to spend nights away from the Manor. His absence should have been noticed at dinnertime that first night, but the Order Aurors didn't seem to be aware anything had happened.
Professor Snape didn't seem to know about it either, even though he was Lucius' friend, Draco's godfather, and a powerful Legilimens. Surely Lucius would call on him when it was so obvious what the problem was, but if the Professor knew anything about it, there was absolutely no sign.
As a good Death Eater's son, Draco acknowledged, it was clearly his duty to – somehow - let his father know that he couldn't trust Professor Snape, but he felt almost sick with reluctance at the very thought. He genuinely liked and respected Professor Snape, who had always made him feel safe, and he knew betrayal to the Dark Lord would mean death. And not an easy one. The man was not stupid; surely if he was betraying the Dark Lord he must have a reason, right? A good reason?
What could be a good reason to betray the Dark Lord? The Dark Lord was the one who was going to bring the Purebloods the pre-eminence they deserved, the one who was going to rid the world of the threat that the Muggles presented. He was the most powerful wizard of the age; even Dumbledore hadn't been able to defeat him. The Dark Lord did not even die when… wait…
As though conjured by Draco's earlier thoughts, Professor Snape himself snapped, "Potter!"
Both Potter and Draco started. Potter had been reading a book, which he dropped at the sound of Professor Snape's voice. "Yes, sir?"
"Did I, or did I not, tell you to see me after you ate?" Professor Snape demanded.
"Sorry," said Potter, scrambling to his feet. "I forgot."
Professor Snape rolled his eyes. "You forgot. And on you rests the fate of the Wizarding World, if the papers are to be believed. You disgust me, Potter. Have you been practicing your Occlumency?"
Oh, yes, Draco thought, but less bitterly than he might have in the past.
"Yes," said Potter. "I haven't had any visions this summer."
Visions? This summer? Draco was smart enough to realise what the visions likely entailed, especially as it seemed they required Occlumency to make them stop.
"Hmmm," said Professor Snape. Then, to Draco's shock, he whipped out his wand, pointed it at Potter, and snapped "Legilimens!"
Draco felt the pressure on Potter's mental shield right away. Just as it had done when Draco tried to break it, it moved and stretched with the pressure, but did not give way. He pressed tentatively against the pushed-in place, but it wasn't even slightly weaker than the rest of the shield. Dammit.
"Finite Incantatem." Professor Snape studied Potter with a frown. "That is an unusual shield, but it seems adequate. You say you have had no visions?"
"That's right. Sir," Potter added hastily, in the face of the Professor's ferocious scowl.
"And you clear your mind every night?"
"Yes, sir…" But there was some guilt there; Potter didn't actually do it every night. He probably would have found Draco if he had, with Draco's luck.
"There is something odd…different…" said Professor Snape, his frown slanting more toward suspicion.
Potter shrugged. "I'm fine, sir. Um – thank you for healing my wrist."
"You're welcome. Be sure to clear your mind every night, Potter," said Professor Snape, and swept out.
"Yeah, okay," Potter said to the empty room, and shook his head. "Wonder what he meant by odd."
"Maybe you've gone mental, mate," said the Weasel, coming in as he said this.
"No," said Potter, a grin in his voice. "He would have just said 'you've gone mental, Potter.'"
"Good point. Oh, well, who cares what he thinks anyway?" said the Weasel. Draco spluttered with outrage, unnoticed in Potter's head. "Up for a game of chess?"
"Is that even any fun for you?" Potter asked, following the Weasel over to the chess set near the fireplace. "Considering you win in a few moves anyway?"
"Sure," said the Weasel, picking up a white and a black pawn and hiding them in his fists. "You're getting better, you know."
"Really?" Potter chose the Weasel's left fist and discovered he would be playing black. Sighing, he began to set up his pieces.
"Yeah. I used to give you a handicap. Not anymore."
Potter was a bit disgruntled by this revelation, but he said nothing, and they began to play. Potter was barely average at chess, Draco discovered. And whatever the Weasel said, he was still prolonging the game on purpose. He clearly ignored several excellent opportunities to put Potter in check as the game progressed.
Well, well, he does have a talent, Draco mused, reluctantly impressed by the skill and subtlety of the Weasel's play. Even so, Draco was confident that his own play was superior, if he were not stuck observing from inside Potter's head. Speaking of which - Potter should move his knight – there – and take the Weasel's rook…
Potter moved the knight.
Could he have thought of that on his own? Draco wondered, taken aback and a little nervous. He's not totally abysmal at chess, and it was a pretty obvious move. Hmmm…next Potter should move his bishop over there…
Potter moved the bishop. The Weasel smiled approvingly at him, but then performed a move Draco hadn't foreseen, took the bishop, and put Potter's queen in danger.
