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Leo Inter Serpentes: Second Year

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Harry frowned at his photocopy in frustration. This had all seemed so simple in the library. He was discovering that looking at The Secrets of Lock Picking in the well-lit library was quite different from trying to follow a photocopied diagram by torchlight. It didn't help that he didn't have any of the suggested tools. He was making do with some bobby pins and safety pins he'd stolen from the bathroom cabinet.

And he had an irate owl glaring at him the entire time.

“I'm sorry, Hedwig,” he said again. “It just doesn't want to budge.”

He carefully folded up his photocopy and put it in an old biscuit tin along with the pins, then stashed the whole lot under the loose floorboard he'd prised up. He flopped onto his bed and pouted at his ceiling. All his plans for the week were ruined.

All he'd needed to do was to get some instructions from the library. Then he could free Hedwig and send a letter to Draco, asking him when he and his mother were going to arrive to collect him. As he waited for a reply, he could've unlocked the cupboard under the stairs and taken his school things up to his room to do his homework. Instead, he'd spent his time reading Dudley's discarded books and drawing. He usually enjoyed that, but there were only so many portraits of Hedwig he could manage when she was glaring at him the entire time. Plus his pencils were starting to get depressingly short, and Dudley hadn't any others he could steal.

A quiet beeping interrupted his thoughts. Rolling over, he quickly turned off his alarm clock.

“Happy birthday to me,” he muttered as he stared at the glowing numbers.

********


Harry had to spend his birthday completing chores for Aunt Petunia in preparation for a dinner held for one of Uncle Vernon's business associates and his wife. Harry was re-painting the garden bench for Aunt Petunia when he heard someone complaining about the lack of rodents in the garden. Harry shook his head; after all, just this morning he thought he'd seen a pair of green eyes watching him from the hedge. Clearly the lack of contact with his friends was driving him insane.

He was therefore very relieved when he saw a grass snake poking its head out from the flowerbed. “Hello,” he said in a friendly tone.

The snake flicked its tongue out a few times as it regarded him. “Hello, human boy,” it eventually hissed back.

If you're looking for some better hunting, you should try the field behind the high school,” Harry advised it, and provided directions.

What would you like in thanks, human boy?” it asked.

Harry grinned; he'd been hoping it would want to pay him back. “Nothing too taxing. But if you'd like to return to this garden with a group of friends, I'd appreciate it. The bigger the better. The other humans in the house are scared of snakes.” He didn't actually know if that was true or not, but he didn't think the Dursleys would be very pleased if their orderly garden was overrun with them.

I will try, human boy,” the snake said, before slithering away.

Harry completed the rest of his chores in a much better mood than he'd begun them with, but his bad mood soon returned when he saw the meagre dinner Aunt Petunia had provided for him. He ate it sourly as he eyed the pork roasting in the oven. He'd be happy once this dinner with the Masons was over. Sullenly, he made his way up to his room, ignoring Uncle Vernon's final warning as the doorbell rang.

He closed the door, went to collapse onto his bed and only just stopped himself from crying out loud. There was a house-elf sitting on it. It was wearing a filthy pillowcase, not at all like the clean liveried pillowcases the Hogwarts elves wore. Looking at its green eyes, Harry realised he hadn't been imagining things at the hedge that morning.

“Er, hello. Can I help you?” he asked it nervously. He had no idea why a house-elf would be in his room.

“Harry Potter!” the elf squeaked happily. “Dobby has heard many things about Harry Potter! Dobby has been wanting to meet you for a long time, sir.”

“Dobby... Oh! You're Draco's elf!” Harry said excitedly.

Dobby nodded his head, setting his ears flapping. “Dobby serves the Malfoy family, Harry Potter.”

“Did Draco send you here?”

“Oh, no. Master Draco doesn't know Dobby is here, sir. Dobby will have to punish himself when he returns home for coming here.”

What? Draco told you to punish yourself?”

