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Everybody's Fool

Chapter Text

October 30th, 2001

The first thing Harry saw when he woke up, were the words "Never Again"

He blinked his sore eyes, but the words on his shoulder didn't go away, and neither did the sundered heart behind them, rendered in a red so angry that it seemed to throb. He'd dreamed of that red since he'd first seen it in the tattooist's shop window. He'd yearned for the colour of heart's blood and roses and fury and loss – for something to cut through the heartless silver fugue of self-pity and alcohol he'd spent the better part of a week building up around himself.

This one. I want this one.

Pfew, what a pong! You're arseholed, mate. Piss off out of it.

No, you don't understand. I can pay. Please. I need this one.

What you need's a shower, tosspot. I don't do drunks – if you wasn't too pissed to read the bloody sign, you'd know that. Go on down the lane, and Old Bill might give ye a nice spot of tea and a cot for the night.

No, damn it-

Oi! Theo, Dick, show this tit the door!

He went back the next day, showered and shaven and presentable, if more than a little hungover. The red was still the same, even in the wan sunlight of what passed for spring in London; powerful, resolute, absolutely certain. Everything he needed.

He went in, asked politely, paid three times the listed price in advance, and then stripped off his shirt to watch in rapt attention as that angry red limned his shoulder with a broken heart that stung not half so much as the real one did. It was a clean hurt, and after the sloppy, weltering morass of betrayal and disgust, Harry'd been crawling through since the end of the trial, it felt like flying head on into a bracing, icy wind.

And now, waking up alone in a bed that was too big for one, with the sun stabbing through his dusty bedroom curtains to stroke the plane of his shoulder with light, and turn the sigil to bronze and velvet… now in the cold, hungover light of the actual end, that red changed the words from a bitter denial, into a beautiful thing. The only beautiful thing he'd ever trust again.

Thoughtfully, Harry flexed his shoulder, and the message gave an emphatic jump, and a painful throb. Never Again, it said.

"Damn straight," Harry agreed, rubbed a thumb over the scarlet ache, and shivered. No sooner had the words left his lips than the bedroom echoed with a sparkle and ping, and a squeaky voice cut through Harry's meditative mood like a particularly perky guillotine.

"Mister Harry Potter is awake at last!" Dobby bounced into view, laden breakfast tray balanced precariously on his head.

"Argh," said Harry, and reached for a pillow to hide under. "Dobby, I don't want breakfast. What are you doing here?"

"Oh, Dobby has been waiting and waiting, and has kept Mister Harry Potter's breakfast hot, even though it is nearly tea time," the tangled blankets slithered around Harry's body, smoothing at the house elf's finger-snap, and a moment later, Harry felt the tray settle beside him. "The Headmistress sends Dobby to be sure Mister Harry Potter remembers he is to go to London today and to buy the baits for the Manticore traps, and that he should also be getting the grunyip bulbs and toadflax for Professor Sprout, and the new feathers for Professor Flitwick because the first years burned up all theirs, and would he please to be stopping by Silenus' Cellars while he is in Diagon Alley, for a bottle of -"

"Dobby…" Tea gurgled from the pot, and the house elf chattered on, oblivious.

"- Auld Wallace, and Dobby says to the Headmistress 'Oh yes, Dobby will be sure that Mister Harry Potter does not forget." A crinkle of paper, followed by a cheery clanking of spoon to china. "Dobby has made a list, see? And Dobby knows that Mister Harry Potter has been sad and has had drinking, and so Dobby has brought Pepper Up, and tea, and –"

"Dobby," the spoon chimed one too many times, and Harry snatched it from the house elf's hand. "Thank you," Harry said hastily as Dobby's eyes went wide and his ears drooped low. He took the teacup in one hand, and scrubbed at his face with the other. "I'm fine, Dobby. Just… leave the note, and you can go tell McGonagall. I'm just fine."

"But…" He felt a tentative touch on his elbow, "But you is not fine, Mister Harry Potter. You is leaking your blood."

And so he was – hardly a smear, seeping through the lines of ink like sweat. He wiped it away with a corner of the sheet, and took a gulp of his too-hot tea. "It's nothing, Dobby. You can tell McGonagall I'll get her manticore problem sorted out today." He didn't look at the food on the tray -- he knew his stomach wouldn't accept any of it after he'd spent nearly a week trying to strip the lining with firewhiskey.