A stronger frisson of uneasiness crept down Draco's non-corporeal spine. Was Potter aware of him? Not consciously, surely, or he would have not only let him out, but kicked him out. Yet he was performing the chess moves Draco thought of, as Draco thought of them. Could that be coincidence, or were they somehow starting to merge? And what would that mean in the long run, especially if Draco ever made it back to his own body?
His body. Gloom and fear descended on him once more.
While Draco was pondering, the Weasel had gone ahead and won the game. "You had some good moves, Harry," he said. "Wanna play again?"
"No, thanks," said Potter, slightly too fervently. The Weasel grinned at him and started to herd the chess pieces back into their box. "Um – could we go get a snack?"
"Of course," said the Weasel, in a friendly "you prat" sort of voice, as the black Queen stomped sulkily into the box. He closed the lid with a snap, muffling what sounded like the beginning of a spirited debate among the pieces about the match just concluded. "It’s your house, you know. Let's go."
They headed for the kitchen, where they encountered the Mudblood and the Weaselette chatting over cocoa. The girls stopped talking immediately when the boys came in, which to Draco at least was a clear sign that the boys had been the topic of conversation.
"Hi," said Potter into the sudden silence, heading for the cold cupboard.
"Hi," said the Weaselette. "Could you get some cheese while you're over there?"
Potter glanced back at her. "Sure." He brought bread and cheese and mustard over to the table.
"Ron!" the Mudblood cried, as the Weasel started to cut into the bread. "Get a plate!"
The Weasel sighed and got up to do so, also fetching one for Potter. Really, Draco thought, shuddering, he was a total plebeian. Even the Mudblood had better table manners than he did.
"So what did Professor Snape want?" the Mudblood asked, as Potter and the Weasel settled down with their sandwiches.
"To test my Occlumency," said Potter. "He couldn't get in. That book you sent me really helped, Hermione, thanks."
She beamed. "You're welcome. I'm so glad. So your head's been better this summer, then?"
Potter rubbed his forehead. "A lot better, yeah."
This constant low-grade headache constituted better? A lot better?
"No visits from…Voldie…" Potter went on, and Draco gave in to a giggle. No one could hear him, after all. But Voldie? Potter referred to the dreaded Dark Lord as Voldie?
"Are you all right?" the Weaselette asked as Potter's voice trailed off.
Potter shook himself. "Uh, yeah. Something just occurred to me, that's all. I can check it out later, though. Pass the mustard, Ron?"
Draco felt Potter's awareness shift and begin to scan slowly through the mental landscape, even as the conversation at the table went on. He hastily cast his Disillusionment Charm on himself and huddled down as still as possible. The focus of Potter's attention seemed to pass over him, but he did not relax his guard for the rest of the evening.
The Weasel and the Mudblood went off together after snack time was over, and Potter stayed in the kitchen and washed the dishes, without magic, just as if he were a servant in his own house. Draco was outraged, even though the Weaselette did stay behind to dry the dishes. Draco didn't like her hanging around Potter anyway – she was annoying.
"So how's Dean?" Potter asked her, swishing soapy water around.
She dimpled at him. "He's fine, as far as I know."
"So when are you going to confess to Ron? I mean, the jig will be up when we get back to school and Dean won't shut up about his holiday in America with his actual girlfriend," said Potter, handing her a plate.
She dried it. "As we get on the train, I guess," she said. "It's kept him off my back all summer – and yours, you know," she added.
"Yeah," said Potter. "You know, I sort of wish – "
"Harry." Her voice was gentle. "You like who you like. I like who I like. That's not each other, and that's fine. It's a couple of Slytherins, and that's less fine, but that's how it is."
What? The Weaselette wasn't pining away for Potter? Had there been some sort of apocalypse while Draco wasn't looking?
And she liked a Slytherin? For Merlin's sake, was it Blaise? Were they secretly dating or something? If so, Draco was going to throw up all over Potter's brain.
"That's us Gryffindors – leaping into hopeless situations," said Potter bitterly.
The Weaselette whapped him with her dishtowel. "At least we have good taste – they are beautiful." She grinned. "Draco especially."
And the shocks just keep on coming! Draco thought.
"Oh, yeah," sighed Potter. "Just as long as he keeps his mouth shut." As Draco was choosing a degree of outrage at that, Potter burst out, "It's such a waste! He's so smart, how can he not see what Voldemort is really about? How can he just parrot all that bigoted crap about Muggles and Muggle-borns, and – and –"
"Because that's all he was taught," said the Weaselette seriously. "Face it; has he really been given any chance to form an informed opinion?"