“No, Harry Potter. Master Lucius expects Dobby to punish himself when Dobby misbehaves.”

Harry frowned. “I don't understand. Why are you here then, if you're only going to have to – to punish yourself?”

Dobby jumped off the bed and came over to Harry. “Dobby has come to warn Harry Potter, sir. Harry Potter must not return to Hogwarts!”

“What? Of course I do! I have to go to school. And it's more of a home than this place could ever be,” Harry said, bewildered.

Dobby shook his head violently. “Hogwarts will not be safe for Harry Potter.”

Harry shrugged. “It wasn't exactly safe for me last year, either, but it's still more fun than here. I have friends there.”

“Friends that don't write to Harry Potter?”

Harry narrowed his eyes. “How do you know I haven't gotten any letters?”

Dobby shrunk in on himself a little. “Harry Potter mustn't be angry with Dobby. Dobby only meant to help.”

“What have you done?” Harry demanded.

“Dobby has stopped Harry Potter's mail, sir,” the elf said, and pulled a thick stack of letters from inside his pillowcase.

Harry tried to remain calm. “And why did you do that?”

“Dobby thought that if Harry Potter thought he had no friends, then Harry Potter wouldn't want to go back to Hogwarts.” Dobby's tone made it clear that he thought this a very straight forward concept.

“I'm going back to Hogwarts in September. You can't stop me. And I'd like my letters now, please!”

“Harry Potter will have them if he promises not to go back to Hogwarts.”

“No. I can't promise that.”

“Then Harry Potter leaves Dobby no choice,” Dobby said sadly.

With that the elf ran out of the room and down the stairs. Harry swore and took off after him as quietly as he could. He found Dobby crouching on top of a kitchen cabinet with Aunt Petunia's pudding floating in front of him.

“No, please, they'll kill me,” Harry whispered.

“Harry Potter must say he's not going back to school.”

“I can't!”

Dobby looked at him sadly. “Then Dobby must do it, sir, to save Harry Potter.”

Dobby let the pudding fall to the floor where the plate shattered loudly. The elf disappeared with a sharp crack. There were screams from the dining room, and Uncle Vernon burst into the kitchen to find it covered with cream and bits of crockery. Harry was standing in the middle of the room with his arms still outstretched from trying to save the dessert.

Uncle Vernon shooed the Masons back into the dining room, then returned and handed Harry a mop as he listed with relish the various punishments he'd be inflicting on Harry. Aunt Petunia found some ice cream in the freezer, and Harry thought hopefully that Uncle Vernon might not be too hard on him if he managed to secure the business deal he was after.

Then an owl swooped in through the open window, deposited a letter on Mrs Mason's head and flew back out. The Masons left in a barrage of shouting and screaming, and Harry carefully positioned his mop and bucket between himself and the Dursleys. It wasn't much, but it made him feel marginally safer as Uncle Vernon advanced on him.

“Read it! Go on – read it!” he hissed as he thrust the letter into Harry's hands.

Harry read the letter and gulped. It was from the Improper Use of Magic Office at the Ministry, and clearly stated underage wizards shouldn't do magic outside of school. Shit.

“You didn't tell us you weren't allowed to use magic outside school. Forgot to mention it... Slipped your mind, I daresay...” Uncle Vernon grabbed Harry by his collar and started dragging Harry upstairs. “Well, I've got news for you, boy... I'm locking you up... You're never going back to that school... Never... And if you try and magic yourself out – they'll expel you!”

The next morning, Uncle Vernon arranged for a man to come out and install bars across Harry's window. He put in a cat flap on Harry's door himself, and Aunt Petunia pushed his lunch – a cold can of soup – inside for him. Harry gave Hedwig the few bits of meat in it, ignoring her glare, and drank the liquid in one go, grimacing.

He paced the room and tried to take stock of what he had. An owl, paper and pencils, but no way to get her out to get help. A few old novels he'd already read that summer. Some of Dudley's old broken toys. That was it.