"But if Harry Potter is hurt," Dobby pattered after as Harry strode naked through the cottage to the round bathroom where Hagrid's pumpkin patch had once been. "then he should not be going-"

"It isn't a wound, Dobby," Harry interrupted, filling and heating the sunken stone bath with a flick of his wand and spell so familiar he hardly remembered to think the words anymore, "It's a…"

Never Again. The words blazed backward from his mirror, and Harry took a shaky breath as his reflection stared curiously and poked at the mark.

"It's a spell." He crouched down, breaking the line of sight, and allowing the elf to peer closely. "To keep me safe. I had it done last night. Like it?"

"Oh yes, Mister Harry Potter, but…" Dobby looked up, earnest and confused, bony fingers hovering over the stained shoulder as though afraid the red would burn, "what is it meaning, to say 'never again'?"

And having no answer which a house elf might understand, Harry only shrugged and turned to step into his bath. "It means lots of different things."


One of those things, it so happened, caught up with Harry just as he was coming out of Tocksin and Draught's. He had a bag of stunned rats in one fist, a flask of flesh-eating slug poison in the other, and Flitwick's damned feathers in a packet squashed under his arm, and so his wand was quite out of convenient reach.

He saw her coming, of course -- even two years after his defeat of Voldemort, Harry was rarely less than ferociously attentive to his surroundings when he was forced to go out in public. But he couldn't have missed that froth of bushy brown hair atop that purposeful stride that took the cobbles of Diagon Alley by storm, even if he'd been blind drunk. Harry cursed quietly, leaning back into the shadows of Knockturn and juggling his packages in search of his wand, and a quick disapparation before she spotted-

"Harry?" He grit his teeth, and turned to face her as she surged through the crowd. "Harry, good God, it is you!"

He stepped back from her outstretched arms as she came close, stilling her rush with a single, curt nod. "Hello, Hermione." He kept his tone just on the near side of chilly, hoping that maybe this time, she'd have better things to do than-

"So… how've you been then," she launched into the smalltalk anyway.


She hesitated only a moment, her brows knitting, then she pushed on gamely. "Still up at the school these days? I heard Draco's considering the new Defense Against the Dark Arts position now that he's been acquitted."

Harry managed somehow not to flinch at the sound of Draco's name, and the still-painful memory it elicited -- Draco's face as last Harry had seen it, lips swollen and flushed, eyes bright with scorn and heavy-lidded with satiation as a dark-skinned arm twined around his naked shoulders --

You know what I love about you, Potter? You've been getting fucked over for years now, but you're still such a bloody virgin, you manage to be surprised every time it happens!

Shut up, Draco. Just shut up and get out.

It's true! And you know what else, oh my Champion? I don't think I'll ever get tired of seeing the look on your face when you realize you're getting fucked yet again!

Harry took a deep breath, and found his wand in his hand. "I think Malfoy's changed his mind about that," he managed, voice steady, steady, steady. "I need to get back now."

Hermione caught his arm, barely an inch from the new tattoo, which gave a warning throb. Never Again. "Oh, Harry please no," Hermione cried, "You can't go yet -- it's been so long since I've seen you, and it's just now coming on tea time. Surely Professor McGonagall can spare you for just a little while longer."

"Hermione," he warned, uncomfortably aware of the inquisitive stares she was beginning to draw. Maybe it would be better to let her drag him away. She'd make a scene if he didn't, and it was hard enough for him to go about without people staring-

"Oh Harry, come on! Ron's waiting for me down at the Leaky Cauldron, and I just know he'd be thrilled to see you-"

Never Again. Harry yanked his arm away. "No."

"Harry," her tone turned scolding; hands on hips, mouth held prim and tight with disapproval, and he'd had enough.

"Hermione. No. I'm not having tea with you, and I'm sure as fuck not having tea with Ronald-bloody-Weasley, so you might as well just piss off out of my bloody way." He shouldered the bag of rats, fully prepared to shove her aside if she didn't.

Hermione had always had a gift for sensing it when she'd pushed him too far. She stepped out of his way, but fell into step beside him as Harry began pushing through the crowd that had gathered to pretend they weren't eavesdropping. "Harry, when are you going to give up this childish bloody grudge," she asked. Even her heels clicked disapprovingly as she matched his pace down the sidewalk. "It's been nearly a year now, and-"

"Oh, I'm sorry, are the consequences of your decisions uncomfortable for you, Mrs. Weasley?" Harry gritted. People were openly watching them now, and he was rapidly ceasing to care.