"Of course not," said Potter savagely. "Not even by Snape, who you'd think would want to save him from making his same mistake –"
"You know how careful Snape has to be."
"So what? Draco's going to throw himself away on that slimy madman, because no one he trusts will lift a hand to stop him! He sure as hell wouldn't listen to me!" Potter finished, panting with outrage. "He'd hex me six ways to Sunday first."
Maybe not…? Draco thought.
"Well, he'd try," the Weaselette said solemnly.
Potter took a moment before laughing and flicking water on her. Draco, hurt, sulked and plotted ways to make her see the error of that remark. He could hex Potter anytime he wanted, even from in here. He was sure of it.
He just didn't happen to want to right now, that was all. Yeah.
Potter's shower was much briefer than usual that night, and he stared abstractedly at the wall in front of him the whole time. Draco couldn't tell what he was thinking, and it gave him a bad feeling. He was careful to reinforce his Disillusionment Charm, and to keep his consciousness as still and quiet in Potter's mind as he could. He couldn't articulate, even to himself, why he was so keen to avoid discovery, when he'd been trying to escape all along, but the feeling was undeniable.
It was possible he felt safer here than in his own head and thus his own life. Which was ridiculous when Potter had people trying to hurt or kill him wherever he turned.
It transpired that Potter and the Weasel shared a bedroom. Draco couldn't imagine why; it wasn't as though the house wasn't huge. Were other rooms not habitable? Could there be any other reason to share a bedroom with the Weasel voluntarily? Draco was unsurprised to learn that the Weasel slept with his mouth open, snoring loudly. Potter didn't pay it the slightest attention, which was frankly incredible to Draco.
To the accompaniment of the Weasel's obnoxious snores, Potter settled himself in bed, lying on his back with his arms draped over his middle. Then he took a deep breath and muttered "Clear my mind, he says. I can keep him out, I can clearly keep Voldie out, what more does he want?" He took another deep breath, relaxed his limbs, and closed his eyes.
Draco felt Potter's concentration turn inward, and a spike of panic shot through him. What if Potter found him in here after all? He was not ready for a face to face – so to speak – conversation. He made his presence even smaller and fainter, not daring to pick up a single thought, emotion, or sensation from Potter for fear Potter would feel it and be able to focus on him.
Gradually the comfortable clutter of Potter's mind drifted into more orderly patterns. Draco could see the shields shifting as this went on, visibly strengthening. He might as well accept it; he was never getting out of here under his own power. How bad could it be to let Potter find him? At least he'd be able to get out, back to his body before it died without him.
Even if Potter and the Order let him go unpunished (not bloody likely), he'd then have to deal with his father. And deal with Pansy. And deal with Blaise.
On the other hand, not have to deal with the Weasel snoring four feet away.
The focus of Potter's attention softened, and Draco realised he had fallen asleep. Vague snippets of thought and memory drifted around him. He avoided those, still wary of discovery no matter how many arguments in its favour he knew there were, but he did approach the shield. He knew better than to expect to find a weakness by now – but wait. There did seem to be a thin spot – a potential crack – zigzagging through it in one place.
Zigzagging? Draco knew that shape. He'd stared at it often enough.
The shield just there was definitely thinning. Potter moaned in his sleep. Could he feel that?
Don't be an idiot, of course he can feel it. Draco could feel it too, in a muffled sort of way.
Potter turned over, shivering. Draco looked back at the shield, shivering himself at the rising sense of menace he could feel outside. Something shadowy moved on the other side, and he recoiled, instinctively trying to find something to hide behind.
Dimly, Draco recognized high-pitched laughter, and Potter moaned again. His ever-present headache was increasing; Draco couldn't get away from it anymore. He scrambled away from the lightning shape he could now see clearly etched in the shield in front of him.
Potter whimpered, there was a soundless flash, and Draco found himself in a torchlit room surrounded by cloaked and masked people. A taller and infinitely scarier figure stood nearby, hood thrown back to reveal a horrible reptilian face and mad red eyes. On Draco's other side was Potter, clad in his deplorable pyjamas and scowling, the palm of one hand crushed against his forehead.
Potter and Draco traded shocked looks.
"Welcome, my faithful!" cried the Dark Lord, raising both arms in the air. Draco had the sudden hysterical thought that if he looked like that, he'd stay in the dark, too. There was a muffled snort from Potter.
The huge snake right beside them lifted several coils' worth of herself into the air and hissed. Through Potter, Draco understood her words: "Welcome, slaves of my Master."