No, it wasn't, he remembered. Grinning, he pulled up the loose floorboard and fished out Dudley's old Walkman and the Pearl Jam tape he'd managed to buy earlier that summer. He'd saved up painstakingly by collecting any money he found in the couch cushions or near public phoneboxes. It was a far cry from his piles of gold in his Gringotts vault. He slipped in the headphones and sat on his bed, looking out of the window in misery.

Halfway through the tape, Harry could hear some shouting. He considered simply turning up the volume, but he was acutely aware that he didn't have many batteries in his room. With a sigh, he decided to save his supply. He turned off the Walkman and put it back under the floorboard. The shouting might entertain him, he reasoned. It might even be the police, come to see why the Dursleys had locked up their nephew, though he didn't think that was very likely. He crept over to his door and pressed his ear against it. He could hear Uncle Vernon swearing at the top of his lungs, and then footsteps rushing up the stairs.

Harry jumped back from the door, checked that the loose floorboard was properly flush with the rest of the floor, and sat down on his bed. Outside, the footsteps slowed and then stopped. Another lighter set came up the stairs more slowly, and then a woman's voice said something too quietly for Harry to make out.

“Harry?”

Harry gaped at the door, too shocked to say anything. Someone knocked.

“Harry?”

Draco?!” Harry leapt off his bed and made his way to the door. Surely he was hallucinating.

“Mother, it's this one.”

Seconds later, the door opened and Draco stepped through. Harry stared at him. “Are you real?”

Draco frowned, then laughed. “Yes, Harry, I'm real. Or at least I think –”

The rest of his response was cut off as Harry launched himself at him, hugging him fiercely. “Thank god you're here!”

Draco hugged him back just as strongly, then gently disentangled himself. “Harry, I'd like you to meet my mother.”

Harry looked past Draco to see a tall blonde woman standing there. He'd seen her once before, from a distance. Close up, there was a strong resemblance to Draco, though her eyes were blue rather than grey. She was wearing an elegant Muggle dress that Harry would bet cost more than anything Aunt Petunia owned, and had her wand out.

“It's so good to finally meet you, Harry,” she said warmly. “Though I do wish the circumstances were a little happier.” As she said this she gazed around the room. When she saw the abandoned can of soup and the bars on the windows she breathed in sharply and narrowed her eyes.

“Get your things, we're leaving,” Draco told Harry.

Harry quickly grabbed the Walkman and biscuit tin from under the floorboard, then gathered up his drawing supplies from his bedside table. “Everything else is in my cupboard under the stairs,” he said awkwardly.

Mrs Malfoy nodded once and raised her wand, which she hadn't put away. Given the shouting still coming from downstairs, Harry couldn't blame her. She silently unlocked the lock on Hedwig's cage, then aimed her wand at the window. The bars outside disappeared with a bang.

“Release your owl, Harry, and she can fly to the Manor. No doubt she'd like the chance to stretch her wings.” As he did so, Mrs Malfoy shrunk down Hedwig's cage and handed it to Draco, who put it in his pocket.

“After you, Harry,” said Draco.

Harry led the way downstairs, and stopped outside the cupboard. The shouting in the lounge had quieted to a heated discussion.

“Are your possessions in here, Harry?” Mrs Malfoy asked him. He nodded silently, wishing there was some way he could stop either Malfoy from seeing inside the cupboard. Mrs Malfoy waved her wand again, and pulled open the door. He dragged out his trunk and broomstick quickly, and tried to shut the door but Mrs Malfoy put out a hand. It was shaking as she looked down at the old mattress Harry used to sleep on.

“Harry, did you use to sleep in here?” she asked quietly.

“Yes.”

Draco put his arm around him.

“At what age?”

Harry frowned. “Er, well, since I was a baby, I guess, up until I got the spare bedroom upstairs when the Hogwarts letters started arriving.”