"My decisions!"

"And just to clarify," he cut her off, rounding the corner at Eyelop's Owlery at full stride, "that little matter of when -- or whether -- I forgive you or your husband for using me like a bloody trampoline is up to me, not you!"

She caught his arm again, and this time her fingers dug hard as she dragged him back around to face her. "We never used you, Harry! Never! And it's not like you were completely inno-"

"Shut up." The pain in his shoulder; clean, bright red, and sharp as glass, made it easy to finally say. "Ron used me to make you jealous, and you used me to make him finally propose to you. He may have slept with me, but you both fucked me pretty well as fuckings go."

"He didn't," Hermione lowered her voice, stepping close with a nervous glance around the street, "Ron didn't use you. He just didn't know for sure whether or not he was really… you know…"

"What, gay," Harry laughed at her horrified expression, and refused to be hushed. "A shirt-lifter? A pouf? A faggot?" He tugged his arm away with a savage yank, and the flash of pain only fuelled his rage. "You tell yourself whatever you like, Hermione, but the only one who didn't know exactly what -- and who -- Ron Weasley wanted all along, was me. I thought that all those times he came to me had meant something. Something more than 'Hermione's narked at me again', or 'uh oh, is someone in danger of becoming more important to Harry', that is."

"He never-"

"Every time, for damn near two years, Hermione. Every lover I started to care for, Ron drove them away. Until he finally dumped me for you." She jumped a little as he poked her roughly in the shoulder. "So you'll have to forgive me if I'm still a little humiliated about being played for a chump."

"Oh, Harry," she breathed, eyes bright and lip not quite steady, "you're so very wrong about-"

"And now that you've dredged up all these wonderful memories," he cut her off with a sneer, "I really do have to get back to Hogwarts now. Goodbye, Hermione."

"Harry, wait," she called after him, her voice thick and desperate, and he hated himself for pausing, but did it all the same. "Please. Please don't be angry. I don't want to fight with you, it's just… I wanted to tell you something. Something important. I hadn't told Ron yet, because I wasn't sure, but I'd meant to tell him today, and…" Harry closed his eyes, feeling sick and cold. "But now, I'm not sure I should say-"

"You shouldn't," he said, wrapping his own fingers around his shoulder, where blood was already beginning to make his sleeve tacky. The flash of pain squared his shoulders, straightened his spine. "It's none of my business." And with that, he walked away.

"Harry, please wait!" Her voice was thick and shaky, and he had no trouble imagining the tears escaping her eyes. "Please! We wanted you to be the Godfa-"

He disapparated, and even to him, the crack sounded rather like a slamming door.


Harry was halfway to the Hog's Head before he caught himself. "No," he said, stopping dead in the street just by the fountain. "Not today. Not again."

Never Again. his arm answered with a twinge.

Getting drunk wouldn't take away the sick, cold feeling in his gut. He'd tried for three days straight after catching Draco with Zabini together, and had ended up with a hangover and a tattoo, but no surcease from the pain. None at all. Drinking wouldn't help him forget anything except what he was actually supposed to be doing with his day.

"Baiting manticore traps," Harry sighed, sitting on the fountain's lip, "and buying the Headmistress her favorite bloody -- aww hell." He'd forgot the Auld Wallace. And while he could go back to Diagon Alley for it, he didn't fancy his chances of getting in and out again without encountering another dose of the Weasley family felicity. Not with the Leaky Cauldron's big bay window pointing straight at Silenus' courtyard. Not with Hermione making her Important Announcement to her adoring husband right about now… Harry cursed, and considered his options.

He couldn't go to the Three Broomsticks for it -- Zach would be on shift at the bar now, and in the mood Harry found himself in, he just knew he couldn't put up with another round of remorseful sheep's eyes from the man. Aberforth carried Auld Wallace at the Hog's Head though. He'd pay a mark-up, sure, but Harry was willing to pitch his own money in for the chance to avoid… "Fuck." Harry shook his head, remembering; Zabini hired his rooms above the Hog's Head. And now that Draco Malfoy had neither rich father nor rich boyfriend's money to spend like water, the chances that he and Zabini would be draping about the Hog's Head on a Friday afternoon were pretty damn-

"Oh, can it be Harry Potter?" Harry grimaced, and wondered if he could get away, but a second, identically chirpy voice dashed his hopes.