"What news do you have for me?" the Dark Lord purred, beckoning to a nearby Death Eater.
The person strode forward – Draco recognised that walk, he'd know it anywhere even without the long blond hair streaming down Lucius' back – and knelt before the Dark Lord. As Draco stared, his father kissed the hem of the Dark Lord's robe! Not only that, he remained on his knees, obviously waiting for permission to stand.
Draco's fear was nearly swallowed by disgust.
"The Potter boy escaped, my Lord," Lucius Malfoy said evenly, having risen to his feet in response to the Dark Lord's gesture.
"Crucio!" the Dark Lord snapped, and Lucius pitched over on his side, writhing and uttering short, choked-off screams. Potter moaned and clutched his forehead harder. After a full minute, the Dark Lord lifted the curse and called, "Zabini!"
Two figures approached and kissed the hem of his robe. Clearly Blaise's ambitions had borne fruit.
"You assured me your plan was foolproof," the Dark Lord said to them, leaving them kneeling at his feet. Lucius lay a few feet away, completely disregarded. "You promised me Potter's death."
Blaise was visibly shaking under his robe and mask. Serve him right, Draco thought viciously. "I – I'm sorry, my Lord," he quavered.
"Sorry?" the Dark Lord echoed. "Crucio!"
Blaise dropped screaming to the floor. Beside Draco, Potter grunted with pain. His face was twisted with it; Draco felt the muted echo of it and was grateful to be able to hold himself (mostly) separate from Potter's sensations.
The Dark Lord turned to Zabini Senior. "Explain."
Blaise's father appeared to have no trouble ignoring his son, who was screaming himself hoarse and thrashing like a mad thing. "The charm worked on the Muggles, and they began to thin the wards with their treatment of Potter. Last night the wards were thin enough for us to pinpoint Potter himself, and to get curses through. My son immediately cast the Killing Curse."
That had been Blaise? Indolent, easygoing Blaise had the power and the hate to cast Avada Kedavra?
Rather absently, the Dark Lord flicked his wand, and the hoarse, barely human sounds Blaise had been making cut off abruptly. Draco eyed his friend with trepidation. This was the glory of serving the Dark Lord? His own father had yet to get up from the floor.
"Potter livessss," the Dark Lord hissed. His hideous face became more hideous as it twisted with rage.
Zabini Senior shifted nervously. "Yes, my lord. He managed to duck my son's curse, and was immediately thereafter Portkeyed out of the house. We cannot find him."
"Crucio!" shouted the Dark Lord, and Blaise's father fell to the floor, howling in pain.
Potter bent double, still clutching his forehead. "Not much imagination, Voldemort," he gasped, addressing Draco directly.
Draco lurched with shock. "No," he said cautiously. Potter gave him an unreadable look, squinting through his fingers, then turned back as the Dark Lord ended the curse on Blaise's father.
"Rissse, Luciusss," he said next, still hissing. "Where is your son? You told me he would succeed where the Zabini boy would fail, yet he is not even here."
"My son has failed us, my Lord," said Lucius, bowing his head submissively. Draco sucked in his breath. "He has chosen a traitorous path, and is no longer worthy of the name Malfoy. He is, of course, yours to do with as you please."
"Bring him to me," said the Dark Lord. "If he will not serve me as you do, he will serve as an example to others."
"Yes, my Lord," said Lucius, no hint of reluctance in his tone.
"Rise, Lucius. Go. Bring me your son."
Lucius bowed and Disapparated.
Draco couldn't breathe. Unworthy of the name Malfoy? How dare Lucius say that, when he crawled before this subhuman thing!
"I've got to wake up," Potter muttered. "Got to –" Draco looked over at him just as his eyes opened as wide as they would go and all the colour drained from his face.
"How good of you to join ussss," the Dark Lord hissed, and Draco realised with horror that the Dark Lord was aware of him and Potter. "You're just in time. Wormtail!"
Potter clenched his fists. "Wake up, wake up, wake up," he chanted.
The Dark Lord laughed. Draco shuddered. His heartbeat was choking him. "You're mine until I choose to let you go, Potter," said the Dark Lord. "Ah, see what I have for my faithful…"
Wormtail had dragged a boy about Potter's and Draco's age before the assembled Death Eaters. He had dark hair – though not as dark as Potter's – and green eyes – though not as brilliant as Potter's. Still, at first glance, the similarity was startling.
"Who the hell are you people?" he shouted, struggling.
"Petrificus Totalis," said the Dark Lord lazily, and the boy froze in place. "Our favourite kind of Mudblood, Potter. Very soon, you'll be in his place. Show him, my faithful!"