Mrs Malfoy shrunk down his trunk and broomstick in silence, and handed them to Draco as she peered closer at the cupboard. Suddenly, she straightened up and closed the door. When Harry looked up at her, her face held none of its earlier warmth. She marched into the lounge, with both boys following, Draco's arm still around Harry. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia fell silent as Mrs Malfoy entered the room. Dudley was hiding unsuccessfully behind the arm of the couch.

Mrs Malfoy surveyed the Dursleys coldly. “Mr and Mrs Dursley, when Draco told me what little Harry had told him of his upbringing, I thought he was exaggerating.” When Uncle Vernon opened his mouth, she held up her hand. “You will not interrupt me. As I was saying, I thought my son was exaggerating. I didn't think it was possible that two people – people with a child of their own – could force their nephew to live in a cupboard. But as it turns out, you could, and did, do exactly that. And then when he returned from school, you locked him in his bedroom. Did you know that this past June, Harry nearly died facing down a corrupted professor who was attempting to resurrect the Dark Lord?”

Aunt Petunia let out a small gasp.

“Oh, so you are aware of what the Dark Lord was like? Did your sister perhaps tell you tales of the atrocities he and his followers committed? The nephew you have had locked in his room is the only reason that the Dark Lord wasn't resurrected two months ago.” Mrs Malfoy sighed. “I had hoped to appeal to your sense of decency or, failing that, to talk to you as rational human beings. I can see that neither is an option, so let me resort to a cruder method. Harry will be staying with us for the remainder of the summer, and will then spend the rest of the year at Hogwarts. He will then return to King's Cross Station at the end of the school year. You will be there to pick him up. You will bring him back home for the summer. He will be allowed to sleep in his bedroom upstairs, and fed adequately. He will not be kept prisoner, and nor will his owl. You will not lock up his possessions where he can't access them. And you will treat him civilly for the summer. He will be allowed to correspond with his friends. And then you will take him to King's Cross Station when it is time for him to return to school.”

By this stage, every eye in the room was fixed on her. Harry and the Dursleys were openly gaping at her, but Draco was grinning broadly.

“If Harry writes one word to my son that he has been mistreated as he has this summer, I shall return, and I shan't be nearly as pleasant as I have been today. I will likewise return if Draco writes to Harry and does not receive an answer from Harry. Believe me when I say I am quite capable of making each of your lives as miserable as you have made Harry's. Believe me also when I say I have many powerful friends in high places, and I am not afraid of reprisal for anything I may do to you.”

Mrs Malfoy glared at the Dursleys as they took in her words, then put her hand on Draco's shoulder. “Come along, boys. The sooner we're out of this place, the better.”

She herded them out of the front door before coming to an abrupt stop on the front step. “Harry, is there usually such a large number of snakes in your front garden?”

Harry peered around her and grinned. “Er, no, Mrs Malfoy. This would be my fault. Excuse me.”

He stepped onto the path and looked for the grass snake he'd seen the day before. Sure enough, it was lying on the ground next to the path. There were at least ten other snakes scattered over the lawn. “You came back! Thank you.”

The field you told me about has a lot of rodents in it, human boy. Hunting was almost boring, even when my friends arrived. We will feed well for a long time because of you.”

I'm glad to hear it. Listen, I'm leaving now, but I'll be back next year. I'll try to visit you in your field.”

That would be pleasant, human boy.”

Harry looked back at the Malfoys. Draco looked as if he'd been trying to follow the conversation, while his mother was watching Harry with wide eyes. “Er, I take it Draco didn't tell you I speak Parseltongue, then?”

Mrs Malfoy shook her head. “It slipped his mind, I daresay. No matter. That is a useful gift you have there, Harry. Now, am I right in assuming that these snakes will not harm us?”

“No, they like me because I told them where to find easy prey.”

“I see. Come along then, there's an Apparition point not too far from here.”