"I think it can, Brother, I think it can," said Ernest Scrivenshaft, bustling to a stop by Harry's left elbow, and beaming at his brother Franklin, who brought up the other side. "Only what can be the reason for such a weary seat, eh now, Mr. Potter?"

"Seat? What? Oh -- oh, it's nothing, really," Harry sat up straight, and located his best smile, but Franklin was already fetching out a hip flask. "I was just resting my feet. Been running errands down Knock -- er Diagon Alley all day. Having a bit of a sit-down before finishing up. Been a long day…"

"Long day, I daresay," Ernest grinned and gave Harry a wink, "After all your merrymaking of late, I should think so! Not that I can blame you, after your young man's trial came out so well, and Brother and I did note how worried you were about it all,"

"Touchingly worried indeed, Brother," Franklin agreed, transfiguring a loose brick into a crystal tumbler and sloshing in a generous dram of their vicious scarlet homebrew, "As anyone would be. You'll give him our compliments, won't you?" And he pushed the cup at Harry with a grin.

Never Again.

"He's…" Harry swallowed, and tried again, pretending he couldn't see the liquor. "I don't see him much these days. I suppose you could find him down the Hog's Head though."

"You suppose?" asked Franklin. "You mean to say-"

"That's right."

"Oh dear," said Ernest.

Harry shouldered his burdens and stood. "Sorry, Sirs, I can't have that drink with you. The Headmistress is expecting me back-"

"Oh, but Mr. Potter, surely it can't be so," Ernest cried, catching at Harry's elbow, "You see, Mr. Malfoy was in our shop only yesterday."

"Made quite a generous purchase, in fact."

"Yes, yes. His mother's birthday, he said. And he …"

"He told you I'd settle his bill, didn't he?" Harry managed not to grind out the words, but the two brothers looked abashed all the same. And for a moment, he almost did it. It wasn't their fault Draco was a lying bastard, after all, and they didn't deserve to be stiffed for their wares because he'd abused Harry's good credit. It was on the tip of Harry's tongue to tell them to send the bill to his Gringotts account, when his tattoo gave a sudden, fierce throb.

"I'm very sorry, Messirs," Harry found himself saying through gritted teeth, "I believe the man you'll want to talk to about that is Blaise Zabini. He's paying Draco Malfoy's bills now, and I think you'll find him at the Hog's Head as well."


"But Mr. Potter-"

"And once you've got your money out of him, " Harry went on, "I wonder if you'd mind telling the other merchants around the village that Mr. Potter doesn't want to hear about Mr. Malfoy's money needs anymore? Thank you." And he stormed away.

But the Scrivenshaft brothers, unfortunately, were only a foreshadowing. All of Hogsmeade seemed bound to put its fingers right into Harry's sorest bruises that afternoon, starting with Davis Winthrop down at the Owl post, who stopped Harry to gossip about the Ballycastle Bats' chances for the world cup.

"Good as any year, I suppose."

"They winna be so good as if tha'rt still flyin' Seeker though, Harry," Davis replied, then shook his head as Harry gave a half-hearted shrug. "Now then, none o tha modesty, Harry Potter. Tha'rt the handiest Seeker in th' League since auld Hawke, back in '65, and Our Man Wood full well knew't. Come on then, tell us why tha skived?"

Oh, Wood knew all about what a good Seeker I was, Harry thought sourly, even when we were dating, that's all he bloody well cared about.

But aloud, he only said "Guess my heart wasn't in it." And when Davis gave him a scandalized look, Harry took up his post and turned for the door, saying, "Not everyone can play Quidditch all their lives, Davis."

Then just down the road, as Harry was passing Madam Puddifoot's tea room, Lavender Brown just had to come bolting out from behind her tea-leaf reading table. She actually chased Harry down two doors, just to tell him that Susan Bones had asked her for a reading about him just last week.

"Oh good God, " Harry couldn't keep from saying. Then, feeling a little sorry for Lavender's hurt expression, he sighed, and let her drag him a little closer to the tea shoppe. "Well, what did you tell her?"

"Client confidentiality, Mr. Potter, " she sniffed, then tipped him a wink. "Just thought it was fair warning to say that if she has her way about it, Miss Bones will have you good and snaffled before the month is out."

"Bones doesn't want a boyfriend, Lavender," Harry replied with a nod at the flier pasted to the teashop wall. Susan Bones' picture peered back at them, sober and confident beneath the list of her qualifications for Village Council. "She wants a running mate. I learned that the first time I dated her."