And Draco, as well as Potter, froze with horror as every wand was turned on the boy, and curses flew from all directions. Potter screamed and screamed as the boy was reduced to little more than red jelly on the floor of the Dark Lord's lair. Draco screamed right along with him.
"Harry! Harry! Wake up!"
Never until this moment had Draco been glad to hear the Weasel's voice. Potter jackknifed up in bed, sobbing and retching, and the Weasel got a basin in the right place with only one small bobble. He wasn't surprised to be doing this, Draco noticed.
The door burst open and Lupin hurtled into the room, followed by Professor Snape. The Professor wasted no time in approaching Potter and pulling up his chin so he could look straight into his eyes. "Legilimens!" he snapped, and Potter sobbed again, shaking all over.
Professor Snape's focus swept through Potter's mind and out again, and he dropped Potter's chin and turned for the door. Draco realised that he was so hidden in Potter's mind the Professor hadn't noticed him there, even though Harry had let him in past his shields.
Lupin put his arms around Potter and stroked his back, though Potter's shaking didn't smooth out noticeably. Potter rested his ringing head on Lupin's shoulder and sucked in a deep breath. "Malfoy," he croaked, scrubbing at his eyes. "Voldemort's going to kill Malfoy."
"Luci –" Lupin broke off at Harry's headshake. "Draco Malfoy? Why on earth…Severus!" But Professor Snape had gone.
"He knows," said Potter, squeezing his eyes shut against the pain that had spiked when he moved his head. "He saw it in my head. Oh, God, Oh, God…" He pushed Lupin away and retched again.
Dumbledore appeared in the doorway. "Are you all right, Harry?" he asked.
"Does he look all right?" Draco shouted. He was shaking and horrified too, but nobody was hugging him. He didn't find a second-hand hug from a werewolf he barely knew to be soothing.
Potter gave a bizarre sort of hiccuppy chuckle, and then sobbed again, uncontrollably. "I'm – all right, Professor," he managed, nevertheless.
"What did you see?" Dumbledore asked.
The Weasel glared at the Headmaster. "Give him some time, sir," he said angrily.
"It's okay, Ron," said Potter after a minute, sitting up a bit straighter. Lupin handed him a glass of water, and he sipped carefully. "Sorry, Professor. Th – that's the first time he's gotten in all summer. We – we were right about the plan – about the Dursleys. It was Blaise Zabini and his dad."
"Take your time, Harry," said Lupin soothingly, helping Potter sit back onto his pillows. The Weasel Scourgified the nasty basin.
"He – he tortured the Zabinis for not killing me," Potter said softly. "Then he – he had this boy – " He sobbed again.
Dumbledore sighed and came forward to lay a hand on Potter's shoulder. "I'm sorry, my boy," he said. "Sorry I can't protect you from him as I should."
"Damn right you should be sorry," Draco muttered. "Useless old man."
Potter grabbed Dumbledore's hand and looked up at him urgently. "Please don't let him get Dr – Malfoy," he said, voice clogged and hoarse from all the screaming and crying.
"Professor Snape is already doing what he can," said Dumbledore, patting Potter's hand.
"He can come here," Potter said, earning an incredulous glare from the Weasel and proud looks from Dumbledore and Lupin.
"That's very generous of you, Harry," said Dumbledore. "I promise, we'll do everything we can. Try to rest now." He patted Potter's shoulder and left the room. Lupin helped Potter settle down in bed and conjured a cool cloth to sponge his face. After a few minutes, he, too, left the room.
"You're really going to let Malfoy come here, Harry?" asked the Weasel. He had changed into a cleaner pyjama shirt while Draco wasn't looking (thank Merlin), and was now sitting on the edge of his own bed.
"His Dad just gave him to Voldemort to be killed, Ron," said Potter wearily, causing the full impact of that very thing to come crashing in on Draco now that all the distractions had gone. He felt hollowed out and sick with rage and fear.
The Weasel shook his head. "You and your saving people thing," he said. "He'd just better be grateful, that's all."
Draco was feeling many things toward many people at the moment, but grateful to Harry was definitely top of the list.
Harry slept for a long time after that, his mind unusually dark and still. There must have been a potion in that water, Draco realised, attempting to distract himself from thinking about what his father had just done. There was no help for it, though. He had to face it – his father had thrown him away like a dead house-elf. And why? Draco hadn't been given any grand assignments from either his father or the Dark – Voldemort. So how could he have failed?