As they set off, Harry couldn't stop the grin from spreading over his face. “Thank you for coming to get me.”

“What did you think we would do, leave you to starve to death?” Draco asked.

“Er, kinda.”

“Well, no. Dobby told me what happened, you see.”

“Dobby told you? But I thought he wanted me to stay here?”

Draco sighed. “He did, yes. But he was acting odder than usual last night, so I commanded him to tell me what was wrong. He can't disobey a direct order from anyone in the family, you see, so he had to tell me what he'd done here. Naturally I went straight to Mother, and here we are.”

Harry grinned at him. “You're a good friend.”

“I'm the best friend,” Draco corrected him.

“Yep, definitely. And you were brilliant, Mrs Malfoy. Was all that stuff true? Can you really get away with hexing them or something next year?”

Mrs Malfoy was still tense, but smiled down at him. “Thank you. And no, it wasn't true. While I do have a lot of friends in the Ministry, I would be arrested if I raised my wand against the Muggles, except for self-defence. But I didn't feel the need to tell them that.”

She led them into a laneway and stopped. “Harry, have you ever travelled by Apparition before?”

“Er, no.”

“Alright then. Take a hold of my hand, that's right, now don't let go until we arrive.”

When Harry and Draco had a firm hold on either hand, Mrs Malfoy gave a quick glance around them. The next thing Harry knew, Mrs Malfoy's hand jerked away from his grip, and he tightened his hand as he felt as if he were being squeezed through a tight tube. There was pressure all around him, he couldn't breathe properly and his eyes were surely being pushed into his skull and -

And then it was over, and he was left gulping in fresh air as they stood in front of high wrought-iron gates, which dissolved like smoke as they walked straight through them. Mrs Malfoy smiled at Harry and extricated her hand. “Welcome to Malfoy Manor. Draco, I need to write to the Ministry so that the magic I used in Privet Drive won't be blamed on Harry. Would you like to show him to his room? I thought he might like to use the Green Bedroom.”

“Yes, Mother. Come on!” Draco grabbed Harry's hand and they took off up the gravel driveway.

Made of grey stone, the house that loomed at the end of the drive was the largest Harry had ever seen. The double-storeyed front doors opened by themselves to show a large marble foyer. Harry didn't have a chance to have a look as Draco was impatiently pulling him up the wide staircase. He dragged Harry down a dimly lit hallway. Its walls were lined with portraits of pale faced blondes who murmured as the two boys rushed past. Finally Draco slowed to a stop.

He pushed open a door, and the room within lit up at once. Harry's first thought was that the room was very aptly named. A pale green rug covered most of the hardwood floor. The wooden furniture was pale as well, and the bed and armchairs were covered with a matching pale green fabric. Darker green drapes were pulled open on the windows, which showed the vast gardens outside.

Draco took Harry's shrunken possessions out of his pocket and placed them on the bed, and pointed to the doors on one wall. “That's your bathroom through there, and that's the closet. A house-elf will be up later to unshrink your things and put them away for you. Now come on, I want to show you my room.”

If Harry had thought the Green Bedroom was large, that was only because he hadn't yet seen Draco's. Located next to Harry's, it was even bigger than their dormitory at Hogwarts. Harry stared in awe. There was a large four poster bed against one wall, covered with silvery-blue bedding and a mound of pillows. Like the Green Bedroom, there were two doors on the opposite wall, and two large bay windows looking out over the grounds. Bookshelves ran along one wall, and there were more shelves covered with toys and ornaments between the bathroom and closet doors. Harry grinned when he saw that the white crown Draco had taken from the chess match had pride of place. But what really grabbed his attention as he stepped onto the grey carpet was the wall behind Draco's bed.

While the other three walls were painted a pale grey, this one had a large mural on it. It showed a lush green mountain with a forest in the distance. In the foreground was a large pale green dragon. As Harry watched, it lifted its head and stared at him.