"Well, she does come from a Wizengamot family, doesn't she?" Lavender mused. "And you are the biggest hero in the Wizarding World since Dumbledore, you know. Why, there's nothing you couldn't do if you turned your hand to the Ministry. Let me have a look at your palm-"

Harry put both hands behind him and backed away. "Not for me, Brown. I've had enough of politics and prophecies for one lifetime."

"Oh, but Harry, think how much more popular you'd be than-"

"Heard it," he said. "And no, I'm not interested in being someone's hand puppet. Not again. Look, there's Parkinson," he pointed through the shop window, to where the brunette waited, pale and sad, beside Lavender's table. "Why don't you go and tell her that Draco Malfoy's back in the market for a rich bride?"

"He is?" The divinatrix' face broke into an avaricious grin as she forgot all about Harry's prospects for a political career. "Brilliant! Thanks, Harry!" And luckily, she turned away before she could see his look of utter disgust.

By the time Harry made it to Tunworthy's Spirits and Bookmakers, he was really in a horrible mood, with a scowl so fierce and forbidding that Mabel Tunworthy didn't have the nerve to triple the label price of the Auld Wallace like she usually did when rich toffs came in.

For himself, Harry was simply relieved to find the place had even heard of the liquor. Their having an unopened bottle on hand was simply miles beyond what he'd hoped for, and he would have paid every galleon he had for the ability to take the damned thing and retreat to the privacy of his own cottage again. He didn't blink at the price, which was higher than even Aberforth would have asked, and was busily counting out his galleons when the door behind him opened with a brassy, off-key jingle.

"Well, well. If it isn't our local… Celebrity."

Harry froze, eyes closed in frantic denial as the very last voice he wanted to hear in the entire world curled over his ears. No. It couldn't be. Why the hell would he be-

"You have led me quite the chase today, Mr. Potter," Snape went on, leaning on the grimy bar, so close that Harry could smell the funk of potions in his robes, "Though that might have been my own fault. I might have known I could spare myself the bother of trying to find you, by simply beginning my search in the lowest, most repulsive establishment that Hogsmeade has to offer the accomplished drunkard."

"Oi, you bloody traitor!" said Mrs. Tunworthy, while Harry ground his teeth and finished counting out the money. "You're welcome to piss off out of it if you're too good for the likes of Mr. Potter and me!"

"So then, Mr. Potter," Snape ignored the woman's bluster and picked up the bottle of Auld Wallace in one long-fingered hand. "I take it that you'll be leaving the manticore problem to me yet again while you make the acquaintance of your newest dose of liquid comfort?"

"Piss off, Snape," Harry said, snatching the bottle out of his hand. "It just so happens, I am doing my job. McGonagall asked me for this, and the shop in Diagon Alley didn't have any."

"How convenient," Snape replied with a smirk. "And, given your state of profound inebriation since last weekend, how unlikely."

"That's none of your business," Harry shot him a glare and turned for the door. "But I've picked up the manticore baits and the poison, and I'm setting them out in the Forest as soon as I drop the rest of these parcels off at the school. So you can just go crawl back into your dungeon and leave the dangerous part of the job to me now. As usual." He hoped the door's jangle would put a stop to the conversation, but of course it didn't.

"You went to Knockturn today, you wretched boy?" Snape demanded, storming out after him, "Why the devil didn't you get those mummified lethifolds I ordered from Borgin and Burkes while you were there?"

"Because I'm not your fucking house elf, Snape," Harry rounded on the taller man with something approaching a sense of relief. Because here, at last, he didn't have to bite back the rage he'd been choking on since Hermione had caught his arm. Because Snape, he knew, could bloody well take it. "If you want your potions supplies, you can bloody well crawl out of your spider hole for once and get them yourself! It's not like you've got classes to teach anymore-"

"No," Snape cut him off with a sneer, but the glitter of his black eyes hinted that he was just as ready for a good scrap as Harry. "I've research to do, not to mention the Castle wards to maintain -- a job with which you, I might add, are meant to be assisting, rather than stress-testing your liver for days on end every time you feel sorry for yourself!"

"Look, you tosser," Harry snarled, beyond caring who might be listening, "if the Headmistress had any problem with my work, she'd bloody well tell me so!"