Lucius had told Voldemort that Draco would succeed where Blaise failed. That seemed to indicate he'd known about the potion from the beginning. Had Blaise told Draco about it on purpose, then? Or had Lucius just counted on him letting something slip? And why hadn't Lucius just told Draco what he wanted him to do?
It wasn't as though it wasn't obvious, though. Find Harry and kill him.
But, Draco realised, he had chosen a traitorous path. He wanted Harry alive, especially now, when he knew Harry reciprocated his interest. Who cared what Voldemort wanted, that lunatic? Harry belonged to Draco.
Harry was clearly worth saving anyway, even in his own right. He was a far better person than Voldemort or his followers (slaves) could ever hope to be. Harry bowed to no one, even Voldemort, Draco remembered as he recalled the dream of the cemetery. In all their fights, Harry had never cast Cruciatus or anything approaching it at Draco, and Draco didn't fool himself that he didn't have the power. Not now that he'd felt that immense rush of it himself whenever Harry even thought about magic.
Distracted, he spared a moment to wonder what made Harry suppress his power whenever it flared up like that. Probably some deep psychological reason boiling down to fear, he decided. Harry could crack mountains with what he had, Draco was sure.
Voldemort cursed people who were on his own side, which struck Draco as poor leadership, to say the least. He couldn't imagine what kept people loyal to the hideous thing. He was hardly a shining example of wizard-kind, at least not anymore. Was he just that powerful? When Harry had banished him as a baby and it had taken him thirteen years to return?
He did talk a good game. Eliminate the Muggle threat to wizards, elevate the Purebloods to their rightful exalted place – but then he made Purebloods crawl before him and kiss the hem of his robe and submit to Cruciatus. With that example of Voldemort's veracity before him, could Draco believe without question what he said about Muggles, either?
Bigoted crap, Harry had called it.
Draco had to admit, there were few more skilled witches than Hermione Granger. He ought to know, coming in second to her every blasted year of school. He'd never actually met any Muggles – well, he'd "met" Harry's relatives. The woman he'd protected at the pub, with her gratitude and courtesy, counterbalanced them, though. As did the woman at the park who'd wanted to help Harry; she didn't know him, or even know of him. To her, he'd just been a scrawny kid getting beaten up by a bigger one; she'd had no idea that Harry had the power to reduce his cousin to component bits with a thought.
Voldemort would do that if someone angered him. Harry never would, though. He would never use that power against people who didn't have it. He had offered Draco sanctuary, and as far as he knew Draco would try to kill him the moment he laid eyes on him.
So, he's a decent person, he's incredibly powerful, he's sexy, and he's apparently interested in me, Draco listed to himself. He might also have some good points about Voldemort and his beliefs. He's still a foolhardy Gryffindor.
MY foolhardy Gryffindor.
And dammit, when is he going to wake up? I want to know what's going on!
With Harry asleep, Draco was reduced to getting his information solely through what he could hear, which wasn't much, as naturally everyone was trying to be quiet and let Harry rest. Time marched on, and Draco became more and more agitated.
"It'll be okay," said Harry suddenly – and there he was, in front of Draco, still in his horrible pyjamas and looking very solemn.
Draco squawked, "Harry?"
Harry smiled a little. "Draco," he said. "Since we're apparently on a first name basis suddenly. Yes, it's me."
"Oh, Merlin," said Draco, still staring.
Harry frowned a little. "It's really you, isn't it?" he said. "Not a dream."
"Not a dream," Draco echoed. In all the scenarios he'd entertained about when Harry found him, this had never happened. Harry seemed quite calm and unsurprised.
He was starting to look uneasy, though. "Why are we on a first name basis?" A sudden wave of mortification suffused his mind – the very atmosphere around them blushed. "How long have you been here? Did – did we -?" He took a step backward.
Recklessly, Draco stepped forward, seized Harry around the waist, and kissed him hard. They were both gasping when he lifted his head. "That answer your question?" he replied, smirking.
"Oh, God," Harry muttered, but then he laced his fingers behind Draco's neck and dragged his mouth back down. Draco kissed back with enthusiasm. This was such a better reaction than he had anticipated!
After a minute Harry pulled away, but he didn't step very far back, only studied Draco with an unreadable expression. Then he smiled slightly. "So, it seems like you didn't object to that too much," he observed.
"Definitely not," said Draco. "Although you owe me a shag."
Harry raised a brow. "I owe you? Let's leave that for the moment and come speeding back to 'what are you doing in my head, M - Draco?'"
Draco swallowed. Now the anger he'd feared was appearing in Harry's expression. "What do you think I'm doing here?" he asked, trying to stall for time. Though what could he possibly say that wouldn't make him look bad?