“My mother had it painted when I was a baby. It's a Welsh Green. I've been thinking of getting it painted over, but I think she's rather fond of it,” Draco said in embarrassment.

Harry spun around. “Are you kidding? It's brilliant!”

Draco grinned. “Come on, let me show you the grounds.”

He led the way back out the front door, but instead of going down the drive, took a smaller path that followed the circumference of the house. As they passed through a formal garden filled with white roses, Harry thought happily how jealous Aunt Petunia would be if she could see it.

“That's the Tudor knot garden,” Draco pointed out an elaborate maze made of low hedges, surrounding a flowing fountain. “The first Lucius Malfoy had it built when he was trying to court Queen Elizabeth I. She spurned him though, so he spent the rest of his life jinxing any other suitors she had.”

“He wanted to marry a Muggle?” Harry couldn't help but ask.

Draco nodded. “This was before the Statute of Secrecy, of course. Mother told me all about it; my father doesn't like to mention him.”

“Got it.”

They walked on, and soon left the formal gardens behind, and entered a vast expanse of lawn, bordered by yet more hedges. There were pale statues scattered over the grass, a large marble gazebo off to the side, and a man-made pond at the base of the gentle slope.

“Are – are they albino peacocks?” Harry pointed.

“Yes. They're something of a family tradition, though my father has improved the breeding program, I think. He no longer gets coloured peacocks, in any case.”

Harry stared at the birds as they skirted around the pond. He'd never seen albino anything before, not in person, and found the birds beautiful in an eerie sort of way.

“Come on, Potter!” Draco called impatiently.

Harry tore his gaze away from the peacocks to find Draco standing outside a small shed, situated in front of a Quidditch pitch.

“You have your own Quidditch pitch?” Harry asked enviously.

Draco nodded happily. “It's in the centre of the grounds, too, so the Muggles can't see us flying. The Snitch and Bludgers are charmed so they don't go out of bounds.”

He disappeared inside the shed, emerging a minute later clutching his broomstick and a small trunk. “Ready to lose?”

“You wish!”

Draco put the trunk on the ground. “Tilly!” A small elf popped up next to him. Like Dobby it was wearing a filthy pillowcase, but this one was even smaller than him, and had brown eyes.

“Yes Master Draco?” it squeaked.

“We need Harry's broomstick, returned to full size. And some juice.”

“Yes Master Draco,” it squeaked again, and disappeared with a small crack.

“How many house-elves do you own?” Harry asked curiously.

Draco shrugged. “Not sure, exactly. Tilly's mine, and you've met Dobby; he mostly belongs to Father. I know Mother has one, but it's getting old now. And there are a few in the kitchen, gardens and laundry.”

A pop announced Tilly's return. “Here is your broomstick, sir.”

Harry took his Nimbus from her. “Thanks, Tilly.”

Harry and Draco spent the rest of the afternoon playing one-on-one Quidditch with the Quaffle and one Bludger. Each of them had a Beater's bat, but even so, they were considerably bruised by the time they stopped. Tilly had returned at some point and set up a small table with fresh apple juice and some sandwiches, and they tucked in as they compared bruises.

“Mother has some salve that will get rid of them, don't worry,” Draco assured Harry when he showed him his stomach.

“Good, 'cause this really hurts. Though it's still better than being locked in my room,” Harry mused.

“About that... I think you should tell someone,” Draco said, turning serious.

“Who?”

“I don't know... Snape, maybe? I mean, you can't possibly want to go back there next summer.”

Harry picked up a sandwich gloomily. “I don't think I have much choice. I don't have any other family left. Besides, I think the Dursleys are too scared of your mum to try anything like this again!”

Draco smirked. “She is rather fierce when she's cross, isn't she? You should have seen her when my father said he wanted to send me abroad for school, instead of Hogwarts.”

“What happened?”