Snape barked a laugh. "If you believe that you're even more of an idiot than I'd supposed, Potter. You and I are at Hogwarts now because Minerva McGonagall knows we've nowhere else to go." Harry, red faced and furious, couldn't deny it, and Snape didn't give him the chance to try. "And furthermore, this so-called occupation of wardsmithing is nothing more than make-work she's concocted to excuse the presence of two known murderers around her students." And yes, that word still made Harry's vision go a little red, even as it made his stomach twist in remembered self-horror. From the vicious smirk on Snape's face, he knew it too, the bastard.

"She'd still-"

"She would not take her precious Gryffindor golden boy to task unless manticores were mating on the Quidditch pitch, and you know it!" Harry, hands full, gave back a step from the sharp poke to his chest. He really wanted to slap that finger away instead, but wasn't quite angry enough to drop all his parcels and take a swing yet.

"Then she can hardly mind her pet black sheep taking some time to run his OWN goddamned errands, can she Snape," he leaned up, nose to hooked nose to shout, and oh, didn't it feel good! "Oh, but wait, I forgot -- you don't like to show your face in public, do you? Makes you uncomfortable when people stare at you and whisper about what you did -- who you killed during the War, doesn't it?" Snape's glower was just this side of murderous, and Harry rejoiced in it. "Well here's an exclusive for you, Snape: They do the same with me, and I hate it just as much. And given that I also hate you, I don't consider it my bloody duty to spare you a little embarrassment when you can't even be bothered to ask like any normal person would do!"

"Well," Snape looked like he would explode for a second or two, but then he changed tack visibly, folding his arms across his narrow breast with a sneer, "perhaps you will allow me to spare you a little embarrassment before you crawl into that bottle for the day, Mr. Potter: You and I are meant to referee the Quidditch game tomorrow morning, if you'll bother to remember."

"I thought Hooch was-"

"Madam Hooch and her avian flu are still in quarantine, Potter." Snape examined his nails smugly. "Now, I've no delusions of your showing up sober enough to see a foul play without a guide dog and a map, however you might consider remaining sober enough to sit a broom. Assuming you plan to show up at all, that is."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Harry demanded.

"Merely referencing your-"

"I was AT that game," Harry slung his bag onto the grassy verge, hardly heeding the clink of the glass bottles inside it. "It was YOU who didn't bother to tell me I was meant to be refereeing! And you're the one who can't see any foul made by a player who happens to be wearing green, so I don't see where you get off-"

A chuckle sounded from farther up the street -- so achingly familiar, it speared straight through the heart of Harry's building rant. Harry had barely a second to try and steel himself, then Draco Malfoy sauntered into his view, draped across Blaise Zabini in an elegant sprawl. He remembered how that wiry arm felt spanning his shoulders, remembered the warmth of those ribs pressing into his own, and the smell of Draco's hair when he'd lean in and whisper such things…

"Potter," Snape's voice shook him back to the present, though it failed to dislodge the twist of pain lodged in Harry's throat. "If you are inferring that I favour Slytherin, then I should bloody well hope-"

But it was no good. The snide words were only burring in Harry's ears as the two, pale and dark and equally elegant in their cruelty, shared a glance, a whisper… and then a deeply sinuous kiss. Right there in the street. So close, that Harry could all but smell that damned cologne Draco had asked him for before the final hearing.

I don't think I'll ever get tired of seeing the look on your face when you realize-


Never Again.

"Potter!" Snape's fingers dug like iron into Harry's arm and gave him a rough shake. Just enough for Harry to realize that his wand was clenched in his fingers and dripping crimson sparks onto the cobbles at his feet. Snape's eyes were sharply wary, as he stared down at Harry, and beyond his shoulder… Beyond his shoulder, Draco and Zabini writhed obscenely against the lamppost, as if trying to crawl into each other's clothes. "I ought, I suppose," Snape's voice droned in Harry's ear, "to know better than to hope you'd have learned to pay attention when someone is speaking to you, but-"

"No," Harry said. The corner of Draco's mouth dimpled where he was hiding a smirk. When he tilted his head, Harry could hear the wet sound his tongue made, and see the glint of it slithering in Zabini's mouth.

"I beg your-"

Harry yanked his arm loose, eyes fixed on the pair by the lamppost. "Never. Again," he said. To Snape. To Draco. To the village full of gossips around him. To the wand in his hand, and the bottle at his feet.

He took a deep breath. Then he turned his back on them all, and started walking.