Harry rolled his eyes. "Let's see. Pinpoint my location for Voldemort, maybe? Sabotage my Quidditch game? Just drive me mad?"
Draco grinned despite his worry. "I'm not here for Voldemort, I can tell you that, Harry."
Okay, he couldn't expect Harry to believe him just like that, right? Draco had no right to be hurt. "I suppose I just wanted to drive you mad," he confessed, tired of fencing. Harry had made sure someone would rescue him from being sacrificed to Voldemort, had offered him a place to stay. He supposed he owed him the truth for that.
Harry nodded. "But you didn't do it," he said.
Draco smiled ruefully. "Don't give me too much credit," he said. "I couldn't make you notice me. I couldn't even get into your head until you hit it at the playground."
Harry's hand came up to rub the back of his head, and a look of enlightenment crossed his face. "You cast the Stinging Hexes," he said, and Draco nodded. Then Harry scowled again. "What did you think of my idyllic home life?" he asked sarcastically.
"I wanted to hex those Muggles into jelly," said Draco, before he thought. Harry turned white. "But I didn't!" Draco cried, stepping forward and catching the other boy in his arms again. "You saw. I wouldn't!"
Harry muttered, "Came close, though, didn't you?" but didn't pull away. They stood there awkwardly for a few moments. Draco cast about for a change of subject.
"So who's the Weaselette interested in?" he asked, deciding a non-sequitur was his best bet.
Harry pulled back and looked up at him. "Don't call her that," he said shortly. "No more Weasel remarks from you."
Not a derailment, then. Dammit. Draco said nothing more, not exactly ready to apologise or take orders from Harry, but sorry he'd mentioned it anyway.
"What did you think of the Death Eaters?" Harry asked him quietly.
Draco scowled. "They disgust me. Crawling before that hideous – "
"Half-blood," Harry put in with a little smile.
"Oh, yes. His father was a Muggle," said Harry. "Tom Riddle, Senior."
"Tom Riddle?" Draco echoed. "Wait, but wasn't he a Slytherin Head Boy fifty years ago?"
"That was Tom Riddle, Junior – Lord Voldemort," said Harry. "That would be when he opened the Chamber of Secrets and got Myrtle killed. And framed Hagrid for it."
Draco sat down suddenly. "How do you know all this?"
"I saw that stuff in his diary," said Harry, sitting down across from him. "The one your Dad slipped to Ginny Weasley."
Draco turned his face away. "Don't talk about my father."
"Whatever," said Harry.
Silence descended yet again. They let it go on for a while. Then Harry said, "How were you there to get into my head in the first place? And why are you still here?"
"I got stuck," said Draco sourly. Harry grinned. "Behind those outstanding Occlumency shields. As to how I got here, I was out of my body. Blaise made this potion – "
"Blaise?" And Draco could see the suspicion rising in Harry's expression. Subtle, he was not.
"I wasn't in on his little plan," he snapped. "I think he was using me, actually. I'll be sure and make him pay for that, too."
"I don't think you'll need to bother," said Harry dryly, and Draco's stomach dropped; he had forgotten the condition Blaise had been in when Voldemort released his curse.
"He made a potion," he said in more subdued tones. "It was supposed to combine Imperius and Legilimency, but he got it wrong. He told me it was for a school project, so I was working with him on it. The version I took – well, it changed my blood."
Harry looked creeped out at that. "How?"
"The way the potion works, you go out of your body and into the mind of your target. You experience through their senses, see their thoughts and dreams, everything. You can plant suggestions that work with the force of Imperius." At Harry's tilt away from him, he added, "Except on you, apparently. You throw off Imperius too well, I guess. But I used it on my father."
"Really?" Harry looked intrigued. "What did you make him do?"
"Eat raspberries." When Harry raised an eyebrow, he clarified, "He hates raspberries. I never get to have them at home."
"Okay then," said Harry.
"Anyway, the potion stays in your body for two days, then cycles out and leaves you with the worst headache imaginable." Harry raised the other brow. Nice trick. "I guess you know what that's like," Draco said. "I can do all that without taking the potion and thus, without the headache. I don't think I can cast Legilimens the normal way anymore.
"When I went after you, your shield kept bouncing me back until you hit your head. Then I got in, but your shield went back up, and I was stuck behind it," Draco concluded.
"So you've just been watching my life? My…dreams?" Harry asked, looking disturbed.
"No choice, Harry, so yes." Hoping to lighten the mood, Draco waggled his eyebrows. "Some of those dreams were ve-e-ery interesting."
Harry blushed. "I bet."