“Well, they had a screaming row, which was unusual, as they don't really shout much. I could hear them all the way from my room. Judging from the crashes, I think Mother demolished a large part of Father's study; it took most of the house-elves a week to get it sorted again. And then it all went quiet and a while later, Father came up and told me I'd be going to Hogwarts after all.”

“Well, I'm extra glad your mum's so scary, then,” Harry grinned. “Otherwise we never would've met.”

“True. Now come on, we need to wash up before dinner.”

********


They had an hour before dinner, for which Harry was incredibly grateful when he entered his bathroom. It was bigger than his bedroom at the Dursleys', and the bath looked more like a pool. There was a separate shower that would have been big even for Hagrid, and a long counter with a deep sink in front of the mirror. It was all done up in green and white stone that matched the bedroom.

Harry filled the bath and added some bubble bath, which turned out to create sparkly bubbles that floated across the surface of the water. He got washed quickly and then swam around until the bubbles had all disappeared before finally climbing out. He wrapped a large fluffy towel around himself and padded into the closet, where the house-elves had evidently unpacked all his clothes.

Harry carefully selected his best shirt and jeans; he had a feeling dinner with the Malfoys would be a fancy affair. He was trying unsuccessfully to flatten his hair into something neat when there was a knock at the door.

“Come in,” he called. A few seconds later Draco strolled into the bathroom and stared around.

“What exactly did you do in your bath?” he asked finally.

Harry looked away from the mirror. There were large puddles over most of the floor, and a pile of soggy towels in the corner. “I, er, I'm not very good at swimming, and I made a mess, so I tried to clean it up but then I ran out of towels.”

“That's what house-elves are for. Honestly!” Draco shook his head. “Forget about your hair, we don't have all night.”

Harry put his brush down and straightened his shirt before following Draco out into the hallway. He was suddenly nervous about dinner. While Draco's mother had been perfectly nice to him, he wasn't looking forward to meeting his father. He remembered what Snape had told him about Mr Malfoy's attitude to Muggle-borns and half-bloods, and shivered.

Draco led him into a large dining room. There was a marble fireplace along one wall, and a long table that could have easily seated twenty people. There were four places set at one end of the table. As Draco and Harry took their seats on one side, a house-elf popped up beside them and poured them each a goblet of iced water before disappearing again.

Mrs Malfoy walked in and took the seat opposite them. “Have you two had a good afternoon?”

They both nodded as Mr Malfoy walked in and took his seat at the head of the table. “Narcissa. Draco. Ah, and this must be Harry Potter.” His cold grey eyes surveyed Harry.

“It's nice to meet you,” he said nervously.

“Likewise, I'm sure,” Mr Malfoy drawled. “You're staying with us for the remainder of the summer, I understand.”

“Yes, dear. I've arranged it all with his aunt and uncle,” Mrs Malfoy said.

Harry and Draco shared a smile; she hadn't given the Dursleys much choice in the matter.

Another house-elf popped up next to Mrs Malfoy. “We'll have the elf-made wine, with half-glasses for the boys.”

What followed was one of the oddest meals Harry had ever experienced. Mrs Malfoy dominated the conversation, and several times she gave Harry the impression she was steering it away from certain topics. Mr Malfoy was talking about people at the Ministry Harry had never heard of, so he concentrated on his food, which was better than even the Hogwarts food. Draco was telling him about each dish that was served, most of which consisted of food Harry had never heard of before. He was fairly certain a lot of the dishes were French. Certainly not English, in any case, he thought, as he listened to Draco reel off another incomprehensible name. He greatly enjoyed his first taste of wine, though.

Finally, Mr Malfoy departed for his study, and Mrs Malfoy rose as well. “Darling, I thought we might take a trip to Amesbury tomorrow, so make sure you're up at a reasonable hour, please. Good night.”

The boys said their good nights, then headed upstairs.

“What's at Amesbury?” Harry asked.

“Shopping,” Draco said happily.