"Come on, Harry," said Draco. "Why do you think I was after you in the first place? Glad to see we had similar ideas."
Harry brightened. "Yeah? Why don't you show me some of your ideas, then?"
Draco crawled towards him. Just before reaching for Harry, though, he said, "I thought you'd be angrier."
Harry shrugged. "I am angry. I'm furious. But I can see your mind now as clearly as you see mine." Well, that was disturbing, but Draco forced that aside. "I know you haven't harmed me, nor mean to. And I'm – glad you got to see what Voldemort's like before it was too late. The rest can wait."
"Yeah," said Draco soberly. Put that way, he really had had a narrow escape. From Voldemort, anyway.
"About those ideas?" Harry reminded him, with a grin. Draco grinned back and threw himself on top of the smaller boy.
Harry still tasted deliciously of chocolate. Kissing him when they were both aware of each other was even better than their previous shared fantasies. Harry was again more aggressive than he'd been in Draco's imagination, but Draco found he didn't mind. He definitely didn't mind Harry's roaming hands, giving as good as he got until they were both writhing.
Harry's warm fingers had just closed around Draco's cock when he disappeared and there was a disorienting rush that left Draco blinking. Seconds later Harry opened his eyes and there was the Weasel hovering over him, hand still on his shoulder, which he'd obviously shaken.
"Ron?" Harry said, rubbing his eyes.
"Are you all right?" the Weasel asked, handing him his glasses. "Only you were moaning in your sleep."
"Dammit, of course he was moaning!" Draco shouted, seething with frustration and reawakened fear.
"I'm okay," Harry said, swinging his legs out of bed. "Remind me to have a word with Professor Lupin about slipping me potions, though. What's going on?"
"Well, Snape is back," said the Weasel, following Harry out the door and down the stairs. "He's a little banged up. You know, it didn't occur to me last night, but he wasn't at the Death Eater meeting. He was here."
"That's right!" Harry exclaimed, stopping dead at the foot of the stairs. The Weasel almost bowled him over. "Why?"
"I dunno, you'll have to ask him," said the Weasel indifferently. "He didn't rescue Malfoy so much, though."
Harry stopped again. "Voldemort got him?" Sheer horror suffused his mind. Draco was gratified, and also in complete agreement.
"Nah," said the Weasel, urging Harry forward again. "Tonks and Shacklebolt found him when they got to Malfoy Manor right after Snape. Rescued Snape, too, he was trying to get Malfoy away from his Dad at the time. I guess there was a pretty big fight. But there's something wrong with Malfoy."
"Where is he?" Harry demanded.
"In here," said the Weasel, steering him into a small sitting room on the first floor. Moments later Draco was once again gazing down at his own body.
It was wearing a robe, but its hair was tangled and lank, and there were dark circles under its eyes. Except for a very faint rise of breath, it looked dead.
"I'm sorry, Harry," said Professor Dumbledore, looking up from where he was holding Draco's body's wrist, presumably checking the pulse. "He's alive, but – "
"Let me see him!" Professor Snape snarled from the doorway, and shoved Harry aside to fall to his knees beside Draco's body. He laid his forehead against the body's and muttered "Legilimens."
"He's gone," Dumbledore murmured, as Professor Snape jerked back. Draco was surprised and rather touched at his favourite Professor's devastated expression.
"Too late," Professor Snape whispered. "I was too late."
"We suspect some sort of spell similar to a Dementor's Kiss, Harry," said Lupin. Then, "Harry? What are you doing?"
Harry had approached Draco's body and knelt down. Now he put his forehead against Draco's body's forehead, and took a deep breath.
"Harry?" said Draco, jittery with anticipation.
"Ready?" said Harry. "Off you go, then." He dropped his shield.
Draco's mind surged back into his body, which shuddered all over. He struggled to open his eyes, hearing the amazed shouts of the other people in the room and feeling Harry's grip on his hand.
At long last, he got his eyes open. Professor Snape looked stunned, the Weasel resigned, Professor Dumbledore delighted. Lupin wore a proud smile. Draco couldn't even resent it, when Harry's latest exploit had been for his benefit.
"Welcome, Mr Malfoy," Professor Dumbledore said. "We're relieved to see you looking so much better."
"Thanks," Draco croaked. Harry smiled down at him and squeezed his hand. Draco returned the smile and the squeeze, relaxing with a grateful sigh. He was with Harry. He was safe now.
Ta-dah! All spruced up and done! There is a sequel, also to be refurbished, but it'll be a while before I post it. I want to be able to post chapters in quicker succession with that one.
Meanwhile, thank you all for reading, and blessed